Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NHL’s Scott Darling: A Comeback Story

by Gabriella Pinto-Coelho

Unfortunately, stories of public figures struggling with substance abuse issues are far from rare. Celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr., Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and Samuel L. Jackson have struggled with substance abuse and bounced back to live full lives and have successful careers. We are used to hearing about actors and musicians struggling with substance abuse, and usually don’t hear much about professional athletes and addiction. It seems almost impossible that someone who relies on their body to make a living would or could have a substance abuse problem. But in reality, anyone can.

Scott Darling is one of those seemingly “unlikely” athletes who has overcome addiction.  Darling, now 25, grew up from an affluent and supportive family in the suburbs of Chicago. He left home at 16 to play junior hockey, and started developing a reputation as a partier. He began playing college hockey at the University of Maine, where that reputation followed him and intensified. At the end of his sophomore season, his coach kicked him off the team due to numerous conduct violations. 

Friends, teammates, and coaches began to suspect that Darling was not just a wild college kid, but someone suffering from alcoholism. He decided to leave Maine and take his chances on being drafted to the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL. When he showed up to their camp out of shape and uncommitted, the team cut him loose. From there he wound up in the SPHL, a semi-pro league, where he began drinking more and caring less about his life both on and off the ice. His annual summer stint at a goalie training camp was cut short when his coach Brian Daccord kicked him out due to his alcohol-induced behavior. Darling had begun drinking at such a young age as a way to escape from his problems with social anxiety. The more he drank the more he felt like he belonged. By his early twenties, his habit of self-medication had spiraled to a life of self-destruction.

Luckily for Darling, his coach Brian Daccord was the catalyst for change in his life. When Darling showed up at training camp the next summer, Daccord ordered him to the weight room to lose the extra 40 pounds he had gained. That was the first summer Darling decided to stop drinking. By the next summer, Darling was still not drinking and had worked his way up to the ECHL. His continued dedication took him from the ECHL to the AHL, and ultimately, he was called up to the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, Darling says that he feels in control of not only his addiction, but also his social anxiety. It seems like hitting rock bottom was what Darling needed to turn his life around; “People don’t want to change until they have to,” Darling said. “I really dug myself a hole before I woke up. I just busted a 180 turnaround and put my foot on the gas.”

Here's wishing your life is on a growth path as we move into 2015.  

Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's That Time Again...

Some people call it the most wonderful time of the year. And yet, for most Americans, we usually find ourselves stressed out during the holiday season.

The hectic nature of the holidays tends to overload us with concerns about having enough time and also enough money. In fact, as of December 10th, up to 38% of Americans have already gone into debt to buy holiday gifts. More often than not, we feel pressured to make the holidays the best that we can for our families. Not to mention the emotions that this season can bring up - for some, it is purely a joyous season, and for others it can be much more challenging. The absence of a deceased family member can be felt more acutely during the holidays, and the presence of extended family members sometimes leads to conflict. Sometimes we experience a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows in a relatively short time frame and in rapid succession.

Given all of these factors, it is no surprise that holiday stress leaves us especially prone to fall into sedentary behavior and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Research has shown that men and women alike turn to comfort eating and drinking. For those in recovery from a substance abuse addiction, the emotions of the holidays can put you at risk for relapse.

So what can you do? The good news is that we can take practical steps to prevent the holiday blues from getting us down:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. It’s ok to feel down - we can’t all expect to be happy just because it’s the holidays.
  • Reach out and enhance your support system. The holidays are a great time to seek out spiritual, community, or other social events. Have a therapist? Consider a few more appointments during this hectic season. At the same time, know your limits and learn how to say no.
  • Keep up healthy habits. Avoid overindulgence, follow a healthy and balanced diet, exercise to destress and maintain energy, and get plenty of rest. It might be hard to muster the motivation to get off the couch, but you will thank yourself later.
  • Make time for yourself. Set aside some alone time each day to recharge by yourself. Make an appointment with yourself for R&R time and stick to it, no matter how busy you are.

All the best to you and yours this Holiday Season!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Power of Addiction

The Power of Addiction

The power of addiction is a force built on denial. This power is so dominant in active addiction that addicts can neither see nor hear the devastation and losses occurring around them as a result of their disease. Sometimes, maybe years down the road, some crisis occurs that causes them to “come up for air” and breaks the shell of their denial. They look around and find career, children, time, opportunity, trust of loved ones, physical health, and mental health are seemingly, all gone. While this is an extreme example, unfortunately it is also a fairly common one. Life becomes “using to live and living to use,” and none of it feels good anymore.
Remember, the heart of the definition of addiction is continued use in spite of negative consequences. One of the most frequent losses addicts describe is the loss of the trust of their loved ones. Too often the addict have the unrealistic expectation that because they enter treatment and are serious about recovery, their spouse or loved ones should trust them in short order. Trust is not lost in a day and will not be regained in a day.
Another negative consequence of addiction is loss of one’s identity. The further addicts fall into their addiction, the more all-consuming it becomes. It becomes the center of their world, and, unconsciously, other priorities are pushed to the periphery and eventually lost. The longer the addiction goes untreated, the more it becomes a person’s main identity. The addict unconsciously takes on the role of being the victim and/or being bitter about life and tends to blame others for his or her problems. When the denial begins to fade and recovery begins, the addict may find little of his or her old self remaining. This is a scary proposition. In addition, the addict must look at living life on life’s terms, and having to become emotionally accountable for him- or herself. This emotional accountability is perhaps one of the toughest hurdles in recovery.
Being emotionally accountable means first no longer blaming others for how you feel or for your lot in life, no longer “needing” problems to perpetuate your addiction, and attempting to identify your most painful feelings and then being willing to risk sharing them with others. For some, this means disclosing the long-held secrets. For others, it may be the act of surrender—“jumping off the cliff” and trusting that someone or something will be there to catch you. For others, it may be putting themselves first emotionally for the first time in their lives.
Every addict and everyone working in the field of addiction needs to have a healthy respect for the power of addiction, but also remember that this is a treatable disease.
This blog post is an excerpt from Finding a Purpose in the Pain - A Doctor's Approach to Addiction Recovery and Healing - by James L. Fenley, Jr., MD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).