Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Author Nic Sheff on the Process of Getting Sober

I often listen to stories of experience, strength and hope when I go to meetings. This is a fundamental piece of 12 step programs to show the newcomer that theres is a way out; that being said there is often a missing component when these talks are given. Many times the speaker seems to go from talking about being worn down and strung out only to quickly transition into how fantastic things are today. This can be quite confusing for someone in early recovery, as they are still "in the trenches" fighting their disease on sometimes a minute to minute basis. This article is extremely well written and addresses not how it was for the Nic Sheff, not how it is now, but how he got to where he is today. Please take the time to read it and pass it along!

How Do You Go From Strung Out To Sober?

Sobriety stories tend to start in the gutter and end in glory. But what happens in the middle?

Relapsing When You Have Longterm Sobriety

Since the publication of my first book, Tweak, four years ago, I’ve been travelling around the country speaking to different groups and organizations about addiction and recovery. I’ve spoken at high schools and colleges and at fundraisers for big name rehabs like Hazelden and the Caron Foundation. Usually these events consist of about a 45-minute share of my basic story, followed by 15 minutes of question and answers. And, for the most part, the talks I give are all fairly similar and the questions people ask are pretty similar, too—although of course, the specific details tend to be different.

A few weeks ago, however, I was speaking at an event on a Native American reservation just a few miles outside of Saginaw, Michigan when an older man from the community stood up and asked me a question that made me have to re-think my entire presentation.

He was shouting and I could see that he was angry. Not with me, exactly, but with addiction in general. He spoke about watching his kids and then his grandkids struggle with this disease. And then he went on to say that he listens to people like me speaking about how bad things were and how the drugs destroyed our lives but then suddenly we seem to jump to talking about how we’re sober now and how we are all happy and everything. What he wanted to know was: how did we get from being strung out and miserable to being happy and sober? How did we get from A to B?

I know that for some, getting from A to B in is a fairly straightforward process—which isn’t to say that it’s easy. Though perhaps it’s easier to explain.

I wasn’t totally sure how to answer.

I know that for some, getting from A to B in is a fairly straightforward process—which isn’t to say that it’s easy. Though perhaps it’s easier to explain. They use drugs and destroy their lives, then they go to AA, where they get a sponsor, take commitments, work the steps and go on to live lives that are happy, joyous, and free.

But that wasn’t the way it worked for me.

I’m envious of people who got recovery like that. I remember back when I was first getting clean, I was in a Sober Living house and going to meetings with these kids my age, and a lot of them are still sober today. They followed that path and it worked for them.

I was the one that continued to fuck up over and over and over again.

I went to AA just like they did and did everything that was suggested, but then I still went out and relapsed. Maybe I just didn’t do it right. I don’t know. And there’s no easy explanation for what finally worked for me. Every time I thought I found the answer, I’d end up relapsing again.

At one point, I went to this new agey treatment center in the desert and spent a lot of time talking about childhood trauma and releasing the memories from my body and stuff like that. I did EMDR and Somatic Experiencing and got into blaming my parents. I did meditation and got in touch with my feelings and then I thought, “Okay, awesome, I’ve fixed myself now.”

But then I went out and started drinking so much that I was soon waking up in the morning and downing mini-bottles of flavored vodka ‘cause they were only 79 cents on sale from the local liquor store.

After that, I pretty much decided I was done with rehabs and AA but would try outpatient and just good old-fashioned therapy and psychiatric medication.

But here’s where I did something different: in the past, I’d always gone to whatever psychiatrist was recommended to me. I decided that this time, I would try to find one that I could relate to and respect. It took some time and I met with four different doctors, but I finally did find someone who was young and super knowledgeable about addiction. She got me on different meds and I started seeing her once a week.

That was also the first time I’d ever tried outpatient, and the program I’d enrolled in here in LA seemed like it had really started working for me. When I’d been in inpatient rehabs before, I’d get close to the other clients when we were in there together, but as soon as we got back out in the real world, we’d discover how little we actually had in common. But that didn’t happen with outpatient, probably because we incorporated what we were doing together into our daily lives, rather than make it our entire lives. And as a result, the friends I made there are still some of my best friends today—nearly five years later.

So that’s it then, right? Outpatient and psychiatry, the magic combination? Is that what I should tell that old man on the reservation?

Actually, no.

Because I relapsed again.

My ex-girlfriend had a bottle of Vicodin left over from the time she broke her arm, and I thought one couldn’t hurt me. Three bottles later, I had a pocket full of cash and was heading downtown to go cop heroin when I suddenly, and inexplicably, had some sort of moment of clarity—or however you want to describe it. Basically, I just saw how I was about to throw everything away that I’d worked so hard to get. I saw how my life was going to spiral completely out of control again and I was going to lose everything and destroy myself and I thought, “No, no, I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to go back to the bottom again.”

And so I didn’t.

I went home and called my doctor, got on Suboxone and just basically locked myself inside for a week. And that was it. That was my last relapse. I’ve been sober ever since. Over four years at this point.

So what’s been the difference?

What’s gotten me from point A to point B?

How do I answer that old man’s question?

The only thing I can figure is that I guess it must have all kind of worked. That is, I don’t think it was any one treatment that got me sober. But each one gave me a little more by teaching me more about myself and my disease and recovery. None of it was a waste. I kept falling but eventually I started to learn how to not fall so far down, and how to pick myself up a little sooner. It was a lot of trial and error. I had to find out what fit for me and what didn’t.

Because there is no one answer for anyone. We are all different. What worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. So I guess I just had to be open to trying—and then trying again.

Of course, a lot of it is luck, too. I have plenty of friends who fell down and never could pick themselves up again because they overdosed and died. So to simply say it doesn’t matter how many times you fall because you can always get back up isn’t exactly true. People die from this disease. It happens all the time.

But what I want to tell that old man in Michigan and what I want to tell anyone who hears my story in the future is that really, getting from point A to point B is, like I said, all about trying. Trying. That’s it. I had to try. And I had to be open. And, yes, I had to have faith. Not in God, but just faith that it could and would eventually work. And it has.

For now, anyway.

Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak, and We All Fall Down. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two hound dogs, and a cat and has previously written about selling himself for sex and his father David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy, among many other topics.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dr. Gabor Mate on Addiction and the Brain

Dr. Gabor Mate is working with addicts in the farthest depths of the disease on Vancouver's Lower Eastside, at the Portland Hotel, helping people overcome life long struggles with addiction. Mate also is a vital part of Insite, Vancouver's safe injection facility, and OnSite, their accompanying detox facility. Dr. Mate is the author of the book, "In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts" which describes his experience working with addicts that are at a lower bottom than most could ever imagine. I would highly suggest taking a look at Dr. Mate's books and online videos as they can be a great resource for understanding some of the newest findings on addiction and specifically the brain science behind it.

The video above has some extremely interesting pieces of information. For starters, Mate explains how the environment as a child can contribute to susceptibility to addiction in much more subtle ways than you might think. I also found the part about Endorphins, and how we now know they play a part in connecting children to parents to be extremely interesting. Endorphins are the brains natural painkiller like substance, that also contribute to feelings of joy, happiness, and connection. The reason opiates work is because the receptors that deal with endorphins also can be stimulated by opiates from outside sources like Morphine, Heroin, or Oxycontin. It makes so much sense when you relate this piece of knowledge to a real life addict; when they use drugs they experience an effect chemically similar to that of a loved one comforting them. When you relate that to addict who may have never had a healthy connection with parent to begin with, you can begin to understand how difficult it would be for them to give up their only means of feeling a sense of comfort. Please take the time to watch the video above, as I think it can give a great deal of insight to those struggling to understand their disease or the disease of a loved one.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Drug Court

Drug Court is just another example of accountability and compassion helping create a life of recovery for the addicted. Whether its Case Management, the Doctor Diversion Program, or Drug Court we see high success rates in those who are enrolled in a monitoring program with accountability. Check out this great information below taken from the NADCP's website:


In 20 years since the first Drug Court was founded, there has been more research published on the effects of Drug Courts than on virtually all other criminal justice programs combined.

The scientific community has put Drug Courts under a microscope and concluded that Drug Courts work. Better than jail or prison. Better than probation and treatment alone. Drug Courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and are more cost-effective than any other proven criminal justice strategy.

+ Drug Courts Reduce Crime
FACT: Nationwide, 75% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program.
FACT: Rigorous studies examining long-term outcomes of individual Drug Courts have found that reductions in crime last at least 3 years and can endure for over 14 years.
FACT: The most rigorous and conservative scientific “meta-analyses” have all concluded that Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 35 percent more than other sentencing options.

+ Drug Courts Save Money
FACT: Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone.
FACT: When considering other cost offsets such as savings from reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization, studies have shown benefits range up to $12 for every $1 invested.
FACT: Drug Courts produce cost savings ranging from $4,000 to $12,000 per client. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.
FACT: In 2007, for every Federal dollar invested in Drug Court, $9.00 was leveraged in state funding.

+ Drug Courts Ensure Compliance
FACT: Unless substance abusing/addicted offenders are regularly supervised by a judge and held accountable, 70% drop out of treatment prematurely.
FACT: Drug Courts provide more comprehensive and closer supervision than other community-based supervision programs.
FACT: Drug Courts are six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.

+ Drug Courts Combat meth addiction
FACT: For methamphetamine-addicted people, Drug Courts increase treatment program graduation rates by nearly 80%.
FACT: When compared to eight other programs, Drug Courts quadrupled the length of abstinence from methamphetamine.
FACT: Drug Courts reduce methamphetamine use by more than 50% compared to outpatient treatment alone.

+ Drug Courts Restore Families
FACT: Parents in Family Drug Court are more likely to go to treatment and complete it.
FACT: Children of Family Drug Court participants spend significantly less time in out-of-home placements such as foster care.
FACT: Family re-unification rates are 50% higher for Family Drug Court participants.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insight into Meditation with Author Sam Harris

I thought this video was extremely well done and informative. Harris makes some very insightful observations about human consciousness and the automaticity of thought. I love the part where he talks about finding some sort of calm awareness even if its just for a moment. When I found this video, I thought it would be a great resource for addicts/alcoholics who are agnostic or atheists to identify with the concept of spirituality and more specifically meditation while still maintaing there beliefs. Everyone has their own path to sobriety and happiness, none of which are right or wrong, but I thought this could help some struggling with spirituality to better understand the concept and benefits of meditation. For me personally, meditation has been a huge blessing in my life, helping lift depression and increase clarity in my thinking. I still practice meditation two to three times a day in 20 minute sessions, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bath Salt Epidemic

Recently the local recovery community has been deeply affected by the use of Bath Salts. Many people straight out of treatment who have not adjusted to living in recovery are highly susceptible to "legal highs". The products are sold over the counter and often are not tested for by Sober Living facilities; therefore the addict mind sees an opportunity to rationalize using. Unfortunately these products are far from safe, and have severe consequences to say the least. After a short time using "Bath Salts" the user may experience symptoms very similar to those of a paranoid schizophrenic. Users report extreme cravings for the drug after coming down from their high; similar to the cravings a cocaine or methamphetamine user experiences. As with methamphetamine or cocaine abuse, many users may need help to stop using the drug. Please do not let the fact that this substance is sold over the counter confuse you, it is a hard drug that is highly addictive and extremely dangerous.

If you or your loved one is suffering as a result of "Bath Salt" abuse please call Intervention 911 for help!

888. 866. 4911