Tag Archives: addiction

Trauma – the root of addiction

There have been many blog posts and articles written after Corey Monteith died, each of them exploring the tragedy in it’s own unique way. The best one by far is Dr Gabor Mate’s piece.
He rightly raises the point that no one has really questioned why Corey Monteith’s treatment episodes failed. He especially focuses on the abusive ‘troubled teen programs’ that Monteith was enrolled in, and how he believes that instead of helping, they continued to sow the seeds of his addiction.

What Dr. Gabor Mate continues to say so effectively, is that the origins of addiction lay in childhood abuse and trauma. And that the programs Corey Monteith was subjected to were abusive and traumatic. That when a child or teenager is exposed to traumatic episodes, it greatly increases their chances of becoming addicted to substances as an adult.

He explores how the impact of ‘adverse childhood experiences’ lay the groundwork for an addiction to take place. He describes how emotional patterns from childhood become ingrained in our brain cells. Which then create the feelings of loss, loneliness and emptiness that as adults, we then try and medicate with substances.

I have worked with many addicts and alcoholics and a large majority of them have experienced trauma in earlier life that pretty much guarantees they become addicts; abuse, violence, sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect. All of these experiences wound a person so deeply that the emotional pain becomes overwhelming. Human beings can only tolerate it for so long before our brains look for something to take the pain away.
In order to understand addiction, we have to understand trauma first.
Punishing someone for doing something that is actually the only coping mechanism they have, doesn’t make sense.
Until someone has another way to heal the wounds within drink and drugs will always be the best anesthetic.
Addiction is not a choice, it is a response.

This excellent TED Talk by Dr. Gabor Mate elaborates on this.

Why did Corey Monteith die?

I’m sitting in a room with eight other people, we are all gathered in a circle. Our attention is on a young man; he is in his late twenties. He is dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, the latest pair of sneakers on his feet. He is crouched over with his head in his hands, unable to look at anyone else.

“I know,” he says, “I know you’re right. I have no idea why I do it, I just thought one last time would be ok.”
Seven other addicts and alcoholics nod their heads.
“You have everything to live for buddy,” one of them says.
“You have your whole life ahead of you,” says another.
He looks up, his face a mixture of despair and confusion, “I know,” he repeats softly to himself, “I know, it’s insane.’

And he really means it. He has everything he has ever wanted and yet he still uses drugs and alcohol because nothing else has filled the hole inside of him.
To an outsider it would look insane.
To an addict it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Addiction doesn’t care if you have a promising future, a good family, a great job. It doesn’t care that you have a beautiful and talented girlfriend or millions of fans around the world.
It wants you, and it wants you now.
Which is why it is telling you, that one more time won’t hurt.

And this is why Corey Monteith died.
Because he lied to himself that one more wouldn’t hurt.

He died of a lethal mix of alcohol and heroin, alone in his hotel room.
With the world at his feet.

There are so many Corey Monteith’s all over the world. Some may be lucky enough to get a shot at some kind of treatment. Some of those may be even luckier and get clean and sober and some of them may even be lucky enough to stay so.

But not Cory Monteith, he had his shot at treatment, but still thought one more would be ok.

Cory Monteith’s death wasn’t just shocking because he was young, what shocked most people is that he died of a heroin overdose.
Because he just didn’t look like your average junkie.
He was 31 years old playing someone who had just graduated high school, the epitome of the good looking, clean cut Midwestern kid. Someone you would take home to your parents.

The image people have of a heroin addict is someone homeless, with bad teeth, dirty clothes and a gaunt face. Corey Monteith was the complete opposite of that. The reason that heroin addicts can often look so ravaged is because of the side effects of the taking the drug, rather than the drug itself.
Having money makes addiction a lot easier and the consequences much less severe.
Which is why he could fool everyone. He didn’t fit the stereotype.

So despite ‘having it all’ on a night out he decided to do something insane.
Take heroin alone.
He took the hit and never woke up.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unless you deal with the real underlying reasons of addiction, for every addict there will always be a call for ‘just one more.’
The insane idea will always win out.
Addicts use drugs and alcohol beyond any sane understanding.
Drugs and alcohol promise oblivion, numbness and escape. They kill pain and wrap the user up in cotton wool so they don’t have to feel anything.
Behind his Midwestern, clean cut good looks Cory Monteith was hiding a darkness, that only drugs could fill.

I wonder if he battled, I wonder if he argued with himself. I wonder if he remembered sitting in treatment with his head in his hands as he faced up to the reality of his addiction.
I wonder if he knew he had crossed over to the place where the insanity of using seemed like the right thing to do.

I guess we’ll never know.

Can we forgive John Galliano?

IMG_1957John Galliano famously self destructed two years ago when he drunkenly went on a vile anti-Semitic rant that then went viral.
He was fired from his job as chief designer at Dior and abandoned by many of his friends.
With nothing left to loose he had a moment of clarity and went into rehab. Newly sober, he has just done his first interview with Vanity Fair, which you can read here.

Clearly, John Galliano is an alcoholic whose drinking had become more and more self-destructive, resulting in his public melt down.
In the interview he discusses the vile rant and apologizes profusely, claiming he doesn’t even remember it, as he was in black out when it happened.
The next day he woke up and the true horror of his actions came home to him.

As an alcoholic I can relate to this horror.
The pounding of my heart as I desperately tried to rack my memory for some hint as to what I’d done the night before. Then the sinking feeling in my chest because I knew it wasn’t good.

I remember once going to on a hen night (bachelorette party) and creating a scene outside a nightclub we were meant to be going in to. The doormen barred me and therefore all my friends, ensuring the future brides night was ruined.

At the wedding the following week I tried to smile at several friends attending the wedding, they just looked at me in disgust.

A minor incident maybe, but no less shame inducing. I can’t imagine what it must be like, for the absolute worst part of yourself to be filmed, then sent around the world for everyone to see.

There is no end to my gratitude that my drinking and drugging years happened well before the advent of smart phones or Internet use. There are a few (well more than a few) pictures of me in various states, usually in bars with my arms thrown round whoever was near.
Thankfully, these pictures won’t ever be paraded across Facebook or Twitter as even after all those years of sobriety I’m still embarrassed at how I used to behave.
Being an alcoholic is hard enough without having to deal with your worst moments becoming publicized.

But this is what John Galliano is dealing with.
His absolute worst behavior will exist on-line forever, for everyone to see when ever they want. According to the Vanity Fair article he is beginning to make amends to everyone he hurt (of which there are many) and in particular the Jewish community.
He has clearly alienated a lot of people and a lot of people are finding what he said very hard to forget let alone forgive.

The reason for this, is the myth that when we are drunk we speak the truth. Which means when we say hateful things (or that we love someone) it’s how we have always really felt, we’ve just never expressed it before.
This is the reason people are finding it hard to forgive John Galliano, they believe he really meant what he said and no amount of apologising will change that.

I can’t speak for Galliano as I’ve never met him, I’ve not even had the fortune to wear any Dior (sigh).
However, I do know about alcoholism and I do know that when alcoholics are in the worst of their disease, their self-hatred is inescapable.
That’s part of why we drink the way we do, we hate ourselves, we hate being in our bodies we hate the voices in our heads and we are trying to do everything we can to block it all out.
It that state, constant use of alcohol and drugs makes sense.

My guess is that on that fateful night, when he unleashed his venomous hate, it was not because he is anti-Semitic and hates Jews or Asians. It was because he hated himself so much, that the final act of this self-hate, is to act so repulsively that the world will hate you back.
Thus, proving to yourself how hateful you are.
This is how alcoholism works, it wants you alone, isolated and hate filled because then there is only one thing for you to turn to; more alcohol.

As extraordinary as it sounds, what Galliano said wasn’t actually personal. Booze didn’t reveal how really felt about jewish people, it revealed how he really felt about himself.

It was a truthful revelation of his inner life.

As the most spiteful, meanest, repulsive thing his sub-conscious could dream up in order to achieve the end result of ultimate self-hatred.
It was an attack on himself, no-one else.
Our ‘outsides’ are just a reflection of our ‘insides’.
When you hate yourself that much, then the inevitable consequence of that, is to manifest in your life, something that equals your internal hatred.
This is what John Galliano did that night in the Paris bar.

It is only right he makes amends for what he said and then he needs to be forgiven.

Recovery Rocks – Cathryn Kemp

C.KempAuthorColour2 I’m really excited about this weeks interview. There is still so much to understand about addiction, particularly about addiction to prescribed drugs. There is still the misconception that your not an addict if the doctor has been prescribing your drugs. But prescription addiction is just like any other addiction…

Cathryn Kemp never needed a drug dealer because all her drugs came from her doctor. After a life-threatening illness in 2004 left Cathryn severe pain and on a morphine drip. Cathryn was discharged with a repeat prescription for fentanyl lozenges – a powerful opiate painkiller 100 times stronger than heroin.

Two years’ later Cathryn was taking almost 10 times the maximum dosage daily – all on prescription from her doctor. By the time she entered rehab she was told she had less than three months left to live.

A former journalist Cathryn is the author of Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage To Redemption which is published by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown, which is launched in the US in July 2013.
Cathryn wrote her extraordinarily candid memoir in the hope of helping others who may be suffering long-term acute and chronic illness, those in the grip of active addiction or those whose loved-ones are.

Three years into recovery, Cathryn lives a grateful life by the sea in the UK. She enjoys reading, spending time with friends and writing.
I’m posting this interview early, because Cathryn is about to give birth to her first child and I wanted to give her chance to see it before the wonderful journey of motherhood begins for her.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
The moment I truly realised to the pit of my soul that I had nowhere left to go in my addiction, nowhere to hide, was one night at the end of 2009 when I sat writing a note to my boyfriend and parents telling them how much I loved them and that I was sorry.
The reason I wrote this note was because I knew I was overdosing so heavily by taking almost 60 prescribed fentanyl lozenges a day that I knew I may die in my sleep.
I carefully placed the letter under my pillow in case I was found by my mother in the morning. I went to sleep that night not knowing if I would wake up or not. It wasn’t the thought of my own death which frightened me, but the awful truth of a loved-one finding my body, alone in my bed, the next morning. A lonely addict’s death.
A family wrenched apart by anguish.
It was as I finished writing, the tears were pouring down my face and I was sucking yet another lozenge, that I realised I hated the drug with all my heart. Yet I knew I couldn’t stop taking it.

That was the moment when I knew it was over – and more than that, I wanted it to be over. It was the point at which I gave up my fight to come off them and gave up my fight with my GP to stay on them. Shortly afterwards my GP cut me off and I booked into a rehab. Without that defining rock bottom I may still have been out there today, if I’d been lucky enough to survive this far.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’
I had several moment of clarity, the most powerful being the evening I saw myself writing my ‘suicide’ note to leave under my pillow in case I died overnight of a huge fentanyl overdose.

There had been other moments such as the day that my stepson wondered into my bedroom and saw me sucking one of my lozenges. I always tried to take them in a room away from other people. The guilt and shame of taking them was always hovering close-by even though I still couldn’t admit to myself I was truly addicted. This young, innocent boy came into the room and asked what I was doing.
I told him I was just taking my medicine and he looked at me with his head on one side then just as quickly lost interest and wandered off into another part of the house.

In that moment I saw myself through his eyes. I was an ill, frail, haggard-looking woman lying on her sick bed sucking through a pile of six lozenges, one after the other. I realised I was as far from his sweet, healthy innocence as a person could be. I saw myself as I was – and it was an ugly sight.

Shortly afterwards my GP called me into his surgery and told me he was cutting me off. I could’ve turned to heroin or street drugs. I could’ve sold my house and bought my drugs rather than rely on wheedling and demanding prescriptions from my doctor but I knew the game was up. I simply could not go on another day in the hell of getting my drugs, using my drugs then having to get more of them to be able to function.
I was done.
It wasn’t a spiritual or emotional moment. It was the feeling that my world had ended, had crashed down taking all of me with it, and I finally let it.
I gave up and gave in. I booked rehab and went into recovery.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Let’s be honest. Getting sober or clean is hard.
It’s unbelievably tough and there is no-thing and no-body to take away the challenges of every single minute of the journey.
But let me be absolutely clear on this – every craving, sweating, shaking, confusing, emotional, frightening or volatile moment of early recovery is better than a single second of using.
That is a promise.

Breaking out of the prison of addiction is tough going on every level; physically you may be beset by cravings or withdrawals, emotionally you may find all the fear and anger you have buried for years suddenly rises to the surface in powerful and overwhelming ways, mentally you may feel confused and disorientated and spiritually you may grasp the extend of the emptiness inside your soul which was the gap you poured the alcohol, drugs, sex, food or gambling into in a vain attempt to fill it.

But as with any rebirth, and with the right help from support services and/or family, the birthing pains ease as time passes, as your confidence slowly starts to increase, as the waves of withdrawals subside and as the ‘real’ you starts to slowly unfold.

There is no other way of getting well and finding out who you are. There is literally no other path to take. The startling and obvious truth of the matter is that unless you take the hard road, unless you give yourself up to recovery then you will die of your addiction. It is as simple and as brutal as that.
For me, the first 30 days were a rollercoaster ride of turbulent emotions and horrendous withdrawal symptoms like sweating, shaking and hallucinations.
I took all the support offered and somehow got through.

There was no blinding flash of light or super-charged miracle. It was literally a case of slogging through the madness and illness with the blind faith that somehow it would get better. Slowly, slowly the physical symptoms abated while the mental confusion took over. I suddenly realised I didn’t really know who I was. I didn’t know what I truly liked, what I didn’t like and how I should be. I still feel, more than three years into recovery, that I am learning about myself – and even more importantly, accepting parts of myself I tried so hard to run from during my years of using.

I learnt that I didn’t know how to live, I didn’t know how to feel and I didn’t know how to manage my feelings. Again, I’m still learning. Some things were as obvious as how often should I change my sheets? I really didn’t know what was ‘normal’. These days I strive for normal – whatever that may be. After years of chronic rebellion and escaping into my addiction to prescription painkillers, the grace of not sticking out, of doing things right, of being ok has been the most miraculous part of my journey.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

Getting clean is the biggest miracle of my journey. My rehab thought I’d never do it as I was on such high levels of fentanyl, my GP and my family thought I’d have to compromise and stabilize on a minimum daily allowance of lozenges because of my horrendous pain levels. But I knew I had to break free and rehab was my one and only chance.

Three years later and I have written a book about my experiences called Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage To Redemption which is published by Piatkus Books and launches in the US in July 2013. I am immensely proud and grateful to be able to share my story in the hope it helps others going through the same hell I was. I have received messages saying that my book and my story have prompted readers or loved-ones to find recovery and that is a gift worth more than gold.

As I write this, I am also 81/2 months pregnant with my first baby. An experience I could never have predicted as I was too ill, addicted and frail to carry a child and was told categorically by my surgeons in hospital that I would never be able to have one, if I survived at all. My recovery has given me my child, the love of my family and friends and a chance to start anew, to rediscover who I really am and what I really want. It’s given me everything.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
I would never want to go back in time, even in theory. When I was using I wouldn’t have listened to myself – or anyone else. I was utterly focused on getting and using my prescriptions, nothing else mattered; not myself, not my family, nothing.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

Learning about myself is an ongoing, sometimes painful, sometimes frustrating and inspiring path.
The main thing I have learnt is to accept who I actually am ie I’m pretty bossy, a total organization freak and I am terrible at self-caring, rather than trying to make myself be who I want to be.
In my using I hid from myself and the world. I’d always wanted to be someone else, didn’t matter who it was, I’d pick the nearest person and emulate them, trying to mould myself into someone more relaxed, fun or attention-seeking.

Learning to like myself for my quirks and foibles is a challenge but it’s about coming home in so many ways. Now I know I love my solitude, I love reading and thinking, I’m naturally an introvert but I know I have a path to tread in public talking about addiction and so I am learning to do that with integrity and with respect for my own values.

It’s something that needs working on everyday as new situations and experiences arise. “Know thyself” is my goal and my mantra now so I can live with dignity and integrity.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Life on life’s terms – reminding me daily that I have to work at my life, I have to be accountable for my reactions to events around me and that life is out of my control and thank god it is!

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Because it’s about living, for the first time.
Truly, properly, living.
There is no alternative to recovery. As addicts or alcoholics there is no other happy future; only pain, misery and possibly death without it.
Recovery then brings you to yourself – for some of us it’s the first time we’ve ever had the chance to get to know ourselves. It is the only way to live with self-respect and with truth. It isn’t always easy, life carries on and throws things at us in recovery as well as in our using days. People die, friendships end, relationships falter and money runs out – these things happen regardless of how well we are and so recovery is about learning to live in the real world and not in a fantasy of our own invention.

Recovery is about learning not to hide, to become our own person and that can mean hard choices being made. It is the only way though. The only true and real path and we are all brave enough to undertake it.

Recovery Rocks in so many ways and beyond most of our wildest dreams. I have seen so many people blossom into the person they are meant to be, and I hope I’m doing that as well.

Recovery Rocks – Beth Burgess

I’m so pleased to present this weeks ‘Recovery Rocks’ interview with Beth Burgess. Beth is a Sobriety Coach and NLP practitioner. She runs her own business in London helping other addicts and alcoholics get and stay sober. She is the author of two books The Recovery Formula and The Happy Addict due out in July 2013.

Head Thumbnail - Beth Burgess
Beth is dedicated to challenging the stigma of addiction whenever she can. Her story is particularly inspiring as a short time ago she couldn’t leave her house. Now she is a public speaker.
Her website is here.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

The whole of my addiction was pretty much one long rock bottom. I sold my body to feed my addiction, ended up in two mental institutions and tried to kill myself seven times. I was also multiple diagnosis, so I had the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, Social Phobia and eating disorders to deal with, too. Towards the end of my drinking, my body was completely done, and I was in and out of hospital about every three weeks with horrendous alcohol withdrawals.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

I always wanted to sort myself out, so there was no moment where I suddenly thought “I’m sick of living like this.” I had always been sick of living like that, but I had an anxiety disorder, and I was too afraid to even leave the house without a drink. It was more a matter of finding the answers to solve my problems, so that I could actually recover.

Luckily when I was in my mid-20s, I had my anxiety disorder completely cured with NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). At that point, I was able to go about my day like everyone else, without the crippling fear that had tormented me for so long.

It still took me a little while to get sober properly, as, despite going to alcohol services, I didn’t understand anything about addiction. I didn’t understand that controlled drinking doesn’t work if you’re an addict. I didn’t know that recovery was more than just putting down the bottle.

It took me a lot of trial and error to finally figure out what does work and how to have a strong recovery. That’s one of the reasons I wrote my books – I wanted to educate people who want to recover, so they don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Let’s not sugar-coat this – it was very difficult for the first month or so. I felt like I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I had just ended up with this life that I didn’t want. I cried a lot; I was angry, depressed and confused. I craved alcohol so badly I had to lock myself in the bathroom at times.

But the more work you do on your recovery, the quicker all those things pass. I want people to know that it does get better as long as you work on changing your thinking and your responses to life. The first few months are almost always going to be hard, but the rewards of recovery are immense and last a lifetime.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

The main thing has to be that I am finally proud of myself, and so are my loved ones. Recovery has also brought some amazing people into my life.

But in terms of what I’ve done, the ability to help other people is the best thing I could have dreamed of. I’ve published books and articles about recovery, I make videos about it, I’ve been asked to do speeches; and every day I hear lovely things from people I have helped directly, or have inspired with hope. I trained in NLP myself, so I could help to free others who had been stuck like I was. The words of gratitude I hear from my clients make every day wonderful.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

There isn’t really anything I could have told myself. It might have been nice to have been told it would all be OK one day, but it was a matter of me learning things, rather than telling myself anything. I never needed a wake-up call – I needed the right education about addiction, the right treatments for all my issues and the right support. It would have been nice to get all those things sooner, but I’m just grateful they came at all.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I am the one who determines what my day will be like. I have the power to choose my responses to life. I can choose to focus on the positive or to focus on the negative. I can choose to sulk, or I can look for solutions. It is empowering to be able to take responsibility for my life. As long as I am sober and living with integrity, there is no problem that can floor me. There are always solutions, silver linings and lessons as long as I stay sober and have a good attitude. When I do what is right and what is effective, I win, I am free, and I go to bed with a smile on my face.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Haha, I like “Recovery Rocks” actually, because it truly does. “This too shall pass” works well to tolerate great pain. If anything, I live my life by the mantra “Do the next right thing” and the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (I leave out the ‘God’ word, as I’m not religious; it’s more an appeal to my brain to think the right thoughts and serve me well). I just got an amazing tattoo which says: “Face your truth. Take your freedom” which reminds me that as long as I face up to reality, and have the courage to do the right thing, rather than hiding behind faulty coping mechanisms, I can be free.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Because I am finally free. Before, I was completely enslaved by my need to drink, and I had no real control over what was happening in my life. I missed out on so much through either being drunk or in withdrawal. In recovery, I get to do what I want, not what the bottle wants. But most of all, these days I live with integrity, and am proud of who I am. That’s priceless.


Recovery Rocks – Darlene Steelman

Darlene Nice
I want to introduce you to Darlene Steelman who writes the amazing recovery blog www.lifeatfullthrottle.com. She has been sober for 7 years and when she is not working she is working on her blog and writing her first novel. Like many of the stories featured here, the description of her drinking and rock bottom are really powerful.
Her story is inspirational and a testimony to how miraculous recovery can be.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

My bottom was pathetic. I was living in my enabler’s basement and trading sex for drugs and money. I had lost a lot of weight, my children had been taken from me by youth services and I could not hold a job. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to be anything that I ever wanted to be. I spent a month in that basement (only leaving to get more booze and drugs) feeling sorry for myself and blaming God and other people for my misfortunes.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

I was in that same basement, sitting in the recliner that I had gotten my period all over a month ago. I didn’t care. I deserved nothing but death. I walked by the full length mirror and took a long hard look at myself. I am tall and weighed about 120 pounds. My eyes and cheeks were sunken in. I looked around at all the dirty clothes, the pop tart wrappers (it was the only thing I would eat) and the residue from crushing pills on the desk. My daughters’ stuffed animals sat on the bed and I dropped to my knees and begged God for help through a tear-soaked face. He must have heard me because I haven’t picked up since.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
The first few days were painful because I detoxed in that basement by myself eating nothing but pop tarts and drinking coffee while chain-smoking cigarettes. After that, they were exciting! I went to an outpatient group
and met some great people. I felt good and had gained some weight back pretty quick. I felt different. Being sober was new to me, but it felt so good.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
I got my youngest daughter back in my custody. I built a relationship with my family. I learned how to treat people. I paid off some debt. I got my motorcycle license. I landed an awesome job. I realized that writing is my passion and if I work really hard, God will put things in my path to make my life amazing. I got in a relationship pretty early in my recovery (not recommended) but I learned a lot from that, too. I ended that relationship and now have an awesome, solid, sober relationship with an amazing man. I learned that it is okay to be me and that problems happen… life on life’s terms. I just deal with it as it comes. I learned that women are not evil and actually have female friends now!

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself that I am a beautiful human being and everything is going to be okay. But knowing me, I would not have listened. There are just some things that have to be learned a certain way.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That I am an amazing woman. I am beautiful, have a huge heart and am capable of loving and being loved. I learned that I make mistakes, and that’s okay. I learned that there are better ways to cope with life that don’t involve drugs and/or alcohol. I also learned that I am a pretty good artist.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
“Think, think, think.”
“One day at a time.”
“First things first.”
“Let go and let God.” (My all-time favorite)

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery Rocks because I wake up every morning feeling the same way I felt when I went to bed. Living life on life’s terms and dealing with the good and bad that comes down my path as a sober woman is amazing! I have met so many amazing people in recovery.
Using the tools to live the kind of life I want to live, be the kind of mother I want to be and the kind of human being God had planned for me is an amazing gift. I thank God every day for my second lease on life.

Do drugs and alcohol make you more creative?

My son's first art work (20 months).

My son’s first art work (20 months).

Another interesting article in The Guardian about addiction and creativity.
Alex Preston a writer, discusses how Prozac inhibited his ability to write. He asked around and found that other writers experienced similar problems.
I have always thought the question of addiction and creativity to be an interesting one. It certainly seems to be an occupational hazard amongst musicians, artists and writers.
I have heard the argument that some people believe that drugs and alcohol have enhanced their ability to be creative. I personally don’t buy that.
I think there are plenty of examples of artists who have gone on to greater success once they were clean and sober.
The other question you could ask is whether artists are more predisposed to mental health conditions like depression? Do they initially use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate? Again, there is a long list of artist’s battling mental health demons.

I believe there is a reason for that. In Brain Rules for Babies* John Medina explores how babies brain’s develop and lays out the scientific research that shows you how to raise a smart and happy child. The most interesting part of this, is research indicates the two most important things you can teach a child are:
Impulse control &

A book every parent should read.

A book every parent should read.

As a scientist he was staggered at how important the development of empathy was for a happy and healthy life. It is, in fact key.
Scientific research then goes on to show that one of the best ways to develop empathy is through music. Researchers have shown that kids who learn any instrument before the age of 7 for at least 10 years had measurably more empathy than their peers.
Could this also be a predisposition to addiction or abuse of alcohol and drugs? After all, one of the purposes of abusing drugs and alcohol is to numb feelings.
Do musicians just over empathise?
Do artists just feel too much?
Those who get it right produce work that enriches our souls and brings pleasure to many people whilst also living their own happy lives. Those who get it wrong can still bring pleasure to many but at a devastating personal cost.

What do you think? Do you think drugs and alcohol have enhanced your ability to creative or have they stiffled it?
Is the art worth the pain?

*As a therapist I developed a ton of theories about why kids turned out the way they do. I believed a lot of it was down to parenting. My theory was that the most important thing you can teach a child is how to master their emotional life and everything follows from there. Brain Rules for Babies completely supports this theory. It is our internal world that is the most important to define and understand.

What’s the difference between anonymity and secrecy?

For those of you haven’t heard of David Sheff, he wrote a best selling memoir about his addicted son ‘Beautiful Boy.’
He has just written a follow-up ‘Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy,’ which explores the addiction treatment system and everything related to it.
One of the most interesting things he discusses is that addicts and alcoholics should come ‘out’ about their past in order to spread awareness and break down barriers. Fear and shame prevents people talking about personal experience with addiction. Families really struggle dealing with the addict in their family because they don’t want anyone to find out. Sheff is advocating that more people are public with their experience of addiction.
For the record, I totally agree with this.
I am completely open in all areas of my life that I am a recovered alcoholic. It’s just part of who I am. When you have worked as an addictions therapist it’s pretty hard to hide as the question you are most often asked is ‘how did you get into that?’
I am not ashamed or embarrassed, just very matter of fact. Because of this, I inevitably have people ask me for help or advice when they realise they have a problem or love someone who does. If I can help I do, I tell them there is hope.

My alcoholism is not a secret, it made me who I am an I am proud of what I have become.
I won’t lie, I sometimes enjoy watching people’s shocked faces when I tell them I spent most of my twenties drinking too much and snorting drugs. I can tell by their faces they don’t think I look the ‘type.’
And that’s the point.
Addicts and alcoholics can look like me, they can look like anyone. It can happen to anyone.
I used to think that alcoholics were ‘smelly old men on benches’ and because I hadn’t lost my job or got a DUI I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ I think a lot of people think like that and could get help a lot earlier if they had more information.
You can read the interview here.
What does everyone else think?

Would you date a convicted felon?


Your immediate answer is probably no.

But I would invite you to think again after reading this because I want to tell you about my friend Sophie.
Sophie is a recovered addict and alcoholic and has been sober for 4 years.
She is:
– Kind
– Thoughtful
– Intelligent
– Curious
– Fearless
– Brave
– Strong

and funny
She is also:
a single mother of a straight A student
– a beloved daughter
– a valued colleague
– an active member of her church
– respected in her community
– appreciated neighbor
– a wonderful friend
and a convicted felon.

Sophie is the kind of person, that if you met her, you would never in a million years believe that she had been a drug addict. She is just so ‘together’. There is no one, less likely than her of committing a crime, and yet in active addiction she did.
Her addiction took her to place she thought she would never go.
Sophie accepts the consequences of her crime and understands why she was convicted for drug procession. She is sad, but not angry and very grateful to be clean and sober with a chance at rebuilding her life.
Having a conviction caused her to loose a career she loved and yet despite this she has rebuilt her life and found something else that she is good at. She now has the privilege of working with teenagers who have their own drug and alcohol problems. They listen and respect her because they sense she knows what she’s talking about.

I also need to mention she’s single* and at a point in her life where she would like to date. She tried on-line dating and enjoyed a couple of dates. Then she met someone she had some chemistry with and felt hopeful something could work out.

Then he told her he had run a background check on her.

He told her he wasn’t sure if he could continue to date someone with a criminal history. Someone who had been involved with drugs.
As Sophie is now a woman of dignity, she was able to tell him that she felt her privacy had been invaded and she no longer wished to see him.
Of course she was upset and hurt, she had been judged before he had got a chance to know the real her.

I’ve known her for 3 years and I trust her completely. It seems incredible to me that this man was small minded enough to judge her on a terrible mistake she made in her past.
For someone who has never had any experience of addiction I can understand why he would be alarmed. However, he had been out with Sophie a few times and he would have seen she clearly was no longer using any substances. If he had given her time she would have told him her story. How she used drugs and alcohol to cope with her past, to deal with feelings she couldn’t manage. That this lead her to do things she would never dream of, if she had been in her ‘right mind.’
She would have told him that one day she had a moment of clarity and desperation and made a decision to get help. That she has now been clean and sober for 4 years and her life has been transformed.
She would have told him about the disease of addiction and how she over came it and her sobriety is dependent on rigorous honesty.
Had he given her a chance, he would have realised that this was someone he could trust, who had integrity, who was fearlessly honest. Someone who was worthy of love, respect and friendship.
But he didn’t give her a chance.
He made a decision based on a snap judgement.
That poor guy.
He really, really missed out, because Sophie is sensational and when the right guy comes along and wins her heart. Boy, are they going to be lucky.

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of Freedigitalphotos.net

She is going to make a fabulous and wonderful girlfriend or wife someday. They will appreciate her journey, they will know that it takes enormous courage to overcome what she has and still be able to laugh and dance and sing. To be able to embrace everyday with joy and take every opportunity for happiness that comes her way.
And they will be very grateful she is theirs.

So I don’t want to ask you if you would date a convicted felon, your answer may still be no or maybe this post has made you see things differently. What I really want to ask you is; do you judge people on one thing from their past and who have you missed out on because you didn’t see the full picture?

*If you are an eligible bachelor (over 40), whose is intelligent, fun and non-judgemental, who enjoys life, has a positive attitude, good sense of humour, a job and their own teeth. Personal message me through Facebook and I might, just might introduce you to Sophie.

Recovery Rocks – Jillanna D. Mercer

This weeks ‘Recovery Rocks’ interview is with the fabulous Jillanna D. Mercer (38). She manages to be a mother of three children while working as a hair stylist at Wingard Salon in Champaign Illinois.
One of the first things you notice about Jillanna is the word ‘Sober’ tattoed boldly on her arm.
She’s serious about recovery.
Her life is full with her family and career, the only helping hand she requires now is some good coffee.

Her interview is breathtakingly honest, Jillanna has been fearless in describing how low her addiction took her. She lays bare the reality of being a young mother in addiction and how close she came to loosing her children. Thankfully she turned herself around.
If you are a mother struggling with addiction or you know someone who is. Then you need to read this.
Sobriety date: 08/10/09


Recovery Rocks Interview

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
(Deep Breath)
I remember the exact moment I hit rock bottom. I can describe the room I was in, the time of day, and what I was wearing. I was 7 months pregnant and in a state run rehab. I had no money, no job, no car, no friends or family willing to talk to me. I was homeless. I had lost my rights to my oldest son and hadn’t seen or talked to him in months.
I was pretty sure I was going to lose the rights to my unborn child. I had been in the rehab a few days and had gotten to know some of the women. Most were either coming from jail or going to jail. None of them had any relationship with their kids. A lot of them had drug and alcohol related illnesses, like hepatitis and HIV.
All the women looked rough. Hardened.
Some didn’t even have their teeth. I looked around and saw what my peer group had become. I could not continue down this path any longer. I knew I had to stop and not ever, ever, ever use again.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?

I had spent my few days there also reading recovery literature. I recognized that a power greater than myself was necessary to make any permanent change. But I did not have a clear understanding of how to do this. I found a woman who had struck me as somewhat spiritual. I asked her to pray with me. We went into a small unused office and she prayed for me. We both cried a little. I can’t really tell you what words she used but it was a plea for help. I felt an indescribable peace come over me. I believe this was my ‘spiritual awakening’. Since that moment I have found the strength to overcome any urges I may have to drink or drug.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Honestly, they were pretty rough. No one trusted me. No one believed I could stay sober. No one could appreciate the changes I could feel inside that this time was different. My biggest struggle was my pregnancy. There was a very real fear that DCFS would take my child. I was honest with my doctors and was preparing myself for the worst. No one around me could really get excited about the baby because they too knew she could be taken into foster care and they were concerned I would not stay sober if that happened. I kept to myself. I did a lot of recovery reading. I prayed a lot.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
There are so many!
The very best thing is I am a get to be a wonderful Mom. My relationship with my first child has been restored. The first year I was sober, I was not allowed to see him. But I could call. I called every night. Gradually I was allowed short visits and now I have just as much time as any other divorced parent. My second child, the one I was pregnant with when I got sober, was not ever involved with DCFS. She is happy and healthy. I also have a third child. I absolutely love being a mom to my kids.

I also went back to school to get my cosmetology license. I now am a self-employed hair stylist.

Finally my relationships with my friends and family have been restored. I am now trusted and appreciated.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were dinking/using what would you tell yourself?
My first rehab was in 2007. I could stay sober for 3 months or maybe even 6 months but then I would relapse. I would be triggered by something and then start obsessing about the drugs. I felt I HAD to use. I did not feel I had a choice.
Now I know that those feelings of wanting to use will pass. Before I thought I would be struggling with them forever. I never realized how quickly the intensity of wanting to use can go away. The same is true for how mad I get at someone or how sad I feel or how hopeless a situation seems. This too shall pass. Without a doubt it is the most valuable tool I learned.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
It is amazing to me how much easier my life got once I stopped self-destructing. Just by doing the right things, I eliminated a ton of stress. No more worrying about hurting people I care about, or going to jail. No worries about losing my job or my boyfriend finding out I cheated on him. No hangover headaches or overdrawn bank accounts.

I have learned that my life is pretty simple. There is very little I can actually control. If I make the very best decisions I can and have some faith in God, everything works out.

7) What are your favourite recovery slogans?
One day at a time. This too shall pass.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Today I live a life I never thought possible. My whole life I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I was filled with depression and sadness. Those feelings led me to drink and drug and that led to utter chaos. There are days I am still in shock that I am sober.
I am totally amazed that I can be so happy. Not that I don’t have problems or struggles, but I feel I have been giving the tools to live my life. The best part is that I know my feelings are genuine. Happy or sad, they are mine. And that totally rocks!

If you are clean and sober and would like to take part in a Recovery Rocks interview, please message me through my Facebook page. I would love to include you!