Live Learn Love

Live Learn Love

I was given the best life as a child…seriously, what most kids dream of.  I was in a place where I was always safe and loved beyond belief.  My personality considered it a challenge to mess things up as much as possible!  I wish I could report happy endings, rainbows and unicorns but I can’t.  I did everything in my power to mess things up…or my disease did?  I still to this day couldn’t tell you the difference between my crazy brain and the disease working throughout my life.   I did certain things because I was hijacked by my crazy disease but others have been a learning experience in my life in recovery.

I woke up in a ditch laying on top of someone who had also been thrown out of the back of a pickup truck…my brain was fuzzy and I couldn’t figure out where I was or what I was doing in a ditch.  I finally got all my faculties in line and realized I was thrown out of the back of a truck that we were riding in.  The person who was driving was drunk and driving down a mountain road that had just been paved with fresh new gravel.  Drunk driving is never a good idea (or legal) but on a back mountain road with fresh new gravel is a recipe for disaster.  Five people got thrown out of the back of that truck that night, it was pitch black out and we were in the middle of the mountains with no help!  There were two people in the truck but at first glance I did not see the truck…that was because it had gone off the cliff on the opposite side we got thrown off of.  I woke up to everyone unconscious.  I shook the person next to me to wake them up.  The person next to me woke up and we started taking a quick inventory of injuries and people.  I realized one of us needed to run back for help, I was the least injured so I offered to go get help.  I was in soccer so running a few miles wasn’t really a big deal but running in the dark in the mountains was a whole new level of scary and crazy!  There are things like Mountain Lions and Bears but I knew I was the only one to get help so away I went….about two miles into my run I saw a car headed toward me.  I was running back towards where we all were at a huge bone fire and these people were at the bone fire so I got them to turn around and take me back.  I got back and got the help that we needed.  I ended up with a very deep scratch on my arm and I didn’t realize it until I got home.  I had to sew it together with my dad’s fishing line because I didn’t want them to know what happened. This would be the start to the long lonely path of deceit and bad decisions.  This would be how I lived my life for the next 8 years…on the edge and so close to death.  I never saw it that way of course because I was stuck in the drug addict delusion that I was invincible and I would never die from the disease of addiction.

I got into treatment 8 years later with a lengthy rap sheet of insanity.  The doctor said I should be dead but here I sit wanting to be happy, joyous and free.  I could go into all the stories but I’ll save them for another time.  What I’m hoping you will hear is you can be far down that path of “there’s no way back” and get back.  I’m living proof…I have been sober and clean for 8 years and it has been such an amazing ride.  I’m not going to say it’s been easy because that would be a lie, it was a lot of work!

I did go back to the spot where I got thrown from the truck…it is a miracle that I didn’t die…God was watching over me. I lived a very dangerous life but I also learned a lot.  I learned 587 reasons not to get drunk, 876 ways that drugs can make you try to kill yourself, 1 million reasons why driving and using is not okay…and my favorite 1 billion reasons why being sober is so much better than the other side.  I have learned that love can heal so many wounds and build blown up bridges! I found people in this program that loved me back to me.  I found me that had been missing for so many years, I was inside I had just drank me away and drugged myself into a dark hole.  Once I started going to meetings, listening to others, got a sponsor, and started working the steps I saw the path before me was going to be hard but it was going to be so worth it.  I learned that I had made a lot of bad choices but I could make good ones to bring me back to where I would be happy, joyous, and free!  I pick love… to love my God, love myself, love my family, and to love the choice I have every day waking up with a smile on my face.  I lived, lived hard…I learned, I learned hard…I love and I love hard!  Love hard and work hard in this program of recovery its rewards are miraculous!

Emotional Relapse

I have had many times where I have felt that while I’m putting my foot forward and doing the next right thing my heart isn’t in it.  I have been sponsoring women for the last 7 years, going to meetings, calling my sponsor and doing things the program tells us to do but for some reason my heart felt bankrupt and distant.

My mother recently passed away and it was by the hardest moment in my recovery feeling like I had no control over emotion or control over life.  I felt like I was on an emotional roller-coaster.  I would compare it to the first year in recovery.  The first year in recovery I was trying to find myself, learning how to handle emotions…basically learning to “human” again.  I was very unsure about everything I did I just kept doing the next right thing and put one foot in front of the other.  When my mom passed I was gently reminded that I am not in control no matter how smooth life seems to be going, it’s not my will that will be done in this life.

It has been a little over 6 months since I lost my mom and I have felt like these first 6 months have been very similar to the first 6 months in recovery.  I’m trying to find my new normal without someone who was a rock in my life.  I feel like I have emotionally relapsed since my mom has been gone,  I went back to a lot of self- defeating behaviors telling myself I’m not good enough, I’m not a good mom, not a good at what I do…very negative emotional drive.  The pain and suffering of my mom’s passing is pushing me towards an emotional relapse.

After speaking with my sponsor she told me the more I sit and dwell on the bad and negative the next step will be the bottle or drugs because the emotional negativity will be too much for me to handle and I will want an out. I knew she was right, I have started to change my thinking of negative dwelling on the pain to gratitude and what blessings I have been given.  I open a devotional book every day, I dive into things that I love to do, I write or journal about my emotions, I have written my mom letters and enjoying life’s simple pleasures again.  I have opened myself up to be raw and real with my emotions and talking to people about them when I need to.

I realized that I was in recovery for a long time and had forgotten to go back to the basics when a life changing event happens.  While I may have emotionally relapsed I pulled myself out and started back at the beginning one step at a time and one grateful moment at a time.  Emotional relapse happened to me because I had a major life changing event but having the program of recovery has helped pull me back up on my feet.  If you have lost someone or you have someone who is close to passing don’t forget to reach out and start back at the basics to help get you through, we are all in this together.

Heroin supplier found responsible for slaying, given 37 years in prison

Heroin supplier found responsible for slaying, given 37 years in prison

David Price on his custom built bike.

A heroin supplier who prosecutors say wielded violence to protect his drug empire and flaunted his riches with a lavish lifestyle was sentenced to 37 years in prison Thursday by a federal judge who found him responsible for the slaying of an informant.

After two days of evidence and arguments, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber held David Price responsible for shooting a longtime friend in front of the man’s 3-year-old daughter for cooperating with the feds.

Price had been convicted more than three years ago on 13 counts of money laundering, conspiracy and weapons counts.

In seeking life in prison, prosecutors had argued that Price should be held responsible for killing longtime friend Gregory Holden after Holden helped out authorities — an allegation Price was not charged with or convicted on.

On Thursday, Leinenweber concluded that Price was indeed responsible by a preponderance of the evidence — a lower standard of proof than the beyond a reasonable doubt that a jury must find to convict.

But given that Price was not convicted of the murder, the judge rejected life in prison, saying he thought that was “a little too much.”

Leinenweber said he chose 37 years in prison so Price, 38, wouldn’t be freed from prison until he was an older man.

After the hearing, Price’s attorney, Beau Brindley, said he would appeal the conviction and sentence. He said there was “not sufficient evidence” to find Price responsible of “a murder of any kind.”

Price’s father, who testified against his son but had questioned prosecutors’ attempt to portray him as a murderer, declined to comment.

“He ain’t no kingpin,” his father told the Tribune on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said Price’s body tells the story of his life — from the tattoo covering his face that says “Neighborhood Bully” to the pictures of his children tattooed on his back just above the tat showing him with guns blazing in each hand, plus the words “God Forgives, I Don’t.”

He lived by those words, prosecutors allege, shooting Holden, ordering hits on other “rats” and even threatening to kill his own father when he refused to continue to launder drug money.

Price, nicknamed “Shorty” and “Hot Sauce,” acted ruthlessly to protect a lucrative drug empire that supplied heroin to open-air drug markets on Chicago’s West Side for seven years, prosecutors said.

The profits enabled Price to live lavishly, buying luxury homes, including a downtown high-rise apartment; driving a Corvette and a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle; and owning a $35,000 watch encrusted with more than 1,000 diamonds, according to prosecutors. Price even named his son after Louis Vuitton, his favorite luxury clothing brand, authorities said. Read More…

3 nurses revived with Narcan after opioid patient treated at Ohio hospital

3 nurses revived with Narcan after opioid patient treated at Ohio hospital

MASSILLON, Ohio– Three nurses at an Ohio hospital who helped treat an overdose patient were overcome by secondary exposure and had to be treated with an emergency drug.Massillon police said they believe the substance the nurses were exposed to was fentanyl.

“They were cleaning up the room and started to feel sick. And then that left them waking up in a hospital bed,” Detective Shaun Dadisman said.

Investigators said the nurses had to be treated with Narcan, the drug used to revive those who overdose on heroin or Fentanyl.

“It shuts down your breathing. It shuts down your system so you get to the point where you’re not breathing on your own. And you need that boost and that Narcan is what takes that away so it helps you to recover quickly,” Dadisman said.

The problems with fentanyl and other opioids have become so profound that law enforcement and medical personnel are now forced to come up with new policies and protocols to handle these cases.

“I was actually stuck by a needle from an individual on a heroin overdose, so I had to run through all of the testing myself,” Dadisman said.

He said the grip opioids now have on a growing segment of society has created a huge risk for those whose job it is to save lives.

“I think there will be continued changes – gloves, masks. And the problem with our first responders, police officers and our nurses and stuff, is you don’t know immediately what you’re dealing with,” Dadisman said. “After the fact, you may know, but it may be too late.” Read more…


Grieving a Glass Half-Empty

Grieving a Glass Half-Empty

To have an addict in your life is to accept that each time you see that person might be the last.

I didn’t think much about the evening ritual of hide-and-seek we’d play with my father when I was a kid. It’s just what we did a couple of nights a week:

The sun is setting and Dad isn’t home. Mom can’t get in touch with him at the office. My kid sister, my toddler brother and I jump into the silver Toyota van and we drive through the small downtown area where a handful of bars litter each side of the street. Mom searches from left to right for Dad’s car. And then we prepare for the disheartened look on Mom’s face as she emerges from the bar where she finds Dad hiding behind vodka martinis.

The hide-and-seek game continued for years, into my early adulthood, until my father got so lost in addiction that he could no longer be found. So lost that, at times, I’ve assumed the identity of a “fatherless child.”

And with the assumption of that identity came overwhelming feelings of loss that I couldn’t understand. Why did I feel like I was mourning someone who I knew was alive, somewhere?

Because I was and still am.

An Episcopalian funeral liturgy says that in the midst of life we are in death. While we all walk around with expiration dates, I feel that those who have fallen victim to addiction dangerously teeter the line between life and death, becoming ghosts that filter in and out of our lives alongside briefly hopeful moments of sobriety. The anguish of living in the purgatory of unknowing—which dad was I going to get on the phone today? The slurring one? Or the brilliant one?—propelled me into grief. Read more “the fix”…

A Day by Any Other Number…

A Day by Any Other Number…

I tried smoking medical marijuana for my anxiety disorder but it made my symptoms worse and I stopped. The AA ideas came rushing back: “Does this mean I’m not sober anymore?”

I first came into recovery the same way most people do; after a six year downward spiral into alcoholism, I finally put up a white flag and went to treatment, where I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous.

I remember the first meetings I went to. Hearing other people’s stories and knowing that I wasn’t the only person who had made a complete mess of their life gave me hope that I could one day recover. I was regularly inspired by the people that I met in the rooms and their experience, strength and hope kept me going when things got hard.

AA is responsible for getting me through those first white-knuckle days of sobriety, and for that I’m eternally grateful. But from the beginning, there were things about the program that didn’t quite jive with me, particularly the way relapses were handled.

Addiction is a chronic disease; statistics for relapse rates vary depending on who you ask, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 – 60% of people treated for substance abuse will relapse (the relapse rates for opioids are even higher, with many statistics putting the rate as high as 91%).

For many, relapse is a part of their recovery. But in my experience, it wasn’t treated that way in the rooms.

A slip or a relapse was often treated less like a natural part of the recovery process and more like a full-fledged abandonment of sobriety. No matter how long you had sober, if you slipped up, you were back to square one. You were a newcomer again, the days or months or years of time and energy you spent building your recovery and transforming into a better, more honest person – erased.

To me, that seemed completely and totally backwards. And in my experience, it did more harm than good. It seemed that many people, afraid of judgement and “losing their clean time,” were too ashamed to go back to the rooms after slipping up. I’ve heard stories of minor slips becoming full on relapses as people thought “well, I already lost my clean time… no point in stopping now!”

That didn’t sit right with me. For this (and many other reasons), I ultimately decided AA wasn’t for me.

Flash forward to six years into my recovery. Battling an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, I decided to give medicinal marijuana a try. I smoked a few times, found that it didn’t relieve any of my symptoms (in fact, it exacerbated them) and decided it wasn’t for me.

Now, at this point, I hadn’t been to a meeting in about three years. But a lot of the ideas I learned in AA came rushing back to the forefront of my consciousness. All of a sudden, I started questioning everything I knew about myself, my choices, and my recovery:

“Does this mean I’m not sober anymore?”

“What will people say when they find out?”

“Are the past six years of my recovery – and life – now null and void?”

“Are people going to think this means I want to start drinking again?”

I quickly fell into a shame spiral. Read more

Finding a New Normal After Addiction

There were leftover beers scattered outside the house as the picnic came to a close. Linda* remembers rounding up the cups and bottles and polishing them off—a little bit of everything that everyone else was having at the party. She was in elementary school.

Another mom stood there appalled, scolding her. For Linda, the mother’s reaction is a distinct childhood memory. For the first time, she thought, “Oh, maybe this was not normal. But I didn’t have a gauge for normal. I grew up in an alcoholic home. It was like the Wild West. There was no law and order in that home. Everybody fended for themselves.”

Linda’s mom was often sick and periodically hospitalized with different ailments, while her father frequently traveled for work. At a moment’s notice, she and her older brother would be shuffled off to other people’s homes. “It was always a lot of chaos. You never knew one day to the next what was going to happen,” she said. “It was just total disorder and unmanageability.”

But all the turmoil was stuffed behind closed doors, and Linda’s family was an expert in image control. “We were the perfect people,” she recalled. Her family lived in their fancy home, driving their luxury cars down the streets of their affluent neighborhood. They wore designer clothes, went to the best schools in the area, and traveled the world.

By her senior year of high school, Linda consistently brought home straight A’s, won awards, and excelled in sports. “On the inside, everything was so disorganized. I went to great lengths to present a different picture,” she said. Her effort paid off when she was accepted to an Ivy League university.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Take Over

Accustomed to very few rules already, college ushered in an era of completely unchecked impulses for Linda. There was always an excuse to drink, whether she was rewarding herself for finishing a tough assignment or acing a test, or if she were at a football game. She’d have one because it was the beginning of the weekend—meaning a Thursday night for her. Hard day? Crack open a can. Why drink a regular-sized beer when you can drink a 40-ounce bottle? “I pretty much became a daily drinker there,” she said. “I didn’t realize that I drank alcoholically in college until I got sober.”

During her sophomore year, Linda was randomly assigned to the same dorm suite as the school’s baseball team. As the only woman, she said she took on the role of nurturing sister, ordering extra food for them or picking up their groceries while she was as the store. “I had absolutely endeared myself to them,” she said.

These close relationships allowed Linda to live a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde life. She was put together on the outside, but things could turn quickly, especially when drinking. “I could go to fraternity parties or basically wherever I wanted, act with impunity, and get away with it. If anyone came after me they would have player 1, 2, 3, and 4 and all their cousins and brothers after them. So, I did that,” she said. “I really acted in a way that was irresponsible and selfish.”

In her junior year, Linda joined a fraternity after a friend joked that because she was always hanging out with them that she might as well pledge. “I was like, game on. I was always that way. I’ll see you and raise your bet,” Linda said. “I know now that they don’t ask light drinkers to pledge a fraternity, especially if you’re a girl.”

Despite her drinking habits, Linda continued to wear the mask she’d kept on since she was a little girl. “I was your type A overachiever. I looked like a Brooks Brothers catalog. I had the best grades. I was in all the right activities,” she said. “I was always harder, faster, stronger than everyone else. I did that so people would overlook things. They wouldn’t question me.” As she graduated college, she had an acceptance letter from an elite law school in one hand and a drink in the other.

A ‘Full-Blown Alcoholic’

Law school brought sanctioned daily drinking as Linda made her way from one recruiting event to another. “We would get these law firms and businesses throwing these ridiculous, over-the-top parties any night of the week at the place of [our] choice. It was open bar,” she said. “We were wined, dined, and recruited.”

Everything revolved around alcohol—study groups, nights off, parties. She once arranged a slew of kegs for an academic activity with the law journal, “not the kind of activity [for which] you would normally need a keg party.” Someone quipped that that seemed strange, but Linda saw nothing wrong with it.

As the pressures of law school intensified, Linda started drinking alone frequently. The more demanding her course load, the more she drank. “I became a full-blown alcoholic.” But once again, there were no consequences. She maintained her grades and received an offer from a prestigious firm upon graduation.

Linda went full throttle at work, putting in long hours on hard cases. “I was very high functioning,” she said, even as she drank all day at CLEs, client meetings, lunches, networking groups, “rubber chicken” dinners, black-tie events, and evening cocktails in the office’s conference room. “That was just the culture. It was very accepted,” Linda said. Not everyone would participate, but “I found the crew in the office. We always find each other.”

Linda says it wasn’t uncommon to go to somebody’s office to drop off a letter about a case and find them passed out, face down at their desk. She wasn’t an unusual case, Linda said. Her secretary once casually told her she might want some gum after a few cocktails at lunch. “We worked hard and partied hard. We figured it was our reward,” she said. Read more

After 6 clinic visits for treatment, Minn. woman says communities need to take alcoholism, mental illness seriously

After 6 clinic visits for treatment, Minn. woman says communities need to take alcoholism, mental illness seriously

HUDSON, Wis. — For Angie Payden, recovery is like a game of Jenga, strengthened by individual pieces such as Alcoholics Anonymous, religion, family, friends and more. If she loses one piece, the whole structure could come crashing down.

The fragility of sobriety is something Payden knows well. She went through recovery several times after struggling with alcohol abuse for years. In August, she’ll be four years sober.

“This is my last recovery,” she said.

A dormant disease

Payden’s problems with alcohol didn’t start with the first sip, like many of the stories go. She made it through her teenage and young adult years without issues. It wasn’t until she was 38 that her drinking got out of control. A mother of teenagers and a business owner, Payden started feeling stressed.

“I wasn’t happy with my life in general,” she said.”‘Nothing brought me pleasure.”

Except drinking.

As the stress worsened, Payden started to drink more and more on the weekends or while out with friends.

“I felt a lot better,” she said.

She soon realized she could feel better all the time, not just on weekends. So she started drinking on Thursdays, and then Mondays, and on and on.

“It wasn’t long before I was drinking every day,” she said.

At first, the drinking wasn’t impairing her life. But soon she began to experience the consequences.

Over the next several years, Payden went to the hospital for alcohol poisoning 20 times, spent nights in jail, closed her business and became alienated from her family.

During this time, Payden would have periods of sobriety. She followed a cycle of drinking too much, going to recovery or jail, sobering up and then drinking again.

“I could never reprogram my brain,” Payden said. Read more


Jimmy Fallon Addresses Alcoholism Rumors: I’m Not Drunk Every Night!

For years now, rumors about Jimmy Fallon’s alleged drinking problem have been circulating online and in the tabloid media.

The speculation was spurred by numerous witnesses who gave accounts of Fallon frequently getting “very drunk” at NYC bars after completing filming on The Tonight Show.

There were even reports that Fallon’s bosses at NBC were concerned about his hard-partying ways.

For years now, rumors about Jimmy Fallon’s alleged drinking problem have been circulating online and in the tabloid media.

The speculation was spurred by numerous witnesses who gave accounts of Fallon frequently getting “very drunk” at NYC bars after completing filming on The Tonight Show.

There were even reports that Fallon’s bosses at NBC were concerned about his hard-partying ways…Read more

Remove the Barriers to Addiction Recovery

Long-term recovery can often be a challenge to maintain when the surrounding environment gives little ongoing support for the challenges faced by individuals trying to get their life back on track.

barriers-recoveryUnlike recovery from other conditions, addiction packs the added burdens of stigma and a multitude of concrete barriers that make sustained recovery more difficult. People with addictive disorders face discrimination in educational, employment, housing, health care and many other areas that are critical in fostering the motivation required to maintain recovery. Policy-makers and society in general would do well to consider the deleterious impact that these factors have on the individual as well as the larger community. John Kelly, James McKay and Alexandra Plante call for changes in the way that we think about and respond to individuals in recovery…Dr. Richard Juman

After a 16-year battle with a prescription opioid use disorder, Ryan Michael has now been in recovery for over 12 months. But with a lack of job prospects and direction at 34 years old, back at home living with his parents, he now faces the grim reality of a troubled educational history, lack of a consistent work history, and financial debt from outstanding legal fees. Ryan contemplates what his next steps should be, as he tries to find his place among mainstream society after dropping out of high school more than a decade ago. A once purely optimistic and upbeat future outlook towards life after addiction, is now a hazy view of the future, tempered by the sheer number of obstacles he is facing in moving forward and reintegrating back into society.

“I feel like I’m up against a wall. I want to rejoin society, but society won’t let me in. Other people my age have well-established careers already and are saving for their children to go to college. In contrast, I didn’t even have an email address to my name up until last year when I left rehab. Saying I am behind the curve is an understatement.”

While tragic, this grim reality is not uncommon. Long-term recovery can often be a challenge to maintain when the surrounding environment gives little ongoing support or rewards to address the unique challenges faced by individuals trying to get their life back on track.

Statistically, it takes many years and multiple attempts for individuals to achieve full sustained remission from a substance use disorder. While progress has been, across the addiction treatment and recovery field, to increase the speed at which individuals reach remission from substance use disorders, working to make recovery more inviting and easier to sustain continues to be a challenge.

In an effort to increase sustained recovery outcomes, the key may not be in traditional forms of behavioral therapy or medications alone, but found in a larger focus on the mobilizers of motivation over time—the very motivation that would propel individuals through the many obstacles experienced in recovery, and set them up to build the foundations necessary for a happy and fulfilling life.

How do we sustain the motivation needed for individuals to achieve long-term recovery?

Sustained motivation in recovery often becomes a challenge, especially when the immediacy of the negative impacts of substance use begin to recede. The motivation needed for recovery is also challenged by a lack of sufficient rewards available in the environment. Over time, substance use disorders tend to hijack the human reward system in the brain, causing the impact of natural rewards such as friendships, food, sex, etc. to diminish. To address this process caused by pre-existing conditions or disease progression, access to rewards for individuals in recovery may need to be artificially increased to obtain the same level of positive reinforcement experienced by those with an intact rewards system unaffected by substance use. Read more “the fix”…