Tears of God and Joy

Beyonce_Marsha_Caitlin“Y’all I wanna tell you that God lives inside each and everyone of us! You have His power within you. And, you are responsible for your own happiness! You and you alone have the Power you need!” –Beyonce 🐝💙

I am a Beyonce fan. Like, a big Beyonce fan. As in, knowing I would be out of town the dates she was touring in Texas I flew to Atlanta to make sure I didn’t miss her Formation tour! Not going was not an option.

I have always liked her music, admired her “girl power”, her rise to super stardom from relatively humble roots in Texas, her honesty about her real life struggles. I knew all this before I made the decision to go see her live. But somehow I felt there was more to this story and I wanted to go see first hand what that was…

So last night I, along with three friends, went to the Georgia Dome, battled the crowds and took our seats right on the floor, wristbands and all. Queen B was twenty feet max in front of me. The music started, the crowd roared. She sang, she danced, her dancers danced, it was simply amazing. Mind blowing!

But then she stopped singing and started talking. She talked about gratitude, she talked about love, she talked about God, peace and happiness coming from within. And as she talked my spirit connected  and engaged and the tears began to fall down my face. I didn’t even wipe them away. I just basked in the honor and glory of recovery!

Eight years ago at this time I was in the very worst of the throes of my addiction. And last night I stood in front of one of the greatest performers of our time, completely sober, safe and protected, and the God within me connected with the God within her. I just stood in awe of the Power of a Living God that snatched me from the jaws of death, revolutionized my life and transplanted everything about me, from the inside out.

I mean c’mon- the show was amazing. But the connection, the connection is what I will never forget. Just like in life, the action is great, but the connections are what we live for. And I’ll be back for more…TYG

Tears of God and Joy_Marsha StoneMarsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

 

 

The Death of Prince and America’s Problem with Pills

Prince

PRINCE pictured April 26, 2008 – Indio, California

The recent death of the pop idol Prince has thrown the problem of prescription drug abuse into sharp relief.  Illicit substance abuse is a problem that many people are familiar with, and the use of illicit drugs has immediate and obvious consequences; however, there are many psychoactive and psychotropic medications that have legitimate medicinal uses that can also be used and abused for recreational purposes.  Prescription drugs, particularly painkillers, are an interesting and difficult issue because of these legitimate uses— many people who abuse and misuse prescription painkillers had a legitimate reason to use these substances in the past, often prescribed these drugs by a legitimate medical professional.  National and international news syndicates have been reporting that the county sheriff responsible for the inquiry and investigation into the death of Prince has asked for the help of the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, a federal law enforcement body tasked with fighting the War on Drugs.  News outlets like NBC and Vanity Fair have also reported that in the weeks prior to his death, Prince was hospitalized once as a result of an overdose of the prescription painkiller Percocet.  Most sources have also reported that Prince was a known user of prescription pain medication, including opioids like Percocet.

It is sometimes assumed that fame goes hand-in-hand with drug addiction and abuse, but even for the rich and famous, the abuse of prescription medication like opioids can be immensely destructive.  The evidence seems to suggest that pop icon Prince’s death had something to do with his addiction to and use of prescription painkillers— many news outlets are reporting that those close to the artist knew of his problem with prescription painkillers, noting that he was prescribed the strong medication for the pain he experienced as a result of damage to his hips from decades of performing on stage.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggests that 52 million people over the age of 12 in the United States have used prescription medication of all types non-medically in their lifetime, and 6.1 million people have used these types of medications for non-medical purposes in the past month alone.  In 2010 alone, a PBS study reports, enough prescription painkillers with powerful opioid compounds like Percocet, Vicodin, and oxycodone were prescribed to medicate every American adult every four hours for one month.  The sheer magnitude of painkillers and other prescription drugs with psychotropic and psychoactive compounds available to adults and children alike is staggering, and most people who use these drugs non-medically receive them for free from a friend or relative.

Prescription painkillers and other medications like stimulants and tranquilizers can be incredibly useful, powerful medications, but they also have massive potential for overuse and abuse.  Unfortunately, as investigators suspect in Prince’s case, the abuse of prescription painkillers can also be quite deadly.  Percocet and other prescription painkillers are also immensely addictive, and can be quite destructive to the overall functionality of an individual.  Because many of the active compounds in these painkillers are pharmacologically related to opiates like heroin, opium, and morphine, these drugs can be massively addictive even for people who have a legitimate, prescribed use.

Prince’s death sheds light on one of the most common drug misuse and abuse problems in the United States, and it underscores one of the most common misconceptions regarding drug use: just because a drug does have a legitimate medicinal use does not mean that a drug is completely harmless. While many of these drugs do indeed have legitimate medical purposes, taking them recreationally or for non-medical purposes can be just as dangerous and just as potentially destructive as taking illicit street drugs.  Prescription painkiller withdrawal is quite unpleasant, but treatment for the addiction is fundamentally important for addicts, because of the relatively high likelihood of eventual overdose and even death as a result of opiate abuse.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please contact our Admissions team at (866) 905-4550. There is help, recovery is possible.

The Night That Changed My Life

Gavin_David_ChrisI vividly remember what my life looked like four years ago. My family and I were in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for New Year’s Eve of 2012. The hotel we were staying in had a fancy dinner buffet and free drinks to go around. People of the hotel were laughing, celebrating, and creating meaningful memories with each other. Not that I didn’t create a meaningful memory for my family and myself, but it was not a memory to be proud of. I was in full blown addiction by this time in my life. I was waiting for 12:00AM to come around so that we could all toast and celebrate the beginning of a new year. This was the case for my parents, brother and both of our girlfriends, but not for me. Something happened that night. You may call it a divine intervention. I was in the midst of so many happy people, and all I could do was cry. I was so unhappy with myself, but wasn’t sure why of all the reasons. The rest of the night was filled with unwanted drama and an urge to put more substances in my body. This was the night that changed my life.

My name is Gavin Valdez. I am a 24 year old Peer Recovery Support Specialist for the company that helped me begin a new life. Not all of my recovery has been filled with passion and excitement, but I can say that the majority has. Before I was finally able to get sober, I was not proud of the person I had become. Coming from a family that gave me everything I ever needed or wanted, I was spoiled, selfish, angry, immature, and confused. Living a life of spiritual recovery through the 12 Steps has taught me how to deal with life no matter what card is dealt to me. I have friends who I can call real friends, as opposed to the old friends that did not put my well-being first. I am a respected member of my family and am reminded of that by my grandfather every time I see him. I have held a job for the same company for a longer period of time than I ever did in my addiction. This is what my recovery has done for me.

Recovery is not just given, it also has to be passed along. I really enjoy watching the men who come through our program undergo similar transformations as the one I had in 2012. It is important for me to practice what is being taught so that I can be useful to the residents and family members who are reliant upon our help. Without service, I could not have found a happier way of life. Not only do I enjoy being of service to my clients, but actively participating in carrying the message of recovery to broken men is the most gratifying feeling. I hope that everyone man and woman who is struggling with addiction finds the willingness to believe in something greater. My struggles are not to be forgotten because they made me who I am today.

Gavin V_Blog PicGavin Valdez
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The Power of Step 12

12-step“We tried to carry this message to other alcoholics.” It still amazes me how this line from Step 12 carries so much power! We learn on pg. 89 of the Big Book, “that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” With long term sobriety being the goal for myself, I follow these instructions only to find that the real freedom is when I get to carry the message of hope to another alcoholic or drug addict.

The key to my freedom today is being able to carry the message of recovery into hospitals and institutions. The first 12 Step meeting I attended, with the intent of doing something different, was when I was incarcerated in a Texas prison. The only way we were able to have a meeting is if and when a volunteer was willing to bring a meeting to us. There was always a part of me that knew I needed to take a meeting into a jail or prison simply because that is where I found the solution. However, I had no idea the joy and happiness I could receive from carrying out this simple task.

August 2nd, 2009 I walked into a 12 Step meeting while at the Holliday Unit in Huntsville, TX with the intent of trying anything and everything that had ever worked for anyone to get sober. I had a deeply rooted fear that now being a felon, I would not have the opportunity to be as successful as I once could have been. To my surprise, four men showed up to carry the message of recovery and were living proof that there was life after alcoholism and prison. I was given hope! These men each had multiple felonies as well as trips to the penitentiary. However, they all followed a simple set of directions at this point in time and were all happy and successful in life.

Since that day, I have not looked back. My favorite line in the Big Book on pg. 124 states, “In God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others.” The understanding of this statement allows me to know why those men were so happy that day. It allows me to understand what my purpose in life is today. I don’t have to be ashamed of the fact that I am a felon or spent years in prison. I know that God gave me this experience so I can help men and women when they can connect with what I have been through.

Today I gladly accept any opportunity to be able to take a meeting into any facility that will allow me. I have not been given the opportunity to take a meeting into a jail, simply because I am still on parole, but I know how important it is for my recovery that I continue to share my experience with others. The freedom that I received from working the 12 Steps while incarcerated is proof that there is a solution to the state of hopelessness that we once experienced. As much as I would like to admit that I take these meetings out of pure selflessness, I definitely have an ulterior motive. I am able to remain sane and sober for another day. However, it also grounds me and helps me realize my purpose in life.

In early recovery, it is made clear that H&I commitments are essential to staying connected to the solution and being able to share what has been so freely given. I love the responses of others in recovery after fulfilling these commitments. Carrying the message into hospitals and institutions always allows a person in recovery to be reminded where they came from. For myself, it grants me humility in knowing that I am only doing what another did for me, let me know there is a solution! And for that I am forever grateful.

Jesse_The Power of Step 12Jesse McCraw
BRC Recovery

 

Why Choose a Residential Rehab?

BRC-Men's-FacilityOne of our specialties at BRC Recovery is dealing with chronic relapsers, people who have attempted sobriety numerous times with several stints in rehab, but have been unsuccessful long-term. One of the major concerns and questions that anyone has after going through so many treatment centers, especially the loved ones and friends of the addict, is whether long-term residential rehabs are really worth it.

Long-term residential rehab centers are usually seen as the last hope for people who want, hope, desire, and need sobriety. They are an intensive option which is well tailored to those who have significant drug or alcohol issues, and/or those who have previously not had success with other options.

At the same time, residential recovery centers are not only beneficial for patients who have serious addictions or co-concurrent mental health issues (i.e. dual diagnosis). They can help anyone who has a substance use disorder – long-term residential treatment can be so effective that it makes a good choice for anyone who desires recovery from addiction. Furthermore, residential programs have proven to solve some of the environmental issues that play a role in previous unsuccessful attempts at sobriety.

Residential rehab centers may look similar to an inpatient treatment facility, but they are often very different. Residential programs can apply treatments which are not available in medical facilities, with the aim of treating not just the body but also the emotions, mind, and spirit. Most residential programs have medical staff available around the clock to address any needs that arise, but their primary focus is on treating the entire individual through a more holistic approach.

BRC-Women's-FacilitySo why are residential program outcomes so much better than other options?

Residential programs provide “distance” from the patient’s previous lifestyle. Patients who enroll in residential programs are away from the lifestyle, people, and places where they were using drugs or drinking prior to treatment, which provides them with a safer environment to recover in.

Residential programs provide in depth patient monitoring. Even the world’s best counselors have trouble helping patients if they are only able to meet weekly. The greater the degree of contact between staff and patients, the better recovery tends to go. Residential treatment maximizes contact between patients and staff.

Residential programs create a close, intimate peer-recovery support system. Residential facilities encourage residents to establish close relationships with their peer recovery community. This is one of the major factors behind the outstanding results which residential facilities produce.

Residential programs utilize a different approach. A residential program gives the staff the freedom and opportunity to take a different approach than is possible in outpatient treatment. Patients and counselors can speak at any time of day or night, whenever it’s necessary, and the patient’s attention is uninterrupted and completely focused on treatment.

 

 

A Parent’s Perspective: It’s Your Choice—You Can Get Off the Rollercoaster!

We can’t control what happens to us or around us, but we can choose how we respond.

A friend who learned this lesson told me she had finally figured out she needed to get off her daughter’s addiction roller coaster. Instead of riding the coaster with her daughter, she now stands on the platform and waves as her daughter goes through the ups and downs of addiction. Of course, she still loves her daughter, but that is a great illustration of her choosing how she wants to respond. She is always there for her daughter, but is not enabling her or letting her daughter’s issues disrupt her own life.

alcohol-treatment-austinWhen we have a loved one who is an addict or alcoholic, we often ride the roller coaster of addiction as each new crisis unfolds in our loved one’s life. Going to Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or a similar group is one way we can take care of ourselves. Many of our fellow group members have stood in our shoes, or have had similar experiences, and their hope, strength, and sharing helps us hack through the tangled jungle of fear, anger, depression, and sadness that can feel overwhelming when we are surrounded with the disease of addiction and immersed in the codependency that often rides shotgun with addiction.

Before I started my own recovery program, I had crises in my life weekly, if not daily. I cancelled dinner dates and other engagements in the evenings so I could hurry home and prevent my loved one from using. But you know what? He figured out a way to use anyway. And I was so entangled with his life that I didn’t have time to have a life of my own. I felt exhausted all the time, and I stayed up too late many nights waiting for him to come home, to hear his car parking and the door opening. I stopped going to the gym because I couldn’t sleep; I was too tired to work out. I could barely stay awake at work and had a hard time concentrating on tasks. At night, I tossed and turned, worrying about what might happen. Would he get a DWI? Be in an accident? Injure himself or someone else? I lived in fear and worry, always afraid of getting a call saying I had lost another son (one of my sons died of a drug overdose in 2011; see A Parent’s Perspective: The Dreaded Telephone Call).

One day I had an epiphany. As I walked up the steps of my building at work, obsessing about my alcoholic’s latest binge the night before, someone said, “How are you?” I automatically replied, “Fine,” even though I was as far from fine as I could be. And then it dawned on me—I was fine; my life was going well; it was my loved one who was not fine. And in that moment I began to understand the value of detaching with love and choosing how to respond. I can care about someone deeply and have great sympathy for that person. But when that person’s problems become mine; when I can’t sleep because of what someone else is experiencing; when my life is affected by someone else’s actions and I allow myself to be sucked into their problems; then I have crossed the line into codependence and enmeshment, which is defined as not knowing where I end and the other person begins. And if they gave prizes for codependence and enmeshment, I would have won Grand Champion.

I’d been in recovery for about eight months when it dawned on me one day that I felt different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I pondered it, and realized that I wasn’t afraid and worried all the time anymore. I still had twinges of anxiety, but it was definitely much less than it had been just a few months earlier. I was learning to choose how to respond.

At first, as crazy as it sounds, I actually missed living in crisis mode. What would I talk about with my friends? My children and their issues had often been my conversation opener. And when I was introduced to people and they asked about me, rather than talking about myself and my life, I talked about my children. Anything they did trumped everything I did; I focused almost exclusively on them and their lives. I had a very difficult time putting myself first, learning to take care of myself, and talking about myself.

But I’m learning to do these things. And in return, I’m gaining calm and peace, and I’m backing away from responding to the ups and downs in my family’s lives by jumping in to rescue at every opportunity. I’m learning that I don’t need to have a crisis daily and that they need to have their own experiences without my constant “help.” One of the things that has helped me the most is to picture myself standing on the roller coaster’s platform as my family members live their own lives. I no longer try to leap from the platform, lunging frantically to grip the roller coaster car as it flashes past so I can fling myself into their lives and help them make the “right” decisions. Instead, I am learning to respond with love, which means I let them have their own experiences. And I’m finding that I now have more time to live and to explore my own life and interests. I can’t control what happens to me or around me, but I can control how I respond, and for that I am thankful.

It’s Your Choice—You Can Get Off the Rollercoaster!

Diana Urban

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

No More Codependence by Melody Beattie

Bradshaw On: The Family by John Bradshaw

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You by David Hawkins

The Control Freak by Les Parrott, III, Ph.D.

Al-Anon Family Groups

Ceased Fighting Anything or Anyone

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol” pg.84.

Ceased-fighting-pg-84This is one of my favorite lines from the Big Book.  I suppose I love it so much because it is one of those things that I struggle with on a daily basis.  While I have experienced the freedom born of my spiritual awakening that allowed me to stop fighting alcohol, I still battle daily to practice this principle in all my affairs.  As I continue to work on this lesson, I watch it play out daily in my relationships with self, with God, with my fellows, and certainly with institutions.  And I watch it play out in my recovered friends and sponsees.  Lately, I have been watching it play out in the addiction treatment industry.

The addiction treatment industry in a healthcare anomaly.  It’s one of the few places where a solution to a medical illness was created outside of the medical/scientific community.  Those of you in recovery know that solution of one alcoholic helping another came into being from the hard work of Alcoholics Anonymous founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob and some much needed help from Higher Power.  The thing that frees us from the enslavement of our addictions was not created in a lab, on the couch of a psychoanalysis practitioner, or in the ivory towers of an elite educational institution.  It was created by drunks (with a little help from our friends).

So how did we end up with treatment centers, addictionologists, interventionists, addiction counselors, addiction researchers, and the list goes on?  With the advent of the Minnesota Model, the good old fashioned “sobering up” process has been coupled with help from the medical profession, the psychotherapy profession, and the research complex.  We have grown from a few men (and early on it was mostly men) and a coffee pot helping drunks, to a highly skilled and professional workforce all pushing in the same direction – toward helping free the suffering alcoholic from the bondage of self.

From where I sit, that is a good thing!  More hands on deck means more people get help, right? It should mean this, and in many places it does.  But sometimes, it just doesn’t.  We start to push in different directions and the person who suffers from this discord is the one coming to us for help. Problems arise when we don’t understand one another, when we step on each other’s toes, when the lens from which we view the problem (and consequently, the solution) is drastically different.  And……we begin to fight!  Which is the one thing that the Big Book cautions us about doing.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  As a recovered woman and as a professional who has chosen her career path in this industry, I firmly believe we can all get along.  We can work together instead of against each other, but it means that we all have a healthy respect for what each of us brings to the table.  Underlying this healthy respect must also be an understanding of the roles that each member of the team plays in helping a person to get well.

First and foremost, if we are a real alcoholic, we recover from addiction by having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the 12-Steps as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.   Not because of the latest clinical trend, the newest addiction medication, or from taking ayahuasca in the desert.  We recover by taking the steps.  But this does not mean that we cannot be helped and supported by medical and clinical innovation along the way.  In fact, the Big Book gives us instruction around this very thing:

“But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures.  God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners, of various kinds.  Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.  Most of them given freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies.  Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist.  Their services are indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward” pg. 133.

The founders of AA outlined a place for the medical/clinical profession in our process.  And in fact, it is through the efforts of our medical/clinical/researcher allies that the body of work outlined in AA came to be regarded as a useful and viable tool in working with alcoholics (see the Doctor’s Opinion).  It is through the work of the medical community that we can now safely detoxify active alcoholics so that they live to be ready to receive the gift of sobriety.  It is through the gifts of talented and psychiatrists and clinicians that we can address those “grave emotional and mental disorders” thereby allowing individuals to grasp the capacity to be honest.  And it is it through the work of neuroscientist and brain researchers that we are closer than ever to understanding the science behind the idea of the physical allergy, the mental obsession, and the spiritual malady.

We know that AA works, and research tells us it works better when supported by wrap around services.  There is a place in the addiction treatment industry for each of our professions and for the non-professional drunk who really knows how to get someone sober.  But we have to cease fighting each other.  If we do not, the only people who stand to suffer are the very people we are trying to help.

Mandy Baker, MS, LCDC
Clinical Supervisor, BRC Clinical Center

Mandy Baker_Ceased Fighting

 

 

Life is a Privilege

Life_is_a_privaledgeThree years ago, as I sat alone paralyzed by fear on yet another seedy motel bathroom floor, I was wondering why I had to experience a level of inexplicable internal pain for what seemed like so many years. The only explanation my besotted mind could believe was this suffering would one day be useful to someone else. I had heard for years that the solution to my self-centered condition was to “help someone else” or, “do something selfless for once in your life”. These notions seemed less than improbable to fill that seemingly insatiable hole within, that’s only fix was a perpetual cycle of chaos fueled by self-pity and a nasty drug habit. I was full of knowledge I couldn’t, or just wouldn’t, apply. I called a mentor of mine, a woman who had always provided me with a glimmer of hope, but this time there was no hope in her self-assured voice. She said to me, “Katie, you are beautiful and smart, but you are going to die from this disease.” I believed her. I was dying.

That was three years ago. Since then, I have surrendered to a Power other than myself. I have felt every feeling I can imagine and I haven’t had to take a drink or drug to change the way I feel. That, in and of itself, is the greatest miracle of all. The book says that deep down within every man, woman, or child is the fundamental idea of God. How promising. I can’t deny that fact any way I try to twist it… There has always been an “idea” so how then I chose to interpret that idea is up to me. I could pick my own conception. It’s a Power I can’t explain, see touch or feel. However intangible this Power is I feel the presence of it when I look into the eyes of another woman, whose history is identical to mine, and watch her spirit come alive. It’s truly incredible and certainly powerful. I am blessed enough to watch these women grow into the women that God intended them to be. I see it not only in my personal program of recovery, but I experience it every day at work as a recovery coach.

I now understand that day, on the motel bathroom floor, more than ever. When I stopped fighting, and gave up, God entered my heart. With His help, I am able to carry the message of hope that has been so freely passed down to me. In return, countless women will continue to carry this same message to the next woman suffering. Life is a privilege, and now I know why.

Katie_Life is a PrivilegeKatie Settle
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