InRecovery May/June 2017

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The #1 Resource for Addicts and Their Families IN THIS ISSUE

GAMBLING ADDICTION The key to treating pathological gambling is the brain; you can bet on it!

THE BRAIN IS THE KEY New research identifies key areas of the brain affected by gambling.



An awkward first visit to a meeting.



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The 352 days of incarceration were a complete Step One for me. MAUREEN MICHAEL

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The Hidden Cost of Opioid Abuse From The CEO’s desk



t is becoming painfully clear that opioids are single-handedly responsible for a massive counterattack in our nation’s battle against addiction. For years, doctors prescribed pain medication, wholly unaware of the havoc such practices would unleash. They were, after all, just following best practices taught in medical schools around the country. Unfortunately, most of today’s heroin addicts started with prescription medication before graduating to more dangerous options – drugs purchased cheaply on the streets once their prescriptions ran out. It wasn’t until studies delved more deeply into the issue and the public realized that each day about 78 people were dying from overdoses – more than the number of people dying each day from non-drugrelated car accidents – that our nation came to more fully appreciate the dramatic impact. Yet even as we came to terms with the fact that substance use disorder and alcohol abuse costs the US $442 billion a year, these statistics fell short of capturing the full scope of the problem. Life expectancy in the US recently fell for the first time since records began in the early 1900s, when the average man lived to the age of 47 and the average woman to age 49. While those averages have since increased to the upper 70s for men and the lower 80s for women, it was marked by a slight decrease in 2015, with the US ranked 27th in the world despite far outspending every other country on medical care. What accounts for this discrepancy? It is no coincidence that the life expectancy decrease coincides with the peak of the opioid epidemic, particularly since the two subgroups with the greatest age decrease – Caucasians and the middle class – are those most impacted by the growth of opioid abuse. This national plague is proving to counteract statistics from all the lives saved by the incredible advances in treating cancer, heart disease and other once chronic killers. Moreover, for the first time since 2007, traffic deaths have surpassed 40,000 per

year despite all of the newfangled safety gadgets from more airbags to rearview cameras and electronic stability systems now standard on even the most economical models. There was a 14% increase in drugrelated deaths during the calendar years 2014 and 2015 alone. This is the largest twoyear increase in over half a century, with nearly one-third of these deaths involving drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.

A wise philosopher once said; “one needs to better understand his enemy in order to improve the chances of defeating him;” and addiction is currently public enemy number one. In addition to the disturbing rise in drugrelated deaths, another perplexing issue is the absence of so many people from the workforce. The only reasonable explanation can be found in the number of the people no longer counted in the workforce, a good percentage of whom are opioid addicts on disability. The unemployment rate surged to around 10% in 2009 as a result of the Great Recession of 2008 and has steadily deflated to as low as a recent 4.7%. However, there was no corresponding increase in wages for workers or rise in inflation. This trend is unique to our nation’s history, and it has economists puzzled. Could opioids possibly be responsible for this? We are at the highest level of ablebodied people out of work since World War II when women entered the workplace; it was a time of pivotal change. Opioid abuse also is proving to affect unemployment numbers, but unfortunately with increasingly negative repercussions. It is affecting our economy in ways we are only just beginning to understand.

Opioid abuse has spread like wildfire, affecting people from all walks of life, from former coal miners to soccer moms, from law enforcement to members of the clergy. Opioid addiction does not discriminate by age, race or social class as it rips through families, institutions and our economy. It is also a uniquely American problem. The US prescribes almost as much opioidbased medication as the rest of the world combined. These issues further highlight the urgency of our mission. In the US, addiction could be considered public enemy number one. A wise philosopher once said, “one needs to better understand his enemy in order to improve the chances of defeating him.” The statistics are grim. That’s why each of us must do everything possible, employing all reasonable resources to spread the word and do our part in the fight against addiction. What can we do? For starters, the decision to prescribe opioids should not be taken lightly, and we must increase awareness of their dangers. Each state should consider implementing drug-monitoring programs. At present, only 41 states keep electronic tabs of opioid prescriptions. To curb the increase of illicit drug use, every state should encourage the use of court-ordered diversion programs to help combat addiction on the legal front. This is a critical time to take a stand. Let’s work together in the fight against opioid addiction to create renewed hope and optimism for individuals, families and communities across the nation. Jeffrey Fiorentino is a writer, teacher and speaker in the areas of business, technology, finance and legal issues facing entrepreneurs. He is the CEO of Kipu Systems and producer of the Kipu EMR, an electronic medical records system built specifically for addiction and behavioral health treatment. Fiorentino is chairman and CEO of In Recovery Magazine, and CEO of PingMD, an Android and IOS telehealth app. He has an MA in accounting from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Miami. Fiorentino previously worked in the business-consulting arm of a top-five national accounting firm. InRecovery Magazine May 2017


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Inspiring stories. Great reading. Great ideas.

Looking for fresh, interesting ideas to assist and enhance your recovery? You’ll find them in the pages of InRecovery Magazine, the voice of addiction recovery. Every issue of InRecovery features recovery stories, innovative strategies, tales of success and more. We bring together the creative expressions of writers, photographers and artists, who express their struggles and joys through their work. For the contributors, editors and staff here at InRecovery, it’s a labor of love, a life mission. Our goal is to inspire and to inform; and along with our new look, we continue to bring together the stories you love, written by people just like you. We’re also expanding our media reach with a brand new website design, smartphone app and new ways to help the addiction community. Stay tuned, we’ll be introducing more exciting innovations in upcoming issues.


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InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Top of Mind

Overdose update: cold storage trailers used as morgues



he Ohio Emergency Management Agency recently had to implement the extraordinary measure of using cold storage trailers for overflow because several county morgues were stuffed well beyond capacity. It sounds like a scene ripped straight from a B horror movie, but it is unfortunately all too real, and a sad footnote in our battle against addiction. The number of overdoses in Stark County has spiked over 20% in the past year alone. Last year, the coroner processed about 500 deaths, over 100 of which were drug-related. Cincinnati experienced a six-day period with 174 overdoses, during which time the Hamilton County coroner's office experienced a 100-day backlog of testing for police investigations. Ohio opioid deaths have catapulted 775% over a 13-year period as ever stronger forms of opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, have hit the streets. These lethal variations range from 50 to 10,000 times greater potency than morphine. Yes, you read that right, 10,000 times greater! Addicts are experimenting with higher and higher doses to the point where they just can't breathe, and their bodily functions grind to a halt. Pictures of people passed out at stop lights with little ones in the car and gut-wrenching videos detailing family loss have gone viral. Many of us can relate to this on a personal level and some of us fear it could happen to us.

Addiction and its aftermath have become very personal; there's a rising sense of desperation on both an individual and countrywide level. There are an estimated 27 million addicts in the US, driving, working and taking other risks while impaired. The mere intake of drugs and alcohol is dramatically reducing people’s overall health. This outbreak does not discriminate, and it is affecting 10% of the teen and adult population. It's further estimated that between friends and family of addicts, more than half the US population is materially impacted by addiction. It's no wonder the story hits home; on any given day, any one of us could be on the receiving end of a tragic phone call letting us know a loved one has died. What do we do? The system is overwhelmed and it often seems as if we're sticking our finger in a crumbling dyke. We want to do more for the people we care about and others with whom we can empathize because of our connection to the disease, but what? I strongly believe we need to create something focused specifically on addiction and similar to a domestic Peace Corps or at the very least, state Political Action Committees (PACs) as recommended by Virginia’s McShin Foundation. (see page 52) If you think that might be an impossible task, consider that Mitt Romney suggested a domestic Peace Corps during his 2012

presidential run. I've also heard through the grapevine that First Daughter Ivanka Trump is interested in making the fight against addiction one of her signature projects. Resources can be brought to bear. Even if my suggestion seems too aggressive and without potential, we need to start somewhere and we need to be proactive. Those struggling with addiction and those who love them should make better use of social media to support the cause. Too many lives are affected to let shame continue to keep us in the shadows. InRecovery Magazine is expanding its online presence with forums of support and advocacy at It’s a good start. They'll also be setting up a Memorial Wall. We each have to hit up all the regular horsemen of the internet: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. It's up to us to take the message to the masses and to make this message go viral. This can be our million-person march; as we take to the internet, we can even create our own billionperson march to stamp out addiction.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017 Issue CEO President/Publisher Editor in Chief Creative Director EVP Business Development Senior Copyeditor Production Manager Copyeditors Marketing Director Subscriptions Layout/Design A Call to Action Authors’ Café Book Review Chaos and Clutter Free CrossTalk Everyday Miracle Meditation Contributor 6

Jeffrey Fiorentino Kim Welsh Janet A. Hopkins Dan Brown Bruce Matthews Barbara Schuderer Nestor Suarez Marieke Slovin Mary Locke Greg Remsen Nestor Suarez John Schuderer Errol Naraine John Schuderer Catherine Townsend-Lyon Lena H. Danielle Wurth Stephanie Moles Daniel Mewhinney Michael Lyding Lawrence Scott Hartman

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

444 Brickell Avenue, Suite 850, Miami, Fl 33131 InRecovery Magazine is published 6 times a year by InRecovery, Inc, 444 Brickell Avenue, Suite 850, Miami, Fl 33131. Subscription rates (US dollars): 1 year $19.99, 2 year $25.95 in the United States and Possessions; 1 year $37.95, 2 year $65.95 in Canada and Mexico; all other countries $41.95 for 1 year, $73.95 for 2 years. Single copies (prepaid only): $9.99 in US, $11.99 in Canada and Mexico and $12.99 in all other countries. All rates include shipping and handling. See website for subscription details. The magazine is published by founder Kim Welsh, printed in the US by American Web and distributed by Disticor Magazine Distribution Services. ©2017 InRecovery Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including by photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval without permission in writing from the publisher. For use beyond those listed above, please direct your written request to Permission Dept., email: InRecovery Magazine does not verify any claims or other information appearing in any of the advertisements contained in the publication and cannot take responsibility for any losses and other damages incurred by readers in reliance of such content. Publication of any advertisement is not to be construed as an endorsement of the product or service offered. InRecovery Magazine (IRM) reserves the right to editorial control of all articles, stories and letters to the Editor. InRecovery Magazine assumes no responsibility for errors within its publication. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies of IRM and should not be construed as endorsements. Furthermore IRM will not be responsible for any claims, losses or damages (whether direct or indirect) arising out of or relating to the use of or reliance on the contents of this magazine.

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017



RECOVERY ROAD Nurture vs. Nature. Nurture: our environment, family, peers. Nature: our DNA, brain chemistry and other pre-dispositions to addiction.

ARE WE NURTURING ADDICTION? Addiction comes in many forms. A DNA marker has been identified that may indicate certain people could be predisposed to addiction.


The Parent Trap An adolescent with one addicted parent has a 40% greater chance of becoming an addict. If both parents are addicts, there is a 70% chance that their children will become addicts.



The adolescent brain is not fully formed and using/ drinking rewires the brain.

Here is an interesting thought: If we take a kid who is allergic to peanuts and say, “Do not eat peanuts because they will kill you, the kid will not eat peanuts.”

If we identify ONLY high-risk adolescents in every grade during grade school and educate them on the perils of addiction (imagine the old Drivers’ Education messages or Scared Straight) with a fun, interactive, rich multi-media mobile phone-based system that has appropriate rewards, can we stop them from “eating the proverbial peanuts?” 8


If you thought virtual reality (VR) was just for video games, think again.

The adolescent brain is not fully formed. Using and drinking rewire the brain. One in four adolescents who use drugs or alcohol before the age of 18 will become addicts as adults. One in four! Adolescents who use or drink after age 21 have a one in 25 chance of becoming an addict.

ONE IN 25 *Columbia University Study

It’s not PEANUTS...

CAN YOU “VR” YOUR WAY Virtual Reality (VR) is being tested on patients known to have abused methamphetamines who have at least one year of recovery under their belt. The patients are shown three types of films in sequence. The first film is comprised of triggers, such as hotels in which they used and the sights and sounds of rumbling meth pipes. The second film is designed to instill fear and includes people hallucinating and being zipped up in body bags. The third film reinforces positive, healthy habits with images of delicious food and happy family time. Several clinics in China have been successfully using VR techniques to treat drug abuse. When you consider that one clinic alone has over 1,100 patients, the implications for recovery are impressive. Coming to a clinic near you? Keep an eye out. Some therapists in the US are already betatesting such programs, and results have shown promise.

“It’s easier for meth addicts to physically quit the drug, but harder psychologically,” said one therapist. “Using VR helps them cut their psychological reliance on the drug.”

What do Antibiotics and Opioids Have in Common? You may be aware of a recent surge in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the problems it is causing in hospitals around the world. Primary care doctors play a key role in the positive or negative implications of prescription drugs, so their choices can have a far-reaching effect.

Nearly 50% of the opioids in the US are prescribed by well-meaning primary care doctors. However, it is estimated that, until recently, only 27% of prescription opioids were actually utilized by the people getting the prescriptions. That means 73% are being diverted to drug abuse by third parties. It is imperative that we curb the over prescription of these harmful, addictive drugs.


Nearly 50% of the opioids in the US are prescribed by wellmeaning primary care doctors.

Forty-one states have enacted laws, creating mandatory prescription databases like New York’s I-Stop program. As a result, opioid prescriptions are decreasing. It’s a step in the right direction. Before beginning any medical treatment involving opioids, please ask your doctor about other non-addictive medication options. It’s a better alternative than playing Russian roulette with addiction.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

WE’RE MOVING RECOVERY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Compass Recovery Center offers intensive outpatient programs for drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. We provide our clients with individualized treatment programs to start them on the path to long-term recovery. Compass Recovery Center is a state–licensed outpatient treatment program.


Our experience has shown that individuals in early sobriety have a better chance at long-term recovery by attending an extended care program. Most of our clients come to us seeking quality aftercare following their initial addiction treatment or detox. We have found that our personalized treatment programs provide the level of extended care to help our clients successfully return to their lives.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017



Cover Story “Running on Empty” This month’s cover reflects the struggles of many gambling addicts. Melynda Litchfield, an ICU nurse and nursing supervisor tells her story of a gambling addiction so powerful that it devastated her finances and nearly drove her to suicide. Melynda’s story is that of many who struggle with a gambling addiction, a disease that leaves lives in shambles. Yet from the edge


of the abyss she describes her recovery and eventual advocacy for victims of Predatory Gambling. “Slot machines were designed with one goal: to make an addict out of everyone... gambling nearly killed me and I never saw it coming,” says Melynda. Her inspiring story appears on pages 54 and 55.

Feature Stories



14 | Orange is not the New Black

46 | The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

28 | Tom Hayden by Gary Stromberg

by Maureen Michael

I turned myself in. I’m now a criminal. I stole a lot of money from multiple employers so that I could continue playing cards.

24 | The Newcomer by Kyle Fisher-Hertz

The moment was mildly awkward, but mostly I felt a general sense of relief from everyone that I was not just some affection-starved weirdo coming to hug everyone in their meeting.

34 | The Brain is the Key: You Can

by Jonathan Cohen Sometimes what seems like bad luck can save you from ruining your life and even start you on the path to recovery. That was the case when I tried my hand as a drug dealer.

54 | Running on Empty by Melynda Litchfield

I hit rock bottom and stopped gambling on April 29, 2012. My life was in shambles. My hard work was just beginning.



44 | Q uit Sabotaging Your Success by Jeremy Behrmann

62 | S tress and Addiction




39 | Book Review: The Bitter Taste of

16 | Everyday Miracle: Three Decades

of Fumbling by Daniel Mewhinney

Let my story be evidence that every person suffering with addiction has a chance to recover. Light can pierce the blackest corners of darkness if only you let it in.

26 | CrossTalk by Mollé

CrossTalk is based on the premise that recovery life is polytely: frequently complex problem-solving situations characterized by the presence of not one, but several, endings.

38 | The Authors’ Café

by Catherine Townsend-Lyon Interviews with Marc Raciti and Christopher Kennedy Lawford. 10

36 | V alidation by Todd Hirt

63 | L ose the Swag

Bet on It! by by Kevin Coughlin

According to some experts, alcoholism, substance use disorders, process addictions and behavioral addictions like pathological gambling, may all affect the brain in the same ways.


32 | Th e Wishing Well by Sheryl Cruse

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Dying: A Memoir by Lena H.

40 | Feel Your Best: Keep Your Cool by Laura O’Reilly

Did you know that heat affects our mood? With the increase in summer temperatures we may experience trouble sleeping, dehydration and general hothead.

42 | Chaos and Clutter Free: Memory Keeping by Danielle Wurth

Memory keeping. Avoid mayhem – embrace what matters most.

49 | Meditation: Are You Willing? by Michael Lyding

If we say we want something, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to seek help.

50 | The BookStand

Recovery is the subject of countless books, blogs, films, CDs and apps. Below are some titles worth a look. If you would like us to include your books, blogs, films, CDs or apps in this column, please email

52 | A Call to Action by John Shinholser

Every day, addiction affects thousands of people: families, neighbors and communities. With your help, we can make a difference. We can reduce stigma and secrecy. We can effect political change. Together, we can succeed.

56 | Science of Addiction: by Lawrence Scott Hartman

Wouldn’t it be great if we discovered a magic bullet to put an end to the pain and suffering of addiction once and for all?


Gambling disorders are tearing families apart and damaging the lives of children.




eople in recovery often resist change, and I am no exception. For me, it’s a process that usually goes from “no” to “maybe” to “interesting” to “well, okay, I think I’ll try it.” This occurs even when the change might be positive. It’s a kneejerk reaction and probably a holdover from my addict brain.

This year, Kim and I celebrate the fifth anniversary of In Recovery Magazine. We’d always said that at five years we would want to take the next big step and shift from a small magazine to a mainstream one. How we would make that happen, we didn’t know. Now we do. Thanks to our new partners, we are moving forward with the changes that will carry us to that next step. As of this issue, we begin publishing the magazine bi-monthly; and as of the November issue, we go to monthly. Yikes! You know I have been practicing the principles and putting one foot in front of the other as my brain and I adjust to not just one, but many, changes in every area, in every way. As of this issue, you, our readers, will also have the chance to experience change

with the magazine’s new look. As we redesign our magazine for competition with the big labels, we are pleased to have the considerable skills of Dan Brown, an expert in layout and design.

We appreciate your support and input as we move forward. Take a deep breath, say the Serenity Prayer and send us some feedback. Help us make In Recovery Magazine a go-to resource for individuals and families grappling with addiction. I hope you take the time to read “The Newcomer.” It’s written by a gifted young writer who overdosed and died a few days after submitting his story. His mom took the time to correspond with me and share what had happened. In my own little town, we’ve lost two young people to addictionrelated problems this month. It’s killing so many. Together, we can, we must make a difference. This special edition features some hardhitting stories about gambling addiction. Maureen Michael shares her desperate fall into compulsive gaming in “Orange is NOT the New Black.” Gambling disorders are tearing families apart and damaging

the lives of children – and the problem continues to grow rapidly. Two gripping cautionary tales illustrate the desperation faced by addicted gamblers on their way to the bottom. Join hands with people like author Melynda Litchfield (“Running on Empty”), as she works to eradicate predatory gambling. Who knows, someone you know could be its next victim. The changes needed to address addiction in America can only be made with all of us doing our part to help individuals and families in need of recovery, aiding and encouraging people at all levels to make the changes needed to support recovery nationwide. Let’s do it. Now. On that note, I’m going back to my sculpting to work on my own head. Change begins with me.

Subscribe to inRecovery today and save 75% off the cover price. Just go to our website and sign up.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


You Tell Us Have a comment? We’d love to hear from you! Send your comments to

Postage stamps from the U.S. and around the world on the subject of drug abuse.

I Can’t Put It Down!

Every issue gets better and better. So many resources, and the stories are awesome. I look forward to every issue, and I can’t put it down till I’m finished reading it all! Donna M. Lake Havasu, Arizona

Finding Recovery in Remote Areas

[In Recovery Magazine] is the best of social media reaching the remote areas of the world. In Australia, there are “outback” miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) of sunburnt country and sweeping plains. You just can’t get to a Twelve Step meeting. However, we can subscribe to a magazine full of likeminded recovery stories. This magazine can reach and save an addict, an alcoholic, a family. Sensational! Christa B. Sydney, Australia

The Positive Side of Recovery

The articles are excellent. The magazine shows the positive side of recovery. The stories are very uplifting and show the achievements people have accomplished and how positively wonderful life can become in recovery. Jim S. Austin, TX 12

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Congrats on your recent anniversary. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re the last standing glossy print periodical in the addiction/ recovery universe directed to the actual community. Anyone lasting five years in the publishing industry is hardworking, talented, supported by the audience, and maybe lucky, too. I’m thrilled about your milestone – I’m a periodic contributor and a cover-to-cover reader. Joe C. Ontario, Canada

Editor’s Note:

We inadvertently left off a photo credit for the image included with Taylor Lambert’s letter. The photo was taken by Chris Vickroy Photography, New Braunfels, Texas. We also dropped some information from Sober Guy’s letter. The article referred to, and the letter itself, were written by Shane Ramer of Vacaville, CA.

We Welcome Your Comments.

You may also contact us at In Recovery Magazine, PO Box 11176, Prescott, Arizona 86302. Submissions may be edited. Our writers appreciate your comments as much as we do.

Great Spring Issue

I am a subscriber and a cover-to-cover reader. I especially enjoyed the Spring 2017 issue. I appreciated learning about the treatment world and the issues facing programs. It is important for those of us in recovery to be proactive about such things. We need to support the people who are working in the field and do our part in making sure the hand of recovery (and treatment, when needed) is there when those who are still suffering reach out for help. Jason B. Scottsdale, AZ

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Orange Is Not the New Black A gambling addict’s journey from incarceration to recovery and sanity. MAUREEN MICHAEL


InRecovery Magazine May 2017


have struggled with a gambling addiction for over 20 years. My first Twelve Step meeting was in the fall of 1996. I loved the people I met there because I was not judged. I was given suggestions: get a sponsor, go to meetings, work the STEPS and call members every day. I heard them, but I thought there was an easier, softer way. I went to meetings, I fellowshipped with others and even got a sponsor. After about six months, I started to feel better. Yeah, I got this, I thought. ‘Thanks for your help. I can do this without you now.’ It’s the year 2000 and I’m miserable. Gambling has brought me to a new low. I am selling everything I can get my hands on, pawning items that don’t belong to me, and I just got fired from a management position for taking money from a deposit (I only borrowed it for a few days until I could win it back). I found the recovery rooms again. You welcomed me back. Again, you didn’t judge me. I was given suggestions: go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the Steps, call people in between meetings and be of service. Okay, okay, I will do it. I will do it later. I don’t really need to do all of it. I will just do some of what is suggested. It’s 2004, and the police are escorting me out of my job. Why did I do this again? I cannot believe I am in the same situation. I am the HR Director of this corporation, and all of my employees are watching. I was out of control (again) and not making enough to sustain my gambling habit. I did what I knew how to do; I stole it. It was almost as if the stealing had become my addiction.

I had turned myself in after taking off out of state and not showing up for my scheduled sentencing. You see, I’m now a criminal. I stole a lot of money from multiple employers so that I could continue playing cards.

My 352 days of incarceration were a complete Step One for me. I no longer needed further evidence of my


I was finishing up court appearances for one of my crimes and was about to be sentenced, when another employer called the police after discovering I had written checks to myself. I could not face going to prison, so I thought it would be best if I took off with the money I had borrowed from friends and family for my court fees and try to win back enough money to cover what I had stolen. It made perfect sense in my head. I knew it was the right thing to do. I was going to win enough to stay out of prison. I believed this with all of my heart. No one would have been able to convince me otherwise. Ten days later when all the money was gone, I was sitting in a hotel room deciding how to kill myself. I am no good to anyone. They will all be better off without me. The thoughts were very real to me until I envisioned the faces of my boys. I couldn’t do that to them.

I came back to the rooms, broken, tired and ashamed. I received nothing but love – no ridicule, only understanding. You all suggested that I to go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the Steps, call people between meetings and be of service. Okay, this time I will. I still didn’t.

My 352 days of incarceration were a complete Step One for me. I no longer needed further evidence of my powerlessness. I would not be able to pick and choose which ones I would or wouldn’t do. I finally heard what had been suggested to me so many times.

I can hardly breathe and my heart is pounding so loudly. My thoughts are racing through my head as I step in front of the booking officer: I changed my mind. I need to get out of here. Can everyone else hear my heart pounding, too? This was a mistake. I am so scared. I don’t belong here.

This time, I went to meetings. For a year after I got out of jail, I went to seven meetings a week. I found a sponsor. I worked the Steps. I called people every day. I made sure I didn’t associate with anyone who was still gambling. I started a women’s meeting. I was of service.

Slowly, I was restored to sanity. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to feel ungrateful and be selfish when I was of service. My recovery brought many blessings along with much heartbreak. I learned not to allow my blessings to camouflage my need for recovery, and I did not allow my heartaches to steer me away from the people I need the most. I knew I couldn’t do this alone. My husband and brother-in-law started Compass Recovery Center to help me fulfill my passion for assisting others caught in the web of addiction. Today, I am a gambling addiction counselor. How is it that I get to do this? Today when I enter the prison, my heart beats a little faster as I wait for the guards to open the gate. When I walk into the room filled with over 150 inmates dressed in orange, I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. I tear up as I share my experience, strength and hope with these inmates. I was supposed to be dressed in orange with all of them until the fall of 2017. How is it that I get to do this? God had a different plan for me. I remember this every time I want to cancel a meeting with a sponsee or want to miss a meeting. I remember this when I don’t feel like fulfilling a commitment I’ve made or when the thought of playing one more game of cards hits my mind. It would take a 5,000-page novel for me to share my gratitude and many blessings since coming back to the rooms, and I am so thankful I was welcomed back. By the grace of God, I have not placed a bet since March 27, 2007. I am forever grateful. Maureen “Mo” Michael began working in the treatment field in 2008 as a residential house manager. She is now the program director for Compass Recovery Center in Prescott, Arizona. She is pursuing an MA in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University. She believes that working with others in recovery from addiction is what she is meant to be doing.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Everyday Miracle Three decades of fumbling DANIEL MEWHINNEY

Yes, miracles do happen. The author found his higher power thanks to a guy named Danny, and that event began a massive change in his life. And ‘If nothing changes, nothing changes.’


y name is Dan and I am 45 years old. I have futilely fumbled my way through my addictions for over 30 years; I should not be alive. It took a miracle to save my life. Every person suffering with addiction has a chance to recover. Light can pierce the blackest corners of darkness if only you let it in. If you accept that the light is always there, waiting to embrace you completely, you will survive. Blind faith eventually brought me toward that light.

Personally, I believe that at the heart and core of addiction is an all-powerful force capable of causing both the human will and the soul to surrender. That force is trauma. Whether spawned from the physical, verbal, emotional or sexual actions of others, trauma takes a part of us we often never get back. It lies to us, whispering, “You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re a failure; you are worthless; and you deserve what you got.”

I walked in darkness most of my life. Though I would run toward the light, I was never able to stop looking back over my shoulder. Despair would engulf me; its darkness nearly destroyed me before I found freedom.

From the age of four, my childhood was rocked by abuse. I lost my innocence far too young, and my once happy childhood never returned. No more details are necessary. I was a victim. I didn’t want to remember or feel. I didn’t want to exist. I tried to block it out, but forgotten wounds can still cause pain.

What causes a young boy who is happy and carefree to turn into a monster of addiction? What causes a child who loves with purity and passion to turn into a man who hurts everyone he loves and destroys everyone he hates?

I was depressed, suicidal and on medication for chronic depression. I gave up on living, teetering on the edge of existence until age 13, when I discovered that my family’s medicine cabinet held the answers to my pain: cough syrup and allergy


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

pills. I didn’t need to feel anymore. Addiction became freedom. At 14, I stole a car and ran away. I moved out at 17, drinking my emotions away. My disease progressed. My first intervention gave me hope. I was 21. I found a sponsor, worked the Twelve Steps, dove into service, found two lovers and formed a triangle of love, sex and drama. Nine months later, it collapsed in chaos with an infant’s death and two lovers ripped from my life. I felt acute pain. I relapsed. A three-week blackout commenced, ending in a hospital detox, followed by an admission into a psych ward. My mental breakdown resulted in amnesia; all my memories were destroyed. If nothing changes, nothing changes. The next eleven years were a blur of mistakes. Meeting my wife sobered me up. Her love and sex became a familiar monkey on my back. We enjoyed four years of bliss before a disease, lupus, smacked me back into full addiction.

I went from being in the best shape of my life to being bedridden and sleeping for days from overmedication and lupus. One morning, I grabbed a drink instead of a handful of pills and stayed drunk for the next four years. By 2015, I was drinking a gallon of vodka a day in a deadly combination with opiates and benzodiazepines. I had been hospitalized five times in three months and almost died from an overdose. My wife left with our son. I was alone with my misery. I couldn’t get into treatment loaded or drunk. I was close to death. Everyone was just waiting for me to die. Just in time, a miracle occurred. My good friend, Danny Murphy, helped my wife get in contact with Intervention, the American television show on A&E. I was labeled one of the worst alcoholics ever on the program. I gave up all hope during filming. It took another nine months of bouncing in and out of treatment before I finally got it. More chaos had ensued. Again, no details are necessary. It was a learning experience through which my Higher Power carried me the entire way.

“Just in time, a miracle occurred. I had to lose everything to get it all back. Today, my life is amazing.” I had to lose everything to get it back. I had suffered too long. One morning during prayer and meditation, I experienced a spiritual awakening that changed my life forever. My Higher Power took my burden, and both my mental obsession and the physical compulsion left me completely. I immediately headed west to home. Everything I lost I got back. Today, my life is amazing. I wake up thanking my Higher Power for another day of life and breath and sobriety. I have reconnected with family and reunited with my wife and son. The Promises are working. It isn’t easy to own the damage and trauma I caused in the lives of those I love, but

now I am able to love myself and also love other people. I respect myself, so I can respect others. I own my side of the street. There is gratitude and acceptance in everything I do. I no longer run from the past nor shut the door on it. I live every moment in the present with mindfulness. My future is exciting; blessings are flowing into my life, so I can bless the lives of others. My story offers hope to others suffering through what I have survived. Today, I share my story at schools, on panels and with others in treatment. If just one person’s life is saved in the process, it’s all worth it. The messages of hope and freedom need to be heard. I will carry them to everyone I meet in life. Life is a gift. Embrace your worth every day. Be a glimmer of hope in the lives of others. Show them the way to sobriety and the blessings that follow. The world will be better for it. Daniel Mewhinney is a sobriety advocate with a passion for public speaking and promoting awareness, sobriety and the benefits of meditation to others inside and outside the walls of treatment and recovery. He was featured on A&E’s Intervention 2016 (Season 15, Episode 12: Daniel M.) com/danielmewhinney

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017



InRecovery Magazine May 2017

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017



IN RECOVERY Create a personal “Trigger List” of things that may signal a relapse. KIM WELSH Triggers are one of the leading causes of relapse. People, places and events from our past linger deep within our brains in our memories. The brain tends to prefer the good memories rather than the bad. This is called euphoric recall. How often do we recall a vacation when your flight was delayed, they lost your luggage, and the food was awful? We tend to remember the vacation fondly, the lovely sun on the beach, the cute hat you bought, and the funny gentleman from Peoria who told those corny jokes. Right? It’s human nature to remember the fun associated with triggers while we weed out the bad; it’s human nature. That’s why triggers are so dangerous. Triggers are all around us. Many are obvious like the buddy you got high with or a favorite restaurant where you regularly downed wine. Others are more subtle. Music can ignite all kinds of feelings: loss, excitement, sadness, joy, etc. Certain songs may set your mind racing. It was for this reason that I couldn’t listen to the radio during my first six months in recovery. Smells may also lead to temptation. Memories of people, places, things, foods, music, smells and sounds can be powerful relapse triggers.

Skunks have been known to trigger pot smokers, and jasmine might remind you of grandma’s house where you used to get high with a neighbor. The reason triggers are so dangerous is that while seemingly innocent, the feelings they arouse can lead to irrational and impulsive choices. One of the most powerful triggers is anger. Anger is a byproduct of fear, and left unresolved, it can fester and cause emotional discomfort and stress. Fear may come in many forms. The cause of it might be different for each of us, but end result is the same. Fear is a weapon the disease of addiction wields with skill and precision. It whispers just the right words in my ear when I am at my weakest. The AA Big Book tells us that the best way to stave off fear is with courage. I use a mantra as my defense: “Fear is an illusion, fear is an illusion, fear is an illusion.” With time and practice, I am able to banish fear. Triggers. I once heard someone say, “if you hang out in a barbershop you’re bound to get a haircut.” That reminded me of triggers. A trigger turns into an urge, morphs into a craving and transforms

into a full-blown obsession that can’t be ignored. That’s why it’s vital to cut triggers off at the pass before they generate such power. But how? We start by making a list. Get a pen and paper, sit down at a desk or table and think. Who was I with when I was getting high? What were the names of the watering holes where I used to get soused? What moods and emotions drove my desire to use?  Start writing them down. Your list should be comprehensive; it is your first line of defense. Second, develop a positive mantra. Make it personal. Take some time to figure out what’s most meaningful to you. Ask a trusted friend or sponsor for input. Your mantra may need to change over time, but you’ll figure that out. It’s yours, you own it. Write a journal and make a gratitude list. You know the tools, now use them. Your support group is critical. Phone a friend or sponsor, we are here to build each other up. So, back to your list, where are you? Maybe you have 30 or 40 triggers, maybe more?  Whew! I know what you’re thinking. This list is too darn long. How could I possibly avoid all these things?  Recovery is impossible if everything’s a trigger. That’s where choice comes in. You’re clean, you’re sober and you’ve obviously made some great choices. It’s time to build on them with more great choices. Take things one day at a time, avoiding one trigger at a time, and it will all seem less overwhelming. It’s up to you. Put your list in your pocket, wallet or purse. Take it out every once in a while, to remind yourself of what you’re on the lookout for, what you need to avoid. Staying clean is 90% preparation. Remember, there’s always a solution if you’re willing to look for it. Memories of pleasure, pain, anger, people, places, things, foods, songs, smells can be powerful relapse triggers as you progress in your recovery.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Step-by-step Instructions

Create Your Trigger List.

It’s time to write. Dig deep and write truthfully about the triggers that may cause a relapse. Ready?


Now you just need some paper to write on. Maybe a few sheets...


STEP THREE Find yourself a comfortable place to write... and think.


Who did you drink or use with? Record everyone, including friend and family members. People, places, and things.



What events triggered you to drink or use in the past: barbeques, sports, card games, etc? List them all.



Where did you drink or use? Be specific. What places act as triggers?


Do certain types of food or drink trigger your desire to drink or use? What are they?




What genre of music did you listen to while drinking or using?

Write down your addictions. All of them.



What specific songs trigger euphoric recall?


Are there certain smells that trigger your urge to drink or use? What are they?



What emotions led you to drink or use (i.e. boredom, anger, sadness, joy)? Be painstaking with your list. Most addicts in recovery, or otherwise, are driven by feelings and have limited willpower and discipline.


Time to get real.

Get yourself a mantra. Make it personal. Take some time to figure out what’s most meaningful to you.


The first step is easy! Get yourself a pen and you’re good to go!



Maybe use a notebook...




Take your list out every so often to remind yourself of what you’re on the lookout for and what you need to avoid. Please add anything else you can think of that might be helpful. Remember, be honest with yourself.

Staying clean is 90% preparation. There’s always a solution if you’re willing to look for it.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


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The Newcomer KYLE FISHER-HERTZ Published posthumously


o, I’m standing outside a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting I’ve never been to before, smoking a cigarette and checking the time on my phone. It’s 6:52 pm, and there are only two other people standing with me. I had hoped that by arriving early I might get a chance to meet some new people, and was disappointed at the turnout only minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start. I’m not even sure if both these men are actually here for the meeting, as one of them is a uniformed police officer. I wonder if he’s here hoping to serve a warrant or to pick someone up on a probation violation. I feel irritated at the possibility that he would use someone’s appearance at an NA meeting to arrest them. I ask the other guy, “Are you here for the 7:00 pm meeting?” “Yup,” he says, “and here comes the lady with the keys to open up,” as another car pulled into the lot. “Oh, okay. Well, I’m Kyle. I’m new around here.” “I’m Warren. Good to meet you,” he says. I’m about to stick out my hand, and then I remewmber the NA tradition of greeting everyone with a hug. I find this practice a tad silly, especially between grown men, but I scold myself internally for resisting a practice meant to make people feel more loved, so I reach my arms out toward this potbellied 50-something-year-old leaning against his pickup truck. Warren hugs me back; however, based on the look on his face, he appears to have shared my feelings on the practice being a bit much. Now I wish I’d just shaken his hand. Six or seven more people arrive over the next few minutes; and everyone, including the police officer, goes inside. I see him take out a notepad when he sits down, and I think oohhh, the local police force must ask officers to observe Twelve Step meetings to help them better understand drug 24

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Kyle Fisher-Hertz and his daughter Maggie offenders. That’s nice, although it does seem like coming in full uniform may discourage people from sharing openly . . .

I stand up, give him an earnest smile, open up my arms for a hug, and say, “Well, I’m sorry for assuming otherwise. I’m Kyle.”

So, I decide to ask him, “Are you just here to observe?”

“I’m Jeremy,” he says, but pauses a beat before standing. He does rise to return my hug, but he pats me on the back as if consoling a child, and I realize that the zeal with which I hugged him to compensate for my indiscretion must have made me seem a little emotionally unstable myself. When I sit down and look around the room, the general discomfort on everyone’s face indicates that this opinion is pretty widely held.

He looks slightly offended, and says, “Nope, I’m here for the meeting, just like you.” Now I feel like a complete jerk. This is just a cop in recovery. What brave humility it takes to come to a meeting directly from his job as a police officer, and how judgmental and nearsighted of me to disqualify him as a fellow addict just because he’s a cop.

After an awkward silence, the woman to my left says, “Okay, well, let’s get started.

The moment was mildly awkward, but mostly I felt a general sense of relief from everyone that I was not just some affection-starved weirdo coming to hug everyone in their meeting. Kyle Fisher-Hertz

Maybe we should all introduce ourselves. I’m Mary Benson.” When after a beat, she doesn’t qualify herself as an addict, I realize that’s her right. I cheerfully chime back, “Hi, Mary.” But no chorus of echoed greeting is behind me, and my sing-song response sounds odd on its own. She turns to me. “I’m Kyle, and I’m an addict.” I say.

Instantly, I feel the whole room exhale with sudden understanding. “Oh, sweetie,” Mary says. “This is a Marlborough Township Committee meeting. Your meeting is downstairs at 7:30.” The moment was mildly awkward, but mostly I felt a general sense of relief from everyone that I was not just some

affection-starved weirdo coming to hug everyone in their meeting. At my actual meeting, I also came off like a weirdo by inappropriately bursting into stifled laughter during a reading when my mind thought back to the ridiculousness of the fact that I had just vigorously hugged a random police officer. At least by then I was with my people, where weirdos are as welcome as everyone else.

In Memoriam

Kyle Fisher-Hertz, a devoted father and loving son, grandson, brother and uncle, had been battling addiction for several years. He helped many fellow addicts achieve sobriety, and had been in recovery for most of 2016 before his final relapse killed him.

anyone who dared to play him in Scrabble and left multiple online games half-finished when he died. He was an avid reader of modern fiction and nonfiction books on science and psychology. He loved watching Phillies games with his dad.

In 2011 and 2012, he served as a tutor-instructor for the AmeriCorps City Year program in an inner city elementary school in Seattle and was voted to be their graduation speaker. Kyle was fluent in Spanish and traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2007 to help build a home in a rural village for Habitat for Humanity. From 2005 to 2008, he performed standup comedy at clubs in Las Vegas, New York City, Beacon and Poughkeepsie, New York. He also performed on television shows in Los Angeles. He held numerous jobs, from soda jerk at an ice cream shop, to Hertz car rental sales associate, to ditch digger in the Las Vegas heat.

In 2014, his daughter, Magdalene “Maggie” Jean, was born. He is also survived by his partner, Amber Cockrell; his mother and her wife, Lanette and Renee Sweeney; his father, Lawrence A. Hertz; his sister, Jamie Fisher-Hertz; his sister and her husband, Amy and Brian Gonzalez; his nephews, Julian and Logan Gonzalez; his grandmother, Gail Perry; cousins Joshua and Cathy Hertz and Daniel and Beth Hertz; his uncle and aunt, John and Gevene Hertz; and several second cousins and other loving relatives and friends.

He left college to address his addiction issues, and for the next four years was enrolled in several drug rehabilitation programs in Massachusetts and California. In 2013, Kyle was accepted at the University of Washington, where he planned to major in biology and neuroscience. Kyle was an avid skier and loved rock climbing. He also loved ping pong, Texas Hold ‘Em, and weight lifting. He regularly defeated

Last year, Kyle moved to California where he became very close with his daughter. He loved wrestling with her, throwing her in the air, giving her under-doggies on the swing, swimming with her, reading to her, drawing funny faces with her and snuggling her to sleep. A fund was established to provide for Maggie’s future. You may contribute online through a Go Fund Me account at InRecovery Magazine May 2017


CrossTalk Mollé


Is based on the premise that recovery life is polytely: frequently complex problem-solving situations characterized by the presence of not one, but several endings.

Dear Mollé, I have a program question. I’ve worked all the Steps up to the Ninth and am practicing the principle of brotherly love, which I don’t fully understand. I have made my amends list, but I haven’t been able to actually do any of them. Life is crushing me with my wife’s illness, three teenage kids, and work demands having gone ballistic. I am truly feeling overwhelmed. I ran into my sponsor at a meeting, and without any conversation or lead-in, he said if anyone asks me who my sponsor is, I should say I don’t have a sponsor. He told me, “If a sponsee is not working the Steps, I cannot be of help to him. I am not willing to be a sponsor in name only.” He shook my hand and walked away. I was embarrassed and startled. What am I doing wrong? Is that the right way to be a sponsor? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this confusion. Stunned Sober in Seattle 26

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Dear Sponsor-less, I am smiling at you. What I hear is classic Step Nine avoidance. I’ve done it myself; it was ineffective and caused me nothing but frustration. When it comes time to take fearful or uncomfortable action in AA, every aspect of life becomes more intense. We are experts at overlooking our part in self-created chaos and then blame it on anything or anyone. Truth is, you are able to take action on your amends, but you’ve chosen not to do it. Even a good excuse is still an excuse. It sounds to me that you don’t have the time not to take the next step in your recovery. If you want to stay sober, do the Steps. Call your sponsor and let him know you’re willing to move forward. He’ll take it from there. Sponsorship is not about right or wrong. It is about what works for each of you and what doesn’t. Often times we are perfectly connected to the person we need in our lives at the time we need them. It sounds like your sponsor is helping you by not coddling you with unnecessary patience. Caring for our sponsees can sometimes seem uncalled for or unwanted tough love. Nine times out of ten, though, it turns out to be nothing less than perfect. But our egos can get a little bruised. -Mollé

This column represents decades of recovery and its application to life, how to get over it, into it or through it with spunk, levity and a good dose of reality. What? You want more than happy, joyous and free? Get over it. Just sayin’.


Dear Mollé, I am coming up on 18 months sober. I previously lived in NYC with a generous midsix-figure salary and was dying of alcoholism. I abruptly quit my job and left the state to get sober. Once I got out of treatment, I accepted a job far below my skill level and far below my financial needs. They thought I was manna from heaven put there to shore up their financial bleeding and help redirect the company to profitability. While I was quickly promoted to corporate and was giving effective help, they did not know I was interviewing for higher-paying jobs. After six months at this job, I received a job offer, one that would pay double my current salary and would fully utilize my skill set. I feel guilty about leaving the smaller company that has been so good to me. My leaving will put them in a legitimate bind. My boss cried when I handed in my resignation, but I don’t dare pass up the new opportunity, right?

Get honest with yourself. What did you know, and when did you know it? Did you get hire on under false pretenses? Could you have presented yourself as a consultant to help the company for a limited time while you continued to job hunt, and then participate on the hiring committee to fill the role permanently? Or did you accept the job to help you and offer to help to find the best candidate? Did you accept the job to help you and you alone without any consideration for the company or the disruption it would cause?

You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. It’s time to grow up.

This is something you will need to work out with a sponsor and hopefully with a God of your understanding. If deemed appropriate, you’ll be able to offer a thoughtful and sincere amends.

My sponsor used to say, “If you’re feeling guilty, it might be because you are guilty.” She also said to screw guilt. It serves no one – not you and not the person(s) you are concerned about – and it resolves absolutely nothing. It only makes things worse.

It is likely the company understood the risk of hiring a person overqualified for the position, and I’m sure it was not a complete surprise that you found a better paying job. Did you offer your resignation simply and without a dramatic, longwinded excuse or apology? Did you offered to

Rocks of Guilt in CA Dear Guilty,

help find your replacement? I suspect that you did this, so good for you. With this said, sobriety only sets the stage for a successful career and happiness. You are the only one who can do the work. It is okay to make decisions to further your career if they are made with respect and honesty. You’ve been given an opportunity here to review your actions, to make amends if deemed appropriate, and then to move forward; these stepping stones were placed in front of you. Let go of the guilt, and be grateful for the opportunity to have been helpful. Move forward in your career as a sober, intelligent, and a dignified woman. As my sponsor would say, “Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and get to work.” Mollé Viewpoints shared or any implied actions suggested by Mollé are the opinions and ideas of the author only and do not represent those of In Recovery Magazine. The implied action is offered openly and is never intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. You may send your dilemmas to Mollé InRecovery Magazine May 2017




TOM HAYDEN 1939–2016 28

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


read every obituary I could find about the passing of my friend, Tom Hayden. Heaps of praise were lavished upon this true hero and warrior of my generation. I admired him for all his deeply felt beliefs and envied the courage he displayed in standing up for them. While his life was recounted in great detail, not a single mention was ever made of the program, Alcoholics Anonymous. I recognized Hayden as soon as he entered the meeting room of my Saturday morning men’s group in Pacific Palisades. He looked fragile and unkempt, but it was him alright. Black hoodie pulled up over his head and pants hanging loosely from his boney frame, I watched as he found a seat on a worn-out couch along the windows in the rear of the room. The meeting was attended by a couple hundred men, so Tom wasn’t particularly noticeable. I doubt whether many of the mostly younger guys would have known who he was, but I certainly did. That’s Tom Hayden, I said to myself, a little surprised to see him at an AA meeting. I had known a great deal about his political career ever since the Chicago Seven days, but had never heard anything about him being an alcoholic. I spotted Tom each Saturday over the course of the next few weeks, even though he seemed to be doing his best to remain anonymous. One morning after a meeting where I was chosen to be the speaker, Tom came up to me and told me he liked my talk and asked if I’d be willing to sponsor him. I was surprised. I had assumed that since he had been coming to meetings for a while, he probably already had a sponsor. We had never spoken to one another previously, but I was pleased that he had chosen me to work with him. We agreed to meet the following week, at which time he explained to me how alcohol had become increasingly problematic for him and that although he had stopped drinking a while ago, he was curious about this AA deal and wanted to give it a try. I told him that sponsorship initially entails taking a new man through the Twelve Steps of AA, a job I have done countless times in my 34 years of recovery. I told him I’d be happy to work with him, but first I wanted to hear his story. He confined his talk with me to his problems with drinking, which was fine with me, as I already knew a lot about his life and career. Tom spoke without embellishment, assuring me he understood what alcohol had

done to him. He said he was determined not to drink again, that he had a family that meant the world to him, and he intended to keep them close. I’d heard this pledge not to drink again from many men, some of whom actually kept it, but in Tom I sensed a deeply felt commitment to doing it the right way. We agreed we’d meet on Saturday to begin working on the Steps. I asked him to read the Big Book, the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous, before our first meeting. Tom readily agreed to do this. By the time we met the following Saturday, he had already read it and was full of observations and questions. I thought to myself, This is going to be some experience! We spent that first Saturday just talking about the book. Having read it several times, I thought I knew a lot about the contents, but Tom brought new insight and questions I’d not heard or considered before. It felt in some ways that he was teaching me the Program. Over the next several months, we met before the AA meeting each week to go through the Steps. On my way, I’d stop at a local grocery store and purchase a coffee for me and green tea for Tom, which he quite enjoyed. He had a funny habit of leaving the tea bag in the cup, which I

thought made the tea bitter and acidic, but Tom said he liked it that way. We’d work a Step each week, each reading alternate paragraphs, which required both of us to pay attention. I didn’t need to be concerned about Tom, though. He concentrated fiercely, underlining words and passages that interested him. Upon completion of the reading, I’d ask Tom to go home and write about the Step, including some specific questions I’d given him. The following week we’d review what he had written. With all of the men I’d sponsored over the years, the writing was generally brief and somewhat superficial, but Tom was different. He took the writing assignments seriously, and dove deeply into each Step, finding greater understanding and appreciation the more he probed. The further we went with the Steps, the more into it he became. When we got to the Fourth Step, a personal inventory, Tom attacked it as though it were a matter of life and death, working with dedication as if writing another book. In my experience, most men drag out the writing of this Step because it’s often a painful and difficult challenge, requiring a stark look at oneself. Not with Tom, though. It took him about two weeks


Tom Hayden, a 1960s anti-war activist whose name became forever linked with the celebrated Chicago 7 trial, Vietnam War protests and his ex-wife Jane Fonda, died on October 23, 2016, in Santa Monica, California after a long illness. Hayden, once denounced as a traitor by his detractors, won election to the California Assembly and Senate, where he served for almost two decades as a progressive force on such issues as the environment and education. He was the only one of the radical Chicago 7 defendants to win such distinction in the mainstream political world. InRecovery Magazine May 2017




Hayden was a co-founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1961, and joined the Freedom Riders in the South after authorities refused to enforce desegregation of pubic buses. He was jailed in Albany, Georgia, for attempting to desegregate a railway station. While incarcerated, he began drafting the famed Port Huron Statement, which introduced the concept of “participatory democracy” to a wider audience. Hayden later became president of SDS and helped form the Economic Research and Action Project to spur civil rights progress.

to complete this assignment. He took the instructions “a fearless and thorough moral inventory” literally. He presented me with his life story, reviewing all of the numerous relationships in his life, the resentments he held, and the part he played in the problem. The remaining Steps were done with equal dedication and alacrity. Upon completion of the Steps, I offered Tom the opportunity to work the Twelve Traditions of AA, which are included in the AA Step book, but are not considered mandatory. The Traditions are to the group what the Steps are to the individual, and Tom, being an organization leader, was quite curious as to how AA functioned. On we went, tackling the Traditions one at a time, the same way we had worked the Steps. Tom was like a sponge, sopping up as much information about the workings of AA as he possibly could. I thought I knew a good deal about the history of AA, but Tom’s continual questioning caused me to delve deeper into our literature than I had ever previously done. When we completed this task, Tom asked if we could go through the Twelve Con30

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cepts of World Service, which is how Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, explained the spiritual principles that undergird AA’s structure and how the parts work together. This was something I had never read before, but Tom’s curiosity made it impossible to refuse him. Unfortunately, we never got through this study, as he was taken ill shortly after we had begun. The other thing I will always remember about Tom Hayden was his love of baseball and how we were able to share this love. Sure, we discussed politics and the upcoming election and how we both felt it essential to abandon Bernie and support Hillary as the only candidate we assumed would clobber Trump (wow, were we wrong about that!), but it was with baseball that we created our deepest bond. Like Tom, I’ve been a lifelong Dodgers fan, so each Saturday morning after we completed our Step work, Tom and I would discuss the grand old game. Our conversations attacked it from every angle imaginable. Recent games, team roster, managerial decisions, trades we thought they should make, you name it. If it involved baseball, we talked about it. When

Tom got really sick and was confined to his bed, I’d call him and replay the game I was watching on television to keep him current. I could picture him with his eyes closed, imagining the game. I miss Tom and the relationship we created during the short two years I knew him. He was such a remarkable man. At the graveside memorial, I was moved when the pastor shared Tom’s last words to him: “Hillary must win!” I smiled and thought God took Tom when he did to spare him from what was about to happen. God blessed all of us by Tom’s presence, and I’ll never forget the gift of his friendship. Gary S. co-founded Gibson & Stromberg, a large and influential music public relations firm of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He also spent time in the film business where he produced the motion picture Car Wash (Universal Studios) and co-wrote and co-produced The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (Lorimar/United Artists). He has also co-written three books about recovery: The Harder They Fall (Hazelden) and Feeding the Fame (Hazelden) and a third book for McGraw-Hill Publishing, entitled Second Chances.


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The Wishing Well A battle against food addiction in three photos and a wishing well. SHERYLE CRUSE


y mother fulfilled a personal dream when she added a red version of a wishing well to our backyard. It was in her much-beloved lilac grove that she chose to nestle her wishing well, and it completed the landscape of lawn ornaments, peonies and tulips. Once placed, we took photographs to commemorate it. That’s where I come in. In my first wishing well photograph, I’m about five years old. Wearing a red jumper-style dress,standing in bare feet and holding a baby doll, I look every bit the happy little girl, which I was. This photo holds special significance to me; it was a version of me before the disorders of image and eating. I don’t remember the taking of this first photograph; I have no memory of being “issueless,” but at one time I was. I was not aware I was defective because I was “fat.” I didn’t need to wish to be happy; I already was. But that little girl didn’t last. My mom battled with her weight her entire life. She was alarmed to see this dreaded sin manifesting itself in her little girl, and felt she had to fix me. When she introduced me to my first diet, I was seven years old. I thought, If I do this, then I’ll be okay. The culmination of abuse within my home along with my mother’s food, weight and body image issues produced an environment in which Mom and I engaged in unhealthy enmeshment and coping attempts, which flip-flopped from sharing our love of food to sharing our self-hating belief that we were “too fat” and therefore we needed to engage in mother-daughter

Sheryle age five. 32

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diet projects. These projects were meant to achieve, as my mother often vocalized, our “right weight.” This was our wish.

“40% of nineyear-old girls have dieted.” – Susan Ice, MD

(Medical Director, The Renfrew Center)

At eight years old, I was already approaching eating disorder territory. This was reflected in my second photo by the wishing well. I had learned image manipulation strategies, such as the type of clothes I wore. In this photograph, I am fully aware that I am “too fat.” Already experienced in failed dieting, I had learned to alter my image any way that I could. Achieving the right weight was now my wish. Months earlier, Mom had bought me a red and white cheerleader Halloween costume, which I had never worn because it was too tight. However, I had a revelation: this tightness could serve as a corseting device. The costume was at its tightest around my midriff, the area about which I was most self-conscious. Although I was

Sheryle age eight.

uncomfortable while wearing it, this attire became one of my go-to outfits. Knowing I could not wear it to school in its original cheerleader form, I tucked it into tight jeans, maximizing the aesthetic. There I was, a rigid toy soldier, standing stiff, with bulging eyes, holding my breath. I was beyond uncomfortable; I was in pain. The midsection of the costume was cutting into me, but I had to do this because I was “too fat.” I had to look thinner if I couldn’t actually be thinner. My next wishing well photograph was taken on my last day of high school. Leaning on the well, wearing dark blue cutoffs, a tank top and a jeans jacket, I didn’t know I was at a crossroads. As I prepared for college, I had a lot to prove – to myself, to the haunting jeers of classmates, and to the boys who had not asked me out – but all that would change that summer. I drank diet drinks that tasted like chocolate-flavored chalk. I started exercising on a stationary bike, a real bike and a mini trampoline. I started losing weight and keeping it off. I felt exhilaration and power! Things took a sinister turn during my freshman year of college. Wishing became obsessing about emaciation. There is no wishing well photograph of me in this state because I rarely went outside. My life was about starvation and over-exercise. It was about trying not to die, but not wanting to live. Every morning, my heart and pulse would pound and race. I could feel throbbing

Sheryle before her high school graduation.

den is overgrown with weeds. The flowers are gone. The lawn ornaments are broken and dirty, including the once-charming red wishing well. Fallen branches, tall grass and briars made it challenging to take a photograph of me positioned next to the once-mystical wishing well. As the photo was taken, the wishing well spell was broken. I suddenly felt free. As adults, most of us recognize that we must deal with painful, sometimes ugly, truths. Wishing can disconnect us from ourselves; it can keep us stuck, even make us regress. We must move beyond simply wishing for something external to give us “happily ever after.” The wishing well after all these years, broken but not forgotten.

from veins that were sticking out on the backs of my knees and the crooks of my elbows. Passing out was now a regular part of my day. I would shakily stand up, already dizzy, only to blackout and wake up lying on the floor. I was tired physically, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t want to be here anymore. My only wish was to disappear. As I struggled with various disordered eating and image issues, and experienced the lessons and milestones of adulthood, the wishing well remained. I grew up,

finished college and got married. I was subject to the various stages of wishing: the unaware bliss, the naïve hope, the desperate striving, the broken heart, the imperfect acceptance. Wishing brought me to and through every era, behavior and mindset. Life carried on. Much has changed since those three photographs. After a stroke that rendered her wheelchair-bound, Mom now resides in a care facility. I am faced with the task of cleaning up the home where I grew up. Neglected by my mother, the flower gar-

Wishing promises us magic answers. Unfortunately, while in our addictions and disorders, we sometimes wish harmful things into being. However, our wishing wells can provide a self-assessment opportunity. What are you wishing for? Sheryle Cruse is on a mission

to declare the Gospel message, affirming that no matter what disorder or obstacle may exist, relationship with God, vibrant health and a prosperous life are, indeed, possible. She is a speaker and the author of Thin Enough.

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017


The Brain Is Key: You Can Bet On It. The role of the brain in the complexities of addiction KEVIN COUGHLIN, PhD


ccording to some experts, alcoholism, substance use disorders, process addictions and behavioral addictions like pathological gambling may affect the brain in the same way, reflects Lizzie Parry in her article “Cure for Alcoholism Now One Step Closer.” Research at Imperial College London has, in MRI studies, identified two areas of the brain that scientists believe cause pathological gambling. The study showed that the connections in the brain responsible for impulse control may be weaker in problem gamblers. “Gambling addiction can have a devastating effect not just on patients, but also their families.” notes Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic and Imperial research Team. This new research identifies key areas of the brain, and will aid in the development of targeted treatments to help prevent cravings and relapse. When pathological gamblers experienced cravings, researchers discovered two areas of the brain that became highly active. These are the insula and the nucleus accumbens, which are located deep within the brain and are key to decision making and reward and impulse control. These are the same areas of the brain that have previously been linked to substance abuse and alcohol addictions. The Imperial study was carried out using 19 problem gamblers and 19 healthy volunteers. MRI scans were utilized to monitor the brain activity of each individual as they were shown pictures of gambling activities; they were then asked to rate their cravings while viewing each image. Researchers found that the insula and nucleus accumbens were highly active when the problem gamblers experienced cravings induced by the images. Interestingly, the team also found that weaker connections between the nucleus accumbens and an area called the frontal lobe were associated with greater craving. The frontal lobe, which presides over behavioral control and decision making, 34

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may also keep the insula in check by controlling impulses, explained Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes, coauthor of the Imperial College London research paper. “Weak connections between these regions have also been identified in drug addiction. The frontal lobe can help control impulsivity; therefore, a weak link may contribute to people being unable to stop gambling, and ignoring the negative consequences of their actions. The connections may also be affected by mood – and be further weakened by stress, which may be why gambling addicts relapse during difficult periods in their life.” Because the frontal lobe can help control impulse, it makes sense that a weakness there may contribute to individuals being unable to stop gambling or to ignore negative consequences of their actions when gambling.

According to some experts, alcoholism, substance use disorders, process addictions and behavioral addictions like pathological gambling may affect the brain in the same way. Recently, the Surgeon General’s “Key Findings: The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse, and Addiction” has defined addiction as a chronic brain disorder that has potential for both recurrence and recovery. Research in neuroscience suggests that the process of addiction is a

three-stage cycle: binge/intoxication, followed by withdrawal/negative effect, and culminating in preoccupation/anticipation. Progressively, the cycle will worsen and become more severe with continued abuse. Changes in brain function are dramatic and reduce the ability to control the addiction. There are disruptions in the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex that enable cues to trigger substance seeking, heighten activation of stress systems of the brain and reduce brain sensitivity systems in the experience of reward and pleasure. These disruptions also reduce the executive control systems of the brain that control decision-making actions and emotions and impulses. Despite the risks and negative consequences involved, individuals are motivated to continue in their addictions by euphoric or pleasurable feelings. Continued misuse of substances cause neuroadaptations, a process whereby the body compensates for the presence of a chemical in the body so that it can continue to function normally. For people who abuse drugs or alcohol, this neuroadaptation leads to tolerance and dependence on a substance and can foster cravings that can lead to relapse. Dr. Daniel Amen from the Amen Clinic is one of the leading experts in the world on brain imagery and understanding changes in the brain. He has been involved in over 125,000 brain SPECT scans, which look at blood flow and activity in the brain. Dr. Amen uses SPECT brain imagery, which illustrates how the brain actually works, blood flow and activity. His research has shown that addiction changes the brain; emotional trauma can be distinguished from physical trauma; the brain can improve; every brain is affected differently; and past brain trauma can lead to addiction and many other repercussions. Dr. Amen’s research also showed that marijuana smokers had lower blood flow to the brain and lower brain activity than nonsmokers.

It’s clear that brain health is as important as the health of any other part of the body, perhaps more important.

Dr. Amen says that brain SPECT imaging helps to

• Break through denial. • Determine if there are coexisting conditions requiring treatment.

• Increase treatment and recovery program compliance.

• Help people realize that addiction is

a brain disease, not a personal weakness or character flaw.

• Help patients gain a better understanding of their brain through visuals.

• Determine if treatment is working correctly.

Amen has identified six different types of addiction-prone brain patterns: Compulsive Addicts, Impulsive Addicts,

pulsive-Compulsive Addicts, Sad or Emotional Addicts, Anxious Addicts and Temporal Lobe Addicts. Pathological gambling fits most neatly in Type 1 or Compulsive Addicts. These individuals tend to get stuck or locked into one course of action and don’t see other options. Most commonly, this type of brain SPECT finding shows increased anterior cingulate gyrus activity, which is usually caused by low serotonin levels. Even though the six types of brain patterns have some commonality of symptoms, each type has its own set of symptoms and specific treatments. According to Dr. Amen, “One size does not fit all: what works for one person with addiction may not work for another, or could even make the symptoms worse!”

It’s an exciting time in the addiction recovery field with all the advances in neuroscience, technology, treatment, recovery coaching and aftercare. It’s clear that brain health is as important as the health of any other part of the body, perhaps more important. Each individual is unique, and testing such as SPECT imagery can help treatment professionals know how to best help each person. The key to treating pathological gambling is the brain; you can bet on it! Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin, PhD, bestselling author, writer, speaker and consultant, is a CIP Interventionist, International Master Addictions Coach and instructor, pastoral counselor and therapist. His books are on sale at and Barnes & Noble. InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Validation A date with Emily. TODD HIRT


here I am on the side of my bed, hunched over my legs, as my fingers twist and pull. I stand up to get a full view, complete with my new shoes. I wonder, “Will she notice the shoes?” No, it’s probably just me who stares at the ground all the time. Face-to-face is hard to face sometimes. I hadn’t been this nervous since I last entered detox; yet, to my own surprise, I made the plans with minimal awkwardness or stuttering. It happened a couple days ago, when I ran into her at the grocery store for the second time in a week. I was able to successfully connect my thoughts to words, and use them in sentences. I had learned that she, too, was in recovery. I grab my keys and check the mirror on my way out. I wink at my reflection. It is the twilight transition from day to night, and the mood feels mellow. I glance in the rearview mirror to verify that I look good. I adjust the mirror back to the traffic and turn onto her street. Approaching her door, I see a doorbell, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve used one. I like to be certain, so I thump on the wood with a couple firm knocks. The door opens. “Hi, you must be Emily’s roommate,” I greet. “Yes, I am Samantha. Come on in.” I step in, looking down at my shoes one last time before I remind myself that eye contact is more important than surveying the ground. They have a very nice, clean house, I think to myself, and then recite the comment aloud, remembering that compliments are important for first impressions. The roommate thanks me and offers me something to drink. I think for a bit too long on the decision. Simple, trivial things like this always put me at crossroads of what looks best or is the politest to choose and if any offense might be taken if I say “no, thanks.” I decide on water and sit on the couch. Emily appears from the hallway. I get up and greet her with a hug. She looks very attractive and seems excited. This combination hits my nerves and motivates me to continue to try to impress. 36

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“Give me one minute; I’m almost ready,” she says, heading back down the hallway. I daydream a little of being allowed down that same hallway at the tail end of the date. She allows me into her room, and I take off these damn shoes while she helps with the rest. I curb these thoughts and return back to the present with a sip of water and a deep, stomach-rising breath.

I slow my thinking and register the idea that, since going through treatment and being newly in recovery, some words will always seem strange. I do well relating with her roommate on small talk topics like Mexican food and trying to find work we would love. Emily returns from her room shortly thereafter. I help her with the front door, and a few moments later I open the passenger car door for her. She thanks me and smiles, and I close the door with gentle force. While walking around to the driver’s side, I praise myself for remembering chivalry. ‘Just be yourself.’ I’m nervous, but I honestly believe this phrase. The idea of “myself ” has had its doubts in the past, but I am more comfortable with that “self ” now, so I continue with it. Soon, my nerves are settling and the conversation flows. We arrive at the high-end movie theatre a good half an hour before the movie begins. I find the parking lot, and we walk together, close and at a slow, getting-to-know-eachother type of pace. I’ve been working on this, as I have the habit of walking at a fast, nonsocial pace, a trait I surely picked up from my dad. As kids, he used to leave my brothers and me in the dust.

Once inside, I pay for the tickets and work on racking up more brownie points. The smell of buttered popcorn and the sound of CO2 dispensing sodas remind me to offer my date a snack. She orders a soda and some sour candy; I order a soda as well and some popcorn. I’m not a fan of popcorn, but I don’t want to seem weird. We comment on the beer selection behind the counter as I pay for our snacks. Beer served in a movie theater is interesting to us. Or maybe it caught our attention because at a nervous time like this, at least for me, a cold one sure would be nice. I shake the thought. We talk a little during the Coca Cola and dentist advertisement previews to the previews. I can tell she likes me, but I need further validation. I shoot for it. I tease her about her teeth being horribly yellow, timing it well with the local dentistry advertisement on the screen. She “oh my Gods” me in an embarrassed, high pitch voice and follows that with a pretty hard slap on my shoulder. I see her pretty, white smile as she looks away. The movie sucks, and I mean it is no thumbs, no stars, absolutely terrible. Toward the predictable end, I begin to worry that the quality of the movie will reflect on the quality of our date. Roll credits. Thank you, God! I think. She grips my arm. “Oh, my God, wasn’t that a great movie!” “Oh, goodness, wasn’t it!?” I thankfully respond. She coils her arm through mine as we leave the theatre. The gesture has me feeling gentlemanly and positive. I quickly forget about the horrible movie. Walking, feeling smooth, Emily on my arm, I feel inside my pocket, remembering next to my movie ticket stub was a crisp parking slip in need of validation. This process is particularly rare for me in that I have not been authorized to operate a motor vehicle for quite some time. I seek the usher for the validation. I take the validated parking slip back, and walk hurriedly away, feeling a surge of excitement and pleasure. My shoes stand out more than ever. I immediately assume

She coils her arm through mine as we leave the theatre. The gesture has me feeling gentlemanly and positive. I quickly forget about the horrible movie.

Emily didn’t know how to comment on them because they are so unfitting for the rest of my attire and the occasion in general. Why had I not worn my old Vans? I also begin to think I need validation beyond a $3 parking fee waiver. I slow my thinking and register the idea that, since going through treatment and being newly in recovery, some words will always seem strange. I also realize at this

point that I have stopped walking and am standing in the middle of the theatre thinking about this. I snap out of it, and Emily comes back into focus.

“Well . . . you did park absolutely perfectly here.” I smile at her comment with seriousness. She laughs as I head over to open the passenger side door for her.

“Sorry, had to validate the parking,” I explain. She nods with a bit of confusion and we head back to the car. As we approach the car, she stops and examines my car. She steps back and crosses her arms,

Todd Hirt grew up in Salinas, California, and moved two years ago to Prescott, Arizona, to seek help for substance abuse where he now works for an addiction treatment facility. Writing has become an essential tool in sustaining his recovery. InRecovery Magazine May 2017




Marc Raciti

MARC RACITI uthor Marc Raciti, a man of understanding and compassion, is an advocate warrior for veterans healing from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He served his country in the United States Army and, after five deployments, came home suffering from PTSD.


“PTSD claims by suicide the lives of at least 20 veterans or more each day,” says Marc. He and other veterans suffering from PTSD saw trees as an instrument of their demise – suicide by hanging – while other people just saw trees. Marc wants this number to drop, and so helps veterans who suffer alone and in silence. With his new book, I Just Want to See Trees: A Journey Through P.T.S.D., he shares his story so others can be informed and educated by his in-depth perspective on the PTSD endured by third millennium soldiers of war. Proceeds from book sales go to Marc’s nonprofit organization, Healing Wounds. Marc’s wife, Dr. Sonja Raciti, was instrumental in helping him through the healing process. At her urging, he sought professional help. Sonja assisted in writing a chapter about a spouse’s perspective of this disorder. She is a board certified clinical psychologist who specializes 38

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Christopher Kennedy Lawford

in trauma, autism, addictions, family therapy and art therapy. She has a private practice and also teaches at Grand Canyon University. Marc and Sonja live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with their two sons and Marc’s service dog, Douglas. Marc works as a physician’s assistant at an orthopedic practice. In addition to helping vets and supporting their families, he and his wife enjoy traveling, and spending time with their sons and close friends.



uthor Christopher Kennedy Lawford has been celebrating recovery for 30 years and counting. His father was legendary actor Peter Lawford, a member of the famed Rat Pack. Christopher’s mother, Patricia Kennedy, was sister to former President John F. Kennedy. They married in 1954, and Chris was their firstborn and Peter Lawford’s only son. His life had a rocky start, which undoubtedly came from being in the spotlight and having famous parents. With the spotlight on the Kennedy family’s addiction woes, it was common for Chris to be in the news. While attending college in the late ’70s and partying into the ’80s, he became a full-blown drug addict,

dependent on heroin. During that time, he contracted Hepatitis C. Despite this setback, Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977 from Tufts University. In 1983, he received his JD from Boston College Law School and an MA in Clinical Psychology from Harvard Medical School, where he held an academic appointment as a lecturer in psychiatry. Christopher is creating a new ending to his story and recovery legacy. Part of his recovery process has been setting boundaries and breaking away from his family. Even today, he doesn’t speak with many of them. In addition to spending 20 years in the film and television industries as an actor, lawyer, executive and producer, his recovery books have hit the New York Times bestseller list. He advocates tirelessly on behalf of the mental health and recovery community in both the public and private sectors. His new book, When Your Partner Has an Addiction: How Compassion Can Transform Your Relationship, was recently released on Amazon. Lawford has three children and divides his time between his homes in Hawaii and Los Angeles.

Book Review The Bitter Taste of Dying: A Memoir LENA H.


e’s an expert. At age 14, Smith tried mouth-tomouth resuscitation on a favorite uncle dying of a heroin overdose, and he got a mouthful of foamy, bitter “yellow shit.” The taste stays with him – until decades later, on the verge of death through drugs himself, he senses it again.

linguistic director of a school in Italy. When Smith learns there’s easy access to Fentanyl and other drugs in nearby France, he begins making regular trips across the border. On one trip, high on Xanax, codeine and OxyContin, he crashes to the floor in a cafe in Nice, and experiences that bitter taste of dying. Saved by a shot of Naloxone, he wanders drugged and homeless on the streets, until the US Consulate facilitates his flight home. Then he’s off again, as English language director of a school in China, but is fired after a XanaxFentanyl-Percocet binge.

Like a demolition derby, this memoir barrels through the author’s harried, drugriddled life, one incredible misadventure crashing into the next. After his uncle’s death, Smith collides with another kid while playing football, breaking the kid’s neck and racking up Smith’s guilt. Then at 17, he’s badly injured in a car accident, and doctors must fuse a disk in his spine. A shot of Demerol for pain christens his love affair with drugs. “That first hit,” he writes, “I was in love . . . I didn’t want it to stop.” His guilt and pain are gone. “You don’t understand why we do drugs?” he asks the reader. “We do it for this. This feeling, right here. Nothing matters. Nothing hurts.” From that day forward, he chases the feeling. Emboldened by increasing dosages of pain pills, the author graduates from college with a degree in history. He snags a job teaching English in Prague, where he connects with a prostitute who gets him Fentanyl patches through the Russian Mafia. However, when he loses his job and can’t pay, the Mafia wants its pound of flesh. Smith barely makes it onto the plane back to California. Still in love with that pain-free high, he stocks up on opiates with his credit cards at farmacias in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. On his return to San Diego, however, Smith is

“Death tastes bitter, with a texture that falls somewhere between gritty and horrific . . . ” arrested at the border for trafficking, and ends up spending weeks in a Tijuana jail, starved and tortured. The US Consulate springs him from jail to complete part of his sentence in rehab in California; but after rehab, he jumps bail for a job as

Back in the US, Smith is “out of places to run off to.” Even after his partner gives birth to his son, he keeps doing drugs. Filled with shame and out of options, Smith gobbles Xanax and codeine, gets in a bath, and slits his wrists – only to awaken knowing he has failed at suicide. Desperate, he calls an AA sponsor he once met, thereby starting down the path to lasting recovery. Pages fly by as hard-hitting conversations between Smith and his sponsor alternate with racy episodes from the author’s life. Never mind occasional writing bloopers and too-repetitive bits; this book pulls no punches in laying bare the sick, sordid allure of drugging, nor about the prodigious difficulty of getting clean. This author’s raw, honest memoir will hook you from the start. The Bitter Taste of Dying: A Memoir Jason Smith Thought Catalog Books

InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Feel Your Best Keep your cool when the temperatures rise. LAURA O’REILLY


id you know that heat affects our mood? With the increase in summer temperatures, we may experience trouble sleeping, dehydration and general hotheadedness. Studies report heat, especially when combined with humidity, can increase aggression and violence, so here are three ways to “keep your cool” when temperatures and tempers rise. Exercise in the morning or after sundown. The sun is typically at it’s hottest around noon, so move your daily work out to early morning before sunrise or in the evening after the sun has set and the temperature has cooled down. This will help you avoid compounding the effects of warm weather and heat building up in the body as a result of movement. Do you have access to a body of water? Go for a dip at the local swimming hole to cool off after a workout.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Phone a friend. Yup, it’s not just an option on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. If you find yourself feeling agitated or upset, speak with a friend and share your experience. The weight of a situation is always lighter when we have someone to help us carry the burden. When we are challenged by emotions, finding someone to lend a friendly ear or having a quick conversation with a loved one can help us calm down, feel supported and find perspective. Take five. Give yourself five minutes to decompress. Turn off your phone. Excuse yourself from responsibilities and be still. Lie down. Relax. When you begin to feel overwhelmed or overheated, choose not to react. Give yourself some time and space. Timeouts work just as well for adults as they do for kids, and they work even better when we take them consciously and by choice.

This too shall pass. Try one or all three of these techniques and see how you feel. If you’re still feeling agitated, give yourself time. In life, all things are impermanent and constantly changing. Remember, this too shall pass. Until then, find a shady spot, have a refreshing glass of cold water and enjoy the moment.

Laura O’Reilly is a Jamasian (Jamaican-Chinese) yogi living in Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada. She is the founder of Potentialize Me Yoga, specializing in yoga for recovering addicts. After becoming sober, she left the corporate world to follow her heart and found her passion in teaching yoga. Yoga has been a wonderful tool for Laura’s own healing, growth and personal development, which drives her desire to make it accessible for everyone. Her daily practices are rooted in spirituality, a desire to serve and the belief that everything happens for a reason.


Get Your Recovery On! A recovering addict launches a new life, a line of recovery-based clothing and a comedy career.


veryone has a story. For many of us, our story includes chapters of addiction. Fortunately, we can also experience chapters about our recovery and rewrite how our story ends. After 30+ years of suffering from addiction in various forms, I, Mike Lindsey, am blessed to be a survivor. Each of my own addictions promised peace and relief from fear and pain. I searched to fill empty voids in my life, but relief proved temporary at best. After years of toeing the line of addiction-related tragedy and devastation, I was at one possible story ending. I was once a proud husband and father of two, working professional and youth baseball coach. Crystal meth took all of that away. I was homeless on the streets for a year with only a backpack full of clothes. If I continued to live that way, I knew I would die. I was at rock bottom. My story could have ended there, but I began taking steps to reclaim my life. It took courage to turn my life around and to change my story. I soon found that recovery had many blessings. I was able to experience joy again. I wanted to give back these gifts to recovering addicts everywhere. I woke up one morning with an idea in my head that would not go away. It became an inescapable, nagging creative thought. Addicts in recovery experience a fresh start and clean living. Similarly, air

MIKE LINDSEY is all around us and is best when fresh and clean. Webster’s Dictionary defines air as: “Air is an outward appearance of a thing <an air of luxury> or a person expressing personal quality or emotion <an air of dignity>.” The phrase “an air of dignity” stood out to me. In March of 2016, I launched Addicts In Recovery (AIR), makers of AIR Wear Recovery Gear, a recovery-based clothing line, founded on the belief that “an air of dignity” is important to recovery. This and other projects enable me to pass on the blessings I have received in my recovery and to be of service to others.

My recovery-based standup comedy show shares experience, strength and hope through the power of laughter. Society tends to look down upon recovering addicts, causing many to live with shame and embarrassment. For this reason, many people keep their stories pri-

vate. Take pride in the accomplishment of reclaiming your life from addiction. Rise above the stigma, shame and guilt. Choose to write and share your own story at www. AIR Wear Recovery Gear . . . “Get Your Recovery On!” With growing courage, I pursued a lifelong dream of becoming a standup comedian. In so doing, I quickly discovered therapeutic benefits by processing my pain, shame and guilt through writing and performing comedy. I felt freedom from the chains of stigma. I felt accepted by society and more connected with people. I was proud to share my story. On September 1, 2016, my two-year clean anniversary, “Unloaded Comedy – Laugh Yourself Clean” was born. My recovery-based standup comedy show shares experience, strength and hope through the power of laughter. We hold a comedy workshop before our performances that provide standup basics, writing tips, comedy as therapy, and a chance to connect with the comics on tour. Our goal is to plant recovery seeds that will grow and touch many more lives, while teaching people skills for personal expression. InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Chaos and Clutter-Free Memory keeping: avoid mayhem, embrace what matters most. DANIELLE WURTH


y sister and I recently planned a dinner celebration for our mom’s 70th birthday. We yearned to give her the perfect gift with a focus on our decades of family memories. We felt that having her unwrap a DVD of our childhood family movies would have a wow factor. So began my journey. I already had our movie reels dating from the ’70s and ’80s, which I had converted into VHS tapes. I gathered our family photos, tossed them all into a shopping bag and drove to my local video transfer store. The owner was a bottom-line, back East New Yorker like me, so we clicked right away. Together we discussed strategies on how to consolidate, title and integrate the media with music. The “gotta-do-it-someday” project was finally happening! The night of the celebration dinner finally arrived. I recorded a video on my smartphone of Mom’s head-over-heels reaction when she opened our gift. Later, I uploaded the video and other related images to my free Dropbox app. I placed them in a “Mom’s 70th Birthday” folder, which I stored in “Winter 2016” in the “Family Memories of 2016” file, and emailed everyone the album link. The next evening, the telephone rang. As I picked up the phone, I heard Mom sobbing on the other end. “Mom, is everything ok?” I asked. She responded in a teary, emotional voice: “Danielle, I just finished watching the family video you and your sister gave me. I just can’t thank you enough for this gift! This is the best gift I have ever, ever, ever been given. It’s so beautiful. To see you and your sister in all these videos is so precious and so priceless, I can’t describe it. You are the best daughter any mother could ever ask for. I will forever be grateful.” For the first time in my life, I experienced my mother sobbing tears of joy instead of sadness. I immediately called my sister to tell her. Mom’s response to our creative $18 gift caused a ripple effect in our hearts and an


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

epiphany in my mind about the importance of cherishing one’s life journey. “In order to move forward, you need to think backward. Ask yourself how you want to cherish and preserve your memories.” Nowadays, we take nearly as many pictures as we take breaths to survive. Only when we pause our treadmill-paced lives are we able to reflect and find clarity about where we stand in our recovery today. Watching our life on screen can bring healing and inspiration in ways we never could have imagined. In order to move forward, you need to think backward. Ask yourself how you want to cherish and preserve your memories. So, what’s the next step? Consider the following methods to view your life story: Compile a traditional photo album of paired down images. Create a digital photo book through Shutterfly™ or Snapfish™. View images on your computer as a slideshow.

same irreplaceable experience for my family, and hope they will do the same someday for their families. I am grateful that over the years I took a generous number of tender one-minutemoment videos in addition to traditional snapshots. Photos frame that exact moment, but a video of the same event is like wearing 3D glasses; you become part of the experience. So, let’s get started on organizing your digital media. Consider beginning with the current year and working your way backward. You’ll see progress sooner, and feel more dedicated and less defeated. Sort media by season and year. Depending on your software, your media may already be presorted. Do a quick purge, deleting duplicate images so that movie night doesn’t turn into a 24-hour viewing marathon. Stream your media from iCloud™ or plug in the appropriate media cable to your TV and watch directly from your device.

Host a family movie night and show images and videos on your TV or tablet.

Use a DVD if you prefer, transfer the media by season and label each disk with a permanent marker.

Display images on your wall, creating your life’s art gallery. For our crew, nothing is better than to cuddle together on the sofa as we eat popcorn and watch our family pictures. We are captivated as our past comes alive on the big screen.

Don’t halt your progress...hire help, if needed. Seek out a tech-savvy friend or a digital support service to assist you in completing your project. For future reference, take a video of how they transferred media or hooked up cables.

My dad was our family photographer. I am indebted to him for making family movie night a much-anticipated event. I vividly recall my sister and me in our zipup jammies, waiting patiently for him to load the movie reels on his clattering metal projector. I am committed to offering the

If you’re like most people, you have boxes and old albums of snapshots gathering dust on closet shelves. Take the plunge and convert your old photos or albums into a digital format. Consider investing in an inexpensive, all-in-one color printer/ scanner, or use your smartphone to capture

individual photos and whole album pages in one shot. Digitizing old images opens up creative gift-giving options such as calendars and keepsake books to share at milestone events and celebrations. “The Perfectionist Pipe Dream. Do you struggle with obsessive perfection to the point that endless photo projects are either never started or never completed?” Do you have a colossal pipe dream of scrapbooking photos or orchestrating an Academy Award film production of your memories to music and sound? If you have a history of addiction, you understand how spiraling anxiety can create a series of perfectionist projects. Snap out of it! You’ll breathe easier knowing those memories are preserved. Focus on “progress, not perfection.” Go out with a bang rather than a dusty, disorganized bust, and pass along something magnificent to your loved ones. Danielle Wurth is a professional speaker, organizer and the owner of Wurth Organizing, LLC, a company that transforms people’s lives through using her psyche-based, hands-on organizing sessions and events. In addition, Wurth is an exclusive Arizona Brand Partner of The Container Store and has been a contributor to Real Simple Magazine, Fox 10 News, Channel 3 Good Morning Arizona, 1360 KPXQ Faith Talk Radio and The Arizona Republic. 602.579.5274

The McShin Foundation

Virginia’s Leading Nonprofit, Full-Service Recovery Community Organization

We are a recovery resource foundation whose mission is to deliver a message of hope to recovering addicts and alcoholics and to facilitate their journey to a healthier life.

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Create Budget-Friendly Organizational Systems By: • Maximizing any space within your business, home or garage • Transitioning from stress to success in your recovery process • Utilizing your own psyche for better long-term organizational results • Simplifying papers and posessions to bring joy, not sorrow • Accessing our hands on organizing, Skype sessions or interactive speaking events and empowering workshops

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017



CONSTELLATIONS Our professional careers can both test and grow our recovery. JEREMY BEHRMANN


arly in my recovery journey, holding down a job was an epic achievement, equal to caring for a houseplant or keeping my house clean. However, as I worked my program, the sheer dedication, strategic thinking and focus that made me a very successful yet destructive addict suddenly began to pay huge dividends in the professional arena. It seemed like I was on my way! What followed, however, was a period of self-sabotage, where I kept moving from one job to the next, never really gaining traction in any of them. Fortunately, my difficulties gave birth to a vocation that has given me a real sense of purpose and joy – career coaching. I have been fortunate to work with hundreds of people as they navigate their professional journeys through the prism of recovery. Recovering addicts tend to need help with career uncertainty and career sabotage. It can be challenging to get our bearings in a new career landscape. While many people become workaholics in one career, others experience the opposite. Despite being strong in their recovery programs, they struggle to stay present in their jobs. This is what happened to me. Life is dominated by big decisions. Our ingenuity as human beings has created a range of extraordinary opportunities which require careful navigation. One of our greatest creations, the map, helps us navigate these important junctions and find our way to what is most important to us. Many of us wake up and immediately begin perusing the map of applications on our phones. We jump into our cars and use map apps to navigate to a doctor’s appointment on the other side of town. We


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

trust our physicians because they have studied anatomic maps of the body and are trained to recognize signs of ill health and disease. The Twelve Steps also provide an effective map for success in our recovery journeys. Maps are crucial to getting where we want to go, finding our way when we get lost and avoiding dangers along the way. Career planning is one of the most critical areas in which a map is essential. We spend one third of our lives at work. Jobs allow us the opportunity to provide for our families, express our passions and contribute toward society through talents. In the past, parents and teachers helped us map our careers. We relied on career diagnostic maps to generate a list of possible careers supported by a theoretical model of our strengths and personality profiles. Once in a job, the organization’s HR man-

We are becoming our own mapmakers, identifying new career options through entrepreneurship, freelancing and working remotely. ager was available to point out various paths to career advancement. Today’s career landscape has changed. The traditional maps we’ve relied on to navigate new choices or get us to our ideal ca-

reer are redundant in light of the far more complex values and choices which cannot be captured with conventional career guidance techniques. Career uncertainty is at an all-time high. The age of having one job for life is over. In light of these changes, it is important to create a map that can help us make multiple career changes over time. It is inherently challenging to offer long-term career advice. With such fierce competition and everchanging technology, professions can become obsolete overnight. Today’s career-minded individual is no longer a passive user of a map created by someone else. While our parents may have seen work as a duty and enjoyed defined roles, our generation wants to do work about which we are passionate – work that gives our lives a sense of meaning and offers an ideal work-life balance where we can be both good parents and good providers. We are becoming our own mapmakers, identifying new career options through entrepreneurship, freelancing and working remotely. The range of career choices is unprecedented. New ideas are explored through online forums and are tested and developed through crowdfunding campaigns. Unique value propositions are sold directly to a global network of more than three billion connected consumers. Social networks bombard us with new ideas of what our careers and lives could be; our imagination is gripped by thoughts of doing something meaningful. We witness friends beginning the musthave MBA, crowdfunding start-ups, embarking on exciting sabbaticals or commercializing a cottage industry; however, behind these halos of success are the very

real struggles experienced as they attempt to change or develop their careers. We unconsciously attach pleasure to this illusory destination, though we have no idea what the reality may be. Every second, we are hit with roughly 2,000 bits of stimulation: our beating heart, the hum of the air conditioner, the sensation of our feet on the floor, or the sound of these words in your head as you read this article. Our brains are overwhelmed by the constant stimulation. To help us focus on what is most important, our brains have developed a sophisticated mechanism called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is very good at finding specifics. If you’re hungry, it will help you notice restaurants. If you decide to buy a new VW Golf, you begin seeing them everywhere you go. However, the RAS can be stymied by the hundreds of career options related to one’s spectrum of experience, skills, interests, passions, values and talents. Many people can only endure so much of this before losing motivation and momentum. To help people navigate through the overwhelming options for finding a career, I work with them to create a map called a Career Constellation. This map provides a bird’s eye view of the career and business ideas related to the individual’s unique combination of passions, values, abilities and interests. People can conduct research, attend networking meetings, and take a day off here and there to do valuable observation, mini-apprenticeships or follow a course, all without leaving their current job. Once their map is complete, people are able to make better decisions about their career path. It is by being willing to explore new opportunities that we realize the change we desire can be of our own making. Taking the steps toward a new career will help us to better understand our own selves in the process. As T.S. Eliot famously wrote, “We will not cease from our exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Jeremy Behrmann is a career coach and the author of Breakaway, a journal of personal recovery and his quest to discover a vocation. He helps people in recovery discover meaningful careers that support their long-term sobriety.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017




I EVER HAD Sometimes things work out for the best. JONATHAN COHEN


ometimes what seems like bad luck can save you from ruining your life, or even start you on the path to recovery. That was my case when I tried my hand as a drug dealer at age 19. I had started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol at the end of my junior year of high school, right around the time my parents split up. I was suddenly living with no adult supervision; I’d already been accepted into college, so I didn’t have to try very hard in school anymore. I had no clue about what it meant to be a drug addict and an alcoholic. Most days, I’d stumble out of bed around noon and numb away my feelings with a joint or a can of beer. I was a newly-arrived freshman at Cornell University in upstate New York, but I was 46

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

in no frame of mind to study. I didn’t fit in at my prestigious college, but I was able to find a peer group. They sat every day on a stone wall by a savings bank on the edge of campus, smoking pot and drinking.

novel he was reading at the moment.

Burnout Steve, the incumbent drug dealer on that side of town, was a former Cornell student who had stopped-out of his classes. He showed all the signs of chronic pot smoking: a sallow complexion, dark rings under bloodshot eyes, distressed hair and budding male breasts.

Weaver, the oldest member of our crew, was the new friend I most wanted to impress. He appeared to be about 30 years old and ran a lunch truck painted with psychedelic colors. With his ponytail, leather vest and love beads, he looked to me like a true hippie, not some weekend phony.

Vijay, who was born in India and made some small money tutoring physics and math, had dropped-out entirely and overstayed his student visa. He usually carried a bottle of schnapps in a brown paper sack, along with whatever thick science fiction

“What is a smart person like you doing on this wall?” he asked when we first met. “Wasting my life,” I said, and we both laughed.

A Risky Proposal I was thrilled when Weaver offered me a ride back to my dorm one day, and flattered when he proposed that we go into

Waking Up to Big Trouble For the first time in more than a year, I felt all the fear and anger I’d been covering up with pot and alcohol. I was a soft, gentle young man who rarely spoke above a whisper. I knew Joey could beat me senseless, or maybe even kill me if I confronted him. Thanksgiving vacation was coming soon, and I had nowhere to go. How would I survive with all my money gone? I didn’t yet understand the concept, but I was catching my first glimpse of the bottom. I knew I needed to change my life, but I decided to get high one last time. I walked over to the bank wall to look for some pot, but I found only Vijay sitting there drinking in the cold.

I knew I needed to change my life, but I decided to get high one last time. “Where’s everybody?” I asked. “Didn’t you hear the news?” he questioned. “Weaver turned out to be an undercover policeman. He arrested Burnout Steve and two other kids. They’re all going to prison.”

business selling pot. “I could help you move some weed from my truck window,” he said. “Just get your hands on some bulk quantity.” As it happened, I’d recently heard a similar pitch from Joey, a big, goofy ex-jock and former high school pal back on Long Island. For $1,700 he would deliver a pound of primo Colombian that I could sell to my classmates for $70 per gram. We could go in 50-50 and each clear close to $15,000. Joey’s offer was tempting, but it wasn’t until Weaver stepped in that I decided to go through with it. The year was 1974, and New York’s harsh Rockefeller drug laws guaranteed ten years in prison to anyone caught selling a pound of pot. However,

with Weaver taking care of the sales, I convinced myself I could avoid the risk. Plus, I was greedy. My absent parents had sent me to college with a couple thousand dollars to live on, but how long would it last? With $15,000, I could spend the summer on a beach in the Caribbean, buy a fast car and maybe even attract a girlfriend. So I called Joey and said, “I’m in.” I wired him the money and made plans to meet him at the Greyhound bus station to pick up the goods. Joey never showed, and for the rest of that week he didn’t answer my phone calls. Then a friend from home called me with the bad news: He’d run into Joey, who was bragging and laughing about the way he’d ripped me off.

“No kidding?” I said. My head was spinning with images of iron prison doors slamming. “I was going to sell some stuff to Weaver, but my supplier didn’t come through.” I remember the kind but crushed look in Vijay’s eyes, and the smell of alcohol on his breath. “It sounds like you got lucky,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to turn out like me.” Those were words I took to heart in the better days ahead. Jonathan Cohen is a technical writer in the computer software industry. He is an advocate for people with mental illness and their families, and volunteers with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). He lives with his wife and stepson in San Jose, California. InRecovery Magazine May 2017




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A monthly magazine dedicated to helping people to help themselves to live a better quality of life. Serene Scene Magazine is published for individuals who are seeking knowledge, support and hope. Addiction is a systemic problem, and the content of Serene Scene reflects the complexity of putting addiction into remission with special attention given to the loved ones of the addict.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Are You Willing? The folly of promises of future action. MIKE LYDING


“What are you willing to do to get what you say you want?” – Robin K. After we have been in recovery for a while – and this length of time varies with each of us – we come to realize that if we keep doing what we’re doing, one day at a time, we can stay clean and sober. We see that for a long time, sobriety was the most important item on our wish list and now we have it. Thank God!

With sobriety, many of us find that there are countless more issues on our wish list and that sobriety has failed to make much of a dent in them. These problems might be centered around work, home life or health, among others. If we gently reflect on our lives and how we got comfortable in recovery, one thing becomes crystal clear: what we are doing is unlikely to get us what we want!

We may mutter under our breath about the boss, our coworkers or family members. However, they seem to have adjusted to us as sober persons. We can no longer expect voluntary movement from them. We probably shouldn’t even hope for it. To get what we want, we must do something new and different. The same holds true for any issues around our health. We can make promises to do something about our health; but in remembering our recovery, we can see the folly of promises of future action. For all of these issues, the time is now and we must do something new. Let us now look at the truth that was revealed to us earlier. We could not get clean and sober by ourselves. We needed, and still need, God’s help, and the help of people who have been where we are and have gone beyond the problem, just as we did to get clean and sober. They are available.

If we say we want something, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to seek help. Mike Lyding has been drawn to prayer and meditation since becoming sober in December 1993. At age 58, while meditating, he discovered he had a desire to write. Thus far, the result has been two daily meditation books written primarily for recovering communities: Grateful Not Smug (2006) and Gratitude a Verb (2009).


Long-Term Substance Abuse Treatment Our goal at Acceptance Recovery Center is to help each person understand and find acceptance around their addiction, while providing them the confidence and skills for a life of sobriety. Get help, call today


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Recovery is the subject of countless books, blogs, films, CDs and apps. Below are some titles worth a look. If you would like us to include your books, blogs, films, CDs or apps in this column, please contact

Dragons to Butterflies

(Johnnie Calloway, Balboa Press, 2016). Johnnie Calloway has written a superb personal account of his harrowing childhood and his adult life. He retells his experiences of emotional and physical abuse, neglect, heartache and betrayal, and later his own addictions and struggles with mental illness, yet manages to keep the reader thoroughly engaged and inspired by his strength and wisdom throughout this page turner. It is a story of hope and love, forgiveness and healing.

A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps (Stephanie S Covington, Hazelden, 2009).

Women’s recovery can differ from men’s, and that’s why the author designed this book to help a woman find her own path, and find it in terms especially suited to the way women experience not just addiction and recovery but also relationships, self, sexuality, and everyday life. Recovery raises special issues for women: from questions about sexuality and relationships to essential topics such as powerlessness, spirituality, and trauma. The author empowers women to take ownership of their recovery and to grow and flourish in sobriety. Available on Amazon

Expect Delays: How to Reclaim Your Life, Light and Soul After Trauma (Danielle Delaney, CreateSpace, 2017).

You CAN heal ENTIRELY from severe, deep trauma – without needing a lobotomy. The author shares the traumatic experiences of her assaults, and her journey of recovery and growth into the powerful woman and trauma expert she is today. Recovery is not a simple path, and you will encounter detours and delays along the winding road. Learn new tools and belief systems for living through it and surviving. Discover how to endure and to emerge victorious. Available on Amazon

Recovery – The Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice (Rabbi Rami Shapiro, SkyLight Paths, 2009).

In this hope-filled approach to spiritual and personal growth, the Twelve Steps are uniquely interpreted to speak to everyone seeking a freer and more God-centered life. The author describes his personal experience and shares anecdotes from many people working the Steps in a variety of settings. He offers supplementary practices from different religious traditions to help you move more deeply into the universal spirituality of the Twelve Step system. Available on Amazon


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

Bulletproof: A Memoir

(Justin Peck, Amazon Digital Services,LLC, 2015). The author gives insight into a life filled with pain and struggle, and the perseverance required to overcome it all. Peck’s story is an inspiration for those suffering from mental illness. His experiences have the power to motivate anyone who is challenged by mental illness or is looking for a light at the end of the dark tunnel of everyday life. Available on Amazon.

Healing the Wounds of Childhood (Don St. John, Amazon Digital Services, LLC, 2015).

This is an inspiring story of the author’s victory over a traumatic childhood, and an understanding of how body, mind, stress, health, love and relationship are related. A must-read for anyone in recovery. Available on Amazon

Meaning and the Art of Recovery (Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Lulu, 2017) MEANING AND THE ART OF RECOVERY Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D., DAPA, CAADC

The author explores the lack of meaning, validation and identity and their role in addiction and the journey toward overcoming. It offers poetic reflections of hope, and an understanding of addiction that seeks to be faithful to the experiences of those who are struggling. Available on Lulu

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017




ur nation is drowning in addiction. The US Surgeon General estimated that number at 27.1 million Americans in 2015. That is almost 10% of our adolescent, teen and adult populations. When you factor in the family and four friends per addict, you can easily understand that addiction directly impacts over half our population. Yet it is estimated that only about 1% of those addicted seek treatment. Only 1%! We need as a nation to take serious action before we spin past the point of no return. Here in Virginia, we’ve decided to take a stand by forming the Commonwealth Addiction and Recovery Political Action Committee (CARPAC). A PAC is the perfect vehicle for raising funds and allocating resources to increase awareness of our cause. Our mission is simply to see to it that those seeking recovery get it the day they ask for it: “that day” access to appropriate medication, assisted detox and psychiatric evaluation. If needed, it will also include same day entry into an inpatient treatment or recovery program or same day entry into quality recovery residential living. This access to treatment or recovery support will be followed by an appropriate continuum of care and wraparound services. 52

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Every day, addiction affects thousands of people: families, neighbors and communities. With your help, we can make a difference. We can reduce stigma and secrecy. We can effect political change. Together, we can succeed. This is critical. Many addicts, given a delay, will change their minds about treatment. We need a system prepared to embrace them on day one, the moment they come in, or we risk losing them forever. This may sound like a tall, expensive order, but considering the Surgeon General suggests that every $1 spent on treatment leads to $11 in combined medical and criminal justice savings, isn’t this a small price to pay upfront, given the long-term savings? It’s been reported that 80% of people charged with a crime in the US misuse illegal drugs or alcohol. Moreover, continued substance use is associated with a 200 to 400 % increase in the likelihood of

criminal recidivism. We now have over 2.2 million people in US prisons (federal, state and local) on any given day costing the US taxpayers an estimated $80.7 billion annually. That’s an average of $36,600 per inmate per year. Who wins? Not the addict, not the taxpayer. It seems that only those employed by the justice and prisons systems stand to gain from this revolving door of inmates, and it perpetuates a system designed to fail. Remember, when an addict is symptomatic, toxic and in an acute crisis, it’s easy for them to be swallowed up by the brutal industrial criminal justice system. However, if mental illness and addiction were treated correctly, most of the costly consequences would be replaced with the positive results of restored health and wellbeing. I’m not suggesting that 100% of these 2.2 million people may be rehabilitated through treatment alone, but I suspect a large percentage certainly could be. Rather than locking them up, they could be educated and treated through court diversion programs designed to rehabilitate them to solid, upstanding, tax-paying members of society.

Many states have been experimenting with drug courts, and the federal government recently authorized a national program. Such courts provide alternative sentencing to probation with treatment and education instead of incarceration. If the offender does not stay clean, they are brought back to court for full sentencing. As of December 2014, it was reported that there were 3,057 such drug courts in the US. Yet drug courts were only available in 56% of the counties nationwide, and only 20% of these courts provided specialized DUI courts. In 2014, only approximately 108,000 people were processed through such courts. Too few addicts are benefitting from these programs, despite the demonstrated cost savings ranging from $1,200 to $17,000 per participant. Theologians have argued that the best way to judge a society is by how and to what extent it gives voice to the voiceless. CAR-

The #1 Resource For Addicts and Their Families

PAC was initiated to speak up for the addict. Addicts are often burdened by shame and may have a criminal record. They may feel that they are powerless, and that they have been marked with a “scarlet letter”’ for the rest of their lives. Addiction is a terrible disease. To make a difference, the response demands all the resources and political will we can muster. This will not be easy. Follow our lead and form PACs in your states comprised of individuals in recovery, their families and other allies to help newcomers and families struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders, the people who need services now, not later. Organize. Go to your statehouses, your local county boards and city councils with weapons of change: recovery PACs. Help legislators make laws that conform to a more just and useful system of care for this vulnerable population. Speak up

until your state politicians are forced to represent their constituents by passing commonsense laws – laws that actually increase public safety, decrease recidivism, heal families, save lives, repair destroyed communities, and save voters and taxpayers a whole lot of future tax increases. Educate voters in your state. People in recovery and their families deserve a voice; addicts deserve a voice; all of the broken homes with loved ones who have succumbed to this disease deserve a voice. We need to make ourselves heard and make the option of recovery available to all who need it when they need it. John Shinholser is the President of the McShin Foundation, founded in 2004 in Richmond, Virginia, by John and his wife, Carol McDaid. John has dedicated his life to helping individuals and families in or seeking recovery from the disease of addiction.


Reader Art Story Contest! 100 CASH PRIZE


Per Category Each Month!

Become a part of our community of artists and writers who are making a difference in peoples’ lives, and you could win! ATTENTION WRITERS! Do you have an inspirational or informative story on the subject of addiction or addiction treatment? Do you have a personal story of recovery? Share your story with us for a chance to win $100. Each month, we will select a winner and showcase that story in InRecovery Magazine. Stories must be original and cannot exceed 800 words. We’d love to hear from you! Enter each month for your chance to win and be published. Send entries to ATTENTION ARTISTS! Have you created an inspiring piece of art that illustrates recovery? We’d love to see your work! This could be your chance to win our monthly $100 cash prize for the best art entry. Any medium will be considered: paintings, drawing, computer art, etc. Let your creativity shine! Send entries to For more details on uploading your stories and art for consideration in the InRecovery Reader Art and Story Contest, email us at Good luck!

InRecovery Magazine May 2017




sections dedicated to the innocent enablers who unwillingly allowed the “overs” to continue their destructive behavior. There were no manuals for the hapless gambler.

In the local bookstore, I found rows and rows of books on alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating, overspending, over-sexing, over this, over that. There were entire

I would sit in my car, slam the steering wheel, lower my head and sob. My gas gauge was on empty, and that familiar nauseating feeling of disgust and terror would return. Then, as always, I would form a momentary sense of resolution and regurgitate the lines of an old sermon filled with rallying cries: “I can’t do this anymore . . . this is not me . . . I’m not a caged animal on a treadmill . . . I am better than this!” Each time I spoke these words,

saved lives for a living. I was an ICU nurse and a nursing supervisor at a hospital where I had been employed for 27 years. I had earned respect, accolades and a good degree of success in my career. There are people alive today because of actions I took and decisions I made, often in a split second, to save their lives. With all of this success, I could not for the life of me stop gambling any more than I could change the tides of the ocean. Believe me, I tried.

I had the feeling that this time I would stop gambling. Less than 24 hours later, my car was back in the casino parking lot. It was as if I had no control; I realize now that I didn’t. This continued for close to five years, until my life came crashing down. Due to choices I’d made to feed my addiction, I lost my job of 27 years, damaged relationships with friends and family, forfeited an insane amount of money and nearly lost my life. I also lost perhaps the most precious thing of all: time that I can never get back, wasted in front of a slot machine. Slot machines were designed with one goal: to make an addict out of everyone.

“I can’t do this anymore . . . this is not me . . . I’m not a caged animal on a treadmill . . . I am better than this!” Each time I spoke these words, I had the feeling that this time I would stop gambling. Less than 24 hours later, my car was back in the casino parking lot.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Gambling operates on the Pareto Principle: 90% of profits come from 10% of the gamblers. These are not your casual weekend night-on-the-town gamblers, they are the most vulnerable: the elderly, poor, women and minorities. The longer a person plays, the more money they lose, until it is all gone. In the midst of my gambling addiction, my sensible way of thinking about money all but vanished. I would drive an extra four miles to save $2 on paper towels, and yet drop $500 in a slot machine. I kept 50 cents in the console of my car for enough gas to get home. It was often the only money I had left at the end of a day of gambling. One time when I was so engrossed in my machine, I failed to hear a man’s call for help when his mother passed out. I had performed several Good Samaritan acts in public, but I had a good thing going that particular Sunday afternoon; I was winning. That should have been the time I faced reality, but it wasn’t. I had two more years of self-destruction, convoluted thinking and unhinged behavior ahead of me. I was just as impaired by gambling as a bar patron who has had too much to drink. After about eight drinks, a bartender would no doubt cut them off; after all, they might hurt themselves, or worse, kill someone. When a patron’s judgment is impaired, the responsible thing would be to cut them off. No such limits exist at the casino. Every time I went gambling, it was as though I was walking into the Cheers bar. The greeters knew my name, when I usually gambled and the machine I liked; I’m sure they were also aware of how often I lost. No one ever came over and suggested, “Take a break, go home, take care of your kids.” There were no safety nets in place; just a few signs with a number to call if you thought you had a gambling problem. I hit rock bottom and stopped gambling on April 29, 2012. My hard work was just beginning. My life was in shambles. I had no job, no money and no direction. Nursing was all I had ever known and loved, and I had jeopardized my license. There is a reason why gambling addiction has the highest rate of suicide of any

addiction. One in five addicts attempt suicide, and many succeed. There is only so much cocaine, heroin or alcohol you can put into your body before ending up in a morgue. Gambling has no such constraints; when it gets bad, suicide seems to be the only answer. Fortunately, I knew I had to live. I had to be a mother to my children. As I slowly emerged from a cloud of profound shame and despair, I began going to Gamblers Anonymous meetings and reached out to organizations I had avoided in the past. One of those organizations was a nonprofit in Washington, DC, called Stop Predatory Gambling. Their mission is to stop the injustice and inequality created by government-sponsored gambling. I became their official National Victim’s Advocate, a voice for those who remain

I hit rock bottom and stopped gambling on April 29, 2012. My hard work was just beginning. My life was in shambles. silent and in the shadows due to social stigma and discrimination. I began speaking all over the country and joined in the fight against gambling expansion. The underlying message was simple: Gambling addiction is a beast that destroys families and individuals; it is fundamentally wrong for our government to prey upon the vulnerable to fill their coffers. My goal was to bring advocacy, awareness and reform for this highly misunderstood addiction. I once had a one-on-one conversation with a senator from Illinois. “You don’t look like a gambler,” he said. “What do

you think one looks like?” I replied. “We look like who we are: your neighbor, sister, father, spiritual leader, co-worker. The slot machine didn’t look back at me and say, ‘Gee, you are a bit too put together, I’m not going to make you an addict.’” Gambling operates on the Pareto Principle: 90% of profits come from 10% of the gamblers. These are not your casual weekend night-on-the-town gamblers, they are the most vulnerable: the elderly, poor, women and minorities. “Casino Cafes” located every few miles in strip malls with cutesy names like Stella’s and Dolly’s are blatantly predatory to women. Many states and municipalities view gambling as an economic panacea, yet they miss the hidden costs: child neglect, crime and ultimately the need for state assistance. Gambling addiction tears families apart and ruins lives. Gambling addiction is now recognized as a disease and may be covered by insurance and have benefits that cover treatment. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the number of gambling addicts is rising at an alarming rate. In Illinois alone, there are nearly 12,000 people on the voluntary self-exclusion list – just an estimated 10% of the state’s problem gamblers. Gambling nearly killed me, and I never saw it coming. Things need to change. We have far to go before the problem of compulsive gambling is resolved. Change begins when even one addicted gambler finds recovery. Melynda Litchfield has been a registered nurse for over 30 years, working in ICU, nursing administration and now home care. She is the National Victim’s Advocate for Stop Predatory Gambling, mans the GA hotline twice a week and speaks on the predatory effects of gambling and the nature of the gambling industry. Melynda is the proud mother of three children and is active in community organizations, including her church council. InRecovery Magazine May 2017


The Science of Addiction Promising new developments in the search for a cure LAWRENCE SCOTT HARTMAN, JD


ouldn’t it be great if we discovered a magic potion to put an end to the pain and suffering of addiction once and for all? Medical science has made incredible strides over the past few decades, taming many chronic diseases. Once considered to be a death sentence, cancer and AIDS have become manageable for many people. Why not addiction? One problem is that addiction is in many ways much more complicated. Addiction is derived from several elements, all interwoven: nature (genetic); nurture (environment); physical (genetic predisposition); social (family, friends and the like); and psychological (developments in the brain). Because of its complex nature, this disease requires a multi-prong attack that can’t be formulated into a single pill. However, some recent developments on the nature/physical component of addiction have shown promise and hope for those suffering from the disease of addiction. Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed a way to help the brain forget that it is addicted.

“We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons” “We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons,” said TSRI assistant professor Oliver George, who led the study. Addiction is a brain disorder, and previous studies have shown that frequent alcohol use activates specific neurons (groups of brain cells). The more a person drinks, the more they reinforce activation in that brain circuit, which perpetuates further alcohol use and addiction. So, if a person is predisposed to alcoholism and they drink, they plunge ever deeper into the disease with each sip. 56

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Each individual is complex and unique, and so is their addiction. For this new study, TSRI scientists investigated whether there was a way to influence select neurons in order to lessen this effect. In both rats and humans, these neurons make up only about 5% of the brain’s total central operating system, called the amygdala – so rats are reliable test subjects. The rats were injected with a liquid that specifically inactivated the alcohol-linked brain cells, encouraging disinterest in alcohol. The rats’ brains adapted by turning on, or substituting, an entirely different set of neurons, ones in which the alcohol-to-reward connection had not yet been established. They essentially bypassed the addiction-prone brain cells in favor of entirely clean, healthy new ones. Researchers say the next step will be more extensive tracking of the formation of these circuits and figuring out how to translate this knowledge to humans. The reality, however, is that addiction will never be cured by a pill or even a complicated method; it requires treatment, counseling and support. While this study does provide compelling results and an inter-

esting perspective on the inner workings of the brain, successful testing in rats does not necessarily indicate the same result in humans. The brain is a complex organ which has eluded understanding and inspired more questions than answers for generations of scientists. It seems that the more we learn, the more we appreciate just how much we still don’t know. A person is complicated and unique, and so, too, is their addiction. It will take more than science to cure them. While science is a useful tool in the fight against addiction, at the end of the day, the only proven method is a comprehensive treatment plan, including extensive aftercare, to achieve and maintain a lasting recovery. Lawrence Scott Hartman, JD was a functioning addict for much of his adult life. He graduated from Columbia Law School and began a prestigious law career at top international law firms and as general counsel of a real estate company traded on the NASDAQ. Hartman then became a serial entrepreneur and moved to Costa Rica, where his addiction spiraled out of control and landed him in federal prison. Mr. Hartman is now in recovery and shares his experiences and insights with other addicts, hoping to help them to avoid a similar fate.

The Numbers Keep Getting Worse The opioid death toll is rising. JEFFREY FIORENTINO, MA recently reported that there were 52,404 deaths from drug overdoses in 2015. A separate report in the Washington Post noted that an estimated 33,000 deaths were related to opioids. Those two articles caught my attention because the US Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction had those numbers pegged at 47,055 and 28,647, respectively, in 2014. In just one year, overdose deaths were up over 10%, with virtually the entire increase attributable soley to opioids. According to federal data, 89% of people who meet the criteria for alcohol and drug use disorder don’t get treated. Some are in denial; others say it’s too inconvenient; many don’t even know that the majority of their treatment can be covered by insurance. Or can it? Therein lies another aspect of the problem. In theory and by the letter of the law, it’s supposed to work that way. For its part, Medicaid uses about 25% of its budget for drug addiction treatment, with $7.9 billion allotted for this purpose in 2014. However, private insurance company pushback in the form of denial of claims and an ever-growing tidal wave of bureaucratic paperwork has made collecting payments an imposing nightmare for most addiction treatment centers. Moreover, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was designed to ensure fair treatment and coverage of addiction as a disThe Death Toll Mounts The Washington Post reports that an estimated 33,000 deaths in 2015 were related to opioids.

ease, like other chronic medical diseases, is routinely ignored without repercussions. No one is out there policing insurance companies to follow the letter of the law. While I generally detest litigation, this purposeful lack of coverage is ripe for a class action lawsuit. Finally, doctors are only now beginning to fully comprehend the consequences of over-prescribing. Purdue Pharma, in particular, was legally pushing Oxycontin on doctors almost as aggressively as a street-corner thug hustling illicit drugs, and making billions of dollars in the process. It’s taken a long time for the medical community to understand just how addictive opioids actually are. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to take this fight to the streets because, while doctors around the country have begun minimizing the legal prescription of opioids, the slack is being taken up by sophisticated drug cartels. These cartels see a huge market opportunity in the addicts now being deprived of legitimate means to get their fix. Cheap black tar heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl (strong enough to take down an elephant) are being hawked within our communities. Trump believes that by building a wall and doubling down on the war on drugs he can make a difference. This remains to be seen.

Finally doctors are now only beginning to fully comprehend the consequences of their years of overprescribing. Meanwhile, we don’t have the luxury of time. The Surgeon General’s report indicated that it could take as long as eight to nine years after an addict formally seeks help for recovery to take hold. Many opioid addicts will be dead long before that time frame ends. Recovering addicts need to better arm themselves against the temptations out there and take measures to distance themselves from them. A 10% yearly increase in overdose deaths is chilling and intolerable; a 20% increase in opioid deaths is completely unacceptable. This is scary stuff. However, the more we understand destructive power of these drugs, the better chance we have to help people maintain their recovery and escape becoming a statistic. That’s why we’re investing so heavily in the future here at InRecovery Magazine and through our sister companies, Kipu Systems and PingMD. We intend to develop a Recovery Bound program. Recovery Bound picks up where treatment leaves off. It’s all part of the recovery continuum. Typically, the first year of sobriety is most tenuous; therefore, the treatment is most intensive during this phase. When so much emotional and physical capital is spent getting clean, it’s critical that there is help to maintain it. Years two through five pose a different set of challenges. While addicts can breathe a bit easier, the triggers and temptations are still there. Systems and supports that safeguard recovery during this phase are important. We’ll be sharing more about Recovery Bound as we develop fresh new methods to support and improve the face of long-term recovery. InRecovery Magazine May 2017




t is not uncommon for people in recovery to experience depression and/ or other mental health problems. While addiction and depression are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other, and research has demonstrated that both conditions can exist simultaneously. Alcohol and drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of depression or anxiety. It is normal for addicts who achieve sobriety to continue to feel miserable and have a difficult time in their recovery. Experts estimate that one-third of all substance abusers suffer from some kind of depressive disorder. Ketamine therapy brings new hope for those suffering from depression – and gives everyone, including those in recovery, a chance to enjoy life more fully. Low-dose IV infusion Ketamine has been called the most significant advancement in mental health treatment in the past 50 years. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, even debilitating, treatment-resistant depression that drains your energy and deprives you of the life that you deserve, Ketamine therapy is likely to help. Since 2006, studies have shown that this safe and innovative treatment can reverse the kind of severe depression that is often treated with traditional antidepressants. This is crucial information, as people who are in addiction recovery are far more likely to relapse if they are depressed. Approximately 75% of patients with depression or anxiety experience a significant mood improvement following one to four


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

intravenous Ketamine infusions. A key advantage for Ketamine therapy is its rapid effect compared to other antidepression medications; many patients go from depressed to well in a single day. Additionally, one of the benefits of Ketamine therapy is that a single treatment can last from 25 days to eight months. How Does It Work? While experts are still learning about how Ketamine works, they do know that it works differently than other commonly used antidepressants, such as Prozac, The Ketamine compound

There is speculation that depression results from a change in the original blueprint of neurological brain connections due to damage or misconnections of certain critical synapses, and that Ketamine detaches the improper synapses, allowing them to regenerate and reattach according to the original non-depression blueprint. Ketamine is also a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. Since depression has been linked to chronic inflammation, this may also be part of its antidepressant effect. Research shows that 70 to 80% of patients have experienced significant relief for treatment of depression using Ketamine infusions. Ketamine Study Summary An article in the Journal of Neuropharmacology summarized 25 peer-reviewed studies that examined Ketamine therapy for people with depression. Every one of these studies suggested that Ketamine was indeed an “active and rapid antidepressant” for people with treatment-resistant depression. Some of those studies showed that Ketamine also reduced thoughts of suicide in depressed subjects. In addition, low-dose Ketamine infusions have not been shown to be addictive. Can your recovery experience be improved? Are you, or is someone you love, struggling with debilitating depression? Rediscover the joy of sobriety. Find a qualified physician or psychiatrist and discover whether you might be a candidate for Ketamine treatment. Note: According to WebMD, Ketamine therapy has been placed on a fast track for FDA approval for the treatment of depression.

Zoloft or Effexor. In general, Ketamine infusion activates certain neurotransmitter receptors and pathways which trigger rapid growth of new neurological connections. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress causes certain neurons to die off, resulting in depression. Ketamine causes these neurons to rapidly regenerate within hours, relieving the depressive symptoms.

Jason Babcock, MBA, CMPE, is the Practice Administrator and CEO of Arizona Ketamine Treatment and Research. He has over 25 years of healthcare administration experience with a strong background in finance, business development, operational improvement, marketing and customer service to AKTARI. Babcock has a master’s degree in healthcare administration and is an active member of the Medical Group Managers Association and the American Academy of Professional Coders. He is also a Certified Medical Practice Executive with the American College of Medical Practice Executives.




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The Elusive Art of Communication If you’re not getting better, speak up. GILBERT J. FIORENTINO, JD


ommunication is essential to treatment. It’s the lack of honest communication that is frequently one of the biggest stumbling blocks in reaching and maintaining sobriety. There are several reasons why a person might not communicate effectively. Sadly, one of the most common reasons is a by-product of addiction itself. Let’s examine an addict entering treatment. She’s hit rock bottom and wants to end the cycle of abuse. Her nerves are shot, her ego is fragile and she probably hasn’t had a restful night’s sleep for longer than she can remember. She’s a wreck. Now, she deeply wants to please her family, her therapists, and even her fellow addicts, so much so that she will tell them whatever they want to hear, even if deep down inside her soul is screaming otherwise.

I recently came across a 2017 article in the Atlantic Magazine, “What Your Therapist Doesn’t Know,” written by Tony Rousmaniere, a leading psychotherapist. In the article, the author described a situation with a patient, who was struggling with suicidal thoughts and who, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be improving. However, after reviewing results from a recent survey completed by the patient, a predictive program indicated a near-emergency situation. The therapist was skeptical but decided to more actively engage the patient in the next session. As the therapist probed, the patient opened up, saying, “I’m sorry, but I think I’m worse. I just don’t want you to think it’s your fault; it’s mine.” This article reinforced a study from Western Journal of Emergency Medicine I read about in the latest US Surgeon General’s report on addiction. People “were found to be significantly more likely to disclose their substance use at a kiosk compared to a health care professional or other interviewer.” In other words, they are more likely to open up to a nameless, faceless computer than they are to another human being. Thankfully, in the instance shared in this 60

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

article, the therapist was openminded enough to delve more deeply. The therapist and his patient began to communicate with one another, and it saved the patient’s life. This problem was further illuminated in the Atlantic Magazine article. In a typical psychotherapy environment, it’s been proven over time that around 8% of patients will get worse. However, in one study involving 48 therapists with several hundred clients, the therapists predicted that only three of these patients would deteriorate. The study findings revealed that over 7% of the patients (over 40 out of 600) actually experienced a decline. That was considerably more than predicted. Why? One explanation could be the therapists’ overestimation of their personal abilities. It seems more likely, though, that the greater cause was the patients’ desire to please their caregivers, to the point of fooling them into unrealistic expectations. Once again, this block to open communication prevented them from getting the benefit of treatment. The essence of the issue is as follows: when are we truly willing to say exactly what’s on our mind? Most of us typically hedge our replies or simply stay silent to avoid uncomfortable subjects and circumstances. Those defense mechanisms are counterproductive in addiction treatment. You can’t merely follow the program by rote and expect an effective long-term impact. What do you mean? You might wonder. I followed all the rules. I did one-on-one sessions with my therapist, I attended group meetings and even went to AA/NA when I finished treatment. I participated, I did what everyone said. What do you mean I wasn’t communicating? You need to get involved. Communication requires a connection, taking things to heart, actively embracing ideas and concepts. If you’re not improving, then speak up. If you feel like you want to use, let someone know. That’s what therapists need to know. We’re only human, and through the entire treatment, we are an everchanging work in progress.

Which now brings us to, well, us. Are you or a loved one struggling in recovery? Are you in mid-therapy or just about to start? If so, now is the time to re-examine the treatment process. Go in willing to expose your soul and your deepest, darkest secrets. It’s a safe environment. You need to actively listen to what everyone else has to say and be brutally honest with yourself and others (without being hurtful, of course). You need to let therapists know exactly how and what you’re feeling despite treatment, including if you are angry, in distress, or at the end of your rope. Finally, ask questions and admit when you don’t understand. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Therapists aren’t mind readers. They need you fully involved in your own treatment. With the “art of communication” in place, you will be better prepared to succeed in your long-lasting recovery. Gilbert J. Fiorentino, JD founded TigerDirect, which, with the acquisition of CompUSA and Circuit City, grew to nearly $4 billion in sales worldwide, as part of a NYSE company. He is a philanthropist, former adjunct professor of business law at the University of Miami. Fiorentino has undergone over 600 hours of drug and alcohol addiction treatment in federal prison, where he is serving a sentence for failing to report his full income while CEO of TigerDirect. He has spent the last three years reading, writing and becoming a spokesman in the battle against addiction.

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InRecovery Magazine May 2017


Stress and Drug Addiction According to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, burnout rates among all doctors range from 37 to 53%, with surgeons being near the top of the list. ANONYMOUS


am in the healthcare field. Throughout the past 25 years, I have witnessed a distressing trend in how individuals in medical and patient-centered health communities handle the rigors of arduous hours and heavy patient loads by using stress-relieving drugs. Many medical residents praise organtransplant surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons and others in high-stress surgical specialties for their dedication to their work. Many wonder how these surgeons are able to cope and focus for hours and hours on end. One such surgeon is my best friend from high school. We grew up together in Newport Beach, California, and formed a lifelong bond – many even thought we were brothers. He is Armenian and grew up in a family with sky-high expectations. Everyone from his father, uncles, sister and cousins were either doctors or lawyers. My best friend became an organtransplant surgeon. He loved his work and felt a close kinship to his patients. Over cocktails at happy hour, he would describe performing an eight- to ten-hour liver transplant. He would be on his feet, hunched over the operating table, during the entire surgery.


InRecovery Magazine May 2017

As the hours became progressively longer and his patient load increased, he would often cope with the added stress by taking Xanax. I witnessed the dependence that developed from his use of this drug. He told me that Xanax helped him focus and helped him get into a “zone” when he was operating. He’d explain that his mind was so focused on what he was doing that he would lose all track of time. He soon fell into a spiral of using not only Xanax, but other drugs as well. Transplant surgeons have a short “shelf life” compared with other physicians. A typical career runs from their mid-30s to mid-50s, and then transitions into less consuming careers such as research or teaching. Studies show rising levels of stress and burnout among physicians in general. According to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, burnout rates among all doctors range from 37 to 53%, with surgeons being near the top of the list. Burnout often generates feelings of depression and alienation. As in the case of my best friend, it can also lead to drug addiction. My friend’s burnout and his reliance on Xanax and other drugs took a slow and steady toll on him. He was

My friend’s burnout and his reliance on Xanax and other drugs took a slow and steady toll on him. He was despondent, and the focus he’d had earlier in his medical career was lacking.

despondent, and the focus he’d earlier in his medical career was lacking. That was the condition he was in when he received a big break. My friend has a tight-knit family and an inner circle of close friends. Through an intervention, his family and I were able to convince him to seek addiction and rehabilitation treatment. Eventually, he was able to let go of troubling character defects, such as pride, which is a difficult task for a surgeon, especially one who has been successful all of his life. Now in recovery, he is back in the operating room and has learned to manage his stress in positive ways. He spends quality time with his family and finds joy in yoga and music – things he previously felt did not warrant his time. Sobriety has given him back his career and a life worth living.

Lose The Swag A journey from addiction and selfishness to sobriety and service.


’m in federal prison camp on a 77-month sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. I was fortunate enough to be out on bail for over a year prior to my self-surrender. In that time, I was able to reconnect with the Twelve-Step Program I attend on the outside when I’m sober. I’ve been struggling with addiction most of my adult life, so I’ve been in and out of the Program since 2001. AA meets twice weekly here at the camp, and I attend regularly. Let me share my experience at yesterday’s topic meeting. Those of you familiar with this type of AA meeting will recognize the format: A topic is introduced and then other members share their experience with it. The topic that day was “pride,” based on a reading from As Bill Sees It. The essence of the reading was that pride keeps us from actually being successful in the program or, put another way, humility is the foundation for a successful recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. My story is all about pride. In the 1990s, I lived in New York City. I was in my twenties, and I had recently discovered crystal meth, clubbing and the party lifestyle. My party weekends would begin at noon on Thursday, when I’d leave work to buy drugs. I’d start partying at my dealer’s apartment and would then go back to work high. The weekend would last through Monday, and it was always a complete blur. I wouldn’t sleep at all, nor would I eat. Mondays were the worst. By the time Monday rolled around, I was completely used up mentally, physically and emotionally. I was a shell of a human being, barely able to function. I did this every other weekend – and sometimes every weekend – over and over again. I’d drag myself to work, barely able to function. I’m convinced people must have known what was going on, but no one ever said a thing to me. The next three or four days would be spent sleeping, then dragging myself to work. I didn’t even eat that much, because I was saving my money to buy drugs. At first I didn’t party every weekend. It would

Many addicts live inside the walls of selfishness and pride.

take me about a week to finally start feeling normal again and I couldn’t afford the drugs. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with New York City – lots of people out and about all the time. Young and good-looking, I would eventually “get my swag back.” I didn’t call it swag then, since that word didn’t really exist at the time, but that’s what it was. I remember the feeling well. I was recovered, I felt and looked good again and I thought I was hot stuff. I knew I looked good and I knew you knew I looked good. What I learned is that the moment I started feeling like this – the moment I had my swag back – I’d be using shortly thereafter. Over and over again. I never want to feel the way I felt during those days in New York. For me, “swag” is synonymous with “pride,” and swag is something I don’t want. The second I start thinking “I’m it,” “I’m hot stuff ” or “I’ve got it going on,” is the moment I know I’m doomed to use again. I have learned this through experience. Today, I make a huge effort to remain right-sized. How do I do this? First, I go to meetings, where I’ve developed a core group of good friends who

know me and with whom I’m honest. I count on them to give me feedback and to let me know when I’m acting in a way which is contrary to recovery. When I was using, I never had real friends. There were people I used, and who used me, for drugs, sex and money, but I didn’t have friends. Now I do. It’s probably the greatest thing about being clean and sober. Secondly, I give back. There is a phrase in recovery, “Service keeps you sober.” Whenever I can, I try to be of service. I make it a point to help people in recovery whenever they ask, and sometimes even when they don’t. I’ve learned that when I’m thinking about someone else, I’m not thinking about myself. This really is the key to my own recovery. This is how I stay humble. I keep my mind off myself and focus on how I can help another struggling addict or alcoholic. That’s my experience with pride. My advice, campers, is to make your life a “swagfree” zone, make sober friends and help others. My experience has taught me that if you do these things, you’ve got a shot at staying sober and drug-free. Trust me, life is great once you put down the drugs and alcohol. InRecovery Magazine May 2017




esentment is an emotional cancer. It forms deep inside and eats you alive. Resentment typically stems from frustration over being slighted and consumes you to your very core. However, it can arise from nearly anything: being cut off in traffic, not being invited to a special event, or being passed over for that promotion you felt you deserved. If you’re not careful, it can also affect your physical wellbeing. High blood pressure, blocked digestion and psychological issues are all too common for people who wallow in resentment. Even more alarming, resentment is by far one of the most potent triggers for substance and alcohol use and abuse. For all these reasons and many more, it’s vital to use your ability to forgive as a secret weapon, your medicine against resentment. It may not feel like it, but forgiveness is a choice. It is a gift we grant ourselves to free us from unwanted, painful emotions. I’ve always loved the analogy, “You can’t take poison to kill someone else” because it really sums up the issue in a nutshell. While you sit around harboring resentment, taking the poison, the person who ticked you off, the object of your resentment, is walking around unaware and unaffected. From a point of utility, resentment has to be one of the most useless emotions. On the other hand, its counterpart, forgiveness, makes all the sense in the world. With a simple 64

InRecovery Magazine May 2017

change of your perspective, the pain can be gone, replaced by a sudden, serene rush of relief and calm.

out whether or not you’re simply making a mountain out of a molehill, and you accomplish this through communication.

The key question is how to accomplish forgiveness. In some instances, it’s relatively easy; a coworker forgets your birthday for the first time because of a family emergency. It’s simple to let that one go. However, what happens when it’s something serious that is done by someone about whom you care deeply? What if they’re not even willing to apologize? How dare they? I would never do that to them, are probably two of the most common and dangerous thoughts that follow. It comes so naturally, almost as automatically as breathing. These grievances are some of the toughest but most important to forgive. I suggest that you keep the following exercise handy for those times when you are totally irked and feel a nice, lethal dose of resentment boiling up inside. For your sake, it’s necessary to FORGIVE, so let’s learn how to do that.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. So, now you’ve had the conversation, and the other person has made it clear that they acted for a reason, and they would make the same choices if they had to do it all over again. For example, you could have been passed over for a promotion for a number of reasons. Perhaps, your colleague had been around longer and/or was better qualified. Maybe, you are being grooming you for another position. Whatever the reason, you need to be openminded and do a selfcheck to determine whether your ego is getting in the way of rational thinking.

Does the other person even know they’ve offended you? We frequently assume a person knows when they’ve slighted us. However, more often than not the entire experience is the result of a misunderstanding and the other person would have acted differently had they been aware of the effect of their comment. It’s all about communication and perspective. You need to find

Learn the art of letting go. You’ve had the conversation – or you’re positive a conversation will be futile – and there’s no good reason for being slighted. In your mind, the other person is obviously a complete jerk who doesn’t care. This is the time when a nice, big, juicy helping of revenge can seem awfully enticing, but where will it get you? Do you really need to be involved in an ever-escalating blood feud that could eventually go nuclear? Patience and forgiveness are the better part of valor, especially for YOU. You have much better, more productive things to do with your time. Karma will eventually catch up with someone who is rude and hurtful; it always does.

Get some exercise. There’s nothing better than a long walk, a workout routine at the gym or even simple calisthenics to get your blood flowing and your endorphins running to put you in a stable frame of mind. You’ll make better long term decisions after blowing off some steam. Pity for the other person. There’s a scene in the movie Waterboy where Henry Winkler (formerly known as the “Fonz” from Happy Days, for us older folks) is frozen by fear as he looks at the other team’s intimidating coach. To overcome his fear, he begins to imagine the coach as a cute, little baby. No more fear. This same exercise works using pity. When you realize just how pitiable the other person is, you set yourself free. Pray for the other person. In some ways, prayer is an extension of pity; nonetheless it is important in its own right. Whether you understand it as reaching out to your Higher Power or just speaking something into


existence, it will have a powerful impact on you, and that’s the point. You’ll find it much easier to forgive and put it behind you. Consider forgiving yourself. Finally, and most importantly, you need to consider forgiving yourself. Your issue of resentment may not have anything to do with someone else. It may just be frustration over something you’ve done or how you’ve acted. You can’t change the past, so try not to worry so much about it. For all you Lion King fans, “Hakuna Matata.” Then again, even when resentment stems from the actions of another, it often involves a certain amount of self-hatred over the incident; you blame yourself for being the victim. This can cause you to crawl into a shell or lash out at people who had nothing to do with the issue. Either way, it’s self-destructive. Nothing has ever been resolved by hating yourself. We are human; we all make mistakes. Get over it. Forgive yourself, and move on, for everyone’s sake.

You cannot live your life carrying heavy emotional baggage from place to place. Resentment is nothing more than a way to sabotage your life. Recall the saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Take the lessons from this article to heart, and you, too, will have the tools to be fed for life.

Gilbert J. Fiorentino, JD founded TigerDirect, which, with the acquisition of CompUSA and Circuit City, grew to nearly $4 billion in sales worldwide, as part of a NYSE company. He is a philanthropist, former adjunct professor of business law at the University of Miami. Fiorentino has undergone over 600 hours of drug and alcohol addiction treatment in federal prison, where he is serving a sentence for failing to report his full income while CEO of TigerDirect. He has spent the last three years reading, writing and becoming a spokesman in the battle against addiction.


Get Some Sleep

Sometimes the simplest tricks work the best. Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and snap it each time you start complaining. You’ll cut down on troubling behavior in no time.


The snap really works!

Change Your Seat. Everyone sitting in a meeting in the very same room sees events all unfold differently. Changing your seat both figuratively and literally, will give you an entirely different perspective. Change your point of view.


Seven to nine hours of restful sleep puts you in a solid frame of mind to keep you positive all day. We all know this, but how often do we do it?

Laugh, Laugh, Laugh!

Try being upset when you laugh. It’s impossible, right? The muscle memory is so deeply engrained that even fake laughter while you’re miserable will change your mood.


Be Objective.

Our minds are hardwired to focus on immediate events.


Noting beats a good night’s sleep.

Be Appreciative.

Gratitude your way into a positive attitude. Be thankful! Reasons to be thankful are all around you; it’s just a matter of looking for them. A flat tire might seem like a catastrophe in the moment, but days later you will likely not even remember it. With the right perspective, you can change your emotions in the moment instead of letting your emotions change you.

InRecovery Magazine May 2017




Some of the greatest discoveries and ideas have been construed while someone went for walk. You may not find the cure for cancer on your next walk, but you will certainly take your mind off your pain. Walking is an amazing stress reliever. Walking also allows me to think through my problems and whatever it is that’s making my day bad. Walking is probably the most therapeutic of all activities when you are having a bad day.


Fortunately, coping mechanisms do exist in recovery. You have to find the techniques that work best for you, but there exist numerous options that will help you with a bad day. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here...


In many ways meditating is the opposite of walking, but provides many of the same benefits when you’re having a bad day. Many scientific studies on meditation have also shown that it provides tremendous clinical benefits as well. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps prevent heart disease. Beyond that, it’s been shown to significantly help those suffering from PTSD. The way I look at it is if those suffering from some of the most stressful situations (PTSD) use it to cope, it can certainly be used by a recovering addict when he’s having a bad day.


Reading is a chance for you to leave this world for a completely different world. The moment you start reading a good book, you can instantly transport yourself into a worry-free zone and it will take your mind off of the stress. I’ve found that reading self-help books is the most helpful to me when I am having a bad day.

finally talking, which might be the most powerful TALK And of all weapons when I am having a bad day. The gift

of conversation is not only therapeutic, but also a necessity for a recovering addict. We humans are social creatures by nature and many of us addicts forgot that. Had we utilized these loved ones before we relied on drugs and alcohol, perhaps we wouldn’t have even needed drugs and alcohol.

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