Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Honesty Is Hardly Ever Heard!

Honesty is not exactly a strong suit for folks with drug and alcohol problems. And I know a thing or two about this. Just sayin'!

The fact is when folks are actively drinking or using they often spend countless hours concocting stories and lies to cover up the extent of their substance abuse, fooling themselves (and hopefully others around them) into thinking there is no problem. Of course, that kind of thinking is totally bogus and just about everybody knows it -- except the person with the problem.

Back in the 80s I played drums and sang in a wedding band (Impressive, right?!) and the Billy Joel song Honesty (52nd Street, 1978) was regularly on our playlist. I'm not sure why we thought a song about how dishonest people can be seemed appropriate to play at weddings, but, none the less, we played it anyway! (I also wore a ruffled tuxedo shirt and had a cheesy mustache, but I digress.) The song's lyrics include:

Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you

These words are somewhat ironic since down through the years Billy Joel has had his own struggles with alcohol, the consequences of which he has been fairly open and honest about.

When it comes to being honest about the consequences of your drug or alcohol use, here are 3 tips to help keep you on track:
  1. When talking about how your drug or alcohol use negatively impacted your life and the lives of those around you, get in the habit of pausing for just a moment in the course of conversations and ask yourself if what your about to say is actually the truth. I know this sounds like something you might do naturally -- but think again. When we're used to stretching the truth a little bit, over time it becomes easier and easier until we find ourselves lying without even realizing it.
  2. If you catch yourself starting to lie about the consequences of your use, ask yourself why you're doing that. Believe it or not, many people lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. In other words, they lie when they don't even have to. This is not a good thing, and you might want to work with a therapist to find out what THAT'S all about.
  3. Learn to live out the old adage that honesty really is the best policy. And while talking about the real cost of your addiction might create a little stress in the moment, in the long term it will be well worth it.
What do you think? Is being honest a struggle for folks when they're using? Is it easier in recovery? Say more about that and leave a comment.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Learning About the Science of Addiction

I happen to be one of those people who likes to learn lots of stuff. I like to read books, watch "how to" videos on YouTube, and am a big fan of TED Talks. That doesn't mean, however, I've ever been considered an outstanding student or that I was ever the head of the class. In fact, far from it! I just enjoy learning new things.

For folks in recovery from drug or alcohol problems, learning about how addiction and recovery works is really important. And yes, that means you need to do a little research. (Yikes!). But to be educated about the science of addiction and recovery can be really enlightening, and is an integral part of maintaining good, solid recovery.

My work with clients (as well as my own experience) has taught me why this is so critical and important: When people in recovery understand that addiction is not so much about a lack of willpower, but rather is a chemical process with negative consequences at work in the body and brain, they can begin recovery without the paralyzing burden of guilt and shame so often experienced by people trying to get clean.

The science is solid. People who become addicted to drugs and alcohol have changed their brain chemistry. And while they may have made some bad choices early on in their drug and alcohol use, at some point it was no longer a choice. And this was not due to moral weakness or lack of willpower, but rather about a chemical and physiological change that occurred in the brain, requiring help to overcome. That's the matter in a nutshell.

While there are many ways to learn about the science of addiction and recovery, here are three good places to start:

  1. Books on Amazon. I did a search for books using the term "addiction science" and it produced over 9,000 results! That should keep you busy for a while.
  2. Check out the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) website: SAMHSA is a government agency that seeks to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. Lots of good information is available on this site.
  3. Another good website is the one for NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Specifically the following article entitled Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction on that website is excellent, and a good place to start: :

Accepting the fact that addiction is not so much about a lack of willpower, but rather is a chemical process with negative consequences, can be freeing and empowering for the addict or alcoholic, allowing him or her to move forward free of of guilt and shame.

What do you think? Say more about that and feel free to leave a comment.