Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Recovery Looks Like...

This weekend there was a recovery luau sponsored by a 12 Step recovery group here in my little corner of Delaware County PA. Fun food and fellowship, well attended, a good time for all. Nothing remarkable, no drama, just a good time. All the food prepared by volunteers; modest charge at the gate to break even and maybe raise some money for a Recovery Convention here in the County.

This is what Recovery looks like. People working together toward a common goal with considerably less friction than you see, say, at an average school board meeting. It's important to emphasize these things, because in active addiction, a family becomes so crisis oriented that crisis becomes the norm. Luau? Forget it! Not while mom and dad are slugging it out over the missing rent money.

My friend Barri of Myra's Place, a hotbed of recovery in Delaware County, hosts a Karaoke Night several times a month. The sign proclaims, "The Only Sober Karaoke In Delaware County!"

And I am sure she is right. You'll see anxious men and women, boys and girls, egging each other on to get up and give "Sweet Home Alabama" or a Lady Gaga hit a try. Laughter, some raucous reviews and a lot of really bad singing.

All of it stone cold sober. This is what Recovery looks like. A lot of drug use, especially alcohol use, is rooted in social anxiety, often at its most intense in adolescence. The experience of doing something in front of a group, taking a social risk, is a vital part of recovery. And if it involves a unique rendition of Free Bird, so be it.

So remember, when you are thinking what recovery is going to look like, remember: silly counts as much as serious.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Anonymous Does Not Mean Invisible

September is National Recovery Month and all manner of wonderful activities are planned to raise awareness of addiction as an illness, and I could not be happier about it. I will be writing about them here and posting links to them. Anything that makes people aware of addiction as an illness and promotes a positive image of recovery automatically has my support.
Having said that, I have a few other things to say. For one thing, people in recovery need to begin to realize that anonymity, the spiritual foundation of the 12 Step Programs does not mean invisibility. One of our biggest problems is the negative stereotype that accompany words like alcoholic and addict, substance abuser or problem drinker. The public sees us at our worst, not at our recovering best. In my little corner of the world, we have a Recovery Walk each September. Invariably, the response is, "Where did they come from?" Well, we came from right here--we just have a major public relations problem. We don't know how to identify as recovering persons without jeopardizing anonymity.

Watch this space for further discussion of that issue.

Another issue, which I am going to touch on briefly here, is that following September (National Recovery Month, remember?) is October and then November. The season of campaigns and elections. In the spirit of democracy let me write a few words about that:

I live in an area where kids are dropping dead from prescription pain medications at an epidemic rate. Where a new soccer stadium opened while the town was on an emergency curfew lock-down due to the rising violent crimes attributed to (guess what?) drug use and narcotic trafficking.

I have been watching those highly unpleasant political ads, and I hear about who is a socialist, and who is in the pocket of the "big interests" and who supports big government. And the Mosque. I hear about the Mosque.

Do I hear one single shred of compassion or intelligent thinking or even a lousy mention of the children we are burying every day because of drug overdoses? I do not. Do I hear anything about the deteriorating conditions that promote drug trafficking and its attendant crimes? I do not. Do I hear any indication whatsoever that any of the candidates has even spent five minutes reading up on the subject? I do not!

I hear about the Mosque. I don't want to hear about the Mosque. I want to hear who is going to try and do something. I want to hear a plan. I want to hear that at least one of the politicians running for office gives a damn.

Do that, you don't even have to talk about the Mosque. You will have some real issues to talk about it. And maybe if some more recovering people are willing to not be invisible, you'll have supporters, too.

Supporters who vote.

Like this recovering person who isn't the least bit invisible, and isn't going anywhere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Identity Crisis?

Hey everyone, just want to thank you for your patience as I experiment with a couple of different "looks" for the blog. It's not an identity crisis (at least I hope it isn't!) What it is, is a friend pointing out that they would never have recognized me from the profile picture (what is it? 10 years old?) and my realization that the page was beginning to look a little tired, maybe in need of a makeover. So for a while, it may look different from one visit to the next. Feedback welcome, as always.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Is It About 20-Somethings? -

A few years, I noticed that my work was beginning to shift from teenagers to young adults. What I now recognize is that this wasn't just an anomaly, it was the beginning of a major social shift. Why? I don't have the answer. But this piece from the New York Times certainly has some thoughtful observations.

A Dutch City Seeks to End Drug Tourism -

Apparently legalization does not put an end to all the marijuana problems.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Over-Diagnosed + Over-Medicated = Overdosed

It is the Eighth month of 2010. Since the first of the year I have helped about a dozen individuals--addicts, family members, friends--deal with the aftermath of an overdose.

In some instances the overdose was fatal. In all instances the overdose was devastating. Children find siblings and parents unconscious and not breathing; parents who think their kids are only smoking a little pot discover them unconscious with blue lips.

This is awful, a horror beyond anything a family should have to endure. But here is the biggest part of the problem. We are not talking about overdoses on street drugs, we are talking about prescription drugs. Straight from the friendly Walgreen's or CVS and ensconced in the medicine cabinet.

Sooner or later, we've got to ask, are all these meds really necessary? Does anyone really need Oxycontin for a toothache?

What got me started on this rant, surprisingly, was not something about drugs; it was a New York Times article on Grief. Specifically, grief that has found its way into the DSM, the diagnostic bible of the mental health field.  Not that grief isn't painful and isolating, but is it a diagnosable illness, or simply part of the human condition? And unfortunately, in the post-therapeutic age we live in, what's the treatment?

More prescription drugs. Of course they will be non-abusable and non-addictive.

Just like we thought benzo's were safe, back in the 70's. At least until Betty Ford went public with her Valium addiction, and founded the treatment center that bears her name.

Anyway, I would just like to see us slow the roll a little, and think about some alternatives to a pill. Talk therapy isn't the answer for everything, sometimes meds are exactly what the situation calls for. But let's don't through the alternatives out the window.

After all, no one ever overdosed on talk.

Link to NYT article:
Link to Samhsa's Prescription Drug page:

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Please bear with me as I offer some amends and an explanation, hopefully of the "not-to-bullshitty" variety.

I have really neglected you lately. The blog has slipped down my list of priorities as this ongoing battle with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) drags on. I have relied on posting articles that I thought might be of interest, told myself that I was doing this because I was too sick and tired to write. Recently I realized that it wasn't illness keeping me from writing, it was dishonesty.

I try to only write about what I know, and what I know right now is that this process of recovery from pneumonia and COPD is much more than I thought it would be. In a sense, I came out of the hospital like a guy fresh from the rehab and feeling "cured" only to find out he was a lot sicker than he thought he was. And like rehab guy, I have to start at Step One.

I am powerless over this illness. It has impacted every area of my life, on a day to day basis it affects everything from my sleep to my mood to my ability to work and play. I can't deal with it on my own. My wife, my Docs (both medical and alternative) my family, my friends--I rely on them all for help, and trust that they are decent and forgiving people who can put up with my moodiness. (Which, by the way, had been enhanced by big doses of steroids. Mercifully, that's over.)

Powerlessness doesn't mean I am helpless--quite the opposite. It means that my work is to do the best I can to help myself: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I believe that my Higher Power doesn't reward laziness. His will is not to do for me the things I need to do for myself. It's to support me as I try my best to do my best.

So now you have it, the straight skinny as we used to say. I sincerely apologize for the long silences, and resolve to do better.

Thanks for letting me share.