“I Welcome Guest & His Article Author, Stephen Kavalkovich ~ Love, Loss, Addiction…”

Hello and Welcome Recovery Friends and New Ones…

I have thankfully have not lost a child to addiction, any type of addiction, but I have met and know many parents who have when you are out advocating addiction and recovery. I can tell you it is heartbreaking and hits you right in the gut to know a child was taken by the addiction epidemic raging in our country.

Of course, any child lost in any way is hard, but when it is due to addiction, it seems harder as you feel and take on guilt that somehow you could have as a parent prevented it. So, when I was visiting my friend Stephen’s blog; Tales From The Broadside and read this post I am sharing with you today, I just knew it DID need to be shared…

 

 

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SURVIVORS: THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

 
“The Butterfly Effect states that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the Earth can create a tidal wave on the other. Today, I got to see the most marvelous, living example of this and cannot get moments rest until I share it with you. When loving people are able to take monumental, personal tragedy and rise up, a tsunami begins.”

My experience on the journey of personal recovery and transformation has placed people in my life that I would not have had the privilege and honor of meeting had we not gone through similar tremendous loss and heartbreak. I will start with Adam. I never personally knew him, but sadly he left this world far too soon when he lost the battle with addiction. However, when he departed, his family was left with a choice. They could take the weight of grief and let it destroy them, or they could take the pieces of their broken hearts and build an empire.

His mother, Gail, with the help of her son Patrick, began to go about the heavy task of offering a ladder of hope out of the hole that others had found themselves in. She is the only woman I know who will answer her phone and bring complete strangers to a shelter, detox, rehab, or wherever she can at any time of day or night. Since Adam passed a few years ago, she and her family have helped countless souls find a solid foundation with which to build a life of remarkable joy and freedom free from the grips of addiction.

 

I was one of the recipients of her assistance when I had nowhere to turn. As tragic as it was to lose her son, his loss became a chance for myself and hundreds of others. Had she crawled into a hole of despair, there is a good chance I would not be here today to share her story, be a father to my own children, and be here to serve others in the same way she helped me.  It takes one butterfly to start a slight breeze and in turn cause a hurricane that can’t be stopped.

Now, I will tell you about another man I never knew but wish I had the chance to meet. His name was King. He also succumbed to his demons not too long ago, and like Adam left a loving family with a giant hole. His two sisters, Sue and Anne, began a crusade, King’s Crusade, almost immediately after his death.

After meeting them today, I know that as devastating as it was to lose him, their purpose was designed by God through their brother. Sue and Anne have a peace about them that I couldn’t possibly describe to you. They are warm, loving, and open about their struggle. I explained to Sue that although it hurts tremendously, their cross to bear is this movement because they are the only ones who could do it without effort.

To paraphrase from Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory,” “You don’t ask a fish how it swims or a bird how it flies.” They do it because they were born to do it. Since King passed, they too started flapping their wings and today was the beginning of a Butterfly Effect that is going create a storm. Though I never knew him, the sisters’ example made me feels as if I had. They began planting seeds in our community by planning an expo to address the addiction epidemic everywhere. Today it happened and that was just the start. We may never actually know how many were helped by today’s event, but I know how many wouldn’t have been had it not ever occurred. Zero.

I don’t try to understand why God does what He does. Nor do I know why some people die from the same affliction that others survive from. However, recent events have given me the insight to know that none of this happens by mistake. I know that King, Adam, and all of the other lost loved ones would’ve wanted it this way. I met many folks who have buried their children in recent months today, and they are the true heroes. I thanked another man named Steve today for getting up, suiting up, and showing up. He buried his son Max recently, and he too has decided to build a bridge instead of burning one down.

I am eternally grateful to have experienced the Butterfly Effect today, and cannot wait to see what comes next. If the message of hope shared today helps one person break free from the bondage of addiction, then the senseless wreckage that addiction leaves in its wake will not be in vain…

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About The Guest Author:

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I am a man who was given the gift of many experiences in life. For most of my adult life, I was a 911 Paramedic. I have seen tragedy and suffering first hand for many years. Little was I aware that I was the one who needed the saving. Through seeking peace within by using all things external, I wound up dead and ruined in every way.

My goal is simple, to use my experience to connect and give you a voice. I have expertise in Emergency Medical Care, First Responder and Addiction/Substance abuse issues, Recovery Coaching, Intervention, Leadership, and Spiritual Studies. I am available to serve your coaching, professional speaking, and journalistic needs.

 

 

“Presented By “Recovery Starts Here!” ~ Author, Catherine Lyon”

Gambling Addiction is NOT a Poor Person’s Addiction. Meet Melinda L., An RN…

imageedit_1_6172885164 Courtesy of InRecovery Magazine

“My name is Melinda and I 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 or think I could stop any more than changing the tides of the ocean.

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

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, 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. Time I can never get back wasted in front of slot machines.

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Slot machines were designed with one goal: to make an addict out of everyone. 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.

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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 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, raise 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.

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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.
www.stoppredatorygambling.org

**I have known and worked with Melinda and Les Bernal Founder of Stop Predatory Gambling about the expansion and impact of the growing offerings of gambling sponsored by the Oregon State Lottery and when I lived in Oregon until late 2013. Please visit there website by the link above and see how gambling has a negative impact on your State and Community today…

Catherine Lyon

Powerful Messages and A Look Inside Sobriety Through A Former NFL Professional.

Hello, and Welcome Recovery Friends and all Visitors,

It is not often people have the honor of becoming friends with a celebrity, or even a retired former NFL professional. No, that usually doesn’t happen to us “regular folk,”  LOL…LOL. But that is some of the beauty of recovery. We meet many people who are not shy about sharing their story and testimony of sobriety. That is what this post is all about! After all, we are all just “humans first and humans in progress” looking for a better way of life from addiction.

So, I have been blessed and honored to meet a wonderful new friend in recovery, but also a brother in “Christ” as well, and he and his wife help MANY reaching to recover from any addiction. I am talking about former NFL Denver Bronco, Vance Johnson and his wife Michelle. Beautiful people with big hearts who make a mission to help others. I came across some POWERFUL videos that Vance has done, and he also works for “Futures of Palm Beach.”

In them, he shares what it took for him to recover, as he did a few unconventional ways to get there. In this first video, he is using Behavioral Health – “Futures of Palm Beach” and their unique brand of psychotherapy and utilizes role-playing exercises, designed to give addiction recovery patients the opportunity to reexamine key episodes of their past through another person’s perspective. VERY powerful stuff!

So please take some time and listen. It is an amazing story and I need to say again, I am happy and blessed to call Vance and Michelle Johnson friends….

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“Vance’s Full Story”



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“Making Amends”

Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon ~ Recovery Starts Here!

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“Problem Gambling Awareness Month” My Guest Is Vegas Judy. “What If You Live In Las Vegas?”


WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A RECOVERING GAMBLER LIVING IN LAS VEGAS.
by JUDY G.

MEET, VEGAS JUDY!

 

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This is about two aspects of me – my evolution as a compulsive and then recovering gambler – and my growing fascination and compulsion to be in Las Vegas. Intertwined?Yes. But also distinct and separate. What I mean by that is: If gambling didn’t exist in Las Vegas, would I still want to live here? Yes.

However, since gambling does exist here, would I want to live anywhere else? No.

Now, back to the beginnings:

My childhood years certainly didn’t include this yearning to be in Las Vegas. But I guess I always had yearnings – and in those days, it was to live in the Golden State – California. I  spent the first 8 years of my life exclusively in California – mainly Lodi and Woodland. But when I was 9, my father “re-upped” and went back into the Air Force, and shortly after that, he was sent to Korea.

In Fifth Grade, I went to four different schools, including one in Texas and one in Virginia. This was the beginning of my Air Force brat experiences, and at the same time, I began thinking that “everything would be perfect” if I could just be with my friends in California. So I always had that propensity to think the “grass was greener” somewhere else.

I started living in a sort of “escape fantasy land” whenever real life got too rough. Since most of our relatives lived in California, no matter where we were stationed in the U.S., we usually made a road trip back to the Golden State at least once – usually during the summer. Quite often, these trips would take us through Las Vegas, where often we’d stop and spend the night. During those early years, I never thought about gambling, of course. It was strictly an adult playland then.

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I was mostly aware of the celebrities who might be lounging around the pools or perhaps wandering in the casinos. I remember once being in a casino with my parents and hearing “Paging Mr. Belafonte, Mr. Harry Belafonte.” This was heady stuff for a movie-star-struck young girl. If my parents went to see a show at night, my sister and I didn’t mind. We’d stay at our motel, go swimming in the pool that was usually opened all night, and have fun on our own. I do remember seeing the “fantasyland” aspects of the Strip, such as it was, back in those days; such as the camels in front of the Sahara, the Sultan in front of the Dunes. But that’s all Las Vegas was to me then – a convenient stop on our way to my “mecca”, California.

As far as gambling, I had literally no experience or feeling about it one way or the other. Ironically, we were stationed in Wiesbaden Germany when I was 17, and my first “job” was giving out change for the small bank of slot machines in the Officer’s Club (the General Von Steuben). This was a pretty boring job. Hardly anyone spent much time in that little space.

I do, however, remember one woman who was pretty much a “regular,”  She started out feeding quarters into one particular machine and would stand there for hours, having drinks and hitting several jackpots, but by the end of the evening, there she was, slightly weaving, by now barefoot (there were no stools for the gamblers then, and those high heels got too tricky to stand in after awhile and after a few drinks) and her winnings had long gone back into the machine. I remember thinking how stupid and boring the whole thing was. (Little did I know that I was to become that woman one day).

My next exposure to gambling was back in Las Vegas. My first husband and I had (not surprisingly) gone to Vegas for our honeymoon.  In those days, there were no video poker machines, and I didn’t know how to play any “table games of chance”, so I just put a few quarters in the single reel slot machine and I might get lucky and win the “jackpot” – $25.

My second husband and I also went to Las Vegas on our honeymoon. He has the dubious honor of being the one who taught me how to play 21.  After winning a small jackpot on a machine, he suggested taking my winnings and playing blackjack. Of course, we had our Beginners’ Luck there, and that became my new favorite game, and a reason to escape to Vegas whenever I could talk him into it…

By the end of our marriage, we were two full-blown alcoholics, but he was happy to do his drinking every night in front of the TV set.  I, on the other hand, wanted the action and excitement and fantasy of Las Vegas!

 

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One night I got into an argument with him and ended up taking off in my car.  I was picked up by the police somewhere near Ontario, California, heading to L.A., yet I told the police I was driving to Vegas.  The fact that I had my housedress on and was drunk might have alerted the police to the veracity of my statement, and I spent that night in jail.  Toward the end of my second marriage, I had met my third husband-to-be, who was temporarily my “escape companion”.  Why not? He had no job, no ties.  Why wouldn’t he hook up with this crazy alcoholic who had a car, and all she asked of him was to drive her to Vegas.

When we’d first arrive, I would hit the tables and eventually pass out– sometimes in the casino (where I had to be carried to the room) – and sometimes waited til I was in the room. Inevitably, the next day I’d be suffering a mighty hangover and severe pangs of regret and guilt, and we’d morosely head back to the disapproving situation at home. Sometime in 1986, I had stopped drinking (after it quit working for me, and I had become suicidal).

Everyone predicted that I would want to leave my “companion” who was 14 years younger than I, a drug addict and unemployed. But I insisted that we were “in love” and it didn’t matter if he continued to use and I had stopped; love would conquer all. We probably WOULD have split up, if it hadn’t been that I got pregnant (surprise!) at age 45, so now we had to stay together, and do the right thing.

So, here I was, a new mother (again), supporting my baby and my (by then) husband.  My only escape was the periodic trips to Vegas.  I wasn’t drinking anymore, so that was good, but that hadn’t stopped my desire to go to Vegas; in fact, it was stronger than ever. You see, I didn’t realize it, but my quitting drinking was possible because I simply substituted the one addiction for another – gambling.  A couple of years later, I decided “enough with these 12 trips a year to Vegas; let’s move there.”  Again, my husband had no reason to deny the request.  I was able to retire from my county job, after 22 years of service and have a small retirement stipend, and made sure I had a new job waiting for me in Las Vegas before we moved here.

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Sometime after we moved here, my husband brought home one of those hand held video poker machines.  I had never played poker before – only once, during a neighborhood friendly game, in which I had surprisingly won, with beginners’ luck, not having any idea what I was doing.  But with this hand-held amazing little thing, I learned to hone my skills quite sharply. Each time I went to a casino, it seemed that there were new and varied video poker games double bonus, triple bonus, bonus deluxe, etc., etc. In the last couple of years they added the three reels at a time, and now they even have 50 or 100 games you can play at a time. It’s mind-boggling!!

Now I had found the perfect answer to my female gambler’s dream. I didn’t have to sit and make chit chat with the other players at the 21 table. It could be just me and my machine –my lover–for hours at a time. No one to disturb us. The cocktail waitress would come around and occasionally I’d have a grapefruit juice (liquor was out, of course). This is a little personal, but I have to say that but sometimes I’d actually feel a mini-orgasm when I hit a jackpot. Meanwhile, at home, my libido was practically non-existent.

Sometimes the other players’ cigarette smoke would bother me, but usually, I could even ignore that – especially if I had a “hot” machine. I also loved it if they were playing the “right” music –usually some sultry and sensual, Marvin Gaye songs (“Let’s Get it On”), etc., or hits from further back –at a time when I was young and innocent.  The atmosphere in the casino appealed to me too –dark, soft neon lights flashing here and there, beckoning “come, play me”. No sense of time, no windows.  The tinkling of ice cubes in glasses, people laughing in the background. It was party time!

There has been a lot said and written about the commonalities of men and women gamblers and their differences.  For many men, it’s about being the “big shot”, showing off, taking a chance and winning big in some cases.  For many women, it’s more about escape and isolation. There’s one aspect, however, where this invisible dividing line blurs.  When I say I didn’t want to be a “big shot”, why then was it so important to me to use my “player’s card” at various casinos, and earn points so I could have the so-called “freebies” – like free room nights, free meals, free shows?  But more often than not, there’s no such thing as a “freebie.”

I remember about a year ago when I lost my whole paycheck at a locals casino.  A couple of days later I had no money, so my son and I went to the same casino and used some of my “points” to get a pizza in their Italian deli.  As we left, my son shouted out: “Thanks for the f____ing $1,000 pizza!” (Out of the mouths of slightly jaded babes!).

A funny thing about my style of playing is I didn’t want anyone to know if I hit a jackpot.  I wanted to just keep on playing – no congratulations or anything like that.  I was dead serious about this thing, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with my play.

Many times I sat there for 7 or 8 hours straight, without even taking a bathroom break. When I did, it was nearly impossible to make it without having an accident. So far I’ve concentrated on what I liked about being in the casinos.  What didn’t I like? Well, I didn’t like losing, and “chasing” my losses – or winning and yet not being able to quit until I’d put it all back. I didn’t like trying to get money out of a bank ATM machine, and being told “Unable to complete transaction”.

I didn’t like looking at myself in the bathroom mirror and seeing this strange, wild-eyed, with mussed up hair, confused and scared looking. Can you believe that even looking like this, some men actually “hit on me”?  I guess it was a matter of recognizing what they thought was “easy prey.” But I never resorted to that.  That was one of those “not yets.”  Not saying that it couldn’t have happened – just that it didn’t.

Worst of all, I hated coming home to anger and sadness, disappointment –my husband and my child looking forlorn and lost. What happened, Mommy?  Where was the pizza you said you’d bring home? Even when I had won, they usually weren’t that happy –unless I gave my husband some money so he could do what he wanted (gamble – or buy drugs), and get my son a new Play Station game or something like that, or say, “It’s OK, you don’t need to go to school today.”  He learned manipulation from the best teachers – me and his father.

I’ve managed to hit two milestones here while living in Las Vegas – of over a year “bet free”, but I never got much further than that. Looking back, I think it was because I thought I didn’t deserve any kind of success.  I was worthless. For the most part, I hadn’t really applied the 12 steps to my life –I just went on with it, usually as the martyr, until the pressure got so great and life looked so hopeless, that I had to go out and release my escape valve. All the pain and remorse of the past temporarily disappeared, in my pursuit of the fantasyland escape – the immediate fix, not thinking about the long-term effects.

The worst thing about living in Las Vegas and being a compulsive gambler is that the gambling is so accessible – you don’t even have to think twice about it – just hop in your car and go. Even the 7-11 around the corner has a few machines (although I liked to stick to the casino atmosphere as I mentioned above).  The best thing about living in Las Vegas and being a compulsive gambler is that there is ALL kinds of help – if you want it.

There are 24 hour GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meetings and people who know exactly what you’re going through.  I choose right now to stay in Las Vegas because I happen to love so many things about life here.  I especially am drawn to its history (yes, Las Vegas does have a history!) and I write about it at every opportunity.  I was excited in 2005 when this city celebrated its 100th anniversary.  It was Fantastic!

Is it stupid for me to remain here? Maybe so. Maybe not. One of my arguments is that gambling is available in just about any state now, and certainly in Europe. But the facts are, it isn’t as attractive to me anywhere else –not even “Reno or Laughlin” –certainly not “Atlantic City.” Something about being here in this jewel in the middle of the desert has me totally mesmerized and hypnotized. I look at the new games the casinos are offering – anything from ‘Betty Boop’ to ‘Austin Powers’ to the ‘Addams Family,’  and now ‘Popeye’ – and I wonder where it’s all leading.

It’s definitely luring kids, and I understand teenagers are being swept up by gambling – as much as drugs or alcohol. What’s the answer?

Blow up the casinos?

Make a new kind of prohibition? Probably not.

People will always seek their pleasures –in one form or another. They will be errant children. And some can get their pleasures in “safe” measures –not gambling more than they can afford, not becoming suicidal.

I don’t have anything really against gambling or drinking per say – I just know I can’t do it. Can I stay here in Las Vegas and fight my demons? Only time will tell, but I’m willing to give it another try.

(Judy wrote this in 2003 – “More has happened since then, but I’ll save that for another time.”)

Please visit and Purchase her Book Here on Las Vegas: The Fabulous First Century (NV) (Making of America) …. Author, Judy Dixon Gabaldon ~ aka: VEGAS JUDY

 

Special Featured Guest Article by Author, Dr. Jane Galloway~The 12-Steps Work!

Special Featured Guest Article by Author, Dr. Jane Galloway~The 12-Steps Work!

A Door That is Open to All-The 12-Steps As Spiritual Path.

by Dr. Jane S. GallowayAuthor of “The Gateways- the Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality- Dynamic Practices That Work”  

“Your Bottom – It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning”  ~Rev. Dr. Jane Galloway

Product Details

It seems that almost everyone who has a deep spiritual conversion through the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, at one time or another says, “I wish everyone could have the spiritual experience of this universal spiritual path!”

More than a few have tried to translate their excitement into books or articles too.   I don’t know how many who aren’t already on the 12-Step journey ever read these things, but I never have, and I have been on that path for a long time.

My interest is in how people thrive, not in the study of illness.
Working for years with young children, I studied the ground- breaking work of Jean Piaget on the four cognitive stages of child development, so it makes sense that I understand the work of 12-Step recovery through a developmental lens.  The Steps do, after all, provide a template for growing up, albeit as adults.

It is true that many who find themselves in treatment for addiction have missed some crucial stages of foundational growth along the lifespan, often accompanied by trauma. The Steps begin with an admission of powerlessness over whatever source we have chosen as artificial fuel. Step 2 introduces a Higher Power to the conversation.

It is also true that the working of these Steps is designed to connect us to a lifelong, integrated connection to both a solid foundation and “god as we understand god.”… The 12th Step actually presumes that an awakening is the sole result of this process, and begins with “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps…”
And they work. The Steps…they work. And that makes them pragmatic, practical and qualifies them as a path that deserves some deeper inquiry.

 
Over the years of my own recovery, I doodled brightly colored grids comparing the 12-Steps, the 7 Chakras, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, The Kabbalah Sephirot (Tree of Life), Chinese Meridians and the basic teachings of the Jesus Path from the Nagg Hammadi Scrolls book of Thomas. Something was at work there and knew I would get around to figuring it out one day, but in the meantime, I doodled ladders.

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Believe it or not, as a former agnostic who was really, really mad at God, after I got sober I actually left a rather successful acting career to formally pursue both the study of religions, and ordination as a minister, and to look at AA, William James, and American Pragmatism as “The Growth of a 20th Century Pluralistic Spiritual Movement”.

At the same time, I studied and worked in the Human Services, The humanistic psychologies of Maslow and Carl Rogers, and found some links between both of the above areas in the Human Potential Movement and Positive Psychology movements in Post WW ll America. But it wasn’t until a member of a spiritual community I led in New York City cornered me and said that while I was great at teaching a lot of things, they wanted to know what worked for me.

And my instant answer, after many moons of study, practice, attending seminary and 12-Step meetings, chanting circles, having my aura drawn and doodling ladders, was immediate. “Oh, that’s easy. It’s the 12-Steps, and all of this other holistic psycho-spiritual stuff I have done along with them.” And then she said, “Write that.” So I did.

The Gateways- the Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality /Dynamic Practices That Work (Sacred Stories Publishing Sept. 2016) includes all of those brightly colored ladders, plus a lot more. In describing my work as “a development model,” I have consistently met with a sort of puzzled silence from both recovering people and spiritual folks. So I finally began to get at the core of the thing.

The following, describing developmental psychology (from the website of the American Psychological Association) says what the 12-Steps do, minus the spirituality: “Developmental psychologists study human growth and development over the lifespan, including physical, cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality and emotional growth. “ apa.org  American Psychological Association Science in Action.

In “The Gateways”, I prioritize the spiritual, go into the basic essence of each Step, then create a technicolor system of practices and possibilities for exploring a lifelong path of deepening, growth, and expansion along spiritual lines using the 12-Steps.  Along with that is some history and a couple of personal stories to show how this has all worked in my life, a juicy Resources section, a Bento-Box of Mind/Body/Spirit tools and a suggested 12-week program for leading a spiritual growth group using the method.

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The actual book is gorgeous, and the psycho-spiritual, holistic, hands-on work in it creates a resource for all of those people who may or may not be on a 12-Step path per say, or may not be addicted to anything, but desire to go back and build a strong spiritual foundation for a life that works.

And the book is so pretty you could eat it. Truly. But don’t. Use it! And enjoy.

It is my hope that the resource I have created in this work is a practical companion for the beautiful channeled wisdom of the AA founders when they described the spiritual path of the 12-Steps in Chapter 4 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, We Agnostics:

“To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open we believe, to all.”

 

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Please visit my website at Jane Galloway.com
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Awareness Month Feature Article by “The Fix” Explores The Topic: ‘AA Is not an Evidence-Based Treatment’

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AUTHORS NOTE:

“I am in no way demeaning or saying that The 12-Step Program and model is not a form of treatment, nor that it doesn’t help people recover from drugs, gambling, or alcoholism.  But more and more articles like the one I am sharing today and hearing many people talk about needing and wanting MORE than 12-steps to reach long-term recovery and have a well-balanced path from ADDICTION.”

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So please don’t leave me nasty comments as to such. What I am exploring is a more in-depth look into having “Wellness in Recovery.” Many are now searching for ways to obtain treatment AND learn the much-needed skills and tools to begin the “inner work” needed to a well-balanced recovery without relapse or slips in the process.

Let’s face it, if we teach new addicts coming into treatment BOTH, we just may cut relapse percentages in half or more and would mean MORE NEW addicts would be getting the help they need as well.

There are many ways to go about it this.

One new exciting way I have been using and venture I am involved with is for those working in the “treatment side and facilities” and those looking for recovery “AT HOME Recovery.”  Learn more about “Wellness in Recovery” and “Oak Valley Productions Educational DVD Series.” It is a fresh approach to having a well-balanced journey, learn to begin and process the underlying issues that may have you turned to addiction, and learn to release and let it GO!

It will help guide you on how to begin your “inner work” as you learn the educational side of recovery from addiction! See all the details of this non-12 step recovery series and have  “Recover in Wellness” of mind, body, soul and Spirit!

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FEATURED ARTICLE: AA, GA, NA, Is not Evidence-Based Treatment by, Laurel Sindewald 03/16/17

“Researchers have not been able to methodologically eliminate self-selection bias or utilize adequate controls in their studies of 12-step groups and Twelve-Step Facilitation.”

When I read Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, I was surprised to see Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF) included as an evidence-based behavioral treatment for addiction. I had just done a literature review on the efficacy of 12-step-based interventions and found the evidence insufficient to support the prescription of 12-step groups as treatment. TSF is a standardized form of therapy where professional counselors try to engage their patients in participating actively in 12-step groups, in part by emphasizing 12-step philosophy during therapy sessions.

Twelve-step philosophy stipulates that addiction is a spiritual disease born of defects of character and that 12-step groups are the only cure, involving faith in a higher power, prayer, confession, and admission of powerlessness. In contrast, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a disease of the brain – a medical condition requiring medical treatment. A spiritual disease concept is not the same as a medical disease concept. Twelve-Step Facilitation treats addiction as a spiritual and biopsychosocial disease, retaining the spiritual emphasis of 12-step philosophy.

TSF was classified as a professional behavioral treatment in the Surgeon General’s Report. How can a professional, medical treatment be based on a definition of addiction as a spiritual disease? Baffled, I knew I would not be able to understand if I got stuck in bias against Twelve-Step Facilitation. I had studied the research on 12-step groups, but had only dipped my toe into the research on TSF. The Surgeon General’s Report cites hundreds of studies, and over a dozen in support of TSF. So, I did what all good scientists must do: I set aside my bias, knowing that if I want the truth, and I must assume first that I am wrong and dig deeper.

I conducted a preliminary literature review to investigate the effectiveness of TSF as a treatment, and then examined each of the sources the Surgeon General’s Report cited in support of TSF. I looked at the methodology, results, and conclusions for each. In this article, I define “evidence-based” to mean any treatment supported by numerous scientific experiments with rigorous methods that include control groups, randomization of patients to treatments, and bias-free samples. I use “12-step approaches” to refer to all 12-step-based rehab programs, TSF, and 12-step mutual help groups.

The key to understanding research on TSF is to know why the treatment was created in the first place. Researchers had documented a correlation between 12-step group attendance and abstinence, but correlation is not causation and research had been limited in several ways:

  • Studies evaluating the effectiveness of 12-step groups could not eliminate self-selection bias, which happens when group members are not randomly selected and participants opt in or select themselves, creating biased samples. The people participating in the studies had chosen to participate, and researchers could not determine whether successes observed were due to 12-step participation or qualities in the self-selected participants, such as greater motivation to enter recovery, more resources, or greater receptivity to messages of God, faith and/or acceptance. The people who chose not to participate, or who dropped out of the study, were not always accounted for. Researchers could not determine whether the correlation they observed was due to the treatment or to the characteristics of the people participating.
  • Twelve-step groups have no standardized methods or conditions. Leaders of the groups are often laypeople in recovery from addiction themselves. The quality of social support in the group depends on the people who are participating. The literature is interpreted by the members, who create their own cultures around the interpretation. Twelve-step cultures also pass around other information and advice, which may or may not permeate every group. Each sponsor is a different layperson in recovery from addiction, with different character traits. Researchers could not control for all of these variables all of the time.
  • Researchers struggled to maintain rigorous control groups throughout studies. At a minimum, to determine whether 12-step groups have an effect, researchers needed a no-treatment control group for each study. Ethically and logistically, they could not prevent people in the control groups from receiving treatment or from attending 12-step groups.

 

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Twelve-Step Facilitation was developed by researchers working on Project MATCH, a well-known and extensive study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Project MATCH compared TSF to Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), seeking to establish what patient characteristics corresponded with the best results for each treatment. The study found there “was little difference in outcomes by type of treatment” based on the primary outcome measures of percent days abstinent and drinks per drinking day.

By standardizing methodology for TSF, Project MATCH made some headway on strengthening the quality of evidence, but they did not find a way around self-selection bias and they did not have a control group. Many patients, however, did drop out of the assigned treatments early on in the study. Two researchers later examined the outcomes of the zero-treatment dropout group, and found that “two-thirds to three-fourths of the improvement in the full treatment group was duplicated in the zero-treatment group.”

This means that the people in Project MATCH’s treatment groups did not have significantly better abstinence outcomes than the people who dropped out of the study. Importantly, we do not know whether the dropout group sought treatment on their own, and it seems probable that they did. Based on their analysis, none of the interventions in Project MATCH seem to be effective, but without an actual control group, the results are equivocal regardless.

Some researchers have sought to re-analyze other parts of the Project MATCH data, but their findings, while supportive of TSF, are subject to the same methodological limitations of the parent study. Many other studies cited by the Surgeon General’s Report seem to support TSF as effective for improving abstinence outcomes and/or for relatively increasing 12-step participation compared to treatment as usual (TAU), but none of these studies had control groups. The Surgeon General’s Report cited one source in support of TSF that was actually an article reviewing information about 12-step programs to educate social workers, not an experimental study. The Report also cited a study in support of TSF that examined two active referral interventions, 12-step peer intervention (PI) and doctor intervention (DI), compared to no intervention (NI). The study found that while the active referral interventions significantly increased participation in 12-step groups compared to no intervention, “abstinence rates did not differ significantly across intervention groups (44% [PI], 41% [DI] and 36% [NI]).”

This study was the only one cited in the Surgeon General’s Report in support of TSF that approximates a control group, and it does not actually support the efficacy of TSF in increasing abstinence outcomes. The NI pseudo-control group still received a list of 12-step group meeting times and locations, but was not encouraged to attend. The PI group attended meetings twice as much as the NI group, and yet the researchers found no significant difference in abstinence outcomes. The DI group, essentially TSF, was less effective than the PI group at increasing attendance, and again, did not significantly improve abstinence.

My own literature review turned up articles the Surgeon General’s Report did not reference, both in support of TSF and not supporting TSF, but none of the studies I found had control groups either. Results of my literature review, including my assessment of the Surgeon General’s report sources, were therefore as ambivalent as the 2006 Cochrane Review, a systematic meta-study of all 12-step-based programs that found “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or TSF approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems.

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In medical science, if a treatment is ineffective or faces prohibitive methodological challenges, the treatment is either revised or abandoned. Twelve-step philosophy prohibits either approach. Twelve-step literature is comparable to the Bible for Christians or the Qur’an for Muslims; if the literature is removed, the identity of the group goes with it. The same basic text has been used for AA since the publication of its “Big Book,” Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1939. Twelve-step literature also explicitly states that “Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.

There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.” Twelve-step philosophy, by taking this position, is asserting that its methods can never be wrong. If the 12 Steps do not work for people, 12-step philosophy explicitly states it is their fault, and that the fault is inborn and irreversible. The 12 Steps and attendant literature, however, are not modified.

Research does support the concept that changing “people, places, and things” and finding a network of people with a culture of abstinence can improve chances of recovery. However, mutual help groups other than 12-step groups do exist that may provide the social support needed by people in recovery. People who are not religious may be able to make 12-step groups work for them as social support if they have no other choices, but other options will most often be available.

A study in 2001 by Humphreys and Moos found that TSF may reduce health care costs for people in recovery by emphasizing reliance on free 12-step groups, as opposed to cognitive behavioral therapy. Yet their conclusions that the study indicates people should be diverted from CBT to TSF because it is ultimately cheaper amounts to advocating malpractice. TSF itself is not free and is not decisively supported by evidence; twelve-step groups, while free, are not evidence-based treatment, and other available mutual help groups are equally free options for social support. Even if TSF were demonstrably effective at promoting abstinence for some people, 12-step philosophy is heavily spiritual (specifically Christian-based) so it would be unethical to recommend TSF simply because it might save money.

After exhaustive research, I assert with confidence that 12-step approaches are not evidence-based treatments. They may be strong recovery support for people to choose in addition to a medical treatment plan, but 12-step approaches—including TSF—are not established as evidence-based for treating addiction.

Due to the methodological limitations identified in this article, I question continuing to spend thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and invaluable expertise on researching a spiritually-based treatment for addiction that cannot be proven to be effective for most people most of the time compared to “spontaneous,” or natural, remission rates. It is time to relegate 12-step approaches to the realm of recovery support services (RSS, as defined in the Surgeon General’s Report), and allocate our research resources to promising treatments that can be studied rigorously and without such crippling methodological limitations.

** Laurel Sindewald is a writer and researcher for Handshake Media, IncorporatedAnne Giles contributed to this report. ** 

 

“Problem Gambling Awareness Month” Special Guest Author: Alek M. Revitalizing Your Marriage After Addiction.

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Revitalizing your marriage or relationship is an important and sometimes scary process. When recovering from gambling addiction, the other partner feels that the gambling was the only thing the other person cared about, like if it had been a “love affair.” That is why this topic and article by Alek M. is so important in any recovery from any type of addiction….

Addiction can be one of the most trying experiences that an individual will face in their life, and recovery is a road that certainly isn’t easy. However, it is through the most challenging times in life that we are able to grow, as people, and emerge as a stronger version of yourself. This is what recovery is all about, as becoming a new and better you is a key part of lasting recovery that is sustainable.

However, during the course of addiction and recovery, the person undergoing these events is not the only person who will be tested. If an addict is married or in a long-term romantic relationship, then their partner is certainly going to go through a trying time, as well. However, having been through this journey together makes it all the more important to take crucial steps after recovery. Here are some tips on revitalizing your marriage after addiction…

Avoid starting new relationships in recovery


First of all, it’s important to note that is highly advisable to not start any new romantic relationships right after recovery, or in recovery, for that matter. A romantic relationship has the potential to distract you from what you should be focusing on in recovery, especially in the crucial early month, as staying sober is key. Relationships also have the potential to cause stress, which can be triggering for someone who just got through recovery. As a matter of fact, many aspects of an early relationship can have an unpredictable effect on someone who is probably still getting cravings. For this reason, it’s best just to avoid all of this, for the time being.
Here’s a good article if you’d like to read more about this situation.

Be honest, no matter what

When you are fresh out of recovery, your relationship needs to continue with a theme of honesty, or it simply won’t work. No matter what, it’s important for both you and your partner to be honest with each other about everything, especially what you are thinking about the situation. Make sure you both tell each other how you are feeling, every single day, and truly be honest about those feelings. If you are having cravings, or even if you suffer a relapse, these are among the most important times to be honest, as they can make the difference in your path to recovery.

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Clearly, communicate your needs

Remember that your partner will have their own specific needs during this time, and be considerate of those needs. However, it’s also important to be clear about what you need during this time of recovery, as your support system is a vital element to a lasting recovery. This means that each person in the relationship needs to have a clear line of communication with the other, so that they can say how they are truly feeling, without judgment.

Take this time to learn how to be better versions of yourself

At this time, remember that you are in a period of rebuilding who you are, and that you and your partner will be in a period of rebuilding your own relationship. While this will definitely be difficult, at times, it should be viewed as an opportunity to better yourselves and strengthen the bond between you two. Besides, if you can both support each other through the difficult time of recovery, then you will find that you have a stronger relationship on the other side.

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Find projects around the home to work on together

After getting out of recovery, you and your partner need to find new ways to bond so that you can make sure that you both still know each other, even after this life-changing experience. While getting out and going on adventures, like hiking, can be a great way to do this, it is also very important to try to find ways to enjoy being home with each other.


One particular way to do this is to find projects around your home that you can work on together. Look for something you both would love to see in your home.
Should you get new marble countertops? Should you build a treehouse? Just find something that you can both work together to improve your lives. Building new memories together, especially memories with tangible evidence all around you starts to replace negative experiences that you’ve both been through before.

Having a project is also a great tool to aid in recovery since it gives you a positive focus!