Learning to be Safe From Gambling While Keeping Recovery in Intact. That’s a Win, Win For YOU …

Learning to be Safe From Gambling While Keeping Recovery in Intact. That’s a Win, Win For YOU …

Happy Holidays Recovery Friends and Visitors,


So another holiday season is upon us and those of us in recovery can have a tough time around the holidays. I have in the past with self-sabotaging my Christmas seasons.

How do you ask?

Let me share a “war story of Christmas past.” We can learn and grow in recovery when we safely look at the “Then & Now of Christmas’s Past” as an addicted or problem gambler.”

Many of us in recovery advocate and share to others who still suffer from this cunning addiction and the importance of sharing our experiences, strength, and hope with others when we do tell some of our “war stories.” It gives insights of just how insidious this addiction is. It is one the areas I don’t feel is proper about 12-Step programs. They tell us not to share war stories as it could maybe a trigger for someone.

But, if we don’t learn from these mistakes or choices, how do look back and find growth in our recovery? Yes, you can see your growth by working and re-doing the 12-steps. But, you may need more than that to recover fully. I know I did.

I recall one Christmas that has to be my worst within my gambling addiction and will never forget because I was gambling out of desperation. It is why I make sure all holidays now are safe with a relapse prevention action plan in place the last 11+years that I’ve maintained recovery. I try to make the holidays happy and full of JOY. But back in 2005, that was a different story.

See, the home we had lived and worked very hard for had to be sold through a short sale or we would have lost everything we put into it. But even then, it felt like we lost it all as we are still paying on a balance that was not covered by the sale. It also caused me to make a few bad choices, residual addicted “thinking, I had committed a crime and that big catastrophy I wrote about in my memoir, and I was reeling. I stopped taking my bipolar meds, then took them all at once! I was so angry with myself, feeling so much shame, guilt, low self-worth, and again suicidal because I knew it was because of my gambling is how we got into this mess in the first place! Of course, no excuse’s, just insights.


We were so financially broke. The guilt and shame would hit me each year hard. I knew then it was my fault. I remember being in JCPenney walking around aimlessly wishing I could buy this or that for the family for Christmas. Luckily all our family lived in other states than Oregon at that time as are now living in Arizona. So I had to do the same lame thing I had done for many past Christmas’s, just send a card.

 
It was difficult already after we both had job losses, the very beginning of the economy and markets were getting ready to go South. W finding good paying jobs, and then with my mental health all wacked out, I could not work, and now with even more guilt I became suicidal, took all my meds at one time and off to the hospital and then I ended up back in an addiction/mental health crisis center again from another breakdown right after the holidays. It was all too much!


When I got released from the crisis center, I knew I had a lot more recovery work and inner work to do which included my financial inventory … I had been doing well in my recovery and gamble free at the time, but something was nagging at me. See, you need to know that no matter the addiction, it’s always waiting for us. Even within recovery, if you are not changing the “old thinking” and the old habits and behaviors with good ones, you can still be an addict in the “mind.”

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Like the holidays for instance and the point of this post, we can have a lot of temptations around us at this time of year. There are holiday parties for both personal and work-related that can be stressful. We may have had fall outs due to the holidays, (thanks to our addictions and why we have step 9… “to make amends where ever possible”) with friends and family.

Many different reasons that can become a trigger or bring on urges. The stress of the season, lack of money for presents, a slew of things swirling around in our heads! This addicted “cycle” if not broken or interrupted will keep you either in the addiction or just on edge waiting. That is what I needed the second time around after coming out of the crisis. I chose to work with a gambling addiction and behavioral specialist for a year.


And this guy would not “cut me loose” until I could tell him how the “cycle” of addiction happens and tell him the skills and tools to stop it which took me that whole year. Once I learned that and applied those skills and tools, I began the road to long-term recovery. So, my point is, everyone needs a relapse prevention plan. A program that will help you avoid these pitfalls.

I had been given a workbook that I now have listed on my recovery resource pages for all to come and use for their recovery from gambling addiction Relapse Prevention Guide  as it shows step by step what is needed to make a plan to prevent relapse for any occasion like the holiday season, life events like a loss from death, a job loss and much more.

Look, these life events and the holidays will come. So you need to be prepared before they happen, not after they happen. Be prepared and use those tools taught and learned in treatment, or a 12-step program, maybe in therapy or however you choose to reach out and start your recovery journey. Be educated about your addition and learn “the cycle” of addiction. If you need help to make a “Plan,” stop by my recovery blogs Recovery Relapse Prevention Guide page to show you how.

When you do, I guarantee you will have many, many more ‘Happy Holiday Seasons’ to come.

 

“Because You Are Worth It In Recovery!”

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Helping Others In Recovery from Gambling. A Research and Study You Can Participate In ~By The University of Calgary – Addictive Behaviors Lab.

“Through my years of recovery from gambling addiction, alcohol abuse, and mental health challenges, I have been honored, invited, and to be a part of and engaged in and interviewed for many articles, studies, and research of addictive behaviors and neurosciences mag write-ups. I do so to Raise Awareness & prove recovery is POSSIBLE” ~Author/Advocate Catherine Lyon 


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Here Are The Details and Pre-Screening To Become A Participant:

A friend of yours mentioned that you were in gambling recovery and involved in advocacy, and that you might be interested in helping us recruit participants for a study we are running.” (Well, of course, I was going to HELP)!!

We are currently investigating the impact of methods/strategies, as well as co-occurring addictions, on the recovery process. We recently received confirmation of the ethics modification that would allow us to recruit through means like this, and it would be amazing if you would be willing to help us spread the word and is open to US citizens through June 2019!!

Here is some more information about the process, as well as the compensation that participants will receive for time spent completing the survey, to help you decide if this is something you would be interested in sharing.

Eligibility Requirements for Participants and Open in The USA:

1.)  You must have experienced a period in your life lasting 12 consecutive months or longer when you felt that gambling caused problems for you (e.g., financial, interpersonal, emotional, etc.) …

AND,

2.)  You must CURRENTLY be in a period of recovery from problem gambling that has lasted 12 consecutive months or longer…

AND,

3.)  You must have experienced a problem with another behavior (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, or other substance use, shopping, binge eating, internet use, etc.).

The Process:

First, participants will be asked to complete an online screening questionnaire to determine if they are eligible to participate (roughly 5-10 minutes) … Please visit and CLICK  link  Gambling Pre-Screening  to complete the screening survey and determine your eligibility

If they are eligible, you will be asked to complete:

1.)   A telephone interview regarding engagement in, and recovery from problem gambling and other addictive behaviors. Telephone interviews take approximately 45 to 75 minutes to complete.

2.   A second, and final, Online Questionnaire with questions about personality, life experiences, etc. This questionnaire takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Some Compensation:

As a thank-you for participating in this study, participants will be offered $40 in the form of a gift card that will be e-mailed out (participants will have a choice from a short list; Amazon, Barnes & Noble, David’s Tea, The Keg, and Starbuck for US participants). Please note that if members do not pass the screening process, they will NOT be eligible to participate in the study, and therefore will NOT be eligible to receive a gift card of any amount.

Catherine, thank you so much for taking the time to consider sharing our research. If you or potential recovery friends have any questions or concerns at all I would be more than happy to answer them! Email me at ALANA,  ablab@ucalgary.ca 

Best Regards,

Alana Guidry

Research Assistant

Addictive Behaviours Lab

University of Calgary

of psychology department

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#BeTheOne!!
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I hope all who visit and are in recovery from gambling and another occurring addiction will take this opportunity to see if you qualify to be a participant Like I will Be and is a way we can have a platform to help others and help get sound solid information to about any addictions to the public is another way to “Be of Recovery Service!” ~Catherine 

 

Giving Thanks and Having Gratitude as Another Holiday Recovery Season Begins

Giving Thanks and Having Gratitude as Another Holiday Recovery Season Begins

Happy Thanksgiving Week and Kick Off to Another Recovery Holiday Season!

Well, another holiday season is upon us already. It seems just yesterday it was summer. Time sure does fly. As you begin holiday shopping, the smells of turkey roasting, decorating, baking those yummy Christmas cookies, I hope for those maintaining recovery from gambling and all addictions take some time to reflect on how you have gotten to your beautiful recovery life today. Be “Thankful” and have a heart of “gratitude.”

You need to be mindful of where we came from and how far you have come and have worked to positively move forward in life. It is essential to do so, especially at Holiday time, as you walk farther away from your past within addiction. I thought I’d share a little of my “Holiday” article I wrote for my gambling recovery column QUIT 2 WIN over at “Keys To Recovery” newspaper.

So why do we need to reflect as we move farther away from our past “wreckage and damages” from our addictions?

It gives us a sense of accomplishment and gratitude as we become thankful for all the work and “change” we have put forth to get where we are today maintaining our recovery path. We also need to be mindful of those who “don’t have what we have” when it comes to recovery.

Many do still have struggles around the holidays and why I will be recovery blogging and being close to my phone and email through the holidays for my 6th year now. I do this to be of recovery service to those who are new to recovery and may have a tougher time through the holiday season. I started this recovery tradition right after my book, ‘Addicted to Dimes’ released in late November of 2012, and decided I would do it every year.

I knew how hard it was around the holidays when I was still deep within my gambling addiction, and when I first started recovery. We have feelings of desperation due to no money for gift giving, decorating the home and even holiday meals. I still remember walking up and down the store isles wishing I could buy this or buy that and feeling sad and mad at myself because it was all my fault, my gambling was why I couldn’t.

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Anger, stress, and holiday chaos can be triggers, so as I’d leave the store and gamble a few hours to help me feel better hopefully. But it didn’t because I was desperate! Even in recovery, the holiday season can be filled with many opportunities to gamble with the people around them, which may threaten their gambling addiction recovery.  So be mindful through the holiday season.

Know Yourself – Remember what caused you to gamble before, and make sure your behaviors and habits do not change during the holiday season and trigger gambling impulses. You may also need to monitor your alcohol intake, turning down vacation day trips to casinos with friends, and making sure no extra vacation time causes you any feelings of boredom or loneliness. Use the tools and skills learned! Have a wonderful sober, clean, and bet free Recovery Holiday Season …

 

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I am also sharing below a little “Faith” from Harvest Church of Pastor, Greg Laurie. Because as we enter the Holiday Season,  it is many times with stress and worries. I work my own recovery through faith as I would not be on this earth otherwise. I’m just not too loud about it! Lol.

When your life is pulled back from “A Power Greater Than Ourselves” from suicide not once, but twice? You know that IS a miracle of GOD. So turn those worries and the stress of the holidays into PRAYERS.

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Turn Your Worries into Prayers

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

—Philippians 4:6

There are so many things today that can cause us to worry. There are the worries of
the world. There are the worries in our own country, including the threat of terrorism and the threat of North Korea. Then there are personal worries, such as health worries and family worries.

It seems as though worries are always there, always closing in on us. But worry isn’t productive. In fact, it’s a failure to trust God. The word worry comes from an Old English term that means “strangle” or “choke.” That is what worry does. It chokes us. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Modern medical research has proven that worry breaks down our resistance to disease. It actually diseases the nervous system and, more specifically, the digestive organs and the heart. In fact, 79 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are stress related.

Philippians tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:6–7).

We need to turn our worries into prayer. That requires developing a conditioned reflex. We all have natural reflexes, like when we touch something hot and immediately pull back. Then there’s a conditioned reflex, something that becomes natural after we’ve done it so many times. For instance, standing during the national anthem or placing your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance is a conditioned reflex.

We can’t control our universe, as hard as we may try, but we certainly can pray about it. The next time you’re tempted to worry, pray instead. Turn your worries into prayers.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING and Celebrate Recovery Through The Christmas Season and Beyond Recovery Friends!  ~Advocate/Author, Catherine Lyon 

Dig Deeper:

Today’s Radio Program
“Hurried, Worried, Buried (How to Overcome Fear, Worry & Anxiety)–1”

This Week’s TV Program
“The Danger of the Compromised Life”

 

 

Mega-Millions Frenzy … Really? A Message From My Friends of The National Council on Problem Gambling. Gamble Responsibly Please.

Mega-Millions Frenzy … Really? A Message From My Friends of The National Council on Problem Gambling. Gamble Responsibly Please.

There will be More Losers Than Winners … 

 

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Mega Millions lottery hits a record $1.6 bln after no winners in Friday’s draw

UPDATE – Personal Note:

Of course, I am NOT rubbing any noses in the fact that last nights Mega-Million drawing HAD no winners.  It just hammers home a wee bit that for those who happened to OVER BUY tickets, it seems today, just a waste of money that could have been better spent on something more fun or constructive.  See, I know there a boatload of people who CAN gamble just for the fun it.  AND?  Many don’t feel or agree that buying lottery tickets if real gambling. Sorry, but it is if you read the ‘definition’ of what the word “Gambling” means:

GAMBLE – The definition of a gamble is a risk.
An example of a gamble is the act of betting that a certain team will win a game.

Gamble is defined as to take a risk, or to play games especially with money for betting.

An example of gamble is to play the slots in Las Vegas.

When you place a bet for money or not as the outcome is uncertain and is a risk? That is gambling.  When buying lottery tickets for a CHANCE to win?  That is gambling.  Now that no one won, just think of those who are Problem Gamblers or even maybe addicted and think about where they will get the money for this next drawing?  Will it be there food money to feed their kids?  Maybe not a pay an important bill like electricity or their heat? Maybe forego a part of their rent or housing money just for a “CHANCE” … Know your ODDS before you risk all that!

No, I’m not a Buzz Kill …Lol.  I WAS an addicted gambler and know this disease and the thinking we trapped into.  It will talk you into doing ALL the above!  Because once gambling has you hooked?  The sickness takes over and we lose ALL the CONTROL.

Don’t waste loads of money for a tiny sliver of hope that you are going to win.  As most times you end at a loss. If you are going to take a Risk, then Gamble Responsibly …  

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Mega-Millions Jackpot Media Frenzy Offers Opportunity for Responsible Gambling Messaging.  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 19, 201

 

WASHINGTON, DC – As the Mega Millions jackpot has reached record levels, the National Council on Problem Gambling urges consumers to protect themselves against excessive gambling and calls upon lotteries and the media to promote responsible gambling messages.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, states, “The media and consumer interest in high lottery jackpots creates an opportunity to provide responsible gambling messages designed to help people who choose to gamble make informed decisions about their play.”  Responsible gambling efforts should be made by lottery operators and players alike.

Here are four simple responsible gambling tips to know and share:

– Set a limit of time and money spent gambling.

– Don’t gamble to escape feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.

– Know where to get help for a gambling problem.

– Minors are prohibited from most forms of gambling.

“Lotteries play an important role in reminding retailers and players about the minimum age to play and in educating their players about simple steps to promote responsible gambling.”

State lotteries and media are asked to incorporate responsible gambling messaging and the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) into their upcoming promotion and coverage of the Mega Millions jackpot.


The National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700
or www.ncpgambling.org/chat) is the single national point of access to problem gambling help. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all 50 states. All calls are confidential and offer local information and referral options for problem gamblers and their families.

In 2017 the Helpline received 233,000 calls, an average of one call every two minutes.

 

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About the National Council on Problem Gambling

NCPG is the national advocate for problem gamblers and their families. NCPG is neutral on legalized gambling and works with all stakeholders to promote responsible gambling. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or visit www.ncpgambling.org/chat for confidential help.

 

 

“Being of Recovery Service”~ Meet Jim Downs and His Wife Marisol of “Big Jim’s Walk, Inc.” Doing God’s Work To Stamp out ADDICTION.

“Being of Recovery Service”~ Meet Jim Downs and His Wife Marisol of “Big Jim’s Walk, Inc.” Doing God’s Work To Stamp out ADDICTION.

Hello Recovery Friends, Family, and Warrior Advocates,

 

I am happy and blessed to announce that I have accepted a volunteer position with “Big Jim’s Ride Around America!” Founder, Jim Downs and his beautiful wife Marisol are ready to embark on their next “Journey of Hope” and the second addiction awareness event through Big Jim’s Walk Inc., Foundation! I met Big Jim and Marisol last year while Jim was in the middle of his walk.

I could not believe why he was doing what he was doing and I thought this guy is crazy! But once I visited his website and Facebook as I watched via his sharing his journey by FB Live videos, I knew there was something very special about Big Jim. God was working through this man right before my very eyes. God called upon this big gentle guy to speak to the masses and help an addict get help through a spiritual path and to let “Jesus” take the wheel.

I can tell you, while on this walk, so many people were amazing to help Jim along the way. I saw the trials and roadblocks that came his way like not having enough money to sleep somewhere, camper problems or just to get a hot meal. But then, all watching including myself would rally on social media and BAM! People began donating right then and there and helped out to get it DONE!!

It was such a blessing to watch!  It was like watching GOD in action provide the blessings and solutions to help Jim on his path of walking to raise awareness and help shatter the stigma of addictions and to share that God, through his son Jesus Christ loves everyone, even those riddled with addictions!

So I began to help some and share where he was and what he was doing through social media just trying to help out a little. So let me share a little of his story with you now as he and Marisol gear up for the next event!

In doing so, I hope it will help inspires ALL OF YOU to help this amazing man and come aboard and be a part of the “The Big Jim’s Foundation Team!” as there are many ways you can like these amazing “Sponsors have already.”  Read more about this event and will welcome you aboard! ~Catherine

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“Big Jim, aka, Jim Downs stand is for love of God, family, and his recovery by raising awareness of the addiction epidemic, saving lives from addiction while shattering stigma through Jesus Christ, his Savior.”

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Jim Downs was not born into wealth, fame, or to an athletic family. Quite the contrary.

His hard life began at birth, as a child of God, but sadly an unwanted pregnancy and was given up right after his birth. When Jim turned three months old, new parents adopted Jim. His new parents welcomed him as he grew to be ‘the apple of his father’s eyes,” Then, tragically at three and a half years old, his father passed away, leaving him with only his mother.  A year and a half later she remarried, and his new adopted father never embraced him, Jim started feeling unloved and a profound sense of abandonment, a constant burden to his second father that lasted many years until his father’s passing.

Some of the underlying roots to why he may have turned to addictions while growing up. A need to numb the pain, haunting’s, and hurt as a child. Unbeknownst to Jim, his ‘Holy Father’ above was watching and waiting for him.  Jim began looking for anything to fill that void and feelings of emptiness, at 12-years old he started drinking alcohol and smoking weed. It progressed and at 14 -years-old he turned to hard drugs.  Meth became his demon.  All the while, God had been walking next to him.

Side by side, God traveled Jim’s road with him, the years of destruction and self-sabotage.  God never left him, Jim didn’t know who he was.  Besides, as addicts, we feel the massive shame and guilt of turning our backs on God as Jim had. Thinking; “how can God love or care about a man who lies, cheats, causes pain to others and a hopeless drug user like me?”

Then, a ‘Miracle,’ as homeless and deep within many of his addictions, Jim had seen a sliver of light that God had opened up for him.  He reached out to that light, and he entered a treatment program in Panama City, FL.  Here is where his life transformation and conviction within Christ began.  At that moment he chose life and walked into a recovery program at The Panama City Rescue Mission.

His first blessing and miracle from God.  Jim began treatment learning the recovery tools and skills that aid his recovery still today, but another test and trial came by way of losing his best friend Alex Peters only 4-months into his treatment.  At a crossroad, Jim not only felt Gods spirit in him but the stirring for his ‘Second Miracle’ was building that included losing Alex!  This lit a fire in him as God revealed and gave Jim his real mission and life purpose.

And so it began, “Big Jim’s Walk Across America.”

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After 16 months in the addiction recovery program, Jim left The Panama City Rescue Mission at 7 a.m., Feb. 1, 2017, and embarked on an eight-month walk/hike leaving the front door of the center. Going from Panama City, Florida, to Canada by walking “The Appalachian Trail” beginning in Georgia.  Why?  It would be his aftercare program like no other to keep him stable within recovery through his faith.  Jim said it best;  “I want anyone who is in the final phase of their recovery program to remember this event and be empowered not to go back to their ‘old life’ when they leave any recovery program,”

Jim said. “They need to step out within faith and let God guide them to a new way of life. There is life after addiction.

Jim shares;  “this hike and walk will be a spiritual journey for me, bringing me closer to God.”  “I’m out here to find myself, who I am, what I stand for.”  Jim did complete his walk and even got off the trail as God asked him to.  “God wanted me on the road, not a trail to talk to others and raise awareness of addiction.”  He did in honor of his best friend Alex who died of a drug overdose and seeing Alex’s family left heartbroken.

Along the walk, Jim carried a large wooden cross part of the way. Jim said;  “since God asked, I will witness and testify to anyone that will listen to me about how I turned to, and I accepted ‘Jesus Christ’ into my life as my Lord and Savior, He changed me and the life I live.”

As his walk continued a ‘Third Miracle’ was coming as God had a big one in mind for Big Jim that would knock him off his feet!  Before his walk, God had chosen an “Angel” who was watching on social media.  This angel told her mother she was watching Jim’s walk because she wanted to see how God, through Jim, was using him and guiding this “Big Guy” to share hope, witness, and educate those he spoke with and met along the way.

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This “Angel” is Marisol Lozano.  They slowly began a penpal friendship that of course, later on, turned into a beautiful relationship and a marriage along the walk.  An extra-special one as a prophet married them. Their beautiful prophetic ceremony solidified them to one another and brought them even closer to their ‘Heavenly Father.’  Jim completed his “Walk Across America” ending in Canada with God and his “angel”  Marisol Lozano by his side.

Today, Big Jim and Marisol along with an amazing Big Jim’s team is already in place and working hard before Jim embarks on the next “Miracle and Mission” God has called upon them to accomplish. This one is already shaping up to be bigger than the walk, more significant than we could ever imagine!

“Announcing “Big Jim’s Ride Around America ~ Jim Bikes America 4 Addiction Awareness.”

Jim will bike around America to raise awareness of the epidemic of addiction. Big thanks to Performer Cycles, so on Jan 1, 2019, Jim will leave from the steps of The Fort Myers Florida City Hall on a bicycle and pedal addiction awareness to all the lower 48 state capitals. Almost 14,000 miles in one year!

The event will be filmed courtesy of Bethel Film Production as Jim encourages thousands to enter recovery, bring communities together to fight for those struggling with any addiction as they share their stories and voices. Jim will talk with ‘State Capitol Politicians’ in hopes of changing the way they approach and pass legislation of addiction bills and issues.

You can help The Ride by Donating or Purchasing Jim’s Gear ~ And Help #BuildTheRecoveryHype 

Visit Big Jims’s Walk Foundation Website and Donate Today.

Become a #Sponsor of this event by contacting Marisol Lozano lozanomarisol2627@gmail.com or call her at (

Now you purchase Jim’s Gear and Equipment as a #FaithDonation right on FB Courtesy of  REI -Co op Outdoor & Sporting Goods Company! Located in Seattle, WA.

Everyone can Jim and Marisol get “Big Jim’s Walk Foundation” filed as a Non-Profit here at our Go Fund Me 501c3 Filing!

We #ThankYou in advance for your support with helping Jim stamp out addiction and PLEASE..please watch and share our ‘Official Video and Announcement’ for “Big Jim’s Year Long Ride Around America.”


God Bless,

Catherine Lyon ~ Social Media Manager “Big Jim’s Ride.”

Important Guest Article Reshare By Amy Dresner, Author of ‘My Fair Junkie,’ A Memoir. This Post Is About Recovery & Depression…

Important Guest Article Reshare By Amy Dresner, Author of ‘My Fair Junkie,’ A Memoir. This Post Is About Recovery & Depression…

Welcome Recovery Friends, Warrior Advocates, and New Visitors,

I am so happy and blessed that Amy agreed to let me reshare her article which comes by way of The Fix Magazine. She is an amazing “in your face –let it hang out” writer and blogger for them. The Fix share news about addiction and recovery from drugs and alcohol and is one of the top resource magazines around!

I happen to have signed up for there newsletter a while back and seen Amy’s article. Being dual-diagnosed myself and still have bouts of depression at times, I felt this article of hers really needed to be shared with all my friends here.

It is very informative and I just love Amy’s views on a variety of issues and her writing style! I hope you enjoy reading it and learn some from it as I did! Don’t forget to grab of copy of her book (link listed in her bio) if you have not read it.

It is truly a great read and her life memoirs are “one of kind!”  ~Cat 

Depression in Recovery: Do You Have Low Dopamine Tone?

By Amy Dresner 09/10/18 ~ Courtesy of The Fix Magazine
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Mature Woman Depression Looking Away
((The Fix does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor does anything on this website create a physician/patient relationship.  If you require medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, please consult your physician.)

 

I just felt like shit and slept as much as I could. I showed up to work. I kept my commitments. I spoke when asked to, but I felt more than unhappy. I felt like I just didn’t care.

I just came out of a six-week depression. That might not sound very long, but when you’re in hell it feels like forever. Good news: I didn’t bone any 25-year-old strangers; I didn’t cut myself; I didn’t get loaded; I didn’t smoke or vape although I really, really wanted to. I didn’t even eat pints of Ben and Jerry’s while binge-watching I Am A Killer. I just felt like shit and slept as much as I could. I showed up to work. I kept my commitments.

I spoke when asked to, but I felt more than unhappy. I felt like I just didn’t care. I didn’t return phone calls. I didn’t wash my hair. Suicidal thoughts bounced around my head, but I ignored them like I do those annoying dudes with clipboards outside Whole Foods.

I’ve suffered from symptoms of depression since I was 19, so it’s an old, old friend. What really annoys me was that some (dare I say many?) people think at five and a half years of sobriety, you shouldn’t feel depressed. What I kept hearing from AA fundamentalists was:

“It’s your untreated alcoholism.”

“Listen to these tapes about prayer and meditation.”

“You’re not connected enough to your Higher Power.”

“You’re not going to enough meetings.”

“You need to do more service.”

Thankfully my sponsor, who has a foot in the medical world, did not say something along those lines.  One of my big problems with AA is that it looks at every mental problem through the paradigm of your “alcoholism.” If you’re suffering, you should look to the program for relief.

Nobody would tell you to “drive around newcomers!” more if you had diabetes or kidney failure, but if you’re feeling down, that’s what you’re told to do. As it turns out, AA is not completely off the mark: “Addiction is a not a spiritually caused malady but a chemically based malady with spiritual symptoms,” addictionologist and psychiatrist Dr. Howard Wetsman told me.

“When some people start working a 12-step program, they perceive a spiritual event but their midbrain is experiencing an anatomical event. When they’re working a program, they’re no longer isolated and they no longer feel ‘less than,’ so their dopamine receptor density goes back up [and they experience contentment],” he explained. But what if your program hasn’t changed or feels sufficient and you still feel depressed?

What if you’re working your ass off in your steps and helping others and you still feel like shit?
“Well, low dopamine tone experienced as low mood can be brought on by fear and low self-esteem (the untreated spiritual malady part of alcoholism/addiction) but it can also be brought on by biochemical issues,” Wetsman added.

Huh?

So was I experiencing the chemical part of my “addiction” or was I having a depressive episode? Perhaps my whole life I’d been confusing the two. Of course, all I wanted, like a typical addict, was a pill to fix it. But as I’ve done the medication merry-go-round (and around and around) with mild to moderate success, I was hesitant to start messing with meds again. I didn’t have a terrific psychiatrist, and SSRI’s can really screw with my epilepsy. And Wetsman was talking about dopamine here, not serotonin. Hmmm…

Dr. Wetsman has some interesting stuff about brain chemistry and addiction on his vlog. He mentions something called “dopamine tone” which is a combination of how much dopamine your VTA (Ventral Tegmental Area) releases, how many dopamine receptors you have on your NA (Nucleus Accumbens), and how long your dopamine is there and available to those receptors.

Stress can cause you to have fewer dopamine receptors and fewer receptors equal lower dopamine tone. He’d explained to me in previous conversations how almost all of the people with addiction he’d treated had what he described as “low dopamine tone.”

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When you have low dopamine tone, you don’t care about anything, have no motivation, can’t feel pleasure, can’t connect to others. In addition, low dopamine tone can affect how much serotonin is being released in the cortex. Low midbrain dopamine tone can lead to low serotonin which means, in addition to not giving a shit about anything, you also have no sense of well-being. Well, that certainly sounded familiar.

Dr. Wetsman has a very convincing but still somewhat controversial theory that addiction is completely a brain disease and that using drugs is the result, not the cause. I really suggest you get his book, Questions and Answers on Addiction.

It’s 90 pages — you could read half of it on the john and half of it while waiting at the carwash. It explains in detail why most of us addicts felt weird and off before we picked up and why we finally felt normal when we used. Again, it’s all about dopamine, and it’s fucking fascinating. No joke.

In his vlog, he explains that dopamine production requires folic acid which you can get from green leafy veggies (which I admittedly don’t eat enough of) but it also requires an enzyme (called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase or MTHFR for short) to convert folate into l-methyl folate. Certain people have a mutation in the gene that makes MTHFR, so they can’t turn folate into l-methyl folate as effectively, and those people are kind of fucked no matter how many kale smoothies they drink.

But it’s not hopeless. If people with this genetic mutation take a supplement of l-methyl folate, their brain can make enough dopamine naturally. Of course, once you have enough dopamine, you’ve got to make sure you release enough (but there’s medication for that) and that you have enough receptors and that it sits in the receptors long enough (and there are meds for that too).

So this all got me wondering if maybe my MTHFR enzyme was wonky or completely AWOL. Dr. Wetsman urged me to find a good psychiatrist (since I’m on Prozac and two epileptic medications) or a local addictionologist in addition to taking a genetic test for this mutation. In his experience, patients who had a strong reaction to taking the l-methyl folate supplement were frequently also on SSRIs. They either felt much better right away or really really shitty. But if they felt even shittier (because the higher serotonin levels work on a receptor on the VTA which then lowers dopamine), he would just lower their SSRI or sometimes even titrate them off it completely. And voila. Success.

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It’s all very complicated, and this whole brain reward system is a feedback loop and interconnected with all kinds of stuff like Gaba and Enkephalins (the brain’s opioids) and Glutamate. But you guys don’t need me for a neuroscience lesson so I’m trying to keep it simple. The basics: how do you know if you have too little dopamine?

You have urges to use whatever you can to spike your dopamine: sex, food, gambling, drugs, smoking, and so on. What about too much dopamine? OCD, tics, stuttering, mental obsession and eventually psychosis. Too little serotonin? Anxiety and the symptoms of too high dopamine tone. Too much serotonin? The same thing as too little dopamine tone. Everything is intricately connected, not to mention confusing as all hell.

Being broke and lazy and having had decades of shitty psychiatrists, I decided to go rogue on this whole mission (not recommended). I mean I used to shoot stuff into my arm that some stranger would hand me through the window of their 87 Honda Accord so why be uber careful now? This l-methyl folate supplement didn’t require a prescription anymore anyway. What did I have to lose? I did, however, run it by my sponsor whose response was: “I’m no doctor, honey, but it sounds benign. Go ahead.”

I ordered a bottle. A few days later I heard the UPS guy drop the packet into my mail slot. I got out of bed, tore open the envelope and popped one of these bad boys. A few hours later I started to feel that dark cloud lift a little. Gotta be a placebo effect, right? The next day I felt even better. And the next day better still. I didn’t feel high or manic. I just felt “normal.” Whoa. It’s been weeks now and the change has been noticeable to friends and family.

Normal. That’s all I ever really wanted to feel. And the first time I felt normal was when I tried methamphetamine at 24. It did what I wanted all those anti-depressants to do. It made me feel like I knew other people felt: not starting every day already 20 feet underwater. I found out later that my mother and uncle were also addicted to amphetamines which further corroborates my belief that there is some genetic anomaly in my inherited reward system.

When I emailed Dr. Wetsman to tell him how miraculously better I felt, his first response was “Great. I’m glad. The key thing is to take the energy and put it into recovery. People go two ways when they feel amazingly better. One: ‘Oh, this is all I ever needed. I can stop all this recovery stuff.’ Or two: ‘Wow, I feel better. Who can I help?’ Helping others in recovery will actually increase your dopamine receptors and make this last. Not helping people will lead to shame, lowered dopamine receptors and it stops being so great.”

So no, I’m not going to stop going to meetings or doing my steps or working with my sponsor and sponsees. Being part of a group, feeling included and accepted, even those things can create more dopamine receptors. But sadly I’m still an addict at heart and I want all the dopamine and dopamine receptors I can get. However, I also know that enough dopamine alone isn’t going to keep me from being a selfish asshole…

But maybe, just maybe, having sufficient dopamine tone and working a program will.

 

 

Amy Dresner

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Amy Dresner is a recovering drug addict and all around fuck up.

She’s been regularly writing for The Fix since 2012. When she isn’t humorously chronicling her epic ups and downs for us, she’s freelancing for Refinery 29, Alternet, After Party Chat, Salon, The Frisky, Cosmo Latina, Unbound Box, Addiction.com and Psychology Today.

Her first book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean was published in September 2017 by Hachette Books.  Follow her on Twitter @amydresner.

 

 

Recovery Month Featured Guest Article. “A Gambling Story.” By Charles Watson.

Recovery Month Featured Guest Article. “A Gambling Story.” By Charles Watson.


Will call her “Jenny.”

Jenny is a thirty-eight-year-old who shared her gambling addiction story with my friend Charles Watson who is a content writer for addiction/recovery and health-related issues. Jenny let us share some of her feelings and struggles with addicted gambling as part of an interview with Charles. To keep her bit anonymous, I’m using the first name only. Here is what he learned from his talk with Jenny. As we know those of us maintaining recovery, sharing our stories can be a powerful tool to help others and share hope…

“My Gambling Addiction Story”

I never wanted to admit that I was addicted to gambling until I went home late one evening and found my 10-year-old son quietly sitting outside our apartment. Next to them was a bag full of toys and some school stuff.

The moment I saw him, I knew what was going on. Still, I waited until my son blurted it out, “uncle told us to leave, mom.” Yes, we were being evicted. I know I was five months behind our rent and that we only managed to stay longer since the landlord pitied my son. Then again, this fact didn’t stop me from falling deeper and deeper into my gambling habit.

On my way to work, I’d pass by the casino, try my luck at one of the machines there, as if it’s a part of my daily morning routine. For me, that was how I should jumpstart my day. After work, I’d pass by the casino again, and no matter how full or empty the casino parking lot would look like, I always had a reason to go inside. If the parking lot was full, I’d talk myself right inside thinking that the machines will be paying out now. If the parking lot was empty, then I’d think that the slots will pay out again this time. That’s how bad it has gotten! My thinking was even addicted and going entirely in the wrong direction.

My Backstory

I came from a struggling family. I had eight other siblings, my mother worked as a preschool teacher while my father prided himself in being a professional drunk. We could barely make ends meet because my father would always steal my mother’s money for alcohol. My siblings and I ended up working odd jobs to support ourselves. Cash was hard to find for us back then.

Luckily, I got a scholarship for college and with blood, sweat, and tears I was able to graduate. Since I was at the top of my class, I attracted a firm and was hired as a PR and Advertising Consultant in one of the biggest PR firms in the city right after graduation. Even though I was new, my firm was confident to let me handle large accounts.

Having drive and determination and a “DON’T- take-No-for-an-answer” attitude, I was promoted after a year. I was just 24 at the time I landed the account that turned my career around. I was doing really great and for the first time ever, I felt like I could do anything, and finally, money was now effortless to find making life much easier. I was at the peak of my career when I met Josh, the father of my child.

I knew him to be a well-mannered gentleman who came from a good family. He presented himself as somebody who is successful in his career and is financially stable. I felt secure having Josh in my life. This is the same reason that prompted me to move in with him, even before we were married. In 2007, I gave birth to our first child. Since I feel like I needed to spend more time with our newborn, I decided to quit my job.

I gathered all my savings and invested it in a business Josh was planning to start. In short, I gave Josh all my money. A week after I gave him the money, he talked to me again, now asking me to give him more. He said he needed more investors for his business. So, I borrowed money from friends and from the people I worked with in the past. I gave him a total of $50,000…

“After getting all the money from me, Josh just disappeared.”


How my gambling problem started

I was furious. I couldn’t accept the fact that Josh left me and for a younger woman. I cried buckets and buckets of tears day after day. I overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol in attempts to escape from my problems. I also met a few friends who invited me to the casino to ‘supposedly’ unwind and rest from my worries and stress. When I told my new-found friends that I don’t have money for the casino, they told me to pawn anything valuable I have. So, heeding their advice, I pawned the diamond ring Josh gave me as a gift for our anniversary. Off we went to the casino!

When I saw the colorful lights and festive atmosphere of the casino, I was ecstatic. After a very long time, I finally broke away from my misery. That day, the casino became my savior, my refuge, and my escape. I tried playing with the slot machine and voila! For my fourth try, I won big! Whew! I felt like my life was slowly getting back on the right track that night. That night ended with me bagging another big win before we left! I was hooked!

The next day, I spoke to my old boss and asked him to take me back. I felt if I went back I would win big again. Then, I got my old job back, but it was very different this time. My motivation to work was to have money to spend at the casino. My thinking sure changed after those couple big wins. Every time I received my paycheck, I would immediately go to the casino and into the arms of my slot machines. I would always think about the fun, dream world, and seemingly happy casino atmosphere. It was something that I could not get over. And just how fast I got hooked!


Acknowledging The problem and Doing Something About It

I never acknowledged it as a problem until I saw my son crying because he was starving. We had nothing in the fridge. No water, no electricity, as well. I realized I was no longer buying groceries and I was not paying our bills. All I was thinking was the casino! After spending another night at the casino, I went home to an eviction notice. We had nowhere to live. I only had five dollars in my wallet. How would we survive? I decided to stay with my mom and dad. I shared my gambling problem with my mother, and she asked me to speak to her friend who is a counselor.

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Tackle Childhood Trauma 3

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We made my first appointment and after, I was happy to find a counselor who was empathetic and supportive of my decision to break away from my gambling habit. I still see her every week. Even though I’m still struggling, I can say that I’m doing the right thing and on the right track. It’s ironic how we only decide to do something about a problem once everything else in our lives is a mess. My experience was genuinely becoming unmanageable.

I’m still thinking about the casino and the rush and high I get every time I go there. But then again, when I look at my son, I know there is more to life than my need to temporarily escape from my problems and issues. I have work to do in learning the proper tools and skills to keep me from gambling as I now know I have a problem with it.

In closing, I’m trying to stay on the right track — for myself and give a better life to my son.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Guest Blogger: Charles Watson. Brand: Sunshine Behavioral Health


Charles L. Watson is a freelance writer. Although he holds no medical or psychological degree, his content writing specialties include both addiction, recovery, and health-related topics. You can read more of his content for Sunshine Behavior Health. He would like to thank “Jenny” for her time and honesty with regards to her story above. While the story itself is heartbreaking, let us remember that gambling itself is an addiction and recovery from this disease is possible.  Charles can be reached on Twitter.