Faith Facts Friday With Fiona

Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Twelve

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.

AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).

Big Book

Today, I’ll be breaking down a section of the chapter Working With Others.

Working With Others

This chapter makes clear that the desire to get sober must come from within. We can’t make a family member, friend, or sponsee want to quit drinking. If they don’t want to, we simply have to move on.

Working With Others reads, “To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy” (p 96).

That’s much easier said than done! Fortunately, we have prayer and meditation on our side. We have spiritual tools that allow us to deal with any situation.

When working with a new sponsee, it’s important to remember that we’re offering spiritual guidance only. To that end, this chapter says, “…that he is not trying to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him” (p 96).

I’m not a bank and I’m not a homeless shelter (although being both those things would be pretty rad!). I’m an alcoholic who has found a spiritual solution to the disease of alcoholism. That’s all I can offer a woman seeking help.

Working With Others goes on to list some of the ways that helping others can be inconvenient. Remember, life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows! The chapter talks about how working with a sponsee may mean losing sleep, interrupting personal activities and work, having to go to hospitals and jails, and my phone ringing at all hours.

That seems like a lot of negative consequences all from helping someone out! Guess what? They’re all worth it. Anyone who has seen light and life return to a sponsee’s eyes will tell you the same.

Is sponsorship sometimes a hassle? Absolutely. Do I really want to pick up the phone during the last five minutes of Scandal? Not even a little bit. But I do it anyway. I sponsor women because it’s the best feeling in the world to help someone else and expect nothing in return. It’s the closest I get to meeting God.

Working With Others then returns to the idea there are certain things we shouldn’t help newcomers with. It says,

“He clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense…we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God” (p 98).

Ain’t that the truth! I thought I needed to have a good job to get sober. I got that job and continued to drink. I thought I needed a cute guy to get sober. I got a cute guy and would drink in the bathroom after he fell asleep.

I needed God to get sober. That was it. End of story. Working With Others points this out, too. The chapter reads, “For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing to get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the word, is needed or wanted” (p 98).

That’s been my experience. When I was finally ready and willing to get sober, there wasn’t much I needed. I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. Oh, and I had God in my life. Guess what? I got, and stayed, sober!

The 9th Step Promises

Written By: Fiona Stockard

What are the 9th Step Promises?

The ninth step promises are a section of the Big Book where recovering alcoholics are promised certain things. I like the sound of that! Remember though, these promises only apply to alcoholics working the steps. Specifically, they only apply to those who’ve reached the ninth step.

So, what does the Big Book promise us? Red bottom heels and a hot guy? A Rolex and a smaller waist? Nope! It promises us emotional and spiritual health. It promises us that we’ll finally be okay.

Bill Wilson wrote –

9th step promises

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

(The Big Book, pp. 83-84).

Like many alcoholics, I’d heard the promises read at meetings. I’d seen them hanging on the wall of clubhouses. Hell, I even went to a meeting called “The Page Eighty-Three Promises Meeting.” I thought I knew the ninth step promises.

It turns out, like many blessings in sobriety, I knew these promises on paper, but had no idea what they looked like in real life.

My Experience with the 9th Step Promises

I got sober and I began to learn what these promises were really about.

See, things like “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” and “We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows” sound good. When they happen in your life though? The feeling is nothing short of amazing.

After completing my steps, I was stunned. I was, for the first time in my life, free. I was okay in my own skin. More importantly, I was able to show other women how to be free. I was able to be selfless, rather than selfish.

So, friends and dear readers, I’ll leave you with my personal take on the ninth step promises.

Fiona’s 9th Step Promises

If we complete the steps, we’re going to be amazing. Sometimes it’ll be halfway through, sometimes it’ll be afterwards, but it’ll always happen.

We’re going to know the freedom of sobriety and the happiness of recovery.

We won’t regret the past. In fact, we’ll embrace the past and use it to help other women recover.

We will live in serenity and we will practice peace, helpfulness, and love to others.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we’ll rise. We’ll rise because women lift us. We’ll then lift other women. Together, we’ll rise and never fall.

Uselessness will become useless. Self-pity will become useless. Service will become everything.

We will lose interest in our old lives and gain interest in God and other women.

Self-seeking will become uncomfortable. Selfishness will become uncomfortable.

Our attitude and outlook upon life will change and become whatever God wants it to be.

Fear of people, of economic insecurity, of being single, of gaining weight, of being rejected, of being embarrassed, of being anything other than exactly who and what we are – will leave us.

We will learn how to handle situations with grace and dignity.

We will suddenly realize God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves and that God has been with us, carrying and helping us, all along.

Are these extravagant promises? F**k no.

They’re being fulfilled among us – look around and see the beautiful healing power of sobriety.

They happen for everyone, always, if we do the work.

Getting Sober…on Facebook?

Can We Use Facebook to Get Sober?

Recently, The Atlantic published an essay about one woman watching her friends fall into, and recover from, heroin addiction. While their sheer volume often drowns these stories out, this particular one was interesting.

online sobriety

What made this essay different from the other 10,000 we see everyday? Well, it looked at addiction and recovery through the lens of Facebook!

I use Facebook pretty much all day. I’m always peeking in to see if I was tagged in anything and what my friends are up to. Add Instagram, Twitter, etc. to the mix and it becomes plain to see that we’re surrounded 24/7 by social media!

But what if we could use Facebook, and all the others, to spread a message of hope and recovery? I mean, you’re probably reading this article right now because you saw it on social media!

So, how can we, as women in recovery, use social media for more than a five-minute distraction?

Social Media and Active Addiction

It’s funny how accurate The Atlantic’s essay was. They talk about how friends and family of addicts can gauge someone’s addiction through their activity on social media.

That is 100% my story! I can’t tell you how many times I deactivated my Facebook when I was getting high. My Myspace and LiveJournal (I’m dating myself, I know!) fell out of use when I was drinking. Concerned comments would pile up and give me even more guilt.

There’s the other side, too. I remember posting countless pictures of friends and myself playing beer pong or at a party with our white girl wasted faces.

Classic teenager and young adult move, right? Except, for me, these “fun” pictures were less a chronicle of youthful mistakes and more snapshots of my active addiction.

Facebook and Sobriety

And then I started trying to get sober. Suddenly, Facebook became less terrifying. Rather than hiding from concerned friends’ messages, I could post how great life was! Of course, relapse would send me running from the computer.

The Atlantic’s article touches upon this very idea. The author writes about seeing her addict friends post things like “Today is ninety days!!” I’m pretty sure I made that exact same post…more than once!

This is where Facebook, and the rest of the social media family, can become useful, and even indispensible, to sobriety.

Imagine if you lived in a small town and didn’t have access to around the clock meetings. Imagine it’s two a.m., you can’t sleep, and all you can think of is drinking. What’s a girl to do?

Simple! You can hop on Facebook and instantly connect to millions of other recovering addicts and alcoholics. You can get support, encouragement, and general positive messages no matter the time or location.

That sounds pretty awesome to me!

Let’s Spread a Message of Hope!

Can we all agree, right here and right now, to start a new trend? Let’s switch from liking pictures and status to liking God and our sisters in recovery!

Let’s start using Facebook to spread a message of hope and recovery!

Faith Facts Friday With Fiona

Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Eleven

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.

AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).

Big Book

Today, I’ll be breaking down a section of the chapter Working With Others.

Working With Others

Picking up from last week, Working with Others urges us to use simple language when working with sponsees. It reads, “…you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice…” (p. 93).

Remember, the goal of sponsorship, of any service work, is to be helpful. We can’t be helpful if we’re using ten-dollar words! That’s only going to confuse people.

What about working with newcomers who have strong religious backgrounds? Don’t worry, the chapter has that covered too. It says –

“Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. His religious education and training may be far superior to yours…But he will be curious to learn why his own convictions have no worked and why yours seem to work so well…To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action” (p. 93).

This is absolutely true! I’ve worked with many women who know more about a particular religion than I do. Their knowledge didn’t keep them sober though. This goes back to one of the pillars of A.A. – knowledge isn’t enough to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Self-knowledge doesn’t work. Religious knowledge doesn’t work. Knowledge in any form isn’t enough. We need, as the Big Book says, “self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.”

How do we get to action? Simple. Working with Others says, “Outline the program of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him” (p. 94).

There you have a very vague description of the twelve-steps. Our self-appraisal is the fourth step. Straightening out our past is the ninth step. Being helpful to others is the twelfth-step.

Through working these steps (and the other nine!), we have a spiritual experience. And that, my friends, is what sobriety is all about!

Getting back to helping newcomers, the chapter touches upon some common roadblocks we, as sponsors, experience. It says –

“Your candidate may give reasons why he need not follow all of the program. He may rebel at the thought of a drastic housecleaning which requires discussion with other people” (p. 94).

and –

“Tell him you once felt as he does, but you doubt whether you would have made much progress had you not taken action” (p. 94).

and –

“If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees, you may have to drop him until he changes his mind” (p. 95).

and finally –

“If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us” (p. 95).

I can’t overstate these enough! Not everyone who asks for our help will really want it. I’ve sponsored more than my share of women who call for a few weeks, maybe even work the first couple of steps, and then disappear.

On the flip side, I’ve been that woman! I pulled the disappearing act myself. I had quite a few sponsors before I actually worked the steps.

What made this last time different? I’m not sure. I think I was ready to commit to going through all of the steps. I didn’t pull the disappearing act. I stuck around.

Guess what? It’s led to a life beyond my wildest dreams!

You Can Wear WHAT in Sobriety?

Sober Clothing: Rad or Fad?

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years of women in recovery rocking some b*dass sober clothing.

sober clothing

In fact, from the humble beginnings of wearing a recovery shirt to a meeting, sober clothing has grown into a booming industry. Don’t believe me? Check out Party Sober Clothing.

Party Sober, and a handful of other recovery clothing lines, are trying to redefine how the general public views sobriety. They’re seeking to change the popular conception of recovery and let the world know we’re not a glum lot.

Is this new trend of sober clothing something rad or simply a fad? Will our alcoholic grandchildren wear sweatshirts that proudly proclaim “Never Hungover,” or will recovery clothing make some waves and fade away? And what about personal anonymity? So many questions!

Recovery Clothing: Trend or Game Changer?

Is recovery clothing here to stay? Well, the answer depends largely on the end goal of sober clothing lines. Are they making shirts that read “I Heart Sober Boys” to make money or is their goal to raise awareness about what recovery is really like?

The longevity of any company, especially those involved in social causes, rests on their overall mission. Think about it – if a company is genuinely interested in bringing about positive change, people are going to respond.

Look at TOMS shoes. For every pair of shoes bought, they donate a pair to those in need. That’s a win-win. That also generates the best kind of advertising – word of mouth from satisfied customers. In short, TOMS is selling more than shoes. They’re selling hope.

So, are recovery clothing lines like Party Sober in it for the money or to help people? Well, the guys behind the brand write, “The Party Sober mission is simple, to glamorize a sober lifestyle opposite of what mainstream media glorifies.”

I can get behind that. Imagine if we saw honest and accurate portrayals of sobriety in the media. We’d see a lot more women walking through the doors of meetings! Speaking of meetings, how does anonymity factor into sober clothing?

Are We Broadcasting too Much?

recovery clothing

Ah, the age-old question of anonymity. How do we balance our personal anonymity with our personal style? For that matter, is wearing recovery clothing breaking anonymity at the levels of press, radio, and film?

I think, like most questions of anonymity, this is a personal choice. Personally, I’m okay with wearing a shirt that says “Still Hot When You’re Sober” or “All This & Sober.” That’s me, though. What’s okay for me might not be okay for others.

It’s important to point out that we should be living by spiritual principles before we start wearing recovery clothing. After all, if I’m wearing a “Still Hot When You’re Sober” shirt and acting like a brat, well, I’m not making sobriety look attractive. Remember, this is a program of attraction!

Why Stores Would Never Carry a Sober Clothing Line

One of the largest challenges, maybe even the largest challenge, recovery clothing lines face is getting stores to carry their clothes.

Now, in the age of the internet, when so many of us shop online, this might not seem like a problem. It’s not a problem, if a company’s goal is simply to make money. But if they’re attempting to change how society at large views recovery, it is a problem!

Right now, stores aren’t going to carry recovery clothing because it hasn’t reached that critical mass of cool. I mean, are teenagers lining up to get a sobriety date bracelet? I don’t think so.

If brands like Party Sober continue their good fight to break the stigma of addiction and recovery stores will one day carry their clothes. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached that day yet.

Would You Wear Sober Clothing?

Like I said above, I know what’s okay for me, but I don’t know what’s okay for you. Learning this lesson is one of the greatest gifts sobriety has given me!

So, would you wear sober clothing? Let us know!

One Woman’s Remarkable Fight Against Anorexia

How It All Started

At the age of twelve, I started to feel different about myself. I saw flaws and didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. It was the summer and I remember looking in my friends mirror and seeing my body for what felt like the first time.

rayne87

I hated my body. All I can see was fat and it scared me.

I made a mental note that I was going to change this. For the whole six weeks of summer, I was going to make my body different.

I started by running everywhere when out playing with my friends. Then I slowly cut back on eating. No snacks, eating less at dinner, etc. Before I knew it, I was hardly eating anything at all and exercising all day.

I used to go to tell my family I was going to bed at six. Really, I’d exercise in my room constantly until eleven. My parents found me going to bed this early strange, but I made excuses. That’s one thing anorexia is good for – making up lies so it doesn’t get found out.

When it came to time to eat and people were around, I’d pretend to dish myself up food and eat it. If they were watching me closely, I’d even put food on my plate. Then I started to hide food.

I’d wear clothes with pockets so when people weren’t looking, I could quickly stuff food into them. I’d tip my drink down the back of the sofa and flush food down the toilet. If I ate, my brain wouldn’t be happy.

My anorexia started with my in control, but ended with my losing completely control, rather quickly too.

Anorexia Takes Over

I was admitted to an adolescent mental health unit by the age of thirteen. Sadly, this facility was no help to me at all. The longer I was there, the more anorexic I became. The longer I was there, the more ingrained my eating disorder became.

They staff didn’t understand eating disorders and I was surrounded by people with serious mental illnesses. Not like me. Of course, I know see how sick I was.

Slowly, I became more and more depressed. My brain wouldn’t give me even one moment of peace. I just couldn’t escape. My mind and body were deteriorating. That’s when I turned to self-harm.

At first, it gave me some form of release. It made me feel a tiny bit better, if only for a minute. It was the same when I started acting out on anorexia. It made me feel better about myself. I could never please the voices in my head, though. Nothing I did was ever good enough.

From Bad to Worse

I was in and out of that adolescent unit until the age of fifteen. Then I was sent to a specialized eating disorder unit. I hated ever moment. I hated being made to eat. It terrified me.

rayne87

I still found ways of hiding food, though. By this time, I’d also started to make myself sick. I couldn’t stand to keep any food in my body. I hated the feeling of being full. It drove me mad. It scared me. It tormented me.

Eventually, the nurses found out I was throwing up and I had to have someone come to the toilet with me. I also had to have someone follow me around all day, but I still found ways to cheat.

I’m not proud of what I did, but deep down I know it wasn’t really me doing it.

I began to throw up into things in my room. Video boxes, my wash bag, even the floor if I was desperate.

I stayed in this eating disorder unit for three more years. By the time I turned eighteen, I could no longer stay on the adolescent unit. I wasn’t allowed to leave of my own free will, either.

My parents couldn’t even take me home. I remember them being told to leave. I watched them from my window. At that moment, my whole world fell apart. I hit the absolute bottom.

I started to learn how to cope with my illness. I started to become a healthier weight. I was still underweight, but getting healthier. The doctors and nurses noticed and I was finally allowed to go home.

She Lost Everything

I did well until I reached twenty, when I relapsed. This wasn’t my first relapse, mind you, but this was the first time I’d managed to live successfully for years before everything came crashing down.

I was sent to a different eating disorder unit and it was the worst experience of my life. The staff didn’t understand at all. We were left for whole days with nothing to do.

I slept away most of my time there. Eventually, though, it all became too much. I started to fight to get better. This wasn’t ‘cause I wanted to get better, but because I couldn’t stand to be there for another minute. It was pure hell.

A Cycle of Relapse

Eventually, I discharged after I reached my target weight. Things went well for another few years. I was happy and life seemed good. I managed to stay out of any mental health units…until I turned twenty-four.

rayne87

At twenty-four years old, I relapsed again. This time things didn’t get as bad as they had in the past. Still, I needed help, so I was admitted to a day unit. This time I had a very different experience!

I met some wonderful and lovely people there. I met some of my closest friends there. That was two years ago. In the past two years, I have relapsed. I haven’t gone back to the beginning though.

That’s what those suffering from an eating disorder have to hold on to. Yes, you may relapse, but it’s a different stage of relapse. It becomes easier to return to normality, to recovery.

Although I’ve never been fully rid of the illness, I’ve had times where I can manage it and live with it in health. If you relapse, admit it to yourself! Admit you’ve fallen, dust yourself off, and get back up.

There’s HOPE

We have to be strong! Eating disorders are cunning and find ways to creep back into our lives, especially when we’re most vulnerable. We can fight!

We can realize the feeling eating disorders offer is a lie. It doesn’t give us control. No, it takes away control. Eating disorders control us. “Life” with this illness isn’t life at all. Life with this illness is merely existing, not living.

There may be times you want to give up and die because it seems easier than fighting the voice in your head. There may be times you want to quit life because it seems easier than dealing with the torment and self-hatred.

rayne87

There’s more to life than anorexia. I promise you. Eating disorders don’t want you to realize this.

It’s definitely a long and hard road, but no matter how long it takes – don’t give up! Don’t let it win! It’s time to get your life back!

I never thought that I’d suffer from this illness for over half my life. If I could turn back the clock, I’d never stopped eating. I didn’t plan to be anorexic. It simply took over.

It became me, until I was nothing but anorexia and I lost every tiny part of myself. I lost my friends, family, and relationships. This illness doesn’t give you anything. It just takes and takes. It takes everything.

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with anorexia or any other eating disorder, keep fighting! One day it’ll get easier! One day you’ll get who you really are back. One day you’ll see that all this fighting’s been worth it!

You’re worth so much more than this illness. I promise you, you are! Always stay strong and remember you’re not alone. Always stay strong and remember we can all change!

 

Find Rayne87 on Instagram to learn more about her amazing story!

Faith Facts Friday With Fiona

Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Ten

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.

AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).

Big Book

Today, I’ll be breaking down a section of the chapter Working With Others.

Working With Others

This chapter, as the name ever so subtly suggests, is about working with other alcoholics. This usually takes the form of sponsorship, though there are many ways to be of service to our fellow drunks!

The chapter opens by saying, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail” (p. 89).

That’s the truth! Sponsorship, or even generally helping other alcoholics, is the heart of AA. It’s the only way to stay sober no matter what.

Guess what else? Working with newcomers has a lot of other benefits as well. Case in point, Working with Others reads,

“Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss” (p. 89).

The chapter then goes on to offer suggestions for finding active alcoholics. Remember, the Big Book was written in 1939. There wasn’t a multibillion-dollar rehab industry around then!

Most of these suggestions are pretty outdated. They do offer a few good points, though, like –

“…cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim” (p. 89).

“If [s]he does not want to stop drinking, don’t waste time trying to persuade him [or her!]” (p. 90).

“If [s]he does not want to see you, never force yourself upon him [or her!]” (p. 90).

And finally –

“Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself…give him a sketch of your drinking career…when he sees you know all about the drinking game, commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic” (p. 91).

Those all stand the test of time pretty well! It doesn’t matter if it’s 1939 or 2014, those are solid ways to approach, talk to, and help newcomers.

So, what about once you’ve approached a new woman? How do you convince her you know what you’re talking about? How do you make it clear that you have a solution to active alcoholism?

Simple! Working with Others says, “Show him [or her!] the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree…If [s]he is alcoholic, [s]he will understand you at once. [S]he will match your mental inconsistencies with some of his own” (p. 92).

That’s identification. If I’m talking to a newcomer and she starts nodding her head and saying, “yeah, yeah, that’s me!” I know she’s identified with me. I know that, despite being new to AA, she’s found some hope in what I’m saying. And hope, my friends, is what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about.

Working with Others offers some more ideas on how to foster identification. The chapter reads,

“Show him [or her!], from your own experience, how the queer mental conditions surrounding that first drink prevents normal function of the will power…Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it” (p. 92).

This installment of Faith Facts Friday, with your lovely host Fiona, ends on one of my favorite passages from the Big Book. Remember that idea of hope? Here Working with Others spells it out explicitly,

“…he has become very curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you that question, if he will. Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles (p. 93).

Tune in next week for a breakdown of the rest of Working with Others!

How Rehab Saved My Life: An Open Letter to Vice News

You Got it Wrong, Vice

By: David Greenspan

Vice recently published a two-part exposé on the sad state of this country’s for-profit substance abuse treatment centers.

vice dying for treatment

The videos and article centered around the story of Brandon Jacques, your typical American every-kid, who passed away on April 2nd, 2011 in a California detox.

While Brandon’s is a touching and true story, Vice’s damning depiction of the rehab industry left a lot to be desired. Are there problems with this industry? Absolutely. Do they apply to every treatment center? Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Because Vice’s report took the form of Brandon Jacques’ narrative, I thought I’d write an open letter to them about my own narrative. Treatment saved my life. It’s that simple.

How Rehab Saved My Life

I’ve had a problem with drugs and alcohol since I was twelve years old. Right from the get go, I suffered consequences from my drug use. The first time I smoked weed was on school property. I was caught and suspended.

The following year, I sold Ambien to a kid in my school. He had an allergic reaction and almost died. I was once again caught and suspended. You’d think these events would be a wake up call, right? Nope. I was already caught in the cycle of active addiction.

I was sent to my first intensive outpatient program (IOP for short) pretty soon afterwards. Thus began my illustrious career as a rehab client.

By the time I was eighteen, I’d been to three outpatient programs and two jail cells. Each IOP was a for-profit center located in or around New York City. Throughout all three, I drank and drugged. Is that the rehab’s fault? Absolutely not.

Each IOP program went above and beyond while trying to help me. They offered family services for my parents. Counselors spent long hours arguing with me about my drug use, which, by this time, had turned to full-fledged addiction. Counselors took time from their weekends to bring me to twelve-step meetings.

None of it worked. You know why? Because I wasn’t ready to stop. Because I was a full blown alcoholic and addict who, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, thought everything was fine.

Once I turned eighteen, I entered my first for-profit inpatient rehab. It was one of the many in south Florida. I was out and using six months later. Again, this treatment center went above and beyond for me and my family. To this day, I’m still in contact with counselors, behavioral health professionals, and doctors I met there.

Was it the rehab’s fault I relapsed? Nope. I remember waiting for a bus while being strung out. I was shaking like a leaf, the Florida heat didn’t help one bit. Guess who walks up to me? A behavioral health professional from the rehab. We talked for over an hour. She took me to a meeting and got me into a halfway house.

I was promptly kicked out of the halfway house for getting high. See, that’s what active addicts and alcoholics do. We drink and drug until we’re forced to stop.

The following year, at the ignorant age of nineteen, I entered my second for-profit rehab. By this point, I’d been arrested a handful of times. I’d overdosed more times than I could count. I crashed cars and suffered serious medical consequences as a result of my drug use. I’d burned every bridge I had left. I was done.

This facility, also in south Florida, saved my life. While all the other rehabs went above and beyond, this place was really something. The doctors, counselors, BHP’s, and everyone else working there, were simply amazing. They got me on the right medication. They ran the right groups.

Guess what else happened at that rehab? My insurance ran out. Did they kick me out? Nope. They worked out a payment plan that seemed fair. They continued to treat me. When I had trouble making those payments, they continued to treat me.

See, Vice, there are certainly some shady for-profit rehabs in the U.S. There are certainly places that engage in illegal referrals for kickbacks. There are certainly places that market themselves as “full-service,” despite offering limited treatment options. But not all rehabs are like that. Not even close.

You’re Looking in the Wrong Places, Vice

The Vice exposé focused on luxury California treatment centers and one in Arizona. That’s not really surprising. California has a ton of overpriced and under qualified rehabs. I don’t know about Arizona, but I’d guess they’re the same.

What about south Florida, though? What about Delray Beach, affectionately known as “the recovery capital of the world?”

Now Vice, let me stop you right there. “But David,” they’re saying, “south Florida also has a ton of shady rehabs and halfway houses. Haven’t you read this article?”

I did read it and you’re right, Vice. South Florida has its bad seeds. It has treatment centers, detoxes, and sober living facilities that were founded based on nothing more than greed. It also has a vibrant and one-of-a-kind recovery community.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I work at a for-profit rehab. We’re called Lighthouse Recovery Institute. Does that bias my view about for-profit treatment centers in south Florida and elsewhere? Probably. Does that change the fact that there are plenty of rehabs saving lives left and right? Not one bit.

So, the next time you want to do a report on the treatment industry, Vice, why don’t you try talking to one of them.

Did Charlie Sheen Cause Brett Rossi’s Overdose?

Brett Rossi’s Overdose

Okay, Charlie Sheen didn’t kill his ex-fiancée Brett Rossi, but their unhealthy relationship may have contributed to her recent overdose.

brett rossi overdose

This past weekend, Rossi, whose real name is Scottine Ross, was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She had reportedly overdosed on an unknown substance.

Thankfully, Rossi recovered and is no longer in critical condition.

Her overdose got me thinking about relationships in active addiction. Lord knows I’ve had enough of them!

How do relationships in active addiction impact addiction? How do these relationships fuel the flames of destructive behavior? And the million dollar question – is it possible to really love your significant other while in active addiction?

Dating in Active Addiction

I was actively drinking and drugging for seven years. During that time, I dated more than my fair share of guys, most of who were also drinking and drugging. There were a few unfortunate “normies” thrown in there. Luckily, I’ve been able to make amends to them in sobriety!

So, how did these relationships impact my addiction? Well, they fueled it. Having someone to cosign all of my insanity kept me drinking and drugging for longer than I should have. Having someone by my side, who was just as crazy as I was, made my behavior feel normal.

Not to mention, two addicts can scheme, plot, and scam better than one. My partner in crime, whoever that happened to be at the time, and I would create some sort of weird addict synergy. This also kept me drinking and drugging for longer than I would have otherwise.

Destructive Relationships

That’s my experience, but what about other types of destructive relationships? What about codependency, abusiveness, and general unhealthy behavior?

Well, these are all common to relationships in active addiction. After all, addiction and codependency go hand-in-hand. In active addiction, we’re not only physically, mentally, and spirituality sick, but emotionally sick as well. Having someone around to make us feel loved is huge. That’s been my experience, anyway.

Abusive relationships also go hand-in-hand with active addiction. I know countless boyfriends verbally abused me during my addiction. Thank God I was never physically or sexually abused, though I know that’s common for many female addicts.

As for general unhealthy behavior, that almost goes without saying.

Can Two Active Addicts Love Each Other?

I wish there was a simple answer to this question. Unfortunately, like a lot of factors involved in addiction, there’s no simple answer.

I think it’s possible for two active addicts to truly love each other. I also think it’s possible for two people who love each other to engage in destructive behavior together.

I know I loved at least one of the guys I dated in active addiction. That didn’t stop us from pulling each other down. Love didn’t stop us from hurting each other on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.

So, what’s the solution to destructive relationships in active addiction? Simple. We get sober! If our significant others love us, they’ll support this decision. If our significant others really love us, they’ll follow suite and make some major changes in their lives too.

What’s Worse: Addiction or Ebola?

As Ebola Panic Dies Down, Let’s Talk about Addiction

whats worse ebola or addiction?

A number of new polls show that Americans are less worried about an Ebola outbreak than they were last week! Three cheers for doctors and first-world medical care!

According to Bloomburg Politics, 69% of Americans were “somewhat or very concerned” about Ebola in early October. As of October 29th, that number dropped to 61%.

Also, according to Fox News, a mere 59% of Americans believe Ebola will spread throughout the country. Again, three cheers for medicine!

What does Ebola have to do with Sobriety For Women? I’m asking myself the same question. Well, according to a controversial Huffington Post article, we should be talking about the addiction epidemic, not the Ebola epidemic.

The Real Cost of Addiction

According to Huffington Post, and more importantly the C.D.C., the scope of addiction is staggering. Really, some of these numbers are unbelievable.

Consider the following facts and statistics:

  • In 2012, overdoses were the leading cause of death injury. In fact, overdoses killed more people in the twenty-five to sixty-four age bracket than car accidents.
  • In 2012 alone, 41,502 people died after overdosing. Over half of these deaths were due to pharmaceutical overdoses (oxycodone, Vicodin, Xanax, etc.).
  • There’s been a 117% increase in overdose deaths from 1999 to 2012.

Okay, those are some alarming numbers! More important than shocking numbers, though, is the human cost of addiction.

What if it was YOUR Loved One?

That’s a scary question. I don’t particularly want to think about what my family would have gone through if I’d died as a result of my overdoses.

It’s important to ask though. It’s questions like “what if my sister overdosed and died?” and “what if my daughter overdosed and died?”, that are going to change the conversation about addiction. Remember, we can all change! We can also all change the conversation!

Right now, the public generally views addiction as an unpleasant and misunderstood disease. That last part’s important– a misunderstood disease. While addiction is undoubtedly a disease, this way of thinking tends to dehumanize its victims.

Women in Recovery are More Than Statistics

whats worse ebola or addiction

By adding a personal touch to addiction stories, by adding a face and a smile, the public won’t be able to dehumanize addiction any longer.

Women in recovery aren’t merely statistics. We’re not numbers to be spewed out like an afterschool special. We’re people! We’re daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins, friends, girlfriends, wives, and so much more! We’re spiritual warriors fighting each day to make the world better!

We’re the human face of addiction. Reminding the world that we’re sober addicts and alcoholics (and so much more!) is what’s going to make the addiction dialogue shift.

Our lives and our stories are going to change the conversation from the Ebola epidemic, to the addiction epidemic, to the blessings of recovery!