Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Addiction Memoir: Addiction Certification

Three years ago, I decided to switch my major from business to psychology.  My plan was to go to grad school, earn a masters and then finally start working in the field of addiction.  After, turning three years of school into two years by loading down my semesters with psych class after psych class, I was burnt out on school.  During a psych class, I discovered a way of becoming an addiction counselor that required two years of work experience while counseling under supervision.  Originally, I planned to graduate college and start working a paid position where I could get the needed experience.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only did I discover I probably wasn't going to be getting paid, I found out I would actually have to be paying a professional to learn from him or her.  Yikes!  What did I get myself into...

Well I managed to find a place called Safety Net Recovery, where I could gain the experience I needed without paying someone.  It was perfect.  Now, as a recent college grad, I had to figure out how to make money while working a job in the field I went to school for.  A fellow counselor of where I am currently working at Safety Net offered to help me get a job at a treatment center called Ridgeview Institute. 

As of today, I am going to officially be a paid employee assisting in the counseling of addiction and be getting credited with the hours I need to become a Certified Addiction Counselor.  My perfect plan has arrived.  I am working where I want to be working, I am changing lives, and I am getting paid.  This perfect plan has fallen into place for one reason and one reason only.  I decided to do God's will for my life and not my own.  I have arrived where I am meant to be.  It's happening... It's happening right before my very eyes. My future is here today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Drug and Alcohol Memoir: Preventing Addiction in Teens

How do you prevent drug use in teens? It's the ultimate question. Millions of dollars, hours of research, and tons of trial and error strategies have been used to decipher what is the best way to prevent drug use in teens. Sure, talking to your teen will help and so will the drug and alcohol awareness classes at school, but isn't there more we can do? Haven't we been doing these things for years? What else is there?

When it comes to drug use in teens, one of the most common reasons I've seen for teen usage is a low self-esteem. It's important to get your teen involved in groups that will boost his or her self-esteem though activities that are incompatible with drug use. However! Do not force your teen into the sport, group, or activity you enjoyed while you were in high school. Just because you were the star quarterback does not mean your teen wants to play a sport. Take the time to really find out what he or she enjoys, not what he or she thinks mom and dad will approve of.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Addiction Memoir- Spirituality in Recovery

There comes a point in one’s recovery from addiction, where the question of spirituality is brought to attention. For many individuals, the concept of spirituality is foreign territory. Not because spirituality does not exist, but because drugs and alcohol have left no room for a spiritual being to exist inside the body of the user. A life full of drug use is a life empty on everything else, which is what can make recovery so hard. Take away the drugs and alcohol and what’s left? Nothing.
For this reason, it is important to find a spiritual being to mend the brokenness created from a life filled with drugs and alcohol. Could this be a higher power? Absolutely. Without a higher power to restore the insanity created from addiction, there is no hope for a full recovery. During the period of the active addiction, the drugs and alcohol were the higher power in the addict’s life. If you don’t believe the drugs were the higher power, then you need to go back to step one, where your life was unmanageable.
Finding something bigger than the addicts own selfish desires is how to regain spirituality. This means, find a path that seeks to help others, instead of seeking a path that directly benefits your own desires and needs. Put others needs first and your soul will be restored.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Intervention Books:Addiction Triggers

What are triggers?  A trigger is anything that reminds a substance abuser of fond memories directly related to using drugs or alcohol.  Maybe a trigger is a song that reminds a user of the fun nights with a drug or maybe a certain smell reminds the user of the euphoric feeling of a high or maybe a trigger is a billboard sign promising a beer drinker a guaranteed good time with a cold beverage while watching a football game, but whatever one's triggers are, unfortunately triggers are impossible to avoid.

Although triggers can not be completely avoided, there are certain steps to be taken to reduce the number of triggers a former substance abuser is exposed to.  For example, a former drug user can immedietly turn the radio station when a triggering song comes on or not attend a party where alcohol will be consumed.  Some addicts and alcoholics even go to lengths of cutting the tie to their television in order to avoid the constant wave of beer and liquor adverisements.  Yes, recovery from addiction takes work, sometimes more work than what a user wants to put forth, but without taking action to reduce triggers maintaing sobriety will only become more difficult.  At times the power of a drug or drink  is nearly unstoppable so why add more momentum to a nearly unstopabble train?  Find your triggers, be aware of them, take whatever action to avoid the triggers, and when avoiding the trigger is not possible reach out to someone to talk through the decietful thought that drinking and drugging is worth risking everything.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Addiction Memoirs: Al-Anon

Are you tired of feeling that your loved one is putting their addiction before you?  Does it seem like your relationship with someone special in your life, whether it's a family member or a significant other, seems to be fading into unknown territory?  If so, you are not alone.  Millions of people are connected to somebody they know that is struggling with substance abuse.  In my personal experience, anytime the topic of addiction comes up in conversation, the person I am talking with, will almost always bring up somebody close to them that is struggling with addiction.

The biggest misconception of dealing with the addiction of someonebody else, is a feeling of being alone.  Addiction is everywhere folks and everyone is effected by it.  The more we isolate the problem, thinking we are alone, the worse the situation.  We must reach out to other human beings going through the same struggle we share and talk through the situation.  Unity is stronger than any individual and to think you can take on someone else's addiction without a supportive environment is as insane as the user thinking he or she can keep using without paying any serious consequences.  The supportive environment I am talking about is Al-Anon.  Al-Anon is a group that meets about how to handle the addiction of someone close to you.  If you are personally struggiling with somebody going through addiction or is in recovery, Al-Anon will give you a whole new life.  There are meetings for Al-Anon all over the country and all over Georgia.  For a complete list of where to find a meeting near you, click on this link. Al-Anon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Intervention Two Excerpt

Although my grades were shot, I thought for sure, I was going back to the school the next semester.  It was my first semester in college and I was almost expected to do bad.  Everybody does poorly their first semester.  Seventy percent of college freshman make a grade point average below a 3.0.  So maybe I was below a 1.0 but I would change.  The next semester was going to be completely different. 
Two days after the semester ended, my parents and I were sitting in the living room watching a Christmas special.  They had seen my grades, but a conversation about the semester never came up.  I figured we were on the same page, next semester would be different.  My Dad shut off the television, he looked over at me.  “Chad you’re not going back to school next semester.”
            “We gave you a chance and you blew it.”
My Mom’s eyes were filled with disappointment and anger.  She was quiet.  I was quiet, lost in Dad’s words.
I had to convince them they were wrong.  My emotions were boiling on the inside, but I knew to look calm on the outside.  I started with an even and convincing tone, “Guys, it was just a rough start, I’ll do better, I promise.  College is important to me.”
My Mom read straight through me, “I don’t think so Chad, you’re done, not with a failing GPA.  We can’t trust you.  Plain and simple”
“Guys, I’m serious, I’ll do better, I’ll go to meetings down there, I’ll do whatever it takes.  I need this.”
“Chad.”  My Dad’s tone was in manager mode.  “This isn’t a discussion, you’re moving home.”
The emotions were too strong.  I couldn’t hold my cool any longer.  I threw my head back and let out a few words of disbelief.  It was over.  Their expressions weren’t budging, their minds were set and I was back to living at home.
During the Thanksgiving break, I worked a seasonal position at a furniture store near my parent’s home.  Originally, I planned to work the Thanksgiving break and the Christmas break, hoping to make enough money to pay back my parent’s back, but now I was going to be working the entire next semester, living back under my parent’s rule.  It was depressing.
The night after my parents informed me I would be moving home, I drove back to school to collect my belongings.  When I moved in, it was a glorious day for both my parents and myself.  Now, I was by myself, collecting the pieces of my broken first semester of college.  I blew it, straight up, just like my Dad told me. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Drug and alcohol memoirs: Enabling... The Addiction

Anyone that is currently connected to someone suffering through an active addiction may want to take time to reflect on the enabling side of addiction.  Enabling is a serious problem that can keep someone on the path of addiction and must be addressed.  

As a caring human being, the last thing we want to do, is cause someone pain.  Well what if we are causing more pain for the struggling addict and not even realizing it?  What if we are keeping that person stuck in their pain by giving them the means to continue to use.  Believe me, there is nothing harder than denying someone you love the means he or she needs to survive in this world.  Everybody has to eat.  Everybody needs shelter, a job, and even some of the finer things in life, right?  Of course and naturally it feels right to help someone get those necessities of life.  But what if we took those things away?  What if the addict had to figure out how to balance a life of substance use with the necessities of life? Would the addict survive? 

The majority of us aren't willing to take that chance, because it scares us, so instead we continue to help the person with things like food, water, and shelter.  However, let's think about this; if the addict or alcoholic had to suddenly fend for himself or herself, they may not be able to survive, but that doesn't mean they will die, it means they may be more likely to seek help.  We must stop enabling people, so the person we love can feel how bad their addiction is, then we can work with a mindset that realizes things are beyond their own control.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Addiction memoirs: Changing the negative stigma toward addiction

If addiction is a disease then why do we treat it with a hush hush mentality?  When we hear someone is diagnosed with cancer, we don't start saying things like, "Oh well you brought this upon your self," or "What's wrong with you?"  So if the new thinking regarding addiction is centered on the disease model then why is their still a negative stigma toward addiction?  I can tell you right now.

Changing the mindset of the general public from thinking addiction is self-inflicted to a mindset that addiction is a disease and some people may have fallen into addiction not because of poor choices but because of external situations or even a different chemical make up in the brain, starts with the people in recovery not being afraid to say they are in recovery.  Plain and simple.  If the person in recovery thinks addiction is bad then of course everyone else is going to think addiction is a bad.  Ok, so maybe you're thinking well the person in recovery is afraid to say they are in recovery because people whom don't struggle with addiction will judge the person in recovery.  Is this accurate?  Probably, but this mindset will never change unless the members of the recovery program stand up and say yes I struggle with substances, however look at me now.  I know what's wrong with me and I have made a conciseness decision to improve it, now let's talk about what you are doing to improve your defects because everybody knows there's something wrong with everyone!

More to come on this topic, just getting warmed up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Addiction books: The negative tone towards addiction

Addiction is a disease, there is no doubt about it. But why do people whisper or hint around the topic when they are talking about someone they know whom is struggling with substances? Let's face it, at some point or another, we have tiptoed around using the words addicted or dependent. There's just something about the word that terrifies us. Maybe your perception of someone addicted to drugs and alcohol is a dark shadow in the alleyway or a homeless person under the bridge or even a dangerous criminal.

However, is that truly valid ? Does everyone who suffer from the disease of addiction end up like one of these three people. No. Of course not, but it does not mean our perceptions have changed. Amy Wilson, the Clinical Director at ExecuCare Addiction Recovery Center, recently wrote an article about people's perceptions toward addiction. In her article, Amy discussed the results of a recent survey posted in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The survey revealed data to suggest the general public still carries a negative attitude toward someone struggling from the disease of addiction.

Why do people still carry a negative attitude toward addiction? Could it be that our education system taught us that drugs are dangerous and people that do drugs are bad? Remember, when you were in elementary school and pictures of dangerous people were paired with drugs and alcohol? Well, these images have most likely not left our mind. However, I'm not saying what the school system did was wrong, in fact it's best to associate drug use with danger, but none the less, it's imperative as human beings we recognize people may be using drugs to deal with traumatic life events. Sexual, physical, and verbal abuse is a major reason many people use drugs and alcohol.

The disease model for addiction suggests some people have a genetic blueprint that is more likely to become addicted to drugs and when this personality type is combined with a traumatic life event, drug usage may be unstoppable. With this in mind, I challenge the public to step back and take a deeper thought before associating the word 'bad' with someone suffering from the disease of addiction. Think about why this person is struggling with addiction and offer compassion before you offer judgement. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Intervention 2 Excerpt

One sunny afternoon in the middle of October, I reached into my pocket to answer the vibrating noise of my cell phone. Across the screen, read Dad. An anxious and nervous feeling shot through me. I hesitated to answer the phone call. 
The phone continued to vibrate in my hand. I stared at it debating. Do I answer? He's going to ask about my grades. What do I do? Why's he calling? Just answer.
I made my voice sound clear and innocent, “Hey Dad.”
His voice was stern, I could immediately tell this wasn't going to be good. When he's angry with me, he uses a voice that makes me cringe and he sarcastically pretends to be excited, “Hi Chad, how's it going down there?”
Even though, I knew he wasn't calling for a friendly chat, I responded in a way that I hoped would make everything sound good, “It's great Dad, been studying a lot, hanging out, going to class, it's good, no problems.” A knot formed in my throat. What a lie.
He didn't waste any time, “Really? That's interesting you mentioned studying a lot.” He paused for a second. It made me panic. What's he talking about? Does he know something? What's going on. The world seemed to go into slow motion. The birds quit chirping, the sun quit shining, and the cars quit moving. He knows something! The terror prevented me from speaking. I stayed silent until I heard my mom's voice join the conversation, “CHAD! We just saw your midterm scores. You're practically failing everything!”
What! How! How! How does she know that? I didn't even know that. Failing?
I had to make it sound like everything was under control. “No guys, I just did bad on the first tests, that's all. College is different than high school, I didn't know what to expect. I'll do better. I'm studying more now.” Please buy it. Please believe me.
My mom's voice made me want to hide. “Chad!” I didn't respond. “Chad, you listen to me. Are you listening?”
Yes mom.” I was starting to feel agitated. They were getting in the way of my plans.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Addiction memoirs: Certified Addiction Counselor Training

It's official.  I have begun work at a facility where I can obtain the 4,000 hours of supervised work before I am eligible to become a Certified Addiction Counselor.  Last week was my first week.  I attended a staff meeting, a community meeting, did curfew checks, talked with residents about life issues, did drug screens, and learned as much as I could from the other counselors. What an experience.  I have been waiting to start on the training to become a Certified Addiction Counselor since I changed my major from business to psychology over three years ago.  This is right where I want to be.

I feel like I am doing what I should be and what I truly want to be doing.  How many people can say that about their job?  Sure I may never drive home the new Benz or live on a golf course, but I know now that I am fulfilling my purpose.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Intervention 2 Teaser

Here is a snippet from Intervention 2, the book that will pick up after Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin.  I hope to be done with the writing portion in less than 6 months.

I pulled out my student ID from my jean's pocket and swiped it in the metal box by the glass doors. A red light signaled the door was unlocked and I walked in. The lobby lights were still off and the RA was nowhere in site. He was probably asleep behind the counter. I climbed up the five stairs and opened the door to the stairwell. There was no elevator. Elevators may not have existed yet when this building was built.
My room was on the hallway of the second floor, but instead of exiting the stairwell, I continued to climb to the third floor. The sleeping friends that were with me the night before were about the get a nice wake up call.
I pushed down on the steel handle of their dorm room and pushed it open. A smell of sleeping bodies was in the air. In the corner, a floor fan was circulating the stale air and the blinds were pulled shut.
The banging noise of the door hitting the concrete wall broke their sleep.  That was my plan, to wake them by not catching the door. Once the bodies shifted under the covers, I announced, “Wake up losers!”
They didn't respond, just rolled over, pulling the blankets close to their face.  I walked in between the two twin beds and said, “Hey! Get Up.”
One of the boys eyes opened slightly and he let out a groan, “Uh.” The other boy stayed silent. I pulled out the yellow tickets and slapped the boy's body. “Look! Look what I got last night.” His eyes focused on the tickets, which finally brought him to consciousness. He sat up in the bed and his eyes opened in a way that said 'oh no, the night before wasn't just a bad dream.'   

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Worship is a lifestyle

I won't lie.  I do not have a single musical bone in my body.  When it comes to singing, playing, an instrument or keeping a beat, for me, it is impossible.  It's not one of my strengths.  But the church is always talking about how we will forever be in worship and we should worship the name of the Father.  But I can't sing or play an instrument.  In fact, when I'm in Church and everyone seems to be singing and connecting with the Father through their musical talents, I stand there stiff as a board with my hands in my pockets and my mind wandering to things that have nothing to do with Church.

Well today, all that changed.  The leader of the worship service said something that made my day.  He said, "Worship does not begin and end with a song, no, worship does not have an end or beginning, but instead worship is how we live our lives."

Chills went down my spine, knowing that I could worship through how I conduct my every day life.  I could worship by living my life the way I'm suppose to.  I can worship by creating the natural highs in my life.

Read my story of addiction and recovery:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Drug and alcohol memoirs: Research for the addictive personality

Here is evidence of a personality trait that appears to be programed for drugs and alcohol.  One is novelty seeking and the other is reward dependent
Individuals who posses a trait of novelty seeking may be more likely to become excited when exposed to novel stimuli as well as a tendency to explore the environment, accompanied with a drive to avoid monotony (Cloninger, 1987). A biological explanation of the characteristics seen in novelty seeking is a low level of dopamine (Cloninger, 1987). In order to compensate for the low level of dopamine, the individual may seek activities or substances that produce a high level of dopamine (Cloninger, 1987).

In a study involving animals, Bradberry, Guren, Berridge, and Roth (1991) used in vivo microdialysis to measure dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and found animals with personality characteristics of novelty seeking had the greatest increase in dopamine when given an amphetamine. The same study was replicated, except using cocaine and the results were the same (Hooks, Colvin, Jumcos, & Justice, 1992).
A person with the reward dependence trait is purposed by Cloninger (1987) to be stubborn when it comes to the extinction of a behavior that has been rewarded in the past. Because a substance may produce an experience of positive affect, (i.e. a reward) an individual with this trait may be more likely to continue with the same behavior of using the substance. Also, reward dependent individuals may be highly sensitive to rewards like social approval (Cloninger, 1987).
To help clarify why a person has a trait of reward dependence, a biological explanation is of interest. An individual expressing reward dependent behaviors is thought to have a brain system that is more active to external stimulation and is less sensitive to irrelevant stimuli due to high sensitivity to norepinephrine (Segal & Bloom, 1976; Frith, Dowdy, Ferrier, & Crow, 1985). As a result, Cloninger (1987) hypothesized that these individuals will have a stronger conditioning to the feeling of strong rewards (e.g. the high of the substance), but will not remember the irrelevant side effects such as a hangover, a comedown, a headache, and so on. This cycle of feeling the high and forgetting the side effects is what may keep a person on a path of substance abuse and is thus termed reward dependent.
Evidence for the association of high sensitivity for rewarding experiences was seen when monkeys with a system more sensitive to norepinephrine demonstrated signs of a depressed state when not given ethanol, but had a greater increase in norepinephrine after given a small amount of ethanol compared to monkeys not possessing the highly sensitive system (Kraemer, Lake, Ebert, & McKinney, 1985; Kraemer, Ebert, Lake & McKinney, 1984).
Instead of using animals in their study, Wills, Sandy, and Shinar (1999) used 1,225 high school students and found a correlation between substance use, reward dependence, and novelty seeking. Findings indicated social reward dependence and novelty seeking to be positively related to substance use (Wills et al. 1999).
However, instead of using drugs alcohol one needs to use a form of a natural high, called FLOW activities:
Flow is a concept developed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) as a way of improving an individual’s every day life. Flow is defined as a condition when people are completely occupied in an activity that they do not think about anything else, and as a result the experience becomes so enjoyable that the individual will partake in the activity at large costs just because they enjoy engaging in the activity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).  Examples of flow activities are public speaking, mountain climbing, intense exercise, a tennis match, a basketball game etc.  
In a study with 57 undergraduate students, Rogatko (2009) tested for a correlation between Flow and positive affect.  Findings of the study supported evidence for a correlation among positive affect and strong Flow activities.  In a different study findings supported evidence for participants reporting a high frequency of Flow activities to experience less boredom, less depression, and less anxiety than the other two groups (Ishimura & Kodama, 2009). The high frequency Flow group also reported the highest levels of relaxation and zest (Ishimura & Kodama, 2009).
A brain that is preprogramed for addiction is evident through the research in the beginning.  However, the brain is not craving drugs or alcohol, the brain is craving activities that produce a natural high via FLOW activities.  If someone with this personality trait will participate in three or more flow activities a day, the high from a drug or drink will never be as powerful as this natural high.  


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Addiction books: Is there an Addictive Personality?

One question I get asked a lot is this: "Do you think there's an addictive personality for substances that is transferred through genetics?"  This is my answer: No.

Why would there be a part of one's DNA who's purpose is to make the human being engage in behaviors that will harm the body.  The body wants to survive, so why would it pass along a gene that leads to the destruction of the body.  If there really was an addictive personality gene, then anyone possessing that gene would be extinct by now.

Still, people are convinced there is an addictive personality.  Rightfully so.  There are definitely patterns that point to a genetic addictive personality.  However, instead of thinking of it as an addictive personality, maybe we should look at it as a personality that needs a higher level of stimulation to satisfy the chemical make up in the brain of this type of personality.  This means a person that is seen to have an addictive personality needs to be engaging in behaviors that may be risky, but come with a bigger reward.  The reward is the high and unfortunately many people with this personality trait use a passive approach to getting a high.  A passive approach defined as drugs or alcohol.  But that's not what the body wants.  The body wants a high that will improve the mind, body, and soul.  For me, that high is public speaking, publishing a book, and intense exercise.

A person with a so called addictive personality needs to take risks, achieve what they are looking to achieve, but have the end goal be something that will improve the mind, body, and soul.  If this pattern is established, then nothing else will get in the way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No money in the pockets...

I hardly have a dollar to my name.  My pockets are bare, empty, and cold.  Only lint balls roll around the dark depths in my pocket.  But it doesn't bother me.  Well maybe a little bit.  There is some worry about if I can pay the bills, get some groceries, or just put a few gallons of gas in my tank.  Not to mention, if the thought of buying something for my-self ever crossed my mind.  I don't dwell on buying things for my-self because they won't make me happy.  But society tells me possesions will make me happy.  Society tells me I'm a nobody.   If I don't have a shiny new car or a fresh set of clothes, society tells me I'm not good enough to be part of the group.  But do I care?  Absoultely not.  I will never win against society and for that I am thankful.  I am thankful I don't have to worry about if I have the nicest car or the best dressed family or the biggest house in the neighborhood.  

What I'm really thankful for is this ability to find the things that truly enrich my life.  I am thankful I have discovered helping others before my-self makes me happier than anything else in the world.  I am thankful that I put others need in front of mine.  I am thankful that when I close my eyes at the end of the day, I sleep in peace.  I would not exchange my life empty of material possesions for all the money in the world.  It will never make me happy.

What will you do to create peace in your life?  What will you sacrifice in order to find what really make you happy for the rest of your life?     

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One of the strongest highs ever

I remember these days far too well.  The days when I didn't know who I was or what I was doing.  The days that I constantly searched for the group where I would feel comfortable with my-self.  The days of when I was a teenager. 

 My heart was going out to the young men that I stood in front of.  I was telling my story.  The story of why I changed a lifestyle that would only lead to destruction.  Now, if only I could persuade them to steer away from the path they were currently on.  All I wanted was for them to feel what I feel on a daily basis.  A feeling of complete and utter joy.  The only problem is I remember being that age and listening to people speak.  I never gave them two seconds of my time.  That's why I have to make them feel the pain they know far too well and then show them how to make that pain disappear.  So I pull out old artifacts of a dead lifestyle of mine.  It makes me shiver just looking at them.  The boys eyes are focused.  The artifacts touch home to them as well.  It hurts all of us and I can't take it anymore.  

I pull out the things that bring me back to who I am now.  A newspaper article, a published book, another newspaper article, and a college diploma.  I motion to the current pile of positive things and with a large smile say, "I can either have this or this..."  I motion back to the artifacts of the dead lifestyle.  It's a no brainer.  The boys seem interested.  I can only hope they apply it to their own life.

After forty-five minutes of speaking, I set up a four square game outside in the park.  It's a way to blow off steam and enjoy some good clean fun.  It seems to be working as the boys are smiling.  It makes me feel good. 

The day is over and I'm driving back home.  The windows are open and the winds from driving along the highway rush in and out of the car.  A feeling of complete happiness surges through my body.  The thought of impacting the lives of the young men is something that nothing else can touch.  It's one of the strongest highs I've ever felt.  

How will you impact some one's life?  Are you just living for your-self or are you going to live for a path greater than yourself?    

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early morning Swim Session

The last few days have been stressing me to pieces. Whether it's another deadline for school, the air conditioning going out in my jeep, or my dog, Beans, throwing up in the middle of the night, it feels like it is never going to end. I can't take it anymore. The daily stressors are piling to an unbearable level. I need a release. I need an escape. I need something to make me feel normal. One thing comes to mind. An early morning swim.

The night before I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m, in hopes of beating the Saturday morning rush to the indoor community pool. However, one obstacle stood in my way. Waking up. But I had to do something that would make me feel better. When the buzzing alarm disrupted the deep sleep I was in, my body pleaded to stay in bed. My eyes begged to close and every muscle tried to go loose in hopes of staying in the fetal position where I was nestled under the warm soft covers. NO! I know this will make me feel better. I have to get up. I have to create a way to make my-self feel better.

The buzzing alarm went quiet as I conquered the temptation to stay in bed. My feet hit the carpet and I stepped into my swimsuit.  As I drove to the community pool, the grogginess of the morning kept my eyes squinting.  It was 6:58 a.m, when I pulled on the steel handle attached to the glass door of the facility. The smell of chlorine burnt the hairs in my nostrils. Ironically, it was a comforting burn because my body knew this is where I could escape.

The next thing I knew I was diving headfirst into the cool pool water. Morning sunlight was beaming through the windows in the roof. It created patches of glowing rays piercing through the still water. As I swam under the surface and through the patches of euphoric sunlight, I gazed off to the right. There wasn't a soul around. Perfect! I had the entire olympic sized pool to my-self. Just what I wanted.

The air pulled into my lungs as my head passed back over the surface. I took a quick gasp and threw my right arm over head as I pulled my body into a free style swimming motion. My legs kicked and my arms alternated as I glided through the water. After four laps I took a thirty second break and swam four more laps. My entire body burned with fatigue, my lungs felt heavy, and my chest tightened. The lack of air from swimming under the water was becoming difficult. It didn't matter though. I just kept swimming. Thirty minutes passed before I called it a day. I had nothing left. It was just what I wanted. The endorphins encased my entire body as the high feeling floated from my head all the way to my toes. All the stress was gone and I felt renewed. 

Have you done anything to wash away the stress?  Or are you going to wait til you're wound so tight, you snap...?  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Painting the master piece of the day.

I've had a good week so far.  There hasn't been any issues that pulled my brain to pieces or any situations that left me stranded without answers.  Nothing has gotten in my way and nothing has burdened my shoulders.  I feel at peace.  I feel calm.  I feel good, only because I have been creating the natural highs.  But the absence of stress does not mean life is at it's best.  No...  It could be better.  I crave something more.  I want the feeling of an earned reward.  I want the feeling of an elated mood.  I want that next natural high.

This week has simply been too plain.  The week feels like this plain white canvas sitting in front of me.  It needs color.  It needs life.  It needs me.  So I pull out my faded brown tackle box full paint.  On the front there is a smeared streak of yellow where the paint had once exploded.  I crack open the box and pull out the small plastic containers of red, yellow, and blue.  I squirt a glob of each on the ceramic painters dish and pull the hairs of the brush through the red glob.  My imagination takes off as my brush glides from side to side.  Blue paint comes next.  Then the yellow.  I'm creating a master piece.  The colors fill every inch of the once plain white canvas.  I'm actually surprised at how good it looks.  I have created a master piece.  Instead of sitting on the couch, I stretched my imaginative side and now have this feeling of pure bliss.  I feel enriched and not like a plain piece of paper.

What have you done to enrich your life?  Did you just go through the routine or did you turn your day into a master piece?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A check off the bucket list

It's here!  It's here!  I can't believe it.  The UPS delivery man finally showed his face.  I've been waiting a year and a half for this moment.  In my hands, I hold a small cardboard box.  It's no bigger than an encyclopedia, but it's the only thing that stands between me and my dream.  I rush to my room, immediately sit down on the bed and place the box next to me.  In my right hand, I hold a kitchen knife.  It's a serene moment.  It's a moment that I soak in.  It's a moment that I have dreamed of for months.  But that moment is now a reality so I sit and I soak it all in.  A minute passes before I let out a sigh and pull the knife across the postal tape.  I am like a surgeon, making sure I don't harm the contents...  Making sure I don't hurt my dream.  The tip of my index finger reaches between the gap of the two folds on the brown box.  The edges are rough and pull on my skin as I peel the fold back.  I then peel the left fold back.  Then I peel the last two folds back.  The box is open.  My heart is surging with a feeling of excitement.  There is still a brown layer of paper separating me from my dream.  I peel off the paper and there it is.  The endorphins saturate my brain.  I am so high with happiness that I feel like I am on another planet.  I am in shock.  I have created something that only a small percentage of the population has created.  I have published a book.

We can all do great things.  We are all meant to do something more than the routine of the day to day.  What's your big thing?  What are you going to do or what have you done that is a great thing?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gardening for the soul

It's been another long day at work.  Time seemed to pass slower than ever.  The computer screen could no longer hold my attention and I couldn't help but dream of five o'clock.  I've been couped up at this desk for way too long.  I can't take another email, another phone call, or another deadline.  But I need the paycheck.  I have to support my family.  So I rub my eyes, let out a sigh, and force my brain to concentrate on the next email.  What a pain!  But this is life.  I guess... 

Finally!  Five o'clock rolls by and I join the turtle pace line of traffic all the way up the interstate.  I'm not sure whats worse, sitting at my desk or sitting in this sea of shining metal, exhaust fumes, and miles of concrete.  All I want is to be in the serenity of my yard. 

Two hours later I pull into my driveway.  I waste no time in springing out of my stiff work clothes and into the comfortable set of garden clothes.  Before I know it, I'm standing on the soft green grass looking down at the plants that surround my front door.  I immediately start digging and the worries of the day melt away.  The warm sun erases the tension in my neck.  The green and purple flowers calm my soul.  The physical energy used to shovel the stubborn soil leaves room only for my mind to concentrate on the task at hand.  It's not easy.  It's no cake walk, but it is rewarding.  My hands are covered in dirt, the sweat creates a mud-like layer all over my knees, face, and hands.  But I smile.  I smile because I have added a new edition of yellow and green to my flower bed.  After I shower, I walk barefoot in the yard admiring my hard work.  The setting sun illuminates my new flowers.  I feel high on the reward of the new edition.  My soul, spirit, and mind feels refreshed, like the work day never existed. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Surfing the Cosmic Vibration

The room felt damp and the air felt warm against my skin as I passed under the door frame into the open room.  Hardwood floors were glistening under the yellow tinted lights that hung from the ceiling.  The moon and stars were painted on the left wall and a bright sunshine was painted on the right wall. Straight ahead, on the main wall, was nothing but a giant mirror that covered the entire wall.  Off in the corner was a wooden rack where pale green and faded purple yoga mats hung to the dry.  This was no ordinary yoga room, this was a hot yoga room.  

Being that I had never attended a yoga session, I grabbed one of the foamy community mats from the rack and laid it out near the back of the room.  I wasn't quite sure about the whole situation.  Even worse, the real yoga people were trickling in.  They all had their custom mats rolled up nicely and stuck under their arm.  Each one wore official stretchy pants and official yoga shirts.  I felt outplace with my knee length gym shorts and sleeveless shirt.  I clearly was a beginner.

Only minutes later, the tiny female instructor strolled in and turned the knobs on the heat machine.  The room quickly went from a stale warm feeling to blistering summer day.  I could barely breath as we moved from one pose to the next.  The sweat was dripping, but I could feel the tightness in my muscles lostening it's death grip.  I felt limber and able to move freely and the stress was melting.  My daily problems were fading.  My thoughts stayed only in the moment, not in the past and not in the future.  The problems of the past or the future no longer mattered.  I only felt the serenity of the moment.  Yoga was the cure for the mental grind of every day. 

An hour passed and now we laid face up with arms and legs stretched out.  The lights dimmed to a mere glow and the instructor whispered, "Let it all go, all the stress, all the worries, all the problems of the day... just let it go.  Save it for another time, let yourself surf the cosmic vibration."  My spirit floated from my body and joined the spiritual journey.  All the stresses of the day were lost.  I felt pure and clean like nothing else mattered.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A little piece of the Ocean

My dog Beans sprang to the three foot tall desk and rested her fury two front paws on the amber colored wood.  Her hind legs stayed planted on the hardwood floor while her eyes darted from side to side.  She was staring into a little piece of the ocean, my coral reef fish tank.  I couldn't help but laugh as she growled, groaned, and nipped at the glass where the fish floated effortlessly behind.  I had just spent two hours cleaning the wall of green algae that had turned into an enchanted forest on the inside of the glass.  For the first time in two months I could see what was inside my tank.  There were all types of tropical colors.  The fish were bright orange, neon yellow, crystal blue, deep purple and light green.  The sand on the bottom of the tank was now perfectly white and the rays coming from the lights above penetrated to every corner of the tank.  The currents from the filters helped create a glowing look as the purple, blue, and yellow lights streamed their rays through the fresh current.  As I leaned back in the cool leather chair, I lifted my feet and propped them on the over sized chestnut colored desk.  My mind was lost in the enchanted world under the sea.  If only I could be in the tank too.  I would jump from one purple colored rock to the next like gravity never existed.  Then I would climb to the highest peak of the coral rock before letting go. The fish would swim by as I floated effortlessly toward the soft sand.  It was all dream, but it was a dream that I created.  A dream that I earned because I took the patience and the time to methodically clean the tank.  This was my reward.  The satisfaction of knowing I exercised complete patience when I carefully stacked the coral rock in the right formation to create under water arches where the fish could swim in and out like a game of tag.  I built this high.  I built this little escape.  It took work.  It took time.  It took patience, but now I got the reward.  The high.  The feeling of an earned positive experience. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dress for Success Service Day

I twisted the faded gold nob to the left and pushed on the wooden door with my left palm.  The door stopped after six inches.  I pushed harder.  Still the door didn't move.  After realizing no amount of strength was going to open the door, I tightened every muscle in my body and slid through the crack.  The room was dark.  I couldn't see a thing.  Only my hands offered a means to discover the contents of the room.  My hands felt cardboard boxes, cloth that must have been shirts and pants, and silk that felt like ties.  I guess that made since since it was the "Dress for Success" closet at a local recovery center.  Finally, my hands discovered a light switch and with a quick flick of the switch the fluorescent lights hummed and illuminated the room.  What a mess!  Cardboard boxes were slammed from the floor all the way to the drop down ceiling.  Shirts, pants, hats, shoes, ties, and belts were overflowing from the boxes.  Black garbage bags, filled with all types of clothes, were tossed all over the place.  Some of the bags were spilling on the floor, some were torn, and others were tied shut.  There were old steel racks where many of the dress shirts, dress pants, and ties were hanging.  A few shirts were wrinkly, a few were freshly pressed, and a few were just normal.  I looked back over my shoulder at one of the residents with a look of despair.  He shrugged his shoulders and let out a small sigh.  Well I came here to work, so I guess I can handle this.  

The resident and I went to work.  Hours passed.  We threw boxes around the room, we ripped open the donated clothes and piled all the dress shoes into the middle of the room.  We were getting somewhere now.  The room was clearing.  The clothes were being hung on the racks and I felt like I was accomplishing something.  It felt good, but I didn't want to just organize the clothes and then four months later have the place be a wreck again.  I looked over at the resident and asked what to do with the shoes.  He said just pile them up under the racks.  No way, I have to do something better than that.  I have to leave my mark.  I can't just let my efforts of clearing the room get cluttered again.  There needs to be a system.  A light bulb popped in my head and I told the resident I'm running to home depot.  He looked confused, but I knew he would understand soon.  An hour passed and I was back with six pieces of plywood cut specifically to go under the iron racks.  It was perfect.  The shoes had a new home.  The shelves would keep the room clean.  It made me feel good.  I created an improvement that would last for these guys looking to improve their lives.  I felt high.  I felt clean.  I felt better than I had felt in a long time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Music therapy

Kellie's high:

It's been a long two months since I moved to L.A.  I left everything behind.  My family, my boyfriend, my job, my friends, my life... all in hopes of finding something that could fill this creative side that has been suppressed by the never ending sales calls. 

I just couldn't take it anymore--the grey cubical, the nine to five hours, the stale coffee fermenting in the crusty pots , the gloomy faces, the left over birthday cake molding in the break room, and the boredom and the boredom and the boredom.  I can't... I can't... I can't!  So I did the only thing I could.  I ran.  I ran as fast as I could from Georgia to the other side of the world.  Los Angeles.  This is where I could find my real self.  The self that loves to create.  The self that needed release from the torture of the nine to five. 

But I miss everything back home...  I miss the warm, strong, hugs.  I miss the smells of my mom's fireplace.  I miss my friends and their quirky habits.  But I'm not close to any of those things.  Nothing.  Only the emptiness created from the long miles from my home.  It's been weeks that I've felt like this.  I have to get rid of it.  I have to escape.  So I do what can take me there.  Away from this lonely feeling.  I plop down on the cloth swivel chair and roll across the glazed hardwood floors toward my piano.  It offers what I desire.  An escape.  My fingers seem to move on their own as I discover the notes that match my mood.  My loneliness disappers.  It seems to float into the air.  The notes carry it all off my chest and I sing and I sing and I sing.  A song is formed.  The emptiness is gone.  The loneliness has slipped away.  I feel good.  I feel high.  I feel like a different person.  I love it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fitness Competition

My calloused hands methodically grasped the steel rough weightlifting bar.  My shins kissed the cold bar as I bent from the knees down into a semi kneeling position.  Arching my back, I flexed my arms into a straight position.  Tire sized weight lifting plates stood on either side of the rusty bar.  To my right, to my left, behind me and in front of me were ten other competitors poised in the same position.  Adrenaline was dripping from our pures, excitement clouded the room, and nervousness bounced through everyone's chest.

The warehouse style gym was our home.  It's where we belonged.  It's where we got high.  Adrenaline, competition, and survival was our best friend.  All that mattered at this moment was the middle aged man standing on the cold concrete floor with a stopwatch in hand.  He was counting down... "Three... two... one...  GO!  The adrenaline shot through my chest as I pulled with all my weight.  My back strained, my arms flexed and my knees took the pressure as I stood up holding the steel bar of 255 lbs near my middle thigh.  Only fourteen more reps..  I dropped the weight and repeated.  Stand... Drop... Stand... Drop.  The lactic acid filled my entire body.  It didn't matter.  I had to win.  I had to complete the workout.

The fifteen reps were done and I took off for a quarter mile run around the back of the giant warehouse.  The summer sun was scorching my skin.  Sweat dripped in my eyes.  My feet pounded the concrete.  In front of me were all the competitors.  I was taking my time.  I had to pace my-self.  I kept telling my-self they're all going too fast.  I'm fine.  Keep the pace.  We had to complete five rounds.  One round was lifting the weight 15 times, running a quarter mile, and performing thirty situps.   That's 75 reps of the weight, one mile and a quarter run, and 150 situps with no rest total.

The run was complete.  The spectators crowded on either side of the opening to the garage style gym.  Everyone shouted something.  "Come on." "You can do it."  "Go!"  I barely heard them.  All my senses were focused on the weight and the situps.

Three rounds down.  I took off on the run of the fourth round. My body pleaded to stop.  No.  Must keep going. Go Chad Go Chad.  My eyes tried to roll back in my head and my body threatened to shut down.  It didn't matter.  I had to keep going.  I couldn't see.  I just ran.

The last reps on the bar.  I was in second.  Everyone else was shutting down.  They went out too fast.  I did it.  I planned it the right way.  Just pull the weight and your done.  Three more reps.. two more reps... one more rep... DONE!  I collapsed, falling onto the black mat.  My arms cringed, my lungs gasped, I rolled around in pain.  It was over though.  Done!  Ten minutes later and the pain released it's grip.  The high set in.  The endorphins saturated my brain.  It was stronger than anything in the world.  I felt like I was soaring above the planet.  Wow...  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fulfilling a purpose

I looked out toward the audience.  There were all types of people.  Some young, some old, some middle aged.  Some black, some white, some blue, some brown.  Some pale, some dark. 
On either side of me where my parents.  My dad stood to my left and my mom sat in a director's chair to my right.  A tall microphone stood inches from each of their mouths.  My dad was speaking.  His voiced traveled through the metal microphone and into the giant speakers standing in the four corners of the tent.  The tent shaded the crowd from the beaming hot sunshine.  The members of the audience sat in white fold up chairs, bean bags, or just on the soft green grass. 
It was almost my time to speak.  My dad was giving an introduction of me.  Nervousness started to pulse through my chest.  Anxiety tried to grip my throat.  Not today nervousness, I have a purpose to fulfill.  My left hand reached up to the headset microphone and adjusted the black quarter sized speaker only inches from my mouth.  It had to be in the perfect spot or else they couldn't hear me.  Dad wrapped up his intro by saying, "And now here is Chad Hepler."
The nervousness dropped the second I opened my mouth.  There was no room for it.  I had to fulfill my purpose.  I had to tell these people why they should choose a path greater than themselves.  I had to make them feel what I felt.  Drugs and alcohol aren't the way to go.  It's working, they're listening, their heads are nodding, I'm doing it.  I'm fulfilling my purpose. 
Ten minutes passed before I turned toward my mom and dad and started asking questions.  It was beautiful.  The crowd loved it.  I loved it.  Another ten minutes flew by.  My speech was done.  Now I was asking the crowd if they had questions.  They had tons.  Some asked three or four, some just one, but everyone asked something.  They were all engaged.  I felt high.  I felt amazing.  I felt like I was filling a hole that had never been filled before... 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sunrise hike

The air was crisp, the dew was heavy, and the sun's rays were just peaking over Kennesaw mountain.  I looked down at my dog, Beans.  Her ears were perked, her nub of a tail was vibrating, and she was glancing back at forth vigorously from me to the mountain trail.  She knew what was coming.  A new adventure into the morning woods where birds and squirrels flourished like wild flowers. 
I didn't speak, I didn't give her any commands, I just turned my body toward the trail.  She leapt in to a full sprint zooming, criss crossing, and leaping in a frenzy over sticks, leaves, and fallen trees as she frantically searched for God's little creatures.  All I could do was laugh. As she sprang back and forth I worked my way up the steep jagged trail.  The peak of the mountain was my goal. 

By now the sun was lighting the woods and the dew was turning to mist.  My lungs were heavy with the stiff air.  My legs ached.  My arms pumped.  The peak was all that mattered.  Even Beans had slowed from all out sprints to a pace right next to my feet.  We were walking in stride, both focused on the trail.  Thirty minutes had passed and we were wearing down.  I felt alive, I felt strong, I felt pure.  A feeling that felt better than anything else.  Beans looked up at me, with her tongue hanging out and her breath panting for air.  "Almost there Beans"  I think she understand.  Her tail started to wag again.  I looked back to the trail and saw the peak.  The beautiful peak.  Finally!  We pushed a few more yards before planting on a giant boulder and soaked in the morning glory of the sun shining over Atlanta.  Perfect...