Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin

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.