Unite To Face Addiction is Recovery’s Moment


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Here’s a startling image: Every four minutes, someone (usually a young person) dies as a result of addiction–the equivalent of a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day with no survivors.

Tragically, as we’re all too aware from scenes of the crash of Lufthansa Airbus A320, airplane passengers have no control in situations like what happened in the Alps.

But addiction deaths are preventable. That’s right. No one has to die from addiction.

Yet, the leading cause of death among young people is accidental overdose, surpassing car fatalities and homicides.

Everyone knows the war on drugs failed.

America tried everything. We passed tougher laws. We built new prisons for drug offenders. We repeated the mantra, Just say no.

Fortunately, there is a solution. When it comes to preventing and intervening in addiction and in supporting treatment and recovery, lots and lots of good things are happening.

Here are three:

1) After nearly a decade of battling for a sober high school in New York City, actress and activist Kristen Johnston’s SLAM organization (Sobriety, Learning, and Motivation) finally gets its wish. SLAM recently announced a new collaboration with a public school in Staten Island “to take the extraordinary step of implementing an intensive recovery program specific to the many teens in NYC seeking recovery from drugs or alcohol.”

2)  Mainstream media is calling out alcohol advertisers, saying they should self-regulate advertising just as the tobacco industry does. A report in JAMA Pediatrics concluded that seeing or watching alcohol ads helps move kids toward their first experiences with alcohol. Can you just say, NO!

3) More bloggers and online journalists are telling incredible stories of recovery, like my friend Cathy Taughinbaugh. Cathy recently published a guest post by Elizabeth Garrison who lived through teenage addiction, faced prison time and now has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

There are hundreds of thousands more stories of grand accomplishment. Unfortunately, most of these stories are minimized rather than celebrated, but then addiction is often minimized even as our kids and young people are dying in droves.

Unite To Face Addiction

We need an alternative. We need a sweeping, new approach of EPIC proportions. 

Praise God, there is one on the horizon.

With a little luck and a whole lot of elbow grease, you’ll hear about Unite To Face Addiction in the coming months. Here are the Cliff Notes:

A new collaborative group called Facing Addiction has developed a pretty incredible strategic plan, comprehensive in scope, to address the nation’s addiction crisis. Facing Addiction consists of members from the worlds of business, science, public policy, medical and community leaders.

Their kick-off event is Unite To Face Addiction–a major musical celebration and rally that will happen on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the weekend of October 3-4. They’re expecting more than 100,000 people and, knowing some of the principle partners of Facing Addiction, I have no doubt  those numbers will swell.

I know I’ll be there. You won’t be able to keep me away. Why?

Because I’ve never felt such hope that we’re teetering on the tipping point of solving our nation’s Number One health crisis of addiction.

Remember the AIDS Quilt and what it did for changing the perception around HIV/AIDS?

The AIDS Quilt was displayed on The National Mall in 1987. Since then, billions of dollars have changed the course of the movement and people today live much differently with the disease than they did in the 1980s.

This is the recovery movement’s Quilt Moment. Won’t you join us? Receive updates by signing up here and check out Facing Addiction on Facebook and Twitter. And please, share with your friends!

Into the Mystic and Other Drive-Time Songs


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Having recently finished a solo, 1,000-mile car trip to visit my family, I’m grateful for music player options.

At the risk of giving away my five-decade+ age, I remember family trips as a kid listening to farm reports on AM radio stations because there were no other options.

In high school, we climbed The Stairway to Heaven with FM stations (without AM’s weather static) on rowdy weekend nights. As a college kid, I literally wore out my Supertramp Breakfast in America and Fleetwood Mac Rumors eight track cassettes.

Now, thanks to Sirius satellite radio and an auxiliary jack for iTunes in my MINI Cooper, I had endless music. I can tell you that, after nearly 20 hours in a car alone, this music lover is back in touch with song lyrics that resonate with emotions.

Oh sure, I can get swept away by cool riffs and epic instrumental sounds but the lyrics are where it’s at for me. Words . . . it’s all about the words . . .

Songs in the Key of Life

Stevie Wonder’s well-known album reminds me that music touches each of us in different ways. Often, songwriters give us lyrics that we use to voice our emotions and feelings to others.

How many of us have created a musical collection on CD (Or on cassette tape years ago!) for someone we love? Each song had special meaning and expressed our thoughts in a way that we simply could not convey on our own.

Remember the intensity with which we compiled the collection? Talk about an exercise in mindfulness! Such focus, such intent!

On that note . . .

I thought I’d share some of my favorite song titles and a line or two of lyrics with you. A well-written song is poetry and can evoke emotions similar to the best lines of prose.

Some people go for rhyme or catchy phrases. For me, I look and listen for the heart in lyrics. That’s where I connect. Because I believe that music is a form of communication, I want songs that speak to me of the writer and performer’s hopes and dreams, fears and redemption, and love, always love.

I hope you enjoy this short list. I’ve included links to each one in case you’d like to give a listen.

Into the MysticWe were born before the wind | Also younger than the sun | Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic.” ~ Van Morrison

Living in the Moment “I will not waste my days | Making up all kinds of ways | To worry about all the things | That will not happen to me.” ~ Jason Mraz<

Lucky “I wanna ride with my Angel and live shockingly | I wanna drive to the edge and into the sea | I wanna see how lucky Lucky can be.” ~ Melissa Etheridge

Brighter Than the Sun “Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart |It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun | Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky | Shining how we want, brighter than the sun” ~ Colbie Caillet<

Heaven Help My Heart “This world can get crazy | These are troubled times | I’d walk through the fire | If love is what I’d find | It’s out of my hands now | So I put my faith in you | And I say a little prayer | And hope that it comes true” ~ Wynonna Judd

All of Me “Give your all to me | I’ll give my all to you | You’re my end and my beginning | Even when I lose I’m winning | ‘Cause I give you all of me | And you give me all of you” ~ John Legend

Please comment and share on Facebook and Twitter and include your own favorite songs. Obviously my list isn’t exhaustivethere isn’t enough time or space here–but I would love to know which songs resonate with you!

Photo courtesy of Efi21

Surely Goodness and Mercy


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Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, I wrote in my journal on Ash Wednesday.

What I wrote next was certainly not the rest of the Psalm. Watch out for the one named Surely. She can be an unpredictable wretch.

Wow. Where did that come from? No clue–but I know that on the morning of Ash Wednesday, I woke feeling a sense of goodness and mercy. The day before was one of those heavy-body, force-the-motions days and I was grateful for the relief.

Bye, bye Surely.

Shifting attitudes and grasping for joy

Turns out that the first day of Lent was a day of goodness and mercy. My sweetie got a phone call and employment offer she’d been patiently waiting for (sort of!) and we breathed a collective sign of relief.

Uncertainty and unpredictability are strange companions. When times are good–the rent and health insurance are paid and the dogs don’t missed a meal–it’s easy to stay open to whatever comes your way.

Take a risk! Be daring! Live a little more!

When you’re not sweating out the timed arrival of a check, it’s oh-so-easy to feel carefree.

When you’re all bunched up inside worrying about your bills and your credit, it is so damned hard to let your old friends, Goodness and Mercy, wrap their arms around you.

You might try the tough-guy, stiff-hug-with-three-pats-on-the-back approach with Goodness and Mercy but they see right through your attempts to grasp for joy.

What are you waiting for? Go all-in!

In order to get anything from your relationships, you have to go all-in. Is there really any other way that is satisfactory? What do you have to lose?

I wrote in my journal, Remember six years ago when you said you were all in? You said you were ready to leave predictability and certainty behind! Remember? (A journal is a good way to talk to yourself and still accomplish a daily regimen.)

Now, today, there is a beautiful, day–or evening, depending on your part of the world–stretched out in front of you. How will you play it? Granted, you have no idea what to expect, but isn’t that the point of living?

Who wants to know things before they happen? Think about that one . . .

You’ll see clues along the way if your eyes are open and your mind focused sharply on the Now. Follow those clues.

And if you see Surely out there, remember she’s the cranky one. Step around her and move on.

Photo courtesy of jonathan1991

Serenity Prayer as a Mindfulness Tool


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I figure there are only two kinds of events in life–the kind you accept and the kind you change (or attempt to change).

While the concept is simple, the spectrum of emotions attached to the two kinds of events is wider than the upper Mississippi River during a spring thaw.

Let’s say you’ve waited for months on a decision that will impact your financial stability for the entire year. You make your initial choice to accept the waiting period because your other choice–changing the event by walking away–is a no-go.

My question to you is this: What do you do with your emotions while you wait?

Waiting is seldom easy, unless . . .

Rare is the person in recovery who finds it easy to wait. Heck, rare is the PERSON who finds waiting easy or even tolerable.

How do we wait and accept the waiting? How do we wait and change? How do we respond?

I read an article from PsychologyToday.com:

“But, how do we go about accepting the things we can’t change and changing how we respond to what we can’t change? Both of these involve adjusting our thinking, how we deal with our emotions, and the actions we take—and in both, the practice of mindfulness can be a great asset. (The underline is mine.)

“Mindfulness helps create the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy, and detach from them. Since thoughts often provide such potent fuel for emotions, this shifts much of the wind away from sails of our emotions.”

“The practice of mindfulness can be a great asset.”

Here’s me being honest: I am not a good waiter. I pace, hands on hips or in jeans pockets, and mumble under my breath.

I watch the clock. I eat chocolate. I roam the house then eat more chocolate. And, I avoid mindfulness because in my gut I know it works.

My ingrained reaction to a life event is two-fold: eerie quiet followed by frantic activity. I could blame my so-called addictive personality, but at some point that excuse wears thin as onion-skin.

Mindfulness–“the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy and detach from them”–IS the easier, softer way I avoid.

Okay, so that cat is out of the bag.

A perfect mindfulness tool

Dan Mager, author of the above-referenced article, writes that the Serenity Prayer is “the ultimate coping device.”

“If we take the time and make the space to consider it consciously, all of our experiences, both internal and external, fit into one of these two basic categories” (what we can change and what we can’t), Mager writes.

Here’s the part I love:

“Mindfulness practices build a space within which we can witness our emotions and give them room to breathe. When we can allow our feelings to simply be, accepting them without reflexively buying into or attaching any particular value to them, their intensity lowers and we experience less pressure to act on them.”

Mager’s advice lets me learn how to roll with my emotions and when the time is right, respond appropriately rather than react inappropriately.

Say it with me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Mindfulness allows the wisdom to know the difference.

Photo courtesy of placardmoncoeur

Accept the Guilt, Then Surrender and Recover


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Please welcome today’s guest post writer Amy Baumgardner, co-author of From This Day Forward, A Love Story of Faith, Hope and Forgiveness with her husband Matt and a freelance contributor to In Recovery Magazine. Amy was a guest on Oprah’s Winfrey Lifeclass where she learned healing and forgiveness from Iyanla VanZant. Watch the YouTube video of Amy, Oprah and Iyanla below. Links to her websites and how to order her book are below. One reader will be chosen to receive an autographed copy of From This Day Forward by leaving a comment below.

Guilt is strong. It’s ugly and it’s complicated.

I should know. There exists this crazy tug of war inside my head between what my addiction wants me to do and what I should do. Alcoholism is relentless. My disease does not rest.

Guilt’s role in addiction

Guilt played a major role in my addiction for a long, long time. As a newly sober person five years ago, I made the mistake of letting guilt set up camp in the back of my mind. I now know that I was afraid to let it go. If I did, how could I atone for what I had done?

The booze and self-hatred controlled my life. You’re a lousy mother, you’re a spiteful wife, a bitter drunk, a no good piece of garbage unworthy of any second chances or saving graces, my mind’s voice continually cried. I was so out of touch with reality that I believed the voice.

I refused to forget. I refused to let go. I was stuck on January 10th 2010, the day I drove drunk head first into a tree going 60-miles-per-hour with my children in the back seat.

I was haunted by guilt. And who wouldn’t be? For years I have asked myself the same question night after night, “Why didn’t I see the signs?”

And now, after the accident, there was no other way to prove that I was sorry. I had to hold on to the guilt and shame of that moment when I put the key into the ignition, that second it took to completely lose all trust in my ability to be a good mother and thus negate any possibility of denying that I am an alcoholic. Why did it have to come to this? I would always wonder.

I spent 21 days in a facility getting treatment for my alcohol addiction and learning the tools to I needed stay sober.  I drank 30 days after the near fatal car accident that put me in there. I had been given all the tools, knew all of the steps to take, who to call and where to go for a meeting.

I relapsed eight days after leaving rehab. I let my fear consume me and totally swallow up any confidence I had that I could live a happy life. But sobriety was daunting. It was too much to handle and I quickly found myself seeking refuge in a bottle of Captain Morgan.

Watching for the turning point

I thought of my children. If I was going to survive this and if they were ever going to have a chance with me as their mother then I had to turn my will over to a higher power, something greater than myself, whatever was out there and was willing help me, guide me, save me from myself, from my drinking.

It wasn’t easy and I certainly struggled with the idea of NEVER having a drink again. I slowly and gracefully let the idea of living sober take shape in my life. I took baby steps and constantly reminded myself of my new mantra that Living sober is the best amends!

I started writing, journaling, listening to others and paying attention to the whispers of my life. Eventually, my fears and guilt began to fade. The chatter filling my head with negative thoughts began to fade as well and I was able to start moving forward.

I realized that all of my guilt was wrapped up with my drinking, the accident included. Can I give up this guilt so I can move forward? Was I willing to surrender the guilt so I could live my life freely and faithfully?

Through my struggle I have found strength. All of the blocks I spent decades building were replaced with wisdom. Being active in my recovery and searching for a softer and easier way lead me to the Oprah Winfrey show with Iyanla VanZant. Sharing my struggle with guilt and hardship of letting it go as a guest on her show opened up enough space in my mind to believe that change is possible and to make that change.

Then I needed to give myself permission to surrender and move forward. I alone held the key and I was the only person who could unlock—then release—my burden of guilt.

My life was waiting.

Amy and her husband Matt have formed a foundation called 4-give.org to help other families remain together as they recover from addiction. Their website is Mattandamyb.com and Amy can be found on Twitter @AbaumAmy. Their book, From This Day Forward, can be found on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of greyerbaby