The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned — and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted. It seems obvious. It seems manifestly true. Until I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my new book, Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, to figure out what is really driving the drug war, I believed it too. But what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong — and there is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it.

If we truly absorb this new story, we will have to change a lot more than the drug war. We will have to change ourselves.

I learned it from an extraordinary mixture of people I met on my travels. From the surviving friends of Billie Holiday, who helped me to learn how the founder of the war on drugs stalked and helped to kill her. From a Jewish doctor who was smuggled out of the Budapest ghetto as a baby, only to unlock the secrets of addiction as a grown man. From a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn who was conceived when his mother, a crack-addict, was raped by his father, an NYPD officer. From a man who was kept at the bottom of a well for two years by a torturing dictatorship, only to emerge to be elected President of Uruguay and to begin the last days of the war on drugs.

I had a quite personal reason to set out for these answers. One of my earliest memories as a kid is trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. Ever since then, I have been turning over the essential mystery of addiction in my mind — what causes some people to become fixated on a drug or a behavior until they can’t stop? How do we help those people to come back to us? As I got older, another of my close relatives developed a cocaine addiction, and I fell into a relationship with a heroin addict. I guess addiction felt like home to me.

If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: “Drugs. Duh.” It’s not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them. (The full references to all the studies I am discussing are in the book.)

When I first learned about this, I was puzzled. How can this be? This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don’t seem to make sense — unless you take account of this new approach.

Here’s one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right — it’s the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them — then it’s obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.

But here’s the strange thing: It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected.

If you still believe — as I used to — that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander’s theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.

This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

When I learned all this, I found it slowly persuading me, but I still couldn’t shake off a nagging doubt. Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me — you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks. I went to a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (with the permission of everyone present, who knew I was there to observe) and they were as plainly addicted as the cocaine and heroin addicts I have known in my life. Yet there are no chemical hooks on a craps table.

But still, surely, I asked, there is some role for the chemicals? It turns out there is an experiment which gives us the answer to this in quite precise terms, which I learned about in Richard DeGrandpre’s book The Cult of Pharmacology.

Everyone agrees cigarette smoking is one of the most addictive processes around. The chemical hooks in tobacco come from a drug inside it called nicotine. So when nicotine patches were developed in the early 1990s, there was a huge surge of optimism — cigarette smokers could get all of their chemical hooks, without the other filthy (and deadly) effects of cigarette smoking. They would be freed.

But the Office of the Surgeon General has found that just 17.7 percent of cigarette smokers are able to stop using nicotine patches. That’s not nothing. If the chemicals drive 17.7 percent of addiction, as this shows, that’s still millions of lives ruined globally. But what it reveals again is that the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.

This has huge implications for the one-hundred-year-old war on drugs. This massive war — which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool — is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction — if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction — then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction. For example, I went to a prison in Arizona — ‘Tent City’ — where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (‘The Hole’) for weeks and weeks on end to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record — guaranteeing they with be cut off even more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world — and so leave behind their addictions.

This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. I’ll repeat that: injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira, the country’s top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings that we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News. But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass — and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.

This isn’t only relevant to the addicts I love. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s — “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live — constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

Loving an addict is really hard. When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention — tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. Their message is that an addict who won’t stop should be shunned. It’s the logic of the drug war, imported into our private lives. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction — and you may lose them altogether. I came home determined to tie the addicts in my life closer to me than ever — to let them know I love them unconditionally, whether they stop, or whether they can’t.

When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

The full story of Johann Hari’s journey — told through the stories of the people he met — can be read in Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, published by Bloomsbury. The book has been praised by everyone from Elton John to Glenn Greenwald to Naomi Klein. You can buy it at all good bookstores and read more at www.chasingthescream.com.

 

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Posted in addiction

How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company

Pills

Mike Mariani

The state of Kentucky may finally get its deliverance. After more than seven years of battling the evasive legal tactics of Purdue Pharma, 2015 may be the year that Kentucky and its attorney general, Jack Conway, are able to move forward with a civil lawsuit alleging that the drugmaker misled doctors and patients about their blockbuster pain pill OxyContin, leading to a vicious addiction epidemic across large swaths of the state.

A pernicious distinction of the first decade of the 21st century was the rise in painkiller abuse, which ultimately led to a catastrophic increase in addicts, fatal overdoses, and blighted communities. But the story of the painkiller epidemic can really be reduced to the story of one powerful, highly addictive drug and its small but ruthlessly enterprising manufacturer.

On December 12, 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid analgesic OxyContin. It hit the market in 1996. In its first year, OxyContin accounted for $45 million in sales for its manufacturer, Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. By 2000 that number would balloon to $1.1 billion, an increase of well over 2,000 percent in a span of just four years. Ten years later, the profits would inflate still further, to $3.1 billion. By then the potent opioid accounted for about 30 percent of the painkiller market. What’s more, Purdue Pharma’s patent for the original OxyContin formula didn’t expire until 2013. This meant that a single private, family-owned pharmaceutical company with non-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.

OxyContin’s ball-of-lightning emergence in the health care marketplace was close to unprecedented for a new painkiller in an age where synthetic opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl had already been competing for decades in doctors’ offices and pharmacies for their piece of the market share of pain-relieving drugs. In retrospect, it almost didn’t make sense. Why was OxyContin so much more popular? Had it been approved for a wider range of ailments than its opioid cousins? Did doctors prefer prescribing it to their patients?

During its rise in popularity, there was a suspicious undercurrent to the drug’s spectrum of approved uses and Purdue Pharma’s relationship to the physicians that were suddenly privileging OxyContin over other meds to combat everything from back pain to arthritis to post-operative discomfort. It would take years to discover that there was much more to the story than the benign introduction of a new, highly effective painkiller.

  In 1952, brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler purchased Purdue Pharma, then called Purdue Frederick Co. All three men were psychiatrists by trade, working at a mental facility in Queens in the 1940s.

The eldest brother, Arthur, was a brilliant polymath, contributing not only to psychiatric research but also thriving in the fledgling field of pharmaceutical advertising. It was here that he would leave his greatest mark. As a member of William Douglas McAdams, a small New York-based advertising firm, Sackler expanded the possibilities of medical advertising by promoting products in medical journals and experimenting with television and radio marketing. Perhaps his greatest achievement, detailed in his biography in the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame, was finding enough different uses for Valium to turn it into the first drug to hit $100 million in revenue.

The Medical Advertising Hall of Fame website’s euphemistic argot for this accomplishment states that Sackler’s experience in the fields of psychiatry and experimental medicine “enabled him to position different indications for Roche’s Librium and Valium.”

Sackler was also among the first medical advertisers to foster relationships with doctors in the hopes of earning extra points for his company’s drugs, according to a 2011 exposé in Fortune. Such backscratching in the hopes of reciprocity is now the model for the whole drug marketing industry. Arthur Sackler’s pioneering methods would be cultivated by his younger brothers Raymond and Mortimer in the decades to come, as they grew their small pharmaceutical firm.

Starting in 1996, Purdue Pharma expanded its sales department to coincide with the debut of its new drug. According to an article published in The American Journal of Public Health, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” Purdue increased its number of sales representatives from 318 in 1996 to 671 in 2000. By 2001, when OxyContin was hitting its stride, these sales reps received annual bonuses averaging over $70,000, with some bonuses nearing a quarter of a million dollars. In that year Purdue Pharma spent $200 million marketing its golden goose. Pouring money into marketing is not uncommon for Big Pharma, but proportionate to the size of the company, Purdue’s OxyContin push was substantial.

Boots on the ground was not the only stratagem employed by Purdue to increase sales for OxyContin. Long before the rise of big data, Purdue was compiling profiles of doctors and their prescribing habits into databases. These databases then organized the information based on location to indicate the spectrum of prescribing patterns in a given state or county. The idea was to pinpoint the doctors prescribing the most pain medication and target them for the company’s marketing onslaught.

That the databases couldn’t distinguish between doctors who were prescribing more pain meds because they were seeing more patients with chronic pain or were simply looser with their signatures didn’t matter to Purdue. The Los Angeles Times reported that by 2002 Purdue Pharma had identified hundreds of doctors who were prescribing OxyContin recklessly, yet they did little about it. The same article notes that it wasn’t until June of 2013, at a drug dependency conference in San Diego, that the database was ever even discussed in public.

Combining the physician database with its expanded marketing, it would become one of Purdue’s preeminent missions to make primary care doctors less judicious when it came to handing out OxyContin prescriptions.

Beginning around 1980, one of the more significant trends in pain pharmacology was the increased use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Like other pharmaceutical companies, Purdue likely sought to capitalize on the abundant financial opportunities of this trend. The logic was simple: While the number of cancer patients was not likely to increase drastically from one year to the next, if a company could expand the indications for use of a particular drug, then it could boost sales exponentially without any real change in the country’s health demography.

This was indeed one of OxyContin’s greatest tactical successes. According to “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin,” from 1997 to 2002 prescriptions of OxyContin for non-cancer pain increased almost tenfold. Meanwhile, in 1996 the FDA approved an 80mg version of the pill; four years later it approved a 160mg tablet. According to the FDA’s “History of OxyContin: Labeling and Risk Management Program,” higher dosages were approved specifically for opioid-tolerant patients.

These high-milligram pills were probably one of biggest reasons that OxyContin became such a popular street drug. Recreational users and addicts could crush, sniff, and inject the pill for a powerful high that, as promised, lasted over eight hours. The euphoric effects and potential for abuse were comparable to heroin. But clearly doctors and pharmacies never drew the ghastly parallel. Why?

The state of Kentucky’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma is not the first legal trouble the company has run into. In 2007, in United States of America v. The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., Purdue and its top executives pleaded guilty to charges that it misled doctors and patients about the addictive properties of OxyContin and misbranded the product as “abuse resistant.” Prosecutors found a “corporate culture that allowed this product to be misbranded with the intent to defraud and mislead.” Purdue Pharma paid $600 million in fines, among the largest settlements in U.S. history for a pharmaceutical company.

Perhaps knowing that doctors would be vigilant against prescribing drugs with the potential for abuse, Purdue set out to distinguish OxyContin from rivals as soon as it dropped. The cornerstone of its marketing campaign was the drug’s incredibly low risk of addiction, an enviable characteristic made possible by its patented time-release formula. Through an array of promotional materials, including literature, brochures, videotapes, and Web content, Purdue proudly asserted that the potential for addiction was very small, at one point stating it to be “less than 1 percent.”

The time-release conceit even worked on the FDA, which stated that “Delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug.” Armed with the time-release formula and misleading statistics about the risk of addiction, Purdue positioned the drug as a relatively safe choice for CNCP patients. Sales representatives told some doctors that the drug didn’t even produce a buzz, according to USA Today. (This for a pill that has since drawn frequent comparisons to heroin in terms of analgesia, euphoria, and the propensity for addiction.)

Between physician databases, incentive-happy sales reps, and an aggressive blitz package of promotional ephemera, Purdue’s multifaceted marketing campaign pushed OxyContin out of the niche offices of oncologists and pain specialists and into the primary care bazaar, where prescriptions for the drug could be handed out to millions upon millions of Americans. The most scathing irony is that what allowed OxyContin to reach so many households and communities was the claim that it wasn’t dangerous.

Kentucky originally filed its civil suit, Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Purdue Pharma, over seven years ago, back in 2007. After years of Purdue Pharma fighting to keep the trial out of Pike County, and Kentuckians watching as the suit pinballed from appeals court to appeals court, at one point even being transferred to New York, Purdue has finally exhausted its adjournment artistry. Unless the pharmaceutical company wins its latest appeal in the state Supreme Court, trial will most likely begin this year.

Kentucky is filing a total of 12 claims against the company, including false advertising, Medicaid fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages. In total the suit could cost Purdue Pharma $1 billion (which is just one-third of its annual revenues from OxyContin).

No state has been more devastated by the nationwide opiate problem than Kentucky. Much of the eastern part of the state and the Appalachians has watched as men, women, and teenagers fell victim to the potent pain pills. There were several different gateways — back injuries, operations, parents’ medicine cabinets — but all of them led to an implacable addiction that rivals that of the hardest street drugs. And that’s the rub. Because there was simply so much OxyContin available for over a decade, it trickled down from pharmacies and hospitals and became a street drug, coveted by teens and fiends and sold by dealers at a premium (prices often shot up well over $1 a milligram, pricing the popular 80mg tablets at over $100 for a single pill).

Whatever the gray areas on OxyContin’s many paths to perdition, the statistics on the first decade of this century bear out a staggering epidemic. From 1999 to 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors’ offices quadrupled. In the exact same time span, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers also quadrupled, rising to almost 17,000.

To call this a coincidence would be analogous to declaring no connection between loosening enforcement on drunk driving laws and observing a sudden increase in deaths caused by drunk driving. It goes almost without saying that these figures dovetail seamlessly with the release of OxyContin and Purdue’s marketing timeline, which hit hardest in the early 2000s.

The figures on fatal overdoses, which in recent years have eclipsed the number of deaths caused by cocaine and heroin combined, speak nothing of the skyrocketing rates of addiction throughout the country. Funerals from overdoses are anguishing enough, but as places like Pike County know too well, fatalities are only one dimension of a problem whose insidious sprawl affects local economies and health care costs, incites crime, and ruptures families through the vagaries of addiction, rehab stints, and prison sentences.

The degree to which Purdue Pharma is responsible to Kentucky for a decade rotted and warped by its popular drug is still pending in the eyes of the justice system. Now that federal regulations have finally caught up to the pharmaceutical drug problem in this country and doctors have wised up to the sinister realities of the drug nicknamed “Hillbilly Heroin,” the hard and fast days of OxyContin are over.

Many are now arguing that the epidemic hasn’t gone away so much as it has evolved: Heroin use is again on the upswing. Like a shrewd virus that mutates once it confronts a vaccine, Americans’ addiction to opioids has survived the government crackdown on OxyContin and fled to the seedy asylum of heroin. It’s a kind of evolution in retrograde, with pill users turning to an old 20th-century scourge that once flourished in urban decay and is uglier, more stigmatized, and more lethal than its pharmaceutical counterpart. But for OxyContin, a drug that, despite its manufacturer’s many clever disguises, was always frighteningly close to heroin, there’s a morbid sort of symmetry.

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Posted in addiction, Awareness

What is relapse anyway? Changing the face of relapse during recovery

relapse_recovery300x400

For those recovering from addiction, “relapse” has been a shameful event for years and years. Friends and family would scorn the fallen addict, self help organizations would make the person throw away their “clean time” and get a beginner’s chip while having to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days. Relapse during recovery meant jobs would be lost and relationships would end, among other hardships. Instead of facing all this humiliation, many in addiction recovery would return to the preferred substance, as this seemed like a better option. We want to say here and now that there is better alternative.

Let’s say goodbye to ‘relapse’ for good – it’s a slip, and it’s a natural part of recovery. Learn from it.

“Slip” Not Relapse During Recovery

Instead of having a relapse, we should call it a “slip.” As we live our life, it is natural to make mistakes. It is how human beings learn. It took a lot of falling before we learned to walk or ride a bike. Relapse is often a natural part of addiction recovery. There are other areas in life where we fall down (what we call “limiting behaviors”) as well: binging on sweets, not following through on our personal commitments like exercising, or not paying a bill on time. But when we yell at someone or spank the dog, this limits our growth and learning potential as well. If we are able to view all of this – including relapse during recovery – as lapses of judgment, and learn from them, it can propel us to greater depths of healing and personal fulfillment.

How You Are With Yourself as You Face Your Issue is the Issue

Every day, we are given opportunities for growth and learning. This especially applies to relapse. How you are with yourself as you face your issue is the issue. Meaning, we can beat ourselves up, feel humiliated, or actually take this episode as an opportunity to look at the triggers and grow from it. We counsel and teach our recovering participants to address the inner aspect that propelled them to use, create a better behavioral plan of action, set up a better support system, and look at the underlying cause or causes that led to the act.

“To Err is Human, to Forgive Divine”

We don’t view slips as being bad or wrong, but opportunities for further growth and development. It’s an invitation to take a deeper cut. In this way we don’t need to be guilted or shamed or go back to square one, but we do need to push on from where we left off.

Changing an addictive habit normally takes a good amount of time for the old pattern to fade and for the new habit to become firmly locked into place like a steel gate. This new pattern doesn’t come easy and one should anticipate some bumps in the road. The real challenge is to turn to your tools when a relapse does occur. Relapses during recovery then become bumps that are small insignificant annoyances. But if these small bumps are not handled at the onset appropriately and directly, they can turn into flames!

It is easy to be spiritual on the mountaintop but bringing the mountaintop into the valley is the real opportunity.

It is easy to be spiritual and successful at an addiction treatment center. And why shouldn’t it be? You’re in a residential treatment setting, you get support, you’re away from the addictive substance, and you’re constantly working on yourself. Upon discharge, the challenge and opportunity is to bring this healing environment with you as you face your day-to-day life.

The Keys to Managing Relapse During Recovery

The keys to continued recovery after a relapse – whoops, a slip – include:

In doing so, the success rate drastically increases for addiction recovery.

Scott-Author-80x80

This post was written by Scott Alpert

Dr. Scott Alpert has worked in the mental health field since 1994. During his career he has seen over 8000 patients, many during his ten years at a Mental Health Urgent Care center in the Los Angeles area helping people in extreme crisis. Dr. Scott has perfected the unique combination of spiritual and clinical psychology in an extraordinarily effective and endearing way.

 

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Posted in addiction, Education, healing, Recovery

Just one wish……

stairs-to-heaven

 

 

Just one wish!


Just last night, I grab my phone.

Scrolling down my contacts,

Sitting here all alone.

I came across her name, I started

to grief, dealing with my lost and pain.

It hit at once, how much of a friend she was.


I miss her, she was loyal and true,

I am sure that’s why I feeling so blue.

Life does go on, she would want this for me.

For this, I’ll do it is a

gift to her with a guarantee.


It really sucks when you lose a friend,

I have just one wish, just one wish,

to have a line towards heaven that I can extend.


I thank God, for placing her in my life.

She was someone you can count on,

during good times and all this worlds strife.

When I heard the news that she was gone,

it was like someone stabbing me in the back with a knife.


We always lookout for each others back.

Making sure we are on the right track.

Holding strong, surviving

she would come through it never

matter what others think if it was right or wrong.


It really sucks when you lose a friend,

I have just one wish, just one wish,

to have a line towards heaven that I can extend.


Lord they say you can measure friendship,

not by all the good times, but by how willing

they are to go through with you

in this worlds hardship


I have just one wish, just one wish,

ohhhhh just one more wish

to have a line towards heaven that I can extend.


Written, by Robert Christopher Mergupis © copyright 2015

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Posted in addiction, Awareness, God, healing, Inspirational quotes, Love

Tell me mama

no-friends

 

Tell me mama!



 

So you couldn’t handle my flame,

running away from it, what a shame.

All those others bought you knowing your game.

Now I understand why you’re so jaded

leaving me behind and betrayed.



 

I know both sides of you light and dark,

when I look into your eyes all I seen was a

child’s deep sorrow with a spark.

The darkness was always conquered by love,

battling in the heavens from above.



 

Tell me mama, was our bond for real,

or was it not big of a deal.



 

Ohhh I’m not playing their old game,

I’m real those others you’ll find life cursed with no change.



 

What I do know, that this dark side,

Girl you do have a choice,

you need to stop listening to that old voice.



 

Tell me mama, was our bond for real,

or was it not big of a deal.



 

So I sing this song in remembrance of you Angel,

I have always been a straight shooter with you,

never have deceive you or force from another angle.

I am on a rebound, my life is on another path.

It’s bright and new from the darkness of the past.

Yours can be too.



 

Tell me mama, was our bond for real,

or was it not big of a deal.



 

Written, by Robert Christopher Mergupis © copyright 2015


Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in addiction, Inspirational quotes, Love, Recovery

No spike & spoon can secure you!!!!

Needle

Separated by lies, is it all just a disguise.
only fools part with their money.
I ain’t sorry any more, not me anyway honey.
I am not going to be playing the games,
just so you can kill yourself, banging more of that junk.
I want to make this perfectly clear, I understand
and love you still dear. For this reason.

Mama no spike and spoon can secure you,
it will only make you feel run down and blue.

I’ve learned not to play the game,
this man moves on walking away cool.
Not some boys way of acting like a desperate fool.
It not worthy of my time just another one of those bad signs.

You always chasing boys and fools,
as long as you keep on the hustle all these
boys know is that your nothing but their tool.
They will treat you as property with pay.
You can’t run from it will repeat every day.

Mama no spike and spoons can secure you,
it will only make you feel run down and blue.

I have always over look the dark side,
not no more for I know how this end will ride.
Love is not that confusing, it means stop helping
all the struggles and pain. This curse must be broken
in order to stop this dark cloud and rain.

Healing is all part of this journey, dealing
with it’s pits and catching as you fall.
Really not much as long you pull your part, for me at all.
Devotion is the seed of love,
in return you will find nothing else matters.
Without it sit back and watch your life crumble and shatter.

Mama no spike and spoons can secure you,
it will only make you feel run down and blue.

Written, by Robert Christopher Mergupis © copyright 2015

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in addict, addiction, Education, healing, Inspirational quotes, Recovery

Addiction’s Storms…..

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Last time I got a text message from Angel Face she was not doing so good. This is the only time I ever hear from her now. She text me calming that ” I am done with the trucker and that I needed help.” Well while she did text me she also claimed that, ” nobody cares for her, and only one guy can help her out for a couple days a week!”

Right off the bat this made me feel will were do I rate on her list of friends? Maybe she feels she has manipulated too much from me already or maybe not? Well one thing I do know for a fact about myself is that I do care and I don’t want to enable her addiction no more, and maybe just maybe this is why she is running out of people that she feels wont help her out any-more???

Here is to the day were she will see who here real friends are in this journey.

Peace towards yours :-)

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in addiction, Inspirational quotes, Recovery
Today is the present.
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Angelface-foundation.com, 2013, Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this blog’s material, both images and words, without the author’s consent is prohibited. Copies-provided-credit-is-given may be acceptable on an individual basis please contact author. Linking, ping back and re blogging through WordPress is permitted. Thank you for respecting me and my work. I will respect you and yours.

Robert Christopher Mergupis

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Robert Christopher Mergupis

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