Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Lou's Story

For every Charlie Sheen, there is a Louis Gossett Jr. Except that Gossett's got what Sheen doesn't: an Oscar, an Emmy and a profound respect for people in recovery, including himself.

I recently had a chance to hear Gossett tell his story at a Hazelden event in Naples, Fla. For an actor who has been honored with his profession's highest achievements, he barely talked about his life as an actor.

Instead, he shared his behind-the-scenes struggles with alcohol and other drugs that weren't part of a Hollywood script. His were real-life consequences: divorce, estrangement from his sons, and a plunge into mental anguish, hastened when, after winning an Academy Award for his supporting role in "An Officer and a Gentleman," offers for more and bigger movie roles didn't come. "My heart began to break, and I fell for the self-abuse to ease the pain," he said.

Gossett had every reason to stop, but he couldn't.

"Doing it for other people didn't work. Doing it my way, on my terms, didn't work. I couldn't run anymore or hide. ... Finally, that's when I realized that the man inside of me — me — had to give in, stop trying so hard, surrender, have a commitment, willingness to change, clean up my own house inside and get rid of my defects of character," Gossett told the audience. "Suddenly, I faced a very pleasant dilemma ... learning to live in sobriety."

Gossett is unabashed by how he stays clean and sober: a program of steps that lets him "make progress without perfection," a higher power he calls God, and helping others. "I have to give it away to keep it." All those things, he says, help him "practice the art of recovery."

What a contrast to Sheen's headline-grabbing rants and raves that go beyond making himself look either very foolish or very ill. Sheen has viciously trashed this "art of recovery" espoused by the likes of hundreds of thousands of people like Gossett.

Sheen even disparages sobriety, calling it "boring."
Gossett, 74, is hardly bored. Telling his story of addiction and redemption is only part of his life's work. In 2006, he started the Eracism Foundation. "I dedicate this last quadrant of my life to an all-out conscientious offensive against racism," Gossett said. Like addiction, racism robs people of their dignity and erodes their respect.

I wanted to ask Gossett whether he and Sheen ever have met and whether he or others in that bright yet faraway galaxy of stars have tried to help the troubled actor, whose denial now goes far beyond his own well-being. But that's personal and none of my business.

I appreciate that Gossett shared his insides with members of an audience he never had met, including many who know his truth, that treatment works, recovery is real and there's nothing boring about sobriety, except that we don't tend to wave machetes from public rooftops and trash hotel rooms anymore.

I have to admit, though, that I was bummed out shortly after he finished. That's because for every Charlie Sheen, there are plenty of celebrities who don't do what he's doing or crash cars or walk off the set or go broke or die, because they're not drinking or drugging anymore, but until they tell their stories publicly — perhaps all at once — Sheen's sold-out "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" is the only show in town.

For sure, this tour of self-aggrandized destruction will get plenty of attention, even though it won't win an award for its producer, director and lead actor.

And is his message really what we want our kids and people struggling with mental illness or addiction to hear?

William Moyers is the vice president of foundation relations for the Hazelden Foundation and the author of "Broken," his best-selling memoirs, and "A New Day, A New Life." Please send your questions to William Moyers at wmoyers@hazelden.org. To find out more about William Moyers and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Email to Dan Griffin last Friday March 25th 2011

by Avenues to Recovery Inc. on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 11:06pm

Dan it was really wonderful to meet you yesterday. Your book was a
breakthrough for me as I have spent the last 30 years figuring out how
to be a man and how to help other men embrace their masculinity. I
have had some success and the work is incredible and rewarding. Many
years ago I was similarly impressed by Robert Bly's book " Iron John"
and that was a seminal work for me. So here we are in the here and now
and I wanted to share with you.

While I was listening to you yesterday I sent my 41 year old son who
lives in England a text and asked him to make me a list of words that
described masculinity. He is used to my stuff and so dutifully and so
he answered with the following:


What is amazing about this is that he was a victim of my alcoholism
and was lost to me for 38 years as his mother and I had problems and
she basically disappeared. The impact of that was that was the trauma
that fueled my addictions. I looked for him over the years but it was
not until I was well enough in sobriety that I was ready to get on
with this and to accept it for what it was. The shame used to paralyze
and this was a story that I was unable to tell or to feel. So your
presentation yesterday was so telling on so many levels and it really
resonated. Two years ago we were able to reunite and we as two men
have been able to accept each other honestly, openly and willingly. It
has been a miracle and is one of those things where I say to myself
that I am glad that I did not leave the rooms until the miracle
happened. It has happened and "coincidently" I received an email from
Paul yesterday which read:

"So here's a mad thing. Around 2 years ago today I got an email from a
man I'd not seen in person for 38 years. A man I'd given up on ever
seeing again. My Dad, David Brown. Now, I know there is much pain and
suffering in the world today but the thing this experience has taught
me is to believe in hope. You cannot now tell me miracles don't
happen, they do and I need to thank the angels that worked to enable
this reunion"'

In thinking about the masculinity aspect of this it amazes me that
Paul has been able to work through a lot of the stuff that he must
have been left with. He has worked hard and by the grace of God he
seems not to have adopted the family male stance on addiction. He can
take it or leave it and is resilient. He was also impressed by the
Iron John book and he actually gave me his copy as we both now realize
that our reading the book was about trying to answer questions about
loss and abandonment.

Dan thanks for appearing in my life and being the next teacher that I
needed . I would love to talk to you some more as I think we can help
each other. Lets talk sometime and I can add some more meat to the
skeleton of the story that I have been able to share with you here.

Wow Dan.....thanks! Hope you dont mind my sharing but it seemed to be
so right to share especially in light of the fact that I was unable to
share any of this from 1971 - 1984 at which point I began selectively
to heal.

I understand from Crystal that she bought your syllabus which I am
really excited to look at and she and I are are going to collaborate
on way to see how we can work with you professionally in the Drug
Court in Kansas City, Kansas where my company acts as the treatment

The attached pic is self explanatory.....that was on day 1 of our
reunion in June of 2009!

David Brown, AAPS, BRI 1
Cell: 913-486-8119

I recommend "A Man's Way Through the 12 Steps".

"With candor and compassion, Dan Griffin expands the power and significance of the Twelve Steps by providing a deeper understanding of what they mean to men in recovery." --Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., author of A Woman's Way Through the Twelve Steps

"Recovery is more than sobriety. This book is a beacon to guide men through the unique dynamics of the male experience of recovery from active addiction to early sobriety to a lifetime of recovery. This is a practical look at the power of addiction and the promise and possibility of recovery based on the experiences of men who have been through the journey. Read this book if you are a man who wants to experience the promise and possibility of healthy recovery." --William Cope Moyers author of Broken

"An excellent resource and a valuable addition to men's work in recovery." --Karen Casey, bestselling author of Each Day a New Beginning

"A wonderful guide for men that reveals how to transform pain, confusion and mixed messages into a deeper and richer sobriety through the Twelve Steps. Dan Griffin does an excellent job of laying out the special issues and dilemmas faced by men in recovery, helping them form better relationships and sort out what it means to be men of substance." --Craig Nakken, MSW author of The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior

"Dan Griffin's inspiring book is a real `gut check' for all men in recovery and those still suffering. This book is a `must-read' for those of us in recovery who seek to reach our full potential through the Twelve Steps." --US Congressman, Jim Ramstad
Product Description
In A Man's Way through the Twelve Steps, author Dan Griffin uses interviews with men in various stages of recovery, excerpts from relevant Twelve Step literature, and his own experience to offer the first holistic approach to sobriety for men. Readers work through each of the Twelve Steps, learn to capitulate negative masculine scripts that have shaped who they are and how they approach recovery, and strengthen the positive and affirming aspects of manhood. This groundbreaking book offers the tools needed for men to work through key issues with which they commonly struggle, including:

difficulty admitting powerlessness
finding connection with a Higher Power
letting go of repressed anger and resentment
contending with sexual issues, whatever they may be
overcoming barriers to intimacy and meaningful relationships
Men's capacity for emotional and relational experiences is far greater than commonly depicted not only in mainstream society but also in various parts of the Twelve Step culture. A Man's Way through the Twelve Steps offers practical advice and inspiration for men to define their own sense of masculinity and thus heighten their potential for a lifetime of sobriety.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

News from the Front....comment please

The latest news from the prescription drug front is that Governor Rick Scott of Florida is looking to kill a planned statewide computer database system designed to track pain clinic abuses and "doctor shopping".
While this is surely an expensive undertaking, the lax attitude the State of Florida has on prescription drug pain clinics and pill mills is abhorrent and detrimental to our society.
Here are some facts:
There are over 40,000 deaths from drug overdoses in the United States each year, and computer databases like the one proposed can prevent some of these deaths.
It is so easy for someone to go from doctor to doctor, a lot of times with the same prescription, and gain any amount of drugs they please with great ease. People come from other states to Florida just to bring back hefty supplies to sell on the street.
We've seen a shift in the types of drugs people talk about. More and more young people are becoming addicted today to pills like Oxycontin, Xanax and others. One mistake, and it's over.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dating in Early Recovery

"Active alcoholics don't have relationships, they take hostages" - Unknown

If we could go back in history and examine hieroglyphics from an ancient recovery meeting (if there were such a thing,) I suspect there would be some version of “thou shalt wait to date” on at least one of them. This has long been very sound advice for people who are in early sobriety, and for good reason. But telling a person in early recovery to avoid dating for the first year is like telling a person not to date in the workplace – sure, it’s not a good idea, but when people are around each other on a regular basis, there's bound to be some hook-ups.

The problem is that these unions rarely work out and more often than not they leave one injured party. For 'normal' people, this might be something that they can chalk up to experience and move on, but for the alcoholic or addict it can be deadly. You might think these words are a little extreme, but the fact is, we are not wired like normal people and when a broken relationship leaves us hurt and feeling used our tendency is to reach for our drug of choice, and for some of us to use again is to die.

But, a person telling us that it’s a bad idea doesn’t seem to faze us - we think that just because we aren’t using anymore, we’re ready to enter into all kinds of unions, from raunchy rendezvous to domestic bliss. We want to feel loved again, spiritually and physically, to have that wild fling or comforting caress. I know how strong the pull can be, but I also know how badly things can turn out and unfortunately, most of us learn the hard way. After looking and feeling like the walking dead for so long, we tend to jump in with both feet if someone is even remotely attracted to us. And then, suddenly we have a new purpose in life! This works wonders while things are going well with the relationship, but what happens when the new center of our universe does the unthinkable and breaks up with us? The odds are good that we’ll lose our focus, that the bottom will fall out of our perfect new world. Suddenly we’re watching Fatal Attraction and craving rabbit stew. We go back to our old ways, analyzing every conversation we had with our new ex, thinking “If only I’d done this or done that.” Our insecurities come back with a vengeance, and the idea of taking a drink or a drug isn’t usually far behind.
It’s hard to stay out of the dating game, but try to remember that we’re putting ourselves in a dangerous position by getting into a new relationship that can leave us hurt. We don’t know how to handle arguments and break-ups without alcohol or drugs, and we’re going to be tempted to turn to using when things get rough. Against the advice of many, I got into a relationship during early recovery with someone who was also new to sobriety, and when things went south, I went straight to the liquor store. I was one of these people that always drank concerning relationships, whether I broke it off or they did, but this knowledge didn’t stop me from doing it. Mostly, it was because I loved the attention, no matter what the consequences.
Very often, men and women in early recovery don’t just decide to date; they decide to date each other. It's a bad idea to date anyone, but two newcomers dating are like two horny teenagers getting together, and the chances are very good that lust will get confused with love. We seem to be drawn to each other because we ‘get’ what the other is going through, but what we don’t know is that our judgment is clouded - we are not emotionally sober. ‘Emotional Sobriety’ in very basic terms, refers to a person’s ability to recognize if they have an unhealthy dependency on another person or thing and therefore unhealthy expectations. Having an expectation can lead to resentment - which can be deadly for any alcoholic or addict - especially a newcomer.
Unfortunately, two newcomers getting together is only one dating scenario, there’s also the case when a newcomer is attracted to a person who already has some time in recovery. During one of my failed attempts at sobriety, I met someone who had almost three years since his last drink. I only had three months myself, and anyone who could go a few years between cocktails was a winner in my book. It never entered my head that he could have other issues.

We started a relationship, and although I had a weird feeling about him, I pushed it aside because I was getting attention. It felt great just to be wanted. However, his affection quickly turned to an unhealthy need for control, which erupted into heated arguments and subsequently led to both of us drinking. The first time he relapsed, he became violent in a way that I’d never imagined he was capable. I was beaten black and blue, nursing a deep cut in my throat from being held down at knifepoint. It was a few days later, after being beaten unconscious numerous times, that I was finally able to escape to a safe house.
The problem was, I had no idea about emotional sobriety at the time and had already deemed myself ready to date. He could have been an axe murderer for all I knew, and it turned out that he very nearly was. But all I saw was a man with three years in recovery, and that amounted to an FBI background check in my mind. The weird feeling I had about him was an intuitive thought that was screaming “this isn’t right!” But, I chose to ignore it so I could get my needs met.
I did, however, learn valuable lessons from those bad dating choices and one of them was that I should have listened to the suggestions I was given by the people who had been there and done it before. Dating in early recovery is a bad idea, whether it’s another newcomer, another person with time in recovery or a ‘normal’ person. People can give the illusion that they work a perfect program or live the perfect life, but their actions will speak volumes about who they really are.

For example, it’s a huge red flag when someone who has time in recovery (more than a year) is dating newcomers, it's considered 'Thirteenth Stepping'. It's an unwritten rule in the rooms of recovery that we should not date a newcomer. And if someone is doing this, then chances are they aren't working a solid program or they'd be following this rule. It's also not a good sign if the person we are dating is controlling and manipulative - whether they are in recovery or not. The point is, there are people who have moral and behavioral issues that have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs and when we are not yet well ourselves, we’re hardly ready to judge who is safe and healthy from who isn’t.

Obviously, there are exceptions when people do the right thing, and in those cases it can work out. A sponsor told me a story about a man with quite a few years in recovery who was attracted to a female newcomer. After looking around for some advice from people with long-term sobriety, he asked the newcomer if she’d consider dating him when she had gone through the Twelve Steps and reached one year of sobriety. She agreed, and after her one year sobriety birthday, they began a relationship. They celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary a few years ago.

Try to remember, that in the first year of recovery especially - we are sick people getting well and we need to concerntrate on our recovery - not on another person. I may have kissed my fair share of toads, but I was certainly no princess either and two sick people getting together does not make one healthy relationship. Keep this in mind as you consider dating and ask yourself what is more important – romance or recovery? And don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for another romance down the line, but not all of us have another recovery.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Addiction relapse: Part of chronic illness

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
February 3, 2011 12:43 p.m. EST

Actor Charlie Sheen must realize that his problem is of the mind, body and spirit, experts say.

The brain needs at least a year to recover from heavy alcohol or cocaine use
Relapsed addicts need to first realize that what they were doing before isn't working
Group environment for rehab has been shown to be effective

(CNN) -- Actor Charlie Sheen has begun at least his fourth stint in rehab after he was taken from his home to a hospital by ambulance last week.
He was "very, very intoxicated, also apparently in a lot of pain" on Thursday, according to a 911 call from a doctor who had just talked to the actor.
Given that addiction is a chronic disorder, it's not unexpected that someone like Sheen would relapse multiple times, said Kathryn Cunningham, director of Center for Addiction Research at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
And while rehab programs might last a few months, brain imaging studies have shown that among cocaine and alcohol addicts, the function of neurons in the brain doesn't return to normal for a year or even longer, Cunningham said.
"It's really difficult to be a family member or a loved one and have to deal with someone who seems like they're never going to get better," Cunningham said. "But they can, and it does."
It takes a number of strategies to get a person to stay clean for a long period of time, she said.
Experts say relapsed addicts need to first realize that what they were doing before isn't working.

It's really difficult to be a family member or a loved one and have to deal with someone who seems like they're never going to get better. But they can, and it does.
--Kathryn Cunningham, addiction expert

"What he should be doing is taking very seriously his problem, not trying to compartmentalize it or minimize it or trivialize it, but really to recognize that his is probably a problem of the mind, the body and the spirit," said William Moyers, vice president of foundation relations at the Hazelden Foundation, who worked for CNN as a journalist in the early 1990s.
At Hazelden, the primary treatment program for an alcoholic or drug addict lasts about 30 days. But if this is the second time or more, a longer treatment program of about two to five months is recommended, including intensive after-care treatment.
That longer regimen includes a lot of one-on-one counseling, group therapy and perhaps psychiatric and psychological options if there is a co-occurring mental disorder, Moyers said. Medication is used in some cases.
Group therapy is crucial to put a patient in an environment of people who are both empathetic and examples of recovery, Moyers said. Hearing the experiences of other people often gives hope and helps the healing process.
"At the end of the day, (Sheen's) ability to recover depends on his willingness to be part of a larger experience, and that larger experience will include group therapy and recovery meetings," Moyers said.
The group environment "provides an opportunity for caring confrontation from peers and the knowledge that others can understand what they are going through rather than experiencing the shame of isolation," said Lynn McKnight, manager of clinical services at Crossroads Centre, a rehab facility in Antigua started by musician Eric Clapton, who himself struggled with drugs.
"Research shows that ongoing recovery is most successful with long-term connections to community, self-help groups and appropriate medical management," she said.
She has seen people who've repeatedly gone through the revolving door of detox and rehab, with seemingly no hope. But some turn over a new leaf after multiple tries.

Charlie Sheen in private rehab

Behind the scenes of Sheen 911 call

Drug Addiction
Charlie Sheen
Celebrity News
Addiction and Recovery

"What makes the difference?" McKnight asked. "I think it is about surrender and release. Surrendering to the concept of powerlessness over their chronic disease and realizing that they cannot do it alone."
Some patients realize that they've been living in denial or minimizing their problems.
"Whether that means relying on a higher power, 12-step program or the group process, or help from a professional -- not trying to do it by will power alone is key," she said. "This is actually empowering in a paradoxical sort of way."
She said people who get to "the point of being willing to do whatever it takes to get and stay clean" usually get involved in self-help meetings.
Recovery is a lifelong experience and must be done in conjunction with others, Moyers said.
Sheen was court-ordered to enter rehab in 1998 and again in 2010. He also voluntarily checked into a rehab facility in February 2010"as a preventive measure," his publicist said at that time.
For Sheen's treatment, he is reportedly doing his rehab privately, according to People magazine. His publicist Stan Rosenfield did not confirm or deny this in a statement:
"In compliance with the national health privacy laws (HIPAA), no further information relating to Charlie Sheen's health or his rehab experience will be released without his written permission. I can say that all of us who know Charlie care about him very much. We will support him in any we can in this journey, beginning by respecting his privacy."
It's sad that when someone relapses, "they're automatically considered damned and failed," but when someone who is obese and diabetic eats a gallon of ice cream, the expectation is that he or she can try again, Cunningham said. The addict and the chronic overeater should be viewed the same, and they both have potential to change their harmful habits, she said.
Having supportive people around you is essential to recovery, Cunningham said.
"The bottom line is that Charlie Sheen can recover, whether he gets help at home or in a hospital, but he'll only recover if he realizes that he doesn't have to do it by himself," Moyers said

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Why should I do all the recovery demands?

What’s my motivation? The answer is this: Remember how much your addiction hurt. If you don’t do the work, your addiction will bleed through a thousand wounds all over again. What we know is that active addiction hurts every time. The consequences get worse and our lives fall apart. We make excuses but that is our old enemy denial just getting in the way one more time. Your addiction is out in the parking lot doing push ups. It is cunning, baffling, powerful and very patient. I relapse because I fail to remember the pain that addiction costs me. The cost goes up each time I relapse. What happens is that I forget. I forget the price I would have to pay.

Think of your last relapse:

What happened?

What is the lesson?

Forgetting about the cost of relapse is not like forgetting a phone number. It is like playing Russian roulette. We got complacent and careless. We began to listen to our addiction talking to us. We forget what addiction costs us when we allow the addcition to take over one more time. The nature of addiction is suffering, pain, loss, waste and tragedy.

No one relapses without first forgetting the cost!

Take the sick and tired moment as being the moment of change and learn to never forget.