Alumni Perspective: Willingness

Alumni Perspective: Willingness

by Mandy
Munro Alumni, March 2017

 

So many of us seek recovery when we are desperate and have tried our own ways and failed. We have had our share of pain and suffering and are looking for the solution. Yet the biggest riddle is this: When given the solution, many of are unwilling to fully accept it or do what we are told will make us better. Many of us want recovery on our own terms. “I’ll do this, but not that.”

I was one of those people. Initially, I never even wanted to be a sober person. Sobriety to me was the end of the road and signified the end of my life. Unknowingly, I sabotaged my every attempt to be sober. It took me six years of constant relapsing to become completely 100% willing to go to any lengths.

When I first entered AA, the initial problem I had was with God. I didn’t believe nor did I plan to. My mind was a steel trap. Completely closed. This was the first sign of my unwillingness. Straight out of the gate, I wanted it my way. I relapsed.

My next attempt at recovery was doomed because of my dislike of the 12 steps. I was aghast at the notion of being told that I might have some character defects or was less than perfect. How dare AA suggest that, without knowing me! No AA for me and I continued to relapse. I chose a different path of recovery, known as harm reduction. No 12 steps, no need for God. This I would do. I entered a harm reduction treatment centre and relapsed five days after leaving.

My options were running out and my relapses were getting worse. I didn’t yet understand that my alcoholism was progressing. My work was being affected, my family was at their wits’ end, and I was isolating and binge drinking. I decided I would give AA another try and imagined I would be finally healed. I went to some meetings and sat in the back row (relapse row). I never went early and I shot out of there as soon as the Lord’s Prayer was recited. I continued to relapse.

I decided to get a sponsor but was unwilling to calI her because I was full of fear, I had social anxiety, and a phone phobia. In my mind, I was going to AA, I was accepting God, and I had a sponsor and believed this was enough. Now when I relapsed though, my short spurts of binge drinking had progressed to not being able to stop once I took that first drink. The nightmare of a binge would not end until I went to the hospital.

I decided I was not connecting to my sponsor so I got a new one and she made me begin the steps. I started to get better and got a little bit of sobriety time. I didn’t really enjoy AA though. I didn’t connect to the fellowship. I still had some of my old friends and still wanted my old life. I was one foot in and unwilling to jump in with both feet. And although my relapses were farther apart, they had become dangerous, terrifying, and worst of all, life threatening. I was locked up in the psych ward on a Form 1 more than once, in and out of the hospital, suicide attempts, injuries, and loss of my driver’s licence. My body and my mind were no longer working properly. I was a shell of my former self.

I was beaten. I knew this disease was going to kill me so I put myself into Renascent. There began a journey of real recovery and the beginning of a new life. I became willing. I decided I would do anything and everything I was told to do. I did the work. After leaving Renascent I did their Continuing Care program, I did 90 meetings in 90 days, I did the 12 steps, and I got active in the program and in service. I went to retreats, round ups, conferences. I went to closed discussion meetings and Big Book studies. When I was afraid or unwilling, I prayed for help for strength and willingness. I built a foundation of trust in my Higher Power and began to think of myself as a student of AA and recovery. The more I did, the more I began to like it, and even love it. I learned tools to live happily in this world without the need or desire for any substance.

This past February I celebrated two years of sobriety.

I am continuing to learn and grow and I feel grateful every day. I look back at my stumbling blocks and I remember thinking that because I couldn’t understand how or why things worked, that they couldn’t possibly. I remember thinking “How will praying help me find a job and pay my bills?” “How will going to a meeting affect my day today?” I had been unwilling to listen and trust. In the end, I just had to do the things I was told to do.

At a 12-step retreat I attended a little over a year ago, I read something that has stuck with me, because it described the old me. It read, “Most people say to God, ‘Prove to me that you exist and I will believe in you.’ God says in return, ‘Believe in me, and I will prove to you I exist.’” For me, that says it all. Believe first. Do the work. Live a life beyond your greatest dreams.

Last year I went to India for two months to study yoga and meditation. This year I am travelling to Thailand for a month to volunteer for an organization that rescues street dogs. This is a life I never could have imagined. I have had a spiritual awakening and the desire to drink has been lifted from me. I have a love for recovery, for AA, and for 12-step living. I am no longer running the show; thank God for that!

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Officially I don’t belong to a 12-step group; I do have a sponsor who has become like a sister, and a team of incredible women who inspire, mentor, entertain, challenge, and have continued to love me on my best and worst days over the last 8 years, 10 months. Some may say that because I don’t have a home group, I am not a member of AA. I remind them the only requirement of membership is a desire to stop drinking.

For the past 8+ years, I have lived my best life. I am the same woman who could not stop drinking for anything or anyone; I was hopeless and destined to die until I finally “surrendered” in January 2010.

I am growing up in AA and was actively involved in service for a number of years. I still say I owe everything to AA, my higher power, and the people who showed me the way. This includes people outside of 12 step and the people who stick around the rooms, make coffee, and open the doors. I have experienced my parent’s funeral and my child’s wedding, and I didn’t drink — this is truly a miracle. I have found a recovery program that worked for me, and I have persevered. I still consider myself in early recovery, and I don’t hide my recovery from the public. Whenever I can put a face to recovery, I do it with pride as a person with lived experience of a substance use disorder and long-term recovery.

What I’ve learned along the way is there are many roads to recovery, and recovery looks different for everyone. What I measure as success may not be what you consider success. One of the very first teachings in AA was “to keep an open mind” and when I was in early sobriety, I was very opinionated about the quality of other people’s programs even though the next thing I was taught was “live and let live.” It took time, patience, pain, and practice to stop looking at the quality of other people’s lives and focus on my own.

What prompted me to write this is that I want to — as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous — provide an alternate perspective when it comes to harm reduction, abstinence, cannabis, methadone, suboxone, and other mood-altering substances. What people choose to do is none of my business; I want my friends and members of the fellowship to live their best lives. I don’t care if you smoke pot, I don’t care if you drink, I don’t care if you come to meetings drunk. I care that you’re happy, I care that you’re whole, I care that you’re not suffering, and I care that you’re alive.

Letting go has been a process, and for me that means freedom.

Wishing you peace, love, and happiness.  

 

How to Recover from Marijuana Addiction through Treatment

How to Recover from Marijuana Addiction through Treatment

Marijuana has a storied history in pop culture as a casual drug, a ‘soft’ drug, the one so socially acceptable even President Barack Obama admitted using it. If you’re reading this though, you may also know it as an addictive substance that can have serious life-changing consequences for those who use it and their loved ones. Partners, employers, friends, and family members often lose patience for the person who is unable to stop using, and have trouble understanding just how an addiction to marijuana can cause such a change in a person’s life. Whether you call it weed, pot, cannabis, marijuana, or any of the other names it’s had over the centuries, in this how-to guide, you will gain the knowledge you need to recover from your marijuana addiction once and for all.

Marijuana addiction is real, and recovery is possible. It begins with taking the first step: admitting that help is needed, and accepting that help.

What kind of a drug is marijuana, and what are its effects?

  • Cannabis has been grown and used by humans since before 2000 B.C.
  • Marijuana’s effects range from stimulant to depressant to hallucinogen, depending on the user and the various strains.
  • Herbal cannabis is derived from the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the female Cannabis plant.
  • Marijuana can be smoked or ingested.
  • Studies vary on the addiction rates for marijuana, but dependence and addiction are known effects of long-term use.
  • Cannabis use disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition requiring treatment.

So what are the side effects of marijuana use? To start, cognitive impairment on attention, short-term memory, and ability to complete psychomotor tasks — that’s what makes it so dangerous to drive while stoned.

Long-term marijuana use can lead to chronic cognitive deficits like memory loss and reduced IQ, and is associated with a risk of developing other mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Physically, inhaling the carcinogenic marijuana smoke increases the risk of chronic bronchitis, lung disease, and cancer.

According to the DSM-5, the withdrawal symptoms from marijuana include:

  • irritability,
  • anger or aggression,
  • nervousness or anxiety,
  • sleep difficulty (ie, insomnia, disturbing dreams),
  • decreased appetite or weight loss,
  • restlessness,
  • depressed mood, and
  • at least one of the following physical symptoms causing significant discomfort:
    • abdominal pain,
    • shakiness/tremors,
    • sweating,
    • fever,
    • chills, or
    • headache.

Addicts can and do recover with marijuana addiction treatment.

Recovery is possible. That’s great news for the person struggling with marijuana addiction who may feel hopeless. However, a certain mindset is generally necessary in order for marijuana addiction treatment to work. Some of the things that are generally considered a helpful prerequisite for successful recovery include:

  • Willingness to admit there is a problem. As with addiction to other drugs, marijuana addiction often leads to denial. Users shrink from confronting what is actually going on, the toll the drug is taking on their lives and relationships, and the severity of the problem; owning the wreckage can be overwhelming and is often best accomplished in an intervention-type setting with the help of concerned and supportive loved ones. Admitting the truth about the impact of the addiction is essential to seeking help and ultimately recovering.
  • A sincere desire to stop using marijuana. A person must not merely pay lip service to the idea of getting clean and sober; it doesn’t work that way. Of course, he or she may not feel enthusiastic about having to give up cannabis, indeed may be terrified at the prospect, but one must be willing to put it aside in order to give treatment a fair shot.
  • A willingness to consider complete abstinence as a means to successful addiction treatment. Someone with a marijuana problem may not believe they also have a problem with alcohol or any other drug, but generally speaking, those who are entirely abstinent have a much better chance of recovering from their addiction because other mind-altering drugs can act as gateway drugs to your substance of choice.

How marijuana addiction treatment works

There is no magic pill, quick fix, or single technique to help someone recover from addiction. You can change your life and recover from addiction, and be happier than you ever were before; it’s just a matter of doing the work. At Renascent, marijuana addiction treatment consists of a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem of addiction. It’s an approach that has helped thousands of people who once struggled with addiction achieve lasting recovery.

Treatment modalities for addiction include:

  • Education into the nature of addiction and its physical, emotional, social, and spiritual effects
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy: Practicing techniques to change behaviour patterns that led you to reach for a mind-altering substance in the first place
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
  • Additional therapies personalized to your individual needs and situation, including reality therapy, person-centred therapy, solution-focused therapy, mindfulness principles, and art therapy

Treatment is facilitated individually and in groups by our team of registered psychotherapists and certified drug and alcohol addiction specialists, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.

At Renascent, the atmosphere is that of a comfortable home, not a bleak institution. You will be surrounded by loving, caring, experienced staff and peers who, like yourselves, are on a journey of recovery. We have found this to be the best possible environment to support someone as they recover. The bottom line is, marijuana addiction doesn’t have to rule your life anymore. For more information about Renascent’s programs and to find out why we are your best choice for lasting recovery, please call our Access Centre, day or night, toll-free at 1-866-232-1212 or text 1-647-691-4146 to speak confidentially to one of our counsellors.

Recovery in TV and Film

Recovery in TV and Film

As winter drags on, aren’t we all finding ourselves spending more hours in front of the TV? And while you’re there, have you been noticing all the addiction and recovery storylines? Without revealing any spoilers, the shows This Is Us and Teen Mom are both featuring addiction and recovery storylines right now, and this weekend also marks 10 years since the premiere of the infamous Breaking Bad — not exactly a show about recovery, but there was a meeting!

On the reality side of things, there’s Russell Brand’s documentary, From Addiction to Recovery, in which he explores his addiction, reveals how the program has saved his life, and how his relationship with Amy Winehouse spurred his campaign to have addiction recognized and treated as a disorder in the UK. (Warning: adult language and subject matter!)

Click here to watch the full documentary.

The sitcom “Mom” features a mother and daughter (played by Anna Faris and Allison Janney), both of whom are in recovery:

Watch the latest episodes of Mom here.

Recovery Road only got one season, but was widely regarded as a fair and accurate depiction:

“Usually when a character struggles with drugs or alcohol or a combination of the two, they dabble, they spiral, they hit rock bottom, and they ask for help. The story tends to fade to black there, never showing the hard work that goes into being sober. It’s at that point where Recovery Road begins…
It sounds like the stuff of a classic Afterschool Special, but when Maddie faces expulsion or rehab, viewers get to see something rarely shown on television – even less so on teen TV – the real work of recovery.”

Keep reading Recovery Road: finally a TV show about addiction that focuses on recovery

Watch first episode at the bottom of this article.

 

So go ahead, curl up on the couch this weekend, and let us know what you think of these shows!

Alumni Perspective: Recovering from Food Addiction

Alumni Perspective: Recovering from Food Addiction

I turned 70 three months ago. Now generally speaking, a woman would never divulge that she would be entering that decade. However, this is the first time in fifty years that I am free, sane, and liberated from the world of dieting, calorie counting, purging, bingeing extreme exercising and all else associated with society’s vision of how weight loss should come about. All of this changed a year ago, November 23, 2016 a year where I dropped the shackles of dieting and began to truly live.

I started my first serious diet in my mid twenties. For almost all of my entire life growing up I was the chubbiest in the class, the fattest among my group of friends and the one that was either pitied or taunted. It was in this realm that I sought comfort, predominately in bread, pasta, donuts and chocolate bars. Isolation and secret eating became my way of life.

In my twenties I wanted desperately to fix all of that and so I entered the false promises of the weight loss industry. Diet pills, fasting, Herbal Magic, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers (I have more shares in that than Oprah) and a myriad other plans that promised a quick fix. When all these failed and only more weight piled on I turned to the ultimate quick fix of all times, Weight Loss Surgery. For almost a year I rode a high of quick loss only to come to a screeching crash. You see, I gradually began to transfer my food addiction into alcohol. On came back the pounds and again began assuaging my pain with baguettes, bagels, bonbons, and booze. I was suddenly a fat, malnourished, diabetic, alcoholic with high cholesterol and blood pressure. It was at this point that I thought I was hopeless, helpless and at my age not worth saving. I was an ashamed failure, a mentally and physically sick woman.

By the Grace of God as I call it, I found a comment online about a woman who was entering Renascent for food addiction. I inquired about this and found out that this program was literally in my back yard. I made the phone call.

A year later, I no longer take eight metformin to control type 2 diabetes, my cholesterol and blood pressure is normal. The greatest reward though is that I no longer obsess about food or alcohol. My mad cravings are gone and I religiously follow the food plan given to me during my stay at Renascent. Diet is not a part of my vocabulary any longer. No carbs, no sugars, no alcohol is truly doable under any circumstance. Case in point, to celebrate my seventieth birthday I went for a week to the Grand Canyon to whitewater raft and hike. With advance notice and preparation I was able to stay on plan. Eating out is a breeze as is any social event. What a gift I’ve been given: Health, peace, and well being.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the visionary pioneer of food addiction, Dr. Vera Tarman and all the counsellors and staff at Renascent. I was also the fortunate and last client to be the beneficiary of a generous donation to the Food Addiction Program. I am truly, humbly grateful. Oh and as an extra bonus, I lost forty pounds and am in the normal BMI range. Thank you, thank you, thank you.