No Two Addictions are the Same

By David B. Bohl
Originally published on his website, David B. Bohl, on February 4, 2019 – with links to AA Agnostica

Addictions, like snowflakes, have one thing in common – they are all absolutely unique.

The intricacies of a snowflake pattern can be an easy metaphor for the intricacies of human experience when it comes to trauma, addiction, resilience, success or failure. What makes one person reach for alcohol to deal with her social anxiety makes another person become a public speaker to conquer that fear.

A fortunate child growing up in a household filled with love, attention and given lots of opportunities to develop academically might not thrive at all, might drop out of school, and might become addicted to pills. Why? Too much prosperity? Some traumatic event at school? Or something that another person would consider trivial, like being made fun of at a party? Another sibling from the same family can go on to become a successful psychologist, a parent to a bunch of happy kids, but then will suddenly crumble in her 40s and start drinking. Why? Did something happen in her childhood that only surfaced when she reached middle age? And reversely, a woman who grew up in a single-parent household, surrounded by addiction and abuse and poverty, grows up to become a successful entrepreneur who enjoys wine but only as far as vintage goes and only by a glass.

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s really no way to predict what will turn someone into a person with substance use disorder and what will make another immune to it. For this reason, we cannot also make false and stigmatizing assumptions about groups of people who “tend” to suffer from greater incidence of problems such as addiction. We cannot develop any kind of sure formula that will help us identify those who might be more prone to addiction than others – this is not to say that research, and especially genetic research, should be ignored, as there seems to be a genetic component to addiction, but we cannot assume a child will grow up to suffer from substance use disorder even if both parents have had it. Sure, the child will have a greater chance of developing it, but she might also completely skip that genetic sequence and be entirely resistant to her genetic “fate.” I know of two sisters who came from the exact same environment and who would score high Adverse Childhood Experiences, and one of them has struggled with addiction for more than two decades where the other one has never gotten more than a little tipsy at a party (and, frankly, says, hates the effect that alcohol has on her).

It is only natural for humans to want to know the cause of illnesses, and especially something like addiction – so widespread a problem that it is now considered an epidemic. We think that if we know the cause, we will be able to eliminate it. That’s what we’ve done with infectious disease. Maybe there is a way to vaccinate people against addiction? Probably not. I tend to believe that substance use disorder is a condition so complicated that the physical element is just one of its many components – for those reasons I am skeptical about medication used to eradicate it. I don’t believe we’ll ever come up with the right formula because there are so many targets to aim for.

In his book In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate talks about how we simply cannot compare each other’s pain or capacity to endure suffering. He writes, “People who have overcome severe addictions deserve to be celebrated, and they have much to teach, but their example cannot be used to condemn others who have not been able to follow in their foot steps.”

Read more here…

Honesty about anxiety from a Canadian broadcasting icon

Icon? Yup – I would have called John Moore an icon even 10 years ago. But listening to his talk and his coming back to radio? I’m a 54 year old man and I am in tears of happiness right now.

Thank you for having this courage to share. And to offer hope to so many others.

You’re a class act. Always knew that. But … this upped it a few more levels yet again.

Aging in Place: Taking Precautions to Prevent Falls

Falling is the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors and the greatest safety threat faced by older adults who want to age in place. Avoiding falls and staying safe at home depends on several factors, including environmental modifications, exercise, and regular visits to your doctor. With the right precautions, your life needn’t be dominated by a fear of falling.

Safety adaptations

Seniors should have unimpeded walkways from room to room with no electrical cords, footstools or unsecured rugs in the way. Boxes, plant stands and coffee tables are also tripping hazards, and shoes and clothing should be safely stored away. Railings should be securely installed in stairways and hallways, which should also be well-lit with ambient, non-glare bulbs. Install motion-activated sensors for automatic lighting in the bedroom and darker parts of the house, with night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallway.

Bathroom safety

The bathroom is an especially hazardous part of the house for seniors, so make a careful assessment of potential dangers. Place non-slip surfaces in the shower and in front of both the sink and toilet. Safety rails should be firmly anchored into the wall in the shower and next to the toilet. Stepping in and out of a bathtub or shower can drastically increase your chances of falling, so consider installing a zero-entry shower with a chair or bench.

Exercise your core & lower body

Regular exercise is an important addition to your lifestyle, especially because it helps strengthen your core and legs, helping to improve balance. Strength can be improved with easy-to-do exercises that don’t require a gym. Lunges and leg lifts, repeated every day, will make it easier to get around safely and climb stairs without stumbling or falling. Walking, water exercise, tai chi and yoga are also good ways to maintain flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if you aren’t sure what exercises are best for you.

Medical visits

Schedule regular visits to your doctor and make your healthcare providers aware of any changes in your condition. Take a full list of prescription and over-the-counter medications to each appointment. Your doctor will need to assess the risk of side effects that medicine interactions may cause. For example, a dizzy spell while in the shower or on the stairs could cause a serious injury. If any medication is making you feel fatigued or disoriented, your physician will need to reassess your medication regimen.

An eye or ear disorder can increase your risk of falling, so be prepared to address such problems with your doctor. Numbness in the feet or legs, joint pain, or shortness of breath can also lead to in-home accidents. Make your doctor aware if you’ve fallen recently, or if you’re feeling unsteady as you move around the house.

Shoes and assistive devices

Sometimes simply changing to footwear can reduce your risk of falling. High heels or hard shoes with slick soles can lead to an accident on hard flooring, like tile or hardwood, while loose-fitting sandals may cause you to trip on carpeting or a loose rug. Wear sturdy shoes that fit properly, and consider switching to rubber-soled shoes, which may be your best option. Above all, avoid walking around the house in socks or stockings, especially if you have a lot of hardwood, tile or laminate flooring. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you require a cane, walker or another type of assistive device to move around.

Aging in place safely is all about taking precautions. Providing clear walkways, using safety rails and installing adequate lighting are essential modifications, especially in the bathroom. Be sensible about footwear and make a point of exercising every day, especially your lower body.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Rossy art therapy and well-being

The Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy makes it possible for the MMFA to consolidate its developmental focus on art therapy and well-being. All actions put in place are aimed at the same goal, namely to promote the well-being of a variety of groups, whether or not they have special needs.

In this connection, some new programming, designed in partnership with the health and academic communities, is offering a whole range of innovative projects adapted to persons living either with mental health issues, autism or eating disorders, or with difficulties related to learning, living together and social inclusion. Whether they visit exhibitions in the company of an educator, participate in creative workshops or present their creations to Museum audiences, program participants have meaningful artistic and social experiences.

Numerous professionals from the medical world and the community can join forces in an unusual practice setting, thanks to the Museum’s facilities, which include an art therapy workshop, a medical consultation room and an Art Hive, created in collaboration with the Department of Creative Arts Therapy at Concordia University.

Art has a positive effect on the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals. To back this up, researchers from various institutions in Quebec are studying the beneficial effects of a visit to the Museum, which may be comparable to the benefits of physical exercise.

Furthermore, the MMFA Art and Health Advisory Committee, composed of experts from the fields of health, art therapy, research and the arts, as well as representatives of philanthropy and the MMFA, offers its expertise and support for the development of potential partnerships and innovative projects implemented at the MMFA.

See more at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

How to shape your mind

From Mashable

At Silicon Valley’s spiritual retreat, the stressed seek help for their brains in a new practice: neurosculpting.

Having sliced open my skull Hannibal Lecter style, I removed the familiar folded lump of still-pulsing pink matter — brains only turn gray when they die — and placed it on a wooden workbench. After massaging it for a while, I picked up a steak knife and started slicing neatly between the hemispheres like I’m on a cooking show. Wait, that couldn’t be good.

“Stop!” my sleeping mind screamed at the image. “What are you thinking?”

I woke, bolt upright. It was the night before my three-day workshop in a brain-training practice called neurosculpting — and my brain seemed to be taking the prospect very personally indeed. 

Initially, I signed up for the workshop because I wanted to write about 1440 Multiversity, a fascinating place where modern-day hippies and techies meet. Founded in 2017, nestled in the Santa Cruz hills 30 miles south of Silicon Valley, 1440 Multiversity is every glorious Northern California cliché in one place. It was founded by a tech CEO. Google and Facebook and TED members hold retreats here, as do hundreds of less well-known organizations like the World Changing Women’s Summit and the Conscious Companies Leader Forum, in buildings that resemble the glass-and-wood architecture of Yosemite Valley.

There’s an infinity pool hot tub overlooking ancient redwoods; it doesn’t get more California than that. You can buy both hoodies and crystals in the gift shop. The name itself is a blend of motivational math (there are 1440 minutes in a day, what will you do with yours?) and new-age dippyness (we need more than a university, man!)

Read more here…

3 Keys to Solving Relationship Problems

From Psychology Today

Win-win problem-solving is a matter of mastering 3 basic skills.

Disagreements, arguments are part and parcel of close relationships with partners, family, friends. While what you disagree about in a relationship is always a moving target, where most people get stuck is in 3 key areas. Here’s how to navigate them to make effective problem-solving happen: 

1. Creating safety

If you feel safe in a relationship you can be honest, speak your mind, and express your thoughts and feelings and concerns without fear of the other person’s response. That doesn’t mean that the conversations at times don’t feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that from your side of it you’re not stopped by fear.

Safety is the bedrock of any close relationship. If it isn’t there what is there instead is a walking on eggshells, a shutting down, a giving in, a holding back that leads to depression or resentment or flares of anger or acting out. The lack of safety and the resulting caution can obviously come from within the relationship — that your partner has a wicked temper or is critical, that your brother is sensitive and easily feels hurt, that your friend is apt to blame you or heap on guilt. So, you don’t bring up problems with your partner for fear of the blast back, you bite your tongue with your brother because he’s not only going to feel wounded, but is likely to misunderstand your point, you water down your comment to your friend to avoid that well-known reaction.

Though your anxiety is going to tell you that safety comes only by being increasingly cautious around these folks, the path to creating a sense of safety actually comes from being bolder. You want to have a conversation about conversations, about what trigger your fears – I feel you don’t really listen and dismiss what I’m saying; you get this angry edge in your voice that makes me shut down. You do your best to be clear, and if the other person pushes back, isn’t willing to make an effort, decide what you need to do next to not feel like a victim. Don’t just take what you get. 

Read more here…

Q&A: How Digital Mental Health Tools Made a Difference for Hazard Independent Schools

From Ed Tech Magazine

Vivian Carter, the innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Kentucky, explains how and why her rural district adopted a digital health tool for troubled students.

Digital health technology isn’t just for grown-ups. New tools can help connect children with the private and personalized resources they need to better understand their mental health and keep it in check.

For one school district, adopting an online mental and behavioral health system has been an effective tool to better help students in a rural community overcome barriers to learning, says Vivian Carter, innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2014, the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), which includes Hazard Independent Schools, received a Project Prevent grant from the Education Department that included funding to deploy and use the Ripple Effects online tool. Ripple Effects is a “Social Emotional Learning technology-based software system” that teachers can use to deliver behavior interventions and students can use to access personalized guidance and emotional resources. The technology is now being used in 70 of the 140 KVEC schools as a way to fill the gaps in mental health care for students and already has seen success in dropping the number of mental health and behavioral referrals.

Read more here…

One Sheridan school increased teacher retention and decreased students ‘falling through the cracks’ by adding mental health professionals

From Chalkbeat

At one school in the tiny district of Sheridan south of Denver, two social workers roam the hallways with handheld radios, responding to crisis after crisis.

It might be a student crying in class for unknown reasons, a disruptive student, or a fight. Less urgent requests, such as a check-in for a student who just seems to be having a rough day, usually come through email.

“It’s very much boots on the ground,” said Maggie Okoniewski, one of the social workers at Fort Logan Northgate.

The school has just under 600 students in grades third through eighth. The demographics are typical of the Sheridan school district. About one in four are identified as homeless — the highest rate for any school district in the state — and about 15 percent qualify as having special needs.

In between those calls, Okoniewski and her fellow social worker Danielle Watry check in on students they’ve identified as a priority. Every week the list includes about 60 students. In the last year, the list includes students from the heavily Hispanic population who have especially struggled with deportations or fears of separations, they said.

“And if I’m in the classroom, it’s almost certain that another student will flag us down,” Watry said.

Read more…

Feeling Stuck? 4 Ways to Overcome Roadblocks in Your Life

From Psychology Today

We’ve all been there—feeling stuck in a dead-end job, unfulfilling relationship, or stale routine. Or we begin a new project and lose momentum. Feeling exhausted and defeated, we lack the energy to move forward.

At times like these, even the best intentions and willpower are not enough. But research has revealed four effective ways to break through roadblocks.

1. Expand your perspective. Most people in Western cultures develop a linear mindset, expecting current conditions to continue (Alter & Kwan, 2009). This mindset reinforces the stories we believe about ourselves. If we grew up in poverty or a dysfunctional family, we expect more of the same. With the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, we attract more of what we know. If we had a narcissistic parent, we attract narcissistic relationships. If we grew up in poverty, we continue to see ourselves as poor and make poor choices—until we change our mindset.

To break free, we need to refocus our attention. This means taking a wider perspective rather than hiding from the truth or ignoring our problems.

Remarkably, a study at New York University found that people developed a more dynamic mindset after seeing the familiar yin/yang symbol on a researcher’s T-shirt. Instead of expecting current conditions to continue, they began seeing the world differently, becoming aware of new possibilities (Alter & Kwan, 2009).

As this study reveals, the natural wisdom of the Tao Te Ching expands our perspective, affirming nature’s dynamic cycles of yin and yang, sunlight and shadow, day and night, and the changing seasons. We then develop what psychologist Carol Dweck (2009) calls a “growth mindset.” You can expand your own mindset by exploring the wisdom of the East, studying the Tao Te Ching or spending time in nature, observing its cycles of growth and change.

2. Move. Moving our bodies affects our minds and emotions. Research has shown that exercise helps relieve depression (Babyak et al, 2000). Increasing the circulation to our brains, it also enables us to think more creatively (Steinberg et al, 1997). You can build your energy to move forward in your life by adding move movement to your days. There are many ways to do this: going for a brisk walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator, taking an exercise class, working out at the gym, dancing, swimming, or riding your bike. Find a way to move that you enjoy and feel your energies rise.

Read more here…