As an orphan, Kevan had always been seeking a feeling of comfort and belonging. You see, he was abandoned at birth in a hospital in Moscow, Russia. After spending nine months there and then nine months in an orphanage, he was adopted by an American woman named Susan. As a single woman, adoption was a no-brainer for her. There were so many children that need help, she told me.

Growing up, it was just Susan and Kevan. They did everything together.  Susan tells me that she thinks he didn’t like to be alone because of his time in the orphanage.

“Kevan slept with me for a long time. He and I tried to keep him in his room and his bed. Once he figured out that he could crawl out of the crib, he would come into mine, and I think that’s related to where he was in the orphanage. There were about fifteen cribs in each room, just stacked back to back. So there were always people – well, kids – in the room with him. I don’t think he liked being alone so; he was always with me.”

As a child, he was very social. He joined boy scouts and played sports like football, soccer, and baseball.

“He was very bright and curious. Always smiling a lot and asking a thousand questions. You couldn’t word in edgewise; his mouth was like a thousand times a second.”

Only the Lonely: Kevan's Recovery Story

Kevan, 1995

Kevans energy and excitement were later diagnosed as attention deficit disorder which had lead to difficulties in school. In the first grade, he was put on medication for ADD, which seemed to help for a little while. But as the years went on Kevan struggled to fit in.

The first time Susan realized that Kevan was experimenting with drugs, Kevan was on a Boy Scouts camping trip. He hadn’t wanted to go, she recalls, but she had pressed the issue. When he was gone, she was cleaning his room and found marijuana under his bed, hidden inside of a sock.

“He started cutting school. Those kinds of things. [That’s when] I realized it was probably a little more than just a little box of marijuana that I found in his room. Then it was just downhill from there.”

Like a lot of teenagers, Kevan was drawn to drinking all in good fun. After he was injured playing baseball, he couldn’t play anymore. Then his social circle changed, and Kevan fell in with the wrong crowd. Alcohol gave him what he had – in one way or another – always been looking for. It was a social glue that allowed him to feel like he belonged somewhere. Like he’d found his people.

“The feelings that I got from being under the influence as well as the rewards from it – like always having people to hang out with and feeling connected – I feel like I got addicted to those things more than I did the actual substance.”

First, it was all about having a good time. And it was fun until all of these rewards started turning into consequences. After a while, he stopped needing the people, and he leaned more heavily into the drinking. As the social aspect melted away, Kevan found himself wanting to drink and use more and more.  Before he knew it, Kevan was drinking a lot. And of course, with the alcohol and the partying came other enticing drugs like cocaine and marijuana.

Today, Kevan has just about 15 months clean and sober, but his journey wasn’t without its hurdles. He was 16 the first time he was institutionalized. Between rehab, group homes, juvenile detention, jail, and eventually prison, Kevan had spent almost eight years in and out of various institutions across the country.

When he did have stints of sobriety, it was usually a result of trying to keep his probation officer off his back.

He’d drink or use, get into trouble, do time (either in rehab or jail), then get released only to start the whole process all over again. For someone who was already disconnected from a healthy and positive social life, being institutionalized from such a young age and for so long only served to push Kevan further into isolation.  

Only the Lonely: Kevan's Recovery Story

Diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child proved difficult for both Kevan and Susan.

It was particularly hard on Susan to see her only son living this way. Because Kevan was adopted, they didn’t have any information on his background. Which made it hard for Susan to figure out why this was all happening.

“We talked about using alcohol and drugs, and that happened because of the medication that he was on. I always talk to him about that since he was very little probably seven years old. As a nurse honestly I was trying to do a lot to try to keep him safe and tell him that so that he would realize that he couldn’t do it. But I didn’t have much success in that area.”

Like most parents of addicted persons, she was equal parts anger, frustration, and disappointment – not to mention the overwhelming worry.

“I was more concerned that he was going to do something to hurt himself and, selfishly, that it would affect me even worse,” she shared when I asked her about how she felt during his addiction at it’s worst. “Angry is probably the best word. Disappointed is another one.”

Kevan tells me what he remembers about the last day of his addiction. He woke up in his mom’s apartment, just like every other day, he walked to a nearby shop to pick up a few cans of Four Loko and headed back home. He called his dealer, who then stopped by. Kevan spent the better part of the day drunk and high, alone in a dark room.

What made this day different from all the other days? It was on this day that Kevan was waiting for an important phone call. The day before, he had been waiting to find out if he was going to be able to go to a rehab center in California. He didn’t know if they were going to be able to take him. Even in such a state, Kevan knew deep down he wanted out.

He wanted to be able to see a future for himself. He wanted happiness. He wanted to one day have a family. And he knew that if he kept going down this road that it would never happen. The only way was to find a different way to live.

When his phone finally rings, they tell him that if he’s going to come it has to be now. It was on this day, after nearly a decade spent in and out of rehab – years of relapsing, stealing, lying, and hurting himself and the people around him – for the last time, Kevan chose recovery.

After everything, Kevan and Susan’s relationship is far from perfect. They talk almost every day. As a nurse and a parent, Susan is grateful for the addiction education that she has been offered by the recovery community. As for Kevan? He’s working on his recovery every single day. He credits his healthy and robust support system.  

Kevan and Susan don’t have the perfect mother-son relationship but they’re working on it and talk almost every day.

Everyone has their own experience with addiction and recovery looks different for different people. You have to find what works for you and work it. But the most common theme among all the various journey’s is that you have to work at it daily. Even though Kevan has been sober for over a year, he’s still working his program every single day.

Everyone, in one way or another, is affected by the drug epidemic. Therefore, we all have a story to tell. We want to know – in what ways has addiction left a mark on your life?  Whether you’ve witnessed a loved one, a friend, a colleague, or even if you have struggled with addiction – we’d like to have you on the show to share your story with the thousands upon thousands of people who are currently struggling. If you would like to share your story on the podcast, head over to tdhvoice.com/share-your-story.

When you think of some of the most popular and empowering female actresses, you almost can’t imagine them without a glass of something in their hand. For Carrie Bradshaw, the cosmopolitan was her drink of choice. Olivia Pope’s days rarely ended without a generously poured glass of red wine and an overflowing bowl of popcorn. Jessica Jones finishes off every epic battle with a few chugs of whiskey, often straight from the bottle. Why is it that to be a strong, liberated, and independent woman in today’s world, alcohol has to be the sidekick?

We asked Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. Here’s what she said.

On Drinking as Female Empowerment

I think drinking was historically a male pastime. A lot of times when you’re looking at who gets to drink especially in places like bars or cocktail parties you’re looking at who has the power and the free time to do things like that. And historically women did not have that ability.

And I think that whether we’re talking about drinking or sports or math and science there’s a whole bundle of activities that a certain collection of women are told are men’s only. And so you grow up kind of thinking like don’t do that like girls don’t do that.

On Why She Drank

I think there are a lot of things that drew me to drinking. First of all, I just love the taste of it from a very young age. What I learned very early that I could do it really well and what I mean by that is I could quote Hold My Liquor. The thing that a lot of women struggle to do as they go through college and they might throw up easily like I could drink really fast and I drank for a long time and the guys were kind of like Whoa how did you do that. And I really got a great jolt of meaning out of it in me such a sense of power to be able to compete on that pole.

It made you feel powerful but it was also like hot and fun. And the guys liked it so you could like cater to the male gaze but you could feel super independent and I think you never really had to ask which one of those things you were doing or choose sides you could do both.

One thing you should know about me is I’m five foot two and I’m not terribly athletic. So in terms of being able to stand toe to toe with men other than drinking it was only going to be in the intellectual sphere which I also did. I mean I also wanted to go toe to toe with men and you know who can be funnier and who can be grosser but like if you’re going to talk about throwing a shot put. I’m not going to win that competition. Not even close. But drinking made me feel like I could. And I think there were a lot of women that felt that way.

via GIPHY

 

On Powerful Female Figures in Media

The news is sort of like guess what? Women love to drink and they love to drink just as men just as much as men! And so you get these shows these kinds of first generation shows like Sex And The City where it’s actually newsworthy that these women get together and drink together. That’s become such a cliche 20 years later but it’s really hard for us to believe that that was once unusual.

More recently what I’ve seen is the strong, powerful, complicated female who is drinking to kind of numb the stress of her life. The lead character on Scandal or the lead character on The Good Wife or in House of Cards [come to mind]. Jessica Jones was an interesting character phenomenon on Netflix. Drinking becomes kind of a signifier of their complication. They have dark pasts they’re dealing with a lot of stuff and this is one of the ways that they negotiate it.

Links and References

Buy Sarah’s book Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

You can also reach Sarah via her website at sarahhepola.com.

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode. Send us your feedback via TwitterFacebook, or Instagram or via email.

Never miss another episode by subscribing via iTunesStitcherRadio PublicSpreaker, or here on our website.

Toxic masculinity takes the stigma of addiction to a whole new level. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days often by people who don’t quite understand it’s meaning. So what does it really mean and how is the prevalence of toxic masculinity impacting the rooms and the overall concept of recovery? In our recent episode, Bucky Sinister sheds some light.

On Toxic Masculinity in the Rooms

Bucky: That’s our number one thing we don’t want to look weak, especially guys who grow up kind of tough. I’ve seen guys who will not hold hands during the serenity prayer because it looks too weak or something. You know it looks like you’re showing affection to a man.

You would rather feel this bad than hold hands at the end of a meeting? And you know it’s like we don’t want to ask for help. We don’t want to, we don’t talk like that. But you hear guys say that all the time I got this. I got this is what you say before you die. You know like put that on your gravestone. I’ve seen people say that and then you know we bury them. Because they won’t admit that they need help.

You don’t want to give another guy your number? I’ve seen that – I didn’t want to. Some guys asking me for my number at the first meeting I went to like no way. Why do you want my number, Dude? Like what?! I don’t know you. What are you going to do, call me? No.

The problem is this tough guy stuff is going to kill you. The graveyard is full of tough guys.

This is going to take you out the straight white punk dude and it’s tough going to be tough going to be tough and it’s like I can’t go in this room and ask for help. I’ve got to drink whiskey and smoke meth because that’s what tough guys do.

toxic-masculinity

Side Note: What is Toxic Masculinity?

Deb: The term “toxic masculinity” refers to the negative and often dangerous behaviors exhibited by individuals who hold an idealized notion of what it means to be “manly”. These behaviors usually represent an exaggeration of what society has traditionally dictated as uniquely male behavior. One example of this is not showing emotion or asking for help in an effort to appear “strong”. The hallmark of toxic masculinity is, in fact, its toxicity. The danger present to the individual exhibiting these traits extends to those around them. Further, these behaviors are frequently homophobic and misogynistic in nature in an attempt to overcompensate and exemplify characteristics of hypermasculinity.

On Writing “Get Up”

Bucky: The book the editor for the book was in the audience [one night]. I did the whole reading and she came up to me later and she’s someone I knew from the punk scene. And she said you know you should you should pitch this. [I said] I don’t like self-help books. Don’t like them. She’s like that’s who needs to be writing.

[I agreed to] pitch this and he was like well you have to write a proposal. A proposal is no small feat. It differs for every publisher but sometimes it’s writing 20-30 pages about a book, you have to come up with a list of chapter headings – for a book I didn’t even think I would write. So I wrote all these chapter headings and they took it. And then I just had to start writing. So there’s there’s some stuff in there that I kind of wrote the chapter title as a joke and then I was like, I actually have a lot of thoughts on this.I know it was a joke but there is something serious behind it.

On Being a Sober Performer

Bucky: I was reading the poems one night at the Beauty Bar beauty bar in San Francisco and it was part of noise pop this big music festival they had up they had these nights sex drugs and rock n roll. They asked me to read poems on drugs night. I’d read about something and then people would try to get me high later.

I got all these poems kind of funny about drinking, about living in a punk house in real life but I couldn’t have written this book unless I got sober. So please don’t buy me drinks. Don’t buy me the drinks I’m talking about in these poems. You know when I talk about drinking whiskey, please do not bring a whiskey to the stage. I don’t want to smell it.

And then lastly I’ll say like if you need help – I don’t mean anyone in here feel bad for drinking but if you do want to check out a meeting, let me know after the show.

Links and references

Buy Bucky’s Books:

Blackhole: A Novel 
Get Up: A 12 Step Guide to Recovery for Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos

Bucky will also be at the Light Hustler Storytelling event on Friday, July 27th, 2018, 8 pm
STORYTELLING (Open Space Cafe, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles)  – Eddie Pepitone (with special host Bucky Sinister)

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode. Send us your feedback via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or via email.

Never miss another episode by subscribing via iTunes, Stitcher, Radio Public, Spreaker, or here on our website.

With every new convenience that arises, so do the issues that come with it. Social media has been immensely helpful for connecting people and building communities. It’s sparked movements for social and cultural change, and it’s compelled people to form a stronger sense of self-identity. These days we’re more digitally connected than we’ve ever been.

It’s been almost 15 years since Facebook ignited a social media revolution. Just enough time for us to begin to see the impact social media has left in our world.

Listen to this article here on the podcast:

Loneliness: A Growing Epidemic

Despite being the most digitally connected generation, we’re also the loneliest. A recent study of Australian teenagers showed that the heaviest social media users experience the greatest amount of anxiety. Research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine determined that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. One-quarter of millennials look at their phone more than 100 times a day setting the stage for depression and anxiety.

Just over a month ago, Katie, noticed the effects that Facebook was having on her life, and her recovery. What she discovered made her decide to quit the social platform for the time being.

“What I felt like, was that it was indicative of addiction the way I had used it. It came to the point where I would be on Facebook and not even realizing that I was using to check out of social anxieties that I felt. I wasn’t facing some fears because I was using it as a crutch.”

Social media was created to bring people together. We are more connected but in a less meaningful and engaging way. Click To Tweet

“You don’t realize how much time you are wasting on Facebook until you’re not using it anymore. For that first week or so you’re experiencing your downtime, and you go to grab your phone and go on Facebook, and you’re like oh, I don’t have it. You realize how much time you’re wasting when you could be doing something that is productive. Like going outside or calling somebody that means something to you in your life. Versus putting on a show for people you never even get to see.”

The Facebook vortex has more than an effect on your immediate social life. It’s making people lonelier. In the March/April 2018 print edition of Psychology Today, Jennifer Latson cites a British Study that found those between 16-24 were the most likely to report feelings of loneliness. Many experts believe the growing loneliness is linked to social media use.

Social Media is Making Us Sick: Here's What to Do

 Social Media Vs. Mental Health

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that leads to higher cases of mental health issues. Namely because of FOMO – the fear of missing out. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, dives in.

“I think one of the big reasons, especially now that we have social media, is it’s so easy to look around and say I should be doing something differently; everybody else has a better life than I do, how come everyone else is happier? And it just becomes really pervasive. We’re surrounded by it all the time.”

According to a recent survey, Instagram is the worst social network for mental health and well-being.

“Research will link spending too much time on social media to anxiety. Studies will show that the worst social networking site for our mental health is Instagram because it’s just images. And it’s so easy to look at images of other people, whether you’re looking at fitness models or you’re looking at people who are out celebrating something or they’re on vacation. And you start to think well gosh I don’t have all that going on in my life or I wish I could be like that. And rather than thinking, okay if I want to make changes in my life I can, we tend to think I could never achieve that or I’m not as good as that person is and it definitely takes a big toll on your mental health in terms of depression, anxiety. People start to experience these envious or resentful attitudes toward others, and for a lot of people it leads to despair.”

Facebook and Instagram have acknowledged how the social platforms affect mental health. They’ve even introduced tools and features to address it.

Instagram recently launched a “wellbeing team” stating that quote “making the community a safer place, a place where people feel good, is a huge priority for Instagram” end quote. It’s still not entirely known what the wellbeing team does or will do.

Facebook, on the other hand, proposes that we use the app more. Returning to its roots, the new mission for the company is to bring people closer together. Instead of scrolling passively, Facebook reps say that quote “actively interacting with people – especially sharing messages, posts, and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions – is linked to improvements in well-being” end quote.

Some people quit the social platforms with no issue. Others, especially young people who were raised on social media, have a much harder time cutting the proverbial cord. And despite #deletefacebook going viral last month, the Facebook user base has not decreased, it’s grown.

Is Social Media Making Us Sick?

So, is social media making us sick? The simple answer is yes. We now know that it’s making us lonelier and we see an increase in cases of depression and anxiety. But it doesn’t stop there.

Loneliness can seem non-threatening. After all, everyone feels lonely from time to time. But that’s exactly what makes it potentially dangerous. It’s a silent killer.

It can often lead to a variety of health issues such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, and cancer. Chronic loneliness can also lead to isolation, which is a significant component in the disease of addiction.

When a person has depression or anxiety and is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s referred to as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. And it happens entirely too often.

To put it into perspective, 43.6 million (18.1%) Americans over 18 experienced some form of mental illness. Almost half also have substance use disorders.

Social Media is Making Us Sick: Here's What to Do

How to Be Happy Without Giving Up Social Media

Is social media the root of all evil? Given what we’ve seen in the news lately, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise. I digress. It’s not inherently evil. When used a healthy way, social media can be incredibly fulfilling.

“I have attention-seeking behaviors as an addict. I want validation and I want it instantly. What better way form to get that from than Facebook?”

It’s nice to be liked. It’s great to be accepted. Respected. Supported. But we have to remember that social media isn’t the best way to go about it. Amy has a few ideas.

“It’s about figuring out, how do you use it in a way that’s healthy for you,” Morin shared.

She also shared with us a couple of ways we can do this.

First, ask yourself why you’re posting what you post. Do you want to inspire others, share with family or do you want to get likes and attention?

Then make a list of all the reasons you think social media could be a problem for you. Review your list and take note of any patterns. Weigh the pros and cons.

Use an app like Cold Turkey to limit or control the amount of time you spend on social media. Or set your social apps to do not disturb mode to help you stay focused and less distracted throughout the day. (Here are some other apps you can use to limit time spent on social media.)

Set limits by separating yourself physically from your phone or other devices. Amy notes that most people use their phone as an alarm in the morning. Therefore your phone is at your bedside. Try putting it across the room to prevent any midnight scroll fests.

Amy recommends a digital detox. Start with just one day a month or one day a week, where you leave your phone at home. It might be scary to be disconnected but you’ll find that just one day off once in a while can make a big difference for your mental health.

What we’ve started to lose sight of is the fact that social media was meant to be a tool for connection, not a replacement. If you think you’re spending too much time on your phone, I hope that this episode can help inspire you to shut it down, look up, and be present with the people you have around you.

 

For most Americans, drinking is no big deal. Some see it as a right of passage, others as a natural everyday pastime. A few years ago an experiment made us do a double take.

25-year old Louise Delage was everything any young woman could hope to be. She had great friends, impeccable style, and an enviable jet-setting lifestyle – all of which she documented on her Instagram. In just a few months she had amassed over 65,000 followers.

This was more than just another social influencer finding success. There was a dark theme beneath the perfect facade which the social platform hid so well.

As it turns out, the profile of Louise Delage was a fake. Set up by an ad agency in Paris to highlight the prevalence of alcohol use in young people. You see, in almost every single photo that was shared, she was holding a drink. Or there was one casually placed in the background just so.

What was most troubling about this experiment was not that she was drinking but even as her audience grew no one seemed to notice the pattern. It became a photo diary demonstrating how easy it is to miss the signs of alcohol misuse.

As drinking levels in the US are reaching public health crisis territory, researchers have found that women are particularly impacted.

Women, Stress, and the “Wine Moms” Movement

Alcohol has long been used as a way to unwind and relax. A crutch that allows us to deal with the hardships, stress, and monotony of life – especially for moms. Memes that read “Mommy drinks because you cry” or the wine glasses with the words “Mommy Fuel” emblazoned across them have become commonplace.

Writer Jill Di Donato for Romper wrote in 2016:

“Those “I need wine to parent” memes might be funny, but they are offensive to people who have struggled or are currently struggling with sobriety.”

And she’s right. It’s not funny for people in sobriety. But also, it’s not funny at all.

Ladies Who Lush: How Society Glamorizes Female Drinking

What it really comes down to is we’re not dealing with the core issues. Women are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, alone. The easiest thing to do for many of these women to cope is to pop a cork and pour a glass of merlot. It’s all backward. A recent article in the New York Times titled Being a Sober Parent in a Wine Mom Culture, notes that “Parents who don’t drink are not offered such a simple solution to stress.”

As drinking levels in the US are reaching public health crisis territory, researchers have found that women are particularly impacted. Click To Tweet

As women, we’re constantly getting the message that drinking is the answer to all of our problems. Bad day? Pour a glass of wine (or three, or five). Girls night? Let’s do shots. Going through a breakup? Drown your sorrows in a fifth of gin.

Drinking at the Barre?

You can’t swing a yoga mat without knocking someone’s wine over. From bars to book clubs and now yoga studios, no social space is safe. Laura Silverman, the founder of The Sobriety Collective, voiced her concerns recently in a two-part blog post about how alcohol is sneaking its way into our wellness routines.

 

A narrative that is, unfortunately, familiar to women everywhere.

Is social media to blame? Was it this bad five years ago? We could probably have an entire episode about the impact that social media has had on our drinking and drug use as a country. It’s a loaded topic. But let’s just skim over the essentials.

A recent article in Time Magazine noted that Americans, specifically women and older adults, are drinking more alcohol. The article cited a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism which compared two groups of people; one between 2001-2002 and one from 2012-2013. For women, high-risk drinking increased to 60% and alcohol use disorder increased to almost 84%. Men increased by 15% and 35% respectively.

Why is this happening? Individual, environmental and societal factors come into play but it could point to added stress as a result of income and educational disparities. Not to mention, cultural norms have changed over the years.

Using Male Signifiers to Empower Women

Looking again to the media, we see a lot of women in power – or vying for power – embracing risky drinking behaviors. Popular shows like Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and The Good Wife grasp and exploit the trope. Alcohol isn’t just a part of the scene, it’s a part of the main character’s persona. A pillar of the character’s life. One can’t think about Olivia Pope without picturing an overflowing bowl of popcorn and a filled-to-the-brim glass of red wine.

Ladies Who Lush: How Society Glamorizes Female Drinking

We are starting to see incremental shifts toward more positive messaging for women and mothers specifically. Movements like Tell Better Stories 2018, are working to do just that – tell better stories – and challenge the media to produce more thoughtful messaging around alcohol.

Just last week we saw three mothers on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today talk about their struggles with alcohol.

What else can we do?

We can look to these women and follow their example. Share our stories, call out the media when we see something isn’t right, and reach out to other women and mothers when we see them struggling. Like Sarah said, we are disconnected. So, let’s do our best to reconnect.

Listen to the whole episode here:

When you meet Cynthia, you would never think she’s only four months sober. A wise woman and single mother, she started drinking at just 13 years old. Her recovery has allowed her to rebuild the relationships which are most important to her, with herself and her children.

“At the time I knew that what I was doing wasn’t the best situation. I told myself that as long as you’re doing X, Y, and Z, you don’t have child protective services at your door, they’re getting fed, you’re not driving drunk with them, you’re getting up when they wake up, that’s your business. You’re an adult, and you can drink when you want.

Now that I have reflection and hindsight’s 20/20 I was not the mom I could have been. I feel guilty. I did manipulate them. I haven’t made amends with them on that yet, and I’m sure that they’re well aware that I was doing that. Even though they were young. So, it’s going to be an interesting conversation because I’m sure I’m going to get that confirmation. It’s shameful, but I’m learning to forgive myself for it. At the time I did the best I could with the tools that I had. I wasn’t acknowledging at the time that I needed help.

I’m very close with my children now. I’m very fortunate that if any resentment they did have they seem to have put that in the past. All they ever wanted was for me to be well. The damage I did was making them worry about me. Things still got taken care of. I put my daughters through college; my son is finishing high school. They’ve had everything they’ve ever wanted except for a healthy mom. Now that I’m taking care of myself and doing what I’m supposed to do that washes a lot of that resentment away. As long as I continue to do what’s right for myself, for our relationships, and for the family.

I certainly didn’t want to risk not having a relationship with my soon to be grandaughter. I know my daughter is going to be a fantastic mom and a part of that would be not including me in her daughters life if I continued to drink and bring that kind of influence around. I’m very fortunate that they’re all incredibly supportive. They just want the best for me.”

Listen to the whole episode here: 

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk writing a congratulatory message to someone in recovery for their sober birthday. My favorite part of this work is to see someone make a change and thrive in their recovery.

Then I hear sirens for what feels like the third time that week and emergency responders are on their way to the street my office is on. A place where a homeless camp has been set up for weeks. It’s filled with people who have no place else to go – no more options. And they have been selling drugs, doing drugs, and overdosing for weeks.

How can this be happening, I wondered as I watched yet another body lifted into the ambulance. These people overdose, the emergency responders show up to take them away, and they end up right back here in a few days time. Why does no one help them, a coworker asked out loud. She took the words right out of my mouth.

On one side of the street, there’s hope and on the other hopelessness and fear. The only thing that is dividing the two is a small street, right? If only it were that simple.

We can do better. But how? Today’s guest doesn’t only know how the organization he represents has an action plan in motion. And guess what? It involves you, me, neighbors, friends, and family.

Beyond Awareness: An Interview with Michael King of Facing Addiction

Facing Addiction is a national nonprofit dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis by unifying the voice of over 45 million Americans and their families impacted by addiction. It has recently merged with NCADD (The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and their action network is the most prominent coalition of organizations ever assembled around addiction and recovery.

Representatives are from diverse areas of interest, including people in long-term recovery, family advocates, prevention and education leaders, public health specialists, labor officials, faith leaders, justice professionals, and more.

Without further ado, I sat down with a very busy Michael King who is the National Director of Outreach and Engagement to talk more about how and what our communities could be doing better.

Listen to the whole episode here: 

It’s National Nutrition Month, and we’re talking about H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). If you’re in recovery, you’re probably very familiar with this acronym but it’s one of those things that we learn about, and it’s always in the back of our minds, but we don’t put it into practice as much as we could. So, today we’re talking through what each step is, why it’s a vital relapse prevention tool, and how to check in with yourself to make sure you’re on the right track.

Listen here:

Prioritizing Healthy Eating in Recovery

H =  Hungry

I’m not a nice person to be around when I’m hungry. I can’t tell you how many times a week I find myself apologizing for things I said to people in a state of intense hunger or reduced blood-sugar levels. We’re all a little guilty of getting “hangry” from time to time.

I don't know how many times I've apologized to somebody, like 'I'm sorry. I was just really hungry. I was hangry'. Click To Tweet

In recovery, especially early on, you’re still adjusting to a busy schedule. You’re going to work, group, meetings, and hanging out with friends or family. In this transitional period of your life, you’re bound to forget to eat or not prioritize meals. However, eating balanced meals and snacks can help in dealing with the cravings and mood swings which are synonymous with early recovery. 

So what’s a sober guy or gal to do?

Plan ahead. Whether that’s taking the time in the morning to throw something together or if you’re one of those people who finds it easier to do meal prep on Sundays – do that. If you’re a snacker, make sure to keep healthy alternatives to the junk foods you usually reach for when hunger suddenly attacks. Find what works for you and do that.

The Ultimate Recovery Self-Care Tool: H.A.L.T.

Check In With Your Emotions

A = Angry

Anger is a normal feeling or reaction to life. However, it’s an emotion that we may not have ever learned how to process or express effectively or healthily. Deb shared this cool way to check in with your feelings and logically process them. It’s called Detect, Debate, Discriminate, and it works to help you understand how your emotions work and what you can do when you feel like lashing out.

We talked a bit about anger and how holding onto it can be toxic in Episode 5: How to Truly Help Your Loved One (And Yourself) Recover.

Meditation, mantras, and breathing exercises are all great ways assuage feelings of anger. We also talked about how using technology can help you work through negativity as well as some options that we are using and loving right now. (Headspace, Calm)

And of course, writing in a journal or diary is also a good, healthy outlet for expressing one’s feelings if you don’t feel comfortable sharing them out loud. We talked about that as well as a few options you can try – especially if you don’t consider yourself a “writer.” (The Five Minute Journal, Live Journal)

The Ultimate Recovery Self-Care Tool: H.A.L.T.

One is the Loneliest Number

L = Lonely

Isolation is one the most telling signs of a potential relapse. It’s what you do in your active addiction so when you start pushing people away; it’s important to look at why. We’ve all heard that it’s important to have a strong support system in recovery. If you don’t have one, your recovery doesn’t stand a chance, to put it bluntly.

A lot of people are lucky to have that sense of support through family and friends but if you don’t have that – there are so many other sources within the recovery community that you can connect with and build your own recovery family or tribe.

There are tons of other people who are also on the lookout for the same type of support, whether it’s to seek for themselves or to be a pillar of support for someone else. There is this incredible community just waiting for you to join in and lean on them.

So, how do you get started?

Friends, family, fellow recovering addicts, and the like are all here to support you. And if you don’t have a strong support system or you feel like it could be better – make that a priority. Fill your life with people who are always going to have your back.

Go out and meet people – your people. Get to a meeting (find some great aa/na meetings in your area here). The recovery community is bursting with people who come from all walks of life – you’re bound to find someone (or even a few people) with whom you will gel.

Know your resources. Keep a list handy for those hard days when you just need someone to talk to. Speaking of, we love this checklist from the University of Colorado Wellness Center. (Everything is Awful, and I’m Not Okay: Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up on Yourself)

The Ultimate Recovery Self-Care Tool: H.A.L.T.

Get Your Beauty Sleep

T = Tired

Everyone is working 40+ hours a week, and on top of that having a social life, family, meetings, and making your recovery a priority – it’s enough to exhaust the heck out of anyone. There is a danger of lacking proper sleep. We talked about the effects of insomnia and lack of sleep over on the blog earlier this month. When you’re tired and feeling a sense of exhaustion or burn out, no matter what you’re doing, it’s important to find a way to let yourself take a break.

If you’re sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day, get up and step away from the screen for two minutes. Walk around. Studies have shown that blue light – the light that comes from the screen on your phone or your computer hurts your ability to fall asleep. It also lowers your melatonin production. If you’re staring at your computer all day then going home and staring at your phone – or even watching T.V. – that is going to affect you.

We’re all guilty of falling asleep with our phones in our hand. We have to make less screen time a priority – cut the cord. Try this: turn off your screens, play some soothing music or white noise, and get some good uninterrupted sleep. Pushing yourself to go when you need to rest will only hurt your recovery in the long run.

In conclusion, each part of the acronym works and leans on each other. They are all related and overlap each other. For example, when you don’t sleep you’re not going to make healthy decisions like eating well, and when you’re not eating well you won’t feel great, and your emotions aren’t regulated. When you don’t feel great, you tend to isolate, and it goes on and on.

Self-care starts with H.A.L.T.

It seems like a lot right now, and it won’t always be perfectly balanced. One day you will have it figured out, and that just comes from practice.

Watching someone you love struggle with drugs or alcohol – or both – comes with a LOT of feelings. We may feel anger, resentment, or sadness. Sometimes all at once.

It’s not all bad, though. There are those moments, that tiny sliver of hope and happiness that you feel when your loved one tells you that this time will be different. They love you, and they’re sorry. Things are going to change.

That feels amazing.

Until the next time they steal from you, lie to you, or you don’t see them for so long you start to wonder if they are even alive anymore. And all those terrible feelings come back. It’s like a rug is pulled right from under you. It’s the proverbial rollercoaster of emotions. And it’s a daily reality.

Can you be helpful to your loved one in addiction if you haven’t indeed forgiven them? Click To Tweet

This is not something I talk about a lot, but even though I’m not in recovery, I have experienced addiction as a spectator. I come from a long line of alcoholics and addicts who I am now mostly estranged. I narrowly escaped a very different kind of life.

What I haven’t escaped, however, is the emotional baggage I carry from growing up around drugs and alcohol. That nagging feeling of should I forgive my mother for putting me through all that crap? Or an even better question, can I forgive her? How does this whole forgiveness thing work?

How do we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see things from their side? Can you move forward with your life or an even better question can you be helpful to your loved one in addiction if you haven’t indeed forgiven them?

How to Truly Help Your Loved One (And Yourself) Recover

Empathy Vs. Sympathy

First, let’s talk empathy. A lot of people confuse empathy with sympathy, and they are VERY different.

No one knows more about empathy than our favorite storyteller and shame expert, Brene Brown.

Like most things in life, it’s so simple. Expressing empathy is a simple concept, but it’s not easy. When someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it can be incredibly hard to empathize with them. Secondly, it can be hard to see past all of your pain and anger to help someone else deal with their own.

There is this excellent quote from Buddha, and it goes:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

So it seems that to really empathize with someone we have to let go of our anger and frustrations. How do we do that?

How to Truly Help Your Loved One (And Yourself) Recover

Letting Go Of Anger

As it turns out, holding onto anger, pain, and resentment can keep you back and has some severe mental and physical health implications. There was a study by the Erasmus University researchers asked participants to reflect either on a time when they had forgiven someone or on a time they had not forgiven someone. Afterward, subjects were asked to jump five times in the air as high as they could without bending their knees. Those who reflected on forgiveness jumped 30 centimeters on average; those who thought about holding a grudge only jumped 22.

So it entirely literally lifts a weight off your shoulders.

We also found this sort of social experiment through Soul Pancake where a group of people was asked to write down the name of someone that they had been holding a grudge against, detail what that person had done to them, and then subsequently “forgive” them. And then you’re supposed to read it out loud while looking into a mirror. They found that on average the group’s overall happiness increased by 8%. Not bad.

 How to Truly Help Your Loved One (And Yourself) Recover

Forgiving Our Loved Ones

On the flip side – you have people in recovery who are wondering, you know how can I get my family or my friends to understand what I’ve been through. You know, and say their loved ones are going to meetings and groups and they’re trying to do their best to help but how will they ever understand what I’ve gone through? And it takes a lot of work on both sides.

I was listening to one of my favorite authors and podcasters, Cheryl Strayed, who knows a thing or two about forgiveness. This was from episode seventy-seven of Dear Sugars, and  Cheryl said,

“I’ve had friends say to me before how can I support you in bearing this weight? And those friends who look at you and say that they’re going to be enormously helpful to you in your healing. Whether they’ve had the same experiences or not.”

I think Johann Hari put it correctly, too, when he said this in his Ted Talk called Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong – which is an incredible Ted Talk. If you haven’t heard it yet – make a note.

“And what I’ve tried to do now, and I can’t tell you I do it consistently and I can’t tell you it’s easy, is to say to the addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to say to them, I love you whether you’re using or you’re not. I love you, whatever state you’re in, and if you need me, I’ll come and sit with you because I love you and I don’t want you to be alone or to feel alone.”

In conclusion, it’s just about being there and even if you don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to help – just say that you want to. That you’re there for them. Break down the wall and allow yourself to connect with your loved one.

Listen to the whole episode here:

Matt grew up in a fear-filled home, and for years he took this fear with him wherever he went. It was this fear that held him back from pursuing a football career and ultimately from dealing with his addiction head-on, and it almost kept him from sticking around the NA meetings that subsequently saved his life.

When he finally decided to choose recovery, he was living alone in his car on a diet of Sunny D and peanut butter sandwiches, kicked out after his girlfriend at the time found out he had kept on using. He had lost everything, but life had given him a chance to fight for it all back.

And fight he did. Now he’s got over 21 years under his belt.

Now Matt loves to surf, has a not-so-secret affinity for Marvel movies, and at his, job he gets to help people every day who are struggling with addiction.

Matt joined us on the podcast to share his incredible story, how he conquered his fears and how every day he fights to break the cycle of addiction and abuse for himself and his daughter.

Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the show but there are so many more nuggets of wisdom to hear for yourself. Listen to the entire episode below.

  • I think a lot of my life there was a lot of fear I’ve experienced. I think the fear of leaving home to pursue that football career scared me and I didn’t know how to deal with it, and it was easier to bury myself and continue to use. I look back now, and I find that there was a lot of fear growing up in the household.
  • The only times that I remember feeling safe was my maternal grandmother lived in Torrance, and we would visit during the summers. As a young kid, she was very religious. I would get up early in the mornings because she would be up around four or five in the morning reading the bible and I would get up and just sit up with her. I remember always feeling safe.
  • It wasn’t easy in the beginning. If anything I want to point that out. There were many times I had thought about using and going back.  I wanted to see my daughter again, that was one of the reasons that I got clean and try to stay clean, and that didn’t happen right away.
  • My life today is something that I couldn’t imagine. I worked with some great people. I have traveled to places that I never thought that I would never go. I’ve done things and have experienced things that I never thought I would and in ways that I think that is deeper than that I would.
  • One of the things I heard, which is so right is forgiveness in their time and not in my time. I just need to continue on my path of living spiritual principles and the rest will work itself out, and that’s all I can worry about, and that’s all I can do.

*Matt’s last name and photo have been kept private for anonymity purposes. 

If you love Matt’s story as much as we do, please share it your friends and family or anyone that you think may find it helpful. We are always looking for new stories to share and inspire others. If you would like to share your story with us, let us know by filling out the form below.

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