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Combatting the Stigma of Addiction

We have understood addiction to be a disease for nearly a century, yet shame and stigma continue to keep people from seeking treatment and support. This has always been the case, but skyrocketing overdose deaths, substance abuse, and suicide rates both locally and nationwide renew a sense of urgency in our mission to combat false narratives, beliefs and assumptions around this chronic disease. This is the first in a blog series exploring the many facets of stigma that perpetuate addiction. Before we dive in, it is important to start with the basics:

Addiction is a disease.

Contrary to the belief that addiction is an individual moral failing, addiction is a complex, chronic disease that changes the chemical balance of the reward center of the brain. It is caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and developmental factors, and according to the American Psychological Association, about half the risk for addiction is genetic. Long-term substance use can also change the parts of the brain that affect learning, judgement, decision making, self-control and memory.

Addiction is treatable. Recovery is possible.

There is not a cure to addiction, but it can be treated and managed. In fact, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 3 out of 4 people who experienced addiction went on to recover.

Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential. Recovery from substance use disorders looks different for each individual and can consist of pharmacological, social and psychological treatment. Regardless of the route taken, we want people struggling with substances to know that a life in recovery can be joyous, fulfilling and whole.

Everyone is worthy of recovery.

We believe everyone is deserving of a chance to live a life of recovery, regardless of the path that brought them to our doorstep. Anyone who comes to us for help is welcomed with the respect and compassion they need to feel safe enough to begin this vulnerable process of healing and renewal.

If you, a loved one, or a patient is struggling with substance use, contact us today to inquire about treatment options.

RECAP: Danny Trejo’s Story of Recovery & Redemption Inspires Hundreds at The Council’s 37th Annual Spring Luncheon

Actor, activist, author and restauranteur Danny Trejo inspired a crowd of more than 900 Houstonians with his story of recovery and redemption at The Council’s 37th Annual Spring Luncheon on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Presented by The Moody Endowment, the event raised more than $450,000 to help local individuals and families recover from the effects of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Mistress of Ceremonies and Board of Trustees member Jerri Duddlesten Moore opened the luncheon, followed by an invocation by Reverend Michelle Manuel of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Board of Trustees Chair Joe Matula then announced that this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to the late Kirby Attwell, a longtime friend and supporter of The Council, whose life and legacy have forever changed the landscape of addiction treatment in Houston.

President and CEO Mary Beck, LMSW, followed, giving an impassioned appeal for a community united against the growing shame and stigma around substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. “It is through this community that we find the antidote to shame,” she said. “Awareness, education, and connection are all powerful tools in the fight against stigma.”

Luncheon Co-Chairs Diane St. Yves Brewer and Patrick Keegan then shared their powerful stories of recovery, with Keegan recounting how his attendance of a previous Council luncheon inspired him to a life of recovery. “I saw hundreds of people: sober, happy, and successful and I thought to myself, ‘If these folks can do it, I can do it.’”

Board Trustee Joanie McLeod introduced keynote speaker Danny Trejo who told his harrowing, inspiring, and often humorous story of recovery and redemption. Trejo told the crowd about his substance use in his early childhood, how he found recovery with the help of a 12-step program, and how service to his community has been essential to his recovery. He also emphasized the importance of organizations like The Council to those struggling with substance use, saying, “The Council is like a lighthouse, they point the way when you’re lost.”

The event concluded with a surprise video from former Prima Ballerina for the Houston Ballet, Lauren Anderson, who announced she would serve as keynote speaker for The Council’s Fall Luncheon on October 21, 2022. Save the date!

Addiction & The Family: Unwritten Roles & Unspoken Rules

This blog post is the second in a series contributed by Rachel Evans, LMSW, of the Center for Recovering Families at The Council on Recovery and Ashley Taylor, MSW, LMSW, of Heights Family Counseling. Read the first post here.

When someone has a substance use disorder, the people within their close circle – whether it be family, friends or a combination of both – adapt to the associated behaviors. Many roles that these people embody contribute to the functionality of the system itself. There are a few adaptations of these roles, but the most common are the hero, the scapegoat, the addict, the mascot, the caretaker, and the lost child.

(For a breakdown of these roles and their impact on the system, read our blog post.)

While someone in the family unit might outwardly display particular character traits, there are also feelings that exist beneath the surface that are harder to recognize. Not every family system will reflect these roles, but oftentimes, these roles are displayed in some form or fashion. By taking on these roles, people within the system are able to assert some control over the outcome of their situation and maintain a sense of normalcy in a situation where one can feel a loss of control.

Addiction and family

In families that deal with substance use disorders, there are also unwritten rules that members abide by in order to prevent disruption within the system. These rules are: Don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel. People within the system follow these rules to maintain the status quo. “Everyone in the system often begins to believe that their needs no longer matter,” says Rachel Evans, Family Therapist at the Center for Recovering Families. These rules are adaptations made beyond the roles that people within the family unit follow that help protect their goal, which is to manage life with someone struggling with a substance use disorder.

Family members can come to understand it like this: We don’t talk about the addiction. Secrecy allows the addiction to thrive. We cannot trust the person with a substance use disorder. Addiction often comes with inconsistent behaviors, so family members often learn not to trust their loved one, and often suppress their emotional experiences of the addiction. Because of these learned rules, recovery often begins with talking openly about the addiction safely, rebuilding trust, and identifying emotions in every family member.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, or if you recognize any of these roles and rules in your own life, contact us today to inquire about counseling and treatment options.

Finding Recovery at The Council’s Luncheons

The Council’s beloved Annual Speaker Series is more than a luncheon: time and time again, it has served as the starting point in a person’s recovery journey.

It’s a big claim – and to the outside observer, may seem far-fetched. How could a luncheon be the doorstep to recovery? The answer lies in community. As one attendee explained, “My view on recovery was very narrow. I felt like a complete low-life alcoholic doomed to a life of despair, but when I walked into my first Council luncheon and saw the massive crowd of happy and seemingly normal and successful people, my vision changed.”

This centuries-old misconception of addiction as a moral failing has long contributed to the feelings of shame that work to keep people trapped in their disease. The Council’s luncheon is a bold declaration that it is okay to have this disease; it sends a message that recovery is possible and worth our best efforts for every individual. The Council’s luncheon delivers a radical shift in perspective and opens the doorway to possibility. Said one individual, “The Council’s luncheon broke the stigma for me of what an alcoholic was and what a glorious life in recovery could look like.”

The Council's luncheons
Every spring and fall, up to 1,000 members of Houston’s recovery and behavioral healthcare communities attend The Council’s luncheons.

The sheer size of The Council’s luncheons further strengthens this powerful message. One attendee remarked, “I sat in this room with 1,000 people who were there to support recovery. I had never seen anything like it. For the first time in my life, I felt the stigma of addiction lift. Here was a place free from shame and judgment. A place to share the stories of addiction, but more importantly to share the promises of recovery and the resources available to every person in Houston through The Council.”

Because if addiction thrives in isolation, community is the antidote.

Through community we can nourish recovery. A community of recovery can change despair to possibility; it can give us permission to replace shame with self-compassion; it can provide a lifeline of hope.

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, The Council’s Annual Speaker Series has raised millions of dollars to support local families impacted by addiction; it has shared a message of hope for recovery; and perhaps most importantly of all it has created a community of individuals who can find strength in recovery, together.

If you know someone who needs to hear lived experiences of the power of recovery, invite them to our upcoming luncheon. They might just walk away changed.

Announcing Danny Trejo as Keynote Speaker for our 37th Annual Spring Luncheon

The actor, activist, author and restauranteur Danny Trejo will tell his story of recovery and redemption on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Hilton Americas – Houston hotel.

The Council on Recovery is excited to welcome Danny Trejo as the keynote speaker for our 37th Annual Spring Luncheon on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Danny Trejo is an actor, activist, author and restauranteur, best known for his starring roles in the Spy Kids, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Machete film series, as well as recurring roles in the television series Breaking Bad, King of the Hill, and Sons of Anarchy. He most recently appeared in the popular Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett.

Danny Trejo headshot

Trejo struggled with addiction at as early as 12 years old, found sobriety through attending 12-step meetings while in prison, and has been sober for more than five decades. He chronicled his harrowing and inspiring story in his critically acclaimed 2021 memoir Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, & Hollywood.

Since its inception 40 years ago, The Council’s speaker series has promoted a message of hope and healing, and helped to reduce the shame and stigma of substance use and related disorders in the Houston community and beyond. The Council provides treatment and recovery support to individuals affected by substance use and other co-occurring mental health conditions, regardless of their ability to pay. Funds raised through our annual luncheons ensure that no family in need is ever turned away.

To reserve your table today, visit our speaker series website. Individual tickets will be sold at a later date.

Now is the Time to Address Co-Occurring Disorders

As Houston’s leading nonprofit provider of prevention, education, and outpatient treatment services for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, The Council on Recovery has helped thousands of people enter recovery and families heal. As a leader though, it is our obligation to do more than serve. We need to look to the future, embrace behavioral health innovations that are grounded in evidence, and inspire others in times of uncertainty.

Over the past year, The Council has led just such a charge, through the formation of The Center for Co-Occurring Disorders. The Center is a groundbreaking initiative designed to address co-occurring mental health disorders concurrently. When we launched The Center, we knew there was an urgent need for these services; we also knew that if we wanted this effort to succeed – and to last – we had much more to learn.

Our history in the behavioral health field told us that our efforts had to be disruptive. There have been far too many efforts to treat co-occurring disorders that have fallen short because those involved held on to the status quo; others could not conceive of how to reconfigure the existing frameworks; still others sought a one-size-fits-all solution; and others focused solely on direct services without modifying the systems in which they operate.

We knew The Center had to be different.

Our first year was a time to envision, generate ideas, and challenge existing systems. Through this process, we recognized that the approach to treating co-occurring mental health disorders needs to be multi-dimensional and uniquely catered to the individual patient. Here’s what we accomplished in the first year of this initiative:

  • We assessed the readiness of The Council’s own treatment programs to address co-occurring disorders in our clients.
  • We formed an advisory board comprised of leaders from the health, psychiatry, addiction and IDD (intellectual and developmental disability) fields.
  • We launched a 6-part workshop series that trained medical professionals in Houston to understand and address co-occurring mental health disorders, free of charge.

And these are just the first steps. Moving forward we intend to incubate, test and adapt the best models of assessment, treatment and payment. We will continue to educate the medical community on various aspects of co-occurring disorders, including their connection to trauma and suicide. We will continue to empower and equip healthcare providers with the skills and tools necessary to effectively and compassionately help those in need.

The Impact of Addiction on The Family System

This blog post is contributed by Ashley Taylor, MSW, LMSW, of Heights Family Counseling and Rachel Evans, LMSW, of the Center for Recovering Families

When someone we love deals with addiction, wishful thinking tends to surround their recovery. We think to ourselves, “If this person just gets better, then everything else will fall into place.” No matter how desirable that outcome, substance use disorder is a systems disease that requires a systems solution. Substance use disorders not only affect the person suffering, but also the people closest to them.

“By the time people get treatment, the family system has often regulated around the addiction to maintain the status quo,” says Rachel Evans, family therapist at the Center for Recovering Families. “The addiction has become the locus of control.”

Everyone who is involved in the system has adapted in ways they might not even recognize in order to maintain a sense of normalcy and peace, while watching someone they love battle a difficult disease. Because of this, many families are exhausted by the time their loved one enters treatment. Regardless of the ways in which the support system has regulated itself around the addiction, the relationship between the person dealing with substance use disorder and their families can be an important one.

impact of addiction on family system

“The collaborative effort of treatment is very beneficial,” says Rachel. When appropriate, having family members present for treatment improves success rates, and treatment benefits both the person struggling with substance use disorder, as well as the family members. When it comes to recovery, it is crucial that everyone is willing to do things differently in order to set family recovery at the core of the system. Through family recovery, everyone is able to gather and understand different strategies for coping with the new way of life for this person, as well as unlearning potentially harmful practices that had been in use prior to the recovery process.

This help can take the form of family treatment, support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, and even individual therapy. When an entire system is affected, addressing the entire system is the most effective treatment. This takes the responsibility off one individual and makes the process a collaborative one. In this way, the person going through recovery can feel more supported in their journey, and feel the love and encouragement from those closest to them.

The process of addiction recovery is rarely linear, nor does it only impact the person working to overcome substance use disorder. When addiction is viewed as a systems disease, it can be addressed throughout the whole system. By viewing this process in a more collaborative light, we are able to better support and understand the journey of our loved ones.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, call us today at 713.914.0556, or contact us through our website.

A Message to Those Affected by the Opioid Crisis

This blog post is authored by Mary H. Beck, LMSW, CAI, President & CEO of The Council on Recovery

Most of us are well aware of the opioid crisis facing our communities. We read the grave statistics about addiction and overdose deaths experienced by so many. Impassioned advocates call us to action, treatment specialists inform us on the most cutting-edge practices, legislators pass laws and allocate financial resources to combat this public health emergency. All of this is vitally important.

Yet we are facing a parallel crisis, which is tearing apart families and leaving people in severe distress – a crisis to which our communities are often blind: the trauma and grief experienced by family and friends of those struggling with addiction or who are trying to live in the wake of an overdose death.

Our loved ones die – it is a sad, painful truth. For years, many of us live in fear of this truth – knowing that when someone we love so deeply is suffering from a chronic illness, death may be the outcome. We cherish the moments of reprieve and hope for recovery. At other times, we are doing everything in our power to save them – we suffer in silence once they are gone.

This is true whether your loved one dies from cancer, heart failure, brain disease, and yes, addiction too. If you are feeling the pain of a loved one’s substance abuse or their death, you are not alone. Over 100,000 people have died of a drug overdose in the past year alone – leaving spouses, parents, siblings, and friends behind.

How did we get here?

Americans take 80 percent of all prescription painkillers in the world. New reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area confirm that drug overdoses have surged since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in Houston and nationwide. The sharpest increases were deaths involving opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl. In the last year, fentanyl related deaths in Houston increased by 40%.

opioid crisis image

The extremity of this surge is a cause for grave concern for our team, but it only strengthens our resolve to partner with local leaders and community partners to tackle this issue comprehensively and systemically. This takes a multi-pronged approach – focused on education and awareness, providing intervention and treatment, opening doors to recovery, and when necessary supporting family and friends in their grief.

If you are one of the millions watching a loved one’s addiction spiral out of control, or if you have already lost a loved one due to an overdose, you deserve the same compassion and support others receive when they are grieving.  You need a place to turn, where your strength and courage are honored, while your grief and emotions are nurtured. The Council on Recovery is that place – a place to start when you don’t know where to turn and a place to heal.

If you, a loved one, or a client/patient is struggling with opioid use, contact us today, and we can get them the help they need. For more information on our opioid use services, download our flyer.

The Council Responds to the State of Emergency on Child and Adolescent Mental Health

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the inequities that result from structural racism. The Council on Recovery remains steadfast in our goal to help any and every child and adolescent affected by substance use and other mental health disorders in the midst of these national crises.

Child and adolescent mental health had worsened in the decade before the pandemic, with suicide becoming the second leading cause of death among this population by 2018. This only intensified with the challenges children and adolescents faced in the last year and a half. Students lost consistent access to friends and adults supports. Many took on new responsibilities, including childcare, housework and part time jobs, putting added pressure on developing minds. Tragically, more than 140,000 children in the U.S. lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19, with youth of color disproportionately impacted.

child and adolescent mental health

With substance use disorders and overdoses continually skyrocketing across all demographics, we commend and support the proposals included in this state of emergency declaration, including but not limited to:

  • Increase federal funding dedicated to ensuring all families and children can access evidence-based mental health screening, diagnosis, and treatment to appropriately address their mental health needs, with particular emphasis on meeting the needs of under-resourced populations.
  • Improve access to technology to assure continued availability of telehealth to provide mental health care to all populations.
  • Increase implementation and sustainable funding of effective models of school-based mental health care.
  • Fully fund comprehensive, community-based systems of care that connect families in need of behavioral health services and supports for their child with evidence-based interventions in their home, community or school.
  • Promote and pay for trauma-informed care services that support relational health and family resilience.

“One thing we know is that children and adolescents are 100% our future,” says Alejandra Ortiz, LMSW, adolescent therapist at the Center for Recovering Families, “And it is our responsibility that they feel empowered and safe enough, physically and mentally, to take on the curve balls life can throw at them.”

The Council’s Center for Recovering Families offers assessment, counseling, education and support for children and adolescents. This can include parent consultations and coaching as well. To learn more about our Children & Adolescent Services, call 713.914.0556, or contact us through our website today.

Do You Know the Signs & Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder?

The term “substance use disorder” is frequently used to describe misuse, dependence, and addiction to alcohol and/or legal or illegal drugs. While the substances may vary, the signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder are the same. Do you know what they are?

First a few definitions: Signs are the outwardly observable behaviors or consequences related to the use of the substance. Symptoms are the personal, subjective experiences related to the use of the substance. A substance use disorder (or SUD) is a clustering of two or more signs and symptoms related to the use of a substance.

The Recovery Research Institute recently published the signs and symptoms of SUD cited by the American Psychiatric Association. These include:

  1. Problems controlling alcohol use, drinking larger amounts, at higher frequency, or for longer than one intended.
  2. Problems controlling alcohol use despite:
    • The desire to cut-down or quit
    • The knowledge that continued alcohol use is causing problems such as:
      • Persistent or reoccurring physical or psychological problems
      • Persistent or reoccurring interpersonal problems or harm to relationships
      • The inability to carry out major obligations at home, work, or school
  3. The development of:
    • Cravings: A powerful & strong psychological desire to consume alcohol or engage in an activity; a symptom of the abnormal brain adaptions (neuroadaptations) that result from addiction. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of a substance, which when absent, produces a manifest psychological desire to obtain and consume it.
    • Tolerance: A normal neurobiological adaptation process characterized by the brain’s attempt to accommodate abnormally high exposure to alcohol. Tolerance results in a need to increase the dosage of alcohol overtime to obtain the same original effect obtained at a lower dose. A state in which alcohol produces a diminishing biological or behavioral response (e.g. an increasingly higher dosage is needed to produce the same euphoric effect experienced initially).
    • Withdrawal symptoms: Physical, cognitive, and affective symptoms that occur after chronic use of alcohol is reduced abruptly or stopped among individuals who have developed tolerance to alcohol.
  4. Alcohol use that leads to risky or physically hazardous situations (e.g. driving under the influence)
  5. Spending large amounts of time obtaining alcohol
  6. Reducing or stopping important social/occupational/recreational activities due to alcohol use

If you or a loved have experienced the signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder, and need help, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 45

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 45 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the aftermath of the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the loss of its literary and cultural majesty, the European continent became widely diverse and generally devoid of scholarship. The Church was the only institution of wide-spread power. In this environment, which lasted almost 600 years, there were a number of mythic systems which emerge. One was the great Celtic legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A host of stories emerged out of this system, about kings, queens, knights and ladies, who pursue glorious quests in search of physical, psychical and spiritual treasures.

The most prominent of these quests is the search for the “Holy Grail,” which is the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper and which Joseph of Arimathea used to capture some of Christ’s blood as he was lowered from the Cross. Joseph was portrayed as part of a group that then fled Palestine, traveling West with the Cup to found an order in the Celtic lands charged with keeping the Cup. The Arthurian Knights that sought the Grail were on quests for spiritual enlightenment and ascension, which they achieve by coming into the presence of the Grail.

Those of us on the journeys into lives of sobriety are on similar quests…quests to achieve a sense of freedom, peace and serenity. Having made the decision to commit ourselves to the journey, we must do the work to recover with a sense of determination and rigor. We must explore the dark and frightening elements of our past in all its dimensions and find a conscious contact with our Higher Power so we can repair the harm we may have done in our disease and develop a saner mode of life.

Finally, we fully commit ourselves to a life of service, to mankind and to the cosmos. In relatively short order, we find ourselves in a place just as glorious as those the Arthurian Knights achieved in the presence of the Grail.

9th Annual Run for Recovery Raises Money for The Council on Recovery

2018 Run for Recovery runners & walkers on Memorial Drive

The 9th Annual Run for Recovery took place Sunday, November 2nd. One of Houston’s largest recovery events, the race attracted more than 400 people of all ages. Runners, walkers, and other supporters of recovery participated in the 5K run/walk (timed and untimed) and Kids Race along scenic Memorial Drive next to Buffalo Bayou. Post-race festivities and activities were also held for children at Cleveland Park, adjacent to The Council’s campus on Jackson Hill.

Monies raised by the Run for Recovery go to recovery-based scholarships benefiting program participants at Santa Maria Hostel, STAR Drug Court, and The Council on Recovery. These programs provide substance use treatment and recovery support services for those who are unable to afford such services.

For race results, click here.

For additional information on the 2018 Run for Recovery, visit www.HoustonRunforRecovery.com

Rock Legend Alice Cooper Helps The Council on Recovery Raise $495K to Fund Addiction Prevention, Education, & Treatment Programs

Rock legend Alice Cooper shares his story at the Fall Luncheon

Alice Cooper, the Godfather of Shock-Rock and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer thrilled an audience of more than 1100 with his personal story of recovery from alcoholism and  addiction this past Thursday at the Hilton Americas-Houston. In the process, he helped The Council on Recovery raise more than $495,000 to provide addiction prevention, education, and treatment services in the Greater Houston area.

The total funds raised are expected to rise after on-site green card donations are tabulated.

Alice Cooper in conversation with KPRC’s Frank Billingsly

Alice was the keynote speaker at the 36th Annual Fall Luncheon in The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series presented by the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation.

The Luncheon was chaired by Council board members Dennis Robinson

Luncheon Co-Chair Dennis Robinson

and Tony Valadez, each of whom related their own personal experience with recovery

Luncheon Co-Chair Tony Valadez

[Read Dennis’ story; read Tony’s story].

With preceding remarks from The Council’s President/CEO, Mel Taylor and Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Newhouse, a heartfelt introduction by Jerri Duddlesten-Moore brought Alice Cooper to the stage.

Jerri Duddlesten-Moore introduces Alice

In an intimate interview conducted by KPRC/Channel 2’s Frank Billingsly, Alice opened up about his illustrious career in rock & roll that spanned the last fifty years. Like many rockers of the late 60’s and early 70’s, Alice’s trajectory into stardom was initially fueled by drugs and alcohol.

“I was never a drunk ‘drunk’, but I never got sober,” Cooper said. “I used to like to drink, but then I got to the point where I hated it.”

In his late twenties, after performing his “Welcome to My Nightmare” show in 65 cities over 72 days, exhaustion and drinking had finally taken their toll.

“I got up and threw up blood, that’s probably a bad sign,” Cooper said. “My wife [Sheryl], we’ve been married 43 years…, she’s the one who said, ‘Hey, superstar, party’s over.’ I was hospitalized…in 1977…for about three months.”

Asked about that experience, Cooper said, “The crazy thing about my sobriety was…no one is ever a cured alcoholic, but I’m a healed alcoholic. I came out of the hospital and I was the classic alcoholic. I went right to a bar, sat down with a Coca Col,a and waited for the craving to come. And it didn’t come…it never came. Thirty-five years later and it never came. Even the doctors said it was a biblical miracle.”

Cooper did use cocaine after he stopped drinking, but quit after a couple of years. He recalled, “I had enough of that and said ‘that’s it’ and, boom, it was done. There was nothing else, I was done.”

Sober more than 35 years, Alice Cooper admits to doing it without a twelve-step program. Speaking of two fellow rock stars, Joe P. and Steven T., Cooper said, “Now, there are two guys…who went through very heavy drug and alcohol [use]… and they are in AA every day. I applaud them for doing that, too, because it means that much to them…two guys that probably should have been dead in the early 70’s are still making records and still out there doing it.”

Relating his role as a sober rock star and the new generation of younger fans, Cooper reminisced about Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, and Janis Joplin who were brilliant in their field, but never stopped using and all died at 27. “Kids [today] look at us that got sober and they’re smart enough to go ‘ah’, that’s what I’m looking at. It’s not that cool to be high anymore,” Cooper said. “In my lyrics in my songs you’re going to find a lot of warning about drugs and alcohol…some people pick up on it which is good. People [tell me], ‘that one song saved my life’. A simple song can affect somebody enough that they don’t either commit suicide or they get the picture that drugs or alcohol are gonna kill you.”

When asked what he would say to people who are on-the-fence about having a problem with drugs or alcohol, Cooper said, “When you face that realization, and want to go on, you have to face that problem. It took me getting sick before I got control of it. If you think you’re an alcoholic, go two weeks without it and see if it’s part of your body, if it’s an everyday thing.”

Alice Cooper recently finished 190 shows in 17 countries on five continents. “I’m the only one not breathing hard,” Cooper quipped, “and I play golf six days a week [with a 4-handicap].”

Cooper is well-known for helping to support other musicians who struggle with addiction, and has even opened a nonprofit program, Solid Rock, dedicated to helping vulnerable teenagers make healthy choices.

Check our Blog in comings days for additional Luncheon photos!

Video Links:

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 36

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 36 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In 1993, comedian Bill Murray stared in a film called Groundhog Day. It is about a fictitious Pittsburgh TV weatherman, Phil Conners, who is sent to cover the events of Groundhog Day, Feb 2, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh.  Punxsutawney is the actual site of an annual event where a real-live groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil either sees his shadow or doesn’t on that day, an event which signals the remaining duration of winter. Conners is a crass, self-absorbed, obnoxious character whom no one likes and who resents horribly that he has to perform such a mundane task as traveling to Punxsutawney and covering the Groundhog Day Festival.

In the process of performing his duties, he insults and abuses everyone and tries to flee the town as fast as he can after the Festival.  A snowstorm makes that impossible so he must stay over.  But he wakes up the next day to find that it is still Feb 2…and he proceeds to re-live that same day over and over and over…every day being Feb 2 with the same things happening, and  he, and only he, being conscious of the repetition.  As it sinks in what is happening, he realizes that there are no repercussions to whatever he does because all the tomorrows will never come. He can do whatever suits him, even things that would otherwise have severe consequences.  He seduces women, steals money, and disrupts the festival.  Despair sets in and he kills himself, over and over.  Each event in such behavior just keeps happening and he wakes up each day starting completely over.  In typical Bill Murray madcap fashion, it is also hilariously funny…but, for this alcoholic it also conjures up a life in the diseases of addiction, doing the same ugly things over and over fantasying that somehow there will be different outcomes.

Finally, the pathos of some of the things Conners experiences, the trauma he sees in some people’s lives and his inability to fix some fundamental wrongs, has a startling effect…he begins to change.  He uses the fact of his recurring Feb 2 to adopt a new view and an alternative pattern of behavior.  He begins to care and the profound changes in his attitude and behavior have some startling impacts on the community.  After a particularly poignant evening, he wakes up the next day and it is finally Feb 3.  He is overcome with joy.

For me this story conveys much of what we experience in our life in our diseases and our dramatic shift to sobriety.  Once we realize what is happening, once we accept the uselessness of our constant bad behavior, once we surrender to the presence of a higher power in our lives, things begin to change…and our future suddenly takes on a brightness that is profoundly joyful.

Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin) Remain a Popular Hallucinogen

Among the hallucinogens abused by those who have a substance use disorder (SUD), psilocybin mushrooms are still a popular source of getting high.

Similar to other hallucinogens, such as mescaline and peyote, and known on the street as “magic mushrooms”, they contain the hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin and are found throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Fresh or dried, these fungi have long, slender stems topped by caps with dark gills on the underside. Fresh mushrooms have white or whitish-gray stems; the caps are dark brown around the edges and light brown or white in the center. Dried mushrooms are usually rusty brown with isolated areas of off-white.

Psilocybin mushrooms are abused by being eaten or brewed as tea, or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. Their effect on the body may include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and lack of coordination. The psychological consequences of psilocybin use include hallucinations and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose.

Effects of a psilocybin overdose include a longer, more intense “trip” experience, psychosis, and possible death. Abuse of psilocybin mushrooms can also lead to immediate poisoning if one of the many varieties of poisonous mushrooms is incorrectly identified and ingested.

Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. There is no currently accepted use  in medical treatment in the United States and no level of accepted safe use under medical supervision.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder as a result of psilocybin mushrooms or any other addictive substance, The Council on Recovery can help. Call us today at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

2018 Houston Opioid Summit Creates Vital Awareness and Cooperation in the Battle Against Opioid Addiction

 

Opening Session Panel view

For two full days last week, nearly 250 leaders from across Harris County gathered  at The Council on Recovery’s first Opioid Summit.

In keynote addresses, topical breakout sessions, panel discussions, round-table discussions, and interpersonal networking, people on the front-line in battling the opioid crisis exchanged ideas, information, and experience to develop understanding and viable solutions for dealing with the problem.

Judge Denise Bradley speech

Unlike other opioid conferences that focus on individual or narrow aspects of the problem, the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit brought together all of the major sectors dealing with the issue. These included experts from the medical, legal, prevention, treatment, legislative, law enforcement and media communities who shared their perspectives of the opioid epidemic and explored ways to work together to stem opioid overdoses, currently the leading cause of accidental death.

Media Panel Discussion chat

Among the unique perspectives discussed at the Opioid Summit were the role and responsibility of media in the local and national dialogue, and the role of the faith-based community addressing the opioid epidemic.

Dr Joy Alonzo speaks

In-depth discourse on the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and the role of specialty medical care in managing substance use disorder shed new light on treatment opportunities and challenges.

Judge Brock Thomas edited

Exploration of innovative criminal justice approaches and therapeutic treatment courts, and a report on narcotics law enforcement efforts, instilled vital understanding of recent legal trends.

Terry ORourke and Dan Downey

An examination of the Harris County Opioid Litigation against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids by lawyers from the County Attorney’s office provided a glimpse of how the opioid crisis may be impacted by future court decisions.

Karen Palombo teaching

The individual and family effects of the opioid epidemic were also central to the Opioid Summit as breakout sessions covered addiction treatment modalities and prevention and education programs for children and families.

John Cates speech

Advocacy, another front in the war on opioids was keynoted by John Cates. Frank discussions were held on using technology and other therapeutic tools to promote recovery, as well as community efforts to help addicted pregnant women and deal with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), an increasingly alarming problem in delivery rooms across the Houston area.

Four Person Panel

A poignant and powerful closing keynote session focused on the personal perspectives of three individuals whose lives were forever touched by the opioid crisis. Moderated by KPRC’s Khambrel Marshall, the intimate conversation with Maureen Wittels, Randy Grimes, and Jim Hood drove home the devastating impact of substance use disorder. Maureen lost her son, Harris, to an opioid overdose in 2015, cutting short his 30-year old life as a rising star in Hollywood. Randy, a retired NFL player, suffered for 20 years with opioid addiction, that grew out of treating the pain of his football injuries, before getting sober nine years ago. Jim’s son, Austin, died at the age of 21 from an opioid overdose six years ago and prompted Jim to co-found a national organization, Facing Addiction with NCADD, to fight the opioid addiction with the same fervor of campaigns that have battled cancer and other deadly diseases for years.

The Council on Recovery is leading our community in the effort to find solutions to the opioid epidemic. Your support of The Council is greatly appreciated! For more information, click here.

More Photos from the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit:

Vanessa Ayala teaching

Traci-Gauen

Randy Grimes

Peter Mott speaking

Mireille Milfort

Howard Lester

Harry Wiland

Faith Panel

Doug Thornton

Christian Thrasher, Clinton Health Matters Initiative
Christian Thrasher, Clinton Health Matters Initiative

Carol Alvarado
Texas state representative Carol Alvarado

 

CDC Report: Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women’s Health

Recently reported data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are shedding new light on the links between excessive alcohol use by women and the increasing risks to female health. Here are vital the facts from the CDC.

Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and drink in larger amounts, gender differences in body structure and chemistry cause women to absorb more alcohol, and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies (i.e., to metabolize it). In other words, upon drinking equal amounts, women have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men, and the immediate effects of alcohol occur more quickly and last longer in women than men. These differences also make it more likely that drinking will cause long-term health problems in women than men.

Drinking Levels among Women

  • Approximately 46% of adult women report drinking alcohol in the last 30 days.
  • Approximately 12% of adult women report binge drinking 3 times a month, averaging 5 drinks per binge.
  • Most (90%) people who binge drink are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.
  • About 2.5% of women and 4.5% of men met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence in the past year.

Reproductive Health Outcomes

  • National surveys show that about 1 in 2 women of child-bearing age (i.e., aged 18–44 years) drink alcohol, and 18% of women who drink alcohol in this age group binge drink.
  • Excessive drinkingmay disrupt the menstrual cycle and increase the risk of infertility.
  • Women who binge drinkare more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners. These activities increase the risks of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Pregnancy Outcomes

  • About 10% of pregnant women drink alcohol.
  • Women who drink alcohol while pregnant increase their risk of having a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The most severe form is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes mental retardation and birth defects.
  • FASDare completely preventable if a woman does not drink while pregnant or while she may become pregnant. It is not safe to drink at any time during pregnancy.
  • Excessive drinking increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery.
  • Women who drink alcohol while pregnant are also more likely to have a baby die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This risk substantially increases if a woman binge drinksduring her first trimester of pregnancy.

Other Health Concerns

  • Liver Disease: The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Brain: Excessive drinking may result in memory loss and shrinkage of the brain. Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to the brain damaging effects of excessive alcohol use, and the damage tends to appear with shorter periods of excessive drinking for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Heart: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men even for women drinking at lower levels.
  • Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast among women. The risk of breast cancer increases as alcohol use increases.
  • Sexual Assault: Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings. Each year, about 1 in 20 college women are sexually assaulted. Research suggests that there is an increase in the risk of rape or sexual assault when both the attacker and victim have used alcohol prior to the attack.

The Council on Recovery offers prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services for women experiencing alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact The Council today to get help.

Growing Our Own: The Council’s Fellowship Experience

At The Council on Recovery, we know we can’t solve addiction alone. That’s why training medical and behavioral health professionals is an essential part of our work – and has been since as early as 1955! For ten years, our Mary Bell Behavioral Health Clinical Fellowship has been a pillar in our efforts to train the next generation of behavioral health professionals. We sat down with Nina Tahija, LMSW, our current Mary Bell Behavioral Health Clinical Fellow at the Center for Recovering Families to discuss her experience:

Tell me about yourself and what you do at The Council.

I graduated from University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work in 2021. While I was there, I completed a clinical internship at Baylor Psychiatry Clinic, a trauma fellowship, and a specialization in health and behavioral health. I’m also a trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator. I have a strong passion for providing trauma-informed care for my clients.

I currently work as a Mary Bell Behavioral Health Clinical Fellow. In this role, I co-facilitate psychotherapy groups, lead a Dialectical Behavior therapy-informed skills group, conduct assessments and provide individual therapy.

Nina Tahija, LMSW

Why did you want to become a fellow with us?

I was looking for a supportive and collaborative environment to continue honing my clinical skills. I had heard former interns and fellows speak highly of the tremendous growth they got as part of the clinical team, so I thought it would be a natural next step for me. The fellowship program at The Council offered the opportunity to work with individuals struggling with substance abuse and/or other mental health struggles, while receiving intensive training through weekly didactics, supervision, and treatment team meetings.

What are some major takeaways from your experience as a fellow with the Center for Recovering Families?

One of the biggest takeaways for me is the power of connection in one’s recovery. As a group facilitator, I have witnessed the profound impact this space provides for clients to share openly and vulnerably, ask for what they need, and support each other. I also learned the importance to meet clients where they are, understanding that each person has unique lived experiences and are in different parts of their healing journey.

What is some advice you have for people wanting to go into social work and behavioral health?

Know your why for going into this field. Be open to continually reflect on your own experiences, positionality, and biases so you are mindful of the lens that you are working with. Also know that you don’t have to go through this process alone. One of the highlights of my time in graduate school is finding a supportive community through my peers and mentors.