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The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 52

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 52 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.

The ultimate tragedy of alcohol and drug addiction is that some sufferers never achieve long-term, committed sobriety.  The end for most of them is catastrophe, an ugly, untimely demise occasioned by incidents of devastation for friends and family alike.

In the multi-season cable TV series, Breaking Bad, Walter White is a highly qualified, timid high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His knowledge of physics, chemistry and the related sciences is extraordinary. But missteps and fear in his earlier life kept him from achieving wealth and fame in the high-tech business world, a series of conditions for which he harbored deep resentments against his peers who were successful.

Early in the series, Walter is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Over subsequent episodes this triggers a massive mind shift; occasioned by a surge of hopelessness and fear for his family, he develops a hard aggressive edge.  Meeting a former student, Jesse Pinkman, who is a drug dealer, he decides to use his chemistry expertise to manufacture an extremely pure and highly popular form of crystal methamphetamine.  With Jesse, he builds a successful illicit drug business, accumulates massive amounts of cash, and eventually becomes a person of some renown for his skill and ruthlessness throughout the Southwestern United States. This all happens over many episodes with fascinating subplots of death and devastation to people both closely, and remotely, connected to Walter. 

Another interesting element is that he remains anonymous through most of these episodes, even to his brother-in-law who is a senior DEA agent.  His street name becomes Heisenberg, recalling the German scientist who ran the Nazi attempts to build a nuclear bomb, the individual whose existence in the waning years of WWII created a fear that drove the Manhattan A-Bomb Project for the United States.

The process of Walter’s descent into such depravity, through so many episodes, seems a spectacular characterization of the descent of many of us into the deep dark terrors of alcoholism and drug addiction.  In truth, we became our own Heisenbergs within our families and the circles of our associates and friends.

On a few occasions, Walter attempts to remove himself from the business, but his success and renown, and the sense of power that it gives him, pulls him back.  He has become addicted to that sense of power and is unable to resist its pull. The addictive element of that sense is unmanageable…precisely as the addiction to alcohol and drugs became unmanageable to all of us in our disease.  This same addiction, this addiction to power, is also one that many of us felt in our earlier alcoholic lives; it may have even accelerated our own descents into the abyss.

But, tragically, Walter does not recover.  By the end of the series, he has destroyed all of those whom he believed wronged him in his life…and, more severely, he has destroyed everything and everyone that he ever held dear. It all becomes a grim reminder for all of us as to what could have happened if we didn’t get sober when we did.

Pediatricians Can Do More to Prevent & Reduce Adolescent Substance Use

Adolescent substance use has begun to boil over in many parts of the country. Concerned parents, spurred-on by tragic stories from the opioid epidemic, are desperate to turn down the heat and protect adolescents from harm.

Among the adults searching for answers is one important group who can do more to prevent and reduce adolescent substance use: Primary care physicians and, more specifically, pediatricians.

Pediatricians routinely see patients for annual checkups, often treating the same children from birth to high school graduation. During these regular visits, they have both the opportunity to talk with adolescents and an existing relationship with them that can make conversations about substance use seem natural and easy. As such, adolescents can feel comfortable talking to pediatricians about drinking and drug use because anything they say is just between them and their doctor (unless the patient is in imminent danger).

During such confidential discussions, pediatricians have an invaluable opportunity to give their young patients information about drinking and drug use, and how it can affect their health. A quick chat about the effect of alcohol and drugs on the developing adolescent brain can greatly influence teenage decisions to either abstain or seek help if substance use is an emerging problem. In those cases, pediatricians can immediately refer them any help they need, such as putting them in touch with a mental health professional or treatment provider.

Research shows that these types of conversations between pediatricians and young people are an effective means of reducing substance-use rates. The Council on Recovery strongly supports making it standard practice for pediatricians to discuss substance use with their adolescent patients.

The Council on Recovery provides a wide range prevention and education resources aimed reducing substance use, especially among adolescents and young adults. For more information about The Council’s Prevention & Education Programs , please call 713-942-4100, email education@councilonrecovery.org  or contact us online.

Infographic: 11 Myths About Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Here are some of the popular misconceptions about NA that contribute to a lack of attention to the organization as a recovery support resource:

The Council on Recovery believes that Twelve-Step programs, patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), play a vital role in the recovery process. We strongly recommend attendance of Twelve-Step meetings to our clients. However, the meetings and groups themselves are entirely autonomous and are not affiliated with The Council beyond our provision of space for them to hold their meetings.

For a complete listing of Twelve-Step meetings held each week at The Council, including Narcotics Anonymous, click here:

If you or a loved one has an alcohol or drug problem, 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 51

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 51 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.

There is a 1964 British war film about an 1879 battle between a British contingent of 150 men at Rorke’s Drift in the Natal Colony of South Africa and an army of 4000 Zulu Warriors.  It is set at the height of the British Empire under the reign of Queen Victoria at a time when the Sun truly never set on Great Britain.  In South Africa, the Zulu Nation was challenging Britain’s domination, and had defeated a major British force at Isandlwana just a week prior. The stories of these engagements as told on film were largely true and the defeat at Isandlwana was not only one of the worst in British history but a major embarrassment for the high command in London.

The British contingent at Rorke’s Drift was commanded by Lt John Chard, played in the film by Stanley Baker, and Lt Gonville Bromhead, played by Michael Caine.  It was Caine’s first major role.  Chard was a very practical, experienced engineering officer and Bromhead was an insufferable public school snob who resented that Chard was his superior, the result of the fact that Chard’s commission was just a few months earlier in time than was Bromhead’s. 

The battle lasted days, with multiple instances of near defeat for the British.  But the overall defense was brilliantly organized and commanded by Chard and courageously executed by all the men.  After a massive final assault by the Zulus and a long and intense barrage by the British which just kept beating back hordes of Zulu warriors, the Zulus just quit suddenly and left the region.  After a few hours, as the British were clearly away all the bodies, the entire Zulu force returned and, standing on the ridge overlooking the encampment, they voiced a chant of praise for the valiant British warriors.

The movie’s introduction, of the events at Isandlwana, and the summation of the achievements of the Rorke’s Drift defenders at the end, were beautifully narrated by Richard Burton, as only Burton can do.  The Rorke’s Drift success was cast as a truly bright shining moment in the history of British warfare.

But what strikes me most in this story, and its presentation on the screen, is the parallel I see with those of us who are achieving success in our ongoing battles with the scourge inherent in our addictive psyches. The initial efforts to stop the insane patterns of consumptive behavior were bad enough, but many of us also faced, and may still be facing, constant challenges to our sobriety, challenges that require a fiery vigilance and a deep resolve to repulse.  We are much like the soldiers at Rorke’s drift fighting so bravely and steadfastly to defend ourselves.

While there is no final victory over alcoholism or drug abuse for most of us, the cheering of our compatriots in our small daily victories and in our constant milestones in sobriety sound much like the Zulus in the praise and resonant esteem of their chants from the ridge at the film’s conclusion.

E-cig Use Associated with Cardiovascular Disease & Other Medical Conditions

Ever since E-Cigarettes (E-cigs) were first introduced in 2007, their use (also known as “vaping”) has been advertised as a safer alternative to smoking. However, new research by the University of Kansas School of Medicine shows that E-cig use, like smoking, delivers ultra-small aerosol particles which may be associated with cardiovascular disease and other medical problems.

The Study

The study, based on a review from the National Health Interview Surveys, analyzed health outcomes for E-cig users vs. non-E-cig users and smokers vs. non-smokers for a variety of medical conditions. These included myocardial infarction, hypertension, diabetes, depression/anxiety/emotional problems, circulatory problems, and stroke.

The Results

Though E-cig users had a lower mean age than non-E-Cig-users (33 vs. 40), E-cig users still had higher odds of having myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke. Depression/anxiety/emotional problems and circulatory problems also appeared higher in the study. E-cig users had lower odds of having diabetes and there was no significant difference between the two groups on the odds of hypertension.

The Conclusion

As one of the more recent studies on the health effects of E-cig use, this research supports the need greater public awareness about the higher odds of myocardial infarction, stroke, depression/anxiety/emotional problems, and circulatory problems facing those who vape. Both the study’s author and the American College of Cardiology recommend additional research to better establish causation linkage between E-cig use and these serious medical problems.

With a 14-fold increase in sales of E-cigs over the past ten years, the use of and addiction to vaping is rapidly becoming a major public health concern. Read the U.S. Surgeon General’s report about E-cigarette use here.

When combined with the misuse of alcohol or drugs, the consequences of vaping can turn deadly. If you or someone you know needs help, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us on-line.