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The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 47

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 476 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 Greek mythology there is the story of maiden goddess Persephone and her encounter with the god of the Underworld, Hades.  Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.  Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, of agriculture, nourishment and fertility.  Hades falls in love with Persephone from afar and convinces Zeus to let him abduct Persephone and take her to the Underworld. When he does, Demeter becomes so grief stricken at the disappearance of her daughter that she refuses to attend to her obligations to maintain agricultural activity and its output and the world begins to starve.

Finally, Zeus intervenes and brokers a deal between Hades and Demeter wherein Persephone becomes the Queen of the Underworld but must spend 6 months of the year on the Earth with Demeter.  This facilitates the emergence of the seasons, with Spring and Summer as the time when Persephone is with Demeter and thusly enabling the growth and abundance in the natural world of that part of the year, and Fall and Winter as the time when Persephone is with Hades, when Demeter’s anxiety provokes the decay and fallowness of the natural world.

It strikes me that we alcoholics and druggies might see ourselves in the person of Hades in this story…and perhaps Demeter as an Al-anon.  Hades gets the wild idea that he has to have Persephone and nothing will stop him from having her, even against her will.  He has taken her hostage, an event so much like how we alcoholics are prone to taking hostages in our pursuit of relationships.  Demeter is so distraught being the victim of an alcoholic’s raging and bad behavior that she shirks her responsibilities and makes everyone else pay for her pain. An acceptable solution to the conflict, to the chaos of both of their behaviors, can only be achieved with the intervention of a Higher Power who convinces them that the solution is in their accepting the reality of what has happened and sharing the outcome.  For us it is the connection with our own Higher Power and in working the Steps of AA and Al-Anon to gain a state sufficient to allow for a life of growth and regeneration.

Millennials, Social Media, and Depression

[From a Jan. 10, 2019 article by Kristen Monaco, Staff Writer, MedPage Today]

Facebook “addiction” — not only spending lots of time on Facebook but also seeing negative social impacts from it, yet craving it and trying unsuccessfully to cut down — was associated with impaired decision-making in one study and with self-perceived physical ill health in another.

In the first, researchers gave 71 participants recruited from a German university 100 tries each at the computerized Iowa Gambling Task, in which players should learn from prior rewards and punishments to make better bets — in other words, a test of value-based decision-making.

Higher scores on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale were significantly correlated with worse performance in the final 20 game trials (r=-0.31, P<0.01), found Dar Meshi, PhD, assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues. Their study was published online in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

This finding, that Facebook “addicts” made riskier decisions than non-addicts as the game went on, implies that they were more likely to ignore the potential for losses, the investigators said. Notably, there was no such association between Facebook addiction and decision-making earlier in the game.

The study “further supports a parallel between individuals with problematic, excessive SNS [social networking site] use and individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders,” they concluded. Research published earlier this week also found an association with depression.

Excessive social networking can seep into other aspects of users’ lives as they build up tolerance to sites’ social rewards, Meshi and colleagues said, just as opioid users require increasing doses over time to achieve the same effects. “These excessive SNS users also experience conflict with others because of their use, and when attempting to quit, they display withdrawal symptoms and often relapse,” the researchers wrote.

While many in the mental health field have come to accept online behaviors as potentially addictive, the American Psychiatric Association has not formally recognized any. The closest it has come is designating “internet gaming disorder” in its current diagnostic manual, DSM-5, as a possible condition warranting further study. Addictions to other online activities such as social media are not mentioned at all.

And that aside, one specialist contacted by MedPage Today urged caution in interpreting the current study owing to its design.

“While this area of research is intriguing and it is possible that excessive digital media use may have adverse effects on cognitive functioning, this particular study does not provide strong support one way or another of whether decision making dysfunction may actually be a consequence of excessive digital media use,” commented Adam Leventhal, PhD, director of the University of Southern California’s Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory in Los Angeles, who was not part of the study.

“Because of the study design, we cannot determine whether the risky decision making patterns preceded or followed excessive Facebook use in the participants. It is possible that people who make risky decisions are more drawn to highly-stimulating digital activities like social networking platforms because it suits their sensation-seeking personality styles,” he said.

Facebook and Physical Illness

In a separate study conducted by Bridget Dibb, MSc, PhD, of the University of Surrey in England, Facebook users who reported feeling inspired by friends they perceived as better off tended to feel more sick themselves.

From a survey of 165 Facebook users, the one specific type of social comparison linked to more physical symptoms was the positive feeling of seeing someone better off, Dibb reported online in Heliyon.

“The positive upward comparison relationship in this study shows that the participants were feeling hopeful and inspired but at the same time were aware of worse physical health,” she wrote. “It is also possible that those who had more physical symptoms tended to engage in more positive upward comparison to be more like the better-off target. This may be a coping strategy and would account for why those engaging in upward comparison would also be more aware of their symptoms.”

In contrast, negative feelings after seeing the better-off person (“I could never be like him or her”) weren’t significantly associated with physical health, nor were the negative feelings (“What if I become like him or her?”) or positive feelings (“At least I’m not like that”) after encountering somebody comparably worse off.

Moreover, the more survey respondents said they felt that Facebook was part of their lives, the more physical ailments they perceived personally.

Dibb acknowledged that the study design precluded any causal links between physical health and Facebook use; she suggested a longitudinal study to show whether social comparison leads to perceptions of ill health or if those who experience worse health are inherently more likely to seek inspiration from peers. The experiment by Meshi and colleagues also only documented an association, not a causal relationship.

Moreover, neither study accounted for use of other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 46

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 46 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.

Some of us on the journeys to sobriety have relapses.  For some reason, in the dysfunctional processes of our alcoholic brains, we conclude that drinking again is a good idea…despite the turmoil and chaos that usually follows such a decision. Our falling out of the “Program,” drinking or using again, results in another long slide into the depths, possibly for some period of time, if not forever. Recovering again is always possible, but not often easy.

In many mythological systems, there is a story of the Phoenix, a glorious bird with the regal head and profile of an eagle, the wing span and breadth of a condor, and the plumage of a peacock.  This bird grows to a wondrous presence and then suddenly immolates into a pile of ashes.  In relatively short order, then, a chick struggles out of the ashes and begins to grow into the full scale Phoenix again. 

Few of the stories of the Phoenix contain the reasons for the immolation, but, seeing this from the perspective of an alcoholism or addiction relapse, perhaps we could think of the myriad of scenarios that attend the occurrence of a relapse.  Maybe it could be the false belief that we have recovered from our addiction sufficiently that occasional “social” drinking is now possible without developing a compulsion to binge.  Or that the effort to maintain our sobriety has become so wearisome that we fall away from the Fellowship and the support that had sustained us; and before long we find ourselves drinking or using again.  Or that we just wake up one day with the irrational urge to begin drinking or using without any real reason and without the need or the urge to reach out to our Fellows in the Program. In each case, in relatively short order, our life just explodes in a burst of flames and we are soon again just a pile of ashes, caught in the depths of the abyss of our disease.

Crawling out of the ashes of that condition and making the effort to recover again can be painful.  But the Program is still there; the Fellowship is still there.  There are broad sets of open arms everywhere waiting to welcome us back.  And, in time, with a growing commitment to “do what it takes,” our Sobriety begins to grow again.  We begin to develop the glorious “wing span” and “plumage” of a life in committed Sobriety.  

Sobering Facts About Holiday Drunk Driving

alcohol impaired driving

This is the season for celebrating with family and friends. But, when it comes to drunk driving, this most joyous time of year is also the deadliest. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every holiday season, hundreds of lives are lost due to drunk drivers.

Drunk driving facts

Over the past five years, an average of 300 people nationally died in drunk driving crashes during the Christmas through New Year’s holiday period. From 2012-2016, in the month of December, the NHTSA reported 14,472 people lost their lives in traffic accidents. Of those December deaths, 28%, or 3,995, people died in drunk-driving crashes.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 of higher). In every State, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 50 minutes in the United States in 2016.

In 2016, the NHTSA reported 10,497 people killed in these preventable crashes. What’s more, over the 10-year period from 2006-2016, an average of more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.

Steps to Prevent drunk driving

At this time of year, the NHTSA suggests the following steps to prevent drunk driving:

  • If you will be drinking, plan on not driving.
  • Plan your safe ride home before you start the party.
  • Designate a sober driver ahead of time.
  • If you drink, do not drive for any reason.
  • Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, etc.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide app from Google Play or the iTunes Store which helps you identify your location and call a taxi or friend to pick you up.
  • If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone’s life.

Call The Council

If you, a loved one, or friend have a problem with alcohol, call The Council on Recovery at 713-941-4200 or contact us online. We are Houston’s leading non-profit provider of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services. We can help!

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.

Alarming Increase in Adolescent Vaping and Nicotine Use in 2018

teenage vaping

An alarming increase in the prevalence of vaping among adolescents has raised public health concern, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Research into vaping among teens was conducted by the University of Michigan. It indicated a sharp increase in the prevalence of nicotine vaping: 10% among 12th-graders, 7.9% among 10th-graders, and 2.6% among 8th-graders. These percentages mean 1.3 million additional adolescents engaged in nicotine vaping in 2018, as compared with 2017.

The study’s authors suggest that policies in place in the 2017–2018 school year were not sufficient to stop the spread of nicotine vaping. Additionally, rapid growth of new vaping devices, such as the Juul, will require modified strategies to keep adolescents from vaping and its associated negative health effects.

The Center for Recovering Families’ Adolescent Services department is carefully tracking and responding to the increase in teen vaping.  Through Mindful Choices, our High-Risk Behavior course, as well as prevention, parent education, and counseling services, the Center for Recovering Families is in the vanguard of local efforts to stem the tide of teenage substance abuse in our community.

If you or a loved one needs help to stop vaping, call the Center for Recovering Families at 713-914-0556, contact us online, or download our brochure. We can help. Start here.