Council Podcast Launched!

The Council on Recovery Podcast with Howard Lester

The Council on Recovery Podcast, with host Howard Lester, explores the diseases of alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders by looking at prevention, education, treatment, and recovery. Through deep and meaningful interviews, we cover every point of view by talking with doctors, educators, researchers, therapists, judges, policymakers, clergy, law enforcement, rehab and mental health professionals, the media, and most importantly, people in recovery.  This long-needed approach brings everyone together for frank discussion of the problems and the sharing of realistic, viable solutions that inspire optimism and hope.

Episode 1 | One Father’s Nightmare: His Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Addiction

Howard interviews Bob C. who shares his extraordinary story of a father’s incredible efforts to save his daughter’s life during her 15 year odyssey with drug addiction and mental illness. At times, he thought he’d lost her. But he also realized that desperately trying to save his daughter might just kill him. With other family tragedies swirling around him at the same time, he somehow found the solutions for staying alive and helping his daughter survive. One man’s quest for the answers that parents all over are searching for.

Episode 2 | Unspoken Legacy: Claudia Black on the Destructive Impact of Trauma and Addiction within the Family

Howard’s sits down with Dr. Claudia Black, a senior fellow at Meadows Behavioral Healthcare. Claudia is a Ph.D. in Social Psychology who is internationally known and respected for her pioneering and contemporary work with family systems and addictive disorders. Claudia’s cutting-edge work was instrumental in creating the solid foundation for the entire field of codependency. Since the mid-1970s, she’s been a passionate leader in the field of addiction and has helped the world gain a greater understanding of the impact of family trauma and its connection with addiction. Claudia designs and presents training workshops and seminars to professional audiences in the field of family service, mental health, and addictive disorders. She has authored fifteen books, most notably Intimate Treason, It Will Never Happen to Me, and her latest, Unspoken Legacy. Claudia is also Clinical Architect for the Claudia Black Young Adult Center at The Meadows Treatment Center in Arizona.

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Unspoken Legacy: Claudia Black on the Destructive Impact of Trauma and Addiction within the Family

Dr. Claudia Black, one of the world’s leading experts on family systems and addiction, reveals the startling connection between the psychological injuries experienced in childhood and the long-term trauma and addictive disorders that are destroying families everywhere. In this in-depth interview, Dr. Black discusses how trauma and addiction literally change the brain, and why the unspoken effects of these conditions can reverberate for generations, uprooting family trees and perpetuating both shame and denial. But, recovery from trauma and addiction is possible, and Dr. Black illuminates a simple, yet powerful and effective process for both healing and creating a new narrative for living. This podcast coincides with the release of Claudia Black’s 16th book, ‘Unspoken Legacy’, a far-ranging examination of how the combination of addiction and trauma causes family dysfunction and why it’s one of the most potent negative forces in people’s lives. Filled with vignettes highlighting the various causes of trauma, ‘Unspoken Legacy’ helps readers understand the physiology and psychology of trauma and how it intersects with addition. The second half of the book covers the vital process for self-examination, and gives readers proactive steps for healing, recovery, and building healthier relationships.

One Father’s Nightmare: His Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Addiction

In our premier episode, our guest, Bob C., shares an extraordinary story of his amazing efforts to save his daughter’s life during her 15 year odyssey with drug addiction and mental illness. At times, he thought he had lost her. But he also realized that desperately trying to save his daughter might just kill him. With other family tragedies swirling around him at the same time, he somehow found the solutions for staying alive and helping his daughter survive.  Bob’s hard-fought quest for understanding and answers is both inspirational and informative. It’s something every parent should hear.

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Require Warning Labels on Addictive Prescription Opioids & Mandate Education for Opioid Prescribers

In a rare bipartisan effort, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced two bills last week aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. The first first piece of legislation is called Lessening Addiction By Enhancing Labeling (LABEL) Opioids Act. The bill calls for labeling prescription opioid bottles with a consistent, clear, and concise warnings that opioids may cause dependence, addiction, or overdose.

The second bill, entitled the Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act, requires any prescriber of opioid medication to undergo mandatory education on safe prescribing practices. Specifically, it mandates that all prescribers, who are applying for a federal license to prescribe controlled substances, must complete mandatory education to help encourage responsible prescribing practices.

Nearly 50 percent of opioid dependence originates with prescribed opioid painkillers. The two pieces of legislation seek to make sure patients and prescribers understand the dangers and full impact those prescriptions may have on the life of a patient.

Specifically, the LABEL Opioids Act would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations providing for a warning label to be affixed directly to the opioid prescription bottle handed to the patient by the pharmacist. Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii have passed state laws requiring labeling of prescription opioids, and legislation has been introduced in several other states. Last year, Canada issued regulations to require opioid labeling nationally. Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act mandates education for prescribers that focuses on best practices for pain management and alternative non-opioid therapies for pain. Such education includes methods for diagnosing and treating a substance use disorder, linking patients to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders, and tools to manage adherence and diversion of controlled substances. The legislation also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor and evaluate the impact this new education requirement has on prescribing patterns.

The Council on Recovery supports these bipartisan efforts by the U.S. Congress to address the opioid epidemic.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction or any substance use disorder, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?

The following article by Dr. Mark Gold, recently published on the Addiction Policy Forum Blog, explores the growing body of research about what regions of the brain are changed during a person’s spiritual practice. It presents compelling ideas for how fellowship and treatment programs can empower individuals in recovery to use spirituality as a proven tool to improve their mental health.

Spirituality can be an important component of recovery from addiction, as it can be a key way for a person seeking recovery to connect to something outside themselves – spiritual practices have long been cornerstones of mutual aid groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently, researchers and those looking at trends have concluded that Americans are becoming less religious but at the same time identify as more spiritual. Spiritual engagement can be a way to find, as the authors in the study write, a “sense of union with something larger than oneself.” In a recent study of the brain done at Yale directed by Dr. Mark Potenza, Neural Correlates of Spiritual Experiences, scientists used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine exactly how spirituality activated or deactivated, certain regions of the brain, changing how people perceive and interact with the world around them.

Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, defines spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Importantly, the authors of the study encouraged diverse, personally-motivated definitions of spiritual experience, examples of which included participation in a religious service at a house of worship, connection with nature, mindfulness meditation, and contemplative prayer.

How do we Measure the Effect of Spirituality?

Spirituality and religious practices are a key part of many people’s lives – 81% of U.S. adults describe themselves as spiritual, religious, or both. Despite the majority of American adults engaging in some form of spiritual practice, little is known about what happens in certain parts of the brain during these spiritual experiences. Although studies have linked specific brain measures to aspects of spirituality, none have sought to directly examine spiritual experiences, particularly when using a broader, modern definition of spirituality that may be independent of religiousness. This study used a special kind of brain imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to examine neural structures and systems that are activated when we engage in spiritual practice. By detecting changes in blood flow to certain regions of the brain, the fMRI is able to detect activity in the brain when participants were asked to recall spiritual experiences.

Methodology

A potential challenge in this study is the wide variety of spiritual experiences that individuals can find personally meaningful. The authors of the study sought to address this by using a personalized guided-imagery fMRI procedure in which participants were asked to describe a situation in which they felt “a strong connection with a higher power or a spiritual presence.” Their accounts were turned into a script, which was recorded and played back to the participant during fMRI. The brain activation measured during the participant’s recall of a spiritual moment was compared to measurements taken while participants listened to narrations of their neutral and stressful experiences.

Key to this study was that the accounts were completely self-directed by the participants — which enabled the researchers to identify commonalities in brain activity among diverse spiritual experiences.

How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?

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The area highlighted in blue is the Inferior Parietal Lobe, which is associated with perceptual processing

Spiritual experiences were associated with lower levels of activity in certain parts of the brain:

  • The inferior parietal lobe (IPL), the part of the brain associated with perceptual processing, relating to the concept of self in time and space
  • The thalamus and striatum, the parts of the brain associated with emotional and sensory processing

This study furthers a growing body of research about spirituality and its connection to brain processing. These findings tell us that spiritual experiences shift perception, and can moderate the effects of stress on mental health. This study saw decreased activation in the parts of the brain responsible for stress and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for connection with others. A sense of union with someone or something outside of oneself and community engagement have been found to support a robust recovery from substance use disorders as well as other behavioral health issues. 

Looking to the Future

Marc Potenza, MD, PhD is an expert in Psychiatry, Behavioral Addictions, and his work at Yale in this important area is a welcome addition to the investigators working in this field. Neural Correlates of Spiritual Experiences has positive implications for instituting spiritual engagement in prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use disorders. Importantly, participants were scanned while they recalled their own, individualized spiritual experience, but the results were consistent between participants. This means that a person does not have to participate in a certain type of spiritual practice to see the benefits, but can engage in whatever version of engagement is most compatible with their personal beliefs. This encourages treatment and recovery programs to encourage patients to pursue diverse means of spiritual engagement.

This study found a way to measure and visualize what many recovery and treatment communities have understood for years—that spirituality can reduce stress and create feelings of connectedness. By understanding what regions of the brain are changed during a person’s spiritual practice, fellowship and treatment programs can empower individuals in recovery to use spirituality as a proven tool to improve their mental health.

References:

  1. Smith, G., Van Capellen, P., (2018, March 7) Rising Spirituality in America [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/rising-spirituality-in-america.
  2. Lipka, M., Gecewicz, C., (2017, September 6). More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 55

Avalon mythical island

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 55 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.

Santa Catalina is an island offshore southern California, “26 miles across the sea…” from Long Beach.  The “26 miles…” line is from a 1958 song by the Four Preps, a male quartet of Hollywood teenagers whose name conveyed their image…preppy, well groomed suburban kids in white shirts, identical suits and skinny ties. They had a number of hits in the late 50’s and 60’s as the popular music world was moving from traditional rock ‘n roll to folk ballads.

But the island of Santa Catalina eschewed their image.  It was a quiet, very rocky, almost magical island whose main harbor and city then and now is Avalon, a quaint village of shops, restaurants and B&B’s.  Avalon also was a very reverent name in ancient Celtic legends. 

Avalon was an island in the marshlands of Wales where spiritual beings with great healing powers were said to reside. It was also the place where the magical sword, Excalibur, was reportedly to have been forged, the instrument that empowered King Arthur with a mantle of invincibility.

When Arthur was wounded in his battles with Modred, he was transported to Avalon where he was attended to and healed by the Enchantress Morgana le Fay. While Avalon on Santa Catalina today is just a nice quaint city on a distant isle, those of us blessed with the miracles of the Process of Recovery can easily see it in its mythological constructions. Travelling there across the water, entering the beautiful harbor, walking among the rocky hills of the island, we can imagine ourselves as Arthurian Knights, reveling in the bliss of a magical existence, immortalized in so much literature…for our lives in the “sunlight of the spirit,” afforded by our diligent working of the program, is precisely that…is it not?