The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 44

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 44 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 Charles Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly banker whom no one likes and who has nothing good to say about life, sees an apparition late on Christmas Eve.  It is of his long dead partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him of the errors of his miserly ways and foretells the coming of three spirits in dreams Scrooge is to have that same night.  

In the first such dream, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to the place of his boyhood and has him witness an adolescent Ebenezer struggling with his long abandonment by his father to a difficult boarding school. The young Ebenezer is rescued and brought home by his dear sister, but, as he grows into manhood in the dream, he becomes obsessed with the idea of working tirelessly to be financially successful, perhaps as a counterweight to the feelings of loneliness and deprivation he had as a boy.

The Ghost takes Scrooge through the various times of his later life…early adulthood, middle age, and full maturity, observing his increasing focus on financial success and on a gradual withdrawal from society.

The second dream has the Ghost of Christmas Present taking Scrooge around to those people of Scrooge’s current life, showing their happiness with simple things despite a very meager set of living circumstances.

The third dream, with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, focuses on a series of dire future happenings that seem fully ordained, but for which Scrooge becomes obsessed with a desire to change.

Upon waking up on Christmas morning, Scrooge is entirely transformed.  He immediately attends to the serious circumstances of those people in his current life and commits himself to living a happy, joyous life with all those around him.

It occurs to me that, while the circumstances and nature of Scrooge’s addiction is radically different, the process of his deterioration over time and the depth of the societal chasm he creates for himself provide a stark parallel to our lives in the diseases of alcoholism and drug abuse.   Looking at the process of his change over Christmas Eve into Day, there appears a wonderful, if highly compressed, parallel to our getting sober and working the steps.

The confrontation with Marley is the beginning of the great awakening.  The journeys on which he is taken by the three Spirits seem akin to the working of Steps, traversing the long-gone and recent pasts to get a sense of the depth of his disease, and then the embrace of a new way to be present in the world.  They all seem a very sharp and poignant parallel to our own journeys.

The people Scrooge attends to on Christmas Day and beyond – his housekeeper, his clerk and family, and his own nephew, the son of his dear sister – all convey to Scrooge an infectious joy and wonder at life, one that seems to echo our own joyous lives in sobriety today.

Debunking the Myths About Holiday Drinking & Driving

drinking&driving2018Celebrating the spirit of the holidays often includes drinking holiday spirits. Most people celebrate responsibly. But during the holiday season, people are more likely to drink beyond a safe limit than at other times of year. And when driving is involved, the resulting consequences can be tragic. Despite all the evidence of the dangers, myths around drinking and driving still abound. Some of them can prove fatal.

Myths & Facts

Myth: Your decision-making abilities and driving skills are not impaired until intoxication occurs.

Fact: Even a few drinks can diminish your decision-making, including the decision of whether or not to drive. So your driving skills may be compromised well before physical signs of intoxication. Though you may initially feel stimulated by a drink or two, alcohol consumption can rapidly decrease good judgment and reaction times. And while you may not feel or appear drunk, the sharpness needed for good decisions and responsible driving can be dulled by even a small amounts of alcohol.

Myth: If you’re not slurring your words or feeling inebriated, it’s okay to drive.

Fact: Coordination needed for safe driving diminishes long before the signs of intoxication occur. Additionally, the sedative effects of alcohol increase your risk of losing attention or falling asleep behind the wheel.

Myth: After drinking all evening, it’s okay to drive after “sobering up.”

Fact: After finishing drinking, you may misjudge how long alcohol will affect your driving abilities. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol’s effect on the body and brain may persist long after the final drink. Despite a cup of coffee or cold-shower, alcohol in the bloodstream can continue to impair your judgment and coordination for many hours.

Myth: A couple of cups of coffee will sober you up.

Fact: Though caffeine may help avert drowsiness, it doesn’t affect the alcohol that’s still in your bloodstream impairing judgment or coordination. It may take hours for your body to return to normal after metabolizing alcohol. In this way, time without additional alcohol provides you the only way to sober up. And sober is the only truly safe way to drive.

A simple message

Though there are many myths about drinking, driving, and other behaviors, the facts readily dispel each one of them. According the CDC, every day, 29 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The Council on Recovery wants everyone in our community to be safe during this season and recommends adherence to the old adage, “Don’t Drink and Drive”.

If you must travel after drinking

If you must travel after drinking, ride with a designated sober driver. Or call a cab, Uber, or Lyft. Some of these offer free or discounted rides during the holidays. METRO offers free rides on local bus, rail, and lift services from 6 p.m. December 31 until 6 a.m. on January 1. AAA-Texas offers free “Tipsy Tow” service on New Year’s Eve, providing a one-way ride up to 10 miles for the driver and vehicle to the driver’s home. However you get home, just get there safely.

We can help

At this season, if you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors, call The Council at 713-941-4200 or contact us online. Recovery can be the sweetest gift you give yourself or a loved one this year. Start at The Council. We can help!

Internet Gaming Disorder: When Entertainment Turns Into Addiction

Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) may follow the same trajectory as other addictions.

For most, gaming is not a problem

Internet gaming is wildly popular. According to the Entertainment Software Association, nearly two-thirds of American homes have at least one person who plays video games. And that’s not just kids. Nearly 160 million adults play games on the internet. Of that number, 45% are women. As a major source of entertainment, games are highly engaging and competitive. For most people, internet gaming is stimulating and enjoyable.

When gaming turns into addiction

But some people cross the line from enthusiastic focus on gaming to distressed addiction.  That means their use of video games has progressed from use to misuse, and then abuse. It’s much the same trajectory as occurs with other addictions, such as alcoholism and substance use disorders.

Symptoms of gaming addiction

Like other addictions, internet gaming disorder (IGD) can create significant impairment or distress in a person’s life. Symptoms may include:

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety, or irritability, if gaming is not possible
  • Build-up of tolerance and the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing and/or unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities due to gaming or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Continued gaming despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

Risk factors and treatment

The risk factors related to IGD and criteria for diagnosing and treating it are still being researched and developed. Therapeutic  interventions, such as counseling and intensive outpatient treatment, have also emerged as more is understood about this uniquely 21st century addiction.

How to get help

As with all addictions, personal awareness of the problem and the willingness to get help are the important first steps to dealing with it. The Council’s Center for Recovering Families offers clinical assessments for those struggling with video gaming and/or internet addiction to determine the scope of the problem and the best course of  treatment. We offer therapeutic counseling, psycho-educational services, and recovery support for both adults and adolescents dealing with a variety of addictions associated with the internet and video gaming.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to internet gaming or any other addiction or co-occurring mental health disorder, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us here. Start at The Council. We can help.

 

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

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 44

Ariadne’s Thread

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 44 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 an ancient mythological story about King Minos of Crete who builds a massive, intricate Labyrinth to contain a creature named the Minotaur, half man and half bull, the issue of his wife who mistakenly mates with a bull in a ruse of the god Poseidon.  The Minotaur is a monster that only feeds on humans and Minos has exacted a toll on the city of Athens to send him young girls and boys on a regular basis as food for the Minotaur. Theseus is one of those and, while on Crete waiting to be fed to the Minotaur, he meets Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, who falls in love with him.  She gives Theseus a sword and a ball of twine, the twine to be used by Theseus to tie to the opening of the Labyrinth and let unravel as he and his fellow victims are led to the center to be eaten by the Minotaur.  Once there Theseus uses the sword to kill the Minotaur in a monstrous battle, and then escapes using the twine, “Ariadne’s Thread,” to find his way back to the opening with his fellows.

As we have seen, many of these mythological stories have wonderful analogies for those of us on the Journey to Recovery from the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction.  The Minotaur, a monster of ugly proportions, could clearly represent our disease, one which was spawned by early life mishaps and one which consumed our loved ones as we trampled through our life in the disease. The act of conquering the disease is the first step, but then we must use the tools, carefully and doggedly working the steps, using the steps as “Ariadne’s Thread,” to find our way to a life of freedom and service. Each of these steps provides us with a wonderful sense of progress in escaping the dread of our lives in the disease.

My wish is that it be universal…that all of us be Theseus…that we find Ariadne’s Thread as the lifelong avenue to a sober life in the Sunshine of the Spirit.

The Council on Recovery’s Successful Outcomes: By the Numbers

Outcomes report for 2017 shows strong and successful results for The Council’s many programs and services:

Overall

  • The Council on Recovery touched 60,241 lives last year.
  • Among clients, 93% are more hopeful about their future after participating in a program or service offered by The Council on Recovery.

Children & Adolescents

  • On average, 85% of children receiving Children’s Clinical Services improve individual well-being, and 67% of caregivers perceive improvement in their child’s overall well-being.
  • 89% of children participating in Kids Camp at The Council increase their ability to communicate with their families.
  • 72% of elementary students participating in The Council’s school-based prevention programs increase their knowledge of life skills.
  • 97% of middle school students participating in school-based prevention programs decrease or maintain no use of alcohol, and 72% increase bonding to positive friendship and groups.
  • 88% of high school students participating in the school based prevention programs decrease substance use.
  • Heavy Drug Use (i.e. cocaine, prescription drugs, etc.) among high school students participating in the Choices program is lower than the national and Houston average.
  • 80% of adolescents participating in the Adolescent Services programs improve their emotional and behavioral well-being.
  • 92% of juvenile probationers participating in the Drug Free Youth program increase their knowledge about the harms of substance abuse, and 92% decrease or maintain no use of alcohol.

Adults & Families

  • 73% of caregivers participating in the Cradles Project improve attitude toward parent-child family roles. 100% of pregnant caregivers report abstinence from alcohol and drugs at delivery.
  • 83% of clients using alcohol that complete a screening session through Outreach, Screening and Referral (OSAR) report an increase or maintain their readiness to change their use behavior.
  • 80% of peers involved with Recovery Support Services report an increase in total recovery capital (strengths) from enrollment to 12-month follow up.
  • 81% of clients completing the Healing Choices Intensive Outpatient treatment (IOP) and Aftercare programs report a decrease in substance abuse symptoms from admission to completion.

Older Adults

  • 100% of service providers would take action to help an older adult with alcohol or drug problem after attending an evidence-based workshop.
  • 98% of older adults and their family members know of at least one place to call if they need help with an alcohol or other drug problem after attending a Wellderly Program presentation.
  • 96% of service providers for older adults indicate that some or all of the information from the Wellderly presentation was new to them.