The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 56

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 56 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 commercial world that is the core of the economic society in which we all live and work, the experience of bankruptcy, along with the economic impacts of death and divorce, is one of the horrors that some of us have to experience.  We can define bankruptcy as insolvency, a condition in which the financial equity in one’s organizational structure or life system has been entirely exhausted and the ability of cash flows to service all sorts of debt obligations is nil; it is an experience that horrifies us and the commercial worlds in which we all live.   There is a set of laws called the Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”), formerly known as Title 11 of the U.S. Code of laws and regulations which governs precisely how the process of bankruptcy is meant to work to allow individuals, corporations and other organizations to resolve the conflict presented by their debt obligations and, then, to be rehabilitated.

I have had some experience in this world and it strikes me how it resonates so powerfully with the experience of addiction, the descent into its worst nightmares and the process to recover and build a sober life.  I have come to believe that life in our economic world is replete with people that span the full range of experiences, from those for whom success and wealth seem to come with consummate ease, to those who just can’t keep it together and are always on the edge of, or deep in the throes of insolvency.  It is much like the range of experiences of all humanity with addictive substances and behaviors. Many of those at the dark end of the economic cycles are increasingly caught in the web of insolvency as a result of a spendthrift and wholly irresponsible patterns of life.  They seem powerless over the experience of living beyond their means and their life increasingly becomes unmanageable.

The process of recovery for such people is also much like that for the alcoholic and addict, working with consultants, therapists, family and friends to discover a new way of living and managing daily affairs.  There are many parallels in the descent into bankruptcy and the process to recover to a sound and responsible way of living.

I have a good friend who has worked in this world most of her life, helping debtors to migrate through the myriad of processes that the Code provides.  I was at a meeting with her one day, where a number of distressed debtors – individuals, couples and small companies – sat in a large room ringed with small alcove offices.  The small offices were occupied by officials of the Court system and the meeting, called a Chapter 13 meeting in Texas, was to allow for the Court system and the debtors to come to terms with the precise nature of the debtors’ insolvency and develop a procedure for its resolution to be presented to and approved by the Bankruptcy Courts themselves.  As different debtors were called to a particular office my friend went with them, as their counsel, to explain and arrange each of their processes of resolution.  As I sat there observing, I was struck by the fear and anxiety on the faces of the debtors and the ease and comfort of my friend’s manner in working with them to a resolution. She was an “angel of mercy” moving about the room, very much like the presence that recovering alcoholics who serve as sponsors have in a room full of distraught and anxious newcomers of AA and its sister12 step programs.  Both are wonderful experiences to witness, the newbie alcoholic starting to work the steps with a sponsor and the bankrupt beginning the processes of financial rehabilitation with her/his counsel, both nurturing recovery with a presence of deeply committed service.

8 Shocking Statistics About Underage Drinking

Whether or not parents and educators want to admit it, underage drinking is rampant. Although the statistics are disturbing, it is imperative for parents to educate themselves on this pressing matter. Often, parents look toward outward signs such as grades, extracurricular activities, and other factors as reassurance their children are not partaking in alcohol in their free time. Yet recent data from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  show otherwise:

  • By the age of 15 approximately 33% of teens had at least one drink and by age of 18 the number jumps to 60%
  • Even though the legal drinking age is 21, individuals from the age of 12 to 20 account for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. and, more shocking, 90% is consumed through binge drinking
  • 3 million teens stated they indulged in binge drinking on five or more days and occasions over the past month
  • 8% of youth drove after consuming alcohol and 20% rode with a driver who had consumed alcohol
  • Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience issues at school, including failing grades and higher absence rates, and these teens may also abuse other drugs and experience memory problems
  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths per year among underage drinkers
  • Alcohol use during the teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and can also contribute to grave consequences due to impaired judgment, such as sexual assaults, injuries, and death
  • Individuals who began drinking before the age of 15 are more apt to abuse alcohol or develop alcohol dependence later in life than those who abstained from drinking until the age of 21

Awareness and understanding of the causes of underage drinking is the first step in prevention. Warning signs of underage drinking include, but are not limited to: Changes in mood (i.e. anger, irritability), problems concentrating or remembering, changing of friend groups, rebelliousness, less interest in self-care or activities, and academic or behavioral issues in school. Through education, parents and teachers can gain knowledge, discuss this issue with their youth, and in turn possibly prevent underage drinking.

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 50

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 50 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 2018 film, A Star is Born, is the fourth remake of an original 1937 film about an aging star and a young new prodigy.  This one stars Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, a famous C& W singer, and Lady Gaga, as Ally, a struggling lounge singer whom Jackson takes to stardom.  The story is impeccably done by Cooper and Gaga; its power is in the truly profound impact it seems to have on many of us in recovery.  This recent version also tracks almost precisely with two prior ones, a 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, and a 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

In this version, Jackson is a serious alcoholic and addict who stumbles into a back-street drag bar, desperately needing a drink between gigs;  he  finds Ally as a waitress who also sings in the small club venue.  The connection, both in the acting and in the energy Cooper and Gaga bring to the roles, is mesmerizing.  Predictably, and in line with its predecessors, they form a bond and perform together.  The bond leads to an affair of the heart.  Soon Ally’s career begins to take off while Jackson’s is continuing a drunken downward spiral.   

While Ally remains fully committed to Jackson, he becomes a major liability to her career.  He vacillates between loving attention to her and mean-spirited comments and abuse. Her manager does everything he can to try to keep Jackson away from Ally in various phases of her development and touring.  But Jackson’s drinking and drugging just keeps getting worse.  At the Grammy’s, when Ally goes up to accept the Award of Best New Artist, a falling down drunk Jackson goes up with her and, on stage, he wets himself and passes out.

Jackson does rehab and seems to be recovering, but the damage he believes he has done to Ally’s career and the constant pull of the disease lead him to a deep state of remorse and regret.  While Ally is singing at a major concert at which Jackson was to be present, he hangs himself in their garage.

It is interesting that this story seems to have a basic fundamental power…it has been told and retold in the span of generations over the last 80 years…with the players having the same general presence in their generations as Gaga and Cooper do here.  While, to this alcoholic, the option of suicide is never a valid one, there are untold examples where the bottom reached in a drinking life seems to present no other recourse to the sufferer.  It is a sad, sad, tragic reality.

How wonderful it is that many of us have been able to move beyond that point of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” and put the probability of such a tragedy well behind us.  

Yale Study: Genes May Explain Why Alcohol Detox is Particularly Hard for Some People

Detox
Yale Study Explains Why Detox Symptoms are Worse for Some, Not Others

New findings published in journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Some heavy drinkers suffer intense withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking — some, less so.  A new Yale-led international study of individuals with alcohol dependence has identified gene variants that may help explain why “detox” from alcohol is particularly difficult for some people. The researchers report their findings September 25 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Alcohol takes more lives in the United States every year than opioids, but there are few effective treatments to help people who have an alcohol use disorder,” said Andrew H. Smith, lead author of the study and a research affiliate in the laboratory of senior author Joel Gelernter, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience. “For people who experience intense withdrawal symptoms, that’s one more barrier they have to face while trying to reduce unhealthy alcohol use.”

Those physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are much worse than any hangover. Sudden cessation of alcohol consumption can lead to shakes, nausea, headaches, anxiety, fluctuations in blood pressure, and in the most serious cases, seizures.

The American team and collaborators in Denmark linked variants in the SORCS2 gene to the severity of alcohol withdrawal in people who have European ancestry, about one in ten of whom carry the variants. No such connection was found in African Americans. Intriguingly, the SORCS2 gene is important for activation of brain areas which respond to changes in the environment. The gene variants identified in the study may impinge on the ability of heavy drinkers to adapt to the sudden absence of alcohol, researchers speculate.

Better understanding of the many genes likely to be involved in withdrawal symptoms could ultimately lead to new medications that moderate these symptoms, which could help with the discontinuation of habitual alcohol use,” Gelernter said.

The research was primarily funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


The Council on Recovery does not provide medical detox services, but does refer out to detox facilities in the Houston area. The Council provides outpatient services for people battling alcoholism, including Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). Call 713.914.0556 for more information.

As School Starts, Know the Facts About College Drinking

As students start the Fall Semester at college, The Council on Recovery urges parents and students to consider the facts about college drinking from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States.

Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same time-frame.

Consequences of Harmful and Underage College Drinking

Many college alcohol problems are related to “binge drinking”. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks, including car crashes, drunk-driving arrests, sexual assaults, and injuries. Over the long term, frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.

Drinking affects college students, their families, and college communities at large. Researchers estimate that each year:

  • Death: About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
  • Assault: About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • Sexual Assault: About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Academic Problems: About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. In a national survey of college students, binge drinkers who consumed alcohol at least 3 times per week were roughly 6 times more likely than those who drank but never binged to perform poorly on a test or project as a result of drinking (40 percent vs. 7 percent) and 5 times more likely to have missed a class (64 percent vs. 12 percent). Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) About 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an AUD.
  • Other Consequences: These include suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, and driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police.

Factors Affecting Student Drinking

Although the majority of students come to college already having some experience with alcohol, certain aspects of college life, such as unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults, can intensify the problem. In fact, college students have higher binge-drinking rates and a higher incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol than their non-college peers.

The first 6 weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.

Factors related to specific college environments also are significant. Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools. In terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.

An often-overlooked preventive factor involves the continuing influence of parents. Research shows that students who choose not to drink often do so because their parents discussed alcohol use and its adverse consequences with them.

Addressing College Drinking

Ongoing research continues to improve our understanding of how to address the persistent and costly problem of harmful and underage student drinking. Successful efforts typically involve a mix of strategies that target individual students, the student body as a whole, and the broader college community.

Strategies Targeting Individual Students – Individual-level interventions target students, including those in higher-risk groups such as first-year students, student athletes, members of Greek organizations, and mandated students. They are designed to change students’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol so that they drink less, take fewer risks, and experience fewer harmful consequences. Categories of individual-level interventions include:

  • Education and awareness programs
  • Cognitive–behavioral skills-based approaches
  • Motivation and feedback-related approaches
  • Behavioral interventions by health professionals

Strategies Targeting the Campus and Surrounding Community – Environmental-level strategies target the campus community and student body as a whole, and are designed to change the campus and community environments in which student drinking occurs. Often, a major goal is to reduce the availability of alcohol, because research shows that reducing alcohol availability cuts consumption and harmful consequences on campuses as well as in the general population.

For more information on individual- and environmental-level strategies, the NIAAA CollegeAIM guide (and interactive Web site) rates nearly 60 alcohol interventions in terms of effectiveness, costs, and other factors—and presents the information in a user-friendly and accessible way. For more information, visit www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeAIM.

The Council on Recovery provides prevention, education, and treatment programs for individuals and their families dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Start at The Council. We can help. Call 713-942-4100 for more information.

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.