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Instructions on the Use of Alcohol, an Excerpt from James Brown’sThis River
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome back award-winning author James Brown to the Intervene community.  Earlier this month James released his latest book This River, a memoir providing an honest portrait of an addict and his new struggles with sobriety, relapse  and becoming a better father.  This book provides a great opportunity for discussion with other parents as well as with your child suffering with an addiction.  We are giving away two free copies of This River to two lucky commenters — please see the end of this post for details.

In many ways, This River: A Memoir, is a follow up to my last memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, which gained a strong following among many young people, at least in part because the material revolves around drug and alcohol abuseThis River picks up where my last left off, describing my once tenuous relationship with sobriety, telling of agonizing relapses, and tracing my attempts to become a better father.  It has been considered by some a heartbreaking and at times uplifting tale of my battles, peeking into my former life as an addict and alcoholic, and detailing my subsequent ascent to sobriety and fight for redemption. 

I wrote This River for many of the same reasons I wrote The Los Angeles Diaries.  I felt compelled to tell the truth about my life, and how drugs and alcohol destroyed so much of it, leaving me lost and alienated from those whom I most loved, my wife and children.  I certainly don’t glamorize or romanticize drugs and alcohol, and I like to believe that some people who have struggled with addiction, especially those with their whole lives still ahead of them, have come to respect my work for telling it like it is. I’ve been asked by dozens of colleges where, to my delight, my book has been used as a class text, and many times I’ve been approached afterward by a student with his or her own story to share, and thanking me for sharing mine.  Not only is that a tremendous, wonderful honor, but it makes spending all those long hours alone in a room writing my memoirs worth every second.

A brief excerpt from This River from a piece titled “Instructions on the Use of Alcohol”:

Part I

You’re young, maybe 9 or 10, and your parents are throwing a party.  All the adults are laughing and talking too loudly, in general having a good time, and you put two and two together.  What makes them happy comes out of those bottles on the kitchen counter.

The brown ones, you learn soon enough, contain whiskey and scotch.  The clear ones hold vodka and gin and that odd-shaped bottle with the long neck, something called Midori, contains a thick, syrupy green liquid.  That’s the one that intrigues you most, and when the adults aren’t looking you pour yourself a glass.  You sneak it into your room.  You lock the door.  At first you sniff at it, and because it doesn’t smell so good you pinch your nostrils shut before you take a swallow.

It burns the back of your throat.  It makes your eyes water.  You shake your head, and for a few minutes, until the alcohol takes effect, you can’t understand how anyone in their right mind could drink this stuff.  But then a tingling sensation begins to spread through your chest, your face is warm and flushed, and you’re suddenly light headed.  You feel good, you feel great.  It’s as if you’ve made a major discovery, a real inroad to the secret of a good life, and it only makes sense that if one drink has this effect on you that a second will make you feel even better.  You finish the glass and sneak another.  You repeat this action several more times.

In the morning, you wake with a miserable headache, you’re nauseous, too, and right then and there you swear never again to so much as look at a bottle of booze.  But what the seasoned drinker knows that the apprentice does not is that those of us predisposed to alcoholism are hardwired to quickly forget our unfortunate drinking experiences.  Next time you get the chance, you’ll do the same thing all over again.  Drunk, you find yourself smarter and funnier and stronger and braver and even better looking. 

For the budding alcoholic, booze seems to do more for you than it does for others, and your only regret, at least to date, is that you didn’t come across this miracle potion sooner.

Part II

You’re older now, maybe 15 or 16, and what currently interests you is marijuana and the intrigue that surrounds it.  You enjoy scoring weed behind the high school bleachers.  You enjoy showing off to your friends how well you can roll a joint, and because the dope world has its own language, all the slang and clever code words, you feel special when you speak it. 

 Then one day you try to connect with that kid behind the bleachers, the guy with all the Bob Marley stickers on his notebook, and it isn’t happening.
 “It’s bone-dry out there,” he says.  “Drought season, man.”

 But he does have something else, if you’re interested, this stuff he calls blow.  “It’s good shit,” he tells you. 

 And as it happens with your first drink, so it is with the coke.  It makes you feel great.  It makes you stronger and smarter and braver and even better looking, and you dismiss those lies you’ve heard about coke being addicting.  Getting hooked is for weaklings, for losers, though you can see how the stuff might drain your bank account, since the rush is so short, and the more you use, the more it takes to get high. 

For the budding addict, the supply is never enough, but your own regret, at least to date, is that you didn’t come across this miracle potion sooner.

To read more from James Brown, read his previous post When It Comes to Addiction, There are No Simple Answers.

WIN a free copy of This River, a new memoir by award-winning author James Brown.  HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment responding to James’ post with a valid e-mail address and two winners will be chosen at random at the end of this giveaway.  This giveaway ends Friday April 22 @ 5PM EST. US only.

Posted by James Brown  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Cocaine, Family History, Marijuana, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: more

Where There Is Life, There Is Hope
Friday, March 18th, 2011

During a very dark time a friend told me, “Where there is life, there is hope.” I don’t know if he knew how profound those words were to me.  In fact, I didn’t even know at the time.  I just heard the words and applied them to my son’s situation.

At face value, the statement is so simple.  Just seven words strung together telling me that as long as my son is alive there is hope he will see the light – that he can give up his life of drugs.

Then I began to think what does this really mean to me; what is the real meaning to that statement? After a lot of deliberation, I was able to feel the true meaning of those simple words.

Life is not just about our addicted child. Where there is life, there is hope applies to the parent’s life, too. We can hope for our child to see the light and we can also hope for our own acceptance, peace and happiness. This statement applies to all of us and all of those we love.

When I look around I see life all around me. A wife, daughters, mother, brother, sister, caring relatives and friends are in every direction I turn. That’s when it dawned on me: Where there is life, there really is hope!

Yes, there is! Where there is life, there is hope.

What does that statement mean to you?

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Introducing “Addiction: Michael’s Song” by Singer/Songwriter Lisa Scinta
Friday, March 11th, 2011

Where are you running? What are you running from? I wish I could save you now. But you’re lost and I don’t know how. You’ve always been so bright. But the light has gone from your eyes. Your love has been replaced. By this poison coursing through your veins…

These are lyrics from Lisa Scinta’s song “Addiction: Michael’s Song.”  I came across Lisa on YouTube where she’s posted original and cover songs for her growing fan base.  I have to say, I was pretty floored by her poetic lyrics and soulful voice.

Lisa is among the 85 million people – including family and friends – in our country affected by addiction.

She writes: “One in eight Americans struggle with addiction of some kind, whether it be drugs or alcohol. Having personally dealt with it, I know how frustrated and helpless you feel when someone you love is lost in their drug of choice. It is an awful way to live, and if you have a loved one that has an addiction, I pray for you and ask that you pray for my brother Michael as well. As always, it’s far from perfect, but I wrote it in one day and felt strongly enough about it to get it up! Thank you for watching :)

Here’s her video:

Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Songs about addiction, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

A Trip Inside The Mind Of An Addicted Teen
Friday, March 11th, 2011

I saw and experienced more than I was able to handle as a child. My father was an alcoholic which resulted in chaos in our family including physical and verbal abuse in my parents’ marriage. By the time I was a teenager I was lonely, hurt, and angry. All of which I believe played a huge role in why I developed poor decision making skills and no self-worth I couldn’t count on my father to play an active part in my life which left me with a void that I didn’t know how to fill.

I was five-years-old when my parents divorced. My mother was a hard-working single mom who worked an insane amount of hours in order to support the family. This left me with a lot of unsupervised time by myself. I lacked structure and activities. I never received any encouragement to try out for sports or after school activities, and because of this,  I never really thought that I could do it. I think that without a parent’s support and encouragement it’s hard for a teen to magically set up structure for themselves. Had I experienced the gentle nudges of my parents to get out there and spread my wings and try new things, I think I would have been able to learn how to build confidence, friendships, team work and good decision-making skills.

But that was not my reality. Reality was that I fell in with the wrong crowd. I made some bad choices with friends and ultimately became a follower. Since I didn’t have much to keep me busy after school or on the weekends, I found myself looking for stimulation in all the wrong places. As I met more people who partied, the amount of drugs and alcohol that I had access to grew. Before I knew it, all I cared about was how I was going to get high. I blamed my mom because she was the one who was there. The drugs were finally filling the void that my parents left. I figured that one day I would grow up and put all the partying behind me. Before that could happen I found myself in a place where I couldn’t stop using on my own.

My mom was angry and let me know how much I was letting her down but I didn’t know how to stop and I couldn’t picture my life without the drugs. I became mean and sneaky to protect my using at any cost. Ultimately, we lost all trust in each other. I was angry at her because it seemed as if, before my using inconvenienced her life, I was not important to her. She wanted so badly for me to change my behavior and I wanted so badly for our family life to have turned out differently. But neither of us knew how to fix it and I couldn’t get past playing the victim.

The one thing about my mom was that she did not give up. If it wasn’t for that fight in her I don’t know if I would have ever gotten sober on my own. I desperately needed treatment to fight my addiction, but also to help me process all the baggage that I had been carrying around for years. Professionals were able to help us heal together. They were able to help my mom learn how to set boundaries, how to push me when I needed it, communicate with an angry teenager and become my biggest cheerleader.

We didn’t take the route that most mothers and daughters take in life, but we are proof that addiction doesn’t have to tear a family apart forever.

Posted by Lauren King  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Finding Treatment, Recovery, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more

Addiction Is a Disease
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

You may think: I drink alcohol and I know my limits.  Alcoholics just don’t know how to control themselves.  It’s their choice that they don’t want to stop drinking.  Just as easily, you probably infer the same thought process for other drugs out there… heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. Drug use is a choice.

Yes, drug use is a choice.  It’s free-will to pick up that joint, light it and smoke it.  But what’s going on behind the scenes (i.e. in your brain) isn’t a choice.  Unless you can control your brain structure. In that case, who are you and where are you from?

Since I began working at The Partnership at, I’ve often asked myself: Why is there such resistance to acknowledge addiction as a disease. The media is so quick to call the person with an addiction irresponsible, reckless, selfish and troubled.  And the majority of online commenters fuel the fire by honing in on the behaviors of the disease, rather than acknowledging the disease itself. It makes me wonder two things: Are people really that cruel? Do people understand what addiction really is?

Maybe, maybe not.   My inclination is sensationalized news sells more magazines and drives traffic.  That’s why news sources play up what’s going on with the Charlie Sheens and Lindsay Lohans of the world, but why do so many of you?  It’s easy to blame someone for the choices they make in life, but when it comes to drug addiction, there is little choice involved.  Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others.

When a person is addicted they’re suffering continuously; their brain chemistry changes causing distortions of cognitive and emotional functioning; and, even in the face of death, they continue to harm themselves. Family and friends of addicts claim erratic changes in mood, behavior and perception.  Many say their addicted loved one becomes an entirely different person.

Just like schizophrenics can’t control their hallucinations… Parkinson’s patients can’t control their trembling… clinically depressed patients can’t control their moods… once a person is addicted to drugs it’s not that different than other brain diseases.  No matter how someone has developed an illness, once the person has it, they’re in a diseased state and need treatment. 

Moreover, like any other illness, it affects family and friends, too.  There are moms who stay up all night waiting for their child to come home.  There are dads who fear that dreaded phone call telling them that their child has overdosed.  There are siblings who try to remain strong as their family is slowly falling apart. There are friends who feel like their hands are tied, but are clinging to that small ounce of hope that the friend they once knew will accept help. 

Ask the parents, family and friends of the addict if drug addiction is a choice.  Go ahead and ask the addict himself as well.  They will tell you from their experiences that addiction is not a choice.

Knowledge is power. (Sorry for the cliché).  When we bash something that we don’t really understand, and we do it in the numbers, it sways public opinion – intended or not.  With this mindset, the stigma that is attached with the disease of addiction will never go away unless we all change how we view it.

Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Cocaine, Heroin  /  Comments: more


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