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Archive for November, 2011
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Negotiating Recovery
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

=Negotiating Drug RecoveryWe’ve all done it. Seldom, if ever does it work. We make deals; we are willing to sell our soul, our dignity and our future to an addict in an effort to stop the madness.

My efforts to negotiate recovery involved buying things, providing gifts, paying for medical treatment, rehab and rents. All this effort is a fruitless attempt to bargain away the addiction from my son. This all happens while we enable our addicts and deny the reality.

Then we begin to get smarter about enabling and stop wasting our treasures. But all that does is lead us to a new phase of negotiating. We begin negotiating with our self. We whisper inside that if I see this and this and that then I can do this and this and that.

How do you negotiate with an addict that has no sense of justice or fair play? How can you negotiate with an addict that suffers from a disease that results in behaviors a sane person would deem insane? An addict will not and cannot negotiate away their addiction. As long as you indulge in negotiating with addiction you have everything to lose and there is nothing to gain.

So what’s the answer? You must live in the world of a reality that involves seeing the picture as it is — not how you want it to be. Stepping back and taking in the holistic nature of this disease and how it not only affects the addict but all those that they touch is the first step. From that place I was able to see that negotiating was hopeless. Then it came down to figuring out where I actually stood in relationship to the disease and my relationship with my addict.

Related Links:
Overwhelmed: A Painting from My Journey to Recovery
Amidst Addiction & Recovery: An Attitude of Gratitude
7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Recovery  /  Comments: more



Part II: An Overview of Relapse
Thursday, November 17th, 2011

=An Overview of Relapse

This is a guest blog post by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, Yale Psychologist, Addiction & Motivation Expert, Speaker, Coach and author of INSTANT INFLUENCE: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast! (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011).

Many people who enter into recovery (i.e., abstinence from their drug of abuse/dependence & engaged in treatment) will relapse at one point or another.  Though this seems like bad news, the flip side is that relapse can be a manageable part of recovery – some have even said that it has helped them solidify what they need to do in order for it to never happen again.  How did these people benefit from the pain of relapse?  What kernels of wisdom and insight might they have gleaned from it?  And how did their family and significant others help them through that process?

Well, while everyone’s relapse is different to some extent, there are some fairly predictable dynamics that family members should be aware of if they would like to help steer the affected individual through it as easily as possible and in a way that important lessons can be learned and applied in the future.

This is the opposite of the “One-drink-One-drunk” adage that says that the moment an alcoholic who has been in recovery for a period of time (even a long period of time, say 15 years) has a single drink or even sip, they return immediately back to the drunk they were 15 years ago.

While relapses can often set in motion a series of events both environmentally and biochemically that can eventually lead someone back to their worst point or lower, there is no scientific evidence that it happens immediately or that it is inevitable.  In fact, the scientific literature more clearly states that the manner in which the affected person, as well as significant other around him, HANDLES the relapse is much more predictive of how things will go in the future.

So, it’s not simply the relapse that causes problems, but how it’s handled.  That said, the reverse is also true (and much more positive and hopeful)…”The better the affected person and his significant others handle the relapse, the better he will do in the future (e.g., the shorter the relapse, the quicker the time back to treatment).”

How have you and your family members handled relapse in the past?  Did it work?  Please share with us in the comments section.

Related Links:
Part I: Dealing With Your Teen’s Relapse from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
My Own Daughter’s Relapse
Addiction is a Chronic Medical Disease

Posted by Michael Pantalon, PhD  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, relapse  /  Comments: more



3 Ways to Address Teenage Motivation to Drink that Don’t Involve Scare Tactics
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

=Ways to Address Teen Motivation to Drink without Scare TacticsWhen someone – including a teenager – gets treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, it is standard practice to identify some of the reasons why they started using and the benefits they feel they get from these substances.   This helps them reduce shame and best identify their triggers and areas to focus on. Among the research, most reasons for using alcohol fall into a few broad categories such as mood or personality enhancement, social reasons, and coping reasons. Reviewing personal motivations for using alcohol is often an “ah-ha” experience for the person seeking help but it needs to be handled with care as there is the potential in such a discussion to make alcohol use seem more appealing.

Nowhere is this concern greater than when attempting to prevent alcohol use in teens as many parents have a justified fear that such a discussion will promote alcohol use in kids who may not have otherwise been aware of the potential short-term “benefits” of alcohol. This fear has often caused parents and caregivers to avoid the topic, focus only on the consequences of drinking or minimize the reasons why people drink – especially with younger children. While reinforcing the consequences of underage drinking is always recommended, understanding teen’s motivations can also be useful to parents as a point for both prevention and early intervention of teenage drinking. Below are a few tips on using teen motivations to intervene and connect with your children.

A useful strategy is to ask teens about what they “expect” to get from drinking. Along with perceived risk, your teen’s alcohol use can be predicted by the expectation that one will feel a certain way when they drink. These expectations are reinforced by the media and by your teen’s peers. Expectations are essentially motivating (I want to relax and I will drink because I expect that it will help me relax). The first step is to identify what your teens think about drinking’s benefits or what drinking may give them. If you can identify the reasons they think people drink (or they drink), it is a point of intervention.

Tailor Your Strategy: Based on the motivations or expectations your teen mentions reports there are several options to continue the conversation.

1.  Identify myths about the effects of alcohol: Teens may think that alcohol will help them achieve a particular outcome when in fact the opposite is true in the research. For example, if a teen says he drinks to relax, you can counter that alcohol only has temporary relaxing qualities (and only in moderation) and drinking actually reduces sleep quality which then causes stress. When teens understand that alcohol in fact may not actually give them what they want – they might think twice about drinking for a specific reason.

2. Once you have identified your child’s reason for drinking, encourage him or her to find other activities that will achieve the same outcome without alcohol. This is called “counter conditioning.” So using the above example you can identify other ways that are significantly more effective than alcohol in helping them relax (e.g. exercise, music, yoga). This is important because you will be teaching your teen a valuable coping skill that might prevent them from developing problems later on in life.

3. Lastly, point out that much of the “effect” they get from alcohol is simply based on what they expect they will get when they drink. This is especially effective for the “I want to have fun” motivation. My favorite way to talk about this is to discuss the numerous experiments done on placebo alcohol – yes – that’s right, studies where there was fake beer or tonic water alone and people thought it was actual alcohol. Individuals in these studies reported everything from being more social/sexual to being more confident to even having memory loss. In other words – you get what you expect. So simply being primed and thinking positively will give you what you need without the alcohol. These results are not unique to alcohol either – the placebo effect whether it be through fake surgery or a pill is extremely powerful. Studies even show that people who receive placebos have actual changes in their brain chemistry based simply on the expectation that they are getting what they need to achieve their goals. More importantly, some studies also reveal that people taking a placebo attribute their changes to themselves and not an external substance.

What I have found when I discuss alcohol motivations with teens is that they appreciate hearing a more rounded view of drinking. Teens are smart – they understand that people drink for a reason and if we ignore the reasons for drinking we are going to lose credibility with our teens. Discussions about expectancies and motivation typically also bring up much broader discussions of internal vs. external control. When I was working with college students who were referred to me for binge or excessive drinking – I would ask them to “pretend” they were drunk the next time they went to a party. It was a powerful experience for them to just hold a tonic water and pretend that it was a real drink. It helped them recognize the internal power they have over their actions and to feel more confident and secure. When teens begin to realize that they are in control of their actions they can begin to master the world around them to achieve their goals without a pill or drink.

Related Links:
What Got Me into Treatment? Drug Intervention
Teens Only Listen to One Person…Themselves:  How a Child’s Own Reasons for Change Lead to the Most Success
How to Prepare for a Drug Intervention with Your Teenager

Posted by Frederick Muench, PhD  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Scare tactics, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: more



Part I: Dealing With Your Teen’s Relapse from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

=Wrong CrowdThis is a two-part blog post by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, Yale Psychologist, Addiction & Motivation Expert, Speaker, Coach and author of INSTANT INFLUENCE: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast! (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011)

A “Relapse” Scenario

Imagine your 17-year-old son has been doing really well — staying away from alcohol and pot for the past 6 months following a 28-day stay in rehab.  He’s back at school, his grades are good and he’s playing soccer again.  On top of that, his new friends seem supportive of his recovery.  As his parent, you feel you can finally breathe a small sigh of relief.

However, when your son comes home early from school one day without his backpack, you’re worried.  You confront him and his explanation makes sense: his last class was cancelled because a teacher became sick and there was no one available to sub; he did his homework earlier in the day and during part of the last period, so he didn’t need his backpack; and you already knew there was no soccer practice that day.  The next day everything seems back to normal.

Several days later, however, he comes to you and says that he would like to leave school early on Friday to go to a concert in the city.  When asked about how sensible that might be given that it might be a trigger for using and about the group of kids that he’s going to the show with, he becomes defensive and irritable.  A few minutes later he confesses that the day he came home early, he had slipped out of school right after first period to hang out with some old friends.  He ran into these old friends (the very crowd he used to use and drink with) on the way to school that day and instead of staying in school, he spent the day with them, playing Call of Duty (a popular shooter video game), and smoking and drinking, and that now he’s struggling with strong urges to continue using.

While he’s saying he doesn’t want to go back to the way he was, he also says, “I’m almost 17! Why can’t I have a drink now and then?!  I want to have fun.  Being sober is not fun.  I’m supposed to be having fun at this point in my life!”  Later, he confesses that he’d made plans to go to the concert with the old friends, but he’s still defending his ability to go with them and not use, stating that his new friends are “nice, but no fun at all.”

How do you feel?

What do you do?

How do you keep this relapse from blowing up in your and your son’s face?  Meaning, is there a way to help without making it worse?

You’re probably feeling a lot of different and conflicting feelings.  You’re angry, surprised and hurt, but you’re also worried, understanding and sympathetic.  We might all have the strong urge to immediately vent this barrage of emotions toward our child and, in the moment, we would feel justified in doing so.

However, many of us might instinctively know that to do so would not be helpful.  It might make your son more defensive and irritable.  He might then storm out of the house and go to the concert and resume drinking and pot use NOT simply because of the situation and the people he is with, but also because he now feels justified in doing so because he’s angry at his parents (whether or not it is actually justifiable in this manner).

The other thing is that your son IS actually feeling stressed and distressed about his recovery and the conflict he just had with his parents.  And since he’s learned in the past that alcohol and drugs immediately take this feeling away, we’ve just helped him create a new trigger for drug and alcohol use.

Not that you are to blame, but there are certain ways to handle relapses so that this does not happen.  While we as parents are not to blame when the sort of situation described above occurs, I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to learn ways to prevent it and even to use relapse as an opportunity to further strengthen our child’s recovery.

In my next blog post “An Overview of Relapse,” I describe a few ways to do just that.

Related Links:

Teens Only Listen to One Person…

Adjusting to Recovery: When Your Addicted Child Begins to Get Well

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Michael Pantalon, PhD  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Marijuana, parenting, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more






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