What No One Tells You About Synthetic Marijuana

k2 spice synthetic weedWorking in the addiction field, it’s important to know what substances are most commonly being abused. So when I heard about a recent incident at a college bar involving “K2”, I decided to do some research and interview a young woman who was at the bar that night. (Names have been changed to protect identities)

I spoke with Jessica, who witnessed her friend Sarah take one “hit” of what she believed to be Marijuana, and then collapse, hitting her head on the way to the ground, in a popular bar near her university over the weekend.

Jessica described a collegiate looking man in his early twenties who had been smoking a joint in the bar with some friends, leaning over and offering it to her friend Sarah. He turned to Sarah with the joint outstretched and said, “Want some? It’s like weed?” Jessica watched as Sarah took one small inhalation from the joint.

Jessica described the incident for me in detail:

Sarah immediately started to collapse after taking one hit from the joint. I saw her lose consciousness and hit something on the way to the ground. I ran over to her on the floor and started yelling her name and trying to get her to respond to me. I then turned to the guy who gave her the joint and demanded to know what was in it. He told me that it was “Mojo”. When I didn’t know what that was, he said that it was “K2.. like Spice”, synthetic weed.

Sarah was completely unresponsive for 2 minutes. I panicked and told the bar to call the paramedics. After about 2 minutes, her eyes were fluttering and she started making noises; nothing that made sense though. She was mumbling and still not coherent for at least another 5 minutes.

It took her about 10 minutes to come to, and 15 minutes before she was able to have a conversation and, walk out of the bar. She doesn’t remember anything, except blacking out. She has a bruise or two from the fall but is fine other than being a bit shaken up.

I asked Jessica if Sarah regularly engages in risky behaviors, or takes drugs. She described her friend as a normal college student who smokes marijuana occasionally and goes to the bars with friends on the weekends, but nothing more than that. She said Sarah does well in school and was acting out of character by taking weed from a stranger. “We are careful about who we take drinks from at bars because we are aware of the danger of roofies. I think her guard was down because it was weed, and weed is considered relatively harmless”, Jessica told me.

What a lot of people don’t know is that many of the drugs on the streets these days are are being characterized as “synthetic”, or made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product, but they do not imitate the natural product. In fact, according to Lewis Nelson, MD, a medical toxicologist at the NYU School of Medicine, “It’s really quite different, and the effects are much more unpredictable. It’s dangerous, and there is no quality control in what you are getting.”

One could argue that there is not much quality control in any street drug purchase. But what alarmed me was the reasonable misconception that the synthetic chemicals in Mojo, K2, Spice etc. produce the same effects in its users, when in fact it’s producing the opposite effect. Dr. Nelson describes patients as exhibiting symptoms typically attributed to amphetamine users – violent, sweaty, agitated, tachycardia, psychosis. Jeff Lapoint, MD, an emergency room doctor and medical toxicologist, explains it perfectly:

“The first rule of toxicology is, the dose makes the poison. I drink a cup of water, and I’m fine. I drink gallons of it in some college contest, and I could have a seizure and die. Synthetic cannabinoids are tailor-made to hit cannabinoid receptors – and hit it hard. This is NOT marijuana. Its action in the brain may be similar but the physical effect is so different.”

Synthetic marijuana is often available at smoke shops and popular because it does not show up on standard drug tests. To record a “dirty test”, a specific test for synthetic marijuana must be administered. This has certainly been a factor in the rising numbers of overdoses, hospitalizations, and even deaths, as a result of this synthetic drug. New legislation has banned some of the chemicals used to create these drugs, but producers wanting to protect their market have responded by substituting still-legal compounds for the ones recently banned.

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Clearly, legislation isn’t the total solution. Public awareness of synthetic marijuana and its dangers is going to be our greatest safeguard. So if you hear someone talking about trying this stuff that’s “like weed”, or you happen to be in a smoke shop where a bag of K2, Mojo, or Spice is being sold, heed the clear warning on the baggy: “not for human consumption”. Ironically, it’s the only accurate part of the label.

Sources:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/08/28/6-reasons-synthetic-marijuana-spice-k2-is-so-toxic-to-the-brain/
http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/spice-synthetic-marijuana
http://www.drugs.com/illicit/synthetic-marijuana.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkroll/2014/05/04/rash-of-dallas-and-austin-er-visits-from-k2spice-synthetic-marijuana/

My Top Suggestions for Avoiding Relapse on Prescription Medications

My Top Suggestions for Avoiding Relapse on Prescription Medications

Roland Williams MA, LAADC, NCACII, CADCII, ACRPS, SAP
In my 28 year career, I have noticed one of the biggest causes of relapse for people in recovery is the abuse of prescription medications. This is even the case for recovering people with decades of abstinence. It is critical that addicts and alcoholics be extremely careful when and if they are being prescribed addictive and mood-altering medications because they can easily trigger a regression back to old addictive patterns. My philosophy is that we need to do more to teach the recovering person what to do “when they have to take medications, not if they have to take medications” because sooner or later most all of us are going to have some medical procedure where medications will be prescribed. And remember, pain is just as much a threat to one’s recovery as pain medication, so we have got to help people get through these difficult situations and maintain their recovery. This article offers some concrete information and suggestions that can help to avoid a relapse.

Many addicts and alcoholics have relapsed following a “legitimate reason” to take prescription medications. Some medications are harmless and do not necessarily pose a threat to one’s recovery, anti-depressants for example, are less likely to trigger cravings. However once the recovering person takes an addictive, mood-altering medication such as pain medications, sleeping pills, anxiety medications, and/or muscle relaxants, there is great risk that the addictive disease will “wake-up”. And once awake the disease will often demand more of the drug and a return to old addict behavior, like lying and manipulating to stay high.

Often times the recovering person is not aware or prepared for the risk. He or she may not know to ask for non-narcotic pain medications. The addict may defer to the prescribing physician’s expertise, assuming that the doctor knows what to do, but many doctors have very little training in how to deal with addiction. They may inadvertently prescribe medication that can start the disease process in motion. It is extremely important to know what medications you are taking and what the abuse potential is and whether the drug is addictive and mood altering. Just because a doctor prescribed it doesn’t mean it’s okay. It is the responsibility of the recovering person to protect their recovery. Ask questions, look the drug up online, get feedback and be accountable before you start taking medication.

Even some over the counter medications contain substances can be dangerous for the recovering person. Many cough syrups and mouthwashes contain a very high alcohol content, and some antihistamines contain stimulants. So read the labels very carefully before you start taking something.

The most commonly abused prescription medications:

  • Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain;
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders such as the drug trazodone; and
  • Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Physicians are very quick to prescribe pain, sleep and anxiety medications and recovering people need to be extra cautious. Even in addiction treatment we are seeing the enormous lobbying of pharmaceutical companies advocating for medication-assisted recovery as the first line of defense.

    Some managed care policies are actually blocking attempts to place opiate addicts in their late teens into residential treatment, mandating that these young people be seen instead by buprenorphine-prescribing physicians in private practice. Hospitals have very strong policies regarding pain and are eager to prescribe pain medications to assure that patients have little or no discomfort. This makes their jobs easier but puts the patient at enormous risk for dependence.

    So here are some suggestions that may help a recovering person avoid a relapse:

    Before you take medications:

  • Find a doctor that knows about addiction, preferably one that is ASAM, (American Society of Addiction Medicine) certified.
  • Be very clear when you tell your doctor that you are a recovering addict or alcoholic and you do NOT want any medications that can threaten your Recovery.
  • Ask about the medication; is it a narcotic? Is it addictive? Is there abuse potential?
  • Do your own research on the medication, look it up and find out for yourself what it is and what it does.
  • Ask for non-narcotics or other safe alternatives if you need medications.
  • Ask for a small amount of the medication with no refills.
  • Contact your sponsor and other members of your support group and inform them that you will be taking medications.
  • Tell them what you have, how many you have and what the recommended dose is.
  • Ask if you can dose in the office rather than take meds home and if you have to take drugs home, ask for a 3-5 day prescription.
  • When you have to take medications:

  • Take only as prescribed.
  • Stay in daily contact with several members of your support system and keep them current on your dosage and reactions.
  • Consider giving the medication to a member of your support system who will be responsible to administer the medication you every day.
  • Talk about it at meetings and other support functions.
  • When the prescription says “Take as needed for pain or other symptoms”, monitor your symptoms and contact your support when you are not sure if you really need it.
  • Stay in close contact with you doctor and comply with doctors orders.
  • Be careful to not re-injure yourself so that you have to take more medications or for a longer period of time.
  • Keep a journal and monitor your thoughts, feelings, cravings and actions. Report any concerning changes to members of your support system.
  • Once the need for the medication is done:

  • Throw away any unused medications. Don’t save them in case you need them later.
  • Share at meetings what issues came up for you while on the medications and how you managed you handled them.
  • In summary; the key to avoiding relapse here is to advocate for your own recovery, be honest and open about your thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviors… and most of all stay accountable. The biggest danger is going underground and not letting the key people in your support system know what’s going on. I have seen many addicts relapse and some even die, because they were unwilling or unable to reach out and ask for help when they were struggling.

    An Open Letter From One Alcoholic

    An Open Letter From One Alcoholic

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    Dear Server/Waiter/Waitress (or whatever you prefer to be called these days),

    This is my open letter to you, in attempts to try to understand each other better. First I’d like to say, I appreciate what you do, because I have done your job before, and I know it can suck. That being said, I also have a pretty good idea of what might be going through your head, when you seat a table of us sober folk.

    You see us sit in your section and assume we will be a fun crowd, which of course means ‘drinks all around’! When we start to order sodas, waters, ice teas and milkshakes, one by one, the look of utter disappointment is evident on your face. I actually experience a bit of empathy for you, because we all know, drinks really drive up the bill. But believe me when I say, you should be rejoicing over the absence of alcohol at this table; trust me, we will still tip you well.

    Typically by this point you, the server, have decided that we are not as valuable as the other table that is drinking, so our non-alcoholic drinks come, but only after a longish wait. (Sometimes though, we get lucky and our server is still on board with us.)

    It’s time to order food! Rejoice! You are being kind to us–that is, until we tell you we want separate checks. We agree to split our large group in to 3 checks to make your life easier, (but most of us have served tables before, or still do, and know how easy it is to split a check. After all, everything is touch-screen computerized). Ordering our food goes well, and we seem to be on good terms again. And have no fear; we will still tip you well.

    We spend the next 30 minutes being a bit loud, excessively taking #selfies and #groupies on our phones, while simultaneously checking in on Facebook, and posting to Instagram. We tend to have a lack of awareness that others are also dining in this restaurant. We swear, laugh loudly, ask for more bread and drink refills and frequently change seats so we don’t miss anything at the other end of the table. But rest assure; we will tip you well.

    Food comes, sometimes in a timely manner; often times not. Someone sends their food back (trust me, there is always one, and we are equally as mortified as you are annoyed). But we also are supportive of our table foodie, encouraging her to speak her truth! (This goes way deeper than her poorly cooked burger).  We eat, we are still loud, but trust me when I say; we will still tip you well.

    By this time in the meal, you may have found a soft place for us in your heart, or you may just be ready to part ways. Either way, you bring us our check (all on one bill–what happened to our agreement!?) in a very timely manner. We labor arduously over the confusing bill, making sure everyone knows that there is already an 18% gratuity included. Our bill-master (there is always one poor sap that gets stuck with this job), organizes our cash and cards and sends the neatly organized package off with you.

    At this point, someone busts out some homemade cupcakes, and we sing ‘happy birthday’, to a 30-something who is turning 3, (just go with it). We eat our treats, and take more #selfies and #groupies, and wait and wait and wait for you to bring our cards back. Half of our group (the smart ones who brought cash), have evacuated the table to go outside to smoke their e-cigs. The rest of us wait. The smokers return to the table. After what seems like an eternity, you bring our bill back to us. We sign on the dotted lines, offer you some cupcakes and tip you well (above the included 18%).

    I recognize that we are a wild bunch of folks who may not have the best table manners, but we mean well. We want to get along with you! So when you see us coming in packs, iPhones and e-cigs in hand, try to cut us some slack.

    Until we meet again,

    Anonymous

    An Online AA Meeting

    An Online AA Meeting

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    Recently Lionrock Recovery started a weekly, online, 12-step meeting. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, who would show up and what would happen. But as I sat comfortably at my computer and logged in to the meeting site, I immediately felt calm, OK and at peace; (the same way I do when I sit in any meeting).

    The meeting began with The Serenity Prayer, and by the time we were all saying “the wisdom to know the difference”, the barrier of our computer screens faded. We read from The Big Book, (of Alcoholics Anonymous), and the leader shared his experience, strength and hope with us.

    As we went around one by one, sharing of ourselves, I felt the same connection I would feel if we had all been sitting in one room together. I suddenly realized that this was a very special gathering. Because once again, people who may have not otherwise met or mixed, were bearing their souls to each other. We were relating to each others alcoholism, and more importantly, sharing the solution. I was quickly reminded that the miracle of AA happens when one alcoholic is relating to another, in any capacity.

    Our weekly group is ever-changing and growing. We have people from New York City, to California. We have people from places in the country that have no AA or NA meetings within a 50 mile radius. We have people with multiple years of sobriety, and newcomers. We are the face of Alcoholics Anonymous, reaching those who may not have otherwise been reachable. We are an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, gathered together with a single purpose; to help the alcoholic who is still suffering, so that we all may recovery from the disease of alcoholism.

    ***If you or someone else is interested in trying out a 12-step meeting, please join us:

    Schedules

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

    Every Tuesday at 6:30pm Pacific, 8:30pm Central, 9:30pm Eastern

    To Join The Meeting, Click This Link: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/join/420455711

    5 Dos and Don’ts of Sober Dating and Relationships

    5 Dos and Don’ts of Sober Dating and Relationships

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    So you’re clean and sober now; you have houseplants that are actually green and flourishing, and you have a pet (or 2), that you have managed to keep alive and fed. Naturally you’re feeling pretty confident about adding a romantic relationship (with another human), into the mix. Before you brave the world of awkward first dates and sexting, here are a few caveats (and solutions), to be aware of.

    • Character defects? What character defects!?
    It has been said that getting into a relationship, is like pouring miracle-grow on your character defects. And if you have worked some steps, it shouldn’t be news to you that you have them. So what can be done? How can you reel your self back in when your emotions and shortcomings get the best of you?

    Solution: Stay connected to your sponsor, and close friends. This means practicing honesty. Tell on yourself when you act poorly, and get some honest feedback from the people who know you best. Also, when in doubt, write an inventory.

     

    • Don’t get loaded
    Seems pretty obvious, right? Wrong. You might be surprised by how many sober couples relapse together, especially when they are newer to recovery. Just because the one you love decides to drink or drug, doesn’t mean you have to.

    Solution: Stay strong in your program, even if your partner relapses. You know what is worse than one drunk? Two drunks. Continue to go to your meetings, no matter what. Getting in the ring with a partner’s addiction can be devastating.

     

    • Let the past be past
    Everyone has a past and you have both probably dated other people. Chances are one of you dated someone else that you both know, and this can be awkward. These situations are famous for arousing jealousy and insecurity, which can be the demise of a healthy relationship.

    Solution: Let the past be. Don’t keep bringing it up over and over again. If your partner has chosen to be with you, he/she is likely over their previous partners. Remember, these feelings are all fear-based, and fear rarely serves us.

     

    • Meeting makers make it
    You’re in an exciting, new relationship and all either of you wants to do is spend time with each other. Things like work, school, other friends and those pesky meetings keep getting in the way. You find yourself scaling back on anything that doesn’t involve your new dating partner, and this is a slippery slope.

    Solution: It is normal to have intense feelings when you meet someone you like, but it is unhealthy to stop showing up to your life as a result. Going to meetings and staying connected to your fellowship, will help support a healthy relationship. Don’t forfeit the very things that make you who you are for anyone.

     

    • The only inventory worth taking is your own
    It is easy to point out someone else’s shortcomings and mistakes, especially if we feel wronged. However, it is not kind to do so, and can lead to some pretty nasty arguments.

    Solution: The only person’s inventory you have to worry about, is your own. Keep your side of the street clean, in a relationship. It is not your job to parent your partner, and certainly not your job to point the finger at them. Chances are if there is a conflict, you both have a part in it. Identify your part, so you can get to the solution quicker.

    The Importance of Setting Goals

    “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” ~ Tony Robbins (Life-Coach, Motivational Speaker, Self-Help Author)

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    The most successful people in the world, will always refer back to how important goal-setting was, to building their empire. It seems like a simple and mundane task, but the act of putting pen to paper and actually writing down goals can be very powerful. Here are 4 reasons why and how you should be setting goals:

    1. Attract It
    Have you ever heard of the concept that thoughts become things, or the law of attraction? Don't believe in that? Try it out for 30 days; we dare you. The Universe has a funny way of delivering you exactly what you are focusing on. If you spend your days sitting in negative thoughts and complaining about everything, you are likely to continue being faced with those types of things and situations. On the flip side, if you spend your days looking for the good and beauty in things, you are more likely to notice it and attract it. So instead of sitting in fear about why you can't, try making a goals list. Whether it be about career, family or love, give it a go.

    2. Visualize It
    Dedicate some time to actually visualizing your goals for your life. Picture how it would  feel to achieve them. Imagine how you would walk once reaching these goals. We aren't suggesting to live in a fantasy-land, because goal-setting needs to be followed up with action, but visualizing reaching your goals can help keep you motivated to pursue them.

    3. Write It
    Sometimes the longest journey is from the pen to the paper. Pick up a pen or turn on your computer, and write down your goals. Place no rules or boundaries on yourself while doing it. There is something therapeutic about getting thoughts on to paper. Also, our heads tend to blow things out of proportion. Seeing something on paper is often less intimidating than what our minds will have us believe.

    4. Don't Judge It
    This is a piggyback on #3. Allow yourself the freedom to set whatever goals you want. Setting goals allows us to open up our imaginations, and break down barriers. Anyway, it is all about the journey, not the destination.

    "A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals." ~ Larry Bird (NBA Player, Boston Celtics, 1978-1992, Hall of Fame Inductee)

    5 Tips for Overcoming Fear

    5 Tips for Overcoming Fear

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    What is Fear? Fear is an illusion of an obstacle, that your head creates. Often times these thoughts feel so powerful that they are actually paralyzing.  In other words, Fear is: (F)alse (E)vidence (A)ppearing (R)eal. So what can we do to move past these thoughts, and prevail over them. Here are 5 ways to get over your fears:

    1. Accept the Challenge

    Fear tells you that you can’t. What if you accepted the challenge and proved your fears wrong? When someone else tells us that we can’t do something, we often feel motivated to prove them wrong. Take on that same attitude, and accept the challenge to prove your fears wrong.

    2. Acknowledge, and Move On

    When your head is spewing negative thoughts at you, sometimes the best thing to do is to acknowledge the thought, and move past it. You can even go as far as saying to yourself, “thank you for sharing”. Thoughts are not reality, especially if you don’t dwell on them.

    3. Don’t Dwell

    So you have some fears arise, so what? It happens. Instead of becoming a prisoner of your own thoughts, and dwelling in it, try looking for the opposite action or solution. What would it look like to do the very thing that your head is telling you that you can’t? If that doesn’t work, keep yourself busy enough that you don’t have time to dwell in the fear.

    4. Eyes on the Prize

    Typically fear arises when we are venturing in to something new or exciting. Fear is an optical illusion, so remember why you started in the first place. Keep your eyes on the prize; focus on your initial goal instead of the fear surrounding it.

    5. Trust Your Gut

    Sometimes fear is real. For instance, if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, then trust your gut. If the fear is about something your head has made up, chances are it is your ego trying to hold you back. But if your fear is in regards to a potentially hazardous situation, always put your safety first.

    Dos and Don’ts of Prescription Medication in Recovery

    Dos and Don’ts of Prescription Medication in Recovery

    prescription pillsTaking prescription medications in sobriety is often a controversial topic. This discussion falls into two categories; mental health medications, and pain medications. There are many opinions regarding this topic-matter, and it is important to look at the big picture, before making a decision about it, or making a judgement.

    Many people enter in to recovery having already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, (depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc). Many of these diagnoses are accurate, but some of them have been made without factoring in the person’s alcoholism or addiction. It is a good idea to get reevaluated, after you have been clean and sober for a while, (30 + days).

    It is important to consider the different degrees of mental illness as well, when deciding whether or not meds are for you. For example, depression comes in a wide spectrum of intensity, ranging from sporadic spurts lasting only a few days, (which may feel more manageable), to being suicidal. A person who does not struggle with depression, could never fully understand what it is like to deal with this condition, and the same goes for any other mental illness. The decision to take mental health meds is a completely personal one, and what might work for someone else, may not work for you.

    The most important factor of deciding whether or not you may need mental health meds, is to do so under the care of a trusted doctor. These types of medications should only be taken as prescribed. Unprescribed medications, do not fall under the guidelines of sobriety, and could compromise your recovery.

    This brings us to pain medications, possibly the most controversial issue in the recovery world. Let me preface this by saying, under no circumstances is taking these types of medications recreationally, considered a part of being clean or sober. But what if you get injured, have a surgery, get severe dental work done, or find yourself in a situation rendering your doctor to prescribe you pain killers. Are you really expected to just tough it out?

    Again, this is a personal decision. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

    1. Tell your doctor ahead of time that you are an addict or alcoholic.
    2. Ask if there is a non-narcotic version of this medication, that would be equally as effective.
    3. Make an honest assessment of your pain level.
    4. Ask a trusted friend to administer your medication to you. Pain medications alter your brain and your thinking. While taking them as prescribed by your doctor is acceptable, they can cloud your judgement once in your system.
    5. Check in with your sponsor, a mentor or a trusted friend, while taking the prescription.
    6. When you do not need the meds anymore, discard the remaining pills. Don’t save them for a ‘rainy day’.

    by Emily M

    How to Survive Monday

    How to Survive Monday

    timeIt’s Monday morning; the inevitable day that we all seem to resist. Your coveted weekend has slipped between your fingertips, and you are now faced with a brand new week of responsibilities. Life is in session.

    As we face the week ahead, we often feel like we are at the bottom of Mount Everest, and can’t fathom how we will get it all done by Friday. Or maybe it is as simple as surviving the demanding week ahead, and merely making it to our next two-day break. We have come up with some simple ways to survive Monday, and to have a more successful week.

    1. Make a List
    Making a to-do list of everything you hope to achieve for the week, (or even just for the day), is an extremely useful tool. Many times the act of getting your thoughts down on paper eliminates stress. If you want to be really thorough, make a to-do list, and then assign tasks to each day. The best part of making a to-do list, is crossing things off of it.

    2. Eat Well
    Make sure to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Some of us get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of a busy Monday, and skip meals. This can quickly add to your stress level. Make sure to give yourself the opportunity to fuel up properly, so you don’t run out of steam by 3pm.

    3. Pray / Meditate
    Even if you only have 5 minutes to do so, make sure to take a deep breath and get centered. There are many ways to do this, so find what works for you, and do it. The transition from a relaxing weekend to a busy Monday can be overwhelming, so don’t forget to inject your day with some self-care.

    4. Look on the Bright Side
    Life is all about perception, and so is your happiness. Instead of looking at Monday with dread, try changing your perception, and getting amped on a new week. Your positive outlook and attitude will be contagious, and you might just change the mood of your surroundings.

    5. Exercise
    Whether you run 10 miles, or walk for 10 minutes, try to make time in your day for some exercise. The release of endorphins, (the body’s natural feel-good hormones), will give you the boost you need to conquer the day, and the week.

    Are you an Enabler?

    For every alcoholic or drug-addict, you can bet there is a enabler close by. This person comes in many forms be it spouse, partner, parent, sibling, friend or even child. We often view the addict as ‘the sick one’, but in actuality, their enabler is often times just as sick as the addicts themselves, if not sicker. The disease of addiction is after all, a family disease.

    An enabler is a codependent person who continues to help the active addict, regardless of the negative consequences. They are almost always motivated by their love for the person struggling, and carry an illusion of responsibility for the addict’s well-being, and even survival. The enabler becomes stuck in a cycle, where they believe they are helping the addict, when in actuality they are helping to perpetuate their disease. The addict knows, (even if only subconsciously), this person will always come running if they call, and will use it to their benefit.

    Codependent people will almost always find themselves in repeat situations of becoming an enabler, until they learn to identify the pattern, and break the cycle. Here are 4 ways to tell if you are an enabler:

    1. Do you keep coming back for more?
    Is there someone in your life that you keep telling, “this is the last time I will help you”, yet find yourself always coming back for more? Does this person always turn to you, (and most likely only you), when they are down and out? If so, there is a good chance you are involved in a codependent relationship. Boundaries are only affective if they are enforced. An addict / alcoholic knows when you are serious, and they know when they can take advantage of you. By continuing to go back on your word, you are welcoming this behavior in to your life.

    2. Do you believe that you have the power to save this person?
    One of the most delusional thoughts a person can have regarding an active alcoholic or addict, is that they have the power to save this person from their addiction. Addiction is not a matter of will-power. It is a disease that requires the addict to hit some sort of a rock-bottom before they become willing to make a change. By continuing to attempt to save them, you are denying them the ability to hit that bottom.

    3. Does the person in question threaten you?
    Often times an addict will use threats to keep their enabler at bay. These can range from threatening to take their own lives, threatening to do something unsafe or crazy, threatening to harm them-self or someone else or even threatening to harm you. Under no circumstances does this type of behavior fall under the category of ‘healthy relationship’. If you have a person in your life who behaves this way, you are more than likely being manipulated emotionally. If you take actions based upon the fear of these threats, you are enabling their addiction. Granted if you believe that you or someone else is truly in danger, it is best to call the authorities.

    4. Do you feel like a victim in the relationship?
    Many times people who have become enablers feel bound to the relationship, almost like a prisoner. Enablers often get the short end of the stick, getting ‘burned’ by the addict often. This presents the illusion of being a victim. The truth is, there are no victims, only volunteers. Unless someone is literally holding a gun to your head, you do not have to stay in that relationship. It is a choice you have made. You might try exploring why you feel like this is the type of relationship you deserve. The truth is, we all deserve uplifting, healthy relationships.

    If you identify with any of the above information, there is help and support available. Lionrock Recovery offers a Family Matters program, specifically aimed at the loved ones of the alcoholic / addict. For more information, click here

    Al-anon is also a wonderful and free resource for the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts. For more information, click here

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