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Sober Zombies…Recovery can be Miserable

By:  Michael Plahn

Addiction can be a terminal disorder.  The statistics for success typically focus on or involve abstinence.  I have known many many people over the years who have struggled with recovery from various addictions (some statistics show abstinence rates under 15%).  So, for a person who suffers from addiction to be abstinent (after following most of the well-known paths of recovery), is truly remarkable.  But, is abstinence all that matters?  Not if you are a Sober Zombie like I was a little over ten years ago.

I am open about my experience of being abstinent, but miserable.  I actually got worse when I stopped drinking and using drugs.  I was abstinent for over nine months, and precisely following the suggestions of a mentor in a well-known lay program, regularly meeting with my psychologist and psychiatrist, taking the medications exactly as prescribed, exercising 5-6 days/week, and living a moral life.  The result?  I was abstinent (which was miraculous), but to say I was miserable is a drastic understatement.  I was in so much emotional pain that I began to pray for the willingness to take my own life.  Thankfully I was not suicidal, but I was absolutely miserable with no hope of better days on the horizon.  I was, what I recently heard described as a Sober Zombie.

That was in 2000-2001 and I would have paid any amount of money, traveled anywhere in the world, and done anything someone told me, if they claimed to have a potential solution for me.  I was dead inside and desperate for help.  I spoke with my Psychiatrists and Psychologist, asked around, called physicians, tried to research, but I could not find an approach that seemed to offer me hope or a solution.  Eventually, I was even told by my Psychologist and Psychiatrist in joint meeting that they did not know what else to do for me…they had tried everything.  What the hell was I supposed to do after that session?!

Well, my story is one filled with grace and the intuition that a team of professionals, assembled in a holistic manner, might be able to help me.  As many know, this pain and desperation actually led to the birth of LifeSkills Authorities and our comprehensive approach to Recovery Coaching (although I sure didn’t know it at the time).

Through a series of events, I began personally assembling a team of qualified professionals (personal trainer, nutrition consultant, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Internist, and a mentor), and stumbled onto a different path offering a different way to live in recovery.  I made it and live an amazing life now.  But, most who are like me 10+ years ago (fortunate and blessed to be abstinent, but utterly lost and hopeless), are likely in trouble.  Many who experience even close to what I went through in my first year without alcohol, return to their addiction of choice out of self-preservation or, tragically, have a much worse fate.

I was an extreme example of a Sober Zombie (this descriptor is so eerily spot-on).  Over the years I have known and still regularly see many miserable recovering people.  Some fly under the radar, accumulating year after year of abstinence and go about their lives with a sad quiet desperation.  While others are so miserable that they seem to have a mission to make everyone they encounter miserable too.  Do you know anyone life this?

If you are living with or know a Zombie who is trying to convert others to the ‘walking dead,’ please contact us now.  Most of these people have bravely fought addiction (and are among the small percentage who are still abstinent) and now accumulate months and years of ‘clean time.’  To their family, many physicians, and other observers (even those in the helping fields), they notice the obvious, the person no longer drinks, uses drugs, or has abstained from their previous addiction(s) of choice.  Since abstinence is such an influential barometer for success, Zombies may get a pass for dysfunctional behavior because they have not yet fallen back into their addictive patterns of old.  But, without help, Zombies will hone the skill of pushing away those who love them the most, sabotage careers, and alienate the friends or professionals who may be their only life-lines to a better life.  But, most importantly, Zombies can get to a point where they will argue that they know what is better for them…even more-so than the world’s experts.

So, what’s the future for a Sober Zombie?  Not good!!  Honestly, my guess would be that most return to a life of active addiction our of mere self-preservation to make the pain leave (even for a moment).  So, if you know someone you think may be miserable in recovery, please get them in touch with me personally.  The LSA Recovery Coaching advantage has been called, “A guardian angel for anyone suffering from addiction or related issues,” for a reason…we have the antidote for the Sober Zombie.  LSA’s Recovery Crisis and Recovery Care programs can turn Sober Zombies into vibrant, healthy, peaceful, and joy-filled examples of recovery…a life that should not be missed.  Contact us now to help yourself,  a loved one, or someone you know before it is too late.

 

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Can Nutrition Be a Culprit of an Alcoholic’s Relapse?

Post by Michael Plahn

This topic is critical for clinicians and those in recovery alike. Paradoxically, there are both simple and complicated answers to this question. But let’s first understand how alcohol use, especially prolonged alcohol use, affects the body.

When one ingests alcohol, what happens? Simply speaking, alcohol is not digested like other foods. Instead of being broken down and absorbed like other foods, alcohol avoids the normal digestive process and goes directly to the blood stream. About 20 percent of the alcohol is absorbed directly into the blood through the stomach walls and 80 percent is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine. The brain, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, and every other organ and tissue system are infiltrated by alcohol within minutes after it passes into the blood stream. The strength of the drink will have a significant effect on absorption rates, with higher concentrations of alcohol resulting in more rapid absorption. Elimination of alcohol from a healthy adult body occurs at an average rate of approximately ½ to 3/4 ounce per hour, the equivalent of 1 ounce of 100-proof whiskey, one large beer, or about 3 to 4 ounces of wine. Are you still with me?

Addressing nutrition in recovery is crucial. Those who use alcohol excessively deprive their bodies of essential nutrients. The hormonal response that occurs with alcohol consumption is a rapid rise in insulin from the pancreas to manage sky rocketing blood sugar levels. As insulin brings blood sugar down, the body goes through a state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). There are a number of physiological consequences that occur. As a person goes through a state of hyperglycemia to hypoglycemia, symptoms may occur even before a state of hypoglycemia is reached. These symptoms can present as anxiety, anger, irritability, fatigue, and CRAVINGS for alcohol. Thus, addressing nutrition by maintaining a stable and level blood sugar is a key factor in preventing symptoms that may lead to relapse in the alcohol dependent individual.

Why can this contribute to a relapse? Because very simply, the body of someone addicted to alcohol will crave something else to replace the alcohol. That choice tends to be processed foods or foods with a high sugar content. Therefore, many individuals new in recovery may reach for donuts, cookies, ice cream and any other high sugar content food or beverage in sight. On the surface this may seem benign, but it can also lead to a craving for alcohol if level blood sugar is not maintained.

So now the alcohol is removed from the diet and I am suggesting removing the sweets too? No, I am not a sadist, but it is important to address the entire system and create homeostasis in all areas of life, especially when someone is just beginning the recovery journey. If this is not understood, disaster could loom without the person realizing what they are doing. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when you are dealing with the deadly disease of addiction.

Let’s say you are a couple of months sober, excited and want to start an exercise program to lose some unwanted pounds while getting “healthy.” That’s great and I applaud you. You join a gym and buy a package of sessions from a personal trainer. Again, awesome… I wish more people would address their fitness and nutrition in recovery. However, not everyone in the fitness industry, let alone the average person new in recovery, understands how to properly balance blood sugar and thus minimize cravings, posits Robert Yang, a licensed nutritionist and certified Metabolic Typing professional based out of Encinitas, California who also works as part of the LifeSkills Authorities Recovery Team.

Now this excited newly sober person begins to workout and their personal trainer tells them to “eat a lot of protein to build more lean muscle mass,” without doing a Metabolic Type assessment and not knowing the entire composite of this person. Being alcoholic, the addicted person figures even more protein would be better, right? Yet if they do not balance ALL the macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) properly, they could have disastrous effects. Simply put, if there is no healthy fat (organic olive oil, organic avocadoes, or organic coconut oil) in this equation, an earnest attempt to eat “healthy,” will create ravenous cravings for fat disguised as sugar cravings for our poor sober friend. This could be a very bad thing for a recovering alcoholic. Basically, it could actually create an unintentional craving for alcohol. Yang proposes that through proper use of balancing your own Metabolic Type, you could eliminate the potential nightmarish situation that was just described.

LifeSkills Authorities can help you learn your ideal Metabolic Type or balance of macronutrients that will help you avoid cravings. This is just another example of the depth to which we take the recovery journey and our relationship with our clients.

The above article was recently written for the Treatment Solutions Network website and has garnered attention as many people will likely relate to the subject matter.  Click here to see the actual posting on the TSN website.

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Contents on LifeSkillsAuthorities.com including any images, text, external links, graphics or any other material posted on this website is intended solely for informational purposes. The information contained herein is written by non-medical professionals and not a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis of any disease or disability. Please seek advice from a qualified medical professional with any questions that you may have regarding your physical or mental health condition(s). If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or any other medical emergency, dial 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately. The thoughts and views expressed here are not necessarily those of LifeSkills Authorities, its owners, employees, or management.