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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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The Addiction Solution

By:  Michael Plahn

This may be the most important article on alcohol or substance abuse (or addiction) you will ever read.  This may finally be the formula for solving the addiction issue in your family?  Strangely enough, the answer is straightforward and simple in theory.  However, why does it seem that many afflicted with addiction and/or mental illness, who want to recover, continue to suffer, even after professional treatment?  Are you aware that some success rates are less than 10%?  Don’t those low efficacy rates seem absurd?

If you want to solve the addiction issue in your family, once and for all, here is the formula I’d recommend:

  • Hire a qualified objective professional to be your family’s personal advocate throughout the entire process and to help you select the appropriate level of treatment to offer to your addicted loved-one
  • Have this same qualified objective professional recommend potential solutions for you and other family members such as Family Intensives (treating the entire family system is often overlooked)
  • Have the hired professional liaise with potential treatment facilities that can execute appropriate treatment programs to meet the needs of your addicted loved-one (have your advocate help you narrow the options to 2-3 qualified facilities)
  • Have a professional execute a compassionate and dignified form of Intervention/Family Meeting to present the treatment options in a loving manner
  • Contract with the same professional to accompany your addicted loved-one to the selected facility and prepare him or her for an optimal beginning to treatment (this is much more than just getting them there safely…Contact LSA to learn how we do this and why it is so essential)
  • Follow a continuum of care recommended by the professionals and needed by your afflicted family member (Primary treatment, Extended Care, Outpatient, or Customized Aftercare specific to the individual’s needs) as recommended by the treatment facility and professional advocate initially hired by the family
  • Have the family commit to Family Intensives, individual, group, and/or 12-Step help for a minimum of six-months
  • Engage with a customized multi-disciplinary program (that incorporates a 12-Step program) such as LSA’s Recovery Coaching to help your afflicted loved-one to re-acclimate to the ‘Real World’ and continue to grow, change, and stay supported throughout his or her first year of Recovery

If you, and your family take all of these suggestions, then your family and afflicted loved-one will change more than you will ever believe right now.  I’m serious!  I hear a ton of excuses as to why an individual or family cannot commit to certain actions.  And, guess what?  Those people continue to suffer.  True, it is their choice, but it does not have to be their destiny.

Sadly, but understandably, most families affected by a family member’s addiction and behavior don’t believe their loved-one will really ever embrace help and change.  However, if you follow the aforementioned actions leading up to and through the entrance into an appropriate treatment facility, you will be absolutely amazed.  If you follow all of the aforementioned recommendations, it is very possible that I will be reading an inspirational book you write about the process because of the dramatic change you and your family gratefully experience.

But, that means, no short cuts! If anyone deviates from the plan (especially the addicted family member), don’t be surprised if there is a relapse, your family goes back to status quo, falls apart, or worse.  I know this sounds rigid and dramatic, but this is a terminal disease that will also rip apart the fabric of the family.  This is one of the many reasons that qualified professional help is so essential.

I am hired to provide solutions for individuals, families, and businesses…many times for individuals who are especially defiant and difficult.   Contact LSA to allow me to stop the pattern of misery and destruction addiction has caused in your life or in the life of someone you know through The LSA Pre-Treatment Solution and LSA Recovery Coaching.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Select an Appropriate Level of Addiction Treatment (Part 2 of 2)

By:  Michael Plahn

In Part I of this article, I wrote about 12-Step programs, individual and group counseling, and different levels of Outpatient Treatment.  The highest level of care and support is available at an in-patient ‘Residential’ program.  These programs are designed to encompass 30-90 days of primary treatment (but length of stay depends on the patient’s condition and progress as well as family resources).  There are some amazing residential treatment facilities that can help your loved one.

I am a big proponent of facilities that offer comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessments (e.g. Caron Treatment Centers) to determine the correct diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.   It just makes sense, doesn’t it?  Facilities that I personally like offer an entire continuum of care, as is the case at Promises, which allows the patient to continue to progress while maintaining the continuity of the same surroundings and treatment team.  Facilities such as The Canyon and Casa Palmera treat addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders (also called ‘Dual-Diagnosis’) for individuals struggling with mental illness along with addiction.  Some residential facilities, such as The Meadows, specialize in treating addiction and trauma.  For licensed professionals, there are facilities that offer specialized tracks catering to their specific concerns and needs (available at Hazelden’s Center City location).  I have also found companies such as Treatment Solutions Network to be very helpful as they represent a variety of facilities.

Although programs may share a similar classification (IOP, PHP, or Residential) there are tremendous differences in one facility’s program versus another.  This is one of the big reasons why a knowledgeable objective professional can help with this decision (you may be comparing apples and bowling balls without realizing it).  To further complicate the situation, if you are counting on your health insurance plan to cover the treatment, think again.  It is essential to ascertain the level of coverage you have in your particular plan.  Many residential programs do not accept any insurance coverage (it can be a self-pay facility), but some do and I hate to keep making you read this, but without an objective professional, you may never find the facilities that may be appropriate for your loved-one AND accept your loved-one’s insurance.

The goal, as I see it, is simple, you want to make sure that if your loved one is going (that is a big if without a professional to facilitate an objective and compassionate Intervention) to an addiction and/or mental health treatment facility, that they get APPROPRIATE TREATMENT to meet their needs.  If not, it is very likely they are going to get discouraged, struggle, possibly drop-out of the program, and or relapse (or worse).

It can play out like this: the afflicted person who was pushed into treatment by their significant other and without professional guidance required a different or higher level of care, they were approached with this by the treatment clinicians and staff, the patient became agitated and refused to change levels of the program, let alone facilities, and leaves the program.  Another sad, but common situation is:  the afflicted person agrees to enter treatment but only if they can go to a program that they approve.  Being an over-achieving people pleaser, who is certainly not telling the staff how they feel or divulging all of the secrets they are ‘taking to their grave,’ does everything necessary to quietly and successfully complete an outpatient treatment program.  They say they plan on attending AA as a maintenance program, but are hiding bottles and pills in a matter of weeks.  Many times, in either of those cases, those same individuals are even branded with “they just weren’t ready to change or stop using,” by family or friends.

Addiction (let alone adding mental illness if present) is a progressive and potentially fatal disease that rips apart families and takes lives prematurely.  A comparison to another potentially terminal disease, Stage IV Lung Cancer, is on point.  So, if a professional recommends professional treatment, I would not suggest that you navigate the different levels and facilities on your own (no matter how adept you are at Google searches), look for a convenient program that is “In-Network” for the insurance plan, or ignore it because “your loved-one would never agree to it” (you might be surprised if you have a professional facilitate an Intervention/Family Meeting).  Get the best and most appropriate help! In my experience (clinically and experientially), to do so will likely require an objective professional.  Contact LSA to work with an objective professional who will help with every aspect of this process in the LSA Pre-Treatment Solution.

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How to Select an Appropriate Level of Addiction Treatment (Part 1 of 2)

By:  Michael Plahn

This can be a simple question to answer in some cases.  But, in others it can be a bit more complex.  One thing is certain, I do not recommend that you tackle this issue without the guidance of an objective addictions professional.  That means, I do not recommend that you seek counsel on this decision from: your family doctor, a physician friend (who is a well-known surgeon and you’ve know since high school), your Psychologist (who you have seen for ‘years’) who does not specialize in addictions and Co-Occurring Disorders, or your brother who has been in AA for twenty-five years (God Bless him).  SEEK OBJECTIVE GUIDANCE FROM AN ADDICTIONS PROFESSIONAL to help you make the decision (and not necessarily the nice person from the insurance company; remember that your insurance company is trying to keep their costs down).

This is such a large topic, that I will have to break it into two entries.  My hope is that you will get a cursory understanding of some of the primary treatment available and the jargon used to describe it.  I will write soon about Aftercare, Extended Care, Recovery Coaching, and other subsequent solutions that are extremely important to a long-term solution.

There are a variety of options that could be considered a positive action for an addicted person to take to address their addiction (and possibly related issues).  However, there are some important things to consider.  First, if your loved-one is addicted to alcohol, then they are at risk for a serious and potentially deadly side effect during detoxification (called delirium tremens) that must be monitored by medical professionals.  Similarly, if they have been taking a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, they are also at risk for seizures.  Additionally, your loved-one may have other issues (trauma, Depressive Disorders, or other mental illness) that must be taken seriously, need to be screened for or addressed, and as a result, this makes professional treatment the prudent choice.

A 12-Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous could be a first-entry point to help the addicted person, but only after the aforementioned issues have been screened for and addressed.  AA is a non-professional spiritual solution that has saved and changed millions of lives (it is not group therapy).  12-Step programs are a crucial component of a proven path of long-term recovery (that are usually introduced during primary treatment) and will likely be recommended by professionals for your loved-one after they successfully complete a professional treatment program.

Now to tackle the different types of professional treatment.  First, there is individual or group counseling—it is a minimal amount of care (roughly one hour per week) and usually better served as a means of support and help after an individual has been to a professional treatment facility.  However, if you were seeking such a solution, I would recommend looking for a professional with a minimum of a Masters Degree (Social Work, Counseling, or Clinical Psychology) along with a certification called a CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor).

Typically, most professionals consider ‘treatment’ to begin with outpatient programs at a professional addiction treatment facility.  The lower level of this type of treatment is called an Intensive Outpatient Program or “IOP,” which typically may meet for three (3) hours (usually in the evenings) for four days a week for roughly six weeks.  The next level of care is called a Partial Hospitalization Program or “PHP”.  This is usually 6-9 hours/day Monday-Friday and a few hours on Saturday for about 25+ days (many times determined by insurance coverage and the progress of the patient).  In most cases, unless otherwise noted, there is not housing for the patients; they typically stay at home and commute to these programs.  The advantage with semi-supervised housing (available at a program like The Professionals Program at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago, IL) is in developing peer support and keeping the focus on treatment (it also allows the family a break and time to begin healing).

As this article is getting lengthy, I will stop here and continue in Part II.  In the second part of this piece, I will continue to write about the types of treatment, beginning with Residential Treatment, and what to look for in a program if your loved-one needs help.  Please remember that my succinct solution for this topic is to engage an objective addictions professional (available through LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution) to guide you through this process as your advocate.

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Hitting Bottom: A Deadly Myth About Addiction

By: Michael Plahn

Following is a flat-out myth that I have encountered with multiple clients and prospective clients in the past few weeks; it is a commonly accepted view held by many (even some in recovery, who are unaware of proven clinical methods) about the addicted or persons suffering from certain mental illness.

“I know they (addicted person) must “hit bottom” before they can get help. I know there is really nothing anyone can do until this happens and they become willing to change.”

Yes, an addicted person is likely unable to change without help.  One of the main reasons is that addiction affects the mind and prevents some of the brightest and even high-functioning individuals from seeing the same reality as seen by an outsider.  Addiction and/or untreated mental illness can create extreme levels of denial and self-deception.  For this reason, as you may have read in my previous postings, I attempt to keep logic out of the process when helping and afflicted person.  Why?  Because when it comes to discussing his or her own addiction or illness, I am not dealing with a rational or logical person.  So, I have found keeping logic out of the process to be very effective.

LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution includes what is essentially an Intervention.  Yet, it is actually only about 20% of the entire LSA solution.  There are many other essential components to help a person embrace help willingly, as well as help the family as a whole.  LSA’s Family Meeting/Intervention is not the entire process; it is a piece of the solution.

The reason I refer to intervening on an individual, as a Family Meeting is to dispel fear caused by some coercive “sneak-attack” versions that may have been seen on TV.  At LSA, we use a transparent model with a compassionate loving approach for facilitating our Family Meetings / Interventions. Yes, we tell the addicted or afflicted person that we are going to have a meeting on a certain date…it actually establishes respect and eliminates secrets.  And, guess what?  The process is extraordinarily effective and the addicted person tends to be present at that first meeting.

Let’s get back to this question about “hitting bottom” as it is an important myth that must be dispelled (and, truthfully, its also the title of my post).  If you wait for your loved-one’s bottom, there is a high likelihood that this person will encounter tragedy and possibly die waiting for this bottom.  Addiction is a disease with endless bottoms.   If a highly trained, objective professional coordinates a compassionate approach (without negative emotion, or logic) there is a good chance the result can be different.  With this loving and compassionate approach, along with extremely detailed planning, it is absolutely possible to “Raise the afflicted person’s bottom so they can reach out and accept help.”

So, if someone you care about is in the throws of addiction and/or untreated mental illness, you can alter their path of destruction and misery.  However, I caution you as I have written before, that I still have not met anyone who has successfully facilitated this process (without objective professional help) for someone they love.  I strongly encourage you to hire a competent professional trained in a variety of Intervention formats (I recommend a compassionate and transparent format).  Contact LSA now to learn how we can help you and someone who may be in trouble.

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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.