Author: Justin Mckibben
Here we are going to discuss some expert opinion on the molecular neurobiological aspects of each of The 12 Step Program.
Understanding of the neuro-molecular biological keystones of The 12 Steps may actually be an important step toward sobriety for some, especially those who rely heavily on the tangible logic of scientific reasoning. To understand and embrace principles of molecular neurobiology could ultimately lead to a better quality of recovery from addiction.
Step 1- We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
There is science behind the “powerlessness” of the first step. Admitting personal powerlessness over addiction is actually supported by the mechanisms involved in the neurobiological circuits of our brain. Stress and the toxic-effects of the drugs themselves induce changes in brain functions such as:
These changes create:
So scientifically it is very true that the individual is powerless. The substances themselves continually short out the circuits in the brain that are meant to give people control. The recipe requires genetic predisposition and environmental elements, but everyone is technically susceptible depending on these variables.
Step 2- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Breaking down the wording of the step one could infer:
- Sanity- sound judgment
- Insanity- repetitive behavior despite the harm
Poor judgment, or “insanity,” could be a cause of unusual substance seeking behavior despite risk of harm. These decisions are made worse by environmental factors including:
- Drug availability
- Non-nurturing parents
- Social-economic burdens
The individuals sanity also may be impacted by their relationship with a “power greater than themselves.”
In this case, let us look at relapse. The prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus are critical areas involved in relapse regulation. Impaired neurochemical functioning of these regions obstruct recovery and induce relapse, typically due to:
- Toxic substances
- Toxic behaviors
Understanding the molecular biology of the brain reward system highlights the importance of positive input from a fellowship such as the 12 Steps offer. Positive input from peers can offset unwanted gene expression. Ultimately, this can enable an individual to achieve a state of sanity and make right choices. The power greater than yourself can simply be the environmental element of your recovery.
Step 3- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
Will-power is extremely difficult to regulate in individuals born with a compromised reward system and low levels of endorphins. Will-power is based on both the interplay of genes and environmental elements in society, such as stress or shock. Early stress can cause substance use disorders in adult life as seen with epigenetic effects on Glucocorticoid receptor express.
Because the hard wiring of our brain’s reward circuitry is so difficult to override, it only makes sense the recovering addict seems obvious to look for reward outside of our genome. So in this step, the idea is to turn that focus away from drugs and toward something such as the fellowship or a spiritual path.
Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Fearless moral inventory must include the drug of choice and other Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) related behaviors. A particular drug or behavior is not the only element of an addiction, it includes a range of observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment..
However, the inventory cannot be labeled as “right” or “wrong” because it their own evaluation of self. To understand that there are genetic and environmental aspects to addict means to understand that blame and guilt are not conducive to true self-appraisal.
Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This step involves open reflection on our issues with using drugs. This includes the toxic effects of recurrent exposure to these substances on our minds and how that translates into our actions that impact others.
The damage of drugs on the brain’s reward networks is very physiological, and these physiological changes can result in psychological effects such as anxiety or aggression. By evaluating the inventory we have taken, we can consider the “nature of our wrongs” as being the psychological deterioration caused by drugs.
Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Many would argue that technically our character is shaped by genetic (evolutionary) forces far outside our individual control. So in that mindset it is not necessarily within our ability to change who we are genetically speaking. So, wouldn’t it be up to something greater than us, be it a ‘God’ or our own evolution of perspective, to remove the character traits that do not serve us?
With that said, our environment may influence how we have developed our responses and attached meanings to circumstances. Achievement of step 6 requires:
- Deep character analysis
- Painful realization
- Ability to dissociate the present self from the past self
By rethinking in terms of the “wrong” or “right” of an individual act, we can leave behind our attachments to actions or behaviors and offer up our character defects to the province of a higher power.
Step 7- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humility is accompanied with gratitude and grace. Spiritual faith and humility challenge someone to accept that good intentions and honest effort alone will not always be enough to succeed. This could lead to chronic depression and relapse, especially with genetic predisposition.
However, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions together ask the person to believe that evil, injustice and cruelty will not necessarily always win either.
Humility and faith are not necessarily synonyms for passivity. They actually support the belief that our shortcomings can be removed by our willingness to believe that things can work out. Positive feelings translate to positive epigenetics in the brain, enhancing the chances of removing our shortcomings by expressing more effective and positive genes.
Step 8- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Behind part of this step is the old saying “water seeks its own level,” because it may be an effect of a genetic association. People often seek friends who not only have similar characteristics, but similar genotypes.
So by making amends which may eliminate certain friends that would not be conducive to recovery, an individual is truly going against the genetic grain on a molecular neurobiological level.
A form of happiness is that people exist in comfortable networks of social collectives. So as we reach out to those we have hurt to amend our relationships and our character, we reconnect with a new source of happiness.
Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In Step 9, the achievement of making amends is subject to correlations among:
Relationships and happiness are based on neuronal hard wiring. So overcoming relationship issues is both an arduous challenge and a clear answer to achieving healing.
The degree to which someone can make amends is crucial to a healthy recovery. This is partly because mending of relationships is a gateway to the attainment of happiness. Making amends can also activate a natural release of dopamine in reward centers of the brain.
Step 10- Take personal inventory and admit to being wrong
Step 10 is the maintenance for Steps 4 and 5. It continues the practice of taking personal inventory in the 12 Steps to evaluate the self. It is important that addicts realize that depending on their genetic risk taking inventory and feeling good about the self-appraisal is a temporarily “dopamine fix”.
Beyond just having the ability to keep yourself in check and have a positive impact, when addicts continue to “work the steps” on a daily basis it also gives them a primary source from which to replenish dopamine in the brain.
Step 11- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Meditation and prayer, as suggested in step 11, increases the release of dopamine at the synaptic level. Applying the process of step 11 on a daily basis will also offset the genetically induced “hypodopaminergic brain function” by continuing to release dopamine in the synapse.
Increased dopamine will result in a subsequent proliferation of dopamine receptors, even in those with the most sensitive predisposition. The increase in D2 receptors translates to enhanced dopamine function, which will ultimately promote:
- Greater confidence
- Better comprehension
- Stress resistance
Looking outside the 12 Steps, most who study spirituality know the positive effects of prayer and meditation on the brain.
Step 12- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Here it says that working all the steps can allow an individual to have spiritual awakening. For some, one of the most fulfilling experiences they can have is sharing emotions with others. This experience itself and the impact may be decided by the synthesis and release of the brain chemical oxytocin.
Oxytocin is an important human bonding neuropeptide. However, independent of personal genetic makeup, alcohol and opiates significantly impair the synthesis and release of this chemical. So it is important to take advantage of this opportunity to create positive emotions while establishing connections.
So, by carrying the message and sharing experience we can bond further in our recovery, which helps us to rewire the brain with expressions of positive genes while also letting us detach from old meanings and produce more dopamine. All in all the 12 Steps have a pretty decent formula for working with the science of the brain to recover from a pattern of destruction.
The 12 Steps and similar programs of recovery are all very powerful tools. A holistic treatment program like Palm Partners respects the science of addiction, and many seek help here in order to establish a strong footing to move forward. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released the first comprehensive report on alcohol, drugs, and health reaffirming what many in the recovery community already know: addiction is a disease, treatment is effective, and recovery is possible. The report also revealed the tragic depth of the addiction epidemic.
Here’s a basic overview of some of the facts mentioned:
- Addiction is a chronic neurological disease, not a moral failing or lack of willpower.
- Only 10% of those addicted receive treatment,
- In 2015, over 27 million people in the United States reported current use of illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs.
- Over 66 million people reported binge drinking in the past month.
- The economic impact of drug and alcohol misuse and addiction amounts to $442 billion each year — topping diabetes at $245 billion,
- More than 20 million people in America have substance abuse problems; 78 die every day from opioids alone.
The US Surgeon General Report:
-SUPPORTS HARM REDUCTION TREATMENT
The report supports harm reduction programs such as using buprenorphine and methadone to treat opioid addiction. The support of these programs may receive criticism from traditional 12-step programs that focus on abstinence-only rather than harm-reduction programs.
However, medication-assisted programs for opioid addiction take time, the reports concludes:
“One study suggested that individuals who receive MAT for fewer than 3 years are more likely to relapse than those who are in treatment for 3 or more years.”
-DISPROVES OF TV-STYLE INTERVENTIONS
That’s right, shows like Intervention are considered a big no-no. TV-style interventions are not helpful, the reports states. According to the report, these types of intervention TV shows may heighten resistance and attack the self-worth of the addict, making treatment less effective. Planned surprised confrontations “have not been demonstrated to be an effective way to engage people in treatment,” the report concludes.
-SUPPORTS ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
The report is positive about 12-step programs like Alcoholic Anonymous stating they do offer support services, do not require health insurance, and are free. However, it notes that these programs “are not the same as treatment and have only recently been included as part of the health care system.” Still, AA received praise for adaptability in allowing all types of people to attend meetings. Research shows AA to be “an effective recovery resource,” the report concludes.
-SUPPORTS HIGHER ALCOHOL TAXES
The report states that alcohol tax policies are effective, saying, “higher alcohol taxes have also been shown to reduce alcohol consumption.” Other alcohol-related policies supported were:
- Banning Sunday alcohol sales
- Holding bars liable for serving minors
- Limiting the density of stores selling alcohol
-EXPRESSED CONCERN REGARDING MARIJUANA POLICIES
With more states approving either medical or recreation marijuana, the surgeon general report weighed in. It cites “a growing body of research” suggesting marijuana’s chemicals can help with “pain, nausea, epilepsy, obesity, wasting disease, addiction, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions.”
Still, the report shows concern about the legalization movement saying the movement is moving faster than research. “Marijuana is, in fact, addictive,” the report says.
Understanding Addiction and Treatment: Optimism and Hope
Despite the grim facts and statistics, the report calls for optimism and hope. There have been many scientific advances in the understanding of how the addict brain works. Furthermore, treatment and prevention programs are shown effective, and various addiction treatments are awaiting approval.
The second chapter of the report explains the neuroscience of addiction. It discusses how the brain works and why addiction causes people to need more of a drug to feel normal.
“Understanding this transformation in the brain is critical to understanding why addiction is a health condition, not a moral failing or character flaw,” the report says.
The report then turns to prevention. The Surgeon General wants to understand why only some people become addicted after trying a substance. The likelihood of a person becoming addicted ranges from 4 percent to 23 percent depending on the substance. Addiction is also tied to the individual. Between 40 to 70 percent of a person’s risk of dependency based on genetics, the report says.
Understanding the reasoning behind addiction will lead to better prevention strategies. Furthermore, relapse risks are also an area needing more understanding. The report pushes for research on what increases the risk of relapse. So far, studies state it takes 4 to 5 years for the risk of relapse to drop below 15 percent.
Overall, the report exposes the grim reality of addiction while offering hope and optimism for the future. There are treatment and prevention strategies that are effective. Do not become a statistic. The facts confirm addiction is a disease. Through treatment, we can guide you to a life free from substance abuse. Do not wait. Call today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
A common way to explain addiction is to describe it as an allergy. Not everyone who does drugs will become addicted. Just like not everyone who eats a peanut will have an allergic reaction. The general understanding is that addiction is a chronic, progressive relapsing disease of structural and functional brain abnormalities. The understanding of addiction as a disease has allowed for better treatments and has made tremendous progress in reducing stigma.
However, when it comes to the allergy theory model of addiction, many question the accuracy. Does addiction really stem from an actual allergy? Time to get to the bottom of all of this.
Dr. Silkworth: The Allergy Theory (March 1937)
The allergy theory of dependency was first thought of by Dr. William Silkworth, M.D., in 1937. The theory was later inserted into the “Big Book” of Alcoholic Anonymous in a section titled “The Doctor’s Opinion.” It was Dr. Silkworth’s opinion that chronic alcohol addiction was, in its way, an allergic reaction. It was a phenomenon only present in certain people.
Silkworth noticed that people treated for alcoholism responded in two different ways. Person A would completely heal after treatment and return home to either drink socially or not drink at all. At first, person B would respond to treatment in a positive manner. However, they would lose control of their drinking if they ever tried to consume alcohol again. To explain this distinct difference, Silkworth concluded that there must be some allergic reaction present in person B that makes drinking an uncontrollable behavior. Otherwise, why would the two patients respond to treatment so differently?
The rationale behind Silkworth’s theory of alcohol addiction was quite sound. Those who are psychologically powerless to alcohol are also physically powerless. Just like an allergy, in some people, vital organs in the body fail to produce certain enzymes required to complete the decomposition of alcohol (or more scientifically ethanol.)
The Addict vs. Nonaddict Conclusion
In a non-alcoholic person, the body produces the right amount of enzymes to break down ethanol which reduces the high risk of uncontrollable drinking. In an alcoholic person, the body processes alcohol the same way as a non-alcoholic person, until it reaches a point within the liver and pancreas where there is not enough enzyme production to complete decomposition. This may be why there is an intense “craving” to continue drinking that prevents alcoholics from being able to control the amount they drink once they begin.
Ultimately, he concluded:
“The inevitable conclusion is that true alcoholism is an allergic state, the result of gradually increasing sensitization by alcohol over a more or less extended period of time… some are allergic from birth, but the condition usually develops later in life. The development and course of these cases are quite comparable with the history of hay fever patients…”
Further he notes:
“such patients may be deprived of liquor altogether for a long period, for a year or longer, for example, and become apparently normal. They are still allergic, however, and a single drink will develop the full symptomatology again.”
80 Years Later: Is It Really An Allergy?
Although Silkworth was on the right track, addiction is not exactly an allergy. An allergy, by definition, is a reaction of the immune system to a given chemical. A skin test can easily detect allergies. If alcoholism were an allergy, it would respond to a skin test. Alcoholism is not a true allergy in the same way that peanuts, soy, or bee stings are allergies. AA believed the allergy theory of addiction was helpful in explaining the serious physical and psychological effects addicts endure after one drink.
“The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.”
Furthermore, defining addiction by comparing it to an allergy is an accurate way of describing the disease. Although Silkworth was scientifically incorrect, he was on the right track. Despite his error of concept, Silkworth made many concise, astute observations in an effort to identify the root of addiction.
In 1975, AA finally addressed the allergy concept stating, “alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us.”
While addiction may not technically be an allergy, Silkworth’s allergy concept has been enlightening. It helped us develop a mode of treatment that is useful in helping individuals abstain from addictive behaviors. Addiction is a disease, and anyone struggling with it knows how powerless it can be. We have the tools to get you living a healthy, sober, productive, fulfilled lived. Don’t wait—call us today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
What is the key to success? Everyone wants to know but the reality is the journey to success is not easy. Many articles have noted the different ways successful people think that makes them different from the masses. The majority of successful people have had to sacrifice time; money and even family in order to achieve their dreams.
Successful people do not spend time dwelling on the negative. They know that being aware of their thoughts and replacing negative ones with positive affirmations allows them to focus on what they want to achieve. Most successful people have some ritual they do each day to relax their mind and increase mental clarity. It could range from meditation, yoga, or journaling.
5 SENTENCES SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE AVOID:
- “I CAN’T DO THIS.”
Successful people do not doubt their dreams. They avoid thinking of anything but the goal ahead of them. They believe in themselves so much that they will endure the hardships to reach their aspirations. Success never comes easy, so it is important to change your mindset. If you lose faith in yourself, your goals will come to a standstill. Dreams can’t come to life with a negative mind.Successful people, no matter how much money they have, where they grew up, or whom they know, have a fire burning in them that no one can put out. They fuel that fire by believing in themselves and knowing wholeheartedly that they have everything within them that need to succeed.
- “I HATE [PERSON, PLACE OR THING HERE]…”
Successful people do not fixate on things they hate. Instead, they emphasize the things they love. Focusing on the negative only pollutes your mind and slows you down. Direct your attention to things that lift you up and excite your mind. Spending energy on others will only bring you down.Furthermore, successful people choose to see the good in others because they realize that being kind is ideal for success. Love expands and hates contracts. Focus on emotions that bring you closer to success.
- “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”
Remember, no one is perfect, so you should dismiss those thoughts that you are not good enough. You cannot attain success by doubting your progress. Pushing forward even if you feel you are a work in progress is the best way to improve your skills. Do not let your thoughts hinder your journey. Successful people are aware of their worth and value they bring.
- “I’LL NEVER ACHIEVE SUCCESS.”
It is pointless to look into the future with negativity. The future is uncertain, and once you think your aspirations are beyond reach, you have already set yourself up for failure. Successful people know they cannot predict the future, but they continue. They do not see failure as an option.
- “I DON’T HAVE TIME.”
Time is the most common excuse for not pursuing a goal. Time is valuable, and often it can feel like we do not have enough time to work on achieving our goals. However, if you rework your schedule, you can find time to devote to your dream. Even if it means you can only dedicate 15 minutes to your dream a day, consistency Is key. A lack of time should not stop you from achieving success. Choose how to spend your spare time wisely.
It is important to have goals and aspirations in recovery. Often, it can feel like the road to success is never-ending, but you do not have to feel this way alone. Find a support system that can keep you accountable. A major key to progress is knowing when to ask for help. Call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As hard as it is to admit, that’s the first step.
Once upon a time the forces of evil gave us this great conspiracy that we are separate; the truth is we never were. We have been lied to long enough that we are defined by our differences. We were told the borders mankind created for each other are valid reasons to hate and hurt one another. They said the shades in our skin and the climates and economic categories we live in made some of us better or worse… and the greatest tragedy is- we believed it.
The 12 Steps and the ‘anonymous fellowship’ model of recovery are actively used all over the world for those looking to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. There are even other addictions such as gambling or over-eating that people use the 12 Steps’ strategies to overcome. Anonymous support groups meet to work with one another to fight the obsessions that rule over their lives.
While some debate the effectiveness of groups like AA or NA, thousands upon thousands of people in over 150 countries all over the world have found their salvation from substance abuse through 12 Steps.
So, the question is… will it work for racism?
Some would insist that to even suggest racism is still a reality in America is to contribute to the race-baiting that drives division. However, the truth is no matter how far we like to think we have come- racism is still real. Now, Racists Anonymous (RA) aims to help those struggling with their own prejudices to overcome them.
Racism in America
While it may be hard in a politically-correct America to understand the gravity of it, racism is not extinct. No one likes to admit they are racist, especially in the modern society that preaches tolerance and acceptance. It is probably much easier for some to admit to their innermost self they’re an alcoholic or an addict than it is to admit they suffer from a serious racial bias.
Today we are still bombarded with police-related shootings involving young black men and women in the media. Meanwhile, we have the biggest protest by Native Americans in our history happening right now, and the brutality being inflicted on these people is truly deplorable.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that race is responsible for these injustices, the nature of these events leads some to think discrimination is the only explanation. The way these events are shown impacts the country, also driving a wedge between its people, inspiring even more division. Tragically, despite having an African American president, many insist this is the most racially divided we have been in decades.
One pastor in Sunnyvale, California is so concerned with the status of stigma and racial tension he is taking the unlikely step of offering a 12-step program for people who wish to heal from racism.
Pastor Ron Buford of the Congregational Community Church knows well that the first step of basically every recovery fellowship is to acknowledging the problem. He stated,
“That is something that we as Americans don’t want to do. We all swim in this culture of racism. It’s impossible to not be racist to some degree.”
Pastor Buford, who is himself an African American, makes no effort to point the finger and say this is a problem unique to one race or another. Back in 2015 Pastor Buford began to host meetings of the newly formed Racists Anonymous in what he says was a response to the police shootings all over America, exacerbated by the shooting rampage of Dylan Roof at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Slowly but surely the fellowship of Racists Anonymous did actually grow! Since its conception, at least a dozen people regularly attend the weekly Racists Anonymous meetings. The RA meetings host a majority of Caucasian members, but also various other races are adamant attendants. Seems like having members who would not normally mix is a big understatement here.
Still, the Racists Anonymous fellowship follows the path set out by the original 12 Steps. For example:
- Making a list of people they have harmed
- Making amends to those they have hurt
- Taking personal inventory
- Admitting and recognizing racist behaviors
RA meetings also include sharing experiences and feelings regarding race.
One thing very different about RA from most 12 Step fellowships is these meetings is the mediator. RA meetings have someone working to directly confront members with scenarios. The mediator, typically Pastor Buford, then challenges members to explore their attitudes and actions concerning other races. This kind of mediation is not the norm for many 12 Step meetings. What many might call “cross-talking” seems to be acceptable in the RA format.
Expanding the Fellowship
Beyond the reach of Congregational Community Church, over 30 other churches across the country are in the process of establishing Racists Anonymous groups. Buford says he hopes to make RA just as available as AA or NA all over the U.S. of A. Still there are many hurdles to overcome before this fellowship can hope to grow.
A large obstacle is that not many people are willing to admit they are racist to a group of strangers. Reverend Nathan King of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina, introduced the meetings to a mostly white congregation. Reverend King said,
“People are in different places. Some say, ‘I’m a racist.’ Or they say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’”
Some would protest the comparison between alcoholics and racists. One might say that one is a choice and the other is a disease. But then again, some people still claim alcoholism or addiction is a choice, but anyone who has been there or been on the frontlines in fighting addiction knows better than that. So, is it fair to say that the idea of supporting people in recovering from racism is not a worthy task?
Stephen Mosier, a 74-year-old RA member is a retired college administrator who stated,
“We have all got some residual racism in us no matter how good we think we are at it,”
Pastor Buford believes that racism could very well be a lifelong issue one struggles with. Whether you believe people choose racism or not, the hope is to eliminate the spread of racism for future generations. Either way, this seems like as good a reason as any to try and make a change.
Racism is an Addiction
In the end if we are all as introspective as we can be, we will see that as imperfect people we have a tendency to make assumptions or misconceptions based on the ideas we were conditioned with throughout life. In a combination of our environment and the more drastic experiences we have, we can subconsciously create stereotypes or expectations, and our culture may only feed these beliefs. But it is our responsibility to fight back and grow out of these lies.
We become addicted to these stereotypes and presumptions. We may even realize we are wrong, but somehow we cannot let go of the crutch of our conditioning. The truth is, no one is born racist. Racism is taught. So love and tolerance must be learned in order to escape these archaic lessons. RA may not be the only way to teach love, but it’s an interesting take on an old way of working for an awakening.
While many are far from able to take that first step, others who have fought to overcome drugs and alcohol already know just how difficult of a step that can be. Having that clarity isn’t always easy, but once you see the problem for what it is you have a window of opportunity to get the help you truly need to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now!
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135