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Author: Justin Mckibben
Alcoholism is a term that has been around for quite a long time, but over the generations it has been understood and treated in a variety of ways. Perhaps as the world and society evolves, so does the average alcoholic.
Either way you look at it, alcoholism is a very real threat. National surveys of recent years indicate:
- Nearly 19 million people in the US abuse alcohol, or have an addiction to it.
- In Europe, it’s estimated that 23 million people are dependent on alcohol
- Estimates say more than two million deaths resulting from alcohol consumption a year internationally
History of Alcoholism
The term “alcoholism” was first used by a Swedish professor of medicine, Magnus Huss (1807-1890). Huss turned the phrase in 1849, to mean poisoning by alcohol. While today “alcohol poisoning” is a more direct classification, alcohol-ism is still a poison in the lives of those who is touches.
Huss distinguished between two types of alcoholism:
Huss’s definition says this is the result of the temporary effects of alcohol taken within a short period of time, such as intoxication. Basically, it is having too much to drink.
This Huss calls a pathological condition through the habitual use of alcoholic beverages in poisonous amounts over a long period of time. A pretty innovative idea, and something that would be debated for over a century.
Since 1849, the definition has changed endlessly.
Establishing a definitive “alcoholism” definition is difficult as there is little unanimity on the subject. The reason for such a variety of definitions is the different opinions each authority holds, and the year the definition was formed. We have the strictest definition the dictionary provides:
- An addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol
We also have the concept presented by the book Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which gives stories of struggle and strength, experience and hope; the lives of many alcoholics who developed a manner of living through a plan of action rooted in 12 Steps. Here alcoholism is often described as a “physical compulsion coupled with a mental obsession”. The disease model of alcoholism has evolved overtime.
Early on 12 Step fellowships like AA were cautious about trying to label the medical nature of alcoholism. However, many members believe alcoholism is a disease. In 1960 Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, explained why they had refrained from using the term “disease,” stating:
“We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.”
These days, the classification of disease is commonly applied to alcoholism or addiction. Some have called them brain disorders. While some dispute the disease label, many believe it is the truest portrayal of alcohol addiction in the most severe form. The idea of alcoholism being a disease has been around since as early as the 18th century.
Many of the more up-to-date medical definitions do describe it as a disease. These definitions say the alcohol problem is influenced by:
- Social factors
Treatment of Alcoholism
When asking how treatment for alcoholism is important, there are a few specifically important elements to consider. When it comes to health risks of trying to quit cold turkey, it can be a lot more painful or dangerous than you think. Also, lasting recovery has a lot more to do with learning new coping skills and behaviors than just giving up the substance.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when the central nervous system (CNS) becomes overly excited. Alcohol suppressing the activity in the CNS, so the abrupt absence of alcohol causes the CNS to jump into overdrive. In essence, your system starts overcompensating.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms include:
The severity of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome can range from mild to very severe and even life-threatening.
Most treatment programs understand the importance of therapy at different levels. Group therapy helps people fighting addiction receive peer support. Individual therapy lets you work more intimately on these issues with a professional.
Holistic programs such as Palm Partners Treatment Program help you develop a personalized recovery plan to guide you in your treatment, setting benchmarks and goals while you are in treatment.
Some groups are more educationally-structured in order to teach you very important aspects for understanding the nature alcoholism, as well as ways to make major lifestyle changes. Holistic recovery is about more than surviving your struggle, but actually outlining a way you can thrive and move forward with healthy life skills. Finding the right treatment option can make all the difference in how you define your alcoholism, versus how you let it define you.
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Author: Shernide Delva
A discovery may help keep patients off addictive opioids while still providing the pain relief they desperately need. Just recently, Nashville Public Radio reports that the Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia (MTSA) has restructured its program, so students do not lean on prescribing opioids. Instead, a more innovative approach will be considered. What could this be?
The answer could be nerve blocks. Nerve blocks deaden a particular area instead of knocking a patient out completely. Nerve blocks are commonly associated with epidurals however improved technology is allowing them to be more widely used.
Chris Hulin, president of MTSA, recently had success with a nerve block while undergoing foot surgery. During the surgery, Hurlin even said hi to the surgeon a couple of times during the operation. During the entire procedure, he felt zero pain. He elaborated stating he “didn’t have any sensations” in his foot for 24 hours. Post-surgery, he simply took ibuprofen to manage post-op pain.
Still, nerve blocks are not commonly used in the medical field. MTSA students struggle even to find operating rooms that allowed the practice, according to NPR. However, with opioid addiction reaching epidemic proportions, MTSA believes it is important to increase access to this service.
“We want to eliminate or potentially decrease the probability that the patient is going to be exposed to those opiates for the very first time,” said Patrick Moss, who teaches acute pain management at MTSA. “We want to do everything we can to make that patient happy. And I think sometimes that’s been unfortunately the inadvertent withholding of therapies such as what we’re teaching here at our institution.”
Despite new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which call for limiting the number of opioid prescriptions, recent findings reveal that most surgeons are disregarding these limitations. A study released last month at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire found that out of the 642 patients they followed post-surgery, more than 90% were prescribed opioids.
Why? Jane C. Ballantyne, Professor of Education and Research in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington, mentioned to The Fix that it has to do with our desire to find a quick solution to every ailment.
“We live in a culture in which the expectation is that we can ‘fix’ everything,” she said. “It’s hard for physicians to say ‘no’ when patients demand opioids for pain because both patients and physicians have come to believe that opioids offer a solution.”
The important thing to recognize is that pain is real. People do experience pain and pain management is always going to be a necessity. However, how the medical community approaches treating pain does not have to stay the same. A few decades ago, we saw the rise of opioid prescriptions in the medical community. Now, they have become the norm, but there are other options. A solution like nerve blocks could be a useful tool for managing pain without the use of opioids.
More people are dying from overdoses than car accidents. It is the time we make a change in our approach treating patients with pain. The disease of addiction is not something anyone ever desires. Often, a visit to the doctor for a broken bone can spiral into a full blown opioid dependence. This has to stop.
Regardless of what methods we use to treat pain, the important thing is that we consider alternatives. There are so many people struggling. If you are alone, reading this article should confirm that you are far from the only one. The good news is we can teach you the tools to live a healthy life in recovery. Gain your life back. Call today.
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!
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Break out the cake and party hats ladies and gentlemen, because we have one hell of a birthday to celebrate today. On this day, June 10 1935- 81 years ago, a stockbroker from New York and a doctor from Ohio set out on a journey through tragedy into sobriety that would help reshape the course of history for countless millions of men, women and families. These two men, who both had been captured and contorted by the desperation and disaster that alcoholism brings into the lives of all it touches, found a common bond through their common peril and ultimately devised a common solution that has brought new freedom and a new happiness to so many. Today we celebrate the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous and the history of a fellowship that has saved lives in all corners of the world.
For those of you who have never read “Bill’s Story,” Bill Wilson was a man who’s drinking career had stretched from his time serving his country to his time suffering with the rest of the Wall Street giants of his time when the stock market came crashing down. His personal accounts adding into the beginning of the big book contain some of my own favorite passages, and his experience with drinking and struggling to recover is one of the first introductions in the book of AA that teaches potential alcoholics about the disease they face.
History goes on to tell us Bill Wilson had experienced some success battling his alcoholism with the help of a national organization founded by Lutheran minister Dr. Frank Buchman called the Oxford Group, which promoted waiting for divine guidance in every aspect of life. Wilson then tried to spread what he had learned to help other alcoholics, but none of them were able to become sober.
Despite all his attempts, Bill was still struggling to spread his message with any effectiveness all the way up until June 1935. At the time Wilson was on a business trip in Akron, Ohio, when he suddenly felt temptation standing against his sobriety.
Wilson was fortunate enough to reach a local Oxford Group member, Henrietta Buckler Seiberling, who put Wilson in contact with Dr. Robert D Smith- AKA “Dr. Bob.” Dr. Bob was an alcoholic who had recently joined the Oxford Group. Upon contacting the doctor, Bill explained his own journey into sobriety and how important his actions were to maintaining it, which had a profound impression on Dr. Bob. The two men decided to develop an approach based in altruism that would allow alcoholics to remaining sober through the personal support of other alcoholics.
Then on this day, June 10, Dr. Bob sat outside an Akron hospital and drank a beer to steady his hands for surgery; the last drink he ever had.
The First AA Group
Now it is important to note that the name Alcoholics Anonymous had not yet been coined. The original basic text of “Alcoholics Anonymous” the book was not written published 1939.
But at the time of these two men designing their system for the solution they had already begun devoting their free time to reforming other alcoholics at Akron’s City Hospital. At the time they were at least able to help one man achieve sobriety, and according to the Alcoholics Anonymous Web site these three men- “actually made up the nucleus of the first A.A. group.”
- In 1935, a second group of alcoholics formed in New York
- In 1939 a third group of alcoholics formed in Cleveland
When the group did publish its textbook, “Alcoholics Anonymous” it explained the group’s philosophy, including the now well-known 12 steps of recovery that have made a incredible and compassionate impact world-wide. Wilson wrote the text, and according to the AA website- “emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions and body.”
This basic text includes chapters serving to show the medical standpoint, address the importance of a spiritual element, and even gives personal stories from members of AA meant to relay the realities of alcoholism and relate to those who may not be sure what they are suffering from.
AA All Grown Up
Alcoholics Anonymous has not stopped growing since the beginning. The textbook was updated a few times over the years to keep up with the increase of members, and to keep up with the times and relate to the reader. According to the A.A. Web site,
- 100,000 recovered alcoholics worldwide by 1950
- Also in 1950, Alcoholics Anonymous. held its first international convention in Cleveland
Due to the fact that by the very nature of protecting anonymity in the fellowship, most groups don’t keep formal membership lists, which makes it difficult to obtain accurate figures on membership. The Alcoholics Anonymous. Web site estimates:
- Over 2 million members worldwide
- More than 55,000 groups and roughly 1.2 million members in the U.S. alone
- AA exists in 170 countries
- The book “Alcoholics Anonymous”- also known as “The Big Book” has been translated in 67 languages
The June 10 Founders’ Day is celebrated yearly in Akron to celebrate this momentous anniversary of the fantastic and amazing fellowship and the humbling origins of its inception. Every day all over the world there are countless numbers of men and women, who would not normally mix; from all walks of life, that gather together in club-houses, churches and even on the beach to share experience, strength and hope with one another for the primary purpose of carrying the message of AA and recovery to those who still suffer. Every day this world is changing, and every day these men and women who have walked through the darkest and most agonizing parts of themselves turn their life and their will over in the service of humanity and making themselves better in order for that world to be better.
And to think it all started 81 years ago because one doctor couldn’t stop drinking and one stockbroker who used to be a drunk wanted to help, because he never wanted to drink again either. Thankfully, because of people like them, I know I never have to drink again.
The legacy of AA has its traditions, so normally I would refrain from anything that could be considered promotion and stand by the ideals of attraction, but today I will acknowledge the great work 12 Step fellowships have accomplished, because it’s a birthday after all.
While 12 Step fellowships are often the means by which many alcoholics and addicts recover, there is often a need for comprehensive and therapeutic treatment options in order to begin the recovery process. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Last year there was story that came to the forefront in the recovery community concerning the most well-known anonymous fellowship in the 12 Step world… AA. When the story broke it was reported that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. was being sued by the family of Karla Brada, who was killed by Eric Earle, a man she met at an AA meeting in Santa Clarita, California. Brada’s family intended to make AA be held accountable for the death of Karla, which brought controversy and outrage.
For those who don’t discern or are just unaware of the very structure AA was designed for, this whole incident brought about the question- should AA be held responsible for the criminal actions of individuals?
Attack on AA
Earle and Brada were a couple that met at an AA meeting and the subsequent romantic partnership that took place was between two consenting adults, outside the rooms. However, Brada’s mother insisted that the AA fellowship should be held accountable in the list of those to blame for her daughter’s death.
While the actual killer, Earle, was brought to justice and sentenced to 26 years to life for suffocating Brada to death, the reports also make the clear proclamation the murder took place in the condo the coupled shared. Earle didn’t stalk Brada home from a meeting, the two lived together. Now it can be said court records show Earle had six restraining orders already against him, something that people in AA would not have been privy to, and people close to Earle did claim he frequently relapsed and was prone to violence when drinking.
Still, Brada’s mother stands to say that because Earle’s violent history was safeguarded by AA’s policy of anonymity, he was able to infiltrate the fellowship and prey on vulnerable women. The lawsuit contends AA should be better protecting their members from violent predators such as Earle.
But what Brada’s family seems to be missing is the fact that AA was designed to be anonymous for exactly the purpose of protecting its members… including those who have a rap sheet.
There are some places with a different brand of stricter policies concerning AA, such as the United Kingdom and Australia where a majority of Alcoholics Anonymous has adopted new codes of conduct over a decade ago to prevent exactly this kind of risk behavior. A U.K. AA Conference in 2000 determined that,
“Violence in any form is not acceptable at any level of the structure; our members have the right to feel secure and safe in meetings and whilst going about AA service/business.”
These policies put forth moral imperatives for members to speak out about, and potentially punish or expel violent and abusive behaviors from the fellowship if deemed necessary.
Sure, a code of conduct isn’t a bad thing; in some cases this could surely help protect people who find themselves in harm’s way. Keeping each other accountable can make a huge difference in recovery, but in AA all groups are meant to be autonomous so the individual group conscious must always weigh in on what is best for its members without interfering with AA as a whole. The fellowship has designs for Steps, Traditions, Concepts of World Service and other efforts but these are always in the form of suggestions– not enforced as stringent law.
AA Off the Hook
Brada’s family filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., in 2011 and have been pushing for their idea of fair punishment ever since. Thankfully, this past Tuesday they learned that Alcoholics Anonymous had been dismissed from the list of defendants in the case.
This is on the basis that even though Earle’s deeds are indeed dreadful and disgraceful, several lawyers argued the wrongful death lawsuit was thin to say the very least because AA should not be held responsible for every action of every member- especially since member ship requires no dues, fees, background checks or interviews. Credentials are not required and no one is discriminated against in AA.
In a case like this the couple could have met at a number of institutions such as a church or temple, on a public bus or even Facebook! Suing any of these organizations, including AA, is not a practical argument in a wrongful death lawsuit because it is not the entities responsibility as a whole to police everyone who takes advantage of the opportunity in the wrong way.
It makes no sense to try and place blame on AA for the actions of one man who has a history of violence and harassment. The truth is 12 Step Fellowships are there for people who have struggled with everything from behavioral health and substance abuse to mental health and trauma. To say they should have screened this member for his arrest record or questionable actions prior to meeting Brada would be to promote discrimination within a fellowship created with the purpose of helping anyone who suffers, not just those with a good resume and a clean sleight.
Now if it was a question of AA protecting criminals– AA was founded on spiritual principles of anonymity and disclosure but the literature specifies anonymity to be expected at the personal level, that is to many members’ interpretation- anonymity provides protection for all members from being ‘outed’ as alcoholics. The ‘Understanding Anonymity’ pamphlet never mentions safety from disclosure of a crime.
Part of the tragedy here is that the rooms of AA were created to help this kind of person change their life and find one worth living; a life outside their expectations, and sometimes people don’t see the amazing chance they’ve been offered until it’s far too late.
If you’ve ever been to a 12 step meeting, then you probably can understand the need for anonymity to some extent. What you should not do is let one person undermine an incredible program based on their own inability to take the right action. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135