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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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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
Author: Shernide Delva
Energy drinks are a common staple of adolescent life. Whether preparing for an exam or a big game, teenagers gravitate toward anything that will keep them alert and focus. Despite the temporary boost that energy drinks are known for, they can be extremely dangerous. In fact, a study just reported that there is a link between energy drinks and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The study revealed teenagers who reported a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times more likely to have consumed five energy drinks in the past week than those without a history of traumatic brain injury.
Energy drinks carry enough health implications alone, however the trend of mixing energy drink and alcohol can be even more harmful. The combination of energy drinks and alcohol can be an even more dangerous combination. Researchers discovered that teens who reported sustaining a TBI within the past year were twice as likely to consume energy drinks mixed with alcohol. Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital explained the results of the study stating:
“We’ve found a link between increased brain injuries and the consumption of energy drinks or energy drinks mixed with alcohol,” said Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital. “This is significant because energy drinks have previously been associated with general injuries, but not specifically with TBI.”
According to the study, energy drink consumption can interfere with the recovery efforts for teens that have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and alter the chemical state of the body so it can affect how your brain recovers after an injury. Athletes, especially, need to be careful about falling into the energy drink trap as injuries from sports are prevalent.
Energy drink consumption is rising among teens in the United States and Canada and is especially linked with those who play sports. These drinks appeal to athletes because they give a temporary feeling of improved mood, and enhanced mental and physical states.
However these temporary benefits are just that—temporary.
Sport injuries are very common especially in high school setting. Sport injuries account for almost half of TBI cases in the past year. Although the link between energy drinks and alcohol is not completely certain, evidence shows the combination produces even more negative results.
Data for the study was gathered by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 2013 Student Drug Use and Health Survey. Close to 10,000 students ages 11 to 20 participated in the survey. TBI was defined in the study as “an injury resulting in the loss of consciousness for at least five minutes, or being hospitalized for at least one night.”
- Traumatic brain injuries can result in:
- Poor Academic performance
- Mental Health Issues
- Substance abuse
All these factors can effect rehabilitation so eliminating consumption of energy drinks after a brain injury is extremely important.
A better understanding of the link between TBI and energy drink can help medical professionals lean how to better prevent, diagnose and treat brain injuries. If more studies find a connection between the energy drinks and traumatic brain injuries, regulations should be place to prevent teens from overindulging, especially after a brain injury.
Personally, I indulged a ton on caffeine when I am preparing for a long day on minimal sleep but learning the alternatives to energy drinks produced a better result for me.
Energy drinks mess with you body’s ability to naturally function if abused. There are so many other options to keep you more alert and focuses. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
How early can you get involved in a 12 Step program? Is it ever really too soon to start learning about the realities of drug addiction and alcoholism? With programs out there specifically created to help teens learn about the dangers associated with substance abuse and underage drinking, is it overkill to allow teens to get involved in a 12 step program, or is it a useful option to be utilized for keep young men and women from making choices that lead to unhealthy and destructive progression?
A 12 step group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is not the typical group that you would normally expect teenagers to hang out with. Sitting in a meeting drinking coffee and listening to speakers just doesn’t seem like it would be the ideal Friday night for someone in high school. Yet according to researchers, teenagers with substance abuse issues may benefit from 12-step groups.
The Step Study
12 Step groups to be brief are kind of like support groups for those trying to recovery from issues involving addictions, and there are numerous programs from AA for alcoholism to GA for gamblers. There is a program of action laid out and meetings to introduce newcomers to the steps and share experiences on how recovery has been possible for millions upon millions of people. Due to the ‘Anonymous’ nature of these programs I won’t make it my business to go into detail at this point, but I personally work a 12 step program and it has changed my life in amazing and inspiring ways.
The new study on 12 step groups was recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. In the research there were 127 teens (95 males, 32 females, aged 14 to 19) who had been placed into an outpatient treatment program for substance abuse. Throughout the study the teenagers were assessed at various intervals of the treatment program. They were first assessed after treatment at 3 months, then again after six months, and then 12 months. The data from over a year was collected on the 127 teens, and the results turned out to be exciting.
John F. Kelly, associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital was involved in the study on the impact of 12 step groups on young teens, and he stated:
“We found that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the youth attended AA/NA throughout the year-long study period following treatment, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomes—particularly attending meetings at least once per week or more.”
Over the years since the original 12 step fellowship was founded back in the late 30’s, there have been many 12-step programs to grow from that original frame work, and these recovery communities are easily available.
Another important distinction that Kelly made was that the teens who benefitted the most were those who not only showed up to meetings to listen and learn, but those who really got involved. Kelly said,
“Importantly, youth who also were in contact with an AA or NA sponsor or who participated verbally during AA/NA meetings had an even better outcome over and above the positive effects from merely attending.”
So even statistically it shows that young people who go to 12 step meetings of any kind have more successfully experiences when they get a sponsor and take some action.
Before this study researchers had never very closely examined how successful these programs are for teens in particular. According to Kelly, many individuals involved in the treatment of drug addiction in teens such as counselors, doctors, and health professionals will often encourage teenagers to be present at and participate in AA/NA early in their substance abuse treatment to maximize the benefits. Kelly went on to state:
“Starting an on-site NA or AA young persons’ meeting is another good idea. Not all youth will be motivated to attend, but the more severely substance-involved ones will be more likely to give meetings a try and these are the ones most likely to benefit.”
There are also programs like ALATEEN that have been created to be support groups for teens who have been trying to cope with a parent, sibling, family member or friend who is struggling with a serious drug addiction or alcohol dependence.
12 step programs and other family groups are unbelievably helpful because they can provide incredible shared experiences and support that make the idea of recovery from these issues more personal, and relating to those who have struggled as you have also makes the concept of true recovery seem more realistic. Teens have an opportunity to meet other teens and young adults who go through what they do, and in a healthy and conducive environment.
Alcoholism and drug addiction touch the lives of many teens in some way or another, and not all of them are fortunate enough to survive this deadly and insidious disease. Sometimes those who do only repeat their mistakes. Anyone who is battling a dependence on drugs or alcohol deserves the right kind of treatment and care that could save their life, and give them one they never imagined was possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135