(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
Whether it’s happy hour, ladies night, or wine Wednesdays, drinking culture is everywhere. It can be difficult for someone struggling with alcoholism to accept they cannot drink. However, the reality is everyone is different. For some, drinking is a casual social activity enjoyed on times off. For others, drinking can lead someone down an erratic spiral that destroys everyone and everything in sight.
We know. It is not fair.
You are probably wondering:
How come I can’t drink like my friends?
The answer is simple, yet complex. Everyone is physiologically unique, and these differences result in some responding to substances in a way that differentiates from others. The majority of people who drink feel relaxed after one or two drinks. Drinking in excess results in negative reactions that make binge drinking undesirable. These adverse effects include vomiting, nausea, headaches, and exhaustion.
However, for over 12% of the population, drinking one or two glasses of alcohol results in a compulsive need to drink more to maintain that euphoric state. Alcoholics attain high doses of euphoria from consuming alcoholic beverages. Typically, someone with a family history of alcoholism has a high tolerance for alcohol. Therefore, they can drink and drink and not feel overly intoxicated, resulting in the desire to drink more.
Alcoholism: Insane in the Brain
Most of the studies on addiction focus on the rewarding effects of alcohol consumption. Drinking is used as a coping mechanism to boost mood and relieve depression and anxiety. For some, using alcohol for these purposes becomes a tumultuous cycle.
However, there is even more to the story. New research has discovered another component of developing a substance abuse problem: the inability to learn from the consequences of overconsumption.
The study explained a region of the brain called the lateral habenula. This area is thought to help with decision making and learning about punishment. The habenula helps to associate an action with a negative outcome to you can avoid it in the future.
In the study with rats, scientists discovered that when they removed the habenula from certain rats, they continued to drink despite the unpleasant consequences. Therefore, it is possible that humans who struggle with alcohol consumption lack in this area as well.
“We think that what the habenula is contributing is some learning about ‘How bad was my last drinking session? Maybe I should curb my next drinking session. I’m not going to escalate,’” said Sharif Taha, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
“The rats that don’t have habenula activity are the ones which go up and up and up over time. Either they’re just not experiencing those aversive effects, or they’re not learning from them.”
The Balance of Addiction
The pathway to alcoholism is a careful balance. If someone finds alcohol too rewarding and the consequences of overuse not punishing enough, they are likely going to keep drinking and see no reason to stop.
“It seems that it’s not just the rewarding effects that are important in determining how motivated someone might be to consume alcohol, it’s also whether or not they experience any of these aversive effects,” Taha said. “That may play a role in, over time, whether you’re content to consume a couple of beers, or if you’re someone who escalates over time.”
Genetics may play a major role.
Gantt Galloway, senior scientist in the Addiction & Pharmacology Research Laboratory at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco, hopes to identify the specific genetic profile that is associated with an increased risk for alcoholism.
“Are those differences genetic, and can one then identify a [genetic profile] that’s associated with increased risk for alcoholism?” he said. “That could be a useful predictive diagnostic test and could conceivably predict who’s going to respond to different sorts of treatments as well.”
Regardless of the reasons, no one should feel ashamed about how they react to consuming alcohol. Sober life is not a boring life. Furthermore, just because you cannot drink like your friends does not mean you cannot have an exciting life. There are tons of activities to do sober. You just have to go out and find them.
In conclusion, if you are part of the population of people at risk for alcohol addiction, you are not alone. Over 32 million Americans are struggling with the same problem. The good news is you can do something to resolve the problem. You can choose recovery. Do not wait. Call today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
In areas where bar crawls were once a standard weekend ritual, a new trend is taking over, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. The trend is sober juice crawls, and millennials are flocking all over the country to celebrate. All this non-alcoholic fun has resulted in researchers pondering, is sober becoming the new drunk?
Juice crawls are only one of many booze-free events in the US catering towards millennials who want to ditch the booze for clarity. New York is a prime location for Juice Crawls. At one crawl in the big apple, participants forego alcohol shots in favor for juice shots with names like “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kalefornia.”
The Guardian highlighted this trend by visiting a monthly juice crawl event where participants hop from different shops and sample 19 flavors of juices in a 2 oz. plastic cup. This event is just one of many that have popped up in major US cities to cater to the millennials who are now saying no to alcohol.
The people who go to these events are not all recovering addicts. In fact, it is quite the contrary. These juice crawl groups are full of people who would rather engage in mindfulness activities and indulge in healthy juices then wake up with a hangover. While in the past, cutting booze would have been a significant social change, now events like these are more mainstream.
In addition to these crawls, there are now sober day races, alcohol-free bars, boozeless dinner, and alcohol-free dance parties. There is even a sober social network and a dating app for sober people that became so popular, it temporarily shut down.
In these tough economic times, many millennials are opting to stay away from alcohol. A recent study on millennials in five countries found that 75% of those surveyed drink in moderation when they go out at night.
Auzeen Saedi is a clinical psychologist that spends lots of time with younger patients. She mentioned in an article the biggest fear millennials have about the future is fear:
“I think the pressures are higher because [young] people see that even if you have a great degree, that does not guarantee you a job by any means.”
All of this uncertainty is due to the financial strains millennials have observed the past few years, and understanding that nothing is guaranteed upon graduation. Fortunately, mindfulness and yoga have become extremely trendy, and millennials often use these activities for stress-relief.
“Right now there are all these yogi Instagram celebrities with millions of followers … and they’re not drinking beer, they’re drinking juice,” she says. “Mindfulness, in a way, is the new church.”
Spirituality is becoming a big practice among millennials. Many are opting for meditation retreats to connect to something higher. The great thing about these retreats is that they reduce stress, and allow the ability to go on vacation with a purpose without fear of being intoxicated. The trend has saturated social media. On Instagram, there are celebrities with millions of follows. They are not drinking beer. They are not promoting the drunken party life. They are exercising, meditating and drinking juice.
Of course, not everyone loves this trend. Ross Haenfler became a straight-edge punk in the late 80s and was part of a group that embraced drug and alcohol in favor of political activism. Haenfler believes these new sober groups need to have a bigger message that fights more significant issues such as consumerism, homophobia, and racism. Otherwise, he questions the motive behind it all and whether or not people are participating in it due to the sudden popularity.
Overall, the clean healthy living movement is full of those who rather opt for glowing skin and yoga classes than party like it’s 1999. For most, it is far from a political movement. But regardless of the reasons people do it, more and more people are finding sober outings a more enjoyable experience for the mind, body, and soul than boozing up all night ever was.
The culture of drinking is changing, and more and more people would rather socialize through healthy activities than using drugs and alcohol as a conversation starter. If you are struggling, remember there is life after recovery. It is up to you to discover what that looks like. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Cody Withrow, co-founder of I Am Improv, performing on stage.
Author: Shernide Delva
For many of us, the idea of stepping onstage and being asked to perform without a script sounds terribly frightening. However, as an addict, it could be just what you need to finally free yourself from years of being trapped in your chattering mind.
Improvisational comedy allows you to gain confidence and communicate in an expressive way. Over time, Improv can help you acquire skills such as being spontaneous, trusting others and listening that can transform your life after recovery.
Many addicts use drugs to feel happier, relax and free themselves from depression and anxiety. Improvisation has been proven to help with coping with those emotions. You will finally learn how to feel free and “high” without the use of drugs.
Social Anxiety disorders affect 15 million Americans. People with social anxiety often try to overcome their social anxiety through unhealthy habits like using drugs which can lead to a drug addiction. Improv has been studied to treat social anxiety. Researchers have seen a positive correlation between Improvisation and decreasing social anxiety.
So what is Improv?
Improvisational Comedy is defined as a form of live theater in which “the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment.” Like me, you may have heard about Improv from the popular television show from years ago called Whose Line is It Anyway. Improvisational acting is considered one of the hardest forms of acting to master because of the spontaneous nature of the art form. Everything is made up and unrehearsed.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Withrow, one of the co-founders of the Improv troupe I Am Improv. Along with licensed therapist, Mike Berger, the improv troupe I Am Improv conducts workshops and performs all throughout South Florida at various venues, theaters and rehab facilities.
Withrow elaborated on how Improv was able to transform him on a personal level after years of being consumed by a drug addiction to opioids. He took the time to talk about how he feels other recovering addicts could benefit from participating in improv.
How did you get involved in improv?
Withrow: I’ve done improv for the past 26 years; I just didn’t know it was improv. I’ve always been making up and doing very funny stuff but about a year and half ago, I met a friend named Mike. After meeting, we thought to ourselves ‘Why don’t we start doing something that incorporates comedy?’ and we thought ‘Wow, what about improv?’ We’ve heard of improv classes. Long story short, we got an improv book, we brought it to a friend’s apartment and we started doing improv games. They were hilarious. We joined a drop in class, we met a teacher, started auditing classes and it kind of went from there.
Can you describe how Improv has helped you grow on a personal level?
Withrow: It’s made me more confident. I didn’t actually think that was going to happen at all. I didn’t think there would be any improvement. But what happens in the theater, it goes into life and vice versa. So art imitates life; Life imitates art. Since doing scenes, I’d be more confident. I would yell more. I could do boisterous characters. It actually let me be freer. I call it spiritual lubricant. I felt like I was lubricating myself spiritually. I felt like I was able to do more stuff adaptable in the real world because I was getting this kind of life practice in improv scenes. It was very interesting.
I definitely found a new respect for my body and I realized an actor’s ultimate key is the body. It helped me get in touch with my awareness of my recovery with drugs. A lot of it was done because of how much I hated myself. I never liked my body or my body image. So improv was really about embracing this body I have as a tool in order for me to embrace these characters, to sing and dance and to try different movement.
You mentioned your addiction. Can you go further into your drug addiction?
Withrow: Yes I can. I was addicted to pain killers for years, five years. I got on them at 17. I started smoking weed at 15 or 14. I knew off the bat I was an addict because I wanted more and more and more. Weed wasn’t enough. I took painkillers. Painkillers wasn’t enough. Actually it was. I just needed more and more of them. I became homeless. Parents kicked me out. I was a mess. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I cashed bad checks. I wasn’t even a person anymore. I was like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, just this skinny frail creature that lived outside and did anything to get high.
How did getting involved with improv help in your recovery process?
Withrow: Improv was not involved at all with my immediate recovery. It wasn’t until I had five years of sobriety that improv was involved. I will say that laughter and playing around was always there but I didn’t know it was improv.
But yes, improv can definitely be used in the early stages of recovery. I wasn’t aware of the tools but improv can help with many things. First of all, it gets you out of your mind. The cool thing is you get kind of thrown into the present moment and the improv games are best done without thinking. The more you think, the more you’re–I don’t want to say wrong, but the more it’s kind of off.
The good thing about improv is the yes-and factor. Yes-and which is radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is accepting everything you do exactly the way it is. So with improv, you do a game called three things where you say, ‘Give me three things!’ : Give me three birds. Give me three cars. You can literally say anything and we count it. ‘Oh that’s one, two, and three!’
It sounds so silly but it’s amazing to be a recovering addict and to be given ‘You’re right no matter what’. Everything is going to be okay no matter what; that kind of radical acceptance. We’re told doing improv games, ‘Go quick! Go quick! Go quick!’ The quicker you are, the more you’re out of your head.
What tools learned in improv can apply to life for a recovering addict?
Withrow: The comradery: Most improv games, they’re interactive with people. Laughing is contagious. Laughing is more contagious than drugs are. When you start laughing with people, the love is so much stronger. You can’t shake that. And when you got someone giggling and someone else is laughing while someone else is laughing and someone else is being silly; they open up in a whole new way.
Using improv is an interactive skill. It actually helps you to learn better. Addicts don’t do well sitting in a classroom […] They need to see it, they need to feel it. Improv is an interactive thing, an interactive teaching school, where it develops on many different skill sets: listening, communicating, using your body and addicts have to be interactive. They need to be stimulated.
How can introverts be involved? A lot of addicts deal with social anxiety or may have been introverts. What can you say to motivate someone who’s too intimidated to get involved?
Withrow: Good Question. Improv is best done like recovery is best done. The beginning of the first step is ‘We.’ The first word ‘We’. We are powerless. We admitted we are powerless, and that our lives have become unmanageable. So when I’m doing a workshop, we never throw anybody out in the middle of the circle. All the games are done together in unison and that’s the best way to do it.
When you see other people being silly, it gives you permission so we like to give everybody permission together. We never want to single anybody out and I think it takes time to to develop wanting to do a scene by yourself. But in the beginning, we do group games that require all unison, everybody’s doing it together. No one is not doing something. There is definitely a risk, no matter what, there is a risk that has to be taken.
Are you ready to take the risk? If you’re eager to delve in or simply watch a show, you can find more information on the I Am Improv website and locate events on their Facebook page.
Ultimately, getting out of your comfort zone helps tremendously in your life after recovery. Finding new activities such as joining an Improv class can be a healthy way of “feeling high” without the use of drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
The drugs and alcohol are out of your system. You are feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a long and hard binge and detox process. Your libido is back. Your priority needs to be on staying sober. The last thing you want is the added stress of a new relationship.
Another reason for why people are advised to avoid relationships in the first year of recovery is that they need to get to know themselves better before they choose a partner. You may try to use romance as a replacement for alcohol or drugs. All you will be doing is substituting one addiction with another. Until you have managed to build a strong recovery, you will be vulnerable in a new relationship.
How to Navigate Romantic Relationships in Recovery
People in sobriety can find romantic relationships to be their hardest challenge. Some may have abused alcohol and drugs in the beginning because they lacked the confidence to meet new people. When you become sober, you may once again struggle with shyness.
These are some effective ways for people to navigate romantic relationships in recovery:
Although it isn’t explicitly written, many people in recovery and professionals in the addictions field say it is best to completely avoid new romantic relationships for at least the first year of recovery.
Get a Plant
Old timers in AA offer the following steps that people should take before beginning a romance in recovery. First they should buy a plant and take care of this. If the plant is still flourishing after one year then they should buy a pet. If after two years the plant and the pet are doing well only then should people feel ready for a romantic relationship.
Get to Know Yourself
In order for people to be happy in their relationships, they first need to be happy with themselves. Find out what interests you have such as hobbies, leisure activities, sports, etc. Get out and play. Meet sober friends.
Beware of Thirteen Steppers
Thirteenth stepping refers to a situation where an experienced AA or NA member begins a sexual relationship with a newcomer. Being newly sober, you are vulnerable. You will rely on the other members of the fellowship to help you find your feet in sobriety. Unfortunately, there are people who will try to take advantage of such vulnerability to satisfy their own sexual desires.
Be Aware of Codependency
Many alcoholics and addicts are also codependent in their relationships. This means that you put more effort into the relationship than the other person does, that you always put their needs before your own, and that you would rather stay in the relationship even if you are unhappy because you are afraid to be alone. Look out for this in others, too.
Talk to Your Sponsor
Dealing with romantic relationships in recovery is probably the most stressful challenge you will face in sobriety. Your sponsor is someone you can trust and, in fact, have trusted with guiding you through the Steps (especially think of Steps 4 and 5) so they know you pretty well. Your sponsor is a sounding board and a source for advice.
Remember: During the early years of recovery, sobriety should be your first priority. If a relationship threatens your recovery then you may need to walk away.