Tag Archives: drugs

How Mental Illness and Addiction Influence Each Other

Standard

Many addicts struggle with mental disorders. I myself struggle with bipolar one and it is the cause of much of my use (read my journals for more personal accounts). Using drugs to defeat things like that or depression and anxiety most often make things worse. It can further offset the symptoms despite the immediate satisfaction. Its important to see a psychologist, being as honest as you can, to seek proper treatment. I have found that treating my illness with prescription drugs has controlled my mental/emotional state far better than any illegal substance I have ever used. The effects are long-term and with the help of medial professionals, I am able to stay sober and sane.” – Love, Robyn

There is a complex relationship between addiction, such as alcoholism, and mental illness. Treatment needs to focus on both conditions at the same time, once the right diagnoses have been made. 

The complexities of mental illness are often compounded by drug and alcohol abuse, making it a challenge to get the right diagnoses and treatment for both.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: A “Complex Dance”
“Mental illness and alcoholism or drug abuse interact in a complex dance, “says James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and research scientist at UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. “Mental illnesses can increase the risk for alcoholism or drug abuse, sometimes because of self-medicating. On the other hand, alcoholism can lead to significant anxiety and depression that may appear indistinguishable from a mental illness. Finally, one disorder can be worse than the other.”

According to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at New York University in New York City, “Alcoholism and drug abuse addictions and other psychiatric disorders often occur at the same time. However, they are distinct disorders that must be treated as such in order to get a good outcome for the patient.”

Rorschach Test Smoke

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Likely Conditions
Certain mental conditions are frequently associated with alcohol and drug dependency. They include:

  • Depression. In some cases, individuals may start to abuse a substance to mask the symptoms of depression. Female substance abusers are particularly likely to have depression, but it also occurs in male substance abusers.
  • Bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar disorder — a condition that causes alternating cycles of depression and an abnormally elevated mood — may attempt to smooth out mood swings with alcohol.
  • Anxiety. Alcohol abuse is more common in both men and women with anxiety disorders.
  • Schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, may lead to substance abuse as a way to ease the distress that these symptoms can cause.

Those with a mental disorder may also be less inhibited and more likely to show risk-taking behavior — like buying and using illegal drugs or drinking to excess — that could quickly lead to alcohol or drug abuse. “Individuals with a mental disorder could have impaired judgment and consume higher amounts of a drug or alcohol, says Dr. Garbutt.”

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Underlying Causes 
There are also other factors that could explain the frequent simultaneous occurrence of addiction and mental illness, including:

  • Genetics. Genetic factors seem to account for some of the co-morbidity (having both disorders at the same time) of substance abuse and mental disorders. Studies comparing identical and fraternal twins found more instances of having two disorders among the identical twins, indicating that genetics likely play some role.
  • Chemical deficiency. Neuro-chemical factors were also found to be a common thread when mental disorders and addiction occur together. A reduction in the amount of serotonin, a chemical critical to brain functioning, may be the reason that alcoholism and anxiety disorders coincide so often. There is also evidence that addiction and mental disorders are associated with the dysfunction of a group of brain chemicals called monoamine oxidases.
  • Shared environment. Studies surrounding twins also showed that environment plays a major role in having both a substance abuse problem and another mental disorder.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: What Is the Exact Relationship?
The answer is not entirely clear, but the connection works both ways. People with alcohol and drug addictions tend to develop mental illnesses. People with certain mental illnesses tend to develop substance abuse problems.

“Fifty percent of those with an addictive disorder will have a psychiatric disorder. And for those who have a psychiatric disorder, about 20 percent have an addiction problem,” says Dr. Gilman.

That number is even higher in those with certain mental conditions. “A variety of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, antisocial personality disorder [characterized by a lack of empathy toward other people], anxiety, sleep disorders, or depression, increase the risk of addiction. Those with the highest risk of addiction have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — up to 50 percent [of people with these conditions] can have an addiction,” says Garbutt.

Researchers don’t yet know exactly why people with these particular disorders are at an increased risk for addiction, says Garbutt, but it has been noted that:

  • Abruptly stopping alcohol intake can lead to withdrawal symptoms — including hallucinations — that may look just like schizophrenic symptoms.
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse can cause changes in the brain, sometimes leading to changes in personality and mental disorders.
  • Alcoholics of both genders frequently suffer depression and anxiety disorders, while men are more likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder than non-abusers of alcohol.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Treating Two Sets of Symptoms
According to Gilman, “It is very important, but often difficult, to distinguish which symptoms are psychiatric and which are addictive. A person must be substance-free for a period of at least two weeks in order to tease apart the various symptoms.”

“Clinically speaking, you have to treat the addiction and the psychological symptoms at the same time. Misdiagnosis, and therefore under-treatment, is common, such as when an alcohol addiction is masking bipolar disorder,” says Garbutt.

Garbutt and Gilman both believe that treating an addiction and a mental illness at the same time is possible, and when you treat them together you can begin the process of unraveling the underlying causes of each.

By Linda Foster, MA from Everyday Health
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Advertisements

Take Twelve

Standard

This is about the time we begin to ask if she is still alive…

And she is!

And now we ask if she is still sober..

She is!

But is she still sane?

It appears so…

What a happy day! She spent three hours in total driving to and from the unbearably busy mall to get her computer fixed and while it does turn on, there are fuzzy technicoloured lines that remind her of tripping… no matter.

She has spent the past few weeks unpacking, painting and decorating her rooms in her new house. Her mom was kind enough to give her two little rooms to use as a massage room and a bedroom. She’s had fun placing all her nick-hacks and art work on her walls. But thats boring stuff! We don’t care about the day to day, we are curious about her head.

Smoking

She woke up— everyday seemed to be the same. Time was dragging on. It seemed like it was taking forever to get things done. Would she ever find a sense of normalcy again? She felt guilty for not going to the gym, for eating poorly and waking up only minutes from noon. She grabbed a bottle of water and went out on the back porch and find her mom rocking in a wicker chair with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She sat down next to her and lit one up for herself.

“It’s like we’re here decorating someone else’s house and we’re going to go home when its all over,” her mom spoke softly.

“Yeah.”

“Theres just so much to do. The trip down here was so hard. So stressful. Everything is… so stressful.” A tear fell down her face.

“I know. Its a lot. I’m struggling too. I’ve tried not to let it out.” Her mom looked up at her as she said this, cocking her head to side suggesting to tell her more. “Its unpacking all my things… It all comes rushing back. I left it all behind when I came down here earlier to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Living out of a bag for a month, it was like an escape.. But now its all back. Every little thing reminds me where I’ve been. What I’ve done. How I’ve hurt everyone…” She hesitated and continued, “I found a letter that Daddy wrote to me and hid in one of my travel documents before I left for India. He had so much faith… but so much fear. I could tell. It broke my heart.” She burst into tears. Together they sat crying.

“You know we love you. No matter what, we will always be here for you.”

Her throat knots as she writes this and recollects this moment of weakness. It’s always in the back of her mind but every second of every day she pushes it out. She has learnt to recognize when she is about to slip and quickly resists those feelings. She doesn’t want to break down. She does’t want to fall into depression and get lost in the past. But she remembers it all. The letters she opened on the plane to France from her parents, her sister. They left so much love in those few pages. So much hope for her future. She let them all down.koorg

She ventured into the depths of the messages that were sent from her parents while she was in India.

Tears are rolling down her face now. She could tell when she was going crazier and crazier. She can see the dates. The times. Those words. Those lies.

I have been catching up with time, got lost in koorg for those few days hanging out with my friend pooja —3/22, 10:52am (11:22pm India-time)

‘Getting lost in Koorg.’ Koorg was where it began. The unraveling of her mind. She remembers the trip that set it off. Physical and mental.

Right now its too hard to write about. Maybe later, she thinks as she tries to shove it off. She’ll probably post it, password protected, on her blog soon. Stay tunes I guess. 

 

Take Eleven: The 90th Day

Standard

(A recollection of my last relapse)

This is the perfect time, she thought. The party her parents had thrown was winding down and there was only one guest left standing. Her dad was drunk, that was obvious. Her step-mom might have been a little tipsy…
Its been hard for her to find the perfect moments to steal booze from their butlers pantry for a while. Every time she took some, she took it from another bottle, switching off, hoping no one would notice. Sure enough, no one did. But this time she could get away with not only enough for tonight, but enough for the nights to follow. She took her first chance to grab the largest coffee mug and fill it to the brim with vodka. She made her way upstairs unnoticed. She rolled her eyes when she saw the new meds she had got prescribed earlier sitting on her dresser. She picked up the sample packet and read: “Do not consume with alcohol. May cause dizziness and poor concentration.” That doesn’t sound so bad. So she popped the pill in her mouth and held the mug to her lips. It went down her throat, burning, as she gulped down what she assumed was about 4 shots.
She made her way downstairs, making pleasant conversation, laughing, joking and flaunting her best wit. Then she dismissed herself to her room where she lay on her bed typing away.
It was well into the night and as she was journalling about her latest relapse. She cocked her head up and thought, if I’m going to relapse, I want to relapse on something hard. Something worth relapsing over. She got up, stumbling and made her way down the hall, tip-toeing and jumping from carpet to carpet. When she reached her parents room, she glanced in cautiously and then took a bolt to the medicine cabinet. She reach in pulling out an old dusty green basket. She slid each prescription up and read the fine print. Blah blah-pin, blah blah-izon, Vicodin! She opened it and examined one of the oval pills. Classic, she thought, I replaced these all with generic Aspirin… She shoved the bottle back in with the rest. But then, there it was; Tylonal 3’s with Codine. Codine, Codine, I know about Codine… She took the bottle and placed the basket carefully back on the shelf.
With the bottle on her desk, she lay her head on her folded arms, gazing dreamily at the pills. She smiled and knocked down every last one. She knew they were old, so they probably weren’t very strong and she knew she had a tolerance for opiates at this point.
The night went fast as she sat there embracing the tingling in her body. Her parents had gone to bed and after a few hours, all her symptoms had run out. She was bored. Not tired. Her mouth was dry. What now? She searched her own medicine cabinet and found a box of Benedryl and an unopened bottle. She never thought it would resort to this but she was desperate for a high. Her friend had told her about how hard he tripped once and she was intrigued. She had tried it once but it only knocked her out. She figured she didn’t take enough that time. So she quietly ripped of the aluminum seals and collected the pink pills in a pile on her bed. 20 pills. She went and got some water, forgetting about the alcohol sitting on her nightstand and swallowed them all at once. She wrote again:

20131203-174703.jpgEntry 17: August 25th, 4:45am

I feel it kicking in. First noises, are they real? Now flickering lights. O wee, I’m in for a trip! I took a shower and brushed my teeth. Put on some fresh clothes. Now i lie in bed waiting for the right moment to get up. Maybe daylight. Im kinda scared! Paranoid… Noises all over :S no one is up im sure. Ill type again if it becomes foo much. Ill pay attention to the time. It took about 50 min to feel this little feeling. Im parched and my lips are dry. We will see, we will see.

 

7am. So i saw my sheets fiddle about. Left for a bike ride. Everything spinning, beautifulllll, strrangegege. Things take form, illuminatingggg and all appears as something its not… It paints my reality in a stop-motion patterns >><<<>>>. Im so thirsty! Some nausea, shaking, memory loss. Zoning out….

20131203-174710.jpgThat all she has left of that day. That day she now sees as the one that changed her life. The day when she decided to give it all up and really try to get clean. She remembers lying in bed for another hour, her blood vessels in her legs were dancing, she thought they were going to shoot out through her skin. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her eyes were dilated so big she could only see a sliver of her iris’ blue outline. She looked closer at herself, her skin had dots all over it, was it peeling? She reached up and scratched it.. It was falling off! Her jaw dropped, her tongue huge with large pimples glowing. Her teeth looked yellow and decayed. Then, there was someone behind her. Her heart jumped as she spun herself around quickly… No one was there. She began to cry. Now the feeling that was in her legs was all over her body. Her blood wanted out. She was so afraid. She ran to her phone and called her mom as quickly as possible. Delirious, she sobbed quietly, begging her to not get mad. Begging her to listen and too please, please not get mad. She explained to her what she had done. She asked her to drive her to the hospital. Her blood was going to explode, she just knew it. Her mom hung up; shocked, pissed, but on her way. The girl ran to her parents bedroom. “Guys, guys, wake up. moms coming to get me—don’t get mad— I was stupid, Im so stupid. I took a bunch of pills. Moms coming to get me…” They were frazzled, sitting up in their bed blinking up at her. What? What was going on? “Okay honey…” was all her step-mom could think of.
She ran down the stairs and lazily fell into her moms car. They were silent. When she walked into the hospital they placed her on a bed in a room with no windows, chairs, nothing. Her mom sat there in silence. The doctors came in and out asking if she was suicidal. She promised she wasn’t, “I just wanted to get high.” After her mom had a long talk with one of the doctors she signed some papers and two buff looking women stepped in. They brought a gurney to the left side of the bed where she was resting and picked her up. Her mom came to her side and explained to her what was going to happen, “There taking you to a psych ward.”

 

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Standard

“When I first got diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder,  I was in denial. For months after hearing doctor after doctor telling me the same thing I would still hide my meds, take drugs and do anything to prove I wasn’t crazy. But the hospital visits and psych ward continued to prove I was wrong. I was crazy.

“But being bipolar doesn’t mean your crazy. The more I learn about my disorder (reading articles, books and even digging into my past) I notice that I am not alone. I notice that these moments of clear insanity have a purpose, they have a name. There are reasons to me madness and now I finally have an opportunity to treat it.

“Its important that we are knowledgable about our (or your loved ones) diagnosis because it gives us the power and courage to live with it. This is an article I have found very helpful to myself as I live with bipolar and co-occurring addiction. It’s informative and concise, clearly describing the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.” -Love, Robyn

bipolar

Bipolar disorder, once commonly known as manic depression, is a serious mental disorder that is characterized by sudden and intense shifts in mood, behavior and energy levels. Like substance abuse, bipolar disorder poses a risk to the individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of relationship problems, economic instability, accidental injuries and suicide than the general population. They are also significantly more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to statistics presented by the American Journal of Managed Care:

  • About 56 percent of individuals with bipolar who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
  • Approximately 46 percent of that group had abused alcohol or were addicted to alcohol.
  • About 41 percent had abused drugs or were addicted to drugs.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among bipolar individuals.

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and with a drug or alcohol problem, you may have a Dual Diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Having a Dual Diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, can make recovery more challenging. Bipolar individuals may experience periods of intense depression alternating with episodes of heightened activity and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This emotional instability can interfere with your recovery program, making it difficult to comply with the guidelines of your treatment plan.

Dual Diagnosis rehabilitation programs are designed to meet the needs of clients who are faced with this complex psychiatric condition. Staffed by specially trained and credentialed mental health professionals and addiction specialists, these centers offer care that integrates the best treatment strategies for bipolar disorder with the most effective treatments for addiction.

How Are Bipolar and Addiction Related?

There is no easy explanation for the high rate of substance abuse and chemical dependence among bipolar individuals. One reason for this phenomenon is that a large percentage of individuals attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an effort to numb the painful symptoms of their bipolar disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder such as anxiety, pain, depression and sleeplessness are so alarming, that many individuals will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means for offsetting the discomfort, if only for a little while. On the other hand, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that drinking and using drugs may trigger depressed or manic moods in someone with bipolar disorder.

Age and gender may play a part in the relationship between bipolar and addiction. According to the journal, Bipolar Disorder and substance abuse is more common in young males than in other population groups.

Young men are more likely than females or older men to take dangerous risks or to act on serious self-destructive impulses. In elderly individuals with bipolar disorder, the incidence of substance abuse is much lower.

Clinical researchers believe that brain chemistry may influence both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. People with bipolar disorder often have abnormal levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to WebMD. These chemicals affect vital functions like appetite, metabolism, sleep and your body’s response to stress. They also affect mood and emotions. Heavy use of drugs or alcohol can interfere with the way your brain processes these chemicals, causing emotional instability, erratic energy levels and depression. People with bipolar disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol out of an unconscious need to stabilize their moods. Unfortunately, substance abuse has the opposite effect, making the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

We all go through intense episodes of sadness, elation, anger or despair. But for someone who meets the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, these episodes are all-consuming and uncontrollable. There are four major types of mood episodes that characterize bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes — each of which has a set of unique symptoms:

Symptoms of Mania

Mania is the “high” end of the mood spectrum for bipolar individuals. Symptoms may include:

  • Moments of tremendous optimism and significant pessimism
  • Grandiose feelings
  • Rapid talking
  • Little sleep
  • Impaired judgment, irrational behavior
  • Delusional behavior
  • Hallucinations

Symptoms of Hypomania

Symptoms are similar to those found in manic behavior but less intense. Hypomanic individuals are usually capable of managing their day-to-day lives, but they experience a higher than usual level of happiness, irritability or energy. You may feel that you’re capable of taking on more responsibility, or that you need less sleep. People in your life may find that you’re more talkative or sociable. You may also be more prone to engage in risk-taking behaviors, like substance abuse. Hypomanic periods are extremely productive for some people, and because psychotic symptoms do not occur in hypomania, it might seem that you don’t really have a problem.

Symptoms of Depression

At the “low” end of the bipolar spectrum is depression, an emotional state that is often characterized by sadness, tearfulness and despair. Depression in bipolar disorder may last for days or weeks, depending on your mood cycle. These periods are dangerous for Dual Diagnosis individuals, who have a higher risk of self-injury and suicide when they’re using drugs and alcohol during a low period. When you’re depressed, you may experience:

  • Hopeless feelings
  • Loss of interest in things that used to make you happy
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Self-loathing
  • Suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of Mixed Episodes

The symptoms of bipolar disorder aren’t always clearly defined. In a mixed episode, behaviors reflect a combination of mania and depression. For example, you may have suicidal feelings and a loss of interest in your daily activities, combined with racing thoughts, pressured speech and a loss of sleep.
You may feel the urge to drink or take drugs in an attempt to balance out these unpredictable mood swings, but intoxication is only a temporary fix that won’t provide permanent relief. To achieve a full recovery, you need professional treatment that helps you stabilize your moods as you deal with the cravings and destructive impulses that characterize addiction.

 

Positive Thinking

Standard

“While too much positive thinking— as in sitting on a pink cloud—  can turn toxic, it is crucial in recovery from addiction. This article outlines everything from unlimited benefits to cautions. You can follow the links to other articles on hippyhealing.wordpress.com to find more information on certain topics as well as one of my favourite positive thinking tools; gravitation journaling.” -Enjoy, Robyn

positive thinking

The Importance of Positive Thinking in Addiction Recovery

The way that people think impacts the way they will experience the world. Those who are prone to negativity not only experience life through a grey cloud, but they are potentially setting themselves up for further misery in the future. There is strong evidence to suggest that positive thinking can improve people’s mental and physical well-being. This mode may not be the answer to every problem in life, but it can be a great help. Positive thinking can be particularly beneficial to those who are trying to build a new life in recovery from addiction.

The Benefits of Positive Thinking

There are plenty of good motivations for positive thinking including:

  • People who focus on the positive are far less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression
  • Some research indicates that positive thinking can boost the immune system. This means that people will not get sick easily as their body is better at fighting off infections.
  • Those who think positively may be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. This is because positive thinking has been shown to reduce levels of stress and inflammation in the body.
  • Thinking this way can help people live longer.
  • People who think positively are able to handle problems and stress a lot better.
  • It improves quality of life as the individual will feel more at ease.
  • Positive people have a lot more energy to do the things they want to do in life. Negativity sucks energy away.
  • If the individual feels positive they will be more likely to achieve their goals.
  • Positive people are just nicer to be around.

Positive Thinking and Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to the belief the individual has in their ability to achieve a goal. The higher their self-efficacy the more likely they will be of achieving something. This is closely related to positive thinking. Self-efficacy can be increased by:

  • If people are able to accomplish something once, their self-efficacy towards that particular task will be higher the next time.
  • If a peer manages to accomplish the task, this can raise self-efficacy. This is because of the tendency to think if they can do it then so can I.
  • The individual can have their sense of self-efficacy increased by a convincing argument provided by other people. In therapy this is referred to as motivational interviewing.

The Dangers of Stinking Thinking

Stinking thinking occurs when people are overly negative. They may feel anger and resentment about their life. They may tend to be pessimistic about the future. This mode of thought is particular dangerous for people in recovery because:

  • It increases the risk of relapse back to addiction.
  • It prevents the individual from finding happiness in sobriety.
  • People around them will suffer because of all this negativity.
  • When people are locked into negativity they experience the bumps in life to be more painful and stressful.
  • Negative thinking can prevent people from seeing the real cause of their suffering.

Negative Thinking as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

A set-fulfilling is where just predicting something helps cause it to occur. This is because people will change their behavior in light of the prediction. They may unconsciously create the conditions that allow the event to happen. For example, if the individual predicts that something they need to do is going to be too difficult, they may worry excessively about it. This worry alone may be enough to make the task more difficult. If they had a more positive attitude then perhaps the task would have been easier.

The Limitations of Positive Thinking in Addiction Recovery

While there is little doubt that positive thinking can improve life it is probably dangerous to see it as the panacea to cure all life’s ills. Positive thinking combined with unrealistically high expectations can lead to suffering, particularly if the only real action the individual takes to achieve a goal is to think positively. Positive thinking can even be dangerous for people in recovery when:

  • When it causes them to become overconfident. This is particularly likely to happen in early recovery. The individual is on a high because they believe that they are now cured of their problems. They can develop pink cloud syndrome and are full of optimism about the future. When reality catches up with them it can be painful.
  • Some people develop a type of magical thinking in regard to positivity. For instance, the individual may become convinced that if they think positively about winning the lottery, this will cause it to happen. When their numbers do not come up they feel disappointed. They may even blame themselves for not being positive enough. This type of magical thinking can be particularly harmful when people choose positivity over medicine to cure disease or injury.
  • The individual may use positive thinking as a replacement for action. This would be like somebody becoming convinced that they are going to win the lottery but not even buying a ticket. Positivity without action is useless.
  • There are many reasons for why things do not work out in life. To blame everything on lack of positivity is unreasonable and unhelpful. Just because something goes wrong in the life of the individual does not always mean that they are doing something wrong.

How to Develop a Positive Outlook

It is possible to think of positivity as being like a seed; the more people water this seed the more it will grow. Here are just a few of the ways that the individual can develop a more positive outlook in life:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal can be highly beneficial if people wish to develop a more positive outlook. This is where they will write down all the good things that are happening in their life. This will help encourage a good frame of mind that will stay with people throughout the day.
  • Make an effort to regularly spend time with inspirational books, audio, and video. What people put into their minds can be just as important as what they put into their mouths. Inspirational material can motivate people and greatly increase positivity.

The Pink Cloud

Standard

Many people like to criticize a person who is in early recovery and flying high on their ‘pink cloud.’ This is a word used to describe that possessive positive feeling when your in the first months of  recovery. I know a lot of people say I am sitting on a pink cloud. They like to remind me that relapse is possible— as though they don’t think I know that! I absolutely hate when I am in a meeting, smiling wide and so excited about my bright future in sobriety and someone glares me down, rolling their eyes at my optimism. I understand they’ve most likely ‘been there and done that’ but whats wrong with being happy for me and encouraging more excitement?  Is too much positivity a bad thing?” -Robyn

pink cloud The Joy of Recovery

Getting free of drugs or alcohol is something to celebrate. Addiction destroys lives and escaping this hell is certainly a wonderful achievement. Enjoying the freedom and newness of early recovery is to be encouraged. It is a time for waking up to the possibilities of life and benefiting from improved relationships with friends and family. The nightmare is over so there is plenty to smile about. Sometimes though, the newly sober person can feel so good that it becomes dangerous.

People may feel exceptionally good for weeks, or even months, in early sobriety. This pink cloud period is undoubtedly enjoyable, but it can also be risky. Some will come back down to reality with a bang, and that can be painful. It can also lead to overconfidence which could put people at increased risk of relapse. The individual is feeling so good that they fail to do the things they need to do to stay on track.

The Pink Cloud Defined

Early recovery is often referred to as a rollercoaster ride because it involves a mixture of great highs and great lows. Emotions that have been anesthetized with alcohol and drugs suddenly awaken, and feelings can be particularly intense. As the body and mind adjusts to this new life, there can be rapid changes in mood. There will usually come a time though, when the individual hits a smooth patch. Life will feel wonderful and the future exceptionally bright. Staying free of addiction now feels effortless and the individual may wonder what all the fuss was about.

The term pink cloud tends to be used negatively to describe people who are too high on life. They are individuals who have lost touch with reality and are now living in a fantasy land. The emotions that this person is experiencing do not properly reflect their actual situation. The pink cloud syndrome in addiction recovery was first described by Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Dangers of the Pink Cloud

It might seem odd to claim that there would be any disadvantages to feeling good. The addict may have spent decades battling their problem so it seems reasonable that they should get to feel great now. While it is true that life in recovery should be about enjoying life, there can be problems if people become too confident and complacent. They may conclude that their problems are over, and that there is no need to do anything more to maintain their sobriety. There is also the risk that when the pink cloud period ends, it will lead to huge disappointment.

Relapse is most likely to occur during the first few years of recovery. It is particularly likely to happen during the first few months after leaving rehab. The most usual reason why it occurs is that the individual stops putting enough effort into staying free of addiction. They start ignoring their problems and stop asking for help. The relapse process describes how people begin the road back to addiction as soon as they hit a point in recovery that they fail to get beyond. The risk then is that those who are on a pink cloud may feel so confident that they become stuck.

If an individual experiences a particularly pleasant period in recovery, then it can be disappointing when it ends. Life is full of ups and downs, and nobody can stay up forever. Emotions eventually settle down as the body adjusts to recovery, and the highs and lows become less intense. The individual can respond to the end of the pink cloud by assuming that they have done something wrong. They can begin to lose faith in those tools that have been keeping them away from alcohol and drugs. They may even start to question if recovery is that worthwhile after all. People can feel cheated when the super highs of early recovery are replaced by more modest emotions.

Criticisms of Pink Cloud Syndrome

There is no denying that people in early recovery do tend to experience periods when they are emotionally high. There are undoubtedly risks associated with feeling overly confident, and the comedown can be harsh. The main criticism against pink cloud syndrome is that it can be used negatively to describe people in much the same way as dry drunk is used. This could mean that the individual feels guilty about experiencing positive emotional states. The problem is not feeling good in recovery, but with staying on track.

How to Change Your Playground

Standard

“Everyone in the recovery rooms suggest that you don’t make any major life decisions/changes within the first year of recovery however, they do tell you to also change your playground. That means; people, places and things. These guidelines are made for a good reason but I found in order to do one thing, I had to discount the other. I moved to Florida for a fresh start. I changed everything. Here, I know only family members that support my recovery and other than that, this place is like a foreign land. I have found that, despite the major change, changing my playground has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. It keeps me on track; no distractions, no temptations. Here are some tips of how you can make the change without going miles away!” -Love, Robyn

playground

One of the most crucial components of a successful addiction recovery is changing your lifestyle. This most often includes distancing yourself from old drinking friends and haunts, such as a favorite bar. Addiction recovery usually entails making new friends. This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s something we all do throughout our lives. Healthy friends are important to our emotional and physical well-being, and they can impact someone’s recovery by decreasing the risk of relapse.

Here are some tips from PsychCentral.com on how to find new friends while in addiction recovery:

  1. Making friends is not just for the young. Most friendships don’t span a lifetime, so many people are continually looking to replenish their group of friends. Remember that looking for friends at any age is normal.
  2. Pursue your passions to find friends who share similar interests. If you’re just starting to realize your passions during your new life in recovery, pick a hobby or try out a few. Look for local and online communities that are involved in the same activities.
  3. Put yourself in situations where you see the same people routinely. For example, the gym, a class, club, political group or volunteer organization. It’s often casual acquaintances that set the ground for new friendships. Start conversations and follow-up with people. Show you’re interested in others’ lives.
  4. Don’t shy away from online communities or websites, such as www.girlfriencircles.com orwww.meetup.com. Athletics, book clubs, films, gardening, or pets. Find people who are interested in the same things you are and there is potential for developing a new friendship. Enjoy friendships online and/or offline. Join neighborhood or apartment building listservs to try and meet those around you.
  5. Be prepared that not every person you try to befriend will turn into a friendship. This is a healthy and expected part of life.

Be patient. Friendships don’t just happen over night. Give it time and don’t give up if at first it feels awkward or intimidating. There are many rewards to growing new friendships while building your new life in addiction recovery.

Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

Standard

“Having only drank for one year of my life, I hardly consider myself an alcoholic. But I know how important it is for me to see it as any other drug so I am welcomed to AA as NA/CA just the same. I wanted to understand holistic approaches to alcoholism just as I understand the addiction. Turns out their not really much different. This blog can help not only a drunky but a junky too.” -Love, Robyn

Image

Alcohol addiction is a multifaceted brain disorder which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat and why a holistic approach to alcoholism is the prescription needed for craving-free and long-term sobriety

The roots of alcoholism lie in an imbalance or depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain that is caused by the alcohol itself, nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar, allergy, poor diet, hypothyroidism, toxins in the environment, childhood abuse,chronic stress or many of the other things that disrupt neurotransmitters.

However, these biochemical roots affect every aspect of an individual’s life. It alters personality, cognitive functioning and spiritual connections. It impacts the physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual levels deeply.

We’ll call these other issues, secondary contributors to alcoholism. Although they are not the core root, if they are not addressed they have the power to sabotage recovery.

The physical, emotional and spiritual elements are deeply intertwined. The biochemical/physical impacts the spiritual and the psychological and the spiritual affects the biochemical and psychological and vice versa.

When an individual addresses the true biochemical roots of their addiction with a holistic approach to alcoholism, physical healing begins and biochemical repair is essential to success in long-term sobriety. Deep spiritual and emotional healing can’t be complete without it. However, if one only addresses the biochemical and neglects the spiritual and emotional then they are still at risk of relapse or relapse.

The damage that is done on the physical level has a great impact on the psychological and the spiritual. When your brain and body systems aren’t functioning properly, it has a profound impact on emotional and spiritual health which is often exhibited in a variety of negative psychological symptoms.

Incorporating a holistic approach to alcoholism into your recovery plan helps the individual to heal on all these levels and therefore increases the success rates of long-term sobriety quite drastically.

Unique Aspects of a Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

Alcoholism is unique from other diseases in that it often destroys marriages or relationships or alienates family and friends. Family members and friends must often distance themselves from the alcoholic in order to save their own sanity and in some cases protect themselves emotionally and/or physically. When this occurs, the alcoholic is left in a position without much support. For those who stick around, there is usually a great deal of damage done to the relationship and healing is required.

Another unique component to alcoholism, is that after one engages in the alcoholic lifestyle for an extended period of time, it then becomes a learned behavior to some degree. They learn to respond to stress, pain, sadness, anger etc. by taking a drink or a drug. It becomes a habitual response without thought. These types of behaviors must be unlearned and replaced with healthier behaviors. Habits and routines must be broken. A new lifestyle needs to be embraced.

Alcoholism recovery is also unique in that there is likely to be a great deal of shame, guilt and remorse for actions and behaviors that the alcoholic engaged in while intoxicated, which must be dealt with in a healthy manner to keep them from interfering in sobriety.

Depending on factors such as each individuals background and how long one has been living with alcoholism, there can be a variety of other secondary factors that need to be taken into consideration and addressed, such as relationship issues, childhood sexual or physical abuse, impact on marriage, parenting issues and interpersonal skills. Many people who’ve lived with alcoholism for a long time may be lacking in a variety of social skills that are necessary to get through life. These factors will not apply to everyone, but for those who it does, this is where traditional counseling is called for.

And yet another exclusive aspect of alcoholism is that sometimes the individual goes through a grieving period when they begin recovery. Giving up alcohol is like losing a very good friend or a loved one. Emotional support is a crucial for those who have this experience.

With all these different factors weighing in the alcoholism recovery equation, to address only one aspect will not lead to successful long-term sobriety. All issues must be addressed simultaneously or they become possible triggers for relapse and undermine recovery.

A holistic approach to alcoholism may include the following:

1. Biochemical repairs that addresses the physical as well as the psychological:

  • Identify neurotransmitter imbalances and metabolic disorders
  • Nutritional support during detox and later
  • Changes in diet and nutrition
  • Recognizing environmental factors
  • Addressing nutritional deficiencies
  • Individualized diet plans
  • Dietary and nutritional counseling
  • Exercise

2. Counseling, groups or seminars for social and emotional issues:

  • Childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse and neglect
  • Dealing with loss and grief of alcoholism
  • Coping skills
  • Parenting skills
  • Lifestyle adjustment
  • Communication skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • What to do with loneliness, boredom, too much time on your hands
  • Repair relationships

3. Discovering spiritual connections:

  • Developing a relationship with yourself
  • Connecting more deeply with yourself
  • Healing relationships
  • Engaging in spiritually fulfilling activities
  • Forgiveness of self
  • Activities that make you feel whole, complete and connected
  • Deep and meaningful activities
  • Mindfulness based meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Communing with nature

Another very important component in the holistic approach to alcoholism is that treatment is individualized and personalized according to each persons needs and issues.

One person may have many secondary issues while another individual may have none or only one. Treatment approaches will vary to some degree in the biochemical aspect as well as the emotional and spiritual aspects.

Someone who has been drinking for 20 years may have a lot more complex biochemical and social issues than someone who become an alcoholic two years ago after their husband died.

An individual who lived with childhood sexual, emotional or physical abuse or neglect may have more challenges to face than someone who had a loving childhood. Their alcoholism recovery plan would likely include a lot more focus on the counseling aspect.

One person may need a great deal of counseling and training in areas such as communication and assertiveness while others may be quite competent in these areas. Some people may adjust easier to a new lifestyle while another may struggle a great deal. All these details need to be taken into account and adjusted for specifically for the individual.

Character Defect Meditation

Standard

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

When thinking about step six, even if your not there yet, it can be troubling. Who wants to name all of their character defects? Its not nice to point out other peoples flaws and its certainly not fun pointing out your own. Thats why I went looking for another way we can handle working through this step. Something that will give us courage but most importantly: serenity. Below you will find some adjectives that you might use to describe any number of your faults. I suggest picking a few of the most dominant traits to start with. Then there is a step-by-step guided meditation practice. Give it a look over and try it out loud first. Then, when your ready , you can really dig deep and spend some time with yourself and your thoughts. Relax and observe yourself. There is no fear, there is no tension. It’s just you and complete, utter, honesty.” -Best of luck, Robyn

List of Possible Character Defects:

  • anger, hatred
  • anxiety – Not as a clinical diagnosis, but as a general way of viewing things with an eye toward what is wrong, what might be wrong, what has been wrong or what is going to be wrong. Excessive worry, especially about things I cannot change.
  • arrogance – Offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.
  • closed mindedness – Contempt prior to investigation. Disregarding things and ideas just because they are new and unknown. Being unwilling to try things or follow suggestions. Failing to remain teachable.  Having a mind firmly unreceptive to new ideas or arguments.
  • dependency, over dependency, co dependency – Relying on others to provide for us what we ought to provide for ourselves. Feeling we must be in a relationship, or must hold on to others who want to move on. Letting others control us to an extreme due to our fear of being alone, abandoned, or independent.
  • depression, pessimism – Not as a clinical condition, but as a way to generally see the dark side of things.
  • dishonesty – Sins of omission and commission. Telling lies, hiding things, telling half truths or pretending something is so that isn’t. Withholding important information. Adding untrue details to stories and situations.  Stealing, cheating, taking things that aren’t ours and that we aren’t entitled to.
  • controlling attitude toward people, places and things – Trying to control others by manipulation, bribery, punishment, withholding things or tricking them into acting as we wish, even when we believe it is in their best interest to do so. Failing to be equal partners with others and to consider their knowledge and opinions.
  • fear
  • gluttony, greed – Wanting and taking too much: food, sex, time, money, comfort, leisure, material possessions, attention, security.  Acquiring things (material things, relationships, attention) at the expense of others.
  • gossiping – Speaking or writing about others in a negative manner, especially to get them in trouble or to feel superior to them and bond with someone else against the target of the gossip.  When I find myself talking about someone, I must pause and check out why I am mentioning their name.
  • humility, a lack of humility – Feeling better than and worse than others, and being self centered.
  • impatience – Being frustrated by waiting, wanting often to be some time in the future, wanting something to change or improve rather than accepting it as it is.
  • intolerance – Not accepting people or things for who or what they are.
  • inventory taking, being judgmental – Noticing and listing, out loud or to ourselves, the faults of others.
  • jealousy and envy – Wanting what others have, feeling we don’t have enough or deserve more, wishing we had what others do instead of them. This applies to material possessions like houses, cars, money and such. It also applies to nonmaterial things like relationships, a nice family, children, parents, friends and partners, and fulfilling work relationships. We can envy others their looks and physical appearance, their talents and physical abilities or attributes such as thinness, tallness, sports ability or musical talent.
  • laziness, procrastination, sloth – Not doing as much as is reasonable for us to do. Putting things off repeatedly. Not carrying our own load as much as we are able. Letting others provide things for us that we ought to get for ourselves.
  • perfectionism – Expecting or demanding too much from ourselves or others. Treating things that aren’t perfect as not good enough. Not recognizing a good try or progress.
  • prejudice – Pre-judging people based on a group they belong to. Negative feelings about someone based on their religion, race, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation, accent, politics, economic status, physical characteristics like height, weight, hair style, clothing style, physical fitness.
  • rationalization, minimizing and justifying, self-justification – Saying and/or believing I had good motives for bad behavior.  Saying that I did bad things for good reasons, or that what I did really wasn’t that bad.
  • resentment – The feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.
  • rigidity and fear of change
  • self centeredness, selfishness – Spending excessive time thinking about myself. Considering myself first in situations. Not having enough regard for others or thinking about how circumstances hurt or help others. Thinking about what I can get out of situations and people, what’s in it for me? Spending too much time considering my appearance, acquiring things for myself, pampering myself, indulging myself.
  • self pity

From a blog by Lydia at Don’t Drink and Don’t Die

Meditation

Step Six Meditation:Uncover and detach from our defects

1. Relaxation, Centering and Aligning with our Higher Power

  • Let’s begin our meditation as before by getting comfortable and listening to our breath. Feel the clean light-filled air on the inhale filling your lungs and body with goodness and love. Exhale deeply and visualize all sickness and negativity leaving your lungs and body with the breath.
  • I relax and I let go. Repeat this phrase in rhythm with your breathing and feel the tension release from your body, your emotions and your mind.
  • I let go and I let God ( or use the word – Love).  Continue your path towards relaxation by using this mantra as you breath. Concentrate on the words and imagine all of the day-to-day stuff that you can let go of and turn over to your Higher Power. Begin focusing on your heart center. Imagine a white light glowing in your chest that is warm and full of love. Remember that this heart center is your connection to Higher Power and to the Universe and all of the good is available to you.
  • “I offer myself to my Higher Power.” Become aware of how this surrender affirmation feels and what images you can use to support this affirmation.

2. Dis-identification exercise

  • “I have a body, but I am not my body.  My body may find it self in different conditions of health or sickness; it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my SpiritSelf, my real ‘I.’ My body is my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well; I seek to keep it in good physical condition, but it is not myself. I have a bodybut I am not my body.
  • I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.  These emotions are countless, contradictory, changing, and yet I know that I always remain I, my SpiritSelf, in times of hope or despair, in joy or in pain, in a state of irritation or of calm. Since I can observe, understand, and judge my emotions, and then increasingly dominate, direct, and utilize them, it is evident that they are not myself. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.
  • “I have desires, but I am not my desires, aroused by drives, physical and emotional, and by outer influences. Desires too are changeable and contradictory, with alterations of attractions and repulsions. I have desires but they are not myself.
  • “I have a mind, but I am not my mind. It is more or less developed and active; it is undisciplined but teachable; it is an organ of knowledge in regard to the outer world as well as the inner; but it is not my SpiritSelf. Ihave a mind, but I am not my mind.

3. Let’s begin our work with one of our defects. I suggest that you select 1 defect to reflect on in each meditation. You may need to work for a number of meditations on one specific defect to help detach from it. Hold in your mind the defect that you wish to share with your Higher Power in the Sunlight of the Spirit.

  • have (this defect), but I am not (this defect.)  Visualize this defect as separate and detached from you. Repeat this affirmation adding any visualizations or emotions that will help to support this for you.
  • Next let’s work to replace this defective quality with a higher, positive spiritual quality.   You may substitute any word for the spiritual quality or virtue that expresses the opposite of the defect into this affirmation.
    • “I am the “(insert spiritual quality)” of my Higher Power in action.”  Repeat it over and over with in rhythm with your breathing in your meditation. You may wish to add a visualization to accompany the affirmation that reinforces and imprints the energy of the quality within you.  In this way we begin to weed out the defects within our Spiritual Garden and replace them with the fruits and flowers of our virtues.

4. I am a Spiritual Being. Imagine being free of all that is weighing you down emotionally, mentally and physically. I am one with my Higher Power, connected in my heart center, I now rest in this conscious contact and oneness with my Higher Power.

5. End your meditation slowly. Open your eyes and look around the room. Sit quietly for several minutes.

Please do not get discouraged and give up. This is practice. You will think that you are not being very productive, that you are distracted and not doing it right. Persist through this. Be consistent. You will discover the fruits of your meditation over time. The first goal achieved will be emotional balance, , emotional sobriety, a calm within the storm of our thoughts and emotions. Stick with it.

From 11th Step Mediation, The Sixth Step

Take Ten

Standard

What if she woke up one morning and actually listened to that little voice inside her head? The one that tells her go outside and practice yoga, to read instead of waste time online, to eat smaller portions, to go to the gym, to paint, to journal, to pray, to live? Sometimes she’ll just lay there, listening to the voice as it goes on and on. Later, she says. She begins to make excuses.

She’s been in Florida about a month now. Doing not much else but sleeping, eating, driving from doctor to doctor and playing the day by ear. Some days are good; she reads, she writes, she works out a couple hours and makes it to a meeting. But now, ever sense she broke down at the gym a week back, she hasn’t visited since. It was terribly embarrassing. One second she was doing crunches and the next she is balling into tears. Likely PTSD caused.. She sees her time now here as doomed. When she thought all insanity was forgotten, she was suddenly hit by an episode of uncontrollable guilt and remorse. If she would’ve known that the music of Indian trance would set her off in a crying fit of hysterics, she may have not played it in the first place. Then again, there was that voice, in the back of her mind, that did warn her. She’s been ignoring that voice ever since. “Why ignore the voice that tried to help you?” the voice says. She doesn’t reply.. “Your in denial.”

Maybe she is in denial. Its been harder and harder to be the girl she was before her world came tumbling down but she thought this fresh start could really help her.  She thought she could spend this time to search for that girl she thought she was. It has been meaningful, there is no denying that. She’s written countless journals, poems, and spoken to many friends to find some reminisces of serenity. She sees the clouded skies and rainy days as an excuse to stay in. An excuse to withdraw from the world. Now she just waits for Sunday. The day she suspects her mom will arrive with all the furniture they packed. Then she will be busied with moving in, finding a new healthcare plan, applying to college and getting a part-time job.

Yet today is only Thursday. She still has time. She still has seven more days to finish her ’90 in 90’ and one more day until she’s been clean for 90 days. That’s all good. That’s something to be proud of. For the meantime though, she should listen to that voice.

Today she woke up early, watched the sunrise and had a lunch wrap. She sits here writing this thinking about how the rest of her day might pan out. Her grandma wants to get her nails done, thats something. She has to blog, thats obvious. If the sun comes out she could go to the gym, maybe read/bike for an hour then do the usual drill. She hopes she won’t run into that guy she went on a date with. That was a bad idea. He claimed she was looking at him and he caught her doing so several times. The only thing is, she could’ve sworn she’d never seen him before. They had nothing in common but they still talked for hours. More like he talked for hours… She knows all but his last name. He loves to workout (used to be fat) has a kid but has been separated from the baby-mama for a few months. He was wearing camo shorts and a tee shirt— so not her type. He had a messy apartment and ADHD.. just boring southern fellow really. Not an ounce of creativity and not an ounce of wisdom, from what she gathered. She ignored most of his texts trying to give him a hint, it worked eventually. She has to admit that it was nice to finally talk to a local enough to share even a glimpse of her story. But that glimpse, while it may be interesting, is very strange. She has decided to remain a mystery to anyone else she meets. They don’t need to know her past, she’s not there anymore…

Where she is now is a place of comfort. A place that doesn’t remind her of her past. Well, not the one she is ashamed of. She recalls the first time she snorted cocaine in her house. It was all fine until she took it a little too far. She snorted a little too much. Just after dinner, just before bed, she was ready to feel that surge of energy. She wanting to make art—she hadn’t in so long. That night she did stay up but instead of drawing she worked on making a schedule for work and homework and other meaningless stuff. She doesn’t quite remember. What she does remember was the look on her face when she looked in the mirror and saw the whites of her eyes gradually being sunken in red blood. She opened her laptop, searching for an answer on the web, she found that her blood vessels had popped due to the pressure of her amateur inhale. She freaked out but by the time morning came her shift was about to start— she took another line. When she came home her eyes were completely red, nothing but her blue iris’ left, bright with the contrast.

Blue Eye Blood Vessels PoppedShe looked like a vampire.

She made up some story about sneezing in the night after eating too much cayenne pepper (which, according to online sources, stimulates blood cells). People just shrugged it off.

She had to deal with that embarrassment for a week before she quit her job at the local coffee shop and began her new one at Starbucks. What a great first impression… From then on she was afraid to to take another hit. So she developed a new way to get her high. This way was a much lighter way, a more hidden way. She would ration out enough powder for a day in a small baggie. Stealing her moms cigarettes (for first few times), she would lick the edges, roll them in cocaine and light up when she could get away from work or school. She would smoke on her breaks occasionally, before she went to the gym, on her way to school, and before she went back home. She’d stay up late into the night and crash in the afternoon. It worked for her. She got a lot done.

She was very meticulous about how much she used a week, knowing she had a limited supply, she would never waste any on a lazy weekend. She was pleased with this drug, it was nothing like the opiates she had used in High School. The rush, the fire, it’d burn inside her but she was able to still be in control. It kept her out of the dumps. It actually brought her quickly into mania. She was shopping like crazy and inhumanly productive. She began to stop eating and people would praise her for her good looks. She’d smile and offer some grandiose advise; lying through her teeth about how it all had to do with her vegan diet and exercise. It wasn’t until she began to run out that things started to fall apart. She had tried cutting it down little by little but she couldn’t stop herself from using more and more. Until one day, poof, it was gone. She went into work a complete disaster. She was unbelievably tired, completely depressed and horrendously lost. Her mind was going a mile a minute, wondering how on Earth she would find her next fix. She thought about everything; asking strangers, going to a strip club, prostituting, ect. She knew she couldn’t do any of that, at least in that moment, all she wanted to do was fight. She was hanging onto the moments before she started using. They were never as great as when she was but they were livable.

Eventually people were starting to notice. At school she would shy away, this time not with her head in her books or hovering over her laptop; she was sleeping. She would drag her feet on the floor and plop down in the hallways, sometimes dozing off so long she would miss class. She hid herself in her room during these dark times. Her insides crumbled as she woke in the morning to another cold autumn day. Going to work became a pain, customers would ask her what was wrong. When she was behind the counter she just shrugged them off. Until one day when she was sweeping the cafe and taking out the garbage, one of the regulars threw the question at her one more time. She looked up, tears began to fill her eyes. In a low voice she let it all out. She didn’t know where it was coming from or how she was able to trust this guy (maybe it was because he looked a bit like a druggy, perhaps more likely a dealer given his oddly formal yet rugged attire). As he stirred the sugar in his coffee, she looked up at him to say something, anything. He paused returning the glance and said, “I’ll be right back.” He left his coffee cup steaming as he took large steps out into the parking lot. The next thing she knew he came back with a bottle of pills.

“It’s Adderall,” he said. “I’m prescribed but I don’t really use them, I use other stuff. Try it, it’ll help you come down. You look too young, you can’t get into that stuff.”

Adderall 20mgWas this guy serious? She felt a little piece of him was looking out for her. She didn’t bother wondering what that ‘other’ things was, she was just pleased to have a solution. After cautiously taking the bottle she whispered, “But I don’t have any money on me now and I just can’t pay for something like this.” The truth was that she had spent all her money on clothes but she desperately needed this.

“Don’t worry, consider it a gift, its cheap…ish. Just throw in a free biscotti for me when I come in.” She smiled, he winked and shouted “take care,” as he exited the shop.

She ran into the bathroom and immediately downed two pills of 20mg. Having no idea if that was enough, she raced into the back storage room and threw the bottle in her bag. Within 30min she began to feel it. Her teeth clenched, she couldn’t stop moving—she was back.

 Chicago at Night

Reminiscing of the days before her rock bottom are very strange. Its almost as if she wasn’t there. Like it was a different person and she is watching it all play out from afar. It’s a movie of some girl she used to know but hasn’t talked to in a long time. She left her at home. She didn’t even say goodbye.

Mayan Calender She also never said goodbye to the city. Sometimes she wonders if she should have wandered the streets of Chicago once more before she took off for Florida. The last time she went she was in psychosis: She walked for hours in flash delirium as pictures of the the people bounced off the reflection of the nameless buildings, staring them down believing fully that she could feel their energy and read their minds. The concrete was hard against her feet as she pounded her way through the crowd as though she had a purpose. And when she reached the river she stopped and caught her breath. It was so surreal. Everything had changed. Well, not the city— she had changed. Symbols and sounds were mocking her now. Her thoughts spun an intricate web of destruction, telling her she was the saviour. A Mayan princess. The last one standing. The only one who knows
the secrets of the elements and the power of air.

 

Now she closes her eyes and imagines she’s there again. She imagines how she would’ve felt if she had gone; she’d probably have been overwhelmed, sick to her stomach, her mind would’ve gone crazy with flashbacks of not only her life pre-India but of all the delusions she had post-India— she’d probably break down and cry.

She was grateful she was no longer in that stuffy suburb, just a train ride away from those memories. She had soiled everything by walking around for miles thinking too much, pushing her mind through the endless brinks of insanity. When she was home she was trapped by those thoughts. Everything reminded her of everything she was trying so hard to escape. The only reason she agreed to go to the psych ward in the first place was because she knew she had to get away. That month that was spent jumping from one facility to the next kept her mind from unfolding. It was all almost heaven-sent. But when she returned it was waiting for her. She can see herself crying and crying throughout the day, just wanting out of her head. Questioning why she couldn’t just be someone else, if only for a day. Death looked inviting. But death was not the answer.

She was lucky to have a family that loved her. She was lucky to be so young. She had another chance at life. She had wasted too much time drowning in her sorrow, disappointing herself, disappointing everyone. She was ready for a change. She wanted to change. Now this is the only thing she has left. This journal keeps her going. Her words like vomit; cleansing her spirit, detoxing her soul. She imagines a day when she will run out of things to say. Right now that seems impossible, but maybe someday. Maybe someday she will look back on all her journals (private and public), all her poems, all her letters and nicknacks she collected on her crazy journey through the wormhole and out. She will spend time reading for hours, laughing at her past. And thats all it will mean to her, nothing but the past. She won’t dwell on it, she won’t worry about it, she won’t find herself in the depths of despair. Instead, she may take it, throw it in a box and hide it away. Or maybe she’ll show it, share it with people who have gone through similar things. Consoling them, giving them strength and courage, letting them know that there’s hope. Letting them know that someday, they too can come down from their cloud. They can still follow their dreams. They can overcome their mind. After all, our minds are a powerful thing… And no one knows that better than someone whose experienced insanity.