Tag Archives: psych

Take Eleven: The 90th Day


(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


“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 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.


How to Change Your Playground


“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


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.

Take Nine


Was she foolish? Yes, probably. She came here waiting for the cute guy to appear behind the counter and here he is. Only she’s jacked up on so much caffeine that she can’t count the shots she’s taken on one hand. Surely its her weakness, thats evident. She knows she shouldn’t drink it but every sip is like a surge of such great energy that it lifts her into the air like … Whatever. She just got lost in a song that played in the background. She needs to know what song that was… “Bing Crosby,” mumbles the cute guy when he returned to check. He clearly has no clue who he is. The same can’t be said for her… but it’s been a “Long, Long Time.”

It takes her back.

Arambol Crabs!

A silly crab on the beach of Arambol.

Somehow she is now on the port of Arambol, Goa. Walking with heavy steps on the cool beach to scare away any lingering crabs. She focus’s her gaze on the ground as they pop in and out of the sand. It seems to work so she repositions her head, looking to the sky. Orions belt is shining brighter than she’d ever seen in her life. Right next to it she traces the constellation of Gemini with her fingers— thats her sign. Sighing, she places her hands back to her side, holding her iPhone listening to a mix of Crosy, Fitzgerald and Armstrong. She looks around her; nothing but a vast sea of blackness to her right and glowing spheres marking the vacant huts to her left. The light from the crescent moon sends sparks dancing on the ocean. She smiles. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happier than I am here, alone on this beautiful night. 

She wore a small black dress that was gift given to her the first time she visited Goa. During that stay she had indulged in drugs and sex, more drugs and sex, and endless dancing. Now she came with a different purpose. Traveling with some girls she had met from her school and staying for a week to lay on the beach, eat too much food, watch them shop and talk for hours. They never wanted to smoke up with her but she didn’t really care. They had just left that morning and she moved into a different resort that was far more expensive but far more beautiful. Atman Resort.. When she first saw the place her jaw dropped. Huts built high above the sand, draped in silk sarrees of every colour. She was mystified. She decided to stay one more week before she had to go back home (to Kannur) and start working.


Outside the hut.


Inside the hut.


Porch of the hut.

For months now she had been with the guy she had been invited to room with. It was really all an accident how that relationship happened and it simply could not be ended given all he had done for her and the fact that they were living together. But this didn’t stop her from messaging a guy she had met in high school years before. They talked about everything. She would wait for him to settle into his evening, which was the start of her day, and they would chat for hours. He kept her company. He introduced her to Bing Crosby.

The irony of it all had been that just recently (as we fast-forward to the present), she had had a dream about him. All these months she had completely forgot about him with her head muddled by the disasters that had ensued since she returned. She looked back at everything they had said to each other from the very start. They spoke in dreams, desires and love. They were separated by miles and time. Then she dropped off from communication for a while. Only to pick up again in a scrabble of unclear words that remotely described her life post-hospitalization in India. She was delusional. Yet he had gone along with it. But how could he have known?

She tried to explain to him months later on the phone. He was reserved. Probably in shock.. but pleasant. They talked for a long time, just catching up. Nothing like it was before though. It would probably never be like it was before.

But she could still sit there in the coffee shop, gayly humming the tune to “Long, Long Time.” She mouthed the words as she stared off blindly at the workers behind the bar.

When she was in Arambol by herself for that week, she slept throughout the day to shield from the sun and arose in the evening for drinks, pot and whatever else she could scavenge from the random groups of travelers she found on the beach. One night she set herself down with a few young men from Italy. They enjoyed hearing her stories of Kannur and the parties south of Arambol. They admitted that they preferred the hippy-scene but she tried to assure them of its equally enlightening experience. She began to realize something she had forgotten— judgement.

She had erased all judgement when she landed in India. Never thinking that anyone was better than her or she was better than anyone else. She wandered around the town making friends with everyone she met and never hesitated to think that anyone would only be talking to her because she was a young American girl. Now that she reflects on it, she can see how naive she was. But was it really all that bad? She had been happy not looking so deeply behind everyones motives. It had worked for her at the time. She supposes that this is what might have gotten her into so much trouble. Yet, for some reason she misses those days when she could let her mind drift off and see the world in an elaborate web of technicoloured unity. She reminds herself, this was me in mania.

She never knew she was bipolar until she was diagnosed in India and now that she knows that there is an actual word to describe her abnormal thought process, she feels a little better. Sure, she’s different than a lot of people— although some like to say that ‘everyones a little bipolar’—she at least has an understanding of why. Being bipolar is not some shifting of moods from time to time. Its not to be belittled by anyone who thinks they understand it. They don’t live it, how could they understand it? To her, her disorder was serious. It causes her to come off as something she does not want to portray. It sends her into months of pure joy, verging on insane to spells of deep depression where all hopes are lost and suicide becomes a better answer with each day. She wonders what it would be like to live without fear. Her head is always spinning around such profound ideas that when she withdraws herself to observe her thoughts, all that can rationalize them is her rise into another manic episode… She once sought after that, too. Sometimes she wonders if she is still secretly seeking it even after the fact that she realized it was a bad idea.

She just lets these thoughts go. They can’t govern her life and she can’t be always questioning herself. She tells herself, if I become manic, then I do. If I become depressed, then that’s where I will be. For now, in this moment, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I feel happy. I feel sane. I love myself and my life and I will not let anyone get in the way of this serenity.

She mentions the idea of ‘anyone’ because she saw a pattern. When she is depressed, she tends to push it onto someone. Latch on to them as though without them, she would be nothing. She places utter most importance on their existence in her life and becomes delusional to the fact that they are just another human being—doing their own thing. She is not the center of their universe and they probably (defiantly) don’t want her to be. She has to let go of her possessive thoughts and bring herself back into a reality where it is just her and everything else. I am alone, but I am at peace. I like to be alone. I feel free. I get lost in my thoughts and gaze upon the lake. I wait for the moon as I sit myself under a palm tree. Anywhere I go, there I will be. And everywhere I go, beauty follows me.


Find Your Drive with MET


“One of my earlier post talked about how important it is to have motivation. But I was mainly referring to lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. I failed to mention its importance in recovery from addiction! This is a great article that outlines an actual therapy to help boost your mental and emotional strength called Motivation Enhancement Therapy or MET. The goal is to hit a breakthrough, a kind of enlightenment, that will enhance your drive for a life of sobriety. As they say, ‘the 12 steps doesn’t work for everybody,’ because you need that motivation to even show up at a meeting!” -Best of luck, Robyn


Motivational Enhancement Therapy(MET), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stopping their drug use.”

It is a method offering more to the substance abuser than simply the traditional 12-step programs of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous (AA, NA).  “This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process.”

MET is based on principles of Motivational Interviewing (an approach developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, clinical psychologists treating problem drinkers).  It elicits self-motivational statements in early discussion sessions. This is done to “build a plan for change” based on the patient’s observable commitment and verbal expressions of some level of movement toward healingsurrounding the problem.

This therapeutic approach specifically engages the patient in the process of putting a plan forward based on person-centeredmotivations, as opposed to societal. ((As such, it evokes the work of educator John Dewey and psychologist Carl Rogers.)) In uniquely notreiterating the 12-step approach, it can appeal to those having problems following a rote program that does not fully speak to them.

After all, the 12-step approach doesn’t work for everyone.

Developing problem-solving and interpersonal skills is a core component of the therapy. Often, this is introduced early on, in order to initially get past the denial of any substance abuse problem. In a sense, the therapist is guiding the patient to see for himself that there is a problem — all based on discovering what motivates the individual to live life as he or she is currently.

Enlightenment can only occur if an individual wants to learn (John Dewey), and MET is centered around this insight.  Once initial resistance has been countered — by reflecting back the patient’s own statements about desiring better outcomes — learning can really take off.  An introduction of behavioral techniques can be nicely mixed in to support the patient’s ability to better fend for himself when tempted by chemical or old, bad habitual patterns.

Therapists using this approach will often encourage partners and family to attend some sessions as well. This is to support the patient’s thinking and behavioral process changes, as well as to learn techniques for themselves. ((Those techniques could be to draw out the patient’s experience and feelings, or to find coping mechanisms as an addict’s or alcoholic’s family member, based on the MET approach.))

MET often is used in conjunction with other cognitive behavioralapproaches to problems; indeed its application can be much further-reaching than simply for substance abuse. It also has points of connectedness with dialectical behavior therapy-based approaches — utilizing principles akin to mindfulness and distress tolerance in session explorations.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy could go a long way toward offering new insights to those affected by the varied symptomatology of many mental illnesses, as well as interpersonal and professional human relations. Its applications are beginning to be far-reaching, as a simple search online will prove, with its healing offered toward everything from anxiety and depression to breathing problems connected to needed lifestyle change.

Source: http://www.psychcentral.com

Must Read: Memoirs of An Addicted Brain- A Neuroscientist Examines His For


“This is an absolutely fabulous book that is not just about the struggle of addiction but how addiction works. I could really relate to this book because like me, Lewis traveled halfway around the world and still managed to use. His talk of the hippy scene still is in existence today and it was similar to what I fell into… Its a great read for any addict struggling with addiction, reminding you of where you came from and how you came to be trapped in the cycle of this disease. Below is a review from Scientific America.” – Love, Robyn


Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs
by Marc Lewis. PublicAffairs, 2012

Why do we crave things and seek them compulsively, despite the consequences? As a junkie who kicked the habit and became a neuroscientist, Lewis is uniquely positioned to answer these questions.

Each chapter of Lewis’s memoirs recounts an episode of his life: as a homesick 15-year-old at a prep school in New Jersey, where he got drunk and smoked pot for the first time; then as a Berkeley undergraduate during the hippie heyday of the late 1960s, when he experimented with methamphetamines, LSD and heroin. In the jungles of Malaysia he sniffed nitrous oxide and bought heroin directly from the factory, and in Calcutta he frequented opium dens. Back in his hometown of Toronto, Lewis descended into a life of addiction, desperation and petty crime.

Lewis also weaves in how each drug acts on the brain. LSD, he explains, alters sensory information, so that “perception opens up into this massive cascade of colors, shapes and patterns,” whereas heroin produces a dramatic shift in brain physiology to put one “into a state of safety, comfort, warmth [and] pleasure.” The book effortlessly explores the experience of being under their influence. Lewis explains how cycles of anticipation and reward are fundamental to the human condition, drawing parallels between drug addiction and our cravings, such as sex, money or material goods. Drug addiction, however, is far more powerful, as it mercilessly hijacks the brain’s reward circuitry, priming us to single-mindedly seek out these chemical rewards at the expense of relationships and work. Lewis eventually climbed out of addiction and returned to school to focus on psychology and neuroscience. “Drawn by a need to understand my own dark years, I came around—full circle—to study the neuroscience of addiction,” he writes.

Even after 30 years of being clean, addicts’ brains are wired to desire narcotics, leaving them “vulnerable for the rest of their lives.” For Lewis, filling his life with a meaningful career and a loving family has helped him resist those temptations.