Archive for December, 2012

For generations addiction was understood to be a lack of willpower.  People with this mindset believed that the addicted person chose to make bad decisions and act selfishly.  People thought recovery could be accomplished by forcing addicts to take responsibility for their actions and say “no” to their urges to drink/use.

In recent decades, science has discovered that addiction is a complex disease, influencing brain function on various levels.   Biochemical responses and DNA abnormalities are among the many factors that may contribute to addiction. Since these factors impact a person physiologically (body chemistry) and psychologically (mind and emotions), treating addiction is far more involved than simply expecting alcoholics/addicts to take responsibility for their actions and say “no” to urges, as explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Taking responsibility and saying “no” to urges is a good beginning; however, more is required. The diseased brain of the alcoholic/addict needs time to detox and begin to heal. They need to be educated about the disease of addiction and learn skills to work through the consequences caused by drinking/using, as well as skills to help them live life differently. AA literature describes this disease as being “cunning, baffling and powerful.” Once a person’s brain is altered by addiction, they must remain constantly on guard to avoid relapse.

The addicted person needs to make tough decisions and apply a disciplined effort to break free from using alcohol or drugs.  However, this step in their recovery can be very difficult because they have a brain disease that can overwhelm good judgment and “hijack” their will. Recovery begins by recognizing that addiction is incredibly powerful and the addicted person is powerless, having become a victim of their disease.  Recovery demands a constant, dedicated effort to combat a chronic, life-threatening condition.

By Michael Campbell


Stay tuned for the other 7 keys in the coming days!

Addicts and alcoholics often describe their addiction as cunning, baffling and powerful.  It has the ability to destroy their careers, financial savings, relationships, hopes and dreams.  During the holidays it is particularly brutal, ready to bring potentially disastrous consequences into the lives of millions. For the part of the brain that controls addiction, the holidays are the perfect storm; family drama, money issues, parties, too little rest and too much temptation all lead people to the nearest coping mechanism.

Woman struggling with her addiction over the holidays


“I hate the holidays,” says John, a recovering addict in his forties.  “When the family comes together, the old tensions are just below the surface.  As soon as my relatives walk through the door I think about using to shut out the chaos. It’s especially hard not to use when other people are, and harder still when my cousin keeps offering to share some weed.  I’ve thought about staying away, but then I would have to face the loneliness and feelings of depression.”

So what can people do to avoid abusing drugs and alcohol and stay in recovery?  How do you weaken the power of addiction during the holiday season?  Here are some tips for surviving this time of year:

1. Be prepared:  You probably know some of the uncomfortable questions you may be asked, the awkward family situations you could encounter. Think through your responses in advance, and come up with alternative plans to avoid difficult situations and people you don’t want to see. This will reduce your anxiety and give you confidence that you can manage these events.

2. Manage your stress: The holiday season brings unlimited opportunities for more stress.  Make sure you make time for the activities that help you calm down and unwind.  Take a walk, go skiing or snowboarding, listen to music, go to the gym, read a book or take a nap.

3. Avoid “high risk” situations: There are some places, people and things that need to be avoided if you want to dodge the temptation to use drugs and alcohol.  Don’t be guided by pride, assuming you can master your cravings.  Think about the behaviors that get you into trouble and avoid them.

4. Don’t isolate yourself:  For many, the holidays can be a time of loneliness and depression.  Keep busy and be with other people; reach out to long lost friends or go to for events in your area.  You can also invite some friends over, go to a movie, volunteer to help out, or go online to find events for people in recovery, such as AA or NA meetings.

5. Find some support: Always have someone to call if you start feeling down or your cravings to use start to grow.  Addiction is too powerful to fight alone, everyone needs help.

6. Discover inner peace:  A critical part of self-care is looking after your own spiritual needs. Reflect on all that you are grateful for.  Count your blessings.  Think about your purpose in life and pray for strength and guidance.

With careful planning, you can enjoy the holidays and disappoint your addiction.  Just like Sara, a recovering alcoholic; “The holidays had become a time of year when my addiction ran my life.  Now I am in control because I spend time with people who respect my desire to stay sober, I take extra care of myself physically and emotionally, and I have a sponsor supports me when I feel any hint of a craving.  For 16 years I have beaten my addiction into submission at Christmas time.”

Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

By Michael Campbell

For some people the main obstacle keeping them from entering addiction rehab is their job.  How do they tell their boss? What do they say to co-workers?  Will they be fired? Fortunately the answers are often easier than they think.  At St. Joseph Institute, we take care of most communication with the employer.

For those people who work in an organization with more than 50 employees and have been employed a year or more, their job is well protected.  The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of leave for medical reasons while protecting your job and your confidentiality. The process is simple.  We call the Human Resources department on your behalf, advise that you need to take medical leave and request the paperwork.  Discussions with the HR staff are protected by confidentiality laws and very few personal details are disclosed.  The HR staff is directed to inform your supervisor that you are “taking medical leave” and no more information is disclosed.  A government form is completed and leave is granted.

Employee stressed about telling boss he's an addictIn larger organizations, the process is even more confidential because they often have an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which manages these requests.  We communicate directly with the EAP, and the employer receives no confidential information. The same process is used when applying for short term disability.  Confidential information never goes beyond the HR staff and employment is well protected.

In smaller organizations, or when an individual has been employed for less than one year, a discussion needs to take place with the person in the organization responsible for HR.  We secure a commitment to keep the information confidential before we disclose the employee’s name.  As with FMLA, supervisors and colleagues should not hear more than the statement “they are on medical leave.”  There is never an obligation to disclose more information to colleagues or supervisors unless by choice.

We have found that employers are very supportive of people seeking help to improve their lives and get well.  In our experience, employers will often go the extra mile to provide benefits and support that exceed the written contracts.

The bottom line: don’t let job concerns prevent you from getting the help you need.  Getting caught using on the job or performing below expectations is where the real trouble lies.  Take the initiative to start treatment.  We will take care of the paperwork.