How can a struggling alcoholic or drug addict stop using drugs permanently?
It is an important question because the pain of dealing with an addiction over time can build up and become overwhelming. So it is only natural for people to seek a “permanent” solution.
If you can quit drinking or using drugs permanently then you have essentially cured your addiction.
Is this even possible?Is there a cure for drug or alcohol addiction?
At the present time it is not really possible to “cure” alcoholism or addiction. There are some people out there that claim that you actually can cure an addiction, but I suppose it depends a bit on how you define your terms.
For example, there is a treatment center that claims that it can cure addicts and alcoholics. The treatment center uses basic therapy techniques and also has 12 step meetings. Of the people who attend there, many of them go on to stay clean and sober for many years. At which point, some of them will inevitably relapse. This has already happened many times over from this rehab center that claims it can “cure” people. So what of their claim after someone has relapsed? It makes no sense at all. Obviously the person was not cured. They still suffer from the disease and they have relapsed back into total chaos and misery. They are not cured.
And so it will go, regardless of which rehab center you attend or how you get clean and sober. No alcoholic or drug addict is ever fully “cured.”
As they say in AA, “what we have is a daily reprieve.” This is a very important point because it gets right to the truth of the matter and exposes the fact that no cure can ever really exist.
It will likely always be this way, even if they develop new medications that help with addiction or help you to fight off cravings. It will not matter, because in the end you will always have the freedom and the choice to choose to go back to the madness of addiction if you want. That choice will always be there, every single day of your life. And so we are never fully cured, no matter what happens. All we have is our daily decision to stay clean and sober, today.
This is also why the cliche “just for today” is so pervasive. Again, it speaks to the truth of recovery and relapse. All we ever have is today. No alcoholic is promised a sober tomorrow. The world could change, things could happen, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If you are sober in this moment, today, then that is what you have. You have sobriety now. We can never bank on it in the future because it is a day at a time thing. If you could get sober for a whole decade at a time then that would be a “cure.” But no cure exists, so we can’t just get sober for a year or a month at a time. We can only do it one day at a time. Tomorrow is never promised to us.
Now given all of this, you may think that there is no way to possibly achieve long term sobriety. That is not true. You can still achieve long term sobriety and build a successful new life for yourself, but it is an ongoing process rather than an event.
People who talk about a cure for addiction are looking at it in terms of events. They want to transform tomorrow and be sober forever. It doesn’t work like that. Instead, achieving “permanent” sobriety is more of a process, one that unfolds slowly over the rest of your life. And it is going to require a consistent effort in order to make it last.
You can still achieve long term sobriety, and in retrospect, it may even be “permanent” in that your sobriety may last until the day you die. But you won’t know that going forward, and because of that, you will always have to work at it. This is not a bad thing though. Because you keep working at it, your life will continue to improve.Rebuilding your life from the ground up for successful sobriety
The key to success in long term sobriety is to build a new life for yourself that you are excited to be living.
If you are bored in recovery then that is dangerous and could lead you to relapse.
Recovery is about taking action. You have to do things in order to recover. You have to change your life in order to break free.
“What do I have to change?” you might ask.
You have to change everything. They say this in traditional recovery programs all the time: “The only thing that you have to change is everything.” It is an often repeated cliche because it gets at the truth. Anyone who has become clean and sober can look back and see that they went through massive amounts of change.
My theory is that you have to make two types of changes in recovery:
1) Internal changes.
2) External changes.
What are the internal changes? Things like overcoming resentment, self pity, and guilt or shame. This is the internal work that you have to do in order to be able to live within your own mind in recovery. If you work through the 12 steps with a sponsor then you will be addressing these sorts of issues.
When I first got clean and sober I realized pretty quickly that I was feeling sorry for myself all the time. I was a self pity junkie. Why was I doing that? For some reason, it felt good. I liked to wallow in self pity. It was a defense mechanism of sorts. I don’t know why I did it, but it was obviously not helping me. It was a way that I used to justify my drug and alcohol use. When I sobered up, the mechanism was still there, but I was no longer using it to justify my drinking, because I had quit. But the self pity was still showing up each day.
After I realized this, I had to make a decision. I realized that if I continued to engage in self pity that it would only serve to make me miserable. It was a way to hold myself back, a way to justify not taking any action, and a way to justify drinking if I ever decided to relapse. Self pity was not helping me in any way. So I decided to eliminate it.
How was I going to do that? I had to do some work.
First of all, I had to talk to people in recovery–people who were healthier than I was. This meant talking to people with more sober time than I had, and also to my sponsor. I had to get ideas for how they were able to overcome things like resentment, shame, guilt, and self pity. So I learned some ideas from them, and I also got some suggestions.
One thing that I learned was that gratitude was the exact opposite of self pity. You can’t be wallowing in self pity while also being grateful. It is impossible because they completely cancel out. The gratitude overrides the self pity. Therefore I had a big part of my solution.
My sponsor urged me to write out a gratitude list. This was a good start. And I had to push myself to write out a list every single day, to dig every day to find things I was grateful for. Because if I did not do this exercise then I would start to take all of the little victories in my life for granted. And there were miracles all around me if I just would take the time to recognize them.
The other part of doing this “work” was that I had to make an agreement with my own brain. The agreement was this: When I noticed that I was engaging in self pity, I would immediately stop and redirect myself. This was a practice. I had to keep doing this, and catching myself, and sort of retraining my brain.
Now some people might say “but I can’t do this!” What they really mean is that they don’t want to do this. Anyone can do it. You simply decide to do it, and then you start watching your thoughts. Take a step back away from your mind and watch what your brain is doing throughout the day. If you see it engaging in self pity, you jump in and say “no you don’t. We aren’t doing that any more.”
If you are really bad at “watching your thoughts” then you need to slow yourself down each day. A few minutes of quiet meditation will allow you to become much more conscious of your own thoughts. You don’t have to be a guru in order to get benefit from this. There is no way to do it wrong other than to not try it at all. You can raise your awareness and learn how to watch your thoughts just by making a simple decision.
So that is how I was “doing the work” internally in early recovery. I had to get my mind straight, because it was normally used to doing things in order to justify drinking and using drugs. That did not go away automatically when I got sober, so I had to do some work in order to clean up those old thought patterns. Like I said, if you don’t know how to go through this process yourself, then you need to ask for help. Find someone who is living a healthy life in recovery and see if they can help you to work through these internal problems. They may even have to help you identify what is really going on inside and holding you back (guilt, shame, anger, resentment, fear, self pity, etc.).
Now what about changing your life in an external way?
If you go to AA meetings you will hear people mention that you have to “change people, places, and things” in your life in order to recover.
This is a really important concept! The 12 steps of AA don’t really seem to address this directly, but I think it is a critical concept of recovery.
In other words, not only do you have to do the internal work in order to stay sober, but you also have to change your life on the outside, too.
That might mean leaving your job if it is super stressful and turns out to be a big trigger for your drinking.
Or it might mean leaving a toxic relationship that is stealing your sanity and leading you back to addiction.
In order to do these things you have to get honest with yourself and really evaluate things in your life. Again, you may benefit a great deal from having outside help on this, such as from a sponsor or your peers in recovery. Sometimes we need advice from others in order to see the best path forward in our lives.
Keep in mind too that most of this type of work in recovery has to do with eliminating negative things.
Your life is not a problem. You are not really lacking for anything when it comes to happiness. You don’t have to climb a certain mountain in order to experience joy. What you need to do is to eliminate all of the garbage and negativity in your life. Once you get back to a clean slate, your life will become so much better.
Our “happiness” in recovery is really defined by a lack of misery. We tend to sabotage our own peace, joy, and contentment because of the negative things in our lives like stress, bad relationships, fear, resentment, and so on. It is not for lack of positive things in our life that we are unhappy, but it is the presence of negativity.
In order to be happy in recovery, we have to eliminate the negative stuff. Both internally and externally. In terms of creating happiness, you will get much more “bang for your buck” if you are focusing on eliminating negative things rather than chasing positive things. That may seem a little counter-intuitive but I have found it to be true over and over again.
Prioritize. What is holding you back in life? What is the source of your fear, pain, anxiety, or negativity? Whatever those things are, work hard to eliminate them. Then evaluate again and repeat the process. Keep doing this over and over again until you have eliminated the negative stuff from your life entirely. This is the path to peace and contentment in recovery. It is also the path to relapse prevention.Living your life in such a way that you prevent relapse in the long run
If you want to be “permanently sober” then you need to adopt a process that creates success in recovery.
My belief is that recovery is one big exercise in relapse prevention. You go to rehab, you go through detox, then eventually you get spit back out into the real world and you have to stay sober. Because you went through treatment, you are already clean and sober. Now you just have to stay that way. So how can you do this? How can you prevent relapse?
It is a lifelong process. The way that you live your life will dictate your success in recovery.
First of all is the disruption phase when you go to treatment and you actually get detoxed. You flush your system of drugs and alcohol and you get a baseline of recovery. You are clean and sober, just for today.
Then you have to start doing the work. You have to eliminate all of that negativity in your life that came along for the ride with your addiction. If you are swamped in negativity then your recovery will never last. The bad stuff will drag you back into relapse. Therefore you have an immediate job in early recovery. You must do the work. You must eliminate the negative stuff. Both internal and external.
Finally you must adopt a process for daily living. And you will never be perfect at this process as it will be something that you strive for. And it will be something that evolves over time as you continue to learn more and more about yourself. Therefore we call this process of living your daily practice. You are taking positive action every day in order to recover. You are engaged in this positive process every day that helps you to prevent relapse.
For some people, the daily practice consists of “going to an AA meeting every day and not drinking alcohol in between the meetings.” Not bad, if this works for you. I have nothing against such a practice personally.
But I found that practice to be lacking for my own life, and I needed more. I needed more action in my life if I was going to remain sober. So I had to expand my daily practice to go beyond “AA meeting maintenance.”What should your daily practice consist of?
Unfortunately I cannot tell you exactly what your daily practice should consist of. I can give you a general idea though:
1) Physical – your daily practice should focus on your physical health and well being. Exercise, nutrition, not putting chemicals into your body, etc.
2) Emotional – your daily efforts should seek emotional stability, and also seek to minimize stress and negative emotions.
3) Social – you should make an effort to reach out and connect with others. There are many benefits in recovery to doing so (the entire basis of AA meetings, etc.).
4) Spiritual – this can be entirely focused on gratitude. Everyone in recovery should practice gratitude daily.
5) Mental – I recommend writing in a journal every day to catalog your thoughts, but also to “dump” your mental reserves in order to free up brain power. Also you should be open to new ideas from other people that can help you on your path in recovery. You don’t have to be smart or even sharp necessarily, it is more about a willingness to explore new ideas and to listen.
If you are not doing these things on a daily basis then your recovery is probably lacking in some area. In fact, if you completely neglect even one of these areas then it is very possible that you could relapse if you are not careful.
Engaging in all of these areas of the daily practice will help to insure your continued sobriety. This is relapse prevention in action.Achieving stability and personal growth in long term sobriety
If you are actively doing the daily practice then your life will start to improve drastically over time.
Do these things every day for a month and your life will get better. Do them every day for ten years and your life will be absolutely amazing.
There is also a synergy that happens when you do the daily practice. It is impossible to predict the positive connections that will occur when you are working on all of these various things in your recovery.
For example, when I started exercising on a daily basis, I found that the distance running that I was doing was also a powerful form of meditation. I never would have predicted that when someone suggested that I “get fit” or “work out.” I had to actually take action and adopt a new practice every day in order to realize the full benefits of doing so.
Not only that but many of these areas of the daily practice will enhance each other in ways that you cannot predict. The results of this are overwhelmingly positive.
Is this a path to “permanent sobriety?” Not necessarily. But it is a process that works. So, engage the daily practice, and enjoy your life. Sobriety will follow.
Do you feel that you have found “permanent sobriety” in your own recovery? Why or why not?
Negotiating for Daily Life
While I stood before the kind-looking judge, my attorney argued for leniency, on the basis of my otherwise-clean record and my need as a single woman who lives alone to continue to drive to, at the very least, make a living. The judge suspended any further jail time and reduced my fine from $2,500 to $500 (with additional court costs of $200). He granted me a work-restricted driver's license for one year, which allows me to drive from home to work and back again taking the most-direct routes with no stops. He ordered me to report to a probation officer periodically in a town an hour away and to a case manager in a town 15 minutes away for alcohol safety classes ($300). He allowed me to continue to see my private alcohol-abuse counselor ($90 every two weeks) rather than enroll in a more-public, community-hospital program.
Clearly, the judge said -- looking straight at me -- I was a practiced drinker. I needed help. Get it and stick with it, he advised. Then he ordered me to sit in on a Victim Impact Panel in a few months. Sponsored by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and sanctioned by the court, the panel would feature what one might suspect -- the heart-rending stories of loved ones cut down or grotesquely injured by someone's choice to drink and drive.
I knew I was lucky and I knew the judge was right. Wine was my painkiller of choice, and I had come to depend on it a great deal. I first began thinking about seeking treatment for depression after my elder son left home for college and I had taken an early retirement from my job as a textbook editor in order to write freelance. I was still married then, and my husband badgered me constantly about "not having a real job," even though he made good money and worked long hours. As I saw it, outside of parenting -- and we had done a mighty fine job of that -- we didn't have a true partnership.
At first I fled from the situation, seeking refuge on long weekends in a room I rented in the country. My husband let me go, no questions asked. We lived this lie of a marriage for years, until 2004, when I finally sought professional help for myself. At my counselor's urging, I began asking my husband to make more time for our relationship and support me in my endeavors in the way I supported him. Initially I simply asked him to start coming home earlier than 9 one night a week so we could have more time to enjoy dinner and conversation together. He refused.
It was about this time, while I waited for him weeknight after weeknight, that I began to pour myself a glass of wine, then another, then another until he came home. On weekends we would host or go to parties, where we talked to other people far more than to each other. When we decided to divorce, I moved permanently to the countryside I had come to love.
I felt stronger and less depressed and, in time, I met a man who was charming, intense and highly intelligent yet also somewhat troubled and focused primarily on his own needs. We had a fitful year, a merry-go-round of highs and lows fueled by a high level of sexual satisfaction and, yes, alcohol. He and I had broken up a few weeks before my DUI.
Even though my punishment was not harsh, in the weeks and months after my appearance before the judge, reality kept popping up. First, I had to slow down or stop my drinking. Second, I had to live with the driving restrictions. After a bit of wrangling I got permission to drive from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week (except Sundays) to accommodate my erratic work schedule. Third, I was shelling out money all over the place -- not only for the fine and court costs, alcohol safety classes, and counseling, but also for a new, restricted license ($165) and increased auto insurance premiums (double what I had been paying earlier).
I entered a world of change. Every time I got in the car I had to carry written verification, to be shown to the police should I be stopped for any reason, to justify that I was going to a work-related activity. At first, every time I got in the car I was constantly looking over my shoulder for the police. My freedom to go out for dinner, dancing, to parties and for my beloved Sunday hikes had completely disappeared unless I could persuade friends to drive me. The price of temptation -- to take a chance and drive on a Sunday, for example -- would be total suspension of my license for one year if I was caught. There was no question about whether I would ever get in my car after one or even half a drink, even though for a reason I never learned I had escaped having an interlock device installed on my steering wheel. Under the law, if I were pulled over for anything and then caught with a BAC of even half the legal limit, I could be charged with a second DUI, the consequences of which would be disastrous for me -- I'd lose what freedoms I had managed to come away with for a year but also have to drive with restrictions for another two years, serve more jail time, pay more fines, and face the possibility of having an interlock device installed. A third DUI could lead to felony charges.
When all these facts settled in, I had quite an emotional session with my counselor. I railed against the driving restrictions that would so isolate a person with a problem, potentially driving them to drink even more, in solitude.
My counselor urged me to join AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), saying it is the most useful program for maintaining long-term sobriety. She warned me that unless I stopped drinking, chances were quite good that I would drink and drive again and, almost as if I'd broken a charm with my first arrest, I would very likely end up with a second arrest. Even if I maintained my resolve not to drink and drive, my continued drinking would lead to deteriorated health, she warned. The possible ill effects of significant daily drinking, wine included, were well known. It has been linked to not only impaired liver and kidney function but increased forgetfulness. And I'd already been drinking well over two glasses a day on average for at least 10 years.
My counselor began to treat me for depression in our ongoing sessions. So far I have resisted her suggestion that I take an antidepressant. I did start meditating and became a Pilates teacher in training. After the DUI arrest I promised myself to be more positive in all my relationships, including with myself. I began to study Buddhism as well, which led, this past summer, to my engaging in a weeklong Buddhist retreat, where we meditated, listened to religious lectures, ate a strictly vegetarian diet, and abstained from any kind of substance abuse. I felt no compulsion to drink that week and I think the key was being surrounded by people who also were not drinking. At the end of the retreat I made two pledges: not to engage in sexual relations without love and long-term commitment, and to improve the truthfulness of my communications with myself and others.
HOW TO QUIT DRINKING WITHOUT AA IN 5 STEPS
Many people who recognize that they have a drinking problem aren’t aware that there are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous. This article, for example, outlines the CORE process, which stands for Commit, Objectify, Respond, Enjoy. By employing these simple techniques, you can beat the bottle quietly -- and for free -- in the dignity of your own home.
- Understand why you drink. Before you can use the CORE process effectively, it’s vital that you recognize the problem. In Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism is viewed as a disease which only a Higher Power can help you with; outside AA, however, there are other models of alcohol dependence. One useful way to look at a drinking problem is to view it in terms of survival instincts. The brain is divided into two basic parts, which we will call the human brain (you) and the animal brain (it). The animal brain is concerned only with survival, and when you are chemically dependent on alcohol, it falsely thinks that you need alcohol to survive. Because of this, you could call it the "booze brain." If you don't understand how the booze brain works, it can easily trick the human brain (you) into drinking.
Commit yourself to permanent abstinence from alcohol. You do not need alcohol to survive. Make a plan to quit for good. When you're ready, say the words "I will never drink again." Pay attention to how you feel. If you are scared, panicked, angry, depressed, or feeling badly in some way, that’s the booze brain at work. And, in all honesty, you WILL feel bad at first. Your body has been operating with this chemical for...however long. It thinks it needs it. It has to learn how to operate without it now, and learning has a curve. Give it time to learn.
- Your neurons, which have been dulled by booze for quite some time, and now are all a-buzz with activity, which means that resting and sleep will probably be hard to get for a couple of days. In the meantime, your booze brain will tell you lies; call it a liar and watch late-night TV till it passes!
Objectify your booze brain. The human brain is much smarter than the booze brain, which doesn't understand that you can live without alcohol. You can outsmart your booze brain by learning to think of it as something other than yourself as well as hear when it’s speaking to you. Objectify it by saying "it wants a drink" instead of "I want a drink." When you objectify the booze brain, you realize that it has no power over you. You are in control and it is an outsider. All it can do is try to trick you into drinking, but you can outsmart it every time.
- It will try anything to get you to drink because it falsely believes that you need to drink to survive. If you are feeling bad, it will tell you to drink to feel better. If you are feeling good, it will tell you to drink to party or celebrate. In fact, it will try to use any event in your life (good or bad) as an excuse to drink. Whenever you have any thought or feeling that suggests drinking, that is the booze brain trying to trick you.
Respond to your booze brain by saying "never" whenever you hear it asking for a drink. This causes the booze brain to back down because it recognizes that it is not in control and there is no way it can force you to pour alcohol down your throat. It will try many different ploys to trick you into drinking (especially at first), but now that you have this information, you will know what it is up to every time. Remember, any thought or feeling that suggests drinking at any time is the booze brain at work. When you recognize it, just tell it "I never drink" and continue with whatever you were doing. Don't argue with it; just tell it that you never drink.
- If your friends offer you a drink, say "No thanks, I'm quitting." You can also say "I'm slowing down" or even just "No, thanks" if you don’t want to get into it. However, if the people in your circle tend to drink, it’s probably best that you be up-front with them so they can support you by being discreet. If they don’t support your decision, find new friends.
- Your booze brain will get more and more discouraged as time goes on, bothering you less and less. Before too long, you'll be an expert at dealing with your booze brain, making it easy to stay sober.
Enjoy your recovery from alcohol dependence. When you decide to quit drinking forever, one of the first difficulties you will face is simply dealing with the day-to-day reality without alcohol. If you sit at home with nothing to do, your booze brain will pester you for a drink and it will be very difficult to make it stop because your human brain is idle. This is why you will need to develop something to occupy your human brain. Find (or rediscover) hobbies that give you something to show for your time. Get in shape, fix up an old car, or start a new relationship. Learn to cook, play an instrument, decorate, or go out with (sober) friends. Write helpful articles on wikiHow. Set aside the money you used to spend on drinking and watch your piggy bank grow. Celebrate every sober anniversary whether it’s a week or a decade: things are going to keep getting better from here on out.
- Don't be afraid that you’ll slip or relapse: that fear is the booze brain at work trying to give you an excuse to give up.
- Eventually, the CORE process becomes automatic, meaning you won't have to make a big effort to stay sober. You may feel bad, angry, sad, or depressed at times, but that's normal. If the booze brain tries to use these feelings as excuses to drink, you’ll know what it’s up to and how to deal with it. You’re better, smarter, funnier, wittier, and even taller when you stand up to your booze brain!
One, Two, Maybe Three Glasses?
For most of us, if we're lucky, the closest we'll ever get to a drunk driver is reading the statistics (1.4 million DUI arrests each year, 17,602 people killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2006) or seeing tawdry photos of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton splashed across tabloid covers. If we notice the names published in our local newspapers' police blotter columns, maybe we shake our heads, worry and wonder: Who are these people? What were they thinking? How soon will they be back on the road?
There are as many answers to these questions as there are drunk drivers. We offer here the story of one drunk driver, likely not the image you had in mind. She's a 53-year-old educated white-collar professional. While this is the story of her first arrest, it was not, she confesses, the first time she was guilty of this crime. She could not be compelled to use her real name and asked that some personal details be changed, but the essential facts of her case are true. We showcase her story not to give her a forum to make excuses or launch a defense but for the imperfect insights she offers into the mind of a drunk driver, a unique view few of us ever get a glimpse of. --The Editors
When I woke up I was in a green-walled prison cell that smelled of puke and urine. Me. An attractive, upper-middle-class woman with two grown sons, a mortgage, two dogs, and a kitten. Me. A former court clerk. Me. A professional writer and teacher with a master's degree who learned too late about what it is like to lose your freedom to a stupid choice -- to drink and drive.
When Lieutenant Ralph Hite [all names and some identifying information have been changed] from our small-town police force pulled me over that night, my first thought was "Uh-oh," and my second was, "Maybe this will turn out all right." After all, I'd had only three glasses of wine that night, although I had had a couple more much earlier that summer Saturday afternoon at a friend's house. Not an unusual amount for me by any means. I drank two or three glasses of wine most weeknight evenings, on average, and usually twice that many -- yes, I could finish a bottle of wine and then some by myself -- on the weekends. But by this night my boyfriend and I had just broken up for what -- the fifth time? -- and I hadn't been sleeping or eating well. At 5 foot 7, age 53, I was down to 120 pounds.
Lieutenant Hite was low-key -- I thought even regretful -- as he asked for my license and registration, then whether I had been drinking. I told him the truth: that I had been at a nearby tavern, drinking and dancing, and that I was on my way home. Please, God, I begged, just let me go home.
According to the police report that was shown to me later, Lieutenant Hite pulled me over at about 12:30 a.m. because I was driving erratically -- switching speeds and hitting the shoulder, not once, but three times. In the car with me was a male acquaintance who was also at the tavern that night (and who'd also consumed his fair share of alcohol) to whom I was giving a lift. I remember thinking, when we headed out, that I was fine to drive. After all, I had driven plenty of times, over the years, after a night when I'd been drinking, and in my whole driving life had been pulled over only a few times for speeding but never ticketed, and never because I was drunk at the time. I had never passed out or blacked out while drunk. The worst side effect I'd ever had from drinking was going on a crying jag. But the moment I turned the car onto the highway that night, it occurred to me that I shouldn't be there. Usually, when I'd driven myself home after drinking, I'd stay on the back roads where it's possible to drive slowly. That night on the highway I nearly pulled over on my own for fear of losing control of the car. I couldn't keep up the posted 55-mph speed. And the lane lines were shifting in my vision.
When Lieutenant Hite asked me to take some field tests, I wasn't in a position to refuse. The first few were given in his car. I couldn't manage to say the alphabet or count forward or backward correctly. He then asked me to step out of the car for some physical tests. I'm naturally athletic and thought I might do fairly well. But I failed miserably, even with my sandals off. I couldn't even walk the white shoulder line. It was then that he asked me to step back into his squad car and take a breath test. My blood alcohol content (BAC) registered at 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit for alcohol in my state, which is 0.08.
I was arrested, my car was towed, and my friend and I were taken in the backseat of the squad car to the local jail. My friend was arrested and charged for being drunk in public and released a few hours later. In a way I was actually relieved to be in custody, because somewhere in my wine-sodden brain I realized that I had been driving a potentially lethal weapon while out of control (or as a friend so bluntly put it later, "drunk off my ass") and that I could have killed myself or someone else -- or both.
Many consequences have flowed from my decision to drink and drive -- awful consequences, given new, stringent DUI laws that, as it turned out, went into effect in my home state about a month before I was arrested. But I am grateful, for I was forced to get help. Until my arrest I didn't realize how much I had come to depend upon alcohol to get through some painful episodes; the drawn-out separation and divorce from my husband of 28 years, a volatile relationship with a new man who liked to drink himself. I had been depressed, even suicidal at times, going as far as imagining drowning myself in a swift-moving tidal channel at my favorite beach.
It was 3:30 a.m. when I was finally taken to the women's cell block. The magistrate had ordered me held over until I sobered up. Deputy sheriffs placed a thin mattress on the floor of an approximately 6-by-12-foot cell and gave me two wool blankets. Neither of my two cell mates spoke to me when I entered -- both simply pulled their blankets over their heads and turned their backs to me. That's how one of them remained the entire time I was there. I pushed my feet against the in-cell toilet, my head knocking against the bars. Toilet smells were everywhere -- urine, stool, and vomit -- and the air conditioning was up full blast. I didn't feel like crying, but I was good and scared. I had never been inside a jail before and without knowing exactly what price I would pay next for my mistake, I feared that my life would change forever.
By daybreak I felt sober but was still blowing above zero on the breath analyzer. No release, not yet. It wasn't until after lunch that I blew zero and was sent before the magistrate. He set my arraignment date and ordered my release, once I surrendered my driver's license. Until this point I was completely unprepared for the fact that this was something I would have to do. After all, when I worked briefly as a court clerk, I saw first offense prostitutes who were immediately put on probation -- they were never stripped of their privileges, such as driving. The impact of what I had done and what would happen next was beginning to hit me.
I called a local lawyer from the jail phone, where they give you no choice but to call collect. He took the call and said he would represent me, but that I should steel myself. For first offenders convicted of blowing over 0.15 (which was me), five days in jail was considered mandatory under the new state law. I also faced the possibilities of a $2,500 fine, a totally suspended driver's license for one year, and an interlock device on my car, which requires you to blow into a tube to start the engine. The device will prevent the car's ignition if it detects more than a certain amount of alcohol on your breath.
I washed my face, combed my hair, straightened my clothes. I called the man who'd been with me the previous night to help me retrieve my car. I called him because he already knew what had happened and I didn't want any of my other friends to know.
A New Life
The logistics were difficult -- a foreshadowing of what my new, restricted life would soon be. He drove me to the towing service, where I wrote a check, just the first of many I would write in the months to come. Then he drove me in my car the 30 minutes to my rural home, hitchhiking on the lonely country road to retrieve his own vehicle. As he disappeared from view, I looked out at my Jeep in the driveway. There it would sit, and here I would sit, dependent on the kindness of friends to get around -- to the store, to appointments, including with my lawyer. And for how long? Potentially a whole year, if I was convicted. What on earth, I suddenly realized, would I do about my business? How would I live if I couldn't drive to the city or anywhere else on a writing assignment? Or to teach?
Four days later my father, mother, sister, uncle, and two sons (24 and 22), all of whom live several hours away, came for a long-awaited extended visit to celebrate my uncle's birthday. My elder son immediately asked why I couldn't drive my car to do this and that. I mumbled something about a mechanical problem. I freaked out when my father bought the local paper, worried that my arrest would appear in the police briefs. It never did. To this day I'm not sure why. And to this day I have not told my family what happened.
Though the visit went well, I noticed, as I had so many times before, how many members of my family -- excluding my sons -- would look forward to the end of a day so they could hit the beer or wine...two, three beers or glasses of wine before dinner and then several more during. I saw clearly now that my dad and my uncle had drinking problems. When I was a teenager I vividly remember my father returning from parties displaying drunken behavior, slurring his words, suffering from hangovers the next morning. That I had a drinking problem, too, and that it had now landed me in deep trouble, was something I felt I simply could not tell them. That night I had one or two glasses of wine, from what I recall, but I did not get drunk.
Soon I was describing those kinds of evenings -- and more -- to the private alcohol-abuse counselor my lawyer recommended I hire to show my trial judge I was serious about addressing my problem. She would report my family background and personal drinking habits to my lawyer for my trial. She did not agree with my decision not to tell my family. She saw owning up to my problem as a necessary part of my recovery. I decided several months ago -- at her urging -- to tell certain key friends instead. And they, including my best friend, my now on-again boyfriend and local friends from a women's spiritual circle, have provided the understanding and support that I needed and still do. It really helped when all of them, to a person, reacted by saying the same thing could have easily happened to them.
My counselor, with more than a decade of clinical experience in substance abuse and mental disorders, diagnosed me as being depressed and, if not already an alcoholic, on my way to becoming one. By my counselor's definition, even my weeknight average of three glasses was too much. And with that, she sent her first report to my lawyer.
To Abstain or Not to Abstain?
Another pledge I could've made, but don't feel ready for yet, is to abstain completely from alcohol.
As of this writing I'm still drinking wine, although even on weekends my limit is now three glasses a day. Why can't I give it up? Patterns. Habit. Probably ongoing, underlying depression. So much of my adult and professional life has been associated with drinking wine, whether to mark the end of a deadline or to accompany good food or simply to be sociable and relaxed with friends or at a party. What's new is that some days I do not drink at all, and I do not drink before I drive at all. My habit is to drink lots of hot tea during the day if I'm going to drive at night, and I usually take a cup of hot tea with me in the car. I've found this quells my temptation to drink wine. If I drink wine at a friend's house, at a party or with friends at a bar, I do not drive afterward. My friends help me now, too. At parties they watch my behavior in a kind, not intrusive, way. We all make eye contact when we feel, as a group, that we should switch from wine to tea. And I have noticed a number of them have curbed their own drinking and have begun to designate a nondrinking driver to get them home.
I will continue to be as cautious as I am now. If I have an unplanned drink when I have driven myself somewhere, I will leave my car and get a ride home. I have to be that cautious. I will forever have that first DUI offense hanging over my head. If I get arrested for DUI again in my state, the consequences will be dire.
But I keep coming back to questions like ... if a beautiful Parisian woman can have a glass of wine at lunch, why can't I?
Except that I know the answer. It's hard for me to stop at one glass. And when I look in the mirror, I see new dark circles under my eyes. The last time I got a physical, my liver was slightly enlarged. And I don't accomplish as much on any given day as I intend to. And I'm more forgetful than I used to be. So, my New Year's resolution is to cut back even more, write more, and possibly, now that my alcohol safety classes are over, substitute weekly attendance at nearby AA meetings. I don't know what effect that will have yet. I do remember what happened when an old friend quit drinking and started attending AA meetings. One night, in a bar (he was drinking cola), he came up to me, took my hands in his, and asked me to forgive him. Perhaps I'll get to that point, where I can forgive others but mostly myself for endangering what has otherwise been a pretty good, healthy life.
Can drinking alcohol really speed up the aging process? Well, the truth is that yes, it can make you age faster by causing wrinkles. This includes premature wrinkles, loss of collagen, elasticity, redness, dehydration and puffiness. However, it’s the amount and frequency of your drinking that really matters. There are actually some recent studies that indicate that alcohol has some health benefits – when you drink in moderation.
To begin with, there are no nutrients in alcohol. In fact, alcohol can adversely affect your nutrition levels by causing a depletion in healthy nutrients that aid in carrying oxygen throughout your body. Specifically, alcohol can have a huge negative impact on your vitamin A level, which is a very important antioxidant for your skin/body and it is vital in the regeneration of new cells.
Vitamin A is also extremely important in the production of collagen. When you have lower amounts of collagen, you lose elasticity in your skin. Collagen and elasticity are what keep your skin supple, taut and looking young. By drinking in excess, you actually speed up the aging process because you are already losing collagen and elasticity as you age. Your facial skin is already so delicate as compared to other areas of your body. We are constantly exposed to pollution, smog, smoke and the sun. The more you drink in excess, the more you’re speeding up the clock.
According to the US Government Dietary Guidelines, a moderate level of drinking is up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. A drink is either 5 fluid ounces of wine, 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor.
When alcohol is metabolized, it works as a vasodilator in that it widens the blood vessels that bring blood to the face. This can cause redness as well as puffiness or swelling. When you consume a lot of alcohol over a long period of time, the blood vessels just continue to grow and enlarge. This will eventually lead to a loss of skin tone and/or permanent redness including skin that is blotchy and similar to rosacea. This redness can also turn into broken capillaries or vessels that can burst, especially around the nose and face.
Alcohol is also very dehydrating in that it acts like a diuretic. The more you drink, the more dehydrated you will be. A good rule of thumb is to have a water or a non-alcoholic beverage in between drinks to keep yourself hydrated while enjoying your favorite libation. You will be happy to have your skin hydrated and your body will love you for avoiding a nasty morning hangover.
Most people know and understand that alcoholism is a disease and the long-term effects can be detrimental to your health. Long-term heavy drinking can lead to liver disease, brain damage, heart disease and even contribute to breast cancer.
It’s also very important to know that women actually metabolize alcohol differently than men. Women get a higher concentration of alcohol in their bloodstream and brain chemistry. Women are typically smaller in stature and size which explains why women often feel the effects of alcohol so much faster than men.
After explaining all the bad effects of alcohol, here is some good news for those of us who like to treat ourselves to a drink. Studies have shown that moderate drinking can help to lower cholesterol and lower the risk of heart attack (as compared to non-drinkers, especially in older men). Alcohol can help to lower the risk of diabetes by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It can also help to lower the risk of dementia.
Knowing all the bad and good effects of drinking helps one understand that it’s all about moderation. Try to keep a healthy balance, have fun, and take good care of yourself.lick here to
6 sneaky signs you drink too much
You rarely turn down wine with dinner, not to mention that second (or third) cocktail at happy hour—but that doesn't make you a binge drinker, does it?
It depends, but according to a new report by the CDC, an exploding number of Americans are in the drinking danger zone—and they aren't always who you'd think.
More than 38 million adults binge drink an average of four times a month, according to a the report, and while 18 to 34 year olds are more likely to go overboard than any other age group, it’s actually the over-65 set that does it most often. Tying one on now and then may seem harmless, but overindulging in alcohol is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths in this country per year, and is the third leading cause of preventable deaths.
So how much alcohol means you’re overdoing it? For women, binge drinking means having four or more drinks in a short period of time, compared to five or more for men.
Most people who binge drink don’t fit the definition of an alcoholic, but there aren’t just two camps of drinkers, say experts: Many of us are somewhere in between. To find out where you fall on the problem-drinking spectrum, read on for these surprising signs you may be drinking too much.
You become a daredevil.
Anyone who’s seen their normally shy co-worker dancing on the bar at the company party knows drinking can lower inhibitions. Getting drunk can come with repercussions far worse than feeling embarrassed—it can lead to risky decisions.
“Drinking too much on just one occasion can change your life for the worse,” says Dr. Gregory A. Smith, an addiction specialist at the Comprehensive Pain Relief Group in Los Angeles. Alcohol is also a factor in approximately 60 percent of fatal burn injuries and drownings, 40 percent of fatal falls and car accidents, and half of all sexual assaults, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
You’re a weekend warrior.
If you don’t drink daily but are drinking regularly, such as every Friday night, that’s a red flag,” says Smith. While research shows that having about seven alcoholic beverages per week lowers your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, abstaining all week only to guzzle five or six glasses in a single sitting negates any of alcohol’s potential health benefits. Moreover, binge drinking can raise blood pressure and interfere with certain medications.
“Plus, it’s easier for women to suffer acute alcohol poisoning that could lead to death because it could take only six or seven drinks for someone who is 5’3” and 115 pounds, while it may take twice that amount or more for a larger man,” says Smith.
Drinking just “creeps up on you.”
Have you ever told yourself you were going to have only a drink or two at happy hour, and before you knew it you’d downed four? One of the clues that you may be a binge drinker is not knowing your limits—or feeling surprised when you've "suddenly" passed them. Like diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems, drinking problems develop gradually. That’s why it’s smart to reevaluate your drinking habits regularly by writing down how much you drink and when. That will make it easier to rein yourself in if you’re starting to get a little out of control. (See what other sneaky health mistakes you're making with the 20 Biggest Health Excuses That Hold You Back.)
Your memory has temporarily gone missing.
Alcohol affects everyone differently, depending on your genes, what, if any, medications you’re taking, as well as whether you just ate a big meal (food slows the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream). Still, researchers speculate that heavy drinking interferes with how you remember by disrupting a key brain messenger called glutamate, which is linked to memory. That means if you have ever “forgotten” parts of the night until your drinking buddies reminded you, or have woken up foggy as to how you got home and into bed, you’ve definitely had one (or three) too many.
You let some responsibilities slide.
“Drinking is a problem when you notice that you’ve started to neglect things that are important to you for the sake of alcohol,” says Keith Humphreys, of the VA/Stanford University Center for Health Care Evaluation in Palo Alto, California. Maybe you’re normally a dedicated parent, but a Saturday night buzz means you have trouble putting the kids to bed. Or you skip your Monday morning spin class because you feel hung-over from the weekend. When drinking is prioritized over your normal day-to-day life, you’re probably in the danger zone.
People close to you seem concerned.
If your family, friends, or co-workers have hinted (or flat-out vocalized) that they’re worried about you, it’s time to cut back. “The first step is to recognize that you’re drinking more than you should, and then to set some goals for yourself,” says Dr. Deidra Roach of the NIAAA. Tell your partner or friend what your drinking limit is going to be before you go to an event where alcohol is free flowing. This makes it easier to say no to the next drink, because you’re being held accountable by someone else.
“And if you’re afraid to ask people if you drink too much, that’s probably a sign that you’re overdoing it, too” says Humphreys
Matthew Cordle, Man Who Made YouTube DUI Confession, Expected To Plead Guilty
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Confronted at a hospital by police who said he'd just killed a man, drunk driver Matthew Cordle was angry and in denial.
"He became very irate, and began yelling, he didn't kill anyone, he didn't do it, and he wasn't going to give them any blood sample," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Wednesday.
Sober and in recovery, Cordle had a change of heart. He decided to plead guilty as quickly as possible, and made an online video confessing to the crime. He didn't waver from the position he took in the Sept. 3 video, and on Wednesday he made good on his pledge and pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide.
"I drank so much I was blacked out," Cordle told Franklin County Judge David Fais near the end of a 38-minute hearing.
"So I would say this was a binge drinking situation, correct, Mr. Cordle?" Fais asked.
"Yes, your honor," Cordle said.
His guilty plea came just over a week after he was indicted, light speed compared to most court cases which can drag on for weeks or months.
Sentencing was set for Oct. 10. Cordle, 22, faces two to 8 1/2 years in prison, a $15,000 fine and loss of driving privileges for life. He also pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
In a 3 1/2-minute video posted two weeks ago, Cordle admitted he killed a man from another Columbus suburb and said he "made a mistake" when he decided to drive that night. "My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani," he says somberly. "This video will act as my confession."
Cordle told Fais he'd been at a series of bars near downtown Columbus and was on his way home but remembered little else.
"I have no recollection," he said, when asked if any of his friends had tried to stop him from driving. He also couldn't remember how long he'd been drinking or if he'd had anything to eat. His attorneys said he may have suffered a brain injury from a cracked skull in the accident.
Two other cars narrowly avoided involvement in the crash that night, including two women in a car who suffered minor injuries as they swerved to avoid Cordle, O'Brien said.
Cordle did not ask to be released before sentencing and the judge revoked his $255,000 bond.
Cordle received permission to give a media interview from jail Thursday with a news organization his attorneys wouldn't identify.
O'Brien said he believed Cordle's remorse in the video was genuine, but he said any further interviews would be self-serving. He also disputed Cordle's assertion in the confessional video that he could have fought the case against him, which O'Brien called "a slam dunk."
"It's nonsense to think that you can beat that case, and any lawyer that told him that was trying to get a large fee on some kind of promise," O'Brien said.
O'Brien is seeking the maximum sentence. Cordle's attorneys say they will ask for a sentence that's fair. They defended Cordle's upcoming interview, saying he wants to get his anti-drunk driving message out.
"He'll be the first person to tell you anytime you sit down and talk with Matt that this is not about him, it is about the Canzani family," defense attorney George Breitmayer said. "He's just trying to make something good come out of a terrible, terrible situation."
Canzani's daughter told a TV station last week that the attention the case has gotten is forcing her to relive what happened. Angela Canzani told WCMH-TV in Columbus that people seem to forget a person died.
The YouTube version of Cordle's video has been viewed more than two million times. It begins with Cordle's face blurred as he describes how he has struggled with depression and was simply trying to have a good time with friends going "from bar to bar" the night of the accident. He then describes how he ended up driving into oncoming traffic on Interstate 670. Cordle's face becomes clear as he reveals his name and confesses to killing Canzani.
He ends the video by pleading with viewers not to drink and drive.
Drive Drunk at Your Own Risk
It's always a bad idea to drink and drive, but when it comes to punishing offenders, some states are much stricter than others. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) gives highest marks to states that mandate that all DUI offenders -- even on a first offense -- install interlock devices in their cars. These breath analyzers attach to ignitions and prevent vehicles from starting if a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a state-determined level, usually around 0.02 percent. Only four states now have this requirement: New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, and Illinois. (As of 2004, most other states have interlock laws, but only for repeat offenders, and they're not always mandatory.)
Who has the weakest laws? Wisconsin, the only state in which first-offense drunk driving is not a criminal offense, and North Dakota, where drivers must have five offenses before being charged with a felony, as opposed to the more-typical two offenses. On the needs-improvement list: the nine states that do not automatically revoke drunk drivers' licenses upon arrest.
How Drunk Are You?
Simply defined, blood alcohol content (BAC) is the concentration of alcohol in one's blood, measured as a percentage. A BAC rating of 0.08 percent, for example, means 1 gram per 1,250 milliliters in an individual's blood is alcohol -- and in most states, that is the point at which one is legally intoxicated. There is, however, no easy formula for calculating BAC on the basis of how many drinks you've had (the Department of Health and Human Services defines one standard drink to consist of 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, 12 ounces of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine, or 4 ounces of liqueur). "Blood alcohol content is highly dependent on individual variation," says Ann Bradley, a spokeswoman for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in Bethesda, Maryland.
A wide range of factors influences your BAC, including how much you drink in a given period of time, your weight, any food you've eaten, and your body fat percentage (women tend to have more body fat than men, which means less water and thus slower alcohol absorption). Genetics and overall health play roles as well: Everyone's liver, for example, contains varying levels of gastric alcohol dehydrogenase, the group of natural enzymes that break down alcohol.
To further complicate matters, two people with the same BAC can experience wildly different degrees of impairment, says Vivian Faden, PhD, deputy director of epidemiology and prevention research at the NIAAA. Infrequent drinkers may feel the effects of the same amount of alcohol much more severely than do frequent drinkers. And of course, certain medications, such as antidepressants, painkillers, and anything containing codeine, can interact with alcohol and intensify its effects, as can some over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines.
How long you stay drunk also varies a great deal, depending on a host of factors, but if you have consumed four drinks in under an hour on an empty stomach, it can take up to seven hours for your BAC to return to zero. (Coffee will not sober you up; the caffeine just makes you more alert.)
If you are driving, the best bet is to limit yourself to no more than one drink with a meal, although the safest course is to abstain entirely. For alcohol impairment charts for both women and men.
How Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk
We've all heard the phrase "friends don't let friends drive drunk," but keeping someone who has consumed too much alcohol from getting behind the wheel is rarely simple. First, few of us can assess accurately who is too drunk to drive, especially if we've had a few drinks ourselves. And second, someone who is too drunk is likely to be argumentative. So what do you do when book group is over and you and your friends have polished off enough pinot grigio to line several bookshelves with empty bottles?
You may be tempted to work out an equation to calculate just how intoxicated someone really is ("Well, we split four bottles, so that's about three glasses per person, but we've been here for four hours, so...). Don't! Too many factors affect the way people metabolize alcohol to make such guesstimates even remotely useful.
The same goes for physical cues: One girlfriend might be glassy-eyed and as giggly as a fourth grader in a candy store, while another may seem as steady as ever but, as experts point out, driving skills can be impaired even when a person shows no visible signs of intoxication. The optimal strategy is to make a pact beforehand that anyone who drinks will catch a ride with the designated driver, call a cab, or stay overnight at the hostess's home.
But let's say it's already too late for best intentions, and your friend has been tossing back apple-tinis all evening long. You must keep her from getting behind the wheel -- despite the near certainty that she'll insist, "I'm fine!" Humor her ("Yeah, yeah, you and Lindsay Lohan"). If your friend is your ride, refuse to get in the car with her. Never be embarrassed to say, "I'll get home another way -- and I think you should, too." Ask for her keys, but be prepared for a verbal assault. "What drinkers hate most is to have their keys taken away," says Bob Jacob, director of the Institute of Police Technology and Management, in Jacksonville, Florida. (In the future, consider having everyone who's drinking relinquish her keys at the start of the evening.) Try for an empathetic tone: "Hey, it happens to all of us. Next time you'll watch out for me." And offer options: "Come home with me and we'll have a pajama party."
If, despite your pleas, your friend weaves off into the night, realize that "the onus is on the person who has chosen to drink and drive," says Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia police department. And don't forget you still have a last-ditch option: Calling the cops. Your friend may wind up with a DUI charge and a suspended license, but your actions might save her life or someone else's. Just don't expect her to thank you in the morning -- especially if she's calling from jail.
This Is Your Brain on Alcohol
All of us have the potential to become addicted, but not everyone who takes a drink or two succumbs. Scientists know that vulnerability to alcohol's siren song comes down to genes and environment (and sometimes a combination of the two). For example, genes that predispose to alcoholism can make someone more vulnerable to other stressors, such as anxiety or depression, which in turn can push him or her toward alcohol dependence.
Women also have an additional biological susceptibility because most naturally produce less of an enzyme called gastric alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol before it leaves the stomach. Women have less body water and more estrogen, which some suggest enhances the effect of alcohol.
Today's sophisticated brain-imaging technology, such as PET (positron-emission tomography) scans, means researchers can now watch brain areas "light up" and track altered blood flow as alcohol and other addictive drugs like tobacco, prescription pain relievers, and cocaine act on it.
Alcohol affects virtually every nerve cell in the brain, notes Henry Kranzler, MD, professor of psychiatry and associate scientific director of the Alcohol Research Center at the University of Connecticut.
It slows down information processing so it's tougher to think clearly; affects balance, making it difficult to walk a straight line; depresses sexual arousal and performance; and causes sleepiness. It alters levels of the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which relay signals controlling behavior, thought, and emotion. In particular, alcohol increases dopamine, the neurotransmitter in the brain's reward center, creating a feeling of intense pleasure.
Addiction happens in part because the brain remembers the pleasure of that dopamine surge and wants to repeat it -- again and again. Eventually, this finely tuned system breaks down: The brain adjusts to the rush by making less dopamine or decreasing the number of receptors that receive and transmit dopamine signals, gradually rendering the drinker unable to feel any pleasure at all from alcohol. This leads to drinking more to try to get dopamine levels back to normal and create the original feeling of gratification.