“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” — Lin Yutang
Hope for successful recovery exists today because millions of people have worn a path over the gravel and stones of addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous alone has helped more than two million people recover from alcoholism. Results of ongoing scientific and medical research are helping remove the stigma of addiction and improve treatment options. Still, the stories of recovery include stumbling, falling and relapses; and the harsh reality is that some addicts never do recover. So how does hope become success?
Addiction is defined as a chronic condition requiring ongoing care and evidence shows relapse is not only possible but likely. Even years after giving up a substance, just seeing it or smelling it, or exposure to the people or environment of using, elicits the urge to use again.
Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), on the PBS Charlie Rose Brain Series show in April 2010, stated that nearly 70% of persons relapse (some studies give an even lower 50%) and do so primarily because treatment was discontinued. “We have this magical thinking that we’re going to cure addiction,” she said. “Currently, we do not cure addiction; we treat it like high blood pressure or cancer.” That show (accessible online), co-hosted with Dr. Eric Kandel, a Nobel Laureate and Professor in Neuroscience at Columbia University, focused on the Science of Emotion and how the brain regulates pleasure and reward, a critical component of addiction. Continue reading
I could hear my eyelashes! I blinked slowly several times. Yup, definitely my eyelashes. I was lying in a hammock under a spectacular night sky in the High Desert of the Southern Mojave in California. The 2,900 foot elevation and remote location far away from air and light pollution made the stars seem brighter and more vivid. My awareness, too, was sharper.
It was August 1986. I and 15 other men and women of various backgrounds from all over the United States had gathered for our first retreat with a spiritual teacher we had only read about or to whom we had been referred by earlier teachers. We had signed on for reasons as varied as we were.
By then, I’d been on a 10-year “quest” that had taken me to workshops, seminars, talks and retreats throughout the Twin Cities. I filled notebooks with truths and principles. I sought my own truths through daily journaling. Continue reading
During World War II, Allied prisoners of war in the Philippines, amidst unspeakable brutality, disease and daily executions, put on talent shows that included singing, skits and comedy. It provided a sense of community and a temporary escape essential to their survival. A sense of humor, noted a survivor, was important: “One of the tricks of survival is to laugh, no matter what happens.”
New York theaters closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks then reopened two days later because people needed a place to share an experience and feel a sense of community. Broadway lights came back to affirm “New York must show the world the terrorists have not won.” Continue reading
Holiday cheer and gaiety – there’s no escape: Deck the halls, colored lights, cookies, presents. Whether holiday depression is fact or myth (statistical evidence is inconclusive), the ubiquitous pressure is enough to bring on the blues!
When someone says “I’ve got the blues” we understand that life has gone a bit off kilter, that we’re not functioning at optimum level. Blues music is believed to have evolved from southern plantation slaves whose songs gave voice to cruel realities such as oppression, death, and lost love. Today, except for performers, we are not likely to sing about our blues. Since the discovery of serotonin-enhancers that improve a person’s mood, psycho-pharmacology has become a multi-billion dollar industry. We are also discovering that those very same drugs alter the brain in ways researchers never imagined, sometimes dangerously and fatally so.
What springs to mind with the word “retreat”? It’s a pretty safe bet you don’t think about the enemy fleeing from the battlefield or the military ceremonial lowering of the flag. “Retreat” usually shows up in the context of time away from daily demands. We imagine enchanting resorts with white sand beaches, salty ocean breezes on the deck of a cruise ship, a cabin nestled in northern pines, a campfire under the stars. Mostly, “retreat” means to take oneself away from the daily routine, either alone or with a group, with the intent of self-renewal. Continue reading