Innocence in Spirit Among Addicts and Alcoholics

During my time at a solution-based addiction treatment center, I came to understand how deeply I was affected by feelings of unrelenting shame and guilt. I also found I was not alone in these feelings; many of my peers also suffered from self-loathing and regret from past failures, mistakes and transgressions. Further complicating matters was our feelings of guilt over having developed an addiction in the first place. Over the course of our addictions, we committed even more acts for which we were sincerely regretful. And so guilt and shame grew exponentially. Which begs the question: "Are we truly guilty of purposefully and intentionally wrecking our lives?"

I recently read a book loaned to me from my psychologist called The Tao of Sobriety by David Gregson and Jay S. Efran, Ph.D. After reading the first few chapters, I began to see more clearly the patterns of my addictive behaviors. Specifically, in the second chapter, I was enlightened by a revelation that perhaps there was an inherent innocence among addicts concerning what some outside observers to our lives might declare an intentional destruction of our lives by means of addiction. Here I would like to quote the "Discovery" exercise entitled Innocence in Spirit from chapter 2 of this book:

Recall whether you ever woke up one morning feeling truly happy and at peace with the world, and then decided something like "Today is a perfect day to mess up my life with drugs or alcohol!" Now that you have taken time to think about it seriously, did you ever truly make that kind of decision? If you did, perhaps you are guilty after all. Otherwise, it seems to us that you are innocent of willfully and purposely screwing things up.

So, concerning how drugs and alcohol have affected our lives, I do not believe any addict began using with the intention of becoming addicted or committing reckless deeds that harmed ourselves or others. Although each of us has unique experiences in these matters, we share much common, sacred ground, and this innocence in spirit is perhaps a part of that ground. From my interactions with peers during my stay at that treatment center and my visits to aftercare, I know in my heart none of us would wish to repeat our mistakes, or see others struggle with similar issues. The authors of the book state "Who would intentionally go out of their way and freely choose the hell of chemical addiction?"

However, with this newfound awareness of the "innocence of spirit" comes new responsibility. Now knowing the nature of my addictions and how they affect various aspects of my life, I must commit to a new lifestyle which involves new patterns of behaviors, thinking, and decision-making. This inherent innocence, as I call it, empowers me to move forward, free of shame, so that I may be fully present in each moment and of service to others. The foundation that was poured for me during my inpatient addiction treatment was reinforced by this simple, yet profound principle, and has become the lens through which I gaze upon my past, observe my present, and dream about my future.

source: Associated Content


Cocaine's brain effect revealed

Brain scans have revealed a possible biological basis for cocaine addiction which may explain why some get hooked, while others can use the drug socially.

The scans show cocaine alters parts of the brain controlling behaviour and appropriate decision-making.

In effect, the drug messes with what is colloquially known as willpower - with some maybe more vulnerable than others.

Trinity College Dublin researchers will present their findings to a Royal Society meeting.

The researchers took brain scans of cocaine users while they performed computer tasks.

They found that cocaine increased activity in areas of the pre-frontal cortex.

The scans also revealed differences in brain structures of cocaine users.

It is unclear whether the differences existed before they started taking cocaine, or were a result of using the drug.

But the findings raise the possibility that differences in brain structure render some people potentially more vulnerable to the effects of the drug.

Lead researcher Dr Hugh Garavan said previous research into drug abuse had tended to focus on the emotional aspects of addictions - such as pleasure seeking, craving and withdrawal.

The latest study suggests that it is not simply these emotions that are affected by cocaine, but the way the brain deals with them, and keeps them in check by controlling a person's actions.

Better treatment

He said: "This research helps us move away from thinking of drug dependence as a moral weakness and allows us to see it as more of a medical condition.

"Understanding the role that our brain plays in addiction may also have important implications for treating long-term addiction and designing intervention therapies.

"Importantly, new medication based on certain chemical processes in the brain could be developed as currently there are no good pharmacological treatments for cocaine.

"Traditional treatment therapy such as counselling or rehab could also be adapted to train addicts to monitor their behaviour and practice impulse control."

Dr Gerome Breen, of the Institute of Psychiatry, said: "We now know that the effects of cocaine on the brain are multi-facetted.

"Dr Garavan and his collaborators have shown convincingly that the brain regions controlling impulse control have their activity altered by cocaine.

"This aids in our understanding of cocaine's effects and, thus, the causes of cocaine addiction."

Source: BBC News


Aborigines face pathetic circumstances

Sydney - An investigation into the deaths of 22 Aborigines in outback towns, some who hanged themselves while drunk, found Aborigines were trying to escape their appalling lives through alcohol abuse and drugs.

The coroner's inquiry found that life for Aborigines in the Kimberley region of north west Australia was so horrific that it was fuelling a soaring suicide rate, widespread alcohol abuse and leaving aboriginal children prey to sexual abuse.

In 2006, the suicide rate among Aborigines in the Kimberley rose 100 percent to 21 deaths, compared with no increase in the white population, which recorded just three deaths.

In Fitzroy Crossing, a dusty outpost of a few houses and a hotel, there were eight suicides in 2006 among a population of just 3 500.

Alcohol abuse was so entrenched among Aborigines in Kimberley that "foetal alcohol syndrome" was 21,5 times higher than the rest of the Western Australia state.

Deaths due to alcohol in Kimberly between 2000 and 2004 was double that of urban centres and hospitalisation due to alcohol was 5,5 times higher.

Western Australia state coroner Alastair Hope investigated the deaths of 22 Aborigines, all linked to alcohol and drugs, in Kimberley since 2000.

He said aboriginal communities in towns like Fitzroy Crossing were engulfed in rubbish, houses were small and dirty with little furniture and kitchens contained little or no food.

People slept on filthy foam mattresses, along with diseased dogs. Houses were crowded with sometimes 20 people per house, and temperatures soared to over 40° Celsius in summer.

"It was clear that the living conditions for many aboriginal people in the Kimberley were appallingly bad," Hope said on Monday in handing down his findings.

"In these communities there is nothing to do for most of the inhabitants for most of the time. Alcohol and drugs provide an escape," he said.

Hope said "there is little refinement about the drinking", with Aborigines becoming excessively intoxicated and consuming warm beer and wine mixed together.

A medical officer told the inquiry that there were so many "stuporous bodies on the ground" at Fitzroy Crossing at night, and drunks staggering in the dark, that it was hard to find the patient she had been called out to assist.

"The plight of the little children was especially pathetic," said Hope. "Many already suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome and unless major changes occur...they are likely to suffer poorer health and die younger than other Western Australians".

"They live in an environment where they can expect to be the victims of violence and possibly also sexual abuse," he said.

Australia's 460 000 Aborigines make up 2 percent of the 20 million population and have a life expectancy 17 years less than white Australians. They have far higher rates of unemployment, imprisonment, alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.

Source: Reuters


Joyce Walker takes hard road back from drug and alcohol addictions

Joyce Walker's short hair is covered with bleach as she stuffs some last-second items into her bulging duffle bag. The rest go into a worn leather carry-on with a broken handle, and how appropriate is that?

One journey leads to another. A battered spirit is in need of repair. It's time to get sober again.

She grabs a paperback, but must leave her well-worn razor behind. No sharp objects allowed. A dainty diamond stud earring comes out of her right nostril, another no-no in rehab. Walker changes jeans twice and asks, "Do these make me look fat?"

A few drags on a cigarette calm her nerves, and there's a final snuggle for Taylor, an 11-year-old Peekapoo who doesn't judge her shortcomings.

"I love you, little man," she says. "Mommy has to go for a while, but I'll be back, better than ever."

A framed Seattle Times page leaning against her apartment wall proclaims Joyce Walker the state's greatest female high-school basketball player of the 20th century. But Walker, who won state championships at Garfield as a player and as a coach, feels anything but legendary. She is filled with shame, remorse and resolve as she readies for the road back that starts with the Recovery Centers of King County (RCKC).

After nearly 17 years of sobriety, one of Washington's best-known athletes had relapsed. It led to a journey the past year filled with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and crack that emptied her bank account of at least $50,000 and left a trail of deception.

Now Walker has resurfaced after 26 days in rehab, recommitted to her recovery and dreaming of coaching the Garfield girls again. Some days, she feels back on top of the world. Other days, it's a struggle to get out of bed. Every day, the addiction gnaws at her.

"It's not like I don't think about it every day," she said of the temptation to use.

"I'd like to come home"

Starting over is nothing new for Walker. The 1980 Garfield grad and two-time All-American at Louisiana State played with a flamboyant style befitting one of the first female Harlem Globetrotters.

But the party lifestyle that accompanied her fame opened the door to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and crack addictions that wiped out a six-figure income and sent her back home to Seattle.

"There's something about this damn town," Walker said, reflecting on now and then. "It's both a blessing and a curse."

Walker, who first smoked marijuana in high school, got clean and sober through Alcoholics Anonymous in April 1990 and became a drug and alcohol counselor who toured the country as an inspirational speaker. Her raw stories made fellow addicts laugh and cry.

She longed to give back to the game she loved and began training young basketball players. Coaching seemed the next logical step. Walker spent one-year stints as assistant girls coach at Ballard and Garfield, then took the head girls job at Rainier Beach for two seasons, 1994-96.

Eventually, she was drawn back to her old high school. The Garfield girls program she led to a state championship as a player was in disarray, and she cried as she sat in the bleachers watching one lopsided loss.

"If the job's open, I'd like to come home," Walker told Garfield administrators.

She was hired in 2000 and took the Bulldogs back to the top, winning a state title in 2005.

A year later, though, the unraveling began. Walker lost her father to prostate cancer, received a promotion to treatment director of the Milam Recovery Center in Renton that added to on-the-job pressure and opened her South Seattle home to two relatives.

One of them brought along crack cocaine.

"I hadn't had dope in my house for a long time," Walker said. "It opened up the craving for me."

She fought the urge, and focused on her basketball team and a growing desire to raise a child, her biological clock ticking at age 44. As last season's basketball season neared, she discussed options with her family doctor.

A routine physical ended with a sucker punch that Walker said ultimately sent her over the edge. Lung X-rays showed several spots, including one that her doctor said appeared suspicious, according to Walker. Three words echoed in her mind: I have cancer.

Trying to save face

The spots on her lung turned out to be benign, but Walker said the scare stirred her addiction.

"Everything toppled from that," she said. "It was just what I needed to justify."

Some in the Garfield community believed she made up the cancer story to at first cover up her relapse and later to excuse it.

When someone dropped a piece of crack on her living-room floor one day before Christmas 2006, Walker's foot instinctively slid to conceal it. Weeks later, she smoked it.

She says her cocaine use didn't escalate until after the basketball season. With crack in her home, she knew it was only a matter of time before the addiction roared back to life.

"I never dreamed I'd get loaded again," she said.

Walker also had started drinking again, and it began taking a toll. She missed practices and lost weight. Lies multiplied. Players noticed she lacked her normal fire.

"Her behavior during the season was pretty erratic, and we knew something was wrong for a long time," said Lily Ramseyer, now a senior.

Walker told the team in late January she had cancer. Rumors swirled in the community, but Walker publicly dodged questions about her health until talking to The Seattle Times in mid-February 2007.

Walker told The Times that three spots on her lungs were malignant. Her explanation now is that she used the wrong word and meant benign.

But Walker admits she was juggling her stories at the time.

"There was another factor going on," she said, referring to her addiction. "You can't save your face and your ass at the same time. You have to decide. At the time, I was trying to save my face."

Ramseyer said she never saw her coach drunk or high at practice or games. Walker insisted that's a line she would not allow herself to cross.

"There were some rules, some principles," Walker said, adding her conscience forced her to take a leave of absence from Milam in February. "I didn't come to practice high, but I was scattered at times."

"I wasn't done using"

Sometime in April, Walker said she went through an MRI exam that confirmed she did not have cancer. But her descent into drugs and alcohol was well under way.

"I had already opened Pandora's box again," Walker said, adding she knew she was in trouble when she quit talking about her addiction. "It's almost like I was running, I was running from myself."

Tricia Ross, Walker's partner and best friend, had been sober for nine years. She also started using again and joined Walker's downward spiral.

"It was a dangerous time," said Ross, who left her job as a pharmacy technician and still is trying to rebuild her life.

Walker called Garfield principal Ted Howard in early May to take a leave of absence from coaching. Players were told she needed time to get healthy. By then, though, they suspected Walker's issues were drug-related.

"Nobody really talked about it, but we all knew," Ramseyer said.

When Walker isolated herself from sober family and friends, her younger sister Shirley Wroten worried.

"I knew something was wrong when she stopped coming around," Wroten said. "We're a very close, tight family and she was just kind of distancing herself."

Wroten, a former track star at Garfield, demanded answers as rumors of a relapse swirled at the end of the basketball season.

"I went to her house and confronted her, but she denied it," she said.

Walker's appearance said what her words wouldn't: She was using. Sixty pounds had melted from Walker's 5-foot-9 frame. Even Walker didn't like the image in the mirror. Not just the tired eyes, but the emptiness inside.

Wroten spoke with Walker's AA sponsor, who said: "There's nothing you can do until she's ready to get help."

Walker wasn't ready. Mike Tretton, a longtime friend and her former assistant coach at Garfield, took her to two treatment centers in March and April. She walked away both times. Wroten coaxed her into detox July 4. Again, Walker fled.

"I wasn't done using," Walker explained. "It still had a hold on me. I wanted some more."

"A hazy time"

Walker sometimes spent $200 to $500 a day on her habit. Bills piled up. She sold her house in August. The cash helped feed her addiction.

"That has a hazy time," Walker said.

She took a road trip to Las Vegas in early November after blowing $24,000 on a new Chevy HHR. Walker totaled it in Eastern Oregon and later found out her insurance had lapsed.

Walker, with Ross and another friend as passengers, was driving eastbound on Interstate 84 near Ontario, Ore., in the early afternoon of Nov. 5 when she lost control. The SUV rolled three times, flipped over the median and landed in oncoming traffic.

Walker said she swerved to avoid a merging semi. No citations were issued, according to police, and, amazingly, injuries were minor.

"Obviously, God wasn't done with me," Walker said. "I paid this price for this journey, and I know that. Sometimes, a lot of things had to go so I could just stand alone in the presence of a power greater than myself."

That experience didn't stop her out-of-control downward spiral. She rented a car and continued to Las Vegas. A weeklong vacation turned into a month, as Walker hit the blackjack tables and slots, drinking and getting high.

Anything to escape. Anything to run away.

"I don't think it was about the gambling or getting high," Walker said. "It felt so excruciating, I didn't want to face any of it."

Walker spent a night in jail there. She was arrested for auto theft because the rental-car company claimed she hadn't returned the vehicle in time. Details are fuzzy, like many of the events in her life. But she didn't need a jail cell to make her feel trapped.

"I was in my own prison for about six months," she said. "I always knew I had the key, but I couldn't get it in the lock. Maybe I wasn't supposed to."

Walker's inner demons run deep, perhaps back to her childhood. The seventh of 10 children, she was born with spinal meningitis and needed more care than her mother and alcoholic father could provide. As a baby she was sent to live with her great aunt in Los Angeles. Walker was 7 years old when she returned to Seattle, but never outgrew the feeling she hadn't been good enough to live with the rest of her family.

As her recent crisis deepened, she felt drawn back to L.A., back to the now-ailing great aunt who raised her. It was time for some tough love.

"This is not you," her great aunt told her. "I know you're hurting, but you need to get back to your life."

Rock bottom came when Walker, longing for a high, nearly took the woman's life savings. She forced herself to put back all but $100.

The next day, four days before Christmas 2007, Walker flew home. It was time to get clean and sober.

"I was done before I got back here," Walker said, "and I was lucky. Most people don't get back here."

She still had a place to stay, an apartment in the Renton Highlands, but little else. Friends and family refused to lend more money, beyond a few dollars for cigarettes and food. Call when you get to treatment, they'd say, skeptical that day would come.

New clothes were returned for cash, some of which went for crack. She got high the night before going to rehab.

"Walking the sewer"

On Jan. 9, Walker learned a bed was available at the RCKC detox center. She called for a ride and hurriedly finished packing. A few quarters for the pay phone would be her only connection to the outside world.

"I know this is the only way," Walker said. "I want to rest. I want to get healthy again."

Her sponsors strongly advised against her publicizing her story so early in her recovery. But Walker decided to tell it anyway.

"It's hurtful to walk the way I just walked in broad daylight," she said. "Not everyone can do it. I didn't know if I could do it. But I felt it was the road to freedom. I know what society could say, but I know I had to walk it. When I found that inner freedom, it was the freedom of knowing there was something greater for me.

"But it was ugly at times."

Walker spent four days in detox before entering the treatment program at RCKC. The shakes from alcohol withdrawal were manageable compared to restless nights, when she dreamed of chasing drugs and woke up with the sweats. Her legs cramped, her arms went numb. Mood swings left her yelling one minute and crying the next.

"I went back to walking the sewer most people wouldn't walk through," she said a week into her recovery, "but I knew I wasn't staying. I stayed a couple of months longer than I wanted to, but I'm back and I'd pay any price to do it."

"A legend in the house"

Walker was released and awarded her certificate for completing treatment on Feb. 4, a week early. She slipped and injured her back, requiring treatment at Harborview.

Her thoughts immediately turned to Garfield. The next day she called Howard, the principal and her longtime ally, for a pass to that night's boys game at Eastlake in Sammamish. She couldn't wait to see her nephews, Tony Wroten and DeAndre Taylor, play for Garfield.

She headed for the gym at old Lincoln High School, where Garfield students are attending school until Garfield's renovation project is completed next fall.

"Get ready to get mobbed," Howard told her.

Lily Ramseyer is the first to see her, and her screams echo down the hall. Others follow.

"I love purple and white," Walker says, scanning the championship pictures on the window of an office that used to be hers. "I don't know anything else."

Walker shoots jumpers and shows off one of her Globetrotter tricks, spinning a ball on her index finger, then punching it up and through the net.

She scores a pair of purple and white sneakers and two practice jerseys bearing her number, 21, the one she has tattooed on her right biceps along with the words "Top Dog."

More confirmation and hugs come the next day, when the Garfield girls play at Eastlake. Walker knows she let players and parents down. She understands they all won't be forgiving.

"I've been mad at Joyce," says Judy Ramseyer, Lily's mother. "She made some bad decisions. But I love her, and I'm glad to see her back ... She was fighting her own demons."

But Lily has reservations.

"I guess I can forgive her, but I can't really forget it," she says.

"Shame is good for me"

Howard, wearing a Garfield jacket, is thrilled to see Walker in the crowd. He continues to be one of Walker's strongest advocates, as he has been since the day she schooled him on the basketball court when he was a Garfield freshman.

"Joyce means more to us than just a basketball player," the principal says. "She's part of the culture here. She's part of the kids, she's part of us. Every time the kids take the court, they're either dribbling like her or shooting like her. Her legend continues to live on."

Could she be back as Garfield coach? Howard won't say, but plans to talk with both her and Craig Jackson, the interim coach.

Walker believes she has a gift to give on the basketball court and already is back in the gym. Some days she has only enough energy to attend an AA meeting or study group. Ninety meetings in the first ninety days, that's the recommended regimen following treatment, and Walker says she attends one most days. She started an aftercare program Friday that includes weekly counseling.

The mood swings continue. One day, Walker is upbeat and excited about her future. Another, she feels sorry for herself. Depression lingers and humility is around every corner. She has no car, no job and, at the end of this month, no place to live. She hopes a school will take a chance on her again.

Walker tries not to worry about what people think.

"I'm not ashamed to let people see me go through difficult times," she says. "Shame is good for me. I messed up and did things wrong."

Step 9 in AA's 12-step program is making amends, face to face. Step 8 is making a list of those you have wronged.

"Hers is probably pretty long," Tretton says.

Some will never understand. Others will never forgive.

"There are those who don't understand it's a disease," says Tretton, who celebrated his 28th year of recovery Tuesday. "But once you know you have the disease, it is your responsibility to take care of it. From that standpoint, she has a responsibility. But once you start using again, you don't have a choice."

Walker knows her road back is only beginning.

"For some, there's no explanation necessary," she says. "For others, there's no explanation possible."

Joyce Walker makes no promises. Her addiction doesn't allow it. If she stays sober today, it's a good day.
source: Seattle Times


Drug Screening Online


This website is a service provided by Join Together, a national project of the Boston University School of Public Health.

Join Together also operates, a sibling website providing more intensive assessment and feedback on alcohol consumption. and were developed with clinical consultation from medical faculty at Boston University School of Medicine.

This website does not provide a diagnosis of alcohol/drug abuse or dependence. It cannot tell people for certain whether or not they have a problem. Rather, is a self-screening tool to help adults assess their own drug and alcohol use, and find out their likely risk level for experiencing harms to their health or other negative consequences. Through education and referral, it urges those whose drug and alcohol use is likely to be harmful or hazardous to seek further evaluation from a qualified professional.

Drug and alcohol misuse and dependence are major public health problems, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths per year in the United States and costing the healthcare system billions of dollars annually. Drug and alcohol problems are a major cause of injuries, violent crime, lost productivity at work and school, family and social problems, injuries, and disease.

Scientific research has shown that screening and brief intervention (SBI) can be effective in prompting people whose substance use is risky or harmful to reduce their use, stop, and/or seek treatment. Research to date on Internet-based SBI, while preliminary, points to significant potential to effectively reach many more individuals than can be physically screened in health care settings and other offline encounters. While no online tool can take the place of individual advice from a qualified professional, online screening is a valuable guide for understanding one's drug and alcohol use and the potential health issues involved with it.

The assessment questionnaire used on this website is based on the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST), developed by the World Health Organization to screen for harmful or hazardous substance use.

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Boston, MA 02116-5223
Phone: 617-437-1500


Not all drug habits are so easily forgiven

Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Terence Blacker

Illegal drugs, we have learned this week, fall into two broad categories. Some turn their users into hopeless victims who, if they are lucky enough to recover, are to be welcomed and congratulated by society. Others, equally illegal, demonise their users for ever, whether they have recovered or not.

For the young, who are supposed to be taught about such things, it is a complex business of right and wrong, but the last few days have provided useful case studies in good bad drugs and bad bad drugs.

On Monday Amy Winehouse – "troubled Amy Winehouse" as she must now officially be called – was released from the rehabilitation clinic where she is currently living to sing her songs "Rehab" and "I'm No Good" before a small audience in London. Her performance was linked via satellite to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, and Amy was presented with five of the top prizes. She was "wonderful", said one of her main rivals, Beyoncé, while the Los Angeles Times praised her as "the most exciting performer of the evening".

There was a single discordant voice – the singer Natalie Cole suggested that rewarding someone "in the stupor of drugs" might just possibly set a bad example – but the general consensus was that troubled Amy may have turned the corner at last. Her mother announced to the press that she was on the road to recovery. It was all rather moving.

The other famous former druggie in the spotlight has been Dwain Chambers – "drugs cheat Dwain Chambers" as he should now officially be called – who was running in the 60 metres at an athletics meeting in Sheffield after serving a two-year ban for taking performance-enhancing substances.

Athletics specialises in goody-goody pundits, but not even the most bland and mild-mannered of them has had a good word to say for the drugs cheat. Colin Jackson could hardly bear to mention his name on TV. Steve Cram, normally the soul of dull diplomacy, gravely announced that Chambers should not be allowed to represent his country. The director of the London Marathon, David Bedford, suggested that fans should boo the drugs cheat as he ran.

They cheered him to the echo as he romped to victory, much to Bedford's rage. The true athletics fans, he explained a trifle desperately, were not there, having already "voted with their feet" because of the way athletics is run.

There is another explanation. Those applauding Dwain Chambers were confused. They thought that, because he had served his punishment, he was no longer a pariah. After all, Linford Christie still works in the sport; Christine Ohuruogu, having been banned for skipping three drugs test, was later welcomed back as a national hero.

Some of the fans might have been further bewildered by the media coverage of the Grammies and Amy Winehouse. If the great worry is about negative role models sending out those famous wrong messages, why is it just fine for the music industry to celebrate a famously addled singer, however talented, while the mere presence on a running track of an athlete who took drugs in the past causes trills of outrage from all right-thinking people?

Just possibly, it helps that Amy Winehouse is white and wasted; she looks like a recovering druggie should look. Dwain Chambers, by contrast, is strong, black and not about to burst into tears for anyone. No one has explained to him that the British like their victims to look the part. Only when he becomes "the troubled Dwain Chambers" will he stand a chance of forgiveness.

An unpleasant whiff of prejudice

Although it is not statistically proven, many English people believe the French are not only ruder than most other nationalities, but are particularly prone to wind.

Now these prejudices are to be passed on to the next generation. A new character in the TV series based on Roger Hargreaves's Mr Men series is to include a Monsieur Rude, who speaks with a French accent and invites children to pull his finger. When they do, he farts.

Never mind the complaints about political correctness, this is an outrageous, malodorous slur against our European neighbours. The racism tsar, Trevor Phillips, should have a word with M. Rude's creators.

* Good news for employees of the National Trust. They can stay home on 29 February. The Trust hopes that on what it calls Green Leap Year Day, staff and volunteers will use the time to think about the environment, possibly changing a light-bulb.

"If everybody gets involved, this means over 54,000 people could reduce their impact on the environment," says Dame Fiona Reynolds, the National Trust's director-general.

It is an attractive idea, staying at home and doing nothing in order to save the world, but the idea has certain flaws. Sitting around can be chilly at this time of the year: better turn up the heating. It gets boring after a minute or two: why not turn on the TV, with that high-energy plasma screen?

National Trust employees will be encouraged to write a report on what they have achieved. Doubtless, these will be printed out on – oh dear – paper. There are four more years to think this one through more carefully.



High School To The First Year Of College - A Dangerous Transition

Increases in young women's drinking during the transition from high school through the first year of college can have dangerous physical, sexual and psychological implications, according to a report out of the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

The good news is that during the first year of college, when many young women increase their drinking, the majority (78 percent) of the 870 incoming freshmen women who participated in the study did not experience any victimization. The bad news, however, is that among the 22 percent of women who were victimized, 13 percent experienced severe physical victimization and 38 percent experienced severe sexual victimization.

The research results were published in the January 2008 issue of the prestigious Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"This is the first study that we know of that has compared risk for physical and sexual assault among college women based on changes in drinking during this transition period," said Kathleen A. Parks, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study. "Clearly, abstaining from drinking is a protective measure. However, young college women should be aware that becoming a new drinker or increasing one's drinking during this transition increases the likelihood of victimization."

The study showed that among women who drank alcohol during the first year of college, rates of physical and sexual victimization were substantially higher compared to women who did not drink. In addition, the odds of first-year college sexual victimization significantly increased with each pre-college psychological symptom (i.e., anxiety, depression) and each pre-college sexual partner a woman reported.

Interestingly, researchers found that the changes in drinking patterns during the high-school-to-college transition influenced risk for physical and sexual victimization in different ways.

About one fourth (27 percent) of the women reported that they abstained from drinking in the year prior to entering college. During the first year of college, only 12 percent continued to be abstainers. Among these abstainers, less than two percent reported physical victimization and seven percent reported sexual victimization.

Compare this with drinkers, seven percent of whom reported physical victimization and 19 percent, sexual victimization.

Being a new drinker during the first year of college (15 percent of the women) increased the likelihood of physical, but not sexual, victimization. The researchers speculated that new drinkers' social and physical inexperience or lack of tolerance for alcohol and its effects may increase women's impairment when drinking and subsequently, their vulnerability to potential perpetrators or dangerous situations. Perhaps, the physically disinhibiting effects of alcohol for new drinkers may cause them to be more reactive, possibly verbally aggressive, or more likely to call attention to themselves, thereby putting themselves at risk for physical aggression in social drinking situations.

Continuing drinkers were defined as those who drank the year prior to college and during the first year of college. Of these women, more than half (57 percent) increased their drinking during the first year at college. They drank considerably more than new drinkers on multiple measures of alcohol consumption, including heavy episodic drinking -- four or more drinks per occasion -- and were at greater risk for sexual victimization.

Of the continuing drinkers, 26 percent reported decreasing their drinking and 16 percent reported not changing their level of weekly drinking.

These findings suggest that a later onset of drinking may be protective against patterns of heavy episodic drinking and some of the associated negative consequences.

"Young women who had a history of physical victimization and greater psychological symptoms, and who began drinking during the first year at college had an increased likelihood of experiencing physical victimization," explained Parks. "Women who had a greater number of psychological symptoms, more sexual partners and increased their weekly drinking had an increased likelihood of experiencing sexual victimization during the first year of college."

Parks is a senior research scientist at RIA and a behavioral psychologist with extensive experience studying women's substance use, misuse, and victimization. The other research team members included Ann M. Romosz, project director, Clara M. Bradizza, Ph.D., senior research scientist at RIA and research assistant professor of psychiatry in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Ya-Ping Hsieh, Ph.D., data manager and analyst for the study.

Incidents of sexual victimization were predicted by different factors than incidents of physical victimization. According to Parks, "The significant predictors of sexual victimization were psychological symptoms during the first year at college, number of consensual sexual partners and increased drinking. Women who have more consensual sexual partners are more likely to encounter a sexually aggressive individual and are more likely to experience sexual victimization. At the same time, women who increased their drinking are more likely to be behaviorally and cognitively impaired and less likely to recognize, avoid or defend against sexual aggression. "

Women who increased their drinking experienced nearly five negative alcohol-related problems during the first year at college. Those problems included a variety of consequences such as inability to do homework or study for a test, passing out or fainting suddenly, engaging in consensual sexual activity that was regretted afterward, physical assault, sexual assault, theft or robbery.

Parks encourages development of prevention programs that emphasize the risks of drinking and heavy drinking in social situations for women. Women with a history of drinking before entering college are at greatest risk for escalating their drinking and experiencing more negative consequences and sexual assault.


The study was funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a national leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Source: Kathleen Weaver
University at Buffalo


Irish women drink their way to death

Women are slowly drinking themselves to death in the comfort of their own homes -- sipping bottles of extra-strong wines as they sit in front of the television.

"My colleagues and I are seeing more women with serious liver damage than ever before," says a leading Irish medical expert who is worried at the latest drinking trend among Irish women.

Part of the problem is that women's favourite "tipple" is being made dramatically stronger in recent years.

A Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown IMS poll found that 30 per cent of people now prefer to drink at home rather than in the pub. The figure is even higher among women with 34 per cent preferring the comfort of their own home as they settle down for "a few drinks" in front of the telly.

The poll also revealed that 20 per cent of Irish people would like to cut down on the amount of alcohol they drink.

Another finding suggests that the traditional Irish pub is struggling with 48 per cent of people agreeing that the enforcement of drink driving laws has made the pub a less attractive option than before.

The smoking ban is accepted by the vast majority of people as a good thing with just 27 per cent believing that the ban has made the pub a less enjoyable place to go.

In the UK, which has a similar drinking culture to Ireland, death rates for women in the 35 to 54 age group have doubled from 7.2 to 14.8 per 100,000, a larger increase for these women than any other age group.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, said the increase in women's drinking was causing serious concern.

"The new figures are deeply worrying as women seem to be more susceptible to the damaging physical effects of alcohol. This may be due to their smaller size and different fat distribution, but there are almost certainly other factors at play, possibly genetic and biochemical differences.

"Liver disease is often symptomless until it becomes very serious so people often have no warning that they are destroying their liver until it's too late."

The statistics show that women are drinking twice as much alcohol as they think they are. Some are consuming up to 80 units a week but believe they are drinking 40 units. That's nearly six times more than the "safe" limit and the equivalent of eight bottles of wine.

Many are dramatically underestimating their consumption because of bigger glass sizes and stronger wines.

The official health guidelines say women should drink no more than 14 units a week but many are drinking double that amount.

The British government is preparing to target middle-class wine drinkers with a £10m drive against alcohol abuse. The campaign will focus on unit size while highlighting health risks of excessive drinking.

In Ireland a recent seminar on Australian wines was dominated by talk of the urgent need to reduce alcohol strength.

"It is a major worry for the industry," according to expert Ernie Whalley.

Wine has increased in strength because of factors like global warming, more efficient yeasts and fashion, according to the Sunday Independent columnist.

"Of course one of the things which we can all do is not to finish the bottle. I have been living in this country for 20 years and I've come to the conclusion that it is part of the Irish psyche that they have to finish the bottle.

"You can buy one of the vacuum systems to keep a open bottle of wine fresh for a few euros and leave a couple of glasses in the bottle for the following night.

"Sadly it's something which we don't do in this country," he said.

Women are more in danger than male drinkers because their bodies are less able to cope with long-term alcohol abuse.

Meanwhile, a new type of "liver-friendly wine" being launched by Marks and Spencer is made using conventional wine-making techniques and boasts a naturally lower alcohol content of 9.5 per cent ABV. This contrasts with many wines enjoyed by Irish drinkers which can come in at 14 per cent alcohol and some are as high as 16 per cent.


Hypnosis triumphs over addiction

Hypnosis is proving to be an incredible resource in our lives. While its benefits have been known for years to overcome phobias, quit smoking and for weight loss, the research and work done in recent decades have brought hypnosis into new prominence.

Today growing numbers of clinical and medical facilities incorporate the skills of a hypnotherapist into their practice. Hypnosis is being used to enhance sports performance and to allow for painless experiences without the use of drugs for dental work as well as childbirth.

Additionally there are now numerous programs from coast to coast using hypnosis to conquer addictions such as Drugs, Alcohol, Food, Gambling and Sexual behavior.

Recently I watched a PBS special called "The Brain Fitness Program", about the discoveries being made in the field of neuro-science that demonstrate that the brain is capable of learning new ways of thinking as well as experiencing the world throughout our lifetimes. This is precisely why hypnosis is an excellent way to deal with addictions.

To find out more I interviewed Valerie Banarie, RN, CHt, a prominent Certified Hypnotherapist in Orange County, California. Her Program is called "Triumph Over Addiction". She has offices in Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel. In addition to her practice, Valerie has just created a free online information and discussion group for anyone seeking information. (

Q ; Does the "Triumph Over Addiction" Program differ from traditional 12-step programs, and if so, how?

A : "Triumph Over Addiction" is nothing like 12-step programs because it is based upon a completely different paradigm. Where the 12-step programs come from the belief that someone with an addiction is destined to be an addict for the rest of their lives, my program looks to the current research in neuro-science which shows that people continue to change the way they think, and therefore behave throughout their lives.

In addition, using hypnosis allows for the resolution of the issues that caused the addictive behavior in the first place. Rather than teaching that an addict is helpless against their addiction and must attend meetings for the rest of their lives, "Triumph Over Addiction" participants do not define themselves by their addiction. Instead they are led through a process that allows them to create a life they love, free from addiction.

Rather than attending meetings, (the program can be used in conjunction with 12-step or other recovery methods) they complete 12 hypnosis sessions over the course of a month. In between sessions, they listen to hypnotic reinforcement CDs at home and complete homework assignments as well as writing a daily journal. Each session builds upon those that came before, so that by the end of the month, people engaged in the program have learned how to deal with self-sabotage and have vastly improved their self-esteem. They have also developed the beliefs, values, boundaries and internal identity of someone who has no need for the substances or behaviors they used to depend upon.

Q ; Is there any support offered once the sessions are completed?

A ; At the end of the 12 sessions we evaluate where the client is, and what they perceive their need for on-going support to be. Because the nature of the program is empowerment, the idea of an ongoing support group needs to be looked at differently. Reinforcement is available in the form of additional occasional sessions and by an email list of participants that have completed the program. Of course, there are the CDs that were used during the program as well.

Q ;
What is the success rate when using hypnosis for recovery?

A ; A review of the literature (Potter, G., Jul 2004, American Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy) cites success rates up to 77 % for at least a 1 year follow-up.

Compare this with the statistics offered by Alcoholics Anonymous which shows that 26% of their participants are sober less than one year. ( AA 2004 Membership Survey)

Q ; What is hypnosis?

A ; Hypnosis is actually a naturally occurring state that everyone experiences several times a day. Basically it is a state of intense focus that allows the hypnotherapist to bypass the conscious mind with its rationales and excuses and establish selective thinking. What this means is that the hypnotherapist can address suggestions to the subconscious mind, which accepts them uncritically and as truth, allowing the hypnotherapist to guide the client to change their perceptions, and increase their motivation. In addition, because the subconscious mind does not distinguish between what is real and that what is imagined, hypnosis is an excellent method for helping a person to integrate new patterns of behavior.

Q ; What are your background and credentials?

A ; I am a Registered Nurse and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist in private practice.

My certifications and additional hypnosis training include:
Hypnosis for addictions
Medical and Dental Hypnosis
Hypnosis for Pain Control
Hypnosis for Childbirth

Additionally I am in the process of co-writing a book about hypnosis and pain control for professional hypnotherapists.

Valerie Banarie RN, CHt can be reached at (949) 690-7244 or you can go to her website ;



Monthly shot could help fight alcohol addiction

It's an uphill battle many alcoholics struggle with: resisting the craving to drink. While it's certainly no cure, some doctors say a monthly shot could help more alcohol-dependent patients fight the urge.

“Vivitrol is an injectable form of a medicine known as Naltrexone. Naltrexone is available in oral form, but this is an injectable form, which is given to the patient once-a-month for several reasons: to increase compliance, so patients don't have to worry about taking the pill; and it delivers a level of drug, which is really very adequate for dealing with alcohol issues,” says Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU Dr. Steven Lamm.

Using a drug to treat addiction may seem ironic, but doctors say it can work. How? The drug blocks the brain receptor that may associate reward benefits with drinking. There are other drugs to help with alcohol addiction, but they have to be taken daily, and often with pretty harsh side effects like sweating, vomiting, and rapid heart beat.

Doctors say the once-a-month injectable cuts down on that. One patient says she wouldn't call the shot a miracle drug, but it's the only thing that's helped her with 15 years of addiction.

“It's been very helpful. I haven’t been drinking as much. I don't drink every day. I used to before I took Vivitrol and when I do drink, I drink a lot less than I used to,” says the recovery alcoholic, who asked to remain anonymous.

While the shot doesn't necessarily stop alcoholics from drinking, doctors say being able to dramatically reduce the amount of heavy drinking days for patients has a huge impact on physical and emotional health.

“Our belief has been that abstinence is the goal for alcoholism and I believe that myself, but at this point I am at least satisfied my patients are drinking significantly less,” says Dr. Lamm. “When they are drinking less there quality of life and their family's quality of life is dramatically improved and these people can then maintain and hold a job.”

However doctors and addiction experts alike make it clear, the shot is no magic bullet.

“We need to continue to look at this medication and others to determine their efficacy,” says substance abuse treatment program Odyssey House president Dr. Peter Provet. “Ultimately, such medications, though, need to be combined with psychosocial treatment for a broad range of addicts and alcoholics.”



The drink and us: There's hope for the young

Sandra was part of the damaged goods when her mother's drinking fractured home life, but she found strength and focus in fellowship. She tells that Alateen can help young people regain life.

Sandra grew up in a very middle-class alcohol-affected family.

As much as it appeared very normal, things were very wrong.

``The house was still running, jobs were still going, everything was fine on the outside,'' she said.

``But you walked on eggshells inside.''

Inside, that's where the secrets burned, where the shouting and arguments behind closed doors confused and isolated a young teenaged girl.

It's where a gloom hung in the air, it's where Sandra didn't want to be.

Her mum was the drinker.

She worked two jobs but drank in the closet, always secreted it away, but eventually her illness became the elephant sitting in the middle of the lounge room that no one was willing to talk about.

Sandra, not her real name, was not subjected to violence or abuse but was emotionally deprived and felt intensely lonely and had little self-esteem.

``I had feelings of not depression but I was always searching for something to make me feel better,'' she said.

She reacted in a teenage way, spent as much time away from home as possible, out with friends.

``I did everything early, I rebelled,'' she said.

She evaded the genetic trap of alcoholism herself but in her way was cruelled by the disease.

She needed support independent from her family and once her mother had hit the bottom and met realisation that she needed to act they both found shafts of light.

Sandra was 16 when her mother started attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Her mum liked the life, AA helped her recover and thought her daughter might be able to experience some of the same.

So it was that Sandra started attending Alateen and her life started returning from muted to vibrant colours.

Alcoholics Anonymous offers help for the drinker, Al-Anon offers help and hope to their families and friends. Alateen offers strength, learning and tools for life for young relatives and friends of alcoholics.

``It probably helped me stay in school and get through school,'' Sandra said.

``It gives you tools to help with what you're dealing with and it's very much about it not being your fault.

``You learn that you didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it.

``But you can start to enjoy your own life regardless of what's going on at home.''

Sandra would take an Alateen survival book to school with her for quick looks in the privacy of her bag when she needed strength.

She'd cut up Al-Anon slogans on slips of paper to keep in her pocket _ one day at a time, easy does it, first things first, how important is it?

They helped her maintain perspective, and the fellowship at weekly Alateen meetings helped her escape.

Her mum stayed sober but for a while the road was emotionally rocky. She and her husband divorced.

Alateen helped Sandra complete year 12. She became a Bachelor of Arts and gained post-graduate qualification in education.

She left Alateen but couldn't do anything else but return to it as a sponsor for other young people. She became Australian Alateen chairperson.

Her mum has stayed sober for 16 years. Sandra says their relationship has grown through the fellowship of AA.

And the daughter, now a radiant mother, is certain of what Alateen gave her.

``Hope,'' she says without hesitation.


source: Alcoholics Anonymous Reviews


Sug editorializes again... the Shack

Our National Drug - A Rant

"Our national drug is alcohol.
We tend to regard the use any other drug with special horror. "
William S. Burrows

(Thanks, SoberMusicians for the quote of the day)

I'm speaking at another town hall meeting in April. I fell asleep thinking about it, if only because it was the thing least likely to cause stress or cause me to jump up out of bed, full of inspiration begging to be captured. No, I just turned things over in my head, thought back to the last two town hall meetings, and tried to approach it from a different angle. I think I'll actually use notes this year.

The topic, by the way, is underage drinking. It's always the topic. This is rural Pennsylvania. One graduates very quickly from Pin the Tail on the Donkey (do kids still play that?) to Find the Keg in the Woods. Or, as I hear these days, Find the Right Road to Camp. With all we know about underage drinking, parents are still offering "safe places" to drink as an alternative to their kids so that maybe they'll avoid a serious drug problem in said kids.




Intensive 12-step therapy regimen combines with the daily tasks of farm life into an unusual recovery program...

A month after spending his nights on San Francisco's streets, penniless and addicted to speed, James Jennison tenderly petted a calf that he'd helped deliver about an hour earlier.

The calf wobbled as it nuzzled Jennison, who was grinning from his morning's work at this drug rehabilitation dairy farm in the rolling hills near Petaluma, about 40 miles north of San Francisco.

"It was, I'd have to say, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," said Jennison, 29, a former AOL computer technician.

Jennison, like some 22 million Americans, has struggled to lead a life while addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Now, after several years on the streets, he is one of 40 men living at St. Anthony's Farm, an unusual program that offers some of California's poorest addicts a way to get clean.

Birthing calves is one of the many chores the men do as part of an intensive 12-step therapy program that weaves the daily tasks of farm life into recovery.

Although homeless people account for just a fraction of the country's addicts, they are the least able to afford treatment and the ones often in need of the most medical help.

So unlike many treatment centers, the 315-acre dairy farm run by the San Francisco-based St. Anthony's Foundation has provided its services for free since 1954. In fact, only residents who have no income qualify for the program.

None of the men have medical insurance, most don't have a home, and nearly all of their families have severed ties with them.

"Generally, when people have gotten to the point where they are homeless, they have lost the support of their families, the support of their job," said Robert Lindsey, president and CEO of the New York-based National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the country's oldest national advocacy health organization that deals exclusively with alcoholism and drug dependence.

The dairy farm makes about $162,000 a year by selling more than 1,800 gallons of organic milk a day to help fund its treatment program, which costs about $600,000 a year, said Francis Aviani, a spokeswoman with St. Anthony Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides 11 clothing, housing, employment and rehabilitation programs for the San Francisco area's homeless people. The rest of the farm's budget comes from donations and private grants.

The 315-acre dairy farm also plans to sell organic butter.

It has an organic vegetable garden and powers some of its buildings with a methane digester, which turns cow manure into electricity.

Besides attending counseling and group meetings, the men at the farm follow a structured schedule, a common feature of most treatment programs. But unlike recreation or games found in other settings, the schedule here involves early rising required for running a dairy farm.

Sam McBride, 42, wakes at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast before heading out to the maintenance shed at 8 a.m. His job one recent January day was to paint the dorm rooms where the men bunk while they are here for six months.

It's a far cry from the touring musician's life that McBride led as the lead singer of hard rock bands Fang and the Resistoleros - most of it addicted to heroin, which has clearly aged him.

The dairy farm is the first treatment center McBride has stayed at for more than eight days. He's been there nearly three months.

"I knew if I kept going on that path, I would end up back in prison or dead," said McBride, who in the 1990s served six years in prison for manslaughter. "This is a safe environment. You're in a forced environment living with other people where you can work through things."

The men here are electricians, musicians, software engineers and landscapers. Several have college degrees and once drew six-figure salaries.

In most cases, they are learning how to function again - with the help of some gentle cows.

"They all have this common quandary of finding a way through their addiction and living a healthy life," said Gale Priestley, the farm's director. "A cow is not going to care if you're a drug addict or an alcoholic."

Ryan Medlin, who owned his own software company in Charlotte, N.C., is learning to sit up straight after sleeping for nearly a year in his Suzuki hatchback on San Francisco's streets. When he arrived two months ago, he walked hunched over and struggled with the outside work.

Although the 33-year-old found jobs last year in San Francisco, he would spend his six-figure paycheck to get high. To his co-workers, he appeared to be a quiet person, but he didn't want questions about his lonely life on the streets after work, he said.

"I was in San Francisco for 10 months. I had no friends. It was easy to be under the radar," he said. "I don't feel that alone anymore."

When Medlin lost his last job, he said, he realized he needed help.

At the milking pit, 24-year-old Charles Onraet spends several hours a day hooking up pumps to the 250 cows that come through for milking twice a day.

It's mundane but peaceful work that Onraet hopes will earn him an internship in the farm's creamery once he has completed the rehabilitation program. If he's accepted at the creamery, he would live at a house on the property and after six months would leave the farm with $2,400 in his pocket.

Other program participants like Medlin plan to get help in San Francisco, where the foundation will set them up in transitional housing and help them get jobs after they leave the farm.

McBride says he is focusing first on becoming a better person at the farm so that when he leaves, he can be a father to the two children he says he dumped on his ex-wife because of his addiction.

"As an addict, I became very self-centered and selfish in everything I did," McBride said. "So it's important for me to work on humility and giving back and looking how I affect other people. I think that's something you can get here by shoveling cow manure."

source: Associated Press


I’m Just Sayin’: Are you a social drinker?

We have our share of teetotalers, alcoholics and everything in between that relates to using alcohol here in Southwest Florida.

A survey about alcohol usage probably would show that 99 percent of people who drink are merely “social drinkers.” One percent would have no opinion or could not remember.

While chatting with friends about how we all probably drink more or at least more often than our parents and grandparents did, I wondered what being a “social drinker” means.

Most people probably would say a social drinker is anyone who drinks about the same amount he or she does.

It’s like asking what being “middle aged” means. I think of middle age as about 10 years older than I am, although that definition increasingly strains credulity.

Back to drinking — Let’s face it. Southwest Florida is, for many people, Party Central. We who live here full-time spend much of it entertaining visitors who want to go out and play. Alcohol sometimes is involved or at least always accessible.

My late father never drank other than maybe a beer or two every month or two. When he retired to Marco Island, he enjoyed the socializing here, at the condo pool or the beach or at dinner, in homes or out. Alcohol was always there for the asking.

“Sometimes people seem to get insulted if you don’t take a drink when it’s offered,” he remarked.

Eventually, Dad occasionally enjoyed a Bloody Mary before dinner, but never more than one. When I asked him about that, he said, “Well, I just don’t want to become a drunkard like a lot of folks around here.” He was being prudent, not prudish.

One of the pleasures for some social drinkers is “The Dress and Drink.” We learned that from a friend up north who often attends dressy social events.

“It’s just nice,” Rick said, “when my wife and I are getting dressed, often for formal occasions, to share a cocktail or a glass of wine while she does her face and I try to tie a bow tie.”

He’s right. Those dress and drink moments are fun, but they don’t last very long here in paradise, mainly because when we go out, it’s usually in shorts and short-sleeved shirts (the lady prefers cropped pants.) It takes so little time that finishing a drink is usually out of the question.

Social drinkers often seek ways to limit their intake without limiting their sociability.

“I always have a glass of water between drinks,” says a friend.

That’s nice, but often impractical. At a cocktail party with servers passing drinks, they usually don’t have water on the trays. If you ask and he says “Sure, right away,” and returns 20 minutes later, just long enough for you to have a second drink while waiting.

A drinking cliché is that you may be an alcoholic if you drink alone. What if your spouse is at golf or garden club and you’re having a burger and a beer on the lanai? That’s drinking alone, right? What to do? Call the dog and have it come sit with you?

I know people who always mix alcohol with other stuff, maybe scotch and soda, gin and tonic, vodka and cranberry. They act as though a whiskey on the rocks will morph them into Britney Spears. Some people drink because they really like the taste.

In my social-drinker-opinion of things, a great vodka cannot be improved by adding another beverage to it.

I know a guy who drinks Glenlivet and Coke — cola for the taste and the scotch for the buzz. I also know a guy who drinks scotch and milk. He thinks it helps his ulcer.

Here’s the true test of whether you’re a social drinker, safe from the ravages of demon run, or a tippler on the slippery slope toward being a toper.

If you could drink shots of your favorite spirits or glass after glass of your favorite wine or beer with no intoxicating effect, would you?

That is, if somebody could make a delicious premium vodka, a 20-year-old single malt scotch or a bottle of Bordeaux’s best without any alcohol in it, would you enjoy it as much as the distilled version?

If so, then you’re not even a social drinker; you’re a thirsty person who can appreciate hops or old vine grapes in their pre-processed state.

Anyone interested in the impact of alcohol on human society will enjoy a book by a friend and former NBC News Correspondent, Eric Burns, now a media critic for Fox News Channel.

In “The Spirits of America,” Eric writes about the impact of alcohol on the founding of this nation:

“We read that the Revolutionary War was conceived in the watering holes of colonial America, but never ask why.

“Why did New York merchants gather at Burns’s Tavern to plan a boycott of British goods in response to the Stamp Act? Why did Bostonians organize their tea party at the Green Dragon Tavern?

“Why did John Adams meet George Washington for the first time at the City Tavern in Philadelphia?

“Why did (so few) of these take place in homes, churches, town halls or schools?

Reason: “No other meeting place offered the same guarantee of attendance and devout attention as a tavern. Booze was food, medicine and companionship in the early days of America. It was how the tongue got loose and the mind receptive, how the body unlimbered and the future grew bright.

“It was a shield against loneliness, a light in the midnight hours when the stars were hidden and the moon otherwise occupied.”

So, social drinkers, unite. If a touch of the grape or a dram from the Highlands can help build a mighty nation, it can’t help but make a weekend evening even more pleasant, socializing under the swaying palms of Southwest Florida.

But don’t forget — the Founding Fathers didn’t have to drive home. I’m just sayin.’



Liquor ban no magic fix

The Yellow Quill reserve's drinking problem turned deadly long before Kaydence and Santana Pauchay were left to freeze in -50 prairie winds by a father, suspected by his family of being drunk.

Two years ago, after several young people on the Saskatchewan reserve died of alcohol-related causes, the band council began a fierce debate about how to fix the community's rampant alcohol problem, councillor Larry Cachene said.

A group of elders advised them to establish a dry community - a common but rarely successful solution to epidemic drinking.

The Yellow Quill Tribal Council immediately championed the idea.

But, like hundreds of Canadian communities before it, the reserve soon learned the difficulties of turning a community dry.

"There were legal issues, enforcement issues, issues around housing - all sorts of issues preventing us from going through with it," said Mr. Cachene, a six-year veteran on council.

"We all supported the idea, but we wanted to do it right. That takes time."

Two years after the idea of a dry community arose, a council resolution to ban alcohol is on the books, but there is still no bylaw.

Searchers discovered the bodies of three-year-old Kaydence Pauchay and her baby sister Santana, dressed in nothing more than T-shirts and diapers, in a snow-covered field Tuesday and Wednesday.

Their father, Christopher Pauchay, was found nearby Tuesday morning and taken to hospital suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. Eight hours passed before he was able speak well enough to ask about his daughters.

Yellow Quill Chief Robert Whitehead expressed remorse Wednesday that a drinking ban was never enacted, saying that it may have prevented the deaths.

Those who've witnessed other dry towns suggest otherwise.

"The chief shouldn't be agonizing as if a ban was a magic bullet," said sociologist Richard Thatcher, author of Fighting Firewater Fiction: Moving Beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations. "In many cases, you're having to rebuild family systems and personal thinking styles. The solution isn't as simple as, 'Let's have a dry reserve.' "

Yellow Quill council's enthusiasm for an alcohol ban diminished soon after the idea was first proposed.

It considered penalizing drinkers with fines, but realized financial punishment could do more harm than good. "The majority of people on our reserve barely make enough money to support a family," Mr. Cachene said. "By fining a person, you're also penalizing the children in their family. You're caught with a double edge."

One section of the community even threatened to challenge any such bylaw on human rights grounds.

More than 230 native communities in Canada have enacted intoxicant bylaws, according to Margot Geduld, spokeswoman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Many of those are remote northern communities with no road access, where banning alcohol sales usually sparks a hearty trade in black market and bootlegged liquor.

In Kimmirut, a dry Nunavut community, liquor distribution carries at $10,000 fine. Even so, alcohol use is common, say residents, many of whom believe liquor played a role in the murder of Kimmirut RCMP Constable Douglas Scott last year.

In Alkali Lake, B.C., a dry town famous for curing many of the substance abuse problems that plagued it during the seventies, stopping liquor sales alone didn't solve the problem.

"There was no quick fix," band councillor Irene Johnson said. "We found that we had to help heal people as well, set up treatments centres, hold sobriety events and healing circles."

Nearly 25 years after the town started drying out, substance abuse still lingers.

"We still have our struggles, our suicides, our car accidents," Ms. Johnson said. But with a 65-per-cent sobriety rate, "at least the young people have some community members as role models."

Had a ban been in place, Mr. Cachene believes the deaths of Kaydence and Santana Pauchay "probably wouldn't have happened."

But he also knows it will take more than bylaws to dry out his community. "You've got to sell the idea that there is a better life without alcohol," he said.

"That's tough, especially at a time like this."

source: The Globe and Mail


Recovering alcoholics need to stick with what works

By Take The First Step
Dr. Michael Levy

Dr. Levy: I was both appalled and shocked at your column regarding "Is abstinence the only answer for alcoholics?" I am a recovering alcoholic and have recently completed a five-month stay at a sober house for both alcoholics and drug abusers..I have.lived with both drug and alcohol abusers who have repeatedly relapsed because they felt they could maintain control over their addictions. The mere suggestion that they may some day drink socially or occasionally is insane.

Insanity as defined by AA is continuously repeating the same.behavior and expecting a different outcome. As any educated alcoholic knows from attending AA meetings or therapy, the addictive brain, when re-introduced to its drug of choice, will behave in exactly the same way time and time again.

I had abstained from alcohol for more than two years and thought I had it beat. Then one hot, summer afternoon when I was at a friend's house for a cookout, I had two beers. This was not an excessive amount and I was not in the least bit intoxicated. However, those two beers reactivated that euphoria in me and I spiraled downward in the next few weeks, frequently blacking out and nearly destroying my life and those I love. Had it not been for the teachings of AA as well as the sober environment that I was fortunate to have lived in,.I would still be trying to take that one social drink and denying the fact that abstinence is the only answer for alcoholics.

I'm sorry to say that your article will not be interpreted by many addicts in the manner in which I'm certain you meant it, but rather, because of your credentials and knowledge of addiction, as permission to try it again and to continue this insane lifestyle of personal destruction.

A: Thank you for writing and expressing your opinion. As I stated in that column, this is a very controversial subject..Your experience with alcohol is similar to many others: one drink leads to uncontrolled drinking along with the destruction of life. In addition, as you articulated quite well, the main reason a relapse occurs for many people is because they are unable to accept that they cannot have one drink. As you did, they erroneously believe that one or two drinks will be fine. But instead, they lead to a major relapse.

However, I still contend that some people with past alcohol dependence can learn to drink in moderate ways that do not cause them problems. This is something everyone who struggles with alcohol needs to figure out for themselves. I know this adds a gray area and ambiguity to the treatment of alcohol problems, but nonetheless, this outcome has been well documented.

As you wrote, some people who have been abstinent may interpret what I said as permission to try to drink again, which is not what I intended. I hope this does not occur..In fact, I am very glad for the opportunity to restate what I originally wrote: if abstinence is working, I would not do anything different. This is very important to remember.......