It’s Not Just Boko Haram In Nigeria: Millions Of Women And Children Victimized By Human And Sex Trafficking

Originally posted on HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY:

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By Bill Vourvoulias for Fox News Latino on May 12, 2014—
“While the world is focused on the fate of hundreds of girls in Nigeria who have been kidnapped in recent months by the extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram, it might be a good time, activists say, to talk about how the trafficking of humans is a global problem.

“What’s happening in Nigeria is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Terry FitzPatrick—the communications director for Free the Slaves, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to ending slavery.

“It’s important to think about rescuing all the children who are enslaved throughout the world,” FitzPatrick told Fox News Latino.

The United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are being held in some form of slavery or another, but other groups put the figure closer to 30 million. More than one-quarter of them are children.

“The misperception is…

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Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrom (PAWS)

Broken Brain

I’m sitting in the car on my way to Chicago. Earlier today I was having a conversation with a newly recovering addict who has 15 days clean and she was telling me that she was frustrated because she still felt like shit. This reminded me of so many similar discussions I’ve had in the past with newbie’s who hadn’t yet heard of post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. Not knowing or about or understanding PAWS has led many newly recovering addicts back to their DOC due to the frustration of not being able to experience normal happy moods when encountering things that seemingly make “normal” people happy. Many people in early recovery develop an attitude like “well if this is all I have to look forward to, than what’s the point? “ It’s hard enough to get clean initially and then you’re faced with constant depression, anxiety, or flatness. Maybe you just feel like there is a little rain cloud following you around everywhere.

The human brain in early recovery is unable to produce normal human emotions. As a result, activities that used to be fun, enjoyable or exciting seem dull, depressing or boring, such as spending time with family or going to a concert or theme park. These activities were once enjoyable because your brain produced its own endorphins (happy chemicals). But when one starts to use drugs and/or alcohol you start forcing the production of excessive endorphins and your brain decides to leave the job up to you and stops producing them naturally. What were once enjoyable activities, now just seem like a waste of time. It’s hard to see colors in the world during this time; everything seems to be shades of grey. What’s even worse is that the reality of ones wreckage because more and more clear as the fog of intoxication begins to clear.

Other frustrating characteristics of PAWS include inability to focus, poor short-term memory, fatigue, problems sleeping, emotional overreactions or numbness, clumsiness, and oversensitivity to stress.

The good news is that this will all pass if the symptoms are truly the result of PAWS and not some other or more serious physical problem. They usually set in shortly after detox and withdrawal symptoms have subsided’ about 2 to 3 weeks after sobriety begins. There’s no telling exactly how long PAWS will last for you, but most symptoms peak around 3 to 6 months with some symptoms being present for up 12 months. It takes about one year for the human brain to heal from substance abuse, but thank GOD the human brain can heal itself. I think this is an absolutely amazing blessing that we can abuse ourselves so bad and the body always tries to repair itself. So hang in there. It gets better, little by little if you stay sober. And even though the wreckage is becoming more apparent now that you are clean, it doesn’t mean it’s not there when you’re in active addiction. The drugs just temporarily burry that reality so it can’t been seen. In the meantime, we are shoveling more shit on top of it. It’s important to be mentally prepared to clean up the wreckage of your past and to make amends. Recovery, particularly early recovery, isn’t always pleasant, but it’s well worth the work. And one day you will experience that spiritual experience that sheds new light, hope, happiness, and serenity on your life.

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of PAWS because they are a major contributing factor in the relapse rate. This is largely due to not knowing what it is and it gets chalked up to “life just suck” or “I will always feel like crap.” The number one reason for relapse is stress. And stress can worsen PAWS symptoms. It is important to keep in mind that relapse is a process not an event. No one single moment will force a relapse if you are working a good recovery program. Keeping in touch with sober support and reaching out frequently will help you through the tough times. It’s important to keep other recoveree’s close so that they can point out signs of the relapse process when they see them. Rarely does one recognize them for himself/herself in early recovery. This is a process of progress, not perfection. Don’t expect to “get it” overnight…or ever! Just keep taking the suggestions given to you by the program and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Ways to Get Through Drug and Alcohol Cravings



Cravings come in waves, so ride it out like one. You just have to get over the hump, realize that you’re not going to die if you force yourself through it; play the tape through sand see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some things you can do in between cravings to better prepare yourself and things you can do when you are actually experiencing the craving.


*** In Between Cravings ***


Make a list of your sober support network…the primary component of this list is their names and phone numbers, for this reason, this list can be in your phone. Your sponsor should be numero uno, if you don’t have one…get one! If you are having trouble with this contact me! If your list is less than 10 people, get more numbers! If you don’t know how to do that….here’s how! GO TO MEETINGS!

Make list of the pros and cons of using. I assure you, as you are probably already aware, the cons outweigh the pros. But it helps to visualize the damage your drug use has done and the potential it has to damage your future.


Make a list of alternative activities to do when you start to feel a craving coming on such as calling on your support system, taking a walk, listening to music, watching a movie, praying, meditating, yoga, tai chi, etc. Anything that helps you to occupy your mind.


Avoid external cues-people, places, activities, things. You know who, what, and where I’m talking about. Make changes in your life that will help you to avoid cues and cravings, when it is possible.

Number 5

Treat possible underlying causes-Depression, anxiety, PTSD, physical illness…..any kind of physical or mental pain can be a significant contributor to the development and/or progression of the disease of addiction in the individual. These are some of the greatest underlying contributors to addiction. In some cases they cause the first use. In others they are caused by use and the situations caused by use…..doesn’t matter….Get help! If you don’t have health insurance, that’s no excuse! There are support groups for almost EVERHYTHING! And if you can’t physically get to one, you can get to one online…Although I strongly suggest physically going. More therapeutic value is derived this way. Human interaction with people who understand IS THE GREATEST HEALER OF ADDICTION RELATED ISSUES AND ADVANCEMENT THE GREATEST CAUSE OF ADVANCEMENT IN RECOVERY.


Like illicit drugs, exercise releases dopamine to the brain. Exercise lifts mood, reduces anxiety, and helps to produce energy, many of the desired effects of drug use, without all the negative side effects and costs to self, friends, family and society.


*** Cravings ***

When you start to experience a craving there are several steps to take to avoid a relapse. First of all,


If you are experiencing a craving you need to let your support system know. Don’t try to deal with it alone. This increases the likelihood of relapse. It’s much easier to get through when you have support. The first thing you should do is call your sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor or he/she doesn’t answer, call the next person on you r sober support list. Keep calling until someone picks up and you get to have a decent conversation about what you are going through. This is a good time to remind you that friends and family are NOT on this list. Although they love us, if they are not recovery addicts/alcoholics, they will not understand and may unintentionally lead us in the wrong direction and possible enable us.

Look back at your list of pros and cons and remind yourself of all the reasons you want to be sober including avoiding hurting yourself and the ones you love. . Remember, it’s important to look ahead. Six months from now, you could be sober or you could’ve relapsed. One day from now you could be sober or you could be dead. Visualize your life as a sober individual and what it will be like. And if you pick up right now, what would happen? How would it affect your kids, your family, your job, your health, your relationship with God or a higher power, and all that is important to you? Play the tape through. You might get temporary relief form the pain, the craving, the boredom, the stagnation, the anger, the depression, the fatigue….but what happens after that? Think about it.

Then, bust out your list of alternative activities. I highly recommend getting some more exercise. Get those endorphins pumping and produce a natural high. Go to the gym, go for a jog, have sex, do something! Remember that you just have to ride it out, it will be over soon. Cravings come in waves, get your surf board out and ride it until it’s over. Don’t let it take you down.



Sober Summer Guide (Sober Vacation Ideas and Info Included!)

Ok, so we survived the hustle and bustle of the holidays that came complete with awkward family gatherings and financial distress. Then maybe a little heart break on Valentine’s Day or memories of…and now we are faced with a whole new set of triggers…the summer. Pools, beaches, cook-outs, vacations, and hot days working in the yard…what does that bring to mind?
One of the biggest challenges for recovering alcoholics and addicts is learning how to enjoy recreational activities without drinking or using. In the beginning stages of recovery “fun” activities usually seem boring or meaningless without substances. As time progresses, recoverees often find that they start to enjoy life again without being inebriated. It takes time for the recovering brain to heal. At first, the world seems depressing and gray. No more rollercoaster of emotions caused by drug use. And the aftermath usually causes depression and anxiety. With proper treatment, however, colors start to reappear (figuratively). Natural highs and more frequent positive emotions start to become a regular occurrence. Taking a well-deserved vacation can prove to be the devil in disguise to a recovering alcoholic or addict, due to the fact that this is usually a time when one will encounter multiple triggers while being provided multiple avenues to drink/use. Here are some tips on how to have a sober vacation:
Plan a sober vacation through a sober vacation travel sight
Such as:
Have your “tool box” on hand
Your recovery “tool box” should consist of:
A list of the people you should call immediately when faced with a trigger or craving
A list of the things that you are grateful for
A list of the people who love you and want you to stay sober (kids, parents, friends, significant other, sponsor, sponsees, etc.)
A list of the consequences that will inevitably happen if you decide to pick up
A list of de-escalation techniques when faced with escalating anger (breathing techniques, calling people on list, counting, “time-outs” etc.)
Choose your company wisely
Don’t go on vacation with people who you know will be drinking or using. Also, be your own advocate. When encountering a situation where people are drinking heavily or using, you must take it upon yourself to remove yourself from the situation and find new company or a sober-friendly activity.
Buy tickets ahead of time
Buying tickets for shows and activities ahead of time creates a financial commitment that will encourage you to stick to the plan and not to deviate into dangerous situations.
Attend meetings in the area
Recovery doesn’t take a vacation. It must be a part of your life wherever you are. Finding 12 step meetings in your vacation destination is probably easier than you think. This is an opportunity to meet new, interesting people in recovery around the world. Stay in a positive mindset and think of this as a unique, exciting experience. All you have to do is pick up the phone book, wherever you are and call the AA main office. Or you could try using a meeting finder ap. You can get them for any smart phone or device. Or you can just google meetings in the area.

Spirituality and the Twelve Steps

Help and Guidance for Newcomers and

For Those struggling with the concept of spirituality and a Higher Power

If you Google the terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” you will get different definitions for what these terms mean. But in 12 step programs these term are synonymous. I just wanted to get that clarified.

I want to talk about spirituality as it pertains to 12 step programs, because this can be a major hang up for people right from the get-go. Spirituality is NOT synonymous with religious. Although your religious beliefs and views can definitely be your source of spiritual grounding and inspiration. Atheists, agnostics, and those who are just not sure can still achieve a life of sobriety from the 12 steps. He steps still have to be worked the same way and the program must be taken full advantage of. The program is not designed to be a smorgasbord of ideas and concepts for the recoveree to pick and choose from. So then how are you supposed to do that if you don’t believe in God or are unsure of what God actually means to you? After all, in step two we “come to believe that a power greater than ourselves” can restore us to sanity, right? And in step three we need to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. So if your initial reaction is skepticism or that this just doesn’t work for you…HOLD ON! Wait, let me finish my tangent before you made your decision. Actually, before you really make your decision, give it 90 days. Yes, I said 90 consecutive days of your life. During this time, jump into the program feet first. Do all the things you are supposed to do starting with getting to a meeting. They are everywhere, don’t tell me you can’t find one. You can open the yellow pages and call the AA main office, you can google a meeting finder, there are meeting-finder aps for smart phones…

actually here’s a link to a list of the central offices all over the world and its very self-explanatory and easy to use: Here are some more resources for NA, AA, MA, and more:    

Once you get to a meeting you need to reach out, introduce yourself and make it clear that you are a newcomer and need guidance. They will take you under their wing and show you the way. Meet people before and after the meeting and start doing what they tell you to do. And GET A SPONSOR. And then give it 90 days. What do you have to lose? You found the problem, let the program show you the solution.


So now, back to the God issue. Every time the word God is mentioned in text or a meeting, you need to actively replace that meaning with what it means TO YOU. A Higher Power of your understanding. This can be the fellowship of NA, AA, CA, or MA. I had an atheist client who made nature his Higher Power. That makes sense to me, there are countless forces at play in nature, it is so vast and amazing. Getting in touch with that power can really help you to get outside yourself, look inside yourself and realize that greater things are possible, including long-term sobriety and a wonderful new way of life. This new way of life will come with bumps and sometimes hole. But there’s always a way to climb out if you’ve built up a network of recoveree that have your back. Don’t use religion or lack of as an excuse to not get clean or to try to do it your way. That just doesn’t work. Your best thinking got you to this point. Now it’s life or death. This isn’t play time! The sooner you get moving on recovery the better!



What is a “Spiritual Experience” or “Spiritual Awakening?”

As I mentioned before, these terms are synonymous in the 12 step program. I’ve heard a lot of people ask “what does a spiritual awakening feel like?” or “how will I know I had one?” Well, I’ll tell you! First of all, it is not something that happens overnight. It’s a graduate process that takes place as you work the steps. For most people it doesn’t happen in an instant. There are very few that describe a “sudden awakening.” Although, moments of clarity and enlightenment will happen along the way. Those in recovery are in a unique position to experience this life changing process that will bring a whole new level of contentment, happiness, appreciation, and understanding to their life and journey of self-discovery. This is an experience that anyone can have, but very few people actually embark on the journey to achieve a spiritual wakening unless prompted by a program such as the 12 steps. I suggest talking to several different people who have long-term sobriety and having them explain to you what their spiritual experience was like. You will hear a lot of stories in meetings as well. It will bring a whole new level of acceptance and gratefulness into your life as you recover and learn how to live life on life’s terms.



1. An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

2. Frequent attacks of smiling.

3. Feelings of being connected with others and nature.

4. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.

6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

7. A loss of ability to worry.

8. A loss of interest in conflict.

9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

10. A loss of interest in judging others.

11. A loss of interest in judging self.

12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything in return.”

Author unknown. Retrieved from:



Daily Reflections May 23, 2014 SPIRITUAL HEALTH

Quote:When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p 64

It is very difficult for me to come to terms with my spiritual illness because of my great pride, disguised by my material successes and my intellectual power. Intelligence is not incompatible with humility, provided I place humility first. To seek prestige and wealth is the ultimate goal for many in the modern world. To be fashionable and to seem better than I really am is a spiritual illness.

To recognize and to admit my weakness is the beginning of good spiritual health. It is a sign of spiritual health to be able to ask God every day to enlighten me, to recognize His will, and to have the strength to execute it. My spiritual health is excellent when I realize that the better I get, the more I discover how much help I need from others.

From the book Daily Reflections © Copyright 1990 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.


Daily Recovery Readings – May 22, 2014

Just For Today May 22, 2014 Symptoms Of A Spiritual Awakening

“The steps lead to an awakening of a spiritual nature. This awakening is evidenced by changes in our lives.” Basic Text, p. 48

We know how to recognize the disease of addiction. Its symptoms are indisputable. Besides an uncontrollable appetite for drugs, those suffering exhibit self-centered, self-seeking behavior. When our addiction was at its peak of activity, we were obviously in a great deal of pain. We relentlessly judged ourselves and others, and spent most of our time worrying or trying to control outcomes.

Just as the disease of addiction is evidenced by definite symptoms, so is a spiritual awakening made manifest by certain obvious signs in a recovering addict. We may observe a tendency to think and act spontaneously, a loss of interest in judging or interpreting the actions of anyone else, an unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment, and frequent attacks of smiling.

If we see someone exhibiting symptoms of a spiritual awakening, we should be aware that such awakenings are contagious. Our best course of action is to get close to these people. As we begin having frequent, overwhelming episodes of gratitude, an increased receptiveness to the love extended by our fellow members, and an uncontrollable urge to return this love, we’ll realize that we, too, have had a spiritual awakening.

Just for today: My strongest desire is to have a spiritual awakening. I will watch for its symptoms and rejoice when I discover them.


Retrieved from:



Spirituality: All can benefit


Getting in touch with your spirituality is a key aspect of achieving serenity. But what does spirituality actually mean? I’ve found that this is a concept that a lot of people, especially those new to recovery, are struggling with due to lack of understanding of what it really is. Spirituality isn’t a religious concept, however, your spirituality may be connected to your religious beliefs. In fact, for many people religion provides the foundation of all spiritual experiences. But if you’re not a religious person, you still have a spiritual side, whether you know it or not!

Spirituality is defined as our ability, through one’s attitudes and actions, to relate to other, to ourselves, and to a higher consciousness which is usually referred to as the Higher Power of our understanding (God, nature, recovery programs, whatever it may be). Getting in touch with your spiritual side is a different experience for everyone. It means getting to know your inner self and healing mentally and emotionally. For you it could mean reconnecting with your religious background. It could mean taking time to meditate, reflect, and contemplate the meaning and direction of your life. It could be through long walks in nature, yoga, prayer or whatever brings you peace. If you’re not sure what will bring you peace, try some new things. Maybe partaking in gardening, or taking a long walk on the beach would help you get in touch with your spiritual side. Maybe you would like to explore with music, art, photography, or study or philosophical beliefs.


How to Tap into Your Spiritual Side

Image  Image

Anyone can achieve a sense of spirituality. It’s not something that some have and others don’t. In discussing spirituality writes “Research shows that even skeptics can’t stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. As the brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally look for patterns, and then seek out meaning in those patterns. And the phenomenon known as “cognitive dissonance” shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it. Humans can’t help but ask big questions—the instinct seems wired in our minds. “

If spirituality is a new endeavor for you start by asking some big questions. What do I believe in? What life questions do I have? What do I want to achieve by becoming more spiritual?

Next, think about the feelings you have towards yourself. Do you love yourself? Are you having trouble forgiving yourself for something you did or didn’t do in the past? How do you feel about those around you, your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors? Are you holding resentments? A colleague of mine used to always say “having a resentment is like drinking poison hoping they will die.” What he means is that a resentment is only harmful to the person holding it. Often times the person we have the resentment towards isn’t even aware of it, or doesn’t really see it as something to worry about. It certainly doesn’t resolve any problems. The more resentments we have the higher our stress levels are. Resentments put energy into something harmful, not helpful or healthy. Ok, I think I’ve made my point about resentments. I will talk more about overcoming them in a future post. Anger is a normal human emotion and it’s ok to have it, but if you’re finding that you have trouble controlling your anger and frequently flare up over minor issues, than this is hurting you and detaching you from spirituality. Anger management might be necessary (also something I will be talking more about, because it’s just so important in our daily lives).

Now, set time aside each day for yourself. Take time for prayer, mediation, walking in nature, yoga, and reading daily reflections and spiritual texts. This is a good time to think about what you are grateful for, what your intentions are, who you need to forgive, and what you need to let go of. This is a good time to reflect on your attitude and personality and the things you love about yourself and the things that you will lovingly work on. If you are struggling with loving yourself, start by listing all of your gratitude’s and then all of your qualities. Don’t tell yourself there’s nothing good about yourself. That’s not true for anyone. Are you a good parent, student, or employee? Are you caring, empathetic, organized, or motivated? Maybe you’re a good cook and you bring joy into the lives of others this way. Are you taking time to appreciate your friends and family? Maybe you contribute to the health of the earth by recycling and planting a garden.

How much time do you spend being optimistic as opposed to pessimistic? Sure, bad things happen and we go through significant periods of struggle in our lives, but if you believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, as long as you don’t give up, then you will not shut yourself in to the current situation and you can pave the way for new experiences, ideas, and possibilities. There is always light at the end of the tunnel if you believe it is there. No matter how bad things may seem there’s a way to out, there’s a way to improve, there’s a way to be happy and grateful.

I have worked with people suffering from middle and end stage addiction, homelessness, loss of children and loved ones, and those facing long-term incarceration among many other significant life problems. It’s only when you lose hope that you are really in trouble. All bad things will pass, be open to working through it, be open to help and support. I knew a lady who was facing 20 years, but her trial period was long and drawn out. She got in touch with her spiritual side, stayed clean and sober, and was able to not only find contentment, but happiness in her life and current situation. She did end up receiving a lengthy sentence, but the judge saw her progress and took it into account. That ended up saving her a lot of time. While incarcerated, she was again able to achieve serenity by staying in touch with her spiritual side, remembering what she has to be grateful for, and accepting that she is cleaning up the wreckage of her past. She is finding ways to stay progressive and motivated while locked up, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t struggle from time to time. She admits that there are tough times, after all…she’s in prison. But she focuses on what she can do to better herself each day and she spends a lot of time praying, reading, studying, exercising, and writing. She is currently working on a very interesting book about her life with the intentions of helping others and accepting what she’s done.

Self-acceptance is an important factor here. We have to accept ourselves, even if we are working on bettering ourselves. Just because we have areas we want to improve, it doesn’t mean that we should talk bad about ourselves, submit to self-defeating behaviors, or punish ourselves.

In short, getting in touch with your spiritual side includes (but isn’t limited to) accepting and loving yourself, considering how you relate to the world around you, finding your gratitude’s, letting go of anger and resentments, and allowing optimism to guide your attitude.


The Link Between Longevity and Spirituality


Exploring our spiritual sides can help us in our journey in finding meaning and purpose for our lives. Studies show that having a sense of purpose in life is linked to mortality across all adult age groups. (Hill, P. L. & Turianao, N.A.) Having a strong spiritual connection, be it through church, nature, self-exploration or whatever, helps us to deal with life’s grueling psychological demands. It can certainly help us deal with times of loss and grief, help us to manage heart break and major changes in our lives as well as allow us to focus on the positive’s and blessing we encounter on a daily basis instead of just taking everything for granted. This will aid in alleviating high stress levels which will in turn lower risk of heart disease (the #1 killer in America for both males and females), high blood pressure, cancer, feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, weakened immune system, and hostility, among many other ailments. Spirituality calms us and makes us feel relaxed and content while allowing our brain to release the chemicals necessary for physical and psychological healing.





Hill, P. L. & Turianao, N.A. (in press). Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood. Psychological Science.

Kandeel Judge, Maxine Barish-Wreden, and Karen Brees, Secrets of Longevity: Discover the Keys to a Long and Happy Life, New York: Penguin, 2008, pgs. 287-298. 

Suboxone: Plagued by the Methadon Stigma—What Buprenorphine is and what it isn’t

Suboxone is a medication that combines buprenorphine and naltrexone and its only intended for use is as an adjunct to drug addiction treatment and recovery. It is intended to be a time limited method of minimizing cravings while a newly recovering addict learns the tools necessary to achieve a lifetime of sobriety. When used properly, Suboxone is a God-send to those struggling to get clean and start a life in recovery.
There’s one problem that addicts commonly face when then turn to Suboxone in early recovery and it isn’t the side effects. Suboxone and other buprenorphine products are so widely misunderstood that patients who take Subxone often face adversity at home and in their support groups due to the highly stigmatized perception that these medications carry. This perception stems from a complete lack of understanding of what buprenorphine actually is. Many recoverees are familiar with Methadone and its high potential for abuse and tolerance as well as its severe withdrawal symptoms. They are also aware of the fact that methadone is a narcotic pain killer/opioid agonist just like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. Opioid agonists are substances that when ingested will bind to opioid receptors and cause an analgesic effect (pain relief). As we all know, pain killers like methadone do more than just kill pain. Other effects of opioid agonists include euphoria, anxiolysis (relaxation/relief from anxiety), respiratory depression, cough suppression, dizziness, and miosis. Just like morphine, oxycodone and other pure opioid agonists, methadone has no ceiling effect. In other words, the more one chooses to take, the higher they will get. Increased doses will eventually cause sickness, overdose, and death if not stopped. Death occurs from the respiratory depression that occurs along with passing out. You just stop breathing.
In the world of recovery, these are the reasons why you will hear many recovering addicts state that if you are using medication assisted treatment (a.k.a. methadone, suboxone, etc.) you are not clean yet, thus have not started recovery. It is widely believed that if a recoveree is taking buprenorphine that they are experiencing a high and can potentially abuse their medication the same way methadone or oxycodone can be abused. This is simply not true. Although it is true that many people alter the way they take their medication in an attempt to produce a high, they simply cannot produce the effect that an opioid agonist can produce. This is because buprenorphine is PARTIAL agonist. Where an agonist binds to a receptor to cause maximal effect, a partial agonist binds to the given receptor and can only cause a partial effect. In other words, it cannot fully activate the receptor. Buprenorphine binds to opioid receptors and produces a partial effect which will aid the individual by significantly decreasing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. To a non-opioid dependent individual, buprenorphine can be used to treat moderate pain and can create mild euphoric effect due to the fact that the individual has no tolerance to opioids. An opioid addict will not be able to feel this euphoria because their tolerance has far exceeded this level. However, the use of a buprenorphine product such as Suboxone will have fewer risks and even be able to lessen withdrawal symptoms in someone with who is carrying a full opioid agonist in their bloodstream. Buprenorphine has what is called a “ceiling effect.” This means that it has a maximum effect and no matter how much an individual takes, they cannot produce an effect that exceeds the ceiling. In other words, no matter how much an opiate addict takes, they cannot use buprenorphine to get high. I have heard several reports of individuals stating that they experienced a high when they took “extra” Suboxone, or intentionally abused it. This is called the placebo effect. Most addicts will report the feeling of being high while they are preparing to take their drug-of-choice, but haven’t actually consumed any yet. The brain is extremely powerful and can produce these feelings out of pure psychology. So if an individual believes they are getting high, they may experience a euphoria caused by this belief. Most people who abuse buprenorphine are unaware of how a partial agonist works and fully believe that they will be able to get high simply by taking more of this medication. And yes, I fully agree, if someone is attempting to get high off of their Suboxone, Subutex or other buprenorphine medication, or are otherwise not taking their medication as prescribed by their doctor, they are NOT in recovery yet.
A partial agonist will actually compete with an agonist for opioid receptors thus reducing the effectiveness of the agonist. A high dose of a partial agonist will produce a continued mild stimulation of the receptor as opposed to an increased production of endorphins by the receptor.
(I hope I’m making sense of all this for you guys, I’ll go back and read it another day and see if it sounds confusing. Feel free to give me some feedback.)
Suboxone in particular contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which is combined with buprenorphine to deter patients from attempting to abuse the medication by way of injection. Suboxone, when in the system prevents the individual from being able to get high from opiates, even if they want to, because the opioid receptors are occupied. This is a lot more than Methadone can say. Methadone can be abused as much as a person chooses and an individual can chose to use heroin or other opiates while on methadone and still be able to get high off of them.
So why does Suboxone and other buprenorphine products carry this stigma? Part of the problem is lack of education, people just assume it is like methadone. This is partially due to the creation of Suboxone clinics that administer it and then kick people out the door. Suboxone is intended to be an adjunct to treatment and should be taken in addition to receiving individual counseling, group therapy, attending 12 step meetings and if needed, living in a residential facility. Another part of the problem is that it is illegally sold on the streets. It sold for heroin addicts who are trying to treat themselves and get clean without the help of a physician, or for those who are just trying to avoid the excruciating sickness of withdrawal until they can find more of their DOC, and it is also sold for those who are not addicted to opiates who wish to attempt to abuse it.
Another thing I’ve heard is that it’s “weak” or the “easy way out.” I have to say, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. This is life or death. You shouldn’t care what you have to do to get and stay clean as long as it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else. I understand that there are plenty of people out there who achieved sobriety without the use of a medication, but that’s not your concern. At no point is it necessary to compare one’s recovery to another’s. Everyone’s disease progresses at a different rate and there are countless other factors at play for each individual. What is possible for one person might not be possible for someone else. Who cares; again, this is life or death.
Addiction is a disease and we know this because it clearly meets all criteria for an ailment to be classified as a disease (is testable, has sign and symptoms, and causes detriment to health). This disease is chronic, progressive, and fatal if left untreated just like many ailments. Would it be wrong to take medication to treat another disease? Would a diabetic be weak for taking insulin? What if I needed an antibiotic temporarily until my immune system adjusted and was able to fight off a virus? It’s no different than taking Suboxone temporarily while a recoverees body adjusts and they learn the tools necessary to achieve long-term sobriety.
So let’s review!
There are three types of opioid drug-receptor interactions including:
• Full endorphine agonist
• Partial agonist
• Antagonists
Full agonist drugs bind to opioid receptors and cause them to produce endorphins causing and analgesic effect. The more of the substance that is ingested, the greater effect it will have on the individual. Full agonists include morphine, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone (among others).
Partial agonists bind primarily to opioid receptors and cause the production of endorphins to a much lesser magnitude than full agonists. When more of this substance is ingested there may be a small increase in endorphin production, if any. Partial agonists include Buprenorphine, Suboxone, and Subutex.
Antagonists bind to opioid receptors and do not activate the production of endorphins. Antagonists occupy receptors and will replace opioids that are presently in them. Atagonists include Naloxone and naltrexone.

Andrea Espinosa



Learning how to forgive yourself is an important piece of finding serenity. Serenity cannot take place until we deal with our guilt, shame, fear, and resentments. But we can’t take steps in dealing with these issues until we learn how to forgive ourselves. Forgiving ourselves will allow us to move forward toward a healthy and meaningful life with a sense of clarity.

When we forgive ourselves we free ourselves of the bondage of irrational thinking. We are human, we are not perfect. We have made mistakes and we cannot change the past. These are things that we have to accept if we want to be happy and have meaningful relationships. No amount of undoing will change the past. Being remorseful and repentant doesn’t mean we forgive ourselves, either. Self-forgiveness takes place within and cannot be accomplished by trying to make up for the past, although making amends and humbly admitting when you’re wrong is always important.

Self-forgiveness is good for your health. Forgiving yourself will lessen your stress levels allowing you to reduce your risk of developing and worsening ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Without self-forgiveness you are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors and chronically seek revenge towards yourself. It will contribute toward a negative, defensive and pessimistic perspective which will hinder progression in your relationships and affairs. If left unresolved for too long, it can lead to loss of love for yourself, depression, and hostility.

Why so we have such a hard time forgiving ourselves? Aren’t we taught by our parents, teachers, religious figures and society as a whole that we are supposed to forgive and forget? Why is it so much easier to forgive others than ourselves? Do we feel that if we forgive ourselves we are relinquishing responsibility for what we did? As if to continue to shame ourselves is a form of punishment that we have to go through to make up for what we did. Self-forgiveness doesn’t mean that we are OK with what we did, it just means that we are going to accept our flaws, our past, and move on.

Now you know that you need to forgive yourself, but how can this be accomplished. You can start by recognizing what it is that you are beating yourself up about. Free of denial, rationalization, justification, and minimization, identify exactly what you did. Did you displace your anger or guilt onto someone else who had nothing to do with it in the first place? Did you humiliate or belittle someone to boost your own self-esteem? Did you fail to report a crime that resulted in other being harmed? Did you deliberately break a law or break a promise? Whatever it is that you did, you cannot change it.

Acknowledge your faults and mistakes and accept yourself. Tell yourself that you are a good person, because you are. Identify your values and your good intentions for self-improvement. Think about all the forgiveness you give to other people and realize that you are just as worthy of forgiveness as they are. Recognize times when you have forgiven yourself and the feelings associated with it. Write it all down. Write yourself a letter describing what you did, why you’re a good person, and why you deserve forgiveness. Include in it that you deserve compassion and understanding just like everyone else. Include in that letter that you love yourself and you forgive yourself.

Learning How To Trust Again: You Can’t Recover Alone


As a substance abuse counselor, my observation is that the most common reason people get stuck in early recovery is lack of trust. Trust issues are universal problem for the newly recovering addict or alcoholic. For so many years, there was no one you could trust, not even yourself. Addiction is plagued with lies, deceit, criminal behaviors, sneaking around, and constant fear of exposure. You begin to feel that you can trust no one and no one trusts you. You build your walls up so high that no one knows what’s really going on inside you. You experience life as if it were a masquerade, not knowing what anyone really looks like and not showing anyone your true self.

If you’re fortunate, you reach you bottom and it isn’t death, so you enter recovery. Starting a life in recovery after being beaten down by the disease of addiction for so many years is a tough road. After you make it through the withdrawal, you’re faced with the wreckage of your past. This sobering reality can be enough to send you running back to your drug of choice. The drug that blurred your reality and numbed the pain. The one that made it seem as if there was nothing to worry about. But this lasted only for a few moments. Then the need for more and more of the substance grew stronger as the need to avoid reality grew more desperate. Finally, in a brief moment of God-give clarity, you are able to see that wreckage that is only growing with each drink or hit. So now what?

Here you stand, newly clean and sober and all you feel is nothing. Everything is gray. Normal emotions don’t seem to exist for you. The only feelings that manifest are guilt, shame, fear, resentment, anger, and various other forms of pain. If sober life is so miserable, why bother? Because there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m here to tell you that there are different paths to get there, but they all have one thing in common. They all require the support of a clean/sober network. Isolation and recovery cannot coexist. An addict who is alone is in bad company. Your best thinking got you to your bottom, don’t think for a minute that it can save you. You need people who can look at you from the outside and see you from a different perspective. You need people who can recognize your addictive thinking and aren’t afraid to point it out to you. You need people you can call when your triggered, craving, or have questions about anything. You need people to bounce ideas off of before you make decisions. You need other recovering individuals to have your back and get you through the tough times and all the trials of early recovery and dealing with life on life’s terms.

Life will never stop throwing challenges of varying degree your way. But a life in recovery has a fighting chance of making the best of every circumstance. Early recovery is particularly challenging, because your brain is not yet producing the normal chemicals that make us feel happy. These are the moments you are at your weakest. Having a good sponsor and a strong support network is what will give you the strength to make it through.

But if you don’t trust anyone, you’re not going to take the steps necessary to build your network. You might show up at meetings, but not say anything and leave as soon as it’s over without talking to anyone. You won’t pick up the phone when you need help. And you never participate in sober activities. This leaves you in isolation and we all know where that leads us. Does this sound familiar?

Trust is a necessary part of a healthy life. We need to trust. Humans are extremely social creatures. You have to trust people at some point in your life. Early recovery couldn’t be a more opportune time to start. So how do we learn how to trust again? Here are a few simple steps you can take to begin this important journey.

Step 1: Recognize all the reasons you need to learn to trust again. In order to be successful in recovery you need a sponsor, you need a solid sober support network, and you need to pick up the phone and call people every time you’re struggling. These are all essential aspects of recovery, and will prevent you from getting “stuck” and turning into a dry drunk.

Step 2: Identify the people in your life that you do trust. What characteristics do they have? Write them down. If you are sure that you don’t trust anyone, then identify the characteristics that you fell everyone in your life is lacking. Very few people actually have no one they can trust, however some people choose not to trust anyone for fear of betrayal. Even the most untrusting person will usually trust someone to cook their food at a restaurant.

Step 3: Trust yourself that you will survive if betrayed. Betray is an unfortunate part of life that everyone has to deal with. Don’t continue to feed yourself self-defeating thoughts. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t handle betrayal. If you do, you are putting up your own walls. You are holding yourself back. Tell yourself in confidence that you will be OK if you are betrayed. Not everyone is trustworthy, but some people are. You will be able to find those people and make them apart of your life, but you have to take the steps.

Step 4: Move forward. Get to a meeting and hang around afterwards. Start talking to people. Go up to someone and introduce yourself. Challenge yourself to start a conversation with a total stranger. If this feels uncomfortable for you, then it is a growing experience. Once you start to get to know people a little bit, you can identify red-flag behaviors. If someone is talking negatively about other people and sharing their business, they will likely do the same to you. If you experience this, don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Recognize that some people are like that and that you don’t have to have all of your needs met by one person. Relationships can exist at varying degrees of bond. Most people are pleasantly surprised to find that other people in recovery are generally supportive, welcoming, friendly, helpful, kind, and willing to reach out and help the newcomer.

Step 5: Start networking. Now that you’ve faced the challenge of talking to people, it’s time to get some numbers. One good way to do this is to introduce yourself at the beginning of a meeting as a newcomer. Usually, the chair person will send around a pamphlet and every one of the same sex will sign it and put their number on it and they will give it to you. This is the beginning of your sober support network.

Step 6. Pick up the phone. This is usually the hardest part for someone in early recovery struggling with trust issues. You have to pick up the phone and call a total stranger. The first time is the hardest and it get a little easier every time. Tell them what you are currently struggling with, what triggering you, what’s on your mind. What if you have nothing to say? Tell them that! A good way to start the conversation if you don’t know what to say is “hello, I’m (insert name), I got your number at the meeting last night. I don’t really know what to say, but I know I’m supposed to start calling people. I’m just trying to get my feet wet.” They will usually pick up the conversation from there, if you even get through your sentence. Because they’ve all been there and they know what you’re going through and they know you have a lot to learn.


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