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Long Term Sobriety: Making it Stick

Marilyn Spiller

Marilyn Spiller

A friend of mine, who’s been sober for a few years now, is quite the raconteur. I love to hear her tales of drunken mayhem and redemption. She’s a female Tom Waits – Nighthawks at the Diner kind of stuff – with a sharp-edged gravel voice, and a verbal cocktail made up of equal parts regret and longing…

She paces back and forth trailing cigarette ash in her wake and says, “Yeah, the first few times I went to jail, I had a friend pick me up with a cold, 12 pack and a crack pipe in the car…” I’m two years sober, and I’ve got plenty of drinking stories to tell, but I’m innocent enough about jail time to think, “Wow, don’t they check the cars that pick up released prisoners?” and “So, how many times did you go to prison, and how many times did you quit?”

When I hear someone talk about recovery like it’s a recurring virus, I find myself reevaluating what it takes to make sobriety stick and whether the motivators to quitting are a factor in long term sobriety. In my article for Recovery Connection called “What is Rock Bottom?” I talked about the four motivators to quitting drinking: 1.court mandated, intervention, 3.half-hearted self motivation; and 4, whole-hearted, do-or-die self motivation.

I still believe that the safest, most enduring way to quit drinking is number 4. Without readiness, we grapple with defiance and denial and the low grade hope that after a grace period of abstinence or incarceration, we can “drink responsibly”. The most difficult part about quitting for me was the notion that I could never drink again. I was like a dog with a sock, chewing on the frayed hope that I could have a glass of wine with dinner, an alfresco highball on an exotic terrace… However, one drink for me is like opening the silo and shouting, “RELEASE THE KRACKEN!” A single drink escalates to four or eight, and when I wake cities are burning…

When making the decision to stop drinking, one is really embarking on a major lifestyle change. The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, is oftentimes used to help guide the addict through the steps of change effectively.

Following are the six stages of behavioral change according to The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (with my two cents thrown in):

  1. Precontemplative – This stage is characterized by denial. We do not believe there is a problem. “What me? I don’t know what you are talking about – I don’t have a drinking problem… And that dent in the car is not my fault!”
  2. Contemplative – This stage is about acceptance. “Okay, okay – I shouldn’t have had that tenth shot of tequila…. or told your boss his toupee looks like road kill…”
  3. Preparation – This is the all important realization stage. “Okay, I’ll read the Big Book, and I’ll think about why I need to change. I know I need to change.”
  4. Action – This is the stage where we are galvanized to action. There is empowerment and we are receptive to proffered help, and open to information that will guide us. “Start running? Okay! I can’t drink while I’m running, right?”
  5. Maintenance – This is the stage where we reinforce our positive behavior and develop new coping skills – and this is where some of our old, unwanted thoughts or behaviors rear their ugly heads. There is nostalgia. We go to meetings, write blog posts and read all the available literature. “I am so grateful to be standing here… alive . Help me to stay sober. Please.”
  6. Termination – This is where the paradigm shift is supposed to happen. This is the stage where our thoughts of alcohol are totally changed… “Yuck. No interest in that stuff. Who would EVER drink alcohol?”

Behavior models are just that: models. Not everyone responds the same way, and I am not sure I will ever reach the Termination Stage. I am happy to be ensconced in the Maintenance Phase and grateful to have intuitively made the right choices to change my life for the better. Readiness. Motivation. Behavior Modification. My friend who was in an out of jail so many times, realizes now that she had to make the conscious decision to quit and the personal decision to reinforce her good habits. Orange IS NOT the New Black. Don’t you believe it.

Sober is the new black.

Marilyn Spiller is a freelance writer, speaker and sober coach living in Jacksonville, Florida. She writes a sobriety blog called Waking Up the Ghost, a humorous and honest look at her wobbly journey toward recovery. She can be reached on Facebook at Waking Up the Ghost; on Twitter @MarilynSpiller and at

Can Drinking Affect Your Breast Cancer Risk?

drinking alcohol and breast cancer

‘To Your Health’ or Not?

You probably know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a fact that’s hard to avoid when everything online and in real life is drowning in pink. But beneath the pink ribbons and admonitions to get mammograms, take a longer look at one of the lesser known breast cancer risk factors: Alcohol. Can your drinking cause breast cancer?

The link between drinking alcohol and breast cancer is long-established: Women who drink have a greater risk of breast cancer—if they drink even 2 drinks a day their risk is 1.5 times greater than women who don’t drink. Now a new study pinpoints a time frame for drinking risk: Young adulthood, at the time when breast tissue is growing the most.

Alcohol & Cancer Risk

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied results of large-scale studies of women. They found that drinking just one drink a day between the time of a first period and a woman’s first pregnancy increased risk of breast cancer 13 percent. It also increased the risk for proliferative benign breast conditions, some of which are themselves risk factors for breast cancer.

The researchers said that breast tissue proliferates the most from the onset of puberty until a first pregnancy. The more that this rapidly growing tissue is exposed to carcinogens during this time, the more vulnerable it is to developing cancer. The fact that women are delaying their first pregnancies only lengthens that period of time when tissue is most vulnerable. The statistics for college-age women who binge drink (4 drinks within 2 hours) make it even more alarming.

Reducing Your Risk with Rehab

Think about that when you take your next drink or wonder if you need alcohol rehab. It’s hard to pinpoint cause and effect with diseases, but look at all your risk factors: Drink every day or a lot every week, maybe some family history of breast cancer, maybe some obesity. You can’t change risk factors like family history. But you can change whether or not you drink.

If you think alcohol is a problem for you, call Recovery Connection at 800-993-3869. Our admission counselors can find the right alcohol rehab for you.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness

fasd awareness day

Every Drink Makes a Difference

One of the unintended consequences of alcohol abuse among women can continue for generations, in the form of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy risk many disabilities and behavioral problems for their babies, problems that can continue into adulthood.

FASD is a major problem, noticed for centuries but formally identified by the medical world and researched for the last 40 years.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 13 women drink while pregnant and about 40,000 babies are born every year with some level of FASD. This public health problem is the focus of FASD Awareness Day, which is observed every year on September 9.

Hardships and Punishment

Scientists have shed light on the consequences of drinking while pregnant. Children born with FASD encounter many problems from birth, childhood and throughout their life.

Developmental problems associated with FASD:

  • Intellectual and learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Behavioral and emotional difficulties
  • Poor social skills

As they get older, the behavioral and learning disabilities make people with FASD vulnerable to substance abuse and to crime.  In many cases, the legal system is not set up to deal with the disabilities associated with FASD, which may put the people at risk for getting into more legal problems.

Better treatment options exist to help people with FASD; the issue is making the treatment available to them. If these people can get treatment at an early age, their quality of life can improve.

Awareness Is Key

FASD Awareness Day gives communities a chance to promote awareness of the dangers of drinking while pregnant, FASD and associated disorders. The need may be even greater this year. Recent books have caused a stir by suggesting that ‘light drinking during pregnancy is OK.’ But numerous medical organizations and the U.S. surgeon general maintain that there is no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy and women who are pregnant should not drink at all.  With more awareness, education and prevention, more mothers can get the tools and knowledge they need to make better decisions.

Our goal at Recovery Connection is to get help to pregnant mothers before it’s too late.  We understand the special needs for women in alcohol rehab. Call us at 800-993-3869 and see how easy it is to get treatment.

Killing to Save?

alcoholism pine ridge Indians

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What are you willing to do to save a group of people you care for? Using the same poison that is killing your loved ones and shortening the lives of whole generations to fund the solution sounds extreme. For the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, this is a risk they are considering.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has struggled with alcoholism, poverty and crime. Although alcohol has been banned at the reservation for the past century, surrounding towns and bootleggers manage to bring supply to the demand. The consequences have been disastrous:  Each household has at least one family member that drinks and a quarter of the children are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Even more dismal is the shortened life expectancy, estimated between the ages of 45 to 52.

Despite all the problems, the Oglala Sioux tribal council is considering lifting the alcohol ban to use the money made to fund alcohol rehab treatment, prevention and education. There are mixed reviews on this idea. Some say that the easy accessibility will cause the problem to worsen. Others say that alcohol is present regardless and people who want to drink will find a way.

Tough Call

This group of people has a big problem on their hands and a big decision to make. Whatever they chose to do, it is going to take a lot of work and effort on everyone’s part to solve the issue. Hopefully, the tribe can figure it out soon before more of their people die.

Do you think lifting the alcohol ban can help the tribe? Share your thoughts on Recovery Connection’s Facebook page.

Love Life on the Rocks

effects of alcohol on love life

Don’t Let Alcohol Kill Your Love Life

How many times have you met someone you really liked, gone out for drinks, had a one-night stand and never heard from him or her again? Perhaps you didn’t even get the chance to get intimate, but you did get drunk with that person. You may think that you become a funnier, wittier and more charming version of you when you have a few drinks. However, if you continue to date unsuccessfully and drink to get drunk most of the time, the problem is the alcohol. Your liquid courage is making a mess of your love life, or your life for that matter.

Love for Alcohol Killing Your Love Life

Many people drink in social settings, but for some people drinking takes over. Drinking to get drunk every day negatively impacts your relationships. Your preoccupation with drinking gets in the way of everything and everyone around you. The more you drink, the more painful it becomes for others to watch. Sooner or later, your loved ones or people who care for you or like you have no choice but to walk away.

Aside from hurting the people who care for you, your drinking habit has clouded your judgment and led to decisions you might regret. This addiction slowly destroys your most important relationship: the one with yourself. Your drinking habit erodes your self-esteem, self-image and self-worth. If you don’t love or respect yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to.

Starting New Relationships Starts with You

Many people consider drinking alcohol to be a social activity and maybe you started drinking for the social aspect. However, when your drinking habit consumes your life, you find that you are quite lonely. Your drinking habit makes it nearly impossible to make and maintain relationships, even with yourself. Seeking treatment in alcohol rehab for your addiction problem puts you on the road to rebuilding and creating new relationships.

Types of Addictions

Learn More About Addiction

Learn More About Addiction

Addictions are often crippling. It is easy for an addiction to grow and eventually take over someone’s entire life. As a friend or family member, it can be difficult to watch someone who is struggling with an addiction. Many people who do not struggle with addiction cannot understand how truly consuming an addiction can be. Addictions often lead to alienation of others and can end marriages and other relationships. When you are facing an addiction, it is important to seek professional help in overcoming the addiction. Family members and close friends may also need to seek help to learn how to repair the rifts in a relationship that addiction causes.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction is important. You can do this in both yourself and in others. People with an addiction often become secretive. They stop spending time with other people. Sleep patterns may change and addicts may have a hard time sitting still or focusing on projects or relationships. You may notice a sudden change in weight. Additionally, you may see that friends change. An addict’s entire focus will change to accommodate the addiction. The person may also feel unwell and experience other symptoms. Finances can be affected by an addiction and the person may be focused on finding ways to get money. This is a sign in addictions from gambling to drugs to shopping.

Two Categories of Addiction

When people think about addictions, they usually think about drug addictions or alcoholism. However, there are a wide variety of addictions that go beyond substance addictions. Each of the addictions can be just as devastating as a drug addiction, and it can be just as difficult for the person to stop. Addictions are divided into two broad categories: substance addiction and behavioral addiction. Substance addiction is when you are addicted to a substance like alcohol or drugs. Behavioral addictions consist of compulsive behaviors that take over someone’s life. These addictions can include gambling, overeating, sexual addictions, video game addiction and shopping addiction. Most of these behaviors are part of everyday life, but when they get in the way of your life, it is just one sign that you are facing an addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction:

Types of Addiction

Binge Drinking in Military Families

binge drinking risk for children of the deployed

Serving? Who’s Serving Your Kids?

Imagine you’re a parent deployed on active military duty. You’re already thinking about your family back at home, especially the children. Are they doing well in school? Are they eating nutritious food? Are they doing drugs and binge drinking?

Wait, what? Doing drugs and binge drinking?

In a 2010 study, more than 78,000 students were surveyed about various topics, including their experiences with drugs and alcohol. The results showed that children of deployed parents were at greater risk of drinking (especially binge drinking) and abusing drugs.

Sixth-grade children of nonmilitary parents were shown to have about a 2 percent binge drinking rate. But for sixth-graders of military parents, that rate jumped to 7 percent. That’s a little alarming within the same age group, especially when that age is 12 years old.

The study also found that 11th-grade students of deployed or recently returned military parents were more likely to use marijuana.

The study was the 2010 Iowa Youth Study. Most of the military families involved in the study served in reserve units or the National Guard and lived in the community, not on military bases.

Being deployed is difficult and so is knowing what’s going on at home while you’re away. However, it is important to realize that substance abuse is common among children with military parents. Staying in touch with their daily lives can lessen their risk for problems with alcohol abuse.

As an active duty soldier away from your children, have you had to deal with these drug and alcohol issues back at home? How have you kept up with your kids while deployed? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Alcohol Awareness Month Celebrates Rehab as the Answer

April Brings Showers of Information for Alcohol Awareness Month

April Brings Showers of Information for Alcohol Awareness Month

The month of April is more than just rain showers. April is also known as Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (


) created it to raise awareness about alcohol and the negative consequences from drinking too much. Its goal is to educate the nation about the disease of alcoholism and promoting treatment and intervention.

The Facts: Causes for Alcoholism

People across the country are misinformed about alcoholism. Many don’t know the extent of the problem or consequences from drinking. However, the


and other supporting organizations around the country are spreading the facts about this disease.

Many people believe that alcoholics choose to be addicted or are morally weak. People don’t realize that alcoholism is a chronic disease. Those struggling with alcohol addiction do not choose to be addicted. Their drinking habit does not mean that they have no willpower. Alcohol rewires the brain and soon enough, the person’s body can’t function without it. Even if the person tries to stop drinking cold turkey, they experience painful, unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms that may be fatal.

People who struggle with an alcohol problem don’t choose this path. Many factors that play a role in their likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction.

These Risk Factors Include:

  • Family history
  • Mental health
  • Environment

The Facts: Consequences

Many people believe that the amount of alcohol they drink doesn’t put them in danger. Just because you don’t drink every day doesn’t mean you are not causing damage. Binge drinking is harmful to your body even if you only do it on the weekends. Your heart takes a beating from your drinking habit, whether you drink a lot over a period of time or binge drink in one sitting.

Consequences include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke

Heavy drinking can also damage your liver and pancreas. Your immune system is weakened and your risk for developing certain cancers increases.

Aside from physical consequences, heavy drinking negatively impacts your life in other ways.

Negative Impacts from Drinking:

  • Mental health
  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Job performance
  • Finances
  • Legal Issues

The Facts: Prevalence

Alcoholism doesn’t affect only one type of person. You can’t look at a person and know if they have a problem with alcohol. Mother, fathers, sisters, brothers, teachers and doctors alike can struggle with an alcohol problem without anyone knowing.

Millions of American struggle with alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health (


), approximately 18 million Americans meet the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder. However, only 13 percent of these people seek treatment for their alcohol problem.

The Facts: Rehab and Treatment

The best way to treat alcoholism is with professional alcohol rehab and treatment. This means going to alcohol detox and alcohol rehab. You need both to prepare for your recovery. Alcohol detox only removes the toxins in your body. Your best option is going to a treatment facility that offers both detox and rehab to avoid interruption of services and reduces your risk of relapse.

The entire month of April is devoted to alcohol awareness and April 11 is National Alcohol Screening Day. Take the time to find out more, for yourself or your loved ones. These efforts help reduce the instance of alcoholism and unnecessary illnesses and deaths. So spread the word and educate yourself and others.

Is Spring Break Really Fun in the Sun?

spring break drinking

Are You Planning on Staying Sober?

Spring break means time off from school, studying and time to blow off some overdue steam.  Over the years, spring break has become a tradition synonymous with alcohol, sex and the beach. A few years ago, Girls Gone Wild brought spring break debauchery to a new level, preserving spring break behavior on video for the whole world to see. Parents looked on with horror as their kids made poor decisions under the influence of alcohol. What many students don’t realize is that this destructive pattern of drinking may be a precursor for developing other addictions.

Once the week of drunkenness wears off, the regret sets in and you try to remember everything that happened. You feel OK for the most part, but there might be times you cannot remember. In this day and age, YouTube might be there to remind you and the rest of the world what you did.

Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to some questionable decisions. Promiscuity is often the number one regrettable behavior for both men and women over spring break. The repercussions include STDs and pregnancy scares, just to name two, each of which can derail a college life completely.  For some people, spring break drinking can start a habit they can’t stop, and may lead to even more permanent consequences from this week of fun in the sun.

Will you have a sober spring break?   Share your comments with us below or on our Facebook page.

The Army’s Message about St. Patrick’s Day

st. patrick’s day and armyThe U.S. Army has a long association with St. Patrick’s Day and now is spreading the message of celebrating safely. St. Patrick’s Day is the Catholic feast day for Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland.  In 1903, St. Patrick’s Day became a public holiday in Ireland. This religious holiday over the years has become known as a day where widespread alcohol intoxication occurs.

For the Army, its link to St. Patrick’s Day start with the largest celebration—the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, where the Fighting 69th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard will once again lead the parade as it has since 1851. But another Army link is a more familiar story: in recent years March 17 car crashes have claimed the lives of three soldiers.

The Army is well aware of the destruction that happens from impaired driving on this holiday. They have promoted safe celebrating and the use of designated drivers. The Army wants you to know that if they get in a car with a drunk driver or decide to drive while impaired, you are risking not only your life but the lives of innocent people around you. In reaction to the deaths of soldiers in drunk driving crashes in 2009, Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell  said “Driving while impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is not the right thing to do.  Remember we are a Band of Brothers and Sisters, on and off the battlefield, and need to look after each other.”

How do you plan on celebrating St. Patrick’s sober? Share your comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Your good ideas may help a newbie learn how to celebrate without alcohol and drugs.