This Alcoholic Spends January 1st at the Gym

Two years ago, I realized I had a drinking problem. I was spinning my 10 year-old daughter around while she was on my shoulders, with one arm holding her legs and the other holding my holiday favorite – a nice glass of Southern Comfort. Thanks to her dear old Dad’s lack of balance, she ended up banging her hand on the wall. Her reaction as she giggled was: “Daddy, you drink too much”.

My reasons for drinking were probably not uncommon; it was an escape from reality; it was an escape from boredom; and it made a general feeling of disappointment briefly go away. Still, it was clear two years ago – just before New Year’s Day – I had to make a change.

In order to stop drinking permanently and keep a new year’s resolution, I needed an outlet that could fulfill the three needs that drew me toward alcohol and oddly enough, that outlet turned out to be exercise.

After a few trips to the gym, I realized that if I performed exercises that I liked, I was not bored. If I pushed my body to its limits, I could escape reality and, best of all, I found it difficult to feel a sense of disappointment after my blood pressure went from “high” to “normal” and I lost 6 inches on my waist with just a few months of replacing drinking with exercising.

The repetitive routine of drinking also seemed very similar to the repetitive routine of exercise.   In order to feel high from booze, I generally had to drink more and more just like when I try to lift a little more weight or run a little faster each time I exercise. My brain seems happy now and at 46 years of age, my body is in the best shape of its life.

Despite not drinking for the last two years and continuing to exercise four times a week, like many of you out there who have a drinking problem, I find the holidays are an especially difficult time. At this time of year, just about everywhere you look, there’s booze. The SAQs (facilities run by the government in Canada) are packed and open late for business, the grocery stores have cases of beer lined up as soon as you enter them, there are endless ads on television showing sexy people lubricated with alcohol and just about any party you attend at this time of year is filled with copious amounts of liquor.

Alcohol, if not promoted at this time of year, is certainly a more than socially acceptable way to get high and perhaps that needs to change.

Even if the time comes when booze ads are outlawed just as cigarette ads are, and we open our eyes and realize that nothing good ever came from drinking, I will continue to wake up early on January 1st each year and find a gym that’s open so I can feel good about myself instead of being hung-over.

I hope you start your New Year in a healthy and sober way.  Happy New Year to All.

We profiled Nathan Friedland of Montreal, Quebec, as a Spiritual Adrenaline Inspiration back in April 2016.

Sustainable Resolutions Guide – Start, and Maintain a Sober Year.

SUSTAINABLE RESOLUTIONS

FOR PEOPLE IN RECOVERY

According to Forbes Magazine, just 8% of people who make a resolution keep it.  Most, break their resolutions in the first two weeks of the New Year. Here is a list of the most popular resolutions for last year:

  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Spend less, save more
  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Stay fit and healthy
  • Learn something exciting
  • Quit smoking
  • Help others achieve their dreams
  • Fall in love
  • Spend more time with family

Although these resolutions are based upon people in the general population, it is likely that many people in recovery share these goals.

So Why Do So Many People Fail?

The problem with these resolutions is they go to the end game without a strategy to get there.   In other words you really need to have a plan, both short-term and long-term, to lose weight and keep it off, quit smoking or stay fit and healthy.   Rather than have such broad and sweeping resolutions, what worked for me, and I think may work for you, is to have the long-term goal in mind, but break it down into manageable subgroups, and really focus on making progress, baby-step by baby-step.  By focusing on the micro-level and succeeding, we are better able to gain the self-confidence necessary to ultimately achieve our desired end result.  No coach goes into a game without a strategy and, given that your quality of life is at stake here, neither should you.

Recovery-Based Resolutions

The list of last year’s top ten resolutions involve a lot of issues we address at Spiritual Adrenaline: lose weight; stay fit and healthy; quit smoking; etc.  Rather than incredibly broad resolutions, I recommend breaking down your resolution into smaller, more realistic goals and doing everything possible to achieve this realistic resolution.  Once you achieve it, you can set another and keep going.

For example, if you are looking to quit smoking you need to develop a plan to address “triggers” that lead you to smoke.  For me, that was coming and going from buildings.  When I was about to enter or leave a building, I would chew a nicotine lozenge to avoid lighting up.   Once I broke the habit of smoking coming and going from buildings, then I addressed not smoking in my car, etc.   It was the smaller victories along the way that ultimately enabled me to quit smoking.   It all starts somewhere and the smaller victories along the way build the self-confidence needed to ultimately win the war.

In the movie “What About Bob,” Bill Murray repeated the mantra “baby steps” over and over.   In early recovery, I adopted that mantra for most things.  It was incredibly important for me to stop self-defeating and self-sabotage and instead focus on getting out of my own way and being my own best friend.

Here are some achievable resolutions that will enhance your recovery and can start you down the road toward major change.  I picked one for each of the major areas we focus on here at Spiritual Adrenaline.

Recovery Nutrition:

Replace processed sugar and sweeteners with a natural sweetener:   Diabetes and hyperglycemia are a major issue for people in recovery.  The percentage of people in recovery with these conditions is well above the general population; according to some studies, as high as 93%.  These conditions often make it much more challenging to stay sober as fluctuation in blood sugar levels dramatically alters mood and energy levels.  Moreover, many people in recovery, especially alcoholics, have compromised liver function.   If this applies to you, your liver may not be able to break down high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners.   High-fructose corn syrup is quite common, and often the main sweetener in candy, ice cream and many other products.   Over time, high-fructose corn syrup builds up in the liver causing a whole set of other health-related problems.   By replacing processed sweeteners with natural sweeteners, you take a major step forward in diet modification and a healthier you.

Recovery Exercise:

Walk At Least A Mile A Day:  Move a muscle, change a thought.  It is undisputed that cardiovascular exercise will help burn calories, help lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and enhance production of brain chemicals and hormones that lift your mood.   A mile a day is not a long distance at all, and this resolution should be an easy lift for most folks.   It can also be the first step towards incorporating exercise into your daily routine, which is a must if we seek to enhance our changes of long-term success in recovery.   Once you get comfortable with the mile, you can always go a little further, and then a little further.  However, we all must start somewhere.

You can measure your mile the old-fashioned way, by actually measuring the length to and from certain locations or by driving the route ahead of time.  There are countless gadgets and apps that will do it for you.   So there is no reason not to give it a try.  For folks in recovery, this is a great time to meditate, go over a gratitude list in their head, call a loved one or just enjoy nature.  If you tend to isolate yourself and have a history of doing so while you were using, invite someone to join you.  Maybe you can walk to and from a meeting together.

For people trying to quit smoking, cardiovascular activity is of great importance.  Most people who smoke tend to engage in limited activity.  The longer you smoke, the less you tend to move, as even minimal movement can be challenging for a smoker, especially those with lung diseases or other smoking-related health issues.   When you engage in cardio, you force your lungs to work.   By doing this, you can feel the impact of smoking on your lungs and their ability to provide you with oxygen.    I can tell you this first hand because this was true for me.  After heavy cardio, I would have great difficulty breathing and my lungs hurt.  It convinced me that it was a behavior that could not continue. By incorporating exercise and proper nutrition into your lifestyle along with like-minded people (i.e., non-smokers), smoking becomes less and less acceptable and appealing.

Smoking Cessation:

Inventory The Times You Smoke and Make At Least One Change To Your Routine:  Sit down and figure out the times of day you smoke, and commit to erasing at least one. When I smoked, I was lighting up when I went in and out of buildings, hanging around the front of twelve-step meetings with the smoking crowd, in my car when I was driving, and in my apartment at night.  When I committed to stop, I changed the ways I went to and from work to avoid places where smokers congregated and where I traditionally lit up a cigarette. I changed my meetings, went later and/or left early to avoid smokers, pulled over as opposed to permitting myself to smoke in my car, and left my cigarettes in the mailbox at night so I did not have them available to smoke in my apartment.

Breaking these types of habits and routines in the context of smoking is huge.  The habits are what perpetuate the addiction.  By changing them, you change the neurological associations and cravings in your brain, and take a huge leap towards kicking the habit.    It all starts by inventorying your smoking and developing a battle plan.   One victory and change in the routine will give you the confidence to keep going and not give up.

Recovery Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones:

Eat Something Green Every Day:  It sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people do not eat green vegetables on a daily basis.  Green leafy veggies are our best friends for so many reasons.  First, they are not carb-heavy vegetables, so if we are looking to lean down, they enhance that goal.  Second, they do not contain substances that convert to sugar or glucose in the digestion process.  This is incredibly important given the disproportionate number of people in recovery with diabetes and hyperglycemia.   Third, leafy green vegetables pack the most nutrients per calorie than any other food group.   Greens contain significant amounts of Vitamins A, C, E, K and several of the B vitamins.  In addition, they are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.     As people in recovery, our bodies are often used to calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods, chief among them candy and alcohol.   The benefits of eating something green everyday will pay off exponentially as you will be restoring the building blocks necessary to meet your body’s needs and proper brain chemistry.

If you eat some greens every day, you won’t have to worry about the recommended servings per week, as you’ll easily exceed them.  In case you were wondering, the USDA recommends three servings of leafy greens each week.

Recovery Spirituality:

This is a tough category because the issue of “spirituality” is so subjective. So in this category I will give you three suggestions:

Establish A Morning Self-Care Practice:  How we start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.  A morning self-care practice establishes you and your recovery as the priority and the absolute first thing that gets your attention in the morning.   This need not be a lengthy, highly formal practice.  Set aside 5 minutes every morning to reflect on gratitude, your goals for the day, or whatever else you would like to focus on.  Use this time to reflect inward, towards your soul, and be driven by your needs.  Not the needs of others, clients, significant others, family or any other person, place or thing.   Enjoy your 5 minutes of solitude and stay in gratitude.  A person who stays in gratitude will not drink or use drugs.

Journal About Your Feelings:  Feelings are not facts and putting them down in black and white is an incredibly powerful experience in many ways.  Oftentimes, when I write down how I am feeling, it makes it unmistakably clear that what is happening in my head is absolutely ridiculous.  By writing down my feelings or, as I sometimes refer to them – the “chaos in my head,” I gain perspective. Journaling also grounds me in reality, makes me think about how my brain processes people, places and things, and makes it easier to share with a sponsor or friend at a later time.   A journal need not be War and Peace, but rather a few sentences, at the beginning, during or end of the day.

Reach Out to Someone and Just Say Thanks or Hello:  Once a week, biweekly or monthly, chose someone who is important in your life, someone you have not connected with for a while, and say thanks or hello.   Let them know how and why they impacted your life and that you care about them.  These types of random acts of kindness will lift your spirit as well as that of the person to whom you are reaching out.   We are all so busy these days that often the only time we communicate with people we care about is when some terrible event happens, such as an unexpected death.  Have no regrets, seize the day and reach out and say thanks.

Pick up a copy of Spiritual Adrenaline for More Resolution Ideas!!!

If you are looking for lots of ideas on how you can supercharge your recovery in 2020, pick up a copy of my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery.  It’s full of helpful tools you can integrate into your lifestyle right away to achieve your dreams.  

We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and sober 2020.  We would love your feedback on this and other blog posts.     We hope you’ll remain an active part of the Spiritual Adrenaline community in 2020!!!!!

My First Sober Christmas

Diana R. of Maine celebrating the holidays

This post was originally published in December 2017: If you were to ask me what I thought my life would look like at 19 when I was 10 I would’ve probably said, having lots and lots of friends, my own car, in college, having fun and earning money. What I know now is that my dreams then, seemed so simple to accomplish, yet the smallest things nowadays are the hardest to achieve, especially for the young woman I am today who is an alcoholic and drug addict.

I brought myself to my rock bottom in high school and lost everything I had my senior year. My family disowned me, I ended up in jail, quit my job because of my use, and was hopping from couch to couch calling home wherever I laid my head. Woke up every morning wishing I hadn’t, contemplating who I was and who I wanted to become, but with no motivation or hope, all my fantasies of being happy was slowly diminishing by the day.

In May I was sent to a rehab facility for 6 months in Maine with 5 other girls. I struggled tremendously in the beginning, but I slowly came to my senses that I genuinely needed the help and there’s no other place I would be able to receive the support than where I was. By the middle of my stay, I was excelling in areas I never would’ve thought I would be able to prior to going there. I left with a clear mind and the real Diana that has been hidden for all this time.

Nowadays I am beyond grateful for life itself. I am grateful to wake up everyday sober and to have an opportunity to be reborn. The holidays are very special to me because it’s a time for celebration and love. Families come together, life is cherished, songs are sung, and this beautiful time of the year shows us what true appreciation for who we are as human beings walking this Earth. The last couple of years, the holidays have not been the best in my favor because of the poor decisions I was making that led to me spending most holidays alone. The excitement and joy that I obtain to be able to be in a loving home with wonderful people on such important dates fills my soul with nourishment to the point where it’s not even explainable.

I used to take life as a joke and have such low spirits to the point where nobody wanted to be around me. It took hard work and dedication to wanting to change, but it is absolutely possible to switch up thought processing. Yoga, cardio, weight lifting, meditation, art all play a huge part of my recovery. I am especially thankful to have these activities that I enjoy doing to be able to keep me sober and safe. It is so important to take care of the body because it is so precious.Spread acts of kindness during this season and the good that you put out, will certainly come back to you in a positive way. Love yourself and do things that make you happy and you yourself will see a difference. We are put on this planet to make a difference, each of us for different reasons, so go out and reach your fullest potential and show the world what you’re made of. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, may peace and love fill your soul.

– Diana R.

Holiday Dessert Guide

Holiday Dessert Guide

Be Smarter About The Sweets You Eat

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

 

People eating a pie and drinking cranberry compote

 

 

A gentleman I used to know described the holidays as “hurricane season” for people in recovery. First it’s Thanksgiving, then Christmas or Hanukkah, then New Year’s Eve. Society often defines these celebrations by eating and drinking to excess, rather than true nature of the holiday, gratitude, and giving thanks for all of our blessings. All the reveling can be really challenging for someone new to recovery or even those with substantial time. When you add family to the mix, it can be overwhelming, exhausting, and put many at the risk of relapse. It’s important to stay close to the program during the holidays and find time for meetings, your sponsor, and positive relationships. It’s even more important to remain in a state of gratitude, which is after all what the holidays are all about.

What we eat during the stress of the holidays can have a major impact on our attitude, mood, and energy levels. Food is comprised of substances, some of which enhance our recovery while others undercut it. Foods high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other cheap fillers and caffeine and fats (the bad kind); can make you feel awful and put your sobriety at risk. It is important for alcoholics, addicts and anyone who is looking to break free of dependence on any substance to understand that alcohol metabolizes in the body as glucose, and is very similar, on a chemical level, to carbs and sugar from candy, ice cream, and other high-carb foods. Drugs similarly have a negative impact on the body and both alcoholics and addicts tend to use caffeine and/or sugar for energy depleted by the cycle of abuse. This is a major concern as it can lead to cravings and increased risk of relapse.

That’s the problem, but what’s the solution. I am not telling you that you cannot eat sweets for the holiday; I am telling you that it’s important to be smart about what you and I eat.   If you’re interested in learning ways to get the same sweetness and great taste but with far less refined sugar, check out my book Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

I teamed up with Melanie Albert, an Intuitive Cooking Expert, founder of Experience Nutrition and the Author of the new book A New View of Healthy Eating, to come up with healthy holiday treats that aren’t just delicious, but are also good for you. Melanie is amazing. She came up with five holiday treats made of all natural ingredients, high in healthy fats and low on the glycemic index so they will help you avoid sugar highs and then a crash. More importantly, they are delicious.

You can watch Melanie make the treats by clicking on the videos below.

Aromatic Apple Crisp with Freshly Ground Spices

 

 


 

For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:

Aromatic Apple Crisp Recipe

 

Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie

 

 


 

For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:

Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie

 

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 

 


 

For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie (Soy)

 

 


 

For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

 

Fruit Sorbet – Holiday Treats That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar

 

 


 

For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:

Fruit Sorbet

These treats are delicious and will enhance, rather than undercut, your recovery by providing you with energy through healthy fats rather than sugar or caffeine. They taste delicious and won’t spike your blood sugar. The best part is you can eat more of the healthy stuff than the fattening unhealthy stuff and it tastes just as good. For more helpful information on how your diet can impact your sobriety, visit our recovery nutrition section.

For more delicious healthy recipes, visit Melanie’s website and buy her book A New View of Healthy Eating.

Happy holidays from everyone here at Spiritual Adrenaline.

NPC Natural Eastern USA Championship – Spiritual Adrenaline

Living the tools of Spiritual Adrenaline has enable me to apply the twelve steps to my diet, exercise regime and my professional life as a busy civil rights attorney in NYC.   Back in 2014, I started competing in physique competitions as a way to increase my level of discipline and cope with stress.  I competed in my first all natural competition in Pittsburgh last week.  Here’s some video and photos from the competition.  Whether your goal is to be able to walk around the block, develop six pack abs or just look and feel better, Spiritual Adrenaline can help you get there.

ROCovery Fitness: Rochester, New York

Help Open New York State’s First Sober Active Community Center

 

I was checking my Facebook feed a few weeks back and came across a “go fund me” page for an organization called ROCovery Fitness in Rochester, New York.  You can check out their website at www.rocoveryfitness.org.  I was intrigued and clicked on the ad…… I was so impressed to learn about this pioneering organization.  The “gofundme” page seeks donations to help construct and open the “first sober active community center in New York State.” From our perspective at Spiritual Adrenaline, this is pretty exciting and naturally I wanted to learn more about how this group got started.

Turns out that two years ago, a group of people decided to put together a hike as a positive healthy activity for people in the addiction recovery community.  About a dozen people joined the group’s founder Yana Khashper and Sean Smith for that first hike. Reflecting on how the group got started, Yana stated: “We were looking for an alternative to relapse.  We thought that maybe fitness could be the piece we were missing in our recovery.”    Fast forward two years and ROCovery Fitness has over 1,000 individuals who have participated in adventures, activities and community events which the group sponsors.  Last September, the group held its second annual Family and Friends 5k Fun Run, attracting over 150 participants.

ROCovery has a little bit of something for everyone.  For example, they offer a multitude of services ranging from “running, body conditioning, weight lifting, cycling, hiking, yoga, meditation, planned trips, social events and much more for individuals recovering from addiction in the Western New York area.”  How cool is that!  The group is “focused on providing a safe fitness-oriented community for individuals recovering from addiction…[while] fostering a commitment to change by replacing maladaptive patterns of living through the connectedness of like-minded individuals pursuing wellness, fitness, and outdoor living.”

If ROCovery has been able to do so much in two short years without a place to organize and use as a headquarters, you can imagine how this cutting-edge program can add value to so many lives when they open their new community center.  I asked Yana about ROC’s plans for their new home.  Yana proudly told me: “We are so close to opening ROCovery’s community center, creating a safe, nurturing and healing environment  where people can find hope and recovery among peers in a wellness based mindset and surrounding.”

Yana and everyone else at ROCovery are 100% correct.  Study after study, and common sense confirms that: self-care in the form of exercise, proper nutrition and positive socialization dramatically improves a person’s chances of success in addiction recovery.  Spiritual Adrenaline wrote about one of those studies in August 2016. In our opinion, ROCovery’s pioneering work will one day be the norm for everyone in addiction recovery as increasingly twelve-step groups and institutions incorporate self-care components in the recovery model.

We encourage you to check out ROCovery’s website at www.rocoveryfitness.org and if possible make a donation to their campaign to raise funds to complete construction on “first sober active community center in New York State”.  To donate, go to their gofundme page.

If you or your organization are integrating exercise and/or nutrition into a twelve-step recovery model, let us know.   We want to share your story.  Send me an email at: tom@spiritualadrenaline.com.

Anxiety, Fellowship and the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

I just returned from a six-day trek up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.  At 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, highest free-standing mountain in the world, and among the fabled “seven summits” —  The tallest mountains on each of the seven continents:  Kilimanjaro (Africa); Everest (Asia); Denali (North America); Eibrus (Europe); Carstensz (Australia); Vinson (Antartica); and Aconcagua (South America).

That’s me in the middle wearing the dark blue coat.

I decided to attempt to summit Kilimanjaro for a very specific reason:  To celebrate 3 ½ years cigarette and nicotine free  (and also almost six years since I quit alcohol and drugs.)  I smoked for 23 years and at one point could not walk a city block without wheezing.   In early recovery, I actually smoked more than I had in active addiction, about two packs a day.   Within six months of quitting, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my breathing and overall lung function.   Now at 3 ½ years, I decided to put my lungs to the test by attempting to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

Anxiety

 I suffer from serious anxiety and have most of my life.  My Dad often complained of stress and/or anxiety so I believe I am genetically predisposed.   I had a lot of anxiety over the climb.   Mostly revolving around whether my lungs would be able to handle the demands I was about to place on them.

On the first night of the trek, I took medication for altitude sickness along with everyone else.   This is highly recommended and the medication helps the body acclimate to higher altitudes.   All the others in our group experienced no negative side effects.   The same was not true for me.   The medication prompted a severe anxiety attack that lasted all night.  I didn’t sleep, my heart was racing and all my underlying fears about the trek came to the surface:

  • Was I too old to reach the summit?
  • Were my lungs healthy enough?
  • Would I be able to handle the cold at night while sleeping in a tent?
  • Would I be able to keep up with the group, hiking anywhere from six to twelve hours a day?
  • Would everyone think I was a loser if I did not make it?

Clearly, I was not in the present.  My anxiety took me out of the present and into the future.  A future ruled by fear.   That first night I was alone and isolated in my cold tent, wide-awake with fear dominating my thinking.  It was awful and the next morning I was completely exhausted.

As I laid in the tent that night, I kept repeating the serenity prayer to myself and trying to bring myself back to the present.  I kept telling myself just get through that night rather than focusing on the future. I had Just for Today, an NA publication with me, and read the entry for January 21.  The reading concluded by stating:

“By confirming the principles we’ve learned in recovery, life’s challenges give us increased strength.  Without such challenges we would forget what we learned and begin to stagnate.   These are the opportunities that prod us to new spiritual awakenings.”

I am so glad I brought that book with me on the trip.  Reading Just for Today, breathing deeply and forcing myself to stay in the present, gave me great comfort that night.

However, it was an exhausting experience and the worst possible way to begin a grueling six-night trek to the summit of the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

The next morning, I explained to our Guide and my fellow trekkers what had happened and that I was contemplating heading down the mountain.   I was exhausted and very concerned about continuing to take the medication given the awful side effects.

 

Fellowship

 Everyone encouraged me to keep going and not to head back down the mountain.  One shared with me how he also suffered from anxiety and knew how scary an anxiety attack can be.   As I had a private tent, two members of the group offered to let me sleep with them in their tent if that would help.  Each and every one of the seven trekkers in the group (none of whom are in “the program”) went out of their way to offer support and encouragement.  They shared their own personal concerns and/or anxiety about the trek.  Our Guide talked to me about modifying the dosage of the medication and time of day I took it to avoid another late-night anxiety attack.

I agreed to stay another night and if I could sleep, continue with the trek.   If not, I would head back down the mountain.
I slept like a baby that second night, woke up energized and ready to go.  For the rest of the trip, I took the medication early in the day and slept well most of the remaining nights.  It was awesome!  I wasn’t going to head down the mountain.  Rather, I would continue up with the group toward the summit.

When I thought about all the kindness my fellow trekkers had shown me, I was overwhelmed.   I reflected on how isolated I was that night all alone in the tent and how awful it was.  I then contrasted that experience with all the encouragement I had received from my fellow trekkers and just how important fellowship truly is.    Whether in life generally, in recovery, or during an attempt to summit a mountain, it is quite clear that we cannot succeed in isolation.  It takes the support of others, which in recovery we term fellowship, to succeed.

Over the next five days, the anxiety did not return.  I reciprocated to my fellow trekkers, showed kindness and offered support to others who were having a tough time for their own reasons: blisters; back pain; problems breathing due to altitude; and for almost all of us, difficulty sleeping in the frigid cold.   None of us were superhuman and each of us had good days and bad days.   We supported each other and continued up the mountain intact as a group.

On the sixth day, we began the “final assault” on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.   This entailed a final overnight six-hour hike beginning at midnight in freezing blizzard-like conditions.  Our goal was to arrive at the summit around 6 a.m., in time for the sunrise.

 

The Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

By the time of our “final assault” on the summit, I had gotten to know my seven fellow trekkers very well.    Each had their own reason for deciding to come on this grueling adventure.  Among those reasons:

  • One had lost a substantial amount of weight and now enjoyed the physical challenge of hiking;
  • One who recently turned 48 had always wanted to summit Kilimanjaro and wanted to do it “while he was still able”;
  • One had been raised in poverty and worked hard to became a very successful real estate professional. Growing up he never thought he would be able to travel and see the world but he was now doing just that;
  • One who at a very young age took over his family business and had worked for many years without taking time off and/or travelling and who was committed to balancing his work and personal life;
  • One aspires to complete all of the “seven summits” and marked Kilimanjaro off of his bucket list; and,
  • Me, to celebrate 3 ½ years since quitting smoking (Again, I was the only member of the group who is in “the program”.)

Everyone came for their own personal reasons but we all shared the same goal: to step out of our comfort zone and reach the summit.  As we headed up a very steep incline in the darkness and frigid cold, we all supported one another.  When we stopped in a cave about three-quarters of the way up to hydrate and eat, we were all inquiring of one another how we were doing and offering support for the final kilometer or so that remained.   Some of us, myself included, were hunched over with difficulty breathing and others offered support.  Some were having tremendous difficulty dealing with the cold, and others were supporting and encouraging them.

As the cold and altitude took its toll, almost all of us had difficulty even lifting our feet to move forward, but continued to do so collectively as a group and head closer to our goal.

All eight of us reached the summit around sunrise on January 26, 2017.   Some cried, some high fived, some shouted with joy and others were quiet and contemplative.   I was thrilled to have made it for myself but even happier that I had shared this amazing life experience with my fellow trekkers.

As we posed for a group picture on the summit, I looked around and realized that It was the success of the collective group, not me individually, that at the end of the day mattered most.

My trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro reinforced many of the tools I have learned in recovery to cope with my anxiety and what life throws at me, reinforced the import of fellowship over isolation, and as the reading in Just for Today had suggested, recognized that the trek had prodded me “to [a] new spiritual awakening.”

Recovery Vitamins – Vitamin E

 It’s important to know each of the vitamins and their role in our body.  Moreover, it is critical to know where to get these vitamins in the way nature intended: Through our food.  Supplements work but are manufactured and not as potent as the real deal.   Moreover, there is no better way to get your nutrients than real food than either grew in the earth or walked on it (apologies to our vegetarians).

 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is critical for cellular health and membranes given its function as an anti-oxidant that neutralizes free radicals as part of the process of converting food to into energy.   Anti-oxidant’s also help reduce inflammation in the body.   Inflammation is a major cause or interrelated with numerous health conditions prevalent in the recovery community such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Deficiencies manifest in lose of hemoglobin in red blood cells and muscle damage.

Vitamin E can be obtained through diet by eating the following foods:  olive oil, green leafy vegetables (swiss chard, kale, collards), avocado, almonds, broccoli and kiwi.

For people in recovery Vitamin E is even more important as it is an anti-oxidant.   Given years of abuse and putting toxins into our body’s, it is critical that we have a balanced diet which includes nature’s cancer fighting anti-oxidants.     

Recommended reading: Food for Recovery, Dr. Joseph Beasley and Susan Knightly, Crown Trade Publishing, 1993, Nutritional Supplements, Joe Canon, MS, Infinity Publishing, 2008, The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism, Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Andrew W. Saul, Basic Health Publications, 2008.

We look forward to your feedback on this and other blog posts or questions. Shoot us an email or video at: blog@spiritualadrenaline.me.

 

Addiction: A Matter of Heart

Addiction:  A Matter of Heart

Like so many, I was saddened by the devastating news over the holidays about the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher.  Both were superstars in their respective fields and both had publicly acknowledged facing the challenge of overcoming addiction.  Both will be missed and their bright stars dimmed way too soon.  I sincerely hope they both rest in peace.

 

When I learned both had died as a result of heart-related problems, it really hit home.   Their deaths should get the attention of everybody in the recovery community.  It’s a wake-up call regarding the damage done to the body in active addiction and the import of self-care in recovery, to enable our body to repair this damage.

Irrespective of a person’s drug of choice, each substance damages the heart in one manner or another.  For sake of brevity, I am omitting the research studies that confirm the link between heart disease and substance abuse.  If anyone cares to see the studies, email me and I am happy to send scores of them.  I recommend folks check out the American Heart Association’s website for more information.

This is an important issue that everyone with a history of addiction needs to be aware of.

 

My Own 5x Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Almost five years ago, and six months after being released from rehab, I had comprehensive blood testing done by Dr. Michael Bedecs, a cutting-edge Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.   Dr. Bedecs sat with me and went over my results, which were not good at all.  Among the truths my blood work told, was that I had a five times increased risk of heart disease.  When I heard that news, I was stunned.  There was other bad news, but to hear I had a five times increased risk of heart disease got me to finally get serious about nutritional lifestyle change.

At that time, I was in “recovery” but smoking a pack-and-a-half a day, drinking coffee from morning until early evening, eating some type of fast food almost daily and my diet included lots of fried foods.   I feel so blessed to have met Dr. Bedecs and to have learned about my compromised health, most notably damage to my heart and my increased risk for heart disease.  Devastating news but not all bad.  Dr. Bedecs told me that with some relatively simple lifestyle changes, almost all of the issues reflected in my blood work could be turned around.   This message was what it took to get me to take my health seriously and prompt me to make self-care my number one priority.

 

From 5x Increased Risk of Heart Disease to “22 Year-Old Ethiopian Marathon Runner”

My recent blood work proves, beyond a doubt, that lifestyle change and self-care can turn around internal damage to our body including,  the most important muscle we have, our heart.  My recent blood work is, according to Dr. Bedecs, equivalent to a “22-year-old Ethiopian Marathon Runner.”   If I could turn it around, quit smoking, change my diet and integrate exercise into my life, anyone can.  I wrote a blog post about all this in February 2016.

Everything you need to design your own self-care program can be found here at Spiritual Adrenaline.  Seize the day and start turning your health around right now!

We must not ignore the message that addiction is a matter of heart.

 

New Year’s Eve 2017:  A Happy, Healthy and Sober Year to Come….

New Year’s eve has arrived and I am actually looking forward to it.

That was not always true and I remember dreading New Year ’s Eve and the new year.  It got so bad that I would look in the mirror and ask myself: “How much worse is it going to get?”  It definitely got worse before it got better but now I am grateful for having gone through all of that. I remember to remember just how bad it sucked and because of those memories, New Year ’s Eve has taken on great import and significance in my recovery.  In fact, in ways I had not envision while sitting in the emergency room during active addiction or while in rehab in upstate New York in May 2012.

I wanted to share with you how I have celebrated the New Year for the last five years to enhance, rather than undercut, my recovery.

I live in midtown Manhattan, one block from Times Square, and have made a conscious decision to get out of town every New Year.   My neighborhood is insane and the morning after the sidewalks have puke and other garbage all over, remnants of the ball drop.  I did not enjoy New Year’s when I was drinking and even less now for obvious reasons.

My first year, I traveled up to Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park in northern Maine.  I had six months at that time and knew that Bar Harbor would be deserted for the New Year.  I journal relentlessly and brought my journals from rehab as well as the first six months with you and on the evening of December 31, I reviewed my journals and prepared a rather lengthy gratitude list for all the positive changes that had happened in my life in 2012.  I set goals and for the coming years in regard to my self care and financial amends.  I went to bed early and on January 1, 2013, headed to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, to see the first sunrise of the New Year.   It was an amazing way to reflect on the year that had just concluded and start the year to come.

Following that theme, each year I try to get out of New York and enjoy someplace quiet, off the beaten track, out in nature and away from the party scene that dominates on new year’s eve and day.  I have returned to a few times Acadia, spent the holiday on a silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery and once at the beach.   Every year I bring my journals beginning with my rehab journal and peruse the entries over the years.   Preparing a gratitude list has become an annual tradition and something I very much enjoy.     The most critical thing is to be up to see the very first sunrise of the year and recommit to living a healthy and sober lifestyle.

I would love to hear how you celebrate your recovery and the New Year.  Post a comment on Facebook or send an email to tom@shanahanalaw.com.