Thinking that causes relapses.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Inebriated people.

Alcoholism.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Your automatic thoughts may be unhelpful.

Practice doesn’t make perfect it makes things permanent. I forget where I read that, but I’ve learned there’s a lot of truth in that statement. When you tell yourself something over and over, you start to believe it. Many people practice their unhelpful thoughts so frequently that they have convinced themselves they have no other choice. Let’s take some common automatic thoughts which may be making your problems worse and setting you up for relapse. I’ll illustrate this with statements about alcohol, but it could equally be true of drugs, behaviors, or mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

I need a drink.

This unhelpful thought is baked into our society. You will hear it repeatedly on television, in the movies, or in statements made by those around you. The premise here is that the only way to cope with difficult life circumstances, problems, or unpleasant feelings, is to reach for a substance which will temporarily make you forget those problems. When you use a drug or alcohol to avoid feeling that avoidance is only temporary. Once the brief diversion wears off, you will have to face the problem, and it’s likely the problem has gotten worse while you were avoiding it.

If I stop drinking or using, I won’t have any friends.

People who are trying to get clean and sober may discover that all their current friends are drinkers and users. That doesn’t mean you can’t have friends. More than half of the adults in the U.S. have not had a drink in the last 30 days. You’ll probably make lots of friends in sobriety, and you’ll also find it’s an opportunity to reconnect with some of those clean and sober friends you haven’t talked to in a long time.

If I give up drugs and alcohol, I won’t have any more fun.

For a large segment of society fun for adults equates to drinking, using drugs, or having sex. It comes as a shock to many people how much fun you can have clean and sober when your senses are not dulled by substances. There are many enjoyable activities which do not include drugs or alcohol. Learning to have fun without substances can be a challenge if you’ve never done it. Make an effort to connect with people and to attend events that are clean and sober, and you will be surprised how much fun you can have.

Without alcohol, I’ll be miserable all the time.

One of the things we hear people in recovery say is that they were sick and tired of being sick and tired. Chemicals may temporarily change the way you feel, mainly by keeping you from feeling what you’re feeling, but once the chemicals wear off, you will find you feel better than when you had those drugs in your system.

Alcohol helps me get more done.

This used to be a common belief among news reporters and writers. The result of this belief was a lot of alcoholism, physical illnesses, and early deaths. Alcohol may temporarily disinhibit you, allowing you to do things that your brain is telling you not to do, but alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. Alcohol damages muscles in virtually every other part of the body. Using alcohol to get more done can result in an alcohol use disorder. Once alcohol has moved from being your solution to being your problem, you will get very little done.

How can you celebrate without alcohol?

Far too many alcohol-fueled celebrations end unhappily. Give sobriety a try. You will find plenty of ways to celebrate that don’t require alcohol or drugs. Using chemicals to celebrate impairs your ability to accomplish anything in the future.

Everybody else drinks, why can’t I?

This is one of those grand lie’s drinkers tell themselves. Everybody does not drink. Not even all the adults drink. One-third of the adult U.S. population doesn’t drink at all. Half of the people in America have not had a drink in the last 30 days. Having even one drink per day moves you into the top 20% heaviest drinkers. Heavy drinkers, particularly alcoholics, deceive themselves with the excuse that everybody else drinks the way I do. The truth is if you drink regularly, you drink way more than most other Americans.

You need a beer on a hot day.

For many people, this is a conditioned response, like Pavlov’s dogs. What you need on a hot day is plenty of water to prevent dehydration. The other thing you need is to get out of the heat whenever possible. Drinking alcohol on a hot day can result in you getting nothing done that day except drinking. Recovering from alcohol consumption can interfere with your functioning for several days after each episode of drinking.

Alcohol just goes with watching sports.

This is another excuse, not a reason. If you enjoy watching sports, you will pay more attention without the depressant drug alcohol in your system. You train your brain to connect these two items you can train your brain to disconnect them. When you do two things together, you condition your mind to expect to do both at the same time. Whatever you have learned, you can unlearn. Learn to pair your recreation with nonalcoholic pleasures.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Four David Joel Miller Books are available now! More are on the way.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

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Learning About Alcohol Video Part 4 Problems

Find video on Substance use disorders

Alcohol Problems.  When does alcohol cause problems? How does alcohol affect society? How does alcohol affect the individual and the family?

Learning About Alcohol Part 2 – Video

Find video on Substance use disorders

Why do people drink alcohol? When does alcohol consumption become a problem?

Learning About Alcohol Part 1 – Video

Find video on Substance use disordersAlcohol seems to be everywhere but how much do you really know about it? When does alcohol use become a problem?

Learning about alcohol and drugs.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Drugs.

Drugs.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

How much do you really know about alcohol and drugs?

Despite the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in our society, many people have never had any formal education about drugs or alcohol. Most people get their education in this area the same way they learn about sex, on the street, and by experimentation.

As a society, we have a love-hate relationship with drugs and alcohol. The consensus seems to be that drinking and doing drugs can be enjoyable, but that “losing control” of that habit can be harmful maybe even deadly. Clearly simplistic solutions, just say no, or saying only bad people have problems is not working.

Ignoring the effects of addiction and alcoholism is easy.

Most people try to ignore the problem until it overwhelms them personally, or someone close to them. It’s reassuring to believe that addiction or alcoholism is something that happens to “those kinds of people,” the weak, or the lazy.

Not everyone who experiments with drugs or alcohol develops a problem. We know that young people are likely to try new and exciting experiences. Initially, it all sounds like fun. Most go on to have typical lives. But increasingly we are seeing people of all ages, including the older generation, whose lives are being damaged by substances.

Most people’s conception of an alcoholic is the homeless bum on the street, someone who can’t work and drinks all day every day. The unpleasant truth is that 95% of all alcoholics have full-time jobs. It’s entirely possible that you meet these hidden alcoholics every day. For every person with a drinking problem, estimates tell us that, 5 to 8 other people are harmed by that person’s drinking.

In some hospitals, half of the bed are taken up by people whose illness is primarily caused by or made worse by the direct results of alcoholism.

The problems with alcoholism and addiction are all around us.

In every city in America of any size, and I feel confident this happens everywhere else on planet Earth, we see the harm caused by the misuse of substances. A quick look at last night’s paper shows several people arrested for DUI. Several accidents in which one or both drivers were intoxicated. And an occasional story about someone dying of a drug overdose.

The war on drugs misled us.

American’s have noticed a staggering increase in the number of people who are dying from overdoses of prescribed opiate drugs. Despite a long-running war on drugs, the devastation is worse now than it was before. Several unpleasant facts emerge from studying substances and substance use disorders.

The majority of drug overdose deaths arise from prescribed medications, not street drugs.

Legal or tolerated drugs, nicotine, and alcohol each kill more people per year than all the illegal street drugs combined. Most of the deaths from drug overdoses involve people who have more than one drug in their bloodstream. Mixing alcohol with other drugs, prescription or street drugs, increases the risk of death.

Many professionals lack education about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Most professionals working in the mental health field have minimal training in substance-related problems. Most counselors and therapists receive from one to three units in substance-related classes in an entire master’s program. Surveys indicate that the majority of people with substance use disorder, 60% or more, also have a co-occurring disorder. Furthermore, many people with diagnosed mental illness, approximately 50%, also have a substance use disorder.

In my own experience, it is extremely common to find someone with severe depression or high anxiety, who is also abusing substances. Use of alcohol or drugs may temporarily mask symptoms but in the long run, using substances as a crutch makes the problem worse.

Therapists who work with couples often find that one or both parties are using drugs or alcohol, and this is contributing to the marital discord. Unfortunately, many counselors who were not trained in substance use disorders ignore the problem rather than ask about it.

Since I started in the counseling field as a substance use disorder counselor, I’m acutely aware of how commonly mental health problems and alcoholism or addiction occur together. Substance abuse counselors, at least here in California, typically go through a 36-unit program with many of the classes specifically focused on alcohol, drugs, and the process of moving from use to addiction.

Very soon school will be back in session, and this semester I will be teaching several classes in the substance use disorder program. While I don’t want to shift the counselorsoapbox.com blog specifically towards drugs and addiction, I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the material I use in my substance abuse counseling classes. Also, in the near future, I am planning to release some of this material as videos on our very own counselorssoapbox YouTube channel. Stay tuned, and I will let you know how the videos are progressing.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and please remember to click like if you enjoyed this post and please leave comments. Talk to you again soon.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What is Binge Drinking?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Drinking

Binge drinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Binge drinking is a huge problem.

Some people have one drink after dinner each night. Other people save them up and have all seven on Friday night. Drinking seven drinks on Friday night is not the equivalent of one drink a day. The negative consequences, psychically, mentally and legally, increase rapidly as the blood alcohol content rises on any one drinking occasion, a practice called binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one drinking occasion for a man. For a woman, because of her reduced metabolism of alcohol in the stomach, four drinks on one occasion is considered binge drinking. That one “drinking occasion” could be over a short period of time, like drinking shots, or it might entail a more measure drinking like doing in most of a six-pack over the course of the afternoon.

Lots of people resisted the idea that they could be an “alcoholic” because they did not drink every day. The newer way of thinking about this is that it is not what you drink or how often you drink but what happens when you drink that defines an alcohol use disorder. If when you drink you end up drunk or you drink excessively, then you have an alcohol use disorder.

If you only drink occasionally, but when you do drink you consume a lot, you are a binge drinker and at risk for a great many alcohol-related problems.

Bing drinking alcohol is associated with increased drug use.

Among drinkers between 12 and 25, those whose typical pattern was to binge drink when they drank, they were also much more likely to use multiple other drugs. This pattern of drug use, called Poly-Substance use, is extra risky and correlates with a lot of complications physically, mentally and legally.

Patterns of drinking can obscure the magnitude of alcohol use problems.

In treatment programs, there has been a tendency to separate the drug users from the people who have legal consequences because they drove drunk. Rarely is a drunk driving case a driving problem despite all our efforts to treat DUI’s as if the problem was the driving after drinking.

There are a lot of misconceptions about who drinks, how often they drink and how much the average American drinks. Half of all Americans have not had a drink in the last month. Ten percent of our population consumes half of all the alcohol. Those who binge drink can hide the existence of an alcohol use disorder for a long time by concentrating that drinking in occasional drinking binges.

Medical problems from Binge drinking.

Binging as well as daily high levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a large number of physical health problems. While one drink a day has been touted as good for everyone but fetuses and potentially pregnant women. Unfortunately the more you drink the more the risks of illness.

Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancers, heart disease, problems of the digestive system, a variety of liver maladies, pancreatitis, and the list goes on and on.

Binge Drinking and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Current thinking is that any amount of drinking on the part of a pregnant woman can affect the fetus. Binge drinking is particularly risky for women who are or may become pregnant. One challenging aspect of this problem is that woman frequently do not know they are pregnant until after some period of time has passed. Women who binge drink are at increased risk to drink heavily, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and then find out that they became pregnant during that period of heavy drinking.

Mental Health overlooks a lot of alcohol and drug-related problems.

Those who work in the substance use disorder field see a lot of connections between substance use and mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Those who focus specifically on physical or mental health issues are less likely to notice those substance use disorders, especially something like binge drinking.

In drug treatment, those who only use occasionally and even then rarely get into trouble, are at high risk of developing problems eventually if when they use they binge. A small amount of alcohol consumption increases the risk of having problems with depression. Binge drinking even one time a year can result in DUI’s or other legal issues. Even occasional polysubstance abuse can result in life-altering consequences.

If you binge drink there is help available.

If when you drink you binge, or you find you are drinking and using more than intended consider getting help, talking with a professional, before your partying becomes a life-altering or ending event.

For more on these topics see:  Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction    Recovery   What is 

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.