Staying Sober/Clean & Safe Over Christmas

Christmas is a time for celebratory occasions, where people of all backgrounds gather together to shake off their winter blues. The festive season means plenty of parties and other events where alcohol or drugs are consumed.

Not everyone finds the holiday season to be such a joyful experience. It can be a particularly difficult period for those individuals who are battling with an alcohol/drug addiction. There is so much temptation at this time of the year. Such individuals may need to take precautions to ensure that they enjoy a sober Christmas. Those who are spending time in rehab over the holiday season can also find it a challenging time due to them missing family and friends.

Challenges to Sobriety at Christmas

Christmas can be a particularly challenging time for people who are in early recovery. As people mature in sobriety they become better at managing this time of year. They can then enjoy it fully without any need for alcohol or drugs. These are some of the challenges that people face at Christmas:

Christmas can be a time of year that practising alcoholics look forward to. There is a great deal of alcohol consumption going on over the holiday period and this is perfect conditions for the alcohol abuse. Even the behaviour of a hardened drinker can appear normal during the festive season. When people become sober, they can remember how much they enjoyed drinking at Christmas. Some reminiscing may encourage them to romance the drink, and this can lead to relapse.

At this time of year, it is usual to bump into old acquaintances at social gatherings. If these people are still drinking, they may try to tempt the sober individual to rekindle their friendship over an alcoholic beverage. It can be hard to say no to such invitations.

There are many parties and other drinking opportunities over the holiday period. There can be a great deal of pressure on people to indulge. Even those who generally do not touch alcohol will have a few glasses at Christmas. This means that there can be overwhelming pressure for those who are not yet comfortable with saying no.

Christmas is a time when people can feel incredibly lonely, especially those who are estranged from their family. Loneliness is a dangerous emotion for people in recovery because it can act as a relapse trigger. Such individuals may decide that life in recovery is unsatisfying or that they are unable to handle their negative emotions. They may view their only solution as a return to addiction.

Some recovering alcoholics can find themselves enjoying watching other people consume alcohol. This type of activity may appear harmless, but it can actually lead the individual back into their addiction.

Families are expected to come together over the holiday season. Such gatherings can be joyful, but they may also be incredibly stressful. Those who are newly sober can struggle when spending time so much time with relatives, particularly if they feel that their behaviour is being judged in any way. At this time of year, there can be a great deal of media promotion for alcohol consumption. Even family shows will have scenes where people are enjoying themselves while drinking.

This is probably the most dangerous time of year for alcoholics and some of them do relapse. Those who return to alcohol may try to tempt other friends in recovery to join them. The build-up to Christmas can be financially difficult for many people in recovery. If they have children they will need to buy presents. There might also be the expectation that they organize a Christmas meal. This can be difficult if people have not yet managed to sort out their finances.

How to Stay Sober Over Christmas

There are things that people in recovery can do to ensure that they remain sober over Christmas:

This is a good time for the individual to put more effort into their sobriety. This could include such things as reading some recovery literature or spending time with one of the recovery communities online. There are many newly sober people with similar fears about the Christmas period. Such individuals can come together to offer each other support. This can occur online in the real world.

Journaling over the Christmas period can be highly beneficial because it keeps the individual focused on their sobriety. A gratitude journal will remind the individual of the good things in their life that have arrived because of their recovery from addiction.

The drinker has traditions that they look forward to over the holiday season. This could be something like drinking a few glasses of whiskey as they wrap presents. It is necessary for the sober individual to invent new Christmas traditions. These can become even more enjoyable than the previous self-destructive ones. Those individuals who belong to a fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous can benefit from increasing their attendance at the meetings over the holiday period. This can also provide a nice opportunity to socialize and enjoy the Christmas build up. It is also a good idea to collect telephone numbers of other members, as these can be used if the pressures of the season become too much. If spending so much time with family is starting to feel a bit overwhelming, the individual will benefit from taking a break. Even something as simple as going for a walk can help.

If people have a sponsor they will be able to rely on this person over the holiday period. The good thing about an AA sponsor is that they can offer one-to-one advice and support. Many sponsors are willing to allow their sponsee to contact them at any time of the day or night if there is an emergency. If people do not have a sponsor then they can still get contact details for people they contact in an emergency.

Discussing concerns and fears with family members can be helpful. This will they will be more understanding. The problem is that many of the general public just assumes that once the individual quits their addiction, the problem is over. So it may be necessary to tell family members that things like Christmas can still be a challenge.

How to Handle Parties at Christmas

If people are newly sober it is best if they avoid getting into a situation where they are surrounded by people who are consuming alcohol. There is a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, if you sit in a barber’s shop long enough you will eventually get your haircut. What this means is that if you stay around drinkers for long enough, you will likely join them. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid such occasions. There are things that people can do to reduce the risk of problems when attending these parties:

The most important factor in handling these occasions is to never take them lightly. Even those individuals who have been sober a few years can be overcome at a celebratory occasion where alcohol is served. The urge to drink can come from nowhere, and it can be intense. People need to be prepared for how they will react if such thoughts and cravings occur.

It may be helpful if people practice saying no to alcohol before they attend the party. They can do this by using role play techniques. Some individuals can be particularly persistent when trying to get others to drink alcohol so it is best to be prepared for such people. There is no need to give a long-winded explanation for not drinking. This often only invites more questions. Sometimes the best solution is to just give a firm no and leaving it at that.

Bringing along another sober friend in recovery can be of great benefit. It is vital that this other individual already has a strong sobriety. Otherwise, it would be putting their recovery at risk as well.

It can also be beneficial if the individual brings along some recovery resources with them. Carrying around something like the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book might be a bit conspicuous, but modern technology makes it possible to have such resources discretely on your person. Having an iPhone or Android smartphone enables access many recovery apps. It is even possible to read the Big Book online.

If people feel that they are at any risk of relapse, they should leave the party immediately. Those who are in AA will want to go straight to a meeting or call their sponsor. Those who do not belong to a fellowship can call a trusted friend or a therapist. The key thing is not to ignore the event.

Staying in Rehab over Christmas

Those individuals who are staying in rehab over Christmas can find that this is a time when they miss their family and friends. Many of these inpatient programs will take extra measures to ensure that clients get to enjoy some festive activities. This can include a special Christmas meal and even watching Christmas movies. Spending this holiday season in rehab can prepare the individual for the later joys of a sober Christmas.

We at wish you all a Safe and Happy Christmas


Abstinence Based Recovery

Russell Brand: my life without drugs

Russell Brand has not used drugs for 10 years. He has a job, a house, a cat, and good friends. But temptation is never far away. He wants to help other addicts, but first, he wants us to feel compassion for those affected.

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received “an inconvenient truth” from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change – I’m not that ecologically switched on – she told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

Morrissey, as ever, conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.

This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comforts my focus falls there.

It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.

The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational. Recently for the purposes of a documentary on this subject, I reviewed some footage of myself smoking heroin that my friend had shot as part of a typically exhibitionist attempt of mine to get clean.

I sit wasted and slumped with an unacceptable haircut against a wall in another Hackney flat (Hackney is starting to seem like part of the problem) inhaling fizzy, black snakes of smack off a scrap of crumpled foil. When I saw the tape a month or so ago, what is surprising is that my reaction is not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced but envy at witnessing an earlier version of myself unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was, who, for all his problems, had drugs. That is obviously irrational.

The mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics are wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope.

This is the reason I have started a fund within Comic Relief, Give It Up. I want to raise awareness of, and money for, abstinence-based recovery. It was Kevin Cahill’s idea; he is the bloke who runs Comic Relief. He called me when he read an article I wrote after Amy Winehouse died. Her death had a powerful impact on me I suppose because it was such an obvious shock, like watching someone for hours through a telescope, seeing them advance towards you, fist extended with the intention of punching you in the face. Even though I saw it coming, it still hurt when it eventually hit me.

What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn’t easy: it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. Not to mention that the whole infrastructure of abstinence-based recovery is shrouded in necessary secrecy. There are support fellowships that are easy to find and open to anyone who needs them but they eschew promotion of any kind in order to preserve the purity of their purpose, which is for people with alcoholism and addiction to help one another stay clean and sober.
Without these fellowships, I would take drugs. Because, even now, the condition persists. Drugs and alcohol are not my problems, the reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solutions.

If this seems odd to you it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90% of people who can drink and use drugs safely. I have friends who can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack and then merrily get on with their lives. For me, this is not an option. I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house. I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked, the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see that dereliction can survive in opulence; the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare.

Spurred by Amy’s death, I’ve tried to salvage unwilling victims from the mayhem of the internal storm and I am always, always, just pulled inside myself. I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by a talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in its glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anaesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release its prey. The gutter is within. It is frustrating to watch. It is frustrating to love someone with this disease.

A friend of mine’s brother cannot stop drinking. He gets a few months of sobriety and his inner beauty, with the obstacles of his horrible drunken behaviour, pushed aside by the presence of a programme, begins to radiate. His family bask relieved, in the joy of their returned loved one, his life gathers momentum but then he somehow forgets the price of this freedom, returns to his old way of thinking, picks up a drink and Mr Hyde is back in the saddle. Once more his brother’s face is gaunt and hopeless. His family blame themselves and wonder what they could have done differently, racking their minds for a perfect sentiment; wrapped up in the perfect sentence, a magic bullet to sear right through the toxic fortress that has incarcerated the person they love and restore them to sanity. The fact is, though, that they can’t, the sufferer must, of course, be a willing participant in their own recovery. They must not pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. Just don’t pick up, that’s all.

It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had “brought it on themselves”?

Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it. I share my brain with one, and I can tell you first-hand, they are total fucking wankers. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug-and-alcohol-free lives. Guided by principles and traditions a programme has been founded that has worked miracles in millions of lives. Not just the alcoholics and addicts themselves but their families, their friends and of course society as a whole.

What we want to do with Give It Up is popularise a compassionate perception of drunks and addicts, and provide funding for places at treatment centres where they can get clean using these principles. Then, once they are drug-and-alcohol-free, to make sure they retain contact with the support that is available to keep them clean. I know that as you read this you either identify with it yourself or are reminded of someone who you love who cannot exercise control over substances. I want you to know that the help that was available to me, the help upon which my recovery still depends on is available.

I wound down the hill in an alien land, Morrissey chanted lonely mantras, the pain quickly accumulated incalculably, and I began to weave the familiar tapestry that tells an old, old story. I think of places I could score. Off Santa Monica, there’s a homeless man who I know uses gear. I could find him; buy him a bag if he takes me to score.

I leave him on the corner, a couple of rocks, a couple of $20 bags pressed into my sweaty palm. I get home; I pull out the foil, neatly torn. I break the bottom off a Martell miniature. I have cigarettes, using makes me need fags. I make a pipe for the rocks with the bottle. I lay a strip of foil on the counter to chase the brown. I pause to reflect and regret that I don’t know how to fix, only smoke, feeling inferior even in the manner of my using. I see the foil scorch. I hear the crackle from which crack gets its name. I feel the plastic fog hit the back of my yawning throat. Eyes up. Back relaxing, the bottle drops and the greedy bliss eats my pain. There is no girl, there is no tomorrow, there is nothing but the bilious kiss of the greedy bliss.

Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web, I am reaching for my phone. I call someone: not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he’ll just let it ring out. It’s 4 am in London. He’s asleep, he can’t hear the phone, and he won’t pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble: “Hello. You all right mate?”

He picks up, and for another day, thank God, I don’t have to.
Russell Brand, The Guardian – 2013
Join the Fun Raisers @


Overcome Addiction

Prescription Drugs Dependency

Where shall we start? At the beginning.

It all started when I first went to see my doctor. I knew something was not right, as I was feeling really low and anxious, and had no understanding as to why I was feeling like this. My doctor asked me to take a PAL test, which was a questionnaire with tick boxes. The score suggested that I was struggling with anxiety and depression, which was flagging cause for concern.

It was suggested that I need to be on some pretty serious medication due to my condition. I was initially prescribed Citalopram and Lorazepam. I was advised that this would make me feel a little easier and a bit calmer. I was also referred to the local mental health team for an assessment.

The mental health team were very nice to me, sat me down and we had an informal chat about how I was feeling on a day to day basis. They were very understanding, and it was of their opinion that I would benefit from taking more medication, so they prescribed me with Quetiapine. This was to be taken in addition to my current prescription. It was explained to me that there would be side effects; some of these may not be pleasant.

After a short period of time, within a few weeks, I started to notice that I was becoming very tired a lot of the time, and my appetite was starting to disappear. I also developed a skin irritation, with visible side effects. I also became very confused, i.e. not really aware of time.

Things took a turn for the worse when I had an accident at my place of work, injuring my back. After a couple of days, I got to see my doctor about the excruciating pain, which had left me finding it very difficult even to walk. I was prescribed co-codamol on top of my existing medication. After a few weeks, my back was feeling worse, so my doctor then prescribed a higher dose of co-codamol and I was given another prescription for Targinact to help with the worsening pain.

As time went on my depression was causing me more problems, I found I was unable to find the willpower or energy to carry out what I would call normal daily tasks. This made me feel very low, and my self-esteem was becoming non-existent.
I was experiencing a feeling of worthlessness and felt trapped.

After only a few months, the effects of all the medication I was taking started to wear off. I felt as if I was wasting my time? My doctor and my mental health worker then decided to change my medication? This caused me to experience an even higher level of anxiety, and I felt I was just not coping with my daily way of life. There were days when I felt like just giving in, and just didn’t want to carry on with the way things were. I consider myself very lucky to have had, and still have the support of my close family and a few trusted friends. Without this support, I think I would not have the willpower to continue.

I do get what I would call my good days, where nothing or no-one can harm me or bring me down. Those days are when I am at my best, mentally and physically. This gives me hope.

My daily routine?

The first thing I do when I wake up is to take my first instalment of tablets, which ones depend on whether I will need to drive or not. Lunchtime, more tablets. Evening, yes you guessed it, more tablets. Then just to finish an eventful day, more tablets. I end the day taking Zopiclone, which is supposed to help me sleep.

Some of my friends have said to me that if they were to pick me up and shake me, I would rattle, given the number of tablets I take on a daily basis. I laugh this off, but I know this is a genuine concern for me. I am very worried about the amount of medication I am being prescribed and the potential damage this could be causing me. I do have personal fears about whether it is safe for me to be taking so much.

At one stage I felt enough was enough, so I stopped taking everything. I felt I was not benefiting from all these tablets; they were no longer having the effects that I felt they should be.

My doctor was not happy, to say the least when I told him that I had lost faith and stopped taking all medication. He went on to inform me of the severe consequences that I could experience. I was in danger of a possible heart attack, severe panic attacks and other effects on my nervous system. It was implemented there and then that I should reinstate all medication.

So now I am on the following daily medication, with varied strengths

  • Co-codamol for Pain Relief
  • Mirtazapine for Depression
  • Targinact for Pain Relief
  • Zopiclone for Help with Sleep
  • Diazepam for Anxiety
  • Pregabalin for Anxiety
  • Red & Blue Inhalers for a Respiratory Condition

I am now fully aware that I can’t just stop taking my prescribed medication because of the side effects I may experience, such as hot and cold sweats, shakes, hallucinations and possible heart attack.

If there comes a time when my doctor agrees to reduce my medication, will I be at risk of swapping one addiction for another? I.e. Alcohol. Will I feel suicidal?

I try and come to terms with the fact that I am on, and will be on a lot of medication for the foreseeable future. For this to ever change, I know I will need a lot of support, and it will be a very long time before I am in the position to safely stop taking the levels of medication I am now dependent on.

Will, I ever be able to slowly reduce the amounts I am dependent on, history presumes otherwise.

It saddens me to think that prescription medication may forever now be part of my life

Anne Townsend (June 2013)

“Detox” The facts about a safe drug or alcohol detox?

If you’re trying to detox from alcohol or drugs, you may want to advise a medical consultant. Detoxing incorrectly from alcohol and some drugs can lead to serious side effects. Medical consultants are there to help you, and they will know exactly what to do to prevent your withdrawal symptoms from taking over while you detox.

If you’re considering detoxing on your own, knowing the facts will make it easier. If you stop drinking alcohol, cold turkey? it may cause you serious harm, seizures, or comas, depending on how much you usually drink. If you’re detoxing at home, you might be able to avoid professional help if you taper off your alcohol consumption and can stick to a serious regime. This means reducing the number of drinks or proof of alcohol little by little over time, which could be days or weeks, depending on how much of a tolerance or dependency you have. If you can’t do that, then you will need to watch for the signs of serious withdrawal and seek medical help when necessary.

If you are shaking and haven’t had any alcohol for an extended period of time, you’re probably heading for some serious withdrawal symptoms. You may need to seek medical detox treatment, since doctors will be able to provide medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms like seizures or heart failure, and you’ll be more comfortable while you detox. Simply drinking alcohol when these symptoms occur will not always help, and in some cases, it may complicate these problems.

Weaning yourself off alcohol may work if you haven’t been a heavy drinker, but heavy drinkers will face some additional issues that will likely cause a relapse if not treated correctly. Firstly, can you be sure that you can drink less and less alcohol over time, or will you relapse and end up binging? Second, do you have the expertise to know how much alcohol you need to take in or reduce by, in order to prevent symptoms of withdrawal that could be life threatening? Most likely, you will need medical help/supervision to keep yourself from relapsing, or from suffering serious side effects. Stopping without any help can actually lead to a much more difficult detox than if you seek attention for the problem.

Detoxification via a rehab/clinic is done with medication that can mitigate the side effects, and medical advisors will help you through, so you’ll be more comfortable and more likely to succeed.

Detoxing from drugs is different in some ways from detoxing from alcohol. Some drugs are relatively easy to quit, but opiates like heroin are a different story. Heroin withdrawal can start within a few hours after the last time you took the drug. The symptoms peak around 48 to 72 hours, and after a week you should not have many more withdrawal symptoms, besides some weakness or a little bit of pain.

The most serious withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin detox include seizures and comas. Normally, people who don’t take large amounts of heroin could suffer from restlessness, cramps, dilated pupils, chills, and other side effects, but those who take large amounts and try to quit without help could suffer the more serious problems, which, if not treated immediately, could cause death.

A physical withdrawal occurs because the body needs to have the drug to function correctly. If you have taken a drug for a long period of time, there could be more issues because you may have built up a tolerance, and you may have taken very high doses frequently throughout the day. Severe opiate addiction needs to be treated by a professional who can prescribe drugs like Suboxone, which will help reduce the likelihood of any withdrawal symptoms.

Another serious drug, crystal meth, can cause major problems if you detox incorrectly. The withdrawal process can cause mental changes that you will be unable to prepare for. Violent tendencies, sleeplessness, delirium, and paranoia are common, and these can cause injury to you or to others. During detox, these episodes can last for hours, which is why detox from this drug needs to be treated with care by a professional.

If you are considering a home detox? Tell your doctor or a family member/trusted friend.

Do not suffer in silence, Stay Safe…

Alcohol Alcohol……Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink.

It’s everywhere, alcohol, isn’t it? But what do you do if you want to stop drinking, or you’ve committed to sobriety, and yet booze is all around you?

Maybe your friends and family are still drinking, your partner drinks a lot, or your job involves a lot of boozy events and receptions. Does that mean that you can’t stop drinking, or that your efforts to quit drinking will be in vain, or perhaps that you will have to become a hermit for the rest of your life, just to avoid alcohol?

Well no. If you’re stuck in a situation where alcohol is inescapable, the best thing to do is to separate your own drinking habits from those of everyone else. So what if the world is filled with bars, pubs and off-licences and hoards of binge drinkers out on a Friday night? That is not your problem. Your issue is you, and your own relationship to alcohol, and that is what you should focus on. After all, you can not change other people or what the rest of the world does.

You can get sober and be happy about it, no matter what your environment is like, and no matter what anyone else around you is doing. At my age, a lot of birthdays are celebrated in bars, and social events are ‘naturally’ accompanied by alcohol. I can’t just avoid them all. In fact, I first got long-term sober while living with a partner who drank alcohol every day. I thought this was fairly unhealthy, but when it came down to it, it didn’t tempt me to drink.

That’s because I realise that ‘alcohol and me’ is my problem, not alcohol and anyone else. Other people’s relationships with drink or drugs are not my issue. My focus is always on my own recovery. You can not change anyone or anything else – you can only change yourself.

So, stay focused on your recovery, be grateful for being sober and safe, for not having hangovers, withdrawals and all the other nasty things that come with drinking alcohol. Whatever being sober is currently like for you, it’s got to be better than the pain, shame, guilt and frustration of being dependent on alcohol.

Focus on the great life you can create for yourself now that you are free of the bottle. Be grateful for the opportunity to clean up and change your life. Find new ways to enjoy yourself without alcohol. Above all, remember what the issue is. It’s not about anyone else. It’s about you and your recovery.

Very kindly written by Beth Burgess @


Abstinence & Relapse

First Steps towards Recovery

When we reach out for help from a professional alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, we begin the first stage of our recovery, treatment initiation. Whether we seek help voluntarily or are forced by circumstances to enter rehab, our recovery process will begin with us initiating professional supervised treatment.

In the early hours and days of our treatment, we probably will have some ambivalent feelings about giving up our drug of choice permanently, and we may think that our substance abuse problem is not as bad as others. Beware!. Ambivalence and denial can be our worst enemies in the first days of our recovery.

First Stages of Abstinence

Once we have made a commitment to continue treatment for our substance abuse issues, we will enter the second stage of rehab known as early abstinence. This can be the toughest stage to cope with because of many factors, including continued withdrawal symptoms, physical cravings, psychological dependence and a host of triggers that can tempt us into a relapse.

It is during this early abstinence stage that our trained addiction counsellors will begin to teach us the coping skills that we need to begin to lead a sober lifestyle. The tools that we learn to use now will help us throughout our recovery.

Maintaining Abstinence

After approximately 6 months of continuous abstinence, we will move from the early abstinence stage of recovery to the third stage, maintaining abstinence. If we started with a residential treatment program, we will now move to the continuing or follow-up counselling phase of our rehabilitation program on an outpatient basis.

One focus of this stage of rehabilitation is obviously to maintain abstinence by avoiding a relapse. We will learn the warning signs and the steps that can lead up to a relapse.

Also during this stage of our recovery, we will learn to put the tools that we have learnt in early abstinence to use in other areas of our life so that we can continue to live a truly rewarding drug/ alcohol-free lifestyle. We will learn new coping skills and tools that can help us deal with difficult areas/triggers in our lives.

The maintain abstinence stage of recovery will begin at about three months into our rehabilitation program and last until we reach approximately five years clean and sober, at which time the follow-up counselling will usually terminate.

Ongoing Recovery

After approximately five years of abstinence, we will reach the fourth and final stage of our treatment and ongoing recovery. It is at this point that we take all the tools and skills that we have learnt during our rehabilitation, counselling and put them to use living a satisfying, fulfilling life.

Not only will we merely be able to remain abstinent, we will also have the skills to become a healthier person, a better spouse and parent, a productive member of society and a good neighbour, peer and citizen.


If we have tried to quit drinking or using drugs, but had a relapse and returned to drinking or using, we are not alone. Statistics indicate that up to 90% of people

who try to quit have at least one relapse before achieving long-term sobriety.
Do not let this put you off?

In recovery circles, it’s called a slip or falling back into old behaviours. When or if it happens, it is important that we get back up, dust ourselves off and get back on the road to recovery.

It is an opportunity for us to assess how we feel about getting clean/sober, about what led to the drinking/using, and to consider again whether we have had enough. We don’t know that we can ever explain all of the whys and wherefores of drinking or using, but we can certainly identify our triggers and our vulnerable situations/places.

Avoid Relapse Triggers

For those in early recovery, there are many factors that can trigger a relapse. But relapse is predictable and preventable if we learn to recognize and avoid the triggers and begin to focus on other more healthy activities.

But even if a relapse occurs, rather than viewing it as a failure, we can turn it into a positive, by looking at it as a learning experience in the process that can lead to long-term sobriety. Recovery is much more than just staying clean and sober.

You can do it. Nothing worthwhile ever happens quickly and easily.

Letter To Addiction

Dear Addiction,

First of all I would like to ask why you had to pick on me?

I feel you were probably there when I was born! Waiting til you thought I was old enough to hide inside me, and hold me responsible for all your actions, knowing full well that I did not understand.

As I got older, with no thought or consideration, you used me to live a destructive, manipulative, fearless, uncaring, deceitful existence.

You made me feel you were my friend and that you would take care of me? You had me believe you would take away fear, give me confidence, make people like me, make me more successful, make me more popular and be there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on?
i.e. the bottom of a glass?…

As I got older you took away my dignity, respect and care for others. I became blinkered about how I really felt. You destroyed any love I might have had for anyone or anything. You made me feel it was OK to take what was not mine, you told me you would stand up for me! Yet you hid away and let me take all the blame. You made me believe you were the only thing in the world that understood me, yet every time anyone showed me any attention or love, you told me they were no good for me? You drove them away, so that you could have my undivided attention.

Every time I thought I was wrong, you made a joke of it? And made me look worthless. Anything I ever cared for you took away from me. Then! When you were really at your lowest, you started on my health. Just to get attention, you even tried to kill me? But No! You had not finished with me yet?

People that cared for me got me into treatment, just to get me away from you. I started to hate you, I stayed away from you, I started to live a healthy life without you, and I became a more caring person. I actually started to like myself. For the first time I could remember, I had feelings? A sense of responsibility, and I had respect for others.
I felt good??

So I got confused, what happened? You crawled back out and pestered me, made me feel sorry for you. I believed you when you said you would get me through hard times and uncertainty? I took you back!!

What did you do? All the work I put in, you destroyed it? But this time you really put your foot down, you didn’t take a lifetime to inflict damage to me, pain and suffering to others, put me back in hospital, you tried to kill me again, and again, and again?

Well Mr F****d up alcohol existence! I have had enough of you? I am not even going to let you down gently. I, yes I! Can see and feel the damage you have done to me. You did it again, left me with nothing? Except poor me, poor me, poor me another drink?

Well not this time! You have robbed most of my life. I don’t know how much I have left, but guess what? You’re not having it! I can’t get an injunction against you; I can’t call the police when you appear? But I can see you, lurking in the supermarkets, and the big superstar in the TV ads, using people I care about, causing misery wherever and whenever you feel like it.

I know you will never pay for, your actions, or accept any of the consequences? Truth is, I can’t handle you or your behaviour anymore.

I want some peace, I want my feelings back, and I want to be accepted for me? Not! What you do to me? I know it’s no good asking you nicely, because you have no heart! I need, Yes, I need, not want? Need! You to leave me alone. This relationship is Bad! For me and people I care about. You? You will just move on and make someone else’s life a misery. It’s a shame the whole world can’t see you for what you really are?

Kindly sent to us by a client in Rehab 2012


Gambling Addiction & Problem Gambling

Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Whether you bet on horses, sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots machines in a casino or even online, problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, and could lead to financial downfall. You may even experience things you never thought you would, like stealing money to gamble or pay off your debts. You may think you can’t stop but, with the right help and guidance, you can overcome a gambling problem or addiction, and regain control of your life. The first step is recognising and acknowledging there is a problem.

Understanding Gambling Addiction & Problem Gambling

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter what or where the consequences may lead to. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re winning or losing, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “say no to a bet?.”

Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem Gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts your own or someone else’s life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

Treatment for Problem Gambling

Every gambler is unique and requires a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her. What works for one gambler won’t necessarily work for another. The biggest step towards treatment and recovery is realising you have a problem with gambling. It takes tremendous strength and courage to acknowledge this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have sought advice, and have been able to break the habit.

Overcoming a gambling addiction or problem is never easy.

“Recovery is possible, with the right help and support” would like to extend our gratitude to all involved with the content and running of this website.

We wish you all a safe & peaceful Christmas


Symptoms of Co-dependency

The term co-dependency has been around for almost four decades. Although it originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, researchers revealed that the characteristics of co-dependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely co-dependent.

Don’t feel bad if that includes you. Most families are dysfunctional. You’re in the majority!

Researchers also found that co-dependent symptoms got worse if left untreated. The good news is that they’re reversible.

Following is a list of symptoms of co-dependents. You needn’t have them all to qualify as co-dependent.

Low self-esteem

Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame, guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.


It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but co-dependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.

Poor Boundaries

Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where co-dependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else. Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.


A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realise it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.


Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up on yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but co-dependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.


Control helps co-dependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for co-dependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism so that they don’t feel out of control. Co-dependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, co-dependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.

Dysfunctional Communication

Co-dependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear.


Co-dependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.” Sometimes you can lapse into a fantasy about how you’d like things to be or about someone you love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps you from living your life.


Co-dependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.


One of the problems people face in getting help for co-dependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually, they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem. Co-dependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some co-dependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.

Problems with intimacy

By this, I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.

Painful Emotions

Co-dependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear of being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

There is help for recovery and change.
The first step is getting guidance and support.
These symptoms are deeply ingrained habits and difficult to
identify and change on your own.

Try a 12-Step program, such as Co-dependents Anonymous or seek counselling.
Work on becoming more assertive and building your self-esteem.

Everyone involved at is proud to be entering our 5th year online, we thank you all for your on-going support

The Journey Continues

Well, it’s been four years now since we last updated. But god willing we are back on track. Close friends have been lost, and relapse struck with a vengeance. For myself, alcohol managed to get past my barriers, and caught me unaware? Two and a half years and I thought I had the better of it, how wrong I was.

I often asked the question, what made you pick up? I have asked myself the same, I have no answer, though one drink wouldn’t harm. How wrong was I? back to square one in no time at all, knowing full well that I chose to drink, nobody forced me, I had nothing or nobody to blame but myself.

Back into rehab January 2010 after 2-week detox, only lasted a week. I wasn’t ready. May 2010 saw the loss of my closest friend, not caused by alcohol alone, but was a contributory factor. I was searching for answers, but there were none. I continued to drink on & off until August this year when I finally got the strength to say no more! Life was becoming unbearable.

We all know that it’s difficult at times to stay abstinent, but it is the only answer to survive and stay alive, even when we feel like giving up. There is help out there for everybody, we just have to be strong enough to ask. There is no shame in admitting we are powerless over our demons.

Some find strength in AA/NA, this is a great place to meet and share experiences with others in the same or similar situation. “you are not alone” There are organizations and support groups that are more than willing to guide us in the right direction. I started with my doctor who was very understanding. is a site compiled to provide information about, and where to look for help and support. We are more than happy to publish any stories that may help others seeking guidance. The November newsletter will be dedicated towards the understanding of dual diagnoses. Please feel free to email us anytime to we will respond.

Thank you for visiting.

This issue is dedicated to the memory and sad loss of
Jacqueline Nunn
1961 – 2010