Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Addiction Training

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About a month ago, I and the other Out of Darkness volunteers had our first training of 2014. Heather Hayes taught on addiction, as the title suggests, and it was really fascinating. Sadly, my notes won’t do it justice, but they’ll give you a good idea of what we talked about.

  • Two arguments in addiction: choice or disease. Heather believes disease. It’s a question of causality.
  • Addiction is a brain disorder.
  • Addicts look like everyone. Recovering people look like everyone.
  • A majority of the people in prison are dealing with at least one addiction.
  • Drugs work in the midbrain, which only deals with what happens right now. It is unconscious, and can override the sensible part of your brain (frontal cortex). Fight or flight, life or death, eat or sleep, sex for procreation/survival — trauma is store here, and it is unstable because it doesn’t deal with rational thought.
  • Drugs trump all other coping mechanisms, to the point of death.
  • Abusers can stop or corral it in, addicts can’t.
  • STRESS is the causal agent in addiction. Stress factors: severity, pattern, coping mechanisms, different brains
  • Addictive people are often very sensitive, softhearted people.
  • Dopamine relieves stress through pleasure. Chronic stress breaks the receptor. Then people can’t discern normal pleasure. It isn’t as great as it once was. Drugs give a surge that’s discernable.
  • Too much natural dopamine is schizophrenic; too little is Parkinson’s.
  • Stress = Craving (can be wild or extreme)
  • Cravings keep the cycle going.
  • Frontal Cortex goes dark during addiction cycles. Rational thought is out the window.
  • People can still function in routines, but it becomes evident once out of a routine.
  • There will never be pills to cure addiction. You can treat symptoms only. You have to re-teach non-chemical coping skills for stress. It takes the brain about a year to get back to base level.
  • There is a heroine epidemic in ATL.
  • About 60% of addicts who are women have eating disorders. Also usual victims of trauma.
  • Usually a lot of crossover between substance abuse and performance abuse. (Ex: sex, food, cults, co-dependence, workaholic, gambling, porn, etc.)
  • Addition is a disregulation of the mid-brain pleasure (dopamine) systems due to unmanaged stress resulting in symptom of decrease functioning, specifically loss of control, craving and persistent use despite negative consequences.
  • 93% of addicts are functional
  • Cutting: a response to emotional pain that is focused. It can have addictive qualities. Trauma recovery must be done. Dissociative personalities are prone to self-mutilation.
  • Signs of addiction: denial, minimizing problems, blaming others, justifications/excuses, defensiveness, mood swings, changes in personality, manipulation, legal problems, financial problems, irritability, loss of pleasure, breaking promises, withdrawn or overly talkative, emotionally unstable, escalating use of chemicals
  • Coping skills: anger management, relaxation, exercise, schedule/routine, meditation, biofeedback, communication skills
  • Most people in recovery and succeeding have a spiritual component.
  • People need to hear they can overcome—and it’s true.


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We sit.

113723895Today was my first time volunteering over at Solomon House. What did I do? I sat. I watched a movie with the newest resident, a sweet girl in need of love, care and a fresh start. I’m really good at watching movies, so I fit right in. And turns out we both like Will Smith.

It wasn’t glamorous or full of deep life-changing conversation. We exchanged a few words, but not much. After a little time passes, she might not even remember I was the one there with her. And all that’s ok. She is beginning her time of restoration, and it’s a slow process. She needs to take baby steps, and if that means sleeping in and getting up to a movie, that’s totally fine. It sounds a lot like my Saturday mornings, in fact, so I highly recommend. For her, it’s a move toward normalcy and there’s a lot to be said for that, especially coming out of prostitution.

As we were sitting there, a scene from the movie Lars and the Real Girl came to mind. If you’ve never seen it, you must do so immediately. It’s a darling of a movie, and more people should know about it. There are probably easily 100 lessons that could be learned from that film, but this one has popped into my head on a number of occasions.

In the scene, it’s a time of mourning for Lars. A few women from his church come over to bring him some food and be of comfort to him. To be honest, it’s not a big part of the movie. Most people probably wouldn’t remember it. It’s this tiny, little conversation before and after bigger incidents. but it’s the one that stuck with me the most for some reason.

Sally: We brought casseroles.

Lars: Thank you.

Lars: [Lars looks around the sewing circle. The three ladies are knitting and doing needlepoint] Um, is there something I should be doing right now?

Mrs. Gruner: No, dear. You eat.

Sally: We came over to sit.

Hazel: That’s what people do when tragedy strikes.

Sally: They come over, and sit.

On the way over to the house this morning, I prayed that God would give me the words to speak that would encourage and comfort her. It turns out, all I needed to do was sit. I wasn’t at a loss for words, they just weren’t needed. I only needed to be present. She’s been lonely, and needs to know people care about her and believe she can make it through this difficult transition. I think sometimes we try too hard to come up with the right things to say when people are hurting, but mostly, the best thing we can do is be there for them. Sometimes our intentions can make the most difference.

Other women will be visiting her throughout the upcoming week. I imagine every visit will be a little different. Some of those may very well be the deep, life-changing conversations. They may be encounters that she remembers for the rest of her life. They may be done by women who will stay in her life for years to come. But this morning she wanted to watch a movie, so that’s what I did.

I was there. I was present. I was there if she wanted to talk, and I was there if she didn’t. And I’m really looking forward to going back and doing it all over again. If needed, I’ll sit again.

(By the way, if you care to donate to Solomon House, the items most needed at the moment are: PJs, bras, Celebrate Recovery Bibles, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, His Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd, and gift cards to things like grocery stores, movies, restaurants, etc.)