Category: Addictions

The failure of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

| March 24, 2014 | Reply

What would it seem like if ONLY those who successfully completed a program were featured in the media? What would we think about a school where 85 out of 100 students flunked, but only the graduates showed up to say how good the program was? That is the starting point for Dr. Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes’ article in Salon: “The pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a better way to treat addiction.”

Rehab owns a special place in the American imagination. Our nation invented the “Cadillac” rehab, manifested in such widely celebrated brand names as Hazelden, Sierra Tucson, and the Betty Ford Center. . . . The fact that they are all extraordinarily expensive is almost beside the point: these rehabs are fighting the good fight, and they deserve every penny we’ve got. Unfortunately, nearly all these programs use an adaptation of the same AA approach that has been shown repeatedly to be highly ineffective. Where they deviate from traditional AA dogma is actually more alarming: many top rehab programs include extra features such as horseback riding, Reiki massage, and “adventure therapy” to help their clients exorcise the demons of addiction. . . . Why do we tolerate this industry? One reason may sound familiar: in rehab, one feels that one is doing something, taking on a life-changing intervention whose exorbitant expense ironically reinforces the impression that epochal changes must be just around the corner.

Who is studying the effectiveness of these programs? Not the programs themselves or, at least, they are not making their data open. That makes these authors suspicious:

Efforts by journalists to solicit data from rehabs have also been met with resistance, making an independent audit of their results almost impossible and leading to the inevitable conclusion that the rest of the programs either don’t study their own outcomes or refuse to publish what they find.

What is the solution? Rather than preach to addicts about a “Higher Power,” the authors suggest that they need something far more personally empowering: sophisticated self-awareness.”

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Graphic Novel version of super stimuli

| February 27, 2014 | Reply

I enjoyed this primer on super-stimuli by Gregory Ciotti, titled “Is Your Brain Truly Ready for Junk Food, Porn, or the Internet?” Super stimuli, featuring the work of Niko Tinbergen. He discovered that we can hijack animal’s instincts beyond their evolutionary purpose.

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What it’s like to never have enough – the story of a Wall Street hedge fund trader

| January 19, 2014 | Reply

This is what it’s like to never have enough. It’s the autobiography of a Wall Street hedge fund trader, published in the NYT:

I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Ever see what a drug addict is like when he’s used up his junk? He’ll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that. In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in “The Wire” when the heroin runs out.

I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.

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Twenty things mentally strong people don’t do.

| January 13, 2014 | Reply

Here are twenty things mentally strong people don’t do. I do like this list- go to the article to read more. Many of these have to do with worrying about what others would think.

1. Dwelling On The Past

2. Remaining In Their Comfort Zone

3. Not Listening To The Opinions Of Others

4. Avoiding Change

5. Keeping A Closed Mind

6. Letting Others Make Decisions For Them

7. Getting Jealous Over The Successes Of Others

8. Thinking About The High Possibility Of Failure

9. Feeling Sorry For Themselves

10. Focusing On Their Weaknesses

11. Trying To Please People

12. Blaming Themselves For Things Outside Their Control

13. Being Impatient

14. Being Misunderstood

15. Feeling Like You’re Owed

16. Repeating Mistakes

17. Giving Into Their Fears

18. Acting Without Calculating

19. Refusing Help From Others

20. Throwing In The Towel

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1,000 pound woman

| October 11, 2012 | 1 Reply

I just don’t know what to think when I hear of mega-fat people, those who grew while they were bed-ridden. This type of spectacle simply has to be enabled by others, because there’s no way these people can get to food on their own. These are stories of intense co-dependence. They have to be. The murder allegations here almost seem like a distraction to the main story.

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Living whole-heartedly

| August 21, 2012 | Reply

I very much enjoyed Brene Brown’s TED talk on living whole-heartedly. She combines a humorous presentation with a deep and serious topic. At the outset, she recognized that “connection” is what life is all about, but shame (the fear that “I’m not X enough”) destroys this sense of connection. To allow connection, we need to take chances; we need to allow ourselves to be SEEN.

With this as the context, Brown set out to understand more about shame. It boils down to whether someone BELIEVES that they are worthy of love and belonging. The one thing that destroys a sense of love and connection is a fear that one is not worthy of love and belonging.

People with a sense of worthiness, the “whole-hearted,” have the courage to be imperfect. They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others (because you can’t do the latter without doing the former), They also develop their sense of connection as a result of being authentic. They believe that what makes them vulnerable is what makes them beautiful–these are people who are willing to do something where there are no guarantees. Vulnerability is the core of our sense of shame and fear, but it is also the “birthplace” of joy, of creativity, belonging and love.”

Brown’s research showed that many of us “numb” vulnerability through our many addictions and obsessions. We can’t selectively numb the bad emotions without also numbing the good emotions. Because we numb all of our emotions, we then instinctively feed our cravings through our destructive addictions. We compensate by trying to make uncertain things certain. We also compensate by blaming. We try to perfect ourselves and our children. We also pretend that what we do does not have an impact on other people. We don’t know how to say that we’re sorry and that we’ll make things right.

Brown’s advice: Don’t be afraid to be seen for the vulnerable people we are. We must learn to love with our whole hearts, even when there is no guarantee. We need to practice gratitude and “lean into joy.” Most important, we need to learn to recognize that “we are enough,” because we then stop screaming and start listening. “Only then can we be kinder and gentler to ourselves and the people around us.”

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Ken Burns on Prohibition

| October 3, 2011 | 1 Reply
Ken Burns on Prohibition

Tonight I watched Part II of Ken Burns’ excellent new documentary, “Prohibition.” I highly recommend it (and you can watch Part I, “A Nation of Drunkards,” here). Here’s the bottom line of Prohibition:

Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country.

If only Americans would open their eyes and acknowledge that our raging drug war is Prohibition redux, and that it is causing the same kinds of destructive problems as Prohibition.

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New graphic cigarette warns might discourage smokers

| June 29, 2011 | 1 Reply
New graphic cigarette warns might discourage smokers

And then again, according to this article in Discover, they might not. Check the comments to see the counter-research, as well as ever-more skirmishes in the ongoing American culture-wars.

To the extent that graphic warnings don’t discourage smokers, I’ll rack this up as one of the many many many counter-intuitive things scientists have discovered about human beings.

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Fantasy world

| February 28, 2011 | 2 Replies
Fantasy world

I just watched an hour of the Academy Awards tonight, and I was impressed with the snippets of movies that were shown (though I haven’t seen any of the featured movies yet). I love movies. I’ve seen hundreds of movies in my life, I’d bet I’ve watched two or three movies per month over my 54 years of life. Many of them have inspired me. I’m glad we have the opportunity to watch well-crafted movies. I should add that I watch almost no live television.

I’m increasingly disturbed about the great number of Americans who know far more about the movies and television they watch than they know about the real world. They know more because they watch dozens of movies every month. They can talk for endless hours about movies, movie stars and even the gossip regarding movie stars. Most people I know have a far greater grasp about movies than they do about any of the big issues facing this country. Movies are as real to them as the world they actually live in.

The following statistics are from the Kaiser Foundation:

Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

The Academy promotes movies as opportunities to escape, and movies function too well in that regard.

[More . . . ]

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