Monthly Archives: April 2011

Passover–What Is This?

Group portrait of Passover Seder, Manila, Phil...

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By M. Alexander

Passover was never a holiday that I looked forward to celebrating.  Old people reading out of a book?  I might as well watch CSPAN.  Magical disappearance of a glass of wine? Give me a box of Franzia and I’ll make it disappear even faster, then reappear, then disappear.

Why is this night different from all other nights?  On all other nights, I eat leavened bread on the table—on this night I must be inconspicuous, stashing my meatball sub incognito.

I ask questions, many questions.  Why do I have to be here? How much money will I get if I find the Afikoman? Will my family trip if I drink another glass of wine? How much longer before I get to eat?

Over the past nine months, I have heard many people at Beit T’Shuvah talk about Passover as the holiest day for a Jewish addict.  Our dependence on drugs is slavery—Pharaoh disguises himself, wearing the cloak of Heroin, Cocaine, Alcohol, Gambling, Money, Power, or Food.

I now know that I am personally making the exodus out of slavery; this is of the utmost importance to my continued recovery.  But I can’t be completely self-absorbed.  Passover is also about helping my people make the same exodus.  It is a holiday that stresses the importance of community, a celebration that marks strength, a Seder of remembrance, and it is a festival of hope.

We need our community to aid us in our journey to freedom, we need strength to continue trudging, we must remember the cost of freedom, and we must commemorate those who did not make it.

And above all, we must hope for all who are still enslaved—in Congo, in Sudan, in poor inner-cities, in wealthy suburbs, in our own minds—let us pray: next year in Jerusalem!

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Filed under Current Events, Family Wellness, Gratitude, Incarceration, Judaism, Sobriety, Temple, Torah

The Poison Points to a Remedy

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London

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By Jaron Zanerhaft

Researchers at UT Austin have just found something that, without proper perspective, could send many of my friends here back on the bottle: alcohol can actually help you learn.  Not in the conventional sense, of course.  Details, facts, concepts—all of the memory associated with these thing is still inhibited by alcohol consumption.  It’s the subconscious memory that may be enhanced.  Regular ethanol use increases plasticity in the brain, specifically in dopamine neurons.  According to the research team, these effects linger for about a week after drinking.

Still, many good things for the recovery community could come from this study.  Basically, this study gave definitive neurological proof of the phenomenon we know as “euphoric recall.”  We know that the imbibed brain shoots off dopamine, and that is responsible for the rewarding feeling.  Now we know that the ethanol compounds relax your synapses, conditioning you to grow unnaturally comfortable with your routine while drinking.  Since this study has found what part of the brain makes you miss what you never really enjoyed, a method is on the horizon, maybe not to eliminate euphoric recall, but at least to weaken the irrational desire to return to a drunken state.

While I understand that I can condition myself easier using alcohol, I am beginning to realize the value of establishing healthy lifelong habits for myself.  And the truth is, without alcohol, I value my routines even more.  I feel like I have achieved my routines and therefore deserve the growth I get from them.  Yes, alcohol could make getting into habits an easier process, but what kinds of habits ensue?

Really, this study only confirmed what we already know: the more we drink, the easier it gets to do the things we do when we drink.  Would you rather live your routines with disciplined persistence or with automatic, conditioned ease?  While you must make the choice to actively live and participate in your life, it is still a choice.

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Who’s the Emotional Vampire in Your Life?

Dr. Judith Orloff  is coming to Beit T’Shuvah on Sunday, May 15 2011 to speak and sign books. Make sure to purchase tickets on our website.

Judith Orloff MD is a blog writer for the Huffington Post and her new book, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life is available now! This is a copy of one of her blog posts from her website that all of us can definitely relate to.

“As a physician, I’ve found that the biggest energy drain on my patients is relationships. Some relationships are positive and mood elevating. Others can suck optimism and serenity right out of you. I call these draining people “emotional vampires.” They do more than drain your physical energy. The malignant ones can make you believe you’re unworthy and unlovable. Others inflict damage with smaller digs to make you feel bad about yourself. For instance, “Dear, I see you’ve put on a few pounds” or “You’re overly sensitive!” Suddenly they’ve thrown you off-center by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.

To protect your energy it’s important to combat draining people. The following strategies from my book “Emotional Freedom” will help you identify and combat emotional vampires from an empowered place.

Signs That You’ve Encountered an Emotional Vampire

  • Your eyelids are heavy — you’re ready for a nap
  • Your mood takes a nosedive
  • You want to binge on carbs or comfort foods
  • You feel anxious, depressed or negative
  • You feel put down

Types of Emotional Vampires

  1. The Narcissist
  2. Their motto is “Me first.” Everything is all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, hog attention and crave admiration. They’re dangerous because they lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love. If you don’t do things their way, they become punishing, withholding or cold.

    How to Protect Yourself: Keep your expectations realistic. These are emotionally limited people. Try not to fall in love with one or expect them to be selfless or love without strings attached. Never make your self-worth dependent on them or confide your deepest feelings to them. To successfully communicate, the hard truth is that you must show how something will be to their benefit. Though it’s better not to have to contend with this tedious ego stroking, if the relationship is unavoidable this approach works.

  3. The Victim
  4. These vampires grate on you with their “poor-me” attitude. The world is always against them, the reason for their unhappiness. When you offer a solution to their problems they always say, “Yes, but…” You might end up screening your calls or purposely avoid them. As a friend, you may want to help but their tales of woe overwhelm you.

    How to Protect Yourself: Set kind but firm limits. Listen briefly and tell a friend or relative, “I love you but I can only listen for a few minutes unless you want to discuss solutions.” With a coworker sympathize by saying, “I’ll keep having good thoughts for things to work out.” Then say, “I hope you understand, but I’m on deadline and must return to work.” Then use “this isn’t a good time” body language such as crossing your arms and breaking eye contact to help set these healthy limits.

  5. The Controller
  6. These people obsessively try to control you and dictate how you’re supposed to be and feel. They have an opinion about everything. They’ll control you by invalidating your emotions if they don’t fit into their rulebook. They often start sentences with “You know what you need?” and then proceed to tell you. You end up feeling dominated, demeaned or put down.

    How to Protect Yourself: The secret to success is never try and control a controller. Be healthily assertive, but don’t tell them what to do. You can say, “I value your advice but really need to work through this myself.” Be confident but don’t play the victim.

  7. The Constant Talker
  8. These people aren’t interested in your feelings. They are only concerned with themselves. You wait for an opening to get a word in edgewise but it never comes. Or these people might physically move in so close they’re practically breathing on you. You edge backwards, but they step closer.

    How to Protect Yourself: These people don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You must speak up and interrupt, as hard as that is to do. Listen for a few minutes. Then politely say, “I hate to interrupt, but please excuse me I have to talk to these other people… or get to an appointment… or go to the bathroom.” A much more constructive tactic than, “Keep quiet, you’re driving me crazy!” If this is a family member, politely say, “I’d love if you allowed me some time to talk to so I can add to the conversation.” If you say this neutrally, it can better be heard.

  9. The Drama Queen

These people have a flair for exaggerating small incidents into off-the-chart dramas. My patient Sarah was exhausted when she hired a new employee who was always late for work. One week he had the flu and “almost died.” Next, his car was towed, again! After this employee left her office Sarah felt tired and used.

How to Protect Yourself: A drama queen doesn’t get mileage out of equanimity. Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths. This will help you not get caught up in the histrionics. Set kind but firm limits. Say, for example, “You must be here on time to keep your job. I’m sorry for all your mishaps, but work comes first.”

To improve your relationships and increase your energy level, I suggest taking an inventory of people who give you energy and those that drain you. Try to spend time with the loving, nurturing people, and learn to set limits with those who drain you. This will enhance the quality of your life.”

“EMOTIONAL FREEDOM combines neuroscience, psychology, and spirituality to present a new approach for freeing yourself from negative emotions. This book offers you a path to greater health, intimacy, and compassion.”
–Dean Ornish, M.D., author of The Spectrum and Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease

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The Constant Struggle Between Privacy and Information

Intervention (TV series)

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By Ben Spielberg

In 2005, A&E’s Intervention took the world by storm. For the first time, the addiction was portrayed more candidly than it ever had been to a mainstream audience. The show featured addicts in the everyday world of their addiction as their families and loved ones try to get them to go to rehab.

I use this television show as an example because it represents an interesting split in both logic and morality. On one hand, the show exposes a side of addiction first hand—people who may not personally know any drug addicts and alcoholics are becoming more knowledgeable about the epidemic. Hopefully this is leading to people to share their knowledge with others, raising the rate of which people go to rehabs, and cease the enablement of their family members.

While this sounds great in theory, there is the fact that most people are watching these types of shows for entertainment purposes; there are many people that are entertained by Allison’s Dust-Off habit but could care less whether or not she goes to treatment afterward.

Intervention spawned some new series’ like Hoarders and My Strange Addiction, as well as A&E’s most recent addition, Relapse. Is it wrong to be entertained by the struggle of other people, or is entertainment actually a method to reinforce education?

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Filed under addiction, Current Events, Family Wellness, Gratitude, Internet, Sobriety, Uncategorized

Where They Burn Books, So Too Will They End In Burning Human Beings

1933 May 10 Berlin book burning -- taken from ...

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By M. Alexander

Pastor Terry Jones is in the news again.  You remember that guy who whored for attention six months ago, the guy with the small church in Florida?  The guy that reminded America that extremist right-wing Christianity didn’t die after The Oklahoma City Bombing?  Well, he’s back and he finally had the chutzpah to follow through and burn the Quran.  He has now officially joined the company of Nazi Germany, the Taliban, and ideological dictatorships across the globe.

Congratulations, Mr. Jones— if only Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were alive to see this— they would be so proud.

There is nothing more despicable in a free society than the burning of ideas—utilizing free speech to eliminate others’ speech is so 20th century. Mr. Jones, have you tried reading the Quran— or at least the Sparknotes?  If you do, you will realize that you just burned the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Noah.  Oops… you made a mistake.  The only fire you are fueling is Radical Islam.  Riots related to his book burning have already killed more than 20 in The Middle East.  You are continuing to separate humanity, instead of bringing us closer together.

And let us not fool ourselves.  Attempted fumigation of ideas survives across all religions, creeds, and nations.  You would think that The Jewish People would be the last people to burn books, with The Holocaust in recent memory.  But in 2008 in the city of Or Yehuda, Jews burned a fairly large number of New Testaments.  What about that seems like a good idea?  Seriously, I can’t figure it out.

Burning books is like a giant advertising campaign at a low cost; all you need is a penny’s worth of lighter fluid, a trash barrel, and a few passionately ignorant onlookers—if I ever write a book, I hope that the flap reads “good enough to be burned”.

In 1821, German writer Heinrich Heine wrote a play called Almansor.  Citing Quran burnings during the Spanish Inquisition he wrote, “Where they burn books, so too will they end in burning human beings”.

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