New Lessons That Work If You Work Them
Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Frustration Feeds Denial
To those frustrated by repeated recovery failures, "Repeating the same thing, expecting different results" now brings new meaning - as rusty, ineffective activities, no matter what their origin, can begin to feel like repetitive insanity. And you've heard some new arrivals say, "If I have to be insane, why bother?" Even the old timers see the frequent challenges. As one old Maine farmer said to the lost city guy asking for directions: "Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here." Sometimes "it" can't work, if "you" can't work.
Some do need special treatment options. Some do need specific biologic support for good recovery practice.
No, this review is not about replacing traditional recovery models, it’s about supporting and adding to the available recovery initiatives that do work – and doesn’t require leaving programs that have worked for years. It’s not about deeper psychology, more psychiatric medication combinations, or innovative labels. It’s about measuring and fixing the actual underlying natural biology of the chronically addicted, rusty, but living cells–both in brain and body. Fixing those biologic ruts in the recovery road will craft a better journey – naturally.
With measureable additional information we can better appreciate how increasingly predictable ruts can compromise any recovery road. On the other hand, using informed brain and body maps would facilitate staying on the path without becoming stuck in the first place. In fact, those old chemically and psychologically based addictive patterns provide one of the best resources for learning about the next effective steps. Specific measurements count. If you don’t look, you can’t see. And you can get there from here while honestly working a vigorous recovery program.
Recovery practice always encourages a comprehensive inventory review of challenges.
Yes, these new insights involve new science - but that new information is not about "beliefs" or "attitudes," it's about new, hard evidence. Deeper recovery is about evolved nutrition and advanced self-care that compliments self-reliance and self-mastery.
So, just what does one do in the face of recovery failure? What can repeated failure teach us? What have we been missing? Only recently have we been able to understand measurable biological realities that can significantly encourage either success or failure. And the conclusions from that new biological reality can be wrapped up in one umbrella concept: comprehensive recovery. The more we understand and apply these new available details, the more we diminish uncertainty, and the more we increase predictability.
If your brain and body are not in the program, it will be hard for you to be there. And you don't need special training to distinguish "disoriented."
Now we can verify what many have known intuitively for years: cookie cutter interventions with superficial psychiatric labels so frequently prove counterproductive in the complexity of the recovery process – simply because many of those labels don’t measure or address brain or body function. The meds don't work with those labels that only address appearances, and, as has been repeatedly proven, the labels often don’t match that person on the inside.
Said another way, what does "taking inventory" have to do with "diagnosis"? You guessed it: not much. What does "taking inventory" have to do with the new science? A heck-of-a-lot.
It doesn't matter which perspective of the "recovery failure" argument you find yourself on. What is clear with the new brain science: older categorical, reductionistic, sometimes psychiatric models don't work as well as the new, inclusive, comprehensive, biologically based models. Labels and appearances don't work, names don't work, the complexity of the available information is far beyond "this-or-that" it now includes "multiple-this-and-that."
New science encourages working more closely together with safe tools that will support recovery and can naturally balance stinking thinking, often without meds.
Beyond Dry Drunk
Yes, many do make it out of the addictive darkness just working a straight program – but far too many find themselves lost, even on the evolved recovery side, with feelings and cognitive impairments that last far after the years of using. Ever hear the expression "dry drunk"?
Well, "dry drunk" feelings include far more than the surface labels, psychodynamic interpretations, and misspent relationship stuckness; they represent clear impediments to working any recovery program, no matter which step is next. I have never met a "dry drunk" person without a measureable cellular/biologic imbalance. All are significantly out of balance with correctable deficiencies and excesses.
Cautionary Notes: The Benefits of Precise Measures
Consider this refreshing point: all of psychiatric practice, all of mind-medicine is becoming more complex than ever. And that new complexity increasingly offers hopeful answers that can be applied with significantly less potential for relapse harm, are more "natural" and yet are founded in science–that new brain science beyond pharmaceuticals. Even some traditional psychiatrists are gradually moving from simple synaptic interventions associated with psych meds, to pre-pre-synaptic interventions involving neurotransmitter precursors that can correct measurable neurotransmitter imbalances.
But one cautionary note quickly arises: just as it's completely inappropriate to throw psychiatric meds at labels without understanding brain function, it's also inappropriate to guess at perceived imbalances and throw supplements without measurement, without knowing the real biologic complexity of that specific person. The functional, nutritional side of inquiry for imbalances requires the same careful investigation that will soon be the standard of care on the psychiatric side: laboratory analysis for a variety of possible challenges.
You can't treat adrenal fatigue with antidepressants and expect the adrenal cortex to improve. You can’t treat estrogen dominance with thyroid interventions, and you can't treat underlying immune dysfunction with supplements when the bowel is so rusty the supplements can’t be metabolized. First, measure for the immune dysfunction, then when it's corrected the healing can take place. We are far beyond using the Missouri Turkey Shoot as an intervention model for any medical condition. So why Shoot Turkeys in recovery?
Relapse Triggers: Three Biological Imbalances
Remember: communication. The brain and body use three primary systems of internal communication, and any one of them can create massive problems:
- Immune System
If any one of these systems of communication is unbalanced, it unbalances the rest.
Addictive processes with the associated toxins, malnutrition, failures, and stress regularly disrupt all of these communication pathways, and to speed healing they soon will be routinely measured as part of an informed recovery program.
Use those commonplace challenges to take recovery practice to the next level – the previous distance between recovery and science narrows with these new insights.
Dr Charles Parker
Neuroscience/Comprehensive Medicine Consultant, Psychopharmacologist, Editor of the Award Winning CorePsych Blog, Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, Certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for SPECT Brain Imaging since 2003, has been writing and speaking about recovery issues for years, and wrote Deep Recovery in 1992. He speaks nationally about the evolution of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment - and the interesting evolving interface with available new laboratory evidence for complex presentations. His new book The Patient's Guide for ADHD Medications explores frequently overlooked issues with an ADHD Paradox: we are treating Attention Disorders without paying attention to the available brain and body science.
Neuroscience Evidence Changes Thinking