Addiction: Can You Really Make a New You for 2018?

New Year, New You: Putting Your Addiction Behind You

You may have been derailed, but now you’re in the process of getting your life back on track. It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. Here are a few ideas to make those dreams a reality while continuing to enjoy recovery and sobriety.

Take a trip. Recovery is the perfect time to enjoy life. Not only will you meet new people and see new things, you’ll gain a fresh perspective on the world. When you’re in the middle of your addiction, you lose sight of everything except your next fix. Traveling gives you something exciting to prepare for and will help you discover things about yourself you’ve never known. Recovering addict Carl Towns explains in this inspiring post how travel has helped him remain sober.

Get a dog. The reasons to get a dog in your recovery are almost endless, but for now, we’ll stick to the basics. Having a dog will give you a new sense of responsibility, something which you may have robbed yourself of when using. Dogs also provide unconditional love, another aspect of your life that you may have missed. Having a four-legged friend around encourages physical activity and can even be a great way to meet new people—people who will become positive influences on your life. Another notable benefit of having pets is that being with these creatures alleviates stress and anxiety and can stave off depression. Even if you’re unable to have your own dog, you can consider dog walking and even make a little money while enjoying some canine companionship.

Start your own business. Starting your own business gives you something to look forward to each day. It puts you in control of your own financial fate and holds you accountable for how you choose to spend your time and money. You might, for example, start with a pet-sitting or dog-walking service. As you struggle with regaining trust from others and yourself, this is a great way to lead into your new role as an active member of society. Additionally, starting your own business gives you an opportunity to pursue your passions, become a mentor, and create stability for yourself and your family, according to Entrepreneur.

Expand your social network. When you were using, you may have kept company that encouraged, or at the very least didn’t discourage, your bad behavior. Now that you’ve regained clarity, it’s time to expand your social network to include people who will build you up instead of bring you down. As a former user, you may find it easier to connect with new friends who don’t have any preconceived notions about you based on past actions. Networking isn’t only good for your personal life. Expanding your social circle is a great way to positively influence your business.

Face your fears. Often, we use drugs and alcohol as a way to hide from the things that scare us the most. Now that you’ve climbed out of that hole, it’s time to face your fears head on and with a clear mind and strong body. No matter what you’re afraid of, take it one step at a time. If you’re afraid of being alone, for example, spend the night away from home. Once you learn to control your reaction to fear triggers, they will no longer control you.

Living with addiction feels like being trapped in a bubble. Now that yours has been popped, don’t force yourself into another invisible prison by being too scared or ashamed to accomplish your goals. You’ve already done the hardest part by stepping above your vices. The key is to stay in motion and never lose sight of your end goals, no matter what they may be. Your life from today forward is a blank canvas; only you can paint it.

This post was guest written by Adam Cook of

Image via Pixabay


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Are You Mentally Strong Enough to Beat Addiction? — Valentino Therapy

You Need Mental Strength to Succeed. Are You Mentally Strong Enough? Do you struggle and lack success with exercising, losing weight, stop drinking or using? Many of my clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, California have struggled with developing the mental strength to stop drinking, to date, to try for a better job, to […]

via Are You Mentally Strong Enough? — Valentino Therapy

Why Alcoholics Crave Sweets

Why Alcoholics Crave Sweets

This is an excellent article written by Kristen McGuiness. I urger you to follow her work.

By Kristen McGuiness 08/03/11

When we put down the bottle and the blow, we often reach for the cookies and candy. But when does that last pint of Ben and Jerry’s become just one pint too many?


How sweet it is   Photo via

“My sugar problems started immediately after I got sober,” says Marie, a 35-year-old schoolteacher with long curly hair and a gymnast’s frame who has been sober over three years. “Before I really started drinking, I had the most enormous sweet tooth, but then by the end, the sound of anything sweet sounded disgusting to me. I was getting all the sugar I needed from booze. But then when the booze was gone, the sugar came back.”

Marie wasn’t allowed to have sugar as a child “so once I could finally access it in all its glorious formats, it was on,” she says. “By the time I could eat it, I had a full-blown eating disorder. Last night, I left a meeting early and went and bought a Danish and a donut and a cinnamon roll and a brownie and Skittles and an ice cream bar. I have been known to buy an entire pie and eat half of it for dinner. I eat really healthy otherwise, but then I go on sugar benders. It’s an emotional balm.”

“I tell myself that I’m going to abstain from processed sugar and limit my natural sugar intake—and then along comes a cupcake, and there I am, diving right back into it.”

According to Tennie McCarty, the founder and CEO of the eating disorder treatment center Shades of Hope, Marie is not alone. “Often we will see addicts switch off from one drug to another, whether that other drug is nicotine or sugar or other foods,” McCarty says. “Not everyone will take it to the depths that they have taken their primary addiction.”

McCarty mentions a man she treated whose addiction to sugar made him sicker than the one he had with alcohol. “Jim was a football player and a Gulf War veteran, and in general, was a healthy, athletic man, but then he started drinking and became an alcoholic,” she says. “Thankfully, he got sober but then he started smoking. He was forced to quit that for his health, and ended up gaining 150 pounds from eating sweets. If you ask him if he’s a sober, yeah, he’s sober, but he’s dying from the effects of sugar. And that’s the sad part of people not looking at the other addictions they might face.”

Forty-year old Jack, who is eight years sober after years of addiction to alcohol and crack, relates. “I battle my sugar intake every single day,” he says. “It’s demoralizing because I tell myself that I’m going to have a healthy and sober lifestyle that I see others having—that I’m going to abstain from processed sugar and limit my natural sugar intake—and then along comes a cupcake, and there I am, diving right back into it.”

According to Phil Werdell, the co-founder of ACORN Food Dependency Recovery Services and director of ACORN’s professional training program, it isn’t surprising that alcoholics transfer into food addiction. “All the research has shown that when people binge on carbs and sugar, and then restrict, the body creates an endogenous opioid. It is released in the body much like the chemicals released when people are doing other narcotics. The PET and CAT scans of food addicts look almost identical to that of alcoholics and drug addicts, showing that sugar creates a physical addiction. In addition, sugar addicts carry the same D2 dopamine receptor, the gene that identifies addiction, as alcoholics and addicts. In those ways, biochemically, food addiction is just like addiction to drugs and alcohol. When we talk to recovering alcoholics and addicts who are finding their way to Overeaters Anonymous, we find a very common refrain: I started using sugar or food just like I was using alcohol.”

That was Jack’s experience. “In the morning, I have a bowl of sugary cereal, and then I have two mini-apple pies, and that’s before I even start my day,” he confesses. “I consistently have the argument with myself, promising myself that I will quit the next day, and then I don’t. The longer I’m from alcohol and drugs, the more I realize how similar both addictions are. I understand the physical allergy of alcohol because I realize how powerless I am over sugar.”

Mary Foushi, a co-founder of ACORN and a recovered food addict, offers, “Alcoholism is simply another form of sugar and grain: it is just being drank as opposed to eaten. People we work with say that putting down the alcohol is nothing compared to putting down the food, and the dangers of sugar addiction can be just as bad if not far worse: obesity, diabetes, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, degeneration of bones and joints.”

You can recover from sugar addiction, just like you can with alcohol and drugs, but first you have to be willing to admit and accept that it’s a problem.

Adds Werdell, “A major reason people don’t see their relationship to sugar as unhealthy is that most of the culture and the medical community doesn’t see that food is addictive in the same way as drugs and alcohol. Most of the food we are sold is contaminated with foods that are highly addictive, and this is why many people become sugar addicts at much younger ages than they become drug or alcohol users.”

Sugar addiction has been in Jack’s family for many generations. “My great-great grandmother was a diabetic with high blood pressure,” he says. “Growing up, we had healthy food but then at the same time, we were eating a lot of sugar. Soda, candy, sugary cereals and other sweets—we were never checked by our parents because they were just as addicted to sugar, and now they’re both diabetic.”

The good news, according to McCarty, is that since alcohol and sugar problems are so similar, so are their solutions. “You can recover from sugar addiction, just like you can with alcohol and drugs, but first you have to be willing to admit and accept that it’s a problem,” she explains. “The consequences from sugar addiction are different. With alcohol, it’s legal or family or financial problems. You’ll have some of that with the sugar addiction but it’s usually more the medical problems that will bring someone to their bottom.”

Cat, a freelance writer who battled her weight and sugar addiction for the first five years of her sobriety, had to come to terms with what was driving the addiction. “I used sugar to deal with people,” she admits. “I used it when I was lonely. I used it in all the ways I had used alcohol and drugs. When my weight continued to increase, I started remembering a friend who had decided to relapse so that he could lose weight through drugs. I began to wonder if that was a good idea, and that’s when I knew something had to change. I decided even though I didn’t go to rehab for my alcoholism, I needed it for my sugar addiction.”

According to Foushi, “If someone is addicted to sugar, they need to detox from it. They can be at all different stages of the addictive cycle, and still require detox. Afterwards, they have to decide what level of abstinence they need to stay healthy. There are some people who can have zero levels of sugars and they need to be very careful about what is in their food. Some people are so severe that they can’t eat fruit. Others might just have to say no to desserts. But people with severe sugar issues are going to need ongoing support through an out-patient or 12-step program.”

Cat’s trip to a treatment helped her to begin working on those underlying issues that she was eating over. “I realized that sugar was helping me cope just like alcohol once had, and I needed to start learning how to cope without any substances,” she says. “I have been able to eat sugar in moderation but any time I start overdoing it, I have learned to stop myself and see what is going on in my life and ask: what emotion or issue am I trying to avoid by eating sugar?”

Says McCarty, “If people are searching for something to medicate the feelings, they will continue to do that until they look at what they are using over. It’s about quality of life. Not everyone needs to use something. People live their lives, they deal with the issues, and they can recover…from all of their addictions.”

Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about the 13th step and dreaming about drinking, among many other topics. She is a former intern for High Times and the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life

Valentino Therapy is now offering online e-mail counseling.

Valentino Therapy

E-mail Online Therapy –  phpThumb_generated_thumbnail

Valentino Therapy is now offering online e-mail counseling for your convenience

By Sharon Valentino, CA LMFT #51746

What’s in it for you or those you feel may benefit?             


  •  Convenience. With e-mail counseling you compose your thoughts anytime, anywhere you want on your computer, tablet or mobile device. This can be especially effective for those who may be challenged to verbalize quickly or who like to think a bit before they speak.
  •  Online therapy is very convenient and affordable.
  •  Most people recognize the many documented benefits of journaling and that writing, itself, is a powerful form of therapy. Others say it is how they keep themselves mentally healthy and resilient.
  •  Online, or e-mail, therapy’s aim is to be therapeutic writing wherein you collect your thoughts and feelings unhampered by a clock about to indicate your in-person session is at an…

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THIS is the beginning of anything you want.

THIS is the beginning of anything you want.

What will you do today to start that in motion?

Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
Sharon Valentino
Valentino Therapy, CA LMFT, MA, ChT, Psychotherapist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (51746)
3030 Bridgeway, Suite 108, Sausalito, CA 94965
Serving individuals & couples in the San Francisco Bay Area
Psychotherapist, Registered Addiction Specialist, Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor, Masters Counseling Psychology, Stress, Anxiety, Relationships, Depression, PTSD, Pain, Family & Couples Issues



I urge you to check out Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience™, Finding Your Flow! It’s free.
These guided meditations are very useful, healthful and peaceful – very high quality music, sound and visuals.
All you do is sign up online well before it begins at:
FREE is good.
So is doing something nice for yourself.
Mark your calendar – Finding Your Flow begins April 14, 2014.

Sharon Valentino, CA LMFT, MA, ChT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (51746)


3030 Bridgeway, Suite 108, 
Sausalito, CA , 94965, phone 415.215.5363
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area
Follow my primary Blog:
 for updates on this and other matters than may interest you and can help you live more of the life you want.


Let’s Get Serious About Alcohol Abuse

Let’s Get Serious About Alcohol Abuse.

Really Serious.

Most people who drink too much are not honest with themselves about what they are doing and how it is affecting them and others. This doesn’t surprise you, but it is usually surprising and unpleasant to alcoholics.
This article is only about reality which, in my practice, is the hardest part of recovery.
I’ve written many times about how to beat alcoholism.
This time I’m only writing about reality.
It may be hard to read, but please hang in until you get to the bottom, because reading this and those charts at the bottom can turn your life around. Actually, they can get you to decide to get your life back. Or, help you save a loved one.
Yes, I said alcoholic above. Few people who come to me call themselves alcoholics. They say they drink too much and they’d like to cut back but they “can’t see themselves never being able to drink again”. This is a direct quote since it is what I have heard, verbatim, so many times for so many years. I still hear it, almost every day.
I’ve treated a lot of people who are addicted to substances. Alcoholics have many similarities to those who abuse drugs but they are also unique in many ways as noted below.
You might be surprised to hear that my alcoholic  clients, past and present, have a lot in common with each other. See if any of these apply to you or your loved one.

  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics do not drink enough water to be healthy, for proper brain function.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics complain they don’t want to drink adequate amounts of healthy, pure water because it will make them go to the bathroom more often, so I wonder if that worse than dying of alcoholism?
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics complain a lot. They blame people and situations. They blame their former therapists and rehabs. They even blame their current therapist for lack of immediate success – even when they will NOT follow their own jointly derived Treatment Plan.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t “want to be told what to do”. This includes being angry with worried friends and family who offer comments and advice. Is it easier to blame others and come up with excuses than to save your career? Your friendships? Your driver’s license and freedom to drive? Your life?
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics are in danger of harming their brain. Many already have. Most talk around in circles about what they know they could/should do and why they won’t do it. Many already have trouble sticking to the point and have flights of ideas where the slightest of details send them off on one or several tangents that  repeatedly go way off subject. It’s hard to listen to them or have a conversation. It tends to make listeners anxious and want to get away. Family members may say GET TO THE POINT in frustration and fear because of the damage they are seeing.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t want to try a few different AA meetings to see if any seem compatible. They tend to judge the other attendees and think they have nothing in common with most, or all, of them – yet they have everything in common.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics blame their past, but a majority also claim it is too painful to talk about in detail or process – so it festers. Some claim we don’t talk about it enough, even though the bulk of the sessions are, of necessity, taken up dealing with the latest auto accident, trip to ER or jail/DUI, or fall, or blackout, pass out, fainting, tripping accident or other dangerous and life threatening events.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics adamantly refuse rehab or visiting a physician who specializes in using drugs that help control cravings, to reduce or stop drinking. However, be prepared, because we will discuss options and alternatives each visit.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics do not have and cannot maintain satisfying romantic relationships because their first love is alcohol. It takes the place of, and crowds out, the possibility of respect, love and partnership with a sober person. Sometimes, however, a romantic interest can be a catalyst for change, even if it is only a flirtation or hope of repairing a current relationship.
  • Most of my clients resist any type of tracking how much they drink, let alone charting or writing it down. They resist paper tracking, or putting a cup or spoon on the counter or table with each drink consumed for a graphic example of how many drinks they’ve really had each day. They don’t want to know and they don’t want me to know.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t have enough to do to occupy their minds, they have little or nothing to hope for, and they have nothing interesting to put in their hands besides a drink.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics are smart, interesting, sensitive people who anyone would really want to help immediately upon meeting them. Many are very funny, wry or insightful – except about themselves.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics have managed financially one way or another, they certainly are not destitute, though their finances and happiness could be much better if they devoted themselves to anything with as much energy as they devote to the booze.
  • Most of my clients complain of feeling depressed, yet they pound their body with a strong depressant – alcohol – and wonder why they’ve been feeling more and more depressed as they drink more and more not to feel so depressed.
  • Most of my clients who are alcoholics are in serious denial about what the amount of alcohol they consume is doing to them.
  • Virtually all of my clients, past and present, greatly underestimate the BAC (read below), which could cost them their freedom or their lives.
  • All of my clients deserve a better, happier, healthier life – which they can achieve as soon as they get serious about their disease.

Without even considering the 14 million people living in the US who qualify as alcoholics, most people are not realistic about what even moderate drinking does to them.
Anyone with a history of “over-drinking”, or the genetic component of having alcoholics in your family, are at considerable risk of going from believing they are light drinkers to actually being addicted.

  • You can’t get a good night’s sleep because you’ve seriously disturbed your ability to do so. Though it can help you to go to sleep for the light drinker, it also assures you will wake up in 2-4 hours and often decide it’s a good idea to drink more to get back to sleep a second or third time. This makes it difficult to cut back or stop drinking. Without quality sleep you have trouble with clear, concise thinking and decision-making.
  • Here’s what scares me and causes a lot of conversation with my clients: even small amounts of booze can inhibit your REM sleep which can damage or even kill your brain cells and the body organisms that provide the brain with vital materials to use for energy, critical nutrients and energy to think and conduct normal life affairs.
  • Even your excuses don’t make sense to others. Judgment is impaired, unnecessary things are said or brooded on, and decisions are made to just stay home and drink or, worse yet, that you are fine to drive.
  • The majority of my clients are on some kinds of drugs for health issues. These interact dangerously with alcohol, especially acetaminophen, pain meds, sleeping, meds and certainly antidepressants, etc. Shockingly, clients absolutely ignore this very high risk to their health, safety and their very lives.
  • Since your immune system is impaired for about 72 hours after a night of heavy drinking, you damage your body’s ability to fight off disease and sickness. Drinkers often get sick for this reason. Imagine what this means for chronic abusers. It’s common for drinkers to be nutritionally deficient, since alcohol lessens desire to eat in a healthy manner and even blocks the absorption and use of vital nutrients in your body. Some physicians who specialize in addiction are concerned about folic acid deficiency since it helps build DNA and is needed for proper cell division. Alcohol blocks its  ability to be absorbed and also neutralizes it in your blood. Therefore, doctors have alcoholics take supplements of folic acid daily to counteract this and lower cancer risk. Add folic acid only if your Dr. advises it.

Heavy or chronic drinking can harm every organ in your body.
There many long lists of diseases and problems proven to be associated with heavy drinking. Only a few of them are:

  • Seizures, falls, fainting
  • Relationships damaged or destroyed
  • Stroke leading to death or paralysis
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Infertility
    Hypertension – How many alcoholics do you know that are also on high blood pressure meds?
  • Cardiac disorders and death
  • Alcoholic hepatitis, an ugly disease
  • Stomach, oral, breast, liver, and colon cancer
  • Anemia
  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Ulcers
  • Pancreatitis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Severe sleep disorders, primary insomnia, sleep apnea and long term sleep disturbances (reliance on meds)
  • Liver damage and death from liver disease
    Your BAC is your Blood Alcohol Content and it is the amount of alcohol present in your blood. When rehab or the police (or your own hand held device) give you a breathalyzer test, samples of air are taken from deep within your lungs, giving reliable enough estimates of your BAC to be used in court, even if a blood test isn’t used.
    Be kind to yourself. Therapy helps.
Sharon Valentino, CA LMFT, MA, ChT, Psychotherapist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (51746)


3030 Bridgeway, Suite 108, 
Sausalito, CA , 94965, phone 415.215.5363
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area
Follow my primary Blog:
 for updates on this and other matters than may interest you and can help you live more of the life you want.

Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment, and Prevention Service at Washington State University
Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reduction Approach by Linda A. Dimeff, John S. Baer, Daniel R. Kivlahan, and G. Alan Marlatt. 1999 and the work of Dr. Pat Fabiano at Western Washington University.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. One drink = 1oz. 80 proof spirits =3 oz. glass of 12% wine = 12 oz. of 5% beer.
BAE – Blood Alcohol Educator
An interactive, educational program, available in English and Spanish, developed in conjunction with the University of Illinois that informs the public about Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels and how alcohol affects you.
Alcohol Studies Database
Contains over 70,000 citations for journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, conference papers, and audio-visual materials dealing with Alcohol research
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Government site for prevention of substance abuse. Includes news, research and resources.