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Addiction & Recovery Blog

By Jenny Hunt 22 Jan, 2018
So often I talk about the big blessings of sobriety – great job, great life, great friends, great relationship with my family, and that feeling of inner peace and contentment. Sometimes I forget about the little things. Little things that were so out of my reach in addiction, I didn’t even believe they were possible. So here are some of those things, in no particular order:
By Emily Johanson 18 Jan, 2018
If a stranger in a gas station parking lot asks this question, it’s easy to assume what’s going on.

“Nope. I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yep, thanks.”

After working a full day, then sitting through a 4-hour class, the last thing I was in the mood for was to be pestered by a drug dealer at 11 p.m. All I wanted was to get my Marlboro Smooths and go home.

As I got into my car, annoyed by the fact that I had to start it with pliers (broken car keys aren’t worth the $200 replacement), something told me to stop.

I reversed, and rolled down my window next to the mysterious black Toyota.

“What are you selling?”

He told me that he had whatever I needed: Weed, percs, Xanax, heroin, flakka, oxies, you name it.

Addiction was too close to home to keep from speaking up.

“Do you realize what you’re doing? Do you realize what you’re selling?”

He was silent for a minute, staring at me. After what felt like eternity looking into this man’s eyes, I decided that I had the freedom to continue. What else do I say? I began to tell some of my story. I served him my heart on a silver platter.

“You don’t have to do this. There are other ways to make money.”

He looked down in shame. I encouraged him to take a few of my Desert Rose company cards in case he knew someone who needed help. He got out of his car, took the cards from my hand and stood there, shaking his head. With tears in his eyes, he said, “They’re for me.”

I sat there with this guy for 45 minutes while he poured out his heart and story.

Gary told me he’s 49 years old, works on classic cars by day, and sells drugs by night for extra money. He has a beautiful son who he loves with all of his heart. When he removed his hat and pulled his shirt collar aside, his bald head and IV port revealed his personal nightmare: Gary was also fighting stage four colon cancer. He made it clear that his cancer was not an excuse for his behavior, or for his personal drug use.

I was caught off guard when Gary squeezed my hands and began to pray. He prayed against forces of the enemy. He prayed for blessing over my life. He prayed protection and favor over his son. For himself, he prayed for wisdom and strength to do the next right thing.

As he walked back to his car, he turned around and said, “It’s time for me to go home and kiss my son good night. Thank you for reminding me of what’s important.”

Every day, we pass people by, like they’re just part of the scenery. We have absolutely no clue what kind of story, beauty, and pain lie beneath the surface.

If you're in pain, please know we understand and we're ready to help. Call us today at (844) 338-5587. 
By Jodi MacNeal 16 Jan, 2018
How do you carry your recovery into the world? Do you pin it on daily, like a badge of honor? Do you bring it out just for special occasions, or do you keep it well and truly hidden?

Last month, a longtime acquaintance told me (in slightly hushed tones) that he’s in recovery. 

I was glad that I didn't hear any traces of shame or guilt in his voice. His long-ago drinking and drug use? It’s just the life he was living at the time. He’s not afraid of being judged, or of any stigma attached to substance abuse and recovery.

It’s just that he’s moved on. He’s private about being in recovery and it’s not particularly relevant to the life he's achieved – husband, father, business owner, artist, athlete. He sponsors people, even quietly mentions that he’s a former addict when he thinks it might help somebody. He probably won’t bring it up with his kids unless they ask him point-blank, once they’re old enough to understand. It’s a crazy-healthy way to be.

For some people, declaring their recovery to the world is a part of staying clean. It gives them a sense of identity and a tribe – their own #MeToo community. They’re vocal, active, engaged. These are the folks going into the prisons, leading the meetings, talking to groups of high school students and their parents. Walking though recovery means talking about recovery. They have no secrets.

Then there are others who’ve closed and locked the door. The subject is not open for discussion, and if you happen to touch upon it, everybody’s going to feel a little uncomfortable for a while. This happened to me not long ago, with a pastor friend. Trying to find a way to refuse a glass of prosecco I offered, he made a joke about being an overachiever in everything – including, at one time, drinking. He made his point in a way that made it clear that was all he was planning to say on the matter. His right, and I respect that.

It seems to me that there are a million ways to navigate long-term recovery. What’s your way?
By Jenny Hunt 12 Jan, 2018
It’s heartbreaking to have a child in active addiction. You feel helpless, worried to your core, and very, very sad. You want them to change, but nothing you do seems to make any difference. You can’t understand why they can’t stop.

Addiction is a complex disease, and it’s not always easy to understand or relate to your addicted child. What you should know is addicts are master manipulators with a lot to hide. They have to be, because they want to continue using or drinking. They don’t know how to deal with life without drugs and alcohol.

There is one thing that no addict wants you to know. A truth they may not even acknowledge to themselves, but I’m going to let you in on it:
By Jodi MacNeal 22 Dec, 2017
To make my personal Sober Cookie™ Challenge complete, I always figured I’d have to fail at least once. I’d have to see what it feels like to re-set the clock.

It happened Wednesday night, but there was nothing fact-finding about it. It was completely and totally emotion-driven and irrational, an overt act of rebellion and self-harm.

When I got home from work I was hungry and tired and upset, and I blew my Sober Cookie™ Challenge as a specific and intentional act of defiance. I was on my third cookie before my teenager walked into the kitchen and grabbed my arm. “Mom! Don’t!”

Instantly I flashed to a parallel universe – a child begging Mom not to take another drink. I blew him off and tried not to see the confusion and disappointment in his eyes.

My relapse went on and on. Eventually I went out to the store and bought a tub of tapioca pudding and a bag of chips so I could continue my binge. I was alone at the house and I intentionally and willfully self-sabotaged with food, almost daring myself to keep going until I felt sick.

Here are the questions I have for you, if you’re in recovery or in active addiction: Is this how it is for you?
By Hannah P. 19 Dec, 2017
Editor’s Note: The author, whose son is in recovery, lives in Israel. She has given Desert Rose permission to share the story of her personal holiday challenge.
By Jodi MacNeal 12 Dec, 2017
That was the day I took receipt of 596 of the prettiest cookies you’d ever want to see. Enormous, elegant silver-and-white snowflakes, teeny Christmas trees, and cheerful snowmen, each hand-crafted for Desert Rose by an artist/baker in Southern California (Jen, from Sugary Sweet Cookies ).

Until then, the cookies in my path had been easy to ignore:
  1. Platter of shrink-wrapped grocery store cookies, probably baked in 2011. Meh.
  2. Those Danish butter cookies that come in the blue tin. Wouldn’t walk two steps out of my way for those.
  3. Fresh chocolate-dipped almond cookies from a local Italian bakery, hand-delivered by a professional acquaintance. Those had the potential to be trouble, so I handed them off immediately to our clinical director.
But then roughly 50 dozen fresh-baked cookies, each individually wrapped, arrived for our in-house Sober Cookie™ Challenge. For the first time, it dawned on me: Not only are these morsels going to live in my office for a week or more, it’s my job to transfer every single one into our Christmas gift boxes. Oh, dear.

I voiced that tiny bit of personal anguish to one of our therapists. “So you failed to think through the consequences of your action,” she observed. “That’s pretty standard behavior in addiction.” I didn’t know that before. Yet another thing this challenge has taught me.

A half-hour later, our director of operations – who is not doing the challenge, the coward – begged a cookie. He took one bite and rolled his eyes in ecstasy. “Oh, MAN, that’s delicious. Want a bite? Just one little taste? One won’t hurt you.” His point was not subtle.

I didn’t crumble that day, nor the next. But it came really close. Our office was virtually deserted Friday as I worked on our holiday boxes, and those cookies started calling. Not the perfect ones, but the very few that had crumbled a bit in transit and can’t be given away. Those would have been the ones I’d have scarfed down without thinking, pre-SCC.

So instead I went home a little early and had some chocolate. I realize the hypocrisy of that. I can stay true to the Sober Cookie™ Challenge as long as I don’t eat a cookie… but I can get sugar 100 other ways. An alcoholic can’t play by those rules. She can’t give up her daily beers, but allow herself a shot of vodka when the cravings kick in.

We’ve never said that giving up cookies is the same thing as staying clean from drugs or alcohol . Not remotely close. What we have maintained is that it would give the rest of us a glimpse of the hard and endless work of staying sober. I can now say I’ve failed to consider the consequences of my actions, I’ve faced peer pressure and the physical pangs of cravings, I’ve had to take evasive action more than once, and the only thing that’s stopped me is the accountability I feel to others doing the challenge with me. Awareness, 5. Cookies, 0.

Desert Rose is sponsoring the Sober Cookie™ Challenge to build awareness of the difficulty of life in recovery. If you (or someone you know) is ready for sobriety, please call us at 844.338.5587 .


By Jodi MacNeal 08 Dec, 2017
Amy* reached out through our Desert Rose Facebook page to ask a fascinating question. She works at a university and wants to share the Sober Cookie™ Challenge with college students in recovery. But she has one reservation:
By Jodi MacNeal 06 Dec, 2017

Most every day about this time, I brew a cup (fresh-ground Peet’s Major Dickason blend) and I treat myself to a biscotti. Nonni’s triple-chocolate, unless I’ve recently baked a batch of the spiced chocolate variety I love best.

But today it’s just a big, red mug of coffee, because I’m on Day Five of the Desert Rose Sober Cookie™ Challenge. It’s tempting to exempt my biscotti (it’s not a cookie, it’s an Italian biscuit!), but I’m holding true to the spirit of the challenge.

My coffee’s lonely, and I feel the tiniest sense of emptiness as well. I’m not going to get those 10 grams of sugar that boost my mood and my energy and help me over the finish line of the work day. I miss the anticipation of the first chocolate-y bite, the daily dilemma – to dunk or not to dunk? – and the way I try to make my cookie/biscuit last for five bites instead of four.

People in recovery, I’m told, sometimes miss their drugs in this way. They miss the anticipation of using. They miss the sensation of the first hit or the first sip, and the familiar feeling of being under the drug’s influence. It’s like my longing for an afternoon biscotti, times about a million.

I’m doing this challenge to look for insight. To look for common ground with the people I see come in our doors each day. What I’m trying to do – what I hope everyone taking the Sober Cookie™ Challenge is trying to do – is to blur the line between “us” and “them.”

I’m as flawed a human being as the woman who’s trying to quit booze or the guy who’s in his tenth trip to rehab. I don’t know the pull of drugs or alcohol. That’s not because of anything I did or didn’t do. That’s just by the grace of God.

Today’s bit of awareness, for me, is to remember how much people can miss the rituals surrounding their drug use, even as they work to be free. We build our lives around rituals and habits. Is relapse any wonder?

I never understood relapse before I came to work at Desert Rose rehab just a few months ago. Like so many others, I thought addiction was a kind of stubbornness. I was so wrong. I feel ashamed for ever having thought that.

The people who come through our program, the ones who are really ready to do the work, are as brave as anybody you’ll ever meet. Anybody who’s come out of addiction into lasting recovery is worthy of respect for that achievement. The Sober Cookie™ Challenge is a tribute to every one of them.


By Jodi MacNeal 01 Dec, 2017

It’s rare for a small rehab center to have a writer on staff. A lot of places have huge marketing departments, but that’s not us. Desert Rose invests in people, not advertising.

I’m here to capture the stories of our clients, to put resources in the hands of people who need them, and to find thoughtful ways to share the world of addiction and recovery.

It’s the best part of my day when a young person – and they’re pretty much all young ­– sits on the little white loveseat in my office to tell me their story. It’s also usually the toughest, because of everything they’ve gone through. To a one, they’ve been brave, vulnerable and honest.

Not long ago, I sat with someone who is strong, straight-talking, and smart. Like most of our clients, there was a long history of family dysfunction, alcoholism, drugs, relapse, and trauma.

But clearly there was something else, something that took a couple hours to get to. It was an anguish about a deeply personal matter, along with the fear that no one – not parents, not friends, not even this loving Desert Rose community – would understand. We talked and cried, and finally went our separate ways.

 As I drove home, I thought a lot about how we all just want to be understood . How, I wondered, could I possibly grasp what it’s like to fight every day to stay clean and sober?

Sugar. That could be the key to understanding. We’re just about to enter the season when sugar is everywhere . What if I said I wouldn’t eat a single Christmas cookie, so I could feel the cravings and temptations, and fight my brain’s deep desire for the dopamine rush? What if we asked everyone to take that pledge?

So the Sober Cookie™ Challenge was born.

I’m not a scientist, but I’m told that sugar stimulates the same pleasure receptors in the brain as drugs and alcohol, though to a far lesser degree. Not only will that cookie taste good, it will feel good. And your brain tells you another cookie will feel even better. And so on.

When you’re stressed or when you’re depressed or when you’re sad, the sugar in that cookie is going to give you a pick-me-up. If you’re hurting, it might numb your pain for a few seconds. You crave it. In the long run, it’s not very good for you.

In other words, it’s a drug, of sorts.

Now, hear me: I cannot know what an addict’s life is like just because I’m vowing to give up cookies for a few weeks . The Sober Cookie™ Challenge isn’t meant to make light of the life-and-death nature of addiction. We’re not suggesting that giving up a sugar cookie is the same thing as giving up heroin or scotch. It’s my worst fear that somebody’s going to misunderstand our motive, take offense, or be hurt.

Instead, it all just comes back to that young person who sat in my office, crying out to be understood. Here’s what I’d like to say to that courageous soul: You inspired this challenge. Everyone who joins this movement wants to understand, in the tiniest possible way, what it’s like for you to stay clean and sober. We love you, we care, and you are not alone.

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