The Sober Cookie™ Challenge: Questions & Answers

  • 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:
I was concerned about the impact on folks who struggle with eating disorders. I'm wondering … if you've considered a way of making the challenge more inclusive of developing empathy and awareness for folks who struggle with SUDs as well as people who struggle with EDs. I'd love to post this on my office's Living Well page, but don't want to highlight the issues of one at the expense of another. I'd love to hear your feedback.
I’m so glad you asked, Amy.

For this first year of the challenge, we're watching the response really closely to see what unanticipated issues and questions arise. The notion of the Sober Cookie™ Challenge colliding with someone’s eating disorder certainly falls into that category.

First, we absolutely want to be inclusive. One way to amend the Sober Cookie™ Challenge would be to say, "Every time I see holiday cookies, I'm going to think of people in addiction and build my awareness of how often they are surrounded by temptation." (This also works if you’re one of those uber-healthy souls who doesn’t eat cookies to begin with, or if you love your cookies too much to give them up.)

Beyond that, though, I’d stress this overriding point. If you’ve been through rehab or detox or treatment for any addiction or behavioral disorder, you don’t need do the Sober Cookie™ Challenge. You’ve already done the hard work. You’ve gotten well and now you’re investing your energy in staying well. The Sober Cookie™ Challenge is designed for friends and family and coworkers to show you their love and support, and for them to deepen their empathy for all the temptations that surround you (especially this time of year). That applies to someone who’s overcome anorexia or bulimia as well as someone in recovery for alcoholism or substance abuse.

So Amy’s right. Someone with an eating disorder already has enough food-related struggles without piling on one more layer. One way to shape the Sober Cookie™ Challenge to support this person would be to say, “Every time I see a cookie this holiday, I’m going to remember just how much pain you’ve suffered and how much you’ve struggled with food. Usually, a cookie is something I’d eat without thinking, but it was a time bomb for you.”

Thank you for asking, Amy, and for broadening our awareness.

Some other FAQs:

How long does the Sober Cookie™ Challenge last?

In this inaugural year, we’ve intentionally left that up to each individual participant. Say you have your annual neighborhood cookie exchange on Dec. 20, and you simply can’t miss it. We’d rather have you do the challenge from now until the 19th than not do it at all. Some people will relapse and give up – that mimics what happens in addiction every day. Some people will relapse and try again. Ditto. I started my personal Sober Cookie™ Challenge on Dec. 1 and will consider it complete on Christmas Eve. Do whatever makes sense to you.

Is it all sweets, or just cookies? 

Again, the Sober Cookie™ Challenge police are unlikely to show up at your door, so do (or don’t do) whatever makes sense to you. Our Desert Rose psychologist simply can’t give up cookies because of her family’s holiday baking tradition. She makes a good point – pizzelles are tricky, and you have to taste them to make sure they’re right. Instead, she’s chosen to give up her daily cake pop. Another friend is trying to give up coffee, and feeling the wrath of sudden detox.

Is there a way to skip the Sober Cookie™ Challenge and make a donation instead?

Not this year. In this very first effort, the goal is to raise awareness, show support, and promote empathy. As we look ahead to next year’s Sober Cookie™ Challenge and beyond, we remain open to the possibility of working with a charitable partner to integrate a philanthropic component.
*First name only, to protect her privacy.

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.

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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 Jodi MacNeal 22 Jan, 2018
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By Jodi MacNeal 20 Jan, 2018
Two days after the 1986 NBA draft, No. 2 pick Len Bias was dead of cardiac arrest after of a cocaine overdose.

Len Bias: Best player Maryland had ever seen (maybe the best Maryland player ever, depending on how you feel about Juan Dixon). The future of the Celtics. About to sign an endorsement deal with Reebok. Life was perfect.

Cocaine killed that. He was 22.

Bias hadn’t left home to play college ball; he was a home-grown talent who came up just outside D.C. and played ball in Maryland so he wouldn’t have to leave his family. He had a future as wide-open and promising as any kid, ever. Already a star, a freak of athletic power and poise, he might have changed the world of professional basketball. He’d fueled the dreams of a thousand city kids who wanted to play like him, be him. He swaggered, Len Bias did. His opponents couldn’t fathom him: “He’d jump and his knees would be in my teeth.” He dunked on guys, whether he needed to or not, just because he could. Len Bias could fly.

And then cocaine ended him.

Here’s how it went down: Bias and three buddies were snorting coke in a dorm room, suite 1103 in Washington Hall. Bias did a line, tried to get up, fell back on the bad and lapsed into seizure. One guy held his legs. Another one put the handle of a pair of scissors in Bias’s mouth, to keep him from biting his own tongue. The third somehow called 911 and mumbled, over and over, that his friend was in trouble. Kept saying his friend’s name, even when the emergency operator told him it didn’t matter. “This is Len Bias. You have to get him back to life. There’s no way he can die.”

But drugs don’t differentiate. Substance use, abuse and addiction have attacked athletes across the spectrum of sport.

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 18 Jan, 2018
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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?
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