Time of Reflection

Gary Nelson, ICCDP

Program Director and Addiction Counselor

Feel Better, Live Better

It all started when I was 17 years old on a hot July day in the rolling hills of the lake country in northern Minnesota. My best friend and I planned a camping trip on the shores of Long lake located on our family’s farm. I had been trying to deal with the loss of my Mother in an auto accident 2 months earlier. The feelings of loss, grief and trauma were overwhelming. My best friend knew I needed to get away and have some fun as we always had done in the past. But this time it was different. Yes, we went fishing and caught fresh fish for our evening fish fry, and caught and released even more northern pike and walleye. Some swimming in the warm waters and what a great get away it was.

This time it was different. My friend had brought a bottle of blackberry brandy, taken from his older brother as a campfire surprise. Up to this point I had always refused any alcohol or drugs as I was an athlete, good student, went to church, and only swore when I thought no one would hear. But my time had come to say yes to alcohol, what could it hurt, it couldn’t be worse than I had been feeling the past months.

What I found was the answer I had been searching for. My feelings of pain and agony left me. It was great! The warmth and the taste were overpowering. The effect of the alcohol arrived and I knew that this was what I needed to deal with life as presented to me. I laughed and carried on as if I found my old self of being happy, and free of the feelings of loss, grief, and trauma. I knew that if I drank alcohol life would seem tolerable.

That fall I started my freshman year in college and was fortunate to have a great roommate in the athletes’ dorm as I was the freshman athletic trainer. He was the freshman quarterback recruit, a straight shooter, no alcohol or drugs. I had to hide my alcohol use from him. As the year went on I struggled with the loss of my mother, being away from my father and sisters, and trying to focus on education and homework. My drinking was the only way to make it through the college experience and quickly became an almost daily occurrence. It was the only way to keep those feelings of loss, grief and trauma at bay. I was a good person, I only drink some alcohol, I don’t do drugs.

Winter break arrived and I finally made it back home for the Holidays. I thought it would be a reprieve from college life, but I was faced with the strain that other members of my family were also facing. Then on the second night home my father died at home from a heart attack. Those feelings from the past returned stronger than ever. I had to move back home and start classes at the local community college. Alcohol was not as available. How do I deal with this?

I was an athlete, good student, went to church, and only swore when I thought no one would hear and I didn’t do drugs, until now. Within a few short weeks, I was presented the opportunity to try marijuana. What alcohol had done for me earlier that year marijuana could do even better.

The next 27 years were very difficult and my response was to escape by abusing substances. As life continued for me many changes occurred. I worked at jobs, finished college, got married, and had children. One major thing did not change. I continued to use substances to change the way I felt, not being able to cope with the feelings of loss, grief, and trauma I had experienced decades before. After the continued use of substances for almost three decades and not dealing with life as it presents itself to me I had encouragement and support from family and friends to enter a program to address substance use and how to deal with life without using alcohol and drugs.

Fast forward to today. I have now completed twenty years of continuous recovery from substance abuse. This is not just by my efforts, but the efforts of 23.5 million other Americans in long term recovery supporting me. I still spend time in support meetings. I deal with my feeling of loss, grief, and trauma better without using alcohol and drugs. I know this is a disease of addiction and when treated and kept in remission I will continue to be a better person in all the facets of my life. I still enjoy activities as a Father and Grandfather, I go to church and recovery meetings, and I swear less even when I think others won’t hear me. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use issues, please know there is hope for you. Contact: Gary@PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

“Each one of us has walked through storm and fled the wolves along the road; but here the hearth is wide and warm, and for this shelter and this light accept our thanks, O Lord, tonight” — – Sara Teasdale

New Pharmaceutical Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Probuphine, a new tool to combat opiate addiction, is under review by the Food and Drug Administration. The new drug is designed to be implanted under the skin to deliver a continuous dose of buprenorphine. This may prove to be more effective than sub-lingual buprenorphine, which can be traded for drugs or used to keep opiate addicts out of physical withdrawal when their preferred opiates are unavailable. The drug, developed by Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc., is not yet available commercially, but could prove to be valuable weapon in the war on addiction.

Asking for Help

Asking for help is not easy. Our culture places enormous pressures on us to perform at peak levels most of the time. We are expected to be able to solve our problems ourselves. Self-reliance is a fine concept, but sometimes we need another perspective on our problems. Some problems, like addiction, are bigger than us. We need to look outside ourselves for the solution.

Asking for help is not easy. But it can be a bridge to a different way of living.

Alcohol Treatment: 5 Questions to Ask

Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse can be an intimidating process. It shouldn’t be.

The medical establishment characterizes addiction as a disease. We don’t feel ashamed to seek treatment for diabetes or heart disease. Why should alcohol abuse be any different?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends that individuals shopping around for addiction treatment, for either alcohol or drug abuse, ask the following five questions to potential treatment providers:

  1. Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
  2. Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of individual clients?
  3. Does the program adapt as the client’s needs change?
  4. Is the duration of the treatment sufficient?
  5. How do twelve-step or other recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?

Alcohol Use and Women

Addiction to alcohol occurs at a much faster rate in women than in men who abuse alcohol. Women metabolize alcohol different than men and hormone levels in females may also make them more susceptible to alcohol’s effects. As a result of excessive alcohol use, certain types of medical complications can result and include:

  • Heart disease and related heart complications
  • Poor nutrition
  • Menstruation complications such as early menopause
  • Fertility and childbirth complications
  • Breast cancer
  • Liver problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage such as shrinkage of the brain and dementia
  • High death rate from suicide and accidents

If you are concerned about your alcohol use or that of someone you care about, seeking the help of a professional who specializes in substance abuse treatment could be lifesaving.

Addiction Counseling: First Things First

What is addiction counseling? What is it like? People who struggle with addiction issues often have great difficulty talking about their, use, misuse, or abuse of alcohol and other drugs. An addiction counselor is someone skilled at these types of difficult conversations. An addiction counselor has a high level of knowledge and experience in the areas of drugs, alcohol, and the abuse of drugs or alcohol. Most importantly, addiction counselors understand the complex ways that alcohol and drug abuse affect an individual’s relationships: with himself or herself, with a spouse, with an employer, with God. An addiction counselor seeks to build a trusting relationship with the client in the hopes that this relationship will help the client make changes that once seemed impossible.


Expanding the Pinnacle Counseling team!

There are exciting things happening at Pinnacle Counseling. We have updated our website to feature the new additions to our counseling staff, Rachel Nachtigal, LPC and Joel Gray, LPC. They are proud members of the Pinnacle Counseling team, both specializing in Mental Health and Relationship Counseling.

You can follow all of the news straight from the source by checking out our website at http://pinnaclecounselingnwa.com/. Or by following us on twitter at @Pinnacle_Cares or liking us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PinnacleCounseling. So check them out and get to know us better. We look forward to hearing from you.

Addiction Treatment: Five Myths

“If addicts could stop on their own they wouldn’t be addicts.”

The above statement is true. Addicts need help to quit. They need effective inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. Addiction is a disease that can be treated. But without treatment many addicts and alcoholics die of the illness.

Addicts and alcoholics need all the help they can get from loved ones. The best help available is treatment for the disease of addiction.

Here are five myths about addiction. Are any of these myths preventing a loved one from getting the help they need?

1. Addicts and alcoholics need to reach rock bottom before they can accept help.

2. Addiction is a willpower problem. They could stop, if they really wanted to.

3. People don’t need treatment. They stop when they are truly motivated.

4. Treatment doesn’t work.

5. People must want treatment in order for it to be effective.


Check out our newest welcome video

As just one new feature of the Pinnacle website, we now have a new welcome video. The short clip explains who we are as a mental healthcare team and why we are proud of what we do at Pinnacle Counseling. For more information, click here to view the clip and we look forward to seeing you soon.