9 Things To Do Besides Drink When Life Gets You Down

By Beth Leipholtz for The Fix

Something that I thought was the end of my life was really the beginning, and that’s a powerful reminder when I am going through a difficult time.

cheerup 9 Things To Do Besides Drink When Life Gets You Down

Utilize other tools–healthier ones.

Upon getting sober, you’ll be told many times that it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. This seems like an obvious statement, as life has ups and downs. But the reason you’ll be told this is because you need to be prepared for how you’ll handle such ups and downs when drinking is no longer an option.

Lately I’ve been dealing with some hard things in life, things that feel beyond my control. I’ve been regretting past choices I made because of the current situation those choices have put me in. I tend to dwell on things like this, and they take up all of the open space in my mind and affect every aspect of my life. The old me would probably have started drinking in order to push those overbearing, anxious thoughts aside. But the sober me doesn’t have that choice. I know that today, escaping from myself isn’t an option. Instead, I need to utilize other tools—healthier ones.

When life has me down today, in sobriety, there are a few things I will do instead of turning to alcohol:

1. Reach out to friends and family. I’ve always had this option, but when I was drinking I didn’t lean on the people who loved me as much as I should have. In fact, I sort of pushed them away so that I could continue to drink. I felt uncomfortable talking about what was wrong in my life, like it made me less of a person to admit that there were imperfections in life. That was ridiculous, because everyone struggles. Today, I reach out to friends and family to talk about what is on my mind, and I know they will be there to offer everything they can. When I’m not drinking and burning bridges, it’s much easier to reach out to someone and know they’ll be there.

2. Work out. Working out has always been a good outlet, but I tend to forget that when I am in the throes of self pity. When you’re feeling down, exercising often feels like the absolute last thing you want to do. But it’s one of the best decisions you can make. When you exercise, it literally releases happy chemicals into the brain—mainly dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that affects feelings of pleasure and happiness. Working out is also a good stress reliever and a confidence booster. After a good, hard workout, problems have a way of seeming smaller and more manageable.

3. Write a gratitude list. I only started doing this recently, but I know many people in recovery who like to do so daily. It’s as simple as it sounds—grab a pen and paper, and write a list of all the things you are grateful for. Seeing these blessings on paper after you finish is a good reminder that life is not hopeless. Even on the days when it seems like everything is going wrong, you have sobriety to be grateful for. And my bet is that you can come up with quite a few other blessings as well.

4. Remind yourself that the only day you can do anything about is today. I’ll admit it, I am terrible about this. I tend to think about tomorrow, next year, 10 years from now. I am a planner and find it difficult to focus on only today. But in the big picture, that’s the only day we can really do anything about. Much like sobriety, it’s about taking life one day at a time. Breaking life down into small, simple pieces makes it a lot more manageable.

5. Cry. Yell. Feel. I used to hate expressing emotion this way because it made me feel weak and vulnerable. But getting sober meant going through a lot of emotions, and now these are emotions I am comfortable with. In fact, I cry all the time. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am frustrated. Letting emotion out that way may not change the situation, but it can relieve a lot of the build-up you may feel inside.

6. Get fresh air. This may not work for everyone, but for me, being in nature is calming. It makes me realize I am a small part of a big world, and that my problems are equally as small in the grand scheme of things. If you live in a city, find a park. If you live in the country, go for a long walk, or sit and watch the animals interact. Fresh air has a way of hitting the restart button on my brain and I always feel just a little more at ease after spending time outside.

7. Do what you can with what you have. I like to feel like I have control over a situation, even though this isn’t always realistic—and I know I’m not alone there. But some things are just beyond our control. Still, I feel better if I can take little actions, like writing out a list of what I need to do or change. It’s a way of at least doing something so that you feel you have some sort of control over what is going on.

8. Write—even if you are not a writer. Remember, no one has to see what you write. Grab a pen and a notebook and just put your thoughts down somewhere. Doing this is better than letting them all swirl around in your mind over and over. Journaling is therapeutic, and is recommended in many situations. Though it won’t necessarily change anything about your current situation, it may change your mindset, which can be helpful. Attitude and outlook go a long way when it comes to dealing with struggles.

9. Remind yourself of other hardships you’ve overcome. Whenever I feel like my world is crashing down around me, I like to remind myself that I also felt that way the day I got sober. I didn’t want to get sober, and I was convinced my life was over. I felt hopeless, helpless, empty. I didn’t think I could possibly feel full ever again, let alone enjoy sobriety. But in retrospect, sobriety was the best thing to ever happen to me. Something that I thought was the end of my life was really the beginning, and that’s a powerful reminder when I am going through a difficult time. Things have a way of working out as time passes, and they may even turn into blessings.

The bottom line is that problems don’t have to be solved by drinking. There are many other ways to adjust your mindset and your attitude, and even to take action when life gets tough. It’s just a matter of having the tools and knowing you have options.

It’s not too late

This is another of my Sales Motivation Quotes that applies very well far beyond sales and into life in general.

It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot.

I hope that you enjoy it.

 

Mindfulness And The “Functional Alco-Demic”

Source – AA Beyond Belief
Jim-W-Main-Picture Mindfulness And The “Functional Alco-Demic”

It remains vital for me to remember where I got to on my way to where I am today. Was I, and am I, really a full-blown alcoholic? The answer is obvious now but I didn’t accept it for a long time. In my worst alcoholic out-of-control era in 2014 and 2015, what became “normal” for me could include passing out drunk overnight in my own back garden, with my concerned wife anxiously sleeping inside the house, unaware I was there. Or it could be under a park bridge (again hiding from home) with a bottle of vodka communing with the Canada geese floating on the nearby pond, yet still somehow showing up the next day to present a lecture to my class at the University.

While at one level I appeared perhaps to be “functioning,” at another level I was careening back and forth behind the scenes between derelict and professor. I had no idea how many people at work could tell how messed-up I was (or smell the alcohol on me), maybe because they were too nice to say anything, but my wife could certainly tell.

It still makes me cringe how I defended whatever I did to her, no matter how indefensible. The lies and inventions I needed to account for the lost time and focus wasted my mind’s abilities and eroded my own self-image, not to mention my believability. It all caught up to me before too long and consequences began to pile up–social, financial, physical, psychological, and legal. I was indeed an alcoholic. I very nearly lost my career, my marriage, and my place at home. Given what I was doing, it is still remarkable that I did not lose them all.

Several treatments and a transformative eight-month stint in a sober living house later, I am back full-time to my same job and marriage and home, and to a happier, “normal” life. The transformation, still not complete in any way, required a new outlook. The old outlook simply had failed, although I was too oblivious to notice for a long time, and when I did notice I was too dishonest to admit it. The sober living had allowed a recovery of my “normal” functioning, but a full recovery takes a real re-learning of the honesty and openness that might come naturally to most people. I am not one of those people, obviously.

Looking back, my alcoholism had a slow and apparently innocuous fuse. After decades of fairly normal social drinking, by age 50 I was gradually becoming dependent on alcohol, both physically and as a psychological escape valve, and then gradually but increasingly hiding those facts from everyone, and especially those I loved. I became more and more isolated by this “hiding” mentality, but it enabled me to continue my addictive path, functionally if not ethically or logically.

By age sixty I had reached my emotional and ethical bottom, been pulled into the light, gone onto extended medical leave from my position at work, and started the slow and uncertain process of recovery, a path I am still on and will continue to follow as I learn more about myself. I found giving up alcohol to be difficult in itself, after so many years, with multiple relapses and then the returns to dishonesty those relapses required. Learning, and re-training myself, was (and is!) slow. Despite the difficulty, the part of recovery I have found the most challenging, and yet also the most rewarding, is the path towards honest self-knowledge and mindful living. Life can be much richer than I realized!

As AA members know, the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous at their core form a program aimed beyond simply stopping drinking, towards a development of that self-knowledge, a mindful approach to daily life, and a healing of the damages caused by the addiction. The steps were developed from experience with many alcoholics, and also with those who managed to recover through the AA program in its early stages. While respecting that history, I have to admit that as an atheist, I initially found it frustrating to wade through the Big Book and the 12 & 12’s religious interpretations of how recovery and the world as a whole supposedly works; it seemed most, if not all, of the spiritual and practical benefits sprang directly from the remarkable fellowship of AA and its cultivation of gratitude and mindfulness, and the sense that each of us is but a tiny part of our interconnected universe.

I knew there were other viewpoints, but none of them seemed to have been broadly accepted for recovery. At one point I split up with one of my former sponsors over the pressure to adopt a faith-based view of the world, as I felt that for me, honesty (or my lack of it) was a huge problem in my alcoholic thinking. Pretending to “believe” in yet another way did not seem the way forward. How could I find a more spiritually fulfilling approach to recovery that worked for me?

jim-W-body-picture Mindfulness And The “Functional Alco-Demic”Fortunately, many approaches to recovering sobriety are now gaining in popularity and are easily integrated into an eclectic AA program. Some of my major helpers in recovery from addiction knew about these approaches and pointed me in the right direction. Reading about many of these concepts was a real eye-opener for me, a fundamentally non-spiritual person while I was drinking. From The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, I learned the value of being able to step outside my own chaotic and counterproductive head-chatter to find perspective into my deeper reflective self, and to get rid of my fears and demons by facing them directly and honestly. From Sacha Scoblic’s hilarious Unwasted, I took away a new perspective on what it is to be sober (and still have fun!) in a world that continues to promote drinking as a social lubricant. I have continued to benefit in what otherwise could.

By far the most influential new source for me has been Marya Hornbacher’s Waiting: A Non-Believer’s Higher Power. I could not believe my luck, when I first read it, in finding a fellow alcoholic and addict who had most of the same questions I had and had found insightful and life-changing solutions that worked spiritually for an atheist. I am ever so grateful to those thoughtful recovery folks who turned me on to these and other sources. Everyone should be so fortunate!

Eventually these insights led me to further forays into the very practical aspects of Buddhist meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practice. To me, The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche stands out for its skillful weaving together of the science of the mind and mindful spirituality, and practical advice about meditation. It is important to me to see how the meditative insights gained through a spiritual approach integrate with what we know from the real world.

I also found riveting the pithy insights into mindful and purposeful living in The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz). I still struggle with fitting these calming and directing influences and perspectives into my life regularly enough to keep me sane, but now find that there ARE ways to find acceptance, serenity, and gratitude in my daily life that do not require avoiding reality and responsibility. All these virtues require practice to become habit-forming in a good way; it takes time and dedication to succeed in the way all worthwhile things do.

Facing things the way they are, rather than the way I wish them to be, has become my mantra. Whenever I find myself drifting into negative or chaotic attitudes, I can bring myself back. It usually takes help, and fellowship, to remind me to bring myself back, in the longer term. My wife, now an Al-Anon member with a wonderful sponsor, has shared my recovery journey and the exploration of mindfulness with me and been a greater support than I can ever fully express, certainly vastly more than I deserved. She is still recovering from my damages to her world and continues to have other challenges.

And then there is my AA sponsor, and the AA fellowship in the various forms it takes, in the meetings I attend. I can draw strength from any and all of them if I am open to what they offer. It just requires the ability to step outside of my own self-centered focus and look at the big picture.

This is easier said than done over the long haul, and I have experienced multiple relapses. My last one was marked by much more honesty and openness, but only afterwards: I still had failed to reach out at the time I needed to before drinking again. I have gotten much better at staying involved and using my sponsor and home group (and other meetings) to talk about my failures and successes, but recognizing my first warning signs of squirrely thoughts, noticing returns to old habits common from my drinking days (mainly avoiding things I know I should be doing that I don’t want to do, or avoiding talking to people I don’t want to face right then), and then discussing those concerns immediately breaks a cycle for me that has repeated itself for years. Whenever I honestly face my “demons” and deal with everyday problems directly, I do feel better about it, but why is that often not what I think beforehand?

So that is my focus now, to open up and release whenever I feel the pressure or dissatisfaction building up, and prevent actual relapses before they happen. This seems to have been a life-long personal flaw and will take real sustained effort to overcome. The new element is that I definitely want to overcome it, and am already beginning to see success when I make the effort.

I now find I treasure the fellowship of AA and its culture of sharing experience, strength, and hope more than ever. Despite all of my wrong turns and subsequent treatments and betrayals of trust, I have friendly and devoted allies in many places, all of whom seem to genuinely want me to get to a happy and positive place in my life. All that has been required for benefiting from this large network of support is that I learn to be willing to ask for help, to face things as they really are, and to let others be who they are. I don’t have to agree with everyone, I just have to respect the views they have from their own experiences. I can expect no more from them in return.


About the Author, Jim W.

Jim W. is a field biologist and professor in his first year of recovery, and recently back at work after spending eight months in a sober living house. He is looking forward to having his first sober holiday in years, and will be meeting some new AA friends in North Carolina while visiting relatives. His home groups is Many Paths in Champaign, IL

Artwork

The graphics displayed in this article were created and designed by Kathryn F.

Carrie Fisher; Mental Health Hero

Source: Huffington Post.

She spoke out against stigma for years.

Carrie Fisher was a total badass.

The actress, who died Tuesday at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack, spoke out on mental illness many times ― something almost unheard of in Hollywood at the time she began sharing publicly.

She gave honest testimonies of the trials and triumphs of battling addiction and bipolar disorder, displaying a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to discussing the realities of mental health conditions.

As we mourn her death, we also want to salute the original Princess Leia for her groundbreaking stance on mental health in the public eye. Below are few times Fisher stood up against stigma:

When she owned what was happening with her mental health.

KEVORK DJANSEZIAN VIA GETTY IMAGES

I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital … I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.”

The time she had this great response to being called the “poster child” of bipolar disorder.

Well, I am hoping to get the centerfold in Psychology Today.  … Now, it seems every show I watch there’s always someone bipolar in it! It’s going through the vernacular like ‘May the force be with you’ did. But I define it, rather than it defining me.”

When she offered sound advice on pursuing dreams despite mental illness.

JONATHAN LEIBSON VIA GETTY IMAGES

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

The time she got real about how it feels to go through manic episodes.

You can’t stop. It’s very painful. It’s raw. You know, it’s rough … your bones burn … when you’re not busy talking and trying to drown it out.”

When she explained the only real way to manage a mental health condition.

“The only lesson for me, or for anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”

And finally, when she shut down the shamers by explaining just how strong you have to be to deal with a mental health condition.

NBC NEWSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

”One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. … At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

Nailed it.

5 Things To Ask Yourself When You Have Negative Thoughts

negative-thoughts-questions-1000x600 5 Things To Ask Yourself When You Have Negative Thoughts

Source: Power of Positivity
Oftentimes in life, we allow our thoughts to run on autopilot, without really checking in to see if they serve us or hurt us. As you might already know, your thoughts determine your reality, but getting your mind in tune with how you’d like to see your world can seem like an insurmountable task. If you need a little help changing your perspective about life, ask yourself the following questions next time you notice your thoughts running away from you.

HERE ARE 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF NEXT TIME YOU HAVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

1. IS IT TRUE?

First of all, you have to realize that we have thousands of thoughts each day, and most of the time, they simply run on repeat. What does this mean? The majority of the time, we aren’t really thinking, we’re remembering. So, in order to place positive thoughts in our heads to stop the negative thought loops from playing over and over again, we have to consciously make an effort to control and become aware of our thoughts. Next time you notice a thought pop into your head, you need to first of all ask yourself if it represents reality.

For example, a thought might come into your head that you don’t know how to talk to people. So, if this happens, think about the relationships in your life. Obviously, most of us talk to someone each day, so this thought can automatically get thrown out. It’s as simple as this – notice your thoughts, and decide if they are true or false. False thoughts have no place in your brain, so just discard them.

2. ARE MY THOUGHTS GIVING ME POWER, OR TAKING IT AWAY?

Next, you should ask yourself if your thoughts serve any positive purpose in your life. Do they provide you with positivity and encouragement, or drag you down? Your thoughts serve as a gateway to living a fulfilling life, so if your thoughts don’t give you the boost you need to go after your goals and dreams, you need to take a look at them more closely. Negative thoughts serve a purpose, of course, but if they make up the majority of your thoughts, you need to get rid of them.

Empower yourself by paying closer attention to your thoughts – this can literally change your life.

3. HOW CAN I USE THIS EXPERIENCE TO BETTER MY LIFE?

Each experience in our lives serves as a lesson, so every time you go through an experience, no matter good or bad, look at what it can teach you.

Even the hardest times can transform us into better people if we allow them to, so instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation, turn your mind toward the positives. We can let experiences change us or break us, so which will you choose?

4. WHAT IS A HABIT I COULD GIVE UP THAT WOULD LEAD TO MORE POSITIVES IN MY LIFE?

I’m sure if you look closely enough, you could pinpoint one bad habit that leads to self-destruction in your life. Do you use substances such as drugs or alcohol to get through the day? Do you turn toward food every time you feel upset? Or, maybe you use people as a way to drown your sorrows.

We all have our own vices, but giving up these habits could lead to incredible growth and transformation in our lives. Imagine if you gave up soda, for instance, how would you feel? You might lose some unwanted weight, feel more energized, have less cavities, etc. Examine your life to see where you could improve, and take steps to get there.

5. AM I AVOIDING SOMETHING THAT NEEDS ADDRESSING?

This sort of goes along with point 4. Maybe you have some deep dark secret in your life that you’ve been throwing under the rug for a while. Pull it out, dust it off, and see what you can do about it. Avoiding a problem won’t make it go away; in fact, it usually just magnifies the issue. We all tend to put things aside until they rear their ugly heads, and we HAVE to pay attention to them. For instance, do you use food as a way to cope with life’s problems? Beating around the bush with this might lead to unwanted weight gain, health problems, and even relationship problems.

So, to avoid having this bad habit reach a point of no return, handle it head on. When you notice it becoming a problem, try to look at how you can solve it rather than putting it on the back burner to deal with later.

If You See Someone With a Semicolon Tattoo, This Is What It Means

Semicolon-Tattoo-Ideas If You See Someone With a Semicolon Tattoo, This Is What It Means

Tattoos have exploded in popularity over the past decade, and have become an important and artistic way for people to express themselves. Most people get tattoos to tell a story, to showcase the pain, triumph, and obstacles they have faced throughout their lives. Every tattoo means something different to the wearer of it, but in the case of the semicolon tattoo, the meaning is universal.
When Amy Bluel tragically lost her father to suicide, she wanted to commemorate him in a special way while also increasing awareness for mental health problems. She founded Project Semicolon, which allowed her to meet both of her goals. According to the website, Project Semicolon aims to “present hope and love to those struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.”

The semicolon represents the fact that you have complete power over yourself, and can choose to keep fighting, even if you feel like giving up at times. The entire movement aims to bring people together, to empower one another and show that we can all overcome the obstacles we face, no matter the size. You can always rewrite your story, start a new chapter, and recreate your life even if you feel you have nowhere to turn. Your story doesn’t have to end if you simply believe in your ability to create new beginnings.

According to WHO, more than 350 million people globally suffer from depression, which is the leading cause of disability worldwide. People with mental illnesses often feel embarrassed to talk about their issues, or feel like they will become a burden to others by voicing their problems. Many of these people suffer in silence, not knowing who to go to or where to turn. Project Semicolon invites people from all over to share their stories with one another, and wear the tattoo on their skin to show that they’ve committed to their lives and will keep marching onward despite adversities.

Wearing the tattoo is also a comforting reminder that you don’t have to face your issues alone, and many people all over the world have been in your shoes. They know the hardships you have faced, because they themselves have had to cross the same bridges. No matter how lonely you feel, someone out there can relate to your struggles.

The movement also aims to increase compassion toward mental health issues, and Amy even wrote herself on her website that her organization “envisions a community that comes together and stands together in support of one another.” She encourages people to start conversations with others about their mental health issues, rather than resorting to self-harming, drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors that do not serve people’s best interests.

If you currently suffer from any sort of mental illness, remember that you do not have to face your problems and fears alone. Many others struggle with mental health all over the world, and many choose to see the silver lining in the clouds and make the conscious choice to live a positive, fulfilling life. Project Semicolon aims to support and inspire others to share their stories and get help when they need it, but they are not a 24-hour hotline. In an emergency situation, please call your local authorities, a mental health professional, or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) for immediate help.

We leave you with this inspiring quote from Amy herself:

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Remember, you are LOVED, cherished, and created by the universe to fulfill a special purpose. No one can offer exactly what you can to the world, so let your light shine. Your life matters, and you have the power to create a wonderful, happy one. You never know who might need your smile, your words, your laughter, and your kindness, so please remember this anytime you feel unwanted or lonely.

By being here on Earth, you have already made a permanent imprint, and the Universe is a better place because YOU exist. Thanks for being here with us on this beautiful, crazy ride we know as life.

Depression is all in your head — And now Doctors know exactly where.

Source:  Second Nexus

Depression-1 Depression is all in your head — And now Doctors know exactly where.

As we slide closer to the end of the year, the holidays, the shorter daylight hours, post-election stress and social media all contribute to an increase in symptoms of depression for many people. Lack of energy, sadness, problems with concentration, loss of appetite and libido, and sleep problems are among the many symptoms people with depression may face. Despite the fact that an estimated 16 million Americans suffered from depression in 2015, and one in 10 people will suffer from depression in their lifetime, treatments remain imprecise and, for too many people, ineffective. An additional barrier is the continuing lack of understanding and stigma that deters many from seeking help. Too many people still believe that depression is “all in the head.”

Now scientists from a joint project between the University of Warwick in the U.K. and Fudan University in China confirm have identified the precise location of the brain in which depression is manifested. These findings could mean more effective treatments will be developed in the future, as researchers target the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a subregion of the brain that plays a role in decision-making and adaptive behavior and is impacted by negative stimuli.

The study focused on high-precision MRI scans of 1,000 people in China. Researchers analyzed the connections between the medial and lateral OFC – the different parts of the human brain affected by depression.

The research team found that lateral OFC is associated with an individual’s sense of self, self-esteem, loss and ability to access happy or suppress unhappy memories. “Before the study was performed, we did not know which brain areas the lateral orbitofrontal cortex might be especially linked to depression,” Warwick psychologist and computational neuroscientist Edmund Rolls told Motherboard. “Nor did we know that the medial OFC reward system was somewhat disconnected from memory systems in the brain.”

1476981269943806 Depression is all in your head — And now Doctors know exactly where.

The approximate location of the orbitofrontal cortex. (Credit: Source.)

“Relating the changes in cortical connectivity to our understanding of the functions of different parts of the orbitofrontal cortex in emotion helps to provide new insight into the brain changes related to depression,” said the researchers in a study published in the journal Brain.

How will this deeper understanding of the brain help people who suffer from depression? The scientists believe that future medications will be able to precisely target this area of the brain and more effectively treat the condition. Currently, doctors and their patients must experiment with a variety of medications, hoping to find one that works. With a more accurate map of the brain’s functions, medications can be developed that directly impact the medial OFC region.

“Our finding, with the combination of big data we collected around the world and our novel methods, enables us to locate the roots of depression which should open up new avenues for better therapeutic treatments in the near future for this horrible disease,” said Fudan researcher Dr. Jianfeng Feng.

Euthanasia as a Cure for Alcoholism?

How is this for a crazy headline? At the same time, who among us has not thought of it?

By Dorri Olds 12/14/16

In the last two weeks of his life, Mark laughed, ate, and spoke honestly with the family for the first time in years. He was lighter, looking forward to death.

grave Euthanasia as a Cure for Alcoholism?

There was no pain, no struggle—just relief

Mark Langedijk, a 41-year-old alcoholic, did not want to live anymore. He was euthanized, legally, in the Netherlands on July 14. His heartbroken older brother Marcel, a journalist, published a poignant essay (in Dutch) in the magazine Linda on November 15.

Why did the Netherlands legally permit putting Mark to death? Before you slap a harsh judgment on what a foreign country allowed to happen, you need to understand the whole story with all of its complex circumstances. This was not a callous, immoral decision by an uncaring government. This was a begged-for mercy killing.

Shouldn’t a person whose life is filled with pain be allowed to say, “Enough is enough”? I think so.

I was intrigued by this story the second I stumbled upon it on November 28. Throughout much of my life, I would have jumped at the option of euthanasia. Like Mark, there was something wrong with my brain. For me it was a combination of PTSD and bad wiring.

Langedijk went through an agonizing eight years that included 21 hospital and rehab admissions. Desperate to understand what happened, I scoured the internet to find his older brother Marcel Langedijk. I found out he was 44 and living in Amsterdam with his wife Carlijn and their infant daughter, Sammie. I contacted Marcel and asked for an interview.

He wrote back, “I would like the story of my brother and his addiction and the euthanasia to be read by as many people as possible. It won’t be any problem to answer your questions.” I am grateful that he was willing to confide in me by phone and email, but this was not a conversation that came easily. He is still shattered by his tremendous loss.

“This wasn’t sudden,” said Marcel, wanting to make it clear that euthanasia was not a rash, careless decision. “It took one and a half years of planning with a doctor. At first the doctor said ‘No,’ but Mark kept talking to her, pleading with her. He was suffering. He’d had a successful hearing aids company but couldn’t work anymore. He’d lost his wife and their two boys—now 11 and 9.”

Marcel said Mark wasn’t a “typical alcoholic.” I asked him what he meant.

“He wasn’t like those smelly, dirty people living on the street, always desperate, and begging for money.” I didn’t stop him to explain how many alcoholics don’t look like that.

Marcel said, “My brother always took care of himself but, emotionally, he just couldn’t cope. He had so many fears. It was mental illness.”

“Was Mark bipolar?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Marcel, “that was part of it.”

During Mark’s eight years of deterioration into the depths of alcoholism, his family grew angry with him. Mark hadn’t confided the details of what his life had become and his family did not understand what alcoholism was. As a result, they could not figure out why Mark behaved as he did. Still, love overrode their frustration. They did what they could—offered emotional support, made suggestions, gave money. Marcel said his parents always hoped Mark would get better, “especially my mother.” Mark went back to live with their parents when his marriage fell apart.

Marcel said, “We didn’t understand what was happening because he hadn’t let us in on the details until it was too late.”

He, Mark, and their sister Angela grew up in Overijssel, a small town in the Netherlands. Marcel described a happy childhood with loving parents, a life that was quiet, easygoing, fun.

“Nothing in our lives could’ve explained what happened,” Marcel told me. “There was nothing we did to cause it. It was a problem in his head—his brain didn’t work right. Then his body was breaking down. He had cirrhosis.”

Mark was always very social. “He knew how to get people to help him.” But he was also able to hide his problems for a long time because “he had a very good income and insurance from his hearing aids company,” said Marcel. “Then when he needed more help, our parents and the government paid a lot of money to help him.”

After getting Mark to rehab after rehab, but seeing it fail each time, “the family took some distance.” They hoped that if Mark saw that he could lose all of them, he would make himself stop drinking. Despite wanting desperately to get better, he was unable to.

On June 18, just 26 days before his death, Marcel and his wife Carlijn had gone out to dinner, leaving their one-month-old daughter Sammie with his parents. As they babysat at Marcel’s home, Mark called. His mother answered. He was calling from a police station and said he had nowhere to go.

“My parents said, ‘Come to us, to the house of your brother.’ What else could they say?” said Marcel. When Mark arrived he was still drunk. It was the first time he met his new niece, Sammie. Marcel and Carlijn hurried home and found Mark ashamed and in pain—physically and mentally exhausted. Mark told his family that he wanted to die by euthanasia.

In Marcel’s article he said that their family didn’t take it seriously at first. “Euthanasia was for people with cancer. Not for alcoholics.” But Marcel described staring at his brother seated on the couch next to their mother; he saw him moaning in pain and shaking. He needed vodka to stop the delirium tremens. After a couple of glasses of vodka, he cried out to his family, “This is no life.”

Over a year before he died, Mark had gone to Dr. Marijke and begged her to euthanize him. She was skeptical at first, afraid he was just a self-pitying alcoholic seeking attention. The doctor asked why he didn’t just commit suicide.

Marcel said to me, “It would have been cruel to force my brother into taking his own life. How should he have done it? Jump in front of a train? Jump from a building. That would’ve been so violent.”

Dr. Marijke continued to talk to Mark, and also sent him to see other doctors, psychiatrists, and insisted he keep a daily journal. Marcel said it detailed how unbearable life was. He described every day as the same. He was in pain, he drank, loneliness dripped from every page. Mark went through the normal channels and finally it was a doctor at the Support and Consultation on Euthanasia in the Netherlands that gave the approval.

Being put to death in the Netherlands is legal through the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act. Marcel wanted me to understand that the country doesn’t just kill alcoholics on a regular basis. When we got off the phone I Googled statistics. I found that in 2002, euthanasia in the Netherlands was legalized for those with “unbearable suffering and no prospect of improvement.” According to the UK’s The Telegraph, during the past five years, euthanasia cases in the Netherlands increased from 3,136 in 2010 to 5,516 last year. That is a 75% increase. For cases based on mental illness, it went from two people in 2010 (0.1%) to 56 people in 2015 (1%).

In Marcel’s article he described the last two weeks of his brother’s life as surreal. There was a bed set up for Mark in the living room of their parents’ home, the house Marcel and his siblings grew up in. Mark joked about being a “dead man walking.” He laughed, ate, and spoke honestly with the family for the first time in years. He spoke of how he had managed to keep his alcohol abuse hidden from everyone, how unhappy he’d been. It was like having the Mark they used to know back with them. He was lighter, looking forward to death.

He barely cried, there was no pain, no struggle—just relief. Marcel told me about his brother’s last night on earth. “He slept like a baby. I couldn’t understand it, how he could sleep so well.” Marcel was on the couch all night next to Mark, listening to him snore while he stayed awake with the horrid reality that his brother would be gone “in a few more hours.”

On the day of, Marcel said his hands were clammy and his head buzzed from lack of sleep and emotional overload. Weather-wise, it was a beautiful day. They laughed, drank, smoked, ate ham and cheese sandwiches. Dr. Marijke rang the bell. She was dressed in a black dress and sneakers. The jokes stopped. Dr. Marijke explained that there would be three syringes. The first was a saline solution, the second would make him sleep, and the third would stop his heart.

Everyone started to cry, even Mark, but his tears were not from sadness. Mark cried with empathy, seeing his family so grief-stricken. Marcel told me that even though he hadn’t included it in his article, the doctor was crying, too.

She asked him two more times if he was sure. Marcel said that his head was screaming, “No!” but Mark said, yes, he was sure. When Dr. Marijke emptied the third syringe, Mark’s face lost color and he was gone.

Marcel told me that he never planned to write about the ordeal. “I didn’t want my brother to die but when he did, I am a journalist so I wrote about this.” The Dutch article in Linda went viral and Marcel received a lot of feedback suggesting that he write a book about it. Now, he has three chapters written and a publisher. His book will be out in 2017.

As is always the case when stories go viral, Marcel saw a lot of harsh criticism. He Facebook messaged me on December 3 to say, “The BBC did an interview with me. I decided to do that because there was so much bullshit—sorry for that word—written online that I felt I had to say something.” He sent me a link to the short BBC video.

In the video he said, “It’s a weird kind of day [as] you can imagine.” He wiped away tears, composed himself and said, “Okay, let me try to do this again. My name is Marcel Langedijk.” He described July 14, the day of Mark’s death as “ridiculously hot. We went outside and he said, ‘Well, this is my last morning.’ We just drank some wine. He had a favorite wine we drank once before. Then he smoked one more cigarette and we went inside. My parents now got the time to say their goodbyes and he got the time to say his goodbye. If he just would have shot himself or stand in front of a train, that would have been so different. That would have been so cruel. The thing that disturbs me the most right now is that my family and I and even my brother are made to look like we just ended it because it was convenient. Let me tell you, this is in no way convenient. We don’t take it lightly. It’s not like in Holland we go around killing alcoholics. It’s very complicated and it’s difficult and it’s a huge step. For me it’s very important to make sure that everyone knows that we did everything and some people just aren’t curable. If you don’t help them with it, they will eventually kill themselves.”

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5 Ways To Increase The Serotonin In Your Brain

Source: POWER OF POSITIVITY
Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another…it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. This includes cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some behavior. -WebMD
While serotonin is a chemical frequently associated with depression, most people aren’t aware of the numerous functions of this brain chemical (hence, the quote). Most people also are not aware of the fact that serotonin can be reproduced without pharmaceuticals – drugs only made available via doctor prescription, and can have nasty side effects.

The fact that we can naturally increase this vital brain chemical should be considered exciting! Many ailments, acute and chronic, are believed to be due – at least in part – to low levels of serotonin in the brain. We encourage our reader to use this valuable knowledge included in this article to enhance their physical and mental health.

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO INCREASE SEROTONIN IN THE BRAIN:

Related article: 10 Ways To Increase The Dopamine In Your Brain

1. GET SOME 5-HTP

This little “hack” is a terrific way to help ward off the blues. Formally called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, this substance has been found effective in treating anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and hypertension. 5-HTP accomplishes these things by stimulating the production of the chemical serotonin.

In addition, 5-HTP has been shown to have positive effects on weight levels – a trait derived from the substance’s suppression of appetite. In a study at an Italian University, female participants who ingested 5-HTP lost an additional 10 pounds over two weeks, in contract to the placebo group who lost just two pounds over the same time period.

To realize the serotonin-boosting benefits of 5-HTP, a dosage of 100 to 400 milligrams per day – taken in multiple doses (i.e. at breakfast, lunch and dinner) – is recommended. Anticipate a time period of 4 to 6 weeks before any type of 5-HTP supplementation begins to demonstrate tangible benefits.

2. TAKE SOME B VITAMINS

Vitamin B6, in particular, aids in both the development and function of serotonin in the brain. Those prone to stress should consider supplementing their diet with a B-complex product, due to its myriad effects on brain chemicals.

Both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are effective in lessening depressive symptoms while inhibiting erratic neural activity in the brain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older adults that have been diagnosed with depression or experiencing depressive-like symptoms improved after supplementing their diets with B-vitamins.

Regular intake of a B-complex product, such as a supplement, is 50 to 100 mg daily. Those with additional symptoms, including fatigue/exhaustion or chronic stress, should consider adding a pantothenic acid – a twice-daily 250 mg dose of B5 vitamins, which is often sufficient for the alleviation of such symptoms.

3. EMBRACE THE LIGHT

Ever wonder why opening the shades on a sunny day has a distinctive way of improving our mood? Well, it may be due to the fact that our brain self-injects itself with serotonin chemicals. Even on a frigid or cool day, sunlight has a noticeable, positive affect on our mindset.

A productive and healthy practice is to briskly walk for 15 to 20 minutes at least once (or even twice) a day. Regardless of frequency, it is best to walk in the morning for two reasons: (1) we’ll burn more calories, and (2) we mentally prepare ourselves for the day ahead. Not only will our brain reward us with a kick of serotonin, we’ll burn off some calories in the process.

4. GET A MASSAGE

Massages feel really good…pretty much everybody knows this already. What most of us probably do not not know is that massages have a direct effect on our serotonin levels. Physiologically-speaking, messages are effective in reducing the stress hormone cortisol – a chemical that actively blocks the production of serotonin.

Researchers have discovered that professional massages decrease levels of cortisol by about 31 percent. When cortisol production is inhibited, our brains are in an optimal state to produce serotonin chemicals. As an added benefit, massage therapy can increase the production of the “reward and pleasure” brain chemical dopamine.

Experts are quick to point out that undergoing guided massage therapy is the premier method of boosting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, in addition to other sought after health benefits. However, a simple massage by a close companion will suffice for many. Those experiencing turmoil (including trauma) may be best served by consulting a licensed massage therapist, whose expertise will be invaluable in counteracting psychological stressors.

Related article: This ONE Plant Prevents Mood Swings And Balances Hormones

5. MEDITATE

Ah, yes…no “serotonin-boosting” article would be complete without the inclusion of meditation. Simply put, the proliferation of scientific studies that prove the physical and psychological benefits of meditation are mindboggling. Numerous forms of meditative practices exist, and all of them are beneficial in increasing the production of serotonin.

Perhaps the most impactful form of meditation on serotonin levels is Transcendental Meditation, or TM. Researchers believe that TM is a powerful stimulant on serotonin levels due to elevation of one of serotonin’s building blocks: 5-HIAA. Science has discovered a direct correlation between increasing concentrations of 5-HIAA and elevated serotonin levels in the brain.

Similar to massage therapy, meditation reduces the levels of cortisol in the brain. Additionally, meditation is particularly adept at invoking a relaxed response in the brain while suppressing the brain’s natural “fight or flight” reaction.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is another meditative type linked to elevating levels of serotonin, partially because MBSR further sensitizes serotonergic receptors, an important variable chemically in the production of serotonin. Interestingly, MBSR is the meditative technique promoted to military personnel that have been exposed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).