Message of the day

Total abstinence is so excellent a thing that it cannot be carried to too great an extent. In my passion for it I even carry it so far as to totally abstain from total abstinence itself. - Mark Twain

In Recovery – Benefits of a Recovery Journal

I always wanted to be a writer and during some of my drinking sprees, I would open that second bottle of wine, get out pen and paper and start writing what I thought were very important and life changing revelations. These writings seemed to be in the form of letters. I remember writing long letters to my Father (because I had “Daddy” issues; and because phoning him at that hour of the night wouldn’t win me the kind of attention I wanted). I also wrote letters to my husband (because I had “husband” issues; although I’m only on my third), and I often wrote letters for the benefit of all mankind.

In the morning I would take my sick self downstairs and find my illegible scratching strewn across my desk or under the desk. Sometimes I would find these letters in unexpected places, probably because I wanted them to be my private musings and thought to hide them away. I actually thought that these letters contained brilliant gems of wisdom and that I should keep them for future reference. Ironically, during my alcohol free days, I was absolutely mute. I could not put one word on a piece of paper. This led me further to believe that my real genius only comes out when I am drinking wine in copious amounts.

This was my feeble attempt at starting a personal journal and it was a huge benefit to me. It kept me occupied and stopped me from making embarrassing phone calls in the middle of the night.

There are all types of journals. Some people start travel diaries, bug-list diaries, prayer diaries, confession diaries, weather diaries. Others have companion journals where they write down the private parts of their life. And yes, journals can even be in the form of letters. Take for example the letters written by John Adams to his wife Abigail. They exchanged over 1100 letters which follow their courtship and his political career.

Barnet and Stubbs draw a distinction between a journal and a diary.

“A diary mentions things that have happened; a journal reflects on the happenings. A diary lists appointments; a journal records events, but gives some sense of why they were meaningful.”

If you are trying to overcome an addiction, journal writing is a valuable tool and it will take you far. A recovery journal should contain both types of entries – diary entries where you keep track of your recovery process, document specific tasks that you have completed, follow day to day stats on alcohol consumption or cravings; and it should also contain journal type entries, where you can look at your inner self, where you can reflect, get “stuff” out of your head and attempt to understand the world around you and understand yourself.

I know that it’s scary to look inward, especially for an alcoholic or addict. We often think that inward is where our addiction lives. If we look there we will find only insanity, dark and depraved thoughts, regrets and self hatred. But a recovery journal is a lot different than you might think. A recovery journal is all about new beginnings – a renewal so to speak. It is like having an intimate friend or maybe it is something that you can come home to and settle in with like a great cup of coffee or a fluffy pillow. It is your security blanket.

A recovery journal starts at the beginning of your recovery and follows you until you reach the end. You will want to review past entries to see how much you have grown and remind yourself of the issues that you have tackled and the things that you are still working on.

Here are some ideas that you can start with to get going on your recovery journal. I would recommend dividing the journal into different sections. Some sections will be more like diary entries and other sections more reflective.

My Recovery
This section documents your recovery process. Record when you fall down and when you get up. Record the hurdles you have overcome. Record your drinking levels (if you are stepping down). Record your level of cravings from no cravings to severe. Record tasks and activities you have done during recovery. What worked and what didn’t work.

Questions about Recovery
Most people in recovery have a support system, coach or therapist. Jot down things you don’t understand, or questions that you need answered and ask your coach or counselor at your next session. For e.g. you might want to know how to make a recovery plan, or find out how long your cravings will last, or maybe you want to know why you feel anxious all the time.

Unfinished Business
There is likely to be many things that have been neglected because of your addiction. You may have neglected things in your life such as finances, your home, your family, your job. Tasks have been half done or never started. Now that your family sees that you are sober they put more and more demands on your time. All of this can be overwhelming to say the least. You are just one person and sobriety is your number one job. In this section you can make to-do lists and complete the tasks as you can in order of importance.

Hopes and Dreams
Write down the good things you want for you and your family and your hopes for the future. There is no use dreaming small when you can dream big. After all, this is a confidential journal and no one will read it. You are perfectly safe in writing that you want to be the first woman on mars wearing Chanel in Prada heels.

Feelings and Emotions

During the recovery process, you many experience many different kinds of emotions – both good and bad. This is the brain “off” of drugs. Depression is common when coming off of alcohol. You may get angry easily or become anxious, fearful or jealous. Practice naming your feelings or describing them on paper. If you are angry for e.g., writing it all down is better than lashing out.

Reflections and Musings
Here you may want to include life lessons that you have learned or thoughts about the world around you and how you fit into it. Or you may just want to record a daydream.

These are just a few examples of the things you can put in your recovery journal, but there are hundreds of options. Remember that this journal is a record of your journey. It is just for you and should be kept confidential. Always be honest with yourself and when you are ready to “look inward” add that as another section in your journal. You will find nothing there that you and your journal can’t handle together.

I am sure that you are wondering about my private letters mentioned earlier and if they have survived after all these years for the sake of future humanity. I regret telling you that they were lost in a fire – a bonfire!

Gene Discovered that may Help to Prevent Alcoholism

A gene has been detected that helps to metabolize or break down alcohol molecules in the brain.  This gene, found in about 12% of the population, makes a person sensitive to alcohol.  This is a good thing.  People who are sensitive to alcohol tend to drink less because alcohol makes the feel sick.  People without this gene tend to drink with abandon which may develop into alcoholism.  Dr. Kirk Wilhelmsen , reports this on a recent video on CNN.
Dr. Wilhelmsen also reports that there are medications that can help people with alcoholism.  One drug that was used in the past was antabuse or disulfiram.  I have always advocated that this is not a good choice.  There are better drugs out there.  Disulfiram does little to make people stop craving alcohol or stop drinking alcohol.  Dr. Wilhelmsen talks more about this drug on CNN.

The research article was printed in the Halstead Gazette:
“Tipsy’ alcohol gene ‘could help curb alcoholism’”, reads a BBC News headline. It said, “US researchers believe 10% to 20% of people have a version of the gene that may offer some protection against alcoholism.”
This story is based on a study in 238 college students and their siblings, investigating how a person’s genes might affect how well they can tolerate alcohol. It found that a region of DNA containing the CYP2E1 gene is linked with alcohol tolerance. These findings will need to be confirmed in other studies.
The researchers report that previous studies have suggested that people with high alcohol tolerance may also be more likely to develop alcoholism. However, as this study did not look at alcoholism itself, it is not possible to say whether this gene is also linked with alcoholism. It is too early to suggest that “people could be given CYP2E1-like drugs to make them more sensitive to alcohol…to put them off drinking to inebriation” as suggested in the news.

Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of North Carolina and other research centres in the US and Australia. It was funded by the State of California, the Veterans Affairs Research Service, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the CompassPoint Addiction Foundation, and the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The story was covered by BBC News, the Daily Mail, Metro, and the Daily Express. The newspapers generally report what was done in the study accurately. However, the possible practical applications of this study for alcoholism have been over-emphasised, with suggestions that the findings have direct implications for preventing or treating the condition.
What kind of research was this?
This was a genetic study in families, investigating how a person’s genes might affect how well they can tolerate alcohol.
The researchers say that one of the factors that affect a person’s likelihood of becoming an alcoholic is their early experiences with alcohol. Those who show a higher ‘tolerance’ during these first occurrences tend to drink greater amounts in the future. Here, they were interested in looking at what genes might affect a person’s response to alcohol (their alcohol tolerance).
The researchers had investigated this in two previous studies, one of which had suggested that a genetic region at the end of the long arm of chromosome 10 was associated with alcohol tolerance. This region contains the gene that produces the CYP2E1 protein, which is involved in breaking down alcohol as well as other chemicals. Variations in this gene could therefore potentially affect alcohol tolerance. This current study combined and re-analysed the samples that had been used in the two previous studies.

What did the research involve?
The researchers had initially enrolled 238 college students (aged 18 to 29 years old) and their siblings. All participants had reported having at least one alcohol-dependent parent, but were not alcohol-dependent themselves.
The researchers used a standard test and questionnaire to assess the participants’ alcohol tolerance. In the test, participants were asked to drink a standard amount of alcohol over an eight-minute period (0.75ml/kg for women and 0.9ml/kg for men using a 19% alcohol solution). Measurements of their breath alcohol levels, body swaying and questionnaire scores were taken before the alcohol was drunk. They were taken again at set times in the three hours afterwards. The researchers decided to use the response at one hour after drinking the alcohol as their indicator of alcohol tolerance.
The researchers examined 811 sites across the participants’ DNA, looking for any sites near genes that might be controlling alcohol tolerance. They were particularly interested in the region around the CYP2E1 gene. They used standard techniques to do this, which essentially involved looking for areas of DNA that are shared between siblings who have similar alcohol tolerance more often than would be expected by chance, and not shared between siblings with different alcohol tolerance. They also looked at 10 single ‘letter’ variations in and around the CYP2E1 gene to see if these were associated with alcohol tolerance.
Finally, they looked at the genetic code of the CYP2E1 gene in the 96 participants whose data showed the greatest evidence of a link between the CYP2E1 gene and alcohol tolerance, to see if they carried any variations that might affect the protein that the gene produced.

What were the basic results?
The results appeared to show that alcohol tolerance was linked to a genetic region at the end of the long arm of chromosome 10, which contains the CYP2E1 gene. This evidence was stronger once the researchers removed one family from their analysis whose alcohol tolerance results were thought to be unreliable. The genetic variation that showed the strongest link with alcohol tolerance could only explain 4.6% of the variability in people’s alcohol response questionnaire scores. These results suggested that none of the regions tested are likely to be the only regions affecting alcohol tolerance.
When the researchers looked at the families who showed the strongest evidence of a link between this gene and their alcohol tolerance, they could not find specific changes in the CYP2E1 gene sequence that would affect the protein that it produced, and therefore might affect alcohol tolerance. They suggested that this meant that variations in the nearby regions controlling the activity of the gene might be responsible instead of variations within the gene itself.

How did the researchers interpret the results?
The researchers conclude that genetic variations in or near the CYP2E1 gene “affect the level of response to alcohol providing a predictor of risk of alcoholism”. They say that the involvement of this gene “allows inferences to be made about how the brain perceives alcohol”.

This study has shown an association between the region containing the CYP2E1 gene and alcohol tolerance. These findings will need to be confirmed in other samples before any firm conclusions can be drawn. Importantly, the researchers could not identify any variations within the CYP2E1 gene that could potentially account for differences in alcohol tolerance. In addition, this region only appears to account for only a small amount of the variation in people’s alcohol tolerance. This suggests that the majority of a person’s tolerance is explained by other factors (possibly genetic and environmental).
It is also important to note that although the researchers suggest that alcohol tolerance may affect risk of alcoholism, this study did not directly look at people who were alcohol dependent. Therefore they cannot say whether the CYP2E1 gene is also linked to alcoholism. Without further research, the current findings do not provide ways to predict or treat alcoholism.
Contrary to what might be suggested by the newspapers, genes were already known to play a role in how a person deals with alcohol. People who have certain variations in the genes which produce the alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes that break down alcohol are less able to tolerate alcohol. It is likely that environmental factors, such as previous exposure to alcohol, also play a role in a person’s alcohol tolerance.

Webb A, Lind PA, Kalmijn J, et al. The investigation into CYP2E1 in relation to the level of response to alcohol through a combination of linkage and association analysis. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 2010, Article first published online: October 19


Did you know that Debbie the Coach has a newsletter?
Subscribe now and receive a FREE Self-assessment & Evaluation Form


Watch Debbie's You Tube Channel


Get Your…

Free consultation

Ad Space 1

Coaching services


The material on our website is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health-care provider. Read more...