Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Breakfast You Can Tolerate

This is a story about a factory. It’s not the best job in the world, but it’s not the worst job either. After several years, the factory starts to have some success and increases its profits. The owner of the factory decides to enhance worker morale by providing free plain bagels in the morning for breakfast. The factory workers are immediately pleased with the free bagels and it becomes a treat to look forward to every morning. The workers happily praise the factory owner for his kindness providing the delightful free bagel breakfast every work day.

After a few weeks since the bagel breakfast experiment is going so well, the factory begins to provide a variety of types of bagels for the factory workers including various flavored cream cheeses. The factory also provides coffee and juice for the factory workers free breakfast. The workers are even happier. Not much later, again since the breakfast program is working so well, the owner hires a part time breakfast cook to make eggs and bacon for deluxe bagel sandwiches. Soon, a variety of flavored gourmet coffee choices are offered as well. As expected, with each added improvement, the factory workers are more and more pleased with the free breakfast program and all of the positive changes.
After a while, the factory gets another huge contract which increases profits even more. Since the free breakfast program is going so well, the owner decides to provide a full breakfast buffet every morning with a full omelet station, as well as added choices of waffles, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, fried potatoes, hash browns, with many choices of drinks, flavored syrups and toppings. The factory workers are ecstatic with this amazing breakfast program which increases morale, attendance and gets workers to work early every day.

After several months at the factory however, things start to change. For one thing, the factory workers attitude declines. The free breakfast buffet was once viewed as a special luxury and treat but soon is viewed as a necessity and some less grateful workers begin to complain about various aspects of the buffet. Other factory workers start treating the breakfast buffet with less appreciation by wasting food and leaving a huge mess behind in the morning.
Around the same time, the factory’s profits start to dwindle due to problems in the economy and the breakfast buffet becomes too much too for the factory owner to afford. As a way to trim the budget the owner goes back to just providing basic bagels and coffee for the workers in the morning. The workers respond with the “Great Bagel Riot” in which several employees end up getting fired for throwing bagels in anger and protest. Some workers even quit in anger and they could be heard grumbling about the owners “cheap, lousy breakfast” as they walked off the job. The owner thinks to himself about how just a few months ago, everyone was so happy with the free bagels and coffee and how things had really changed for the worse rather quickly.
What is the moral of the story? It has nothing to do with breakfast. This story is an illustration of a common substance use related phenomenon of tolerance. Most people are quite familiar with tolerance:

Tolerance, n. – the power of enduring or resisting the action of a drug (Usually occurring over time with regular use)

Questions for Discussion:
Can you explain how the breakfast story illustrated tolerance? (Think about how it took more and more to get the effect desired by the owner) – How can you compare this with substance use?

How has tolerance come into play in your life particularly with substance use? (If you had a high tolerance, please explain without bragging about it)

How does tolerance play a role in the process of substance use progressing to substance dependence and then even possibly addiction in some cases?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

To Control or Not to Control...Is that the Question?

For most people who have been around the topic of substance use, abuse and addiction, the topic of “control” surely is nothing new. Looking at some of the issues surrounding the topic of control is worthwhile. A lot of attention in the substance use and addiction world is focused on identifying those things in life that we cannot control. It is helpful to realize our limitations when it comes to control and it is also important to learn to take an objective look at evidence in our lives that suggests we are not in control of something (such as substance use, for example) This internal battle surrounding coming to a personal conclusion about control vs. loss of control and substance use is at the heart of any discussion on addiction. Each individual has to learn for themselves based on their own combination of experience, open-mindedness, and wisdom in this area. Someone else telling you that you are not in control of your substance use, for example, has far less of an impact than coming to that conclusion honestly on your own. That in part is one of the goals of substance use treatment programs: to assist individuals attending those programs to come to their own conclusion about substance use and control (or lack of control)
Nevertheless, to just blindly just look at life from the perspective that there is nothing at all that can be controlled can be misleading. To approach life as if we are a leaf floating aimlessly down a stream involves surrendering our power over the things in life that we can and should try to control. Even when it comes to things in life that we seemingly have absolutely no control of in life, it can be extremely helpful to shift our perspective to the aspect of that issue that we can choose to exert a positive influence over. This may sound confusing at first but consider some examples below for evaluation and discussion as a group:

We cannot control other people – Efforts to control others almost always end up in failed relationships and can feel much like banging your own head against the wall –

Still – How can we exert a positive influence over others today? Are there things we can do today to increase the likelihood that others will treat us with respect and trust? Can respect be earned? (Think about attitude for example) –

We cannot control the past -Yes it is true that the past is gone and there is nothing we can do to change it. What’s done is done, as the saying goes.

Still – How can we exert a positive influence over our lives today in spite of our past? Are there things we can do to leave the past in the past instead of dragging the past along with us each day in our present? How can time and positive behavior change help influence putting the past behind us? (Consider example a man who was violent for the first part of his whole life who one day changes and becomes peaceful. Is he making it easier to put his violent past farther behind him?)

We cannot control the fact that life often is not fair – Sadly bad things happen even to good people in this world in spite of our best efforts to prevent these types of things from happening. Accidents, injuries, misfortune, victimization, injustice, poor health, losses and many other unfortunate or even hurtful things can happen even when someone is doing the right thing and it just is not always fair.

Still – How can we exert a positive influence over our reaction to unfair life events? – For example, consider a horrifying accident causing a man to lose both of his legs. That man can spend the rest of his life bitter and angry over the struggles that came with the loss of his ability to walk, thus preventing that man from moving forward with his life until the day he dies. Or, that man can decide to become the best person he can be in spite of his unfair loss by learning to adapt and move on and look for opportunities he can find and goals he can achieve even still as a man without legs. In your situation, how can you move forward in a positive direction in spite of unfair or even hurtful life events that you have personally experienced?