Narcotic Pain Meds In Recovery: To Take, Or Not To Take?

Dealing with chronic pain as a person in recovery is a controversial topic.

Staunch 12 Steppers may take the hardline approach that you should not take anything stronger than Tylenol for pain. Others take a more pragmatic approach and listen to what their doctor considers to be the best treatment option. Whatever your approach, one thing is for sure: it has to be right for you. In my experience, there is absolutely no need for you to be a martyr to pain as a sober person.

In my experience, there is absolutely no need for you to be a martyr to pain as a sober person.

Just under a year ago, I fell off my bike and broke my arm. At the time, I’d only been living in America for three months and had no idea what to do. My worst nightmares came forth in just a five minute window: getting into thousands of dollars of debt from medical bills and getting hooked on painkillers—given my prior addiction to codeine.

Flummoxed by what to do next, I got back on my bike and cycled home! I spoke to a friend in recovery about what to do—I was certain I’d hurt my arm from the searing pain and tears that followed—and she said to sit tight for half an hour and see if the pain subsided with Tylenol. Anxiously waiting, with tears and excruciating pain, I went to the hospital.

My fears were realized; I’d broken my arm. The reason this was devastating was beyond sustaining an agonizing injury—I’d just moved to America and become a full-time writer. I was new in the country, I hardly knew anyone and I didn’t really have much recovery support here.

“What do you want for the pain—Vicodin?” The doctor asked.

“No! I’m in recovery. Give me something non-addictive.” I exclaimed.

A glimpse of sanity came over me and I realized I wasn’t quite in my right mind—pain and shock will do that to you. I called my friend in the UK who happens to be a doctor in recovery. He told me that the goal of treating pain is not the absence of pain; but to be comfortable. He said recovery was not about being a martyr to pain either. I knew at that moment that I had options: I could try it, stick to the doctor’s instructions, regularly check in with people in recovery—even have my roommate dispense the pills—and see what happens.

With effective boundaries in place, I need not be a martyr to pain.

I can say for certain that Tylenol does touch the sides of the immense pain you feel from a broken bone.

With careful measures in place, I took the advice of both my friend and doctor and accepted a short prescription of Vicodin. While it took the edge off the pain, I, surprisingly, hated how it made me feel. This was a drug I used to take regularly, with wine, to avoid my reality and numb my existence—at that time, I couldn’t get enough. But here I was, five years sober, hating the  feelings the drugs gave me so much, that I cut the dose in half and stopped taking the medication after just a few days.

Within a week, I visited with the orthopedic surgeon who prescribed Tramadol—an apparently less powerful alternative to Vicodin(!). Again, I had the same reaction—I hated how it made me feel: fuzzy-headed, nauseous, well…stoned.

Once you live a life in recovery—which is to be fully awakened and in touch with your senses—having that taken away was truly awful. I didn’t want a dulled existence; I wanted the vibrant, in touch with my feelings, engaged life that I had grown rather fond of. Drugs just dull my shine today—so I would only ever take them in short doses and when it is absolutely medically necessary.

After a week, I switched these narcotic prescriptions to Tylenol and Advil, under the guidance of my primary care doctor, which turned out to be effective and didn’t make me feel horrendous.

I think what happens in recovery is that we hear horror stories of pain and relapse.

They frighten us into making decisions based out of fear, rather than making sensible decisions with pragmatic medical guidance. I’ve sat in meetings and heard people tell me they’ve experienced dental surgery with nothing more than their higher power! I’ve also heard people tell me horror stories of people taking narcotics for post-surgical pain and ending up in a full blown heroin addiction.

I’m not negating the need to be cautious—I’m saying that we have more options available to us when we act out of rational and considered thought, and the advice of a medical professional. People in recovery are not qualified to tell us how to deal with pain. In this instance, your higher power—if that is something you choose to believe in—is your doctor, because they have the medical expertise to know better than you do. Pain is a significant impairment to rational thought, which is why we seek professional help in these situations.

Overall, in my experience, I believe that—for me—I can take narcotics responsibly in recovery. With effective boundaries in place, I need not be a martyr to pain. There is no need to struggle.

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and addiction recovery websites, including The Fix,, Ravishly, and The Recovery Village. Liv was recently featured in VICE.

Is It Time For Medication-Assisted Treatment To Leave NA?

Instead of endlessly arguing with Narcotics Anonymous about medication-assisted treatment being clean, why don’t we focus on the safe support groups for MAT treatment?

The Stigma Surrounding Medication-Assisted Treatment

The stigma surrounding medication-assisted treatment is killing people. In a recent NY Times editorial, journalist, author, and addiction expert Maia Szalavitz noted “This widespread rejection of proven addiction medications is the single biggest obstacle to ending the overdose epidemic,” and as the Head of Community for a company providing medication-assisted treatment, I tend to agree.

I field questions from concerned parents about medication-assisted treatment as not clean, and we put on a brave face before boldly diving into our social media comments when we’ve posted something related to buprenorphine/naloxone (commonly referred to in the recovery community and by laymen as Suboxone, it’s most popular brand name).

The Divide Between Narcotics Anonymous and Medication-Assisted Treatment

There’s a clear divide between the medical experts, who tend to agree that buprenorphine/naloxone, and those in 12-step programs, most notably Narcotics Anonymous, who have a checkered history with medication in general. Elizabeth Brico documented the distrust NA has for medication-assisted treatment in an article for STAT. While the article itself is revealing, the comments show a deep-rooted belief system within Narcotics Anonymous that goes against medication-assisted treatment:

“I have had the misfortune to sponsor many men who struggled to get off of drug replacement programs but I have also seen some of these people finally drop the replacement drugs and gain back there freedom from active addition and go on to focus on the true nature of their disease and find peace.”

“Fact: This is an opiate replacing an opiate.”

“I’ve already been cutting back on the medications and frankly can’t wait to get off of them because they disrupt my conscious contact with God and I don’t like that.”

The Third Tradition of Narcotics Anonymous

Many replies to the article refer back to the Third Tradition of Narcotics Anonymous: The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using. In fact, NA’s pamphlets around medication and Narcotics Anonymous also refer to the Third Tradition, calling medication-assisted replacement “drug replacement” and defining it as a separate issue than medication in times of illness. With specific instruction like this, is it any wonder that those who adhere to the program closely are wary of medication-assisted treatment?

And bridging the belief system between Narcotics Anonymous and medication-assisted treatment would be wonderful, but people need support today. They need support for treatment that works. We know that certain drugs (antidepressants, medication-assisted treatment, maybe even pain medications in certain situations) are necessary for a healthy life, just as other aspects of recovery are.

So where does that leave us? Is it time to admit that the Narcotics Anonymous model isn’t the best support group model for ex-opiate users? Instead of trying to change the minds of those who are already recovered and set in their ways, shouldn’t we be building new safe spaces for those seeking solutions, or still struggling with drugs?

Alternative Recovery Meetings for those who receive Medication-Assisted Treatment

Heroin Anonymous has a different third tradition: “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop suffering from heroin addiction.”

 Heroin Anonymous - Workit Health - medication assisted treatment in meetings

In Heroin Anonymous, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop suffering from heroin addiction.

All-Recovery Meetings are “non-denominational” recovery meetings that support all paths to recovery.

At Workit Health, we have a support group called Workit Together, with a focus on self-care. This is a safe space to talk recovery for anyone: family members, those thinking about quitting, those on medication-assisted treatment, or those in long-term recovery. 

Philadephia has a support group for everyone.

Rebel Recovery, a community advocacy group in Florida, does MARA (Medicated Assisted Recovery Anonymous) meetings on Wednesday nights.

If these meetings connected, and unified, we could begin to be easier to find for folks on medication-assisted treatment seeking support. Instead of seeking support from a community that doesn’t support the treatment we know works, it’s time to build our own community and make it easier to find for those who need it. 

Do you have a medication-assisted treatment recovery support group? If so, share in the comments!

Workit Clinic provides medication-assisted treatment in Michigan & California

As Workit Health’s Community Lead, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. Connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

Valerie Mason-John, Founder of 8 Step Recovery, On Spirituality, Bullying, And Breath As A Tool

Dr. Valerie Mason-John M.A (hon.doc) is the co-founder of 8 Step Recovery and one of the leaders in the secular recovery movement.

At Workit, we all walk different paths towards addiction recovery, and we encourage everyone to find one that speaks to them. Recovery, like shoes, aren’t one size fits all. The Spirit section of the Workit program is devoted to mindfulness, and if you love working spirit, then Valerie Mason-John’s work is right up your alley. I tracked down Valerie Mason-John to ask her about her history and her own recovery, as well as the movement she’s creating.

Kali: You say, “What I have to offer is my recovery.” Your recovery story is remarkable. Can you summarize your journey?


My Curriculum Vitae.

Sugar addict from aged 6 to 11Shoe conditioner sniffing aged 13 to 15Shop lifting addiction aged 13 to 15Anorexia aged 17 to 21Chronic Bulimia Nervosa aged 21 to 40Uppers Freak 20s to 35Champagne Late 20s  to 38Meditation from 27 to  55 and hopefully beyond

What Social Service Records say

Abandoned at 6 weeks.With three foster families before the age of 5.I became a problem because I was Bleaching my skinEnter Orphanage aged 5

What I remember

Named Gruesome from 5 to 11Sexual abuse, Sexual assault from age 7 to… early 20sSent to live with biological mother aged 11Taken away by the police aged 12 and halfAttempts at taking my life aged 12, 13, 18Went off the rails aged 13Living on the Streets aged 14 – 15Locked up  for shop lifting in Juvenile CentresAttempt to take my life 18 and really meant itAged 27 guy tries to strangle me to death -and my life changes

What was your first touchpoint with recovery?

Knowing I was sick and I wanted out of that hell realm. I wanted to live, but not how I was living. I desperately wanted change.

How do you think we can better reach people who are still in active addiction, but seeking change?

The guidance appears when we are ready for it. You can talk to people, lecture people, show them how their life is being wrecked. But if they are not ready nothing will work. So the recovery is in the hands of the person who is lost in addiction. When they open up to change, we can reach them. But we have to know that sometimes people don’t want to go all the way. And we have to realize that for some people they will continually pick up and put down. Because addiction is the dis-ease of the brain, heart, mind, we must be compassionate with people who continually relapse.

You co-founded 8 Step Recovery, an alternative to 12-step recovery based on Buddhist teachings. What made you realize addiction treatment needed this additional program?

People realized that I had something to offer. They wanted to know what was it that made a difference in my life? When I reflected I realized that there were many people I grew up in the orphanages, and other institutions that had taken their life, were severely depressed, in their addiction and not very happy at all. So when I was invited to write a new book by my publisher, I knew then it was time to share my path to recovery. I invited a psychiatrist friend of mine to write with me because I wanted it to have integrity. Not another misery story. But a universal story that all beings can benefit from.

Seeing how we create extra suffering in life is the beginning of us breaking out of the prison of our minds.

12-step recovery has Christian roots, and Refuge Recovery and 8 Step Recovery follow Buddhist teachings. But so many addicts struggle with the spiritual aspect of support groups. Do you think a spiritual solution is necessary for recovery?

Yes and it can be Pagan, or animal, or nature. Basically a spirituality that opens you up to kindness, compassion and wisdom. It’s inevitable that many people with addictions struggle with spirituality, because initially their choice of addiction was unconscious about looking for spirituality, salvation, meaning of life, but the addiction hijacked their presence with one ness, with Allah, with God, Buddha or Spirit.

Co-founder of AA Dr Bob once wrote in a pamphlet Spiritual MIlestones: “Consider the eight-part program laid down in Buddhism: Right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right-mindedness and right contemplation. The Buddhist philosophy, as exemplified by these eight points, could be literally adopted by AA as a substitute for or addition to the Twelve Steps.”

In your TED talk, you say, “Forget about drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or rock and roll, my biggest addiction is my thinking.” What advice do you have for recognizing thinking as the problem, when it’s so easy to blame the substances or behaviors themselves? In active addiction, it’s easier to even blame our external circumstances than our addiction or our thinking.

Human beings have an inbuilt tendency to move away from all experience with either blame, self pity and or distraction. Once we recognize that we can begin to kindly call ourselves out. Learning to be with experience is the magic pill to recovery. And that pill is excruciatingly painful to take. Few have the courage to sit and be with whatever arises without narrative. It’s easier to move into blame, self pity and distraction because they can make us feel more alive than sitting with unpleasantness. Seeing how we create extra suffering in life is the beginning of us breaking out of the prison of our minds.

You are called the Bully Doctor. How does bullying influence addiction?

Many people who are bullied, escaped to a distraction for solace. There is a high correlation of young people who were repeatedly sexually abused (which is a form of bullying) with eating disorders. High correlation with homophobic bullying and drink and drugs. Targets of bullying often end up having addictions of some kind.

Who do you turn to for guidance and leadership in the recovery world or in your personal life?

I turn to my students. They keep me sober and abstinent. They inspire me and teach me. I seek guidance from my sponsor and mentor. In the recovery world I seek guidance from The Buddha, Dr Ambedkar, Kevin Griffin, Dori Langevin, Joan Tollifson and Noah Levine. In my personal life I am accountable to my partner who has been in AA and abstinent for 30 years. I seek guidance from the woman who ordained me Ratnavandana, and from several of my friends.

What advice do you have for people who come in and out of recovery, but can’t seem to stop relapsing?

Keep on picking yourself back up and when you do, give yourself a big hug, and say I love you. Reframe the word relapse. Know when you pick up in one moment you can put it down in the next. Even if you went out on a bender last night, you can put it down in the morning. Get honest!

Do you have any songs that get you motivated and pumped up when you’re feeling down?

Classical Music soothed my soul. Rave music. Techno, Trance saved my life. I still go out and dance without any stimulants.

What recovery tool do you use more than any other?

The breath. My body is the car I drive around 24/7, I get to use the breath as my hand break on thoughts of picking up. The breath is also my gear stick, if I breathe fully into my body, it stops me from going into automatic pilot.

What is your favorite act of self-care?

Giving myself enough sleep. If I don’t have enough hours for my body, I am at risk of picking up, relapsing, losing my cool. In brief when I don’t sleep enough I’m threatening my sobriety of mind and abstinence.

Despite all your impressive accomplishments, I’m sure you still have struggles like we all do. What is your biggest challenge today, and how are you dealing with that?

Walking my talk. It’s so much easier to write books, lead retreats, give public talks. But to live recovery breath by breath, moment by moment is the biggest challenge I face today.

Watch Dr. Mason-John M.A (hon.doc) on TEDx:

TEDx Speaker Dr Valerie Mason-John M.A (hon.doc) is one the new leading African descent voices in Secular Mindfulness approaches for addiction. She is the co-founder of the Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery (MBAR) and the co-founder and author of Eight Step Recovery Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction. There are meetings in six countries. She is the new President of the International Organization Buddhist Recovery Network, and her mission is to make secular mindfulness and buddhist recovery accessible to diverse communities. For more information

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

As Workit Health’s Community Lead, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. Connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

Could It Be Opiate Addiction?

Wondering if you could have an opioid addiction?

You aren’t alone if you’re struggling with pain pills or heroin. Take our quiz to see if you might have a problem with opiates.

This self-assessment is part of Workit Health’s online curriculum, which offers online lessons custom tailored to each member’s individual goals and concerns.

We have over 800 online lessons to teach people how to live life without drugs, alcohol, and handle stuff like stress and relationships sober.

Regardless of your self-assessment results, you know yourself best. If opiates are affecting your day to day life, reach out to someone today. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

Taking Opiates For Migraines Fueled My Drug Addiction

From my very first codeine tablet, I was hooked.

That warm fuzzy feeling permeated my body and my migraine—caused by severe dehydration and four bottles of wine the night before—almost vanished into thin air. I was transported to this almost memory-foam-type-fluffy-cloud. I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I discovered codeine.

Except, that wasn’t the first time I felt that way. Like the first time I discovered alcohol—it was like someone had turned on a light in a dark room. Or the time I discovered cocaine: it felt like I was given confidence on a silver platter and my brain was flooded with feel good hormones. My brain was the perfect territory for any kind of addiction to make itself at home. The substance—booze, food, prescription drugs, cocaine, codeine—didn’t matter; what mattered was my pursuit to constantly avoid my reality and numb my feelings.

All of the substance gave me that one thing I sought: escape. My life was too painful without it.

Of all the drugs though, codeine was one of the most powerful. When you’ve consumed alcohol like I had, you deal with some pretty severe hangovers. The dehydration, the stress I had from my job, and my inability to cope with life, caused chronic migraines. I would be crippled with pain, nausea, vomiting, aura, and light sensitivity. I would spend most days in a dark room or in the bathroom until it lifted. That was until I discovered codeine. It felt like a magic pill to different kingdom of escape.

 Wine Bottle - Workit Health

The substance—booze, food, prescription drugs, cocaine, codeine—didn’t matter; what mattered was my pursuit to constantly avoid my reality and numb my feelings.

I felt like I had discovered the key to allow me to continue to drink at ridiculous rate: four bottles of wine a day—sometimes more. Except, before I knew it, I was taking the codeine to get through the day—to take the edge off life. The problem with doing that, as with any substance use disorder, is that you build up a tolerance—requiring more and more to have the same effect.

Within the first few months of my new ‘wonder drug’, I was taking it with wine, to—in my crazy addicted mind—prevent a migraine. Except, I was so high, that I hadn’t realized just how much I had taken. Before long, I was back at the pharmacy—alternating them at that point—buying several boxes a week. I would also visit the doctor to get a stronger version—just in case.

I’ll never forget the horror in my friends eyes, when he opened my chest of drawers and found my stash.

 Pill Bottle - Workit Health

I’ll never forget the horror in my friends eyes, when he opened my chest of drawers and found my stash. I knew then that I needed to get help. Just over six years ago, I did. I found help and I got sober. I was lucky that I made the decision to stop the pills at the same time: I had to have a sober mind and all that entailed.

In some ways, discovering codeine was a blessing. In a potentially dangerous way, I escalated my journey to rock bottom—the place at which I sought help. But we needn’t get that far. What if we considered getting help earlier?

How about seeing severe migraines as a sign that we need to look at unhelpful and potentially dangerous patterns of behavior? Instead of seeking codeine, or any other pain relief, what if we sought to get to the real source of pain: our desire to escape reality and an inability to deal with the stress of life?

You needn’t get to the place I got to—save yourself, and your loved ones years of pain—you can stop any issues you have with pain pills now.

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and addiction recovery websites, including The Fix,, Ravishly, and The Recovery Village. Liv was recently featured in VICE.

Meet The Workit Health Michigan Team: How Kristin Overcame Drug Addiction

At Workit Health in Michigan, medical professionals provide Suboxone & therapy.

Our care team is made up of compassionate people focused on providing the best possible experience for what we realize is an uncomfortable situation. Why do we understand how tough opiate addiction and opiate withdrawal are? Because many of us at Workit are in long-term recovery ourselves, including both of the company’s founders.

Kristin, our Head of Clinical Operations at Workit Clinic – Michigan, made time to sit down with me for a video interview about her own journey through addiction and recovery. She talked about why she loves working with those who seek help for opiate addiction, and advice she has for those unsure if treatment is right for them. She was often unsure if treatment was right for her, and now, several years sober and working for Workit, she is sure she made the right choice in quitting drugs.

Read the highlights, or watch the entire thing below:

Kali: Kristin, can you tell us about your recovery journey? When did you start drinking and using? What was it like for you?

Kristin: I’ve been in recovery now for two and a half years… I started drinking when I was 14. I did not get sober until I was 37 or 38. I had a long run out there. Like many people, there were times when I was drinking or using drugs like a normal person. But towards the end it was a sad, bleak, miserable existence. I do consider myself lucky to be alive.

What would you say to people who are thinking of getting treatment?

It’s a horrible dichotomy, you can’t live with drugs anymore but you can’t live without them… I thought about killing myself for quite a long time because it seemed easier than getting sober. That’s how daunting the task of recovery seemed to me. For people who are in that place, where I spent so much time, I’d say: “There are people who understand.”

Want to hear more of Kristin’s recovery journey? Listen to her share on relapse and healing family relationships.

No road to recovery is smooth or simple. But there are people willing to help you along the way, who have experience the same struggles and roadblocks. All it takes is a single step forward.

Ready to start your own recovery journey?

As Workit Health’s Community Lead, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. Connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

New Year, New Me? How Overcoming Addiction Begins With Your Self Talk

Don’t know if you can overcome your addiction? Feel overwhelmed in taking the first step towards recovery? This blog entry is for you.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

This was one of the most practical metaphors I’ve heard once back in college from a professor in a counseling course.

2018 is here, with it the promise of resolutions. The new year brings the opportunity for reflection on where you are now and what it is that you need from yourself and others in your life. It’s not always the easiest to do and may feel unbearable, if you’re considering taking the first step towards addiction recovery.

In the past, I haven’t felt thrilled about New Years. It’s a reminder that time is limited and goes by faster than I would like. I’ve changed the way I think about time, particularly how I spend my time. Now, I try to reflect on what future accomplishments I would like for myself.

 Are your thoughts keeping you from quitting your addiction?

In hopes of getting to my accomplishments with reasonable steps and patience, I keep awareness that my negative thoughts plant doubt of my capabilities. I remind myself that I am stronger than my self doubt, and through the practice of self-love and compassion, I can see many changes are possible.

That all sounds so pretty, doesn’t it? But it’s easier said than done.

For most of us, change isn’t the easiest. We don’t welcome change with open arms. We resist it for as long as we can, until we have had enough with ourselves, with a circumstance in our life, or until someone close in your life has had enough with you.  

It can be stressful and anxiety provoking, thinking that the next step will be successful if you aren’t in a good place to begin with. Making a big change like committing to addiction recovery can be daunting and overwhelming. The decision to make a step toward recovery might bring up many emotions and questions:

  • “Is this going to work?”

  • “Am I ready?”

  • Even an uglier gut wrenching thought may come… “What if I hate the ‘new’ me without the drugs or without my drink?”

  • “I’m going to fail at this… so why even try?

  • “I’ve tried before and it didn’t work then, why would it work now?

  • “This isn’t going to change anything for me.”

  • “I won’t be able to give it up, I just know.”

Negative emotions like anger, sadness, fear, guilt, and despair may come up. You are not alone in thinking and feeling this way.

This type of automatic thinking, or what some professionals refer to as “all or nothing” thinking is a type of cognitive distortion that can trigger episodes of depression and anxiety.

This type of extreme thinking can really hinder yourself from growth and ultimately keep you from quitting drugs or starting your journey towards recovery. These negative thoughts act as a barrier from seeking help and fuel a negative self image.

Consider creating a simple log that can help track your negative thoughts. Over time you can reframe your all or nothing thoughts into actions.

Workit calls these extreme all or nothing thoughts auto thoughts, and we devote many exercises just to busting them on the way to recovery. You can get a glimpse of what that looks like here: Owning Your Auto Thoughts

For most of us, change isn’t the easiest. We don’t welcome change with open arms.

What does making a significant change and transformation really look like for me? 

It can be a battle of digging to find out if I am really ready to commit to change. It’s hours of reflection through running, yoga practice when I’m tired and restless, letting myself cry when I feel frustrated with my own progress or feeling defeated, indulging in chocolate for comfort, taking comfort from alone time to recharge, and the countless hours of emotional support from family and friends to remind me I am capable and worthy. It can mean embracing the negative emotions that arise during setbacks as much as the positive emotions when there are successes.

 Change Thoughts Quit Addictions

Embracing the negative parts of yourself like negative thoughts and failures is absolutely necessary for positive change and addiction recovery to occur. When you give your negative thoughts too much power, though, it can impede you from reaching the first step in recovery: committing to be sober.

You have here a community that believes in you. Believe in yourself. You are strong enough to overcome addiction. On days and nights that you aren’t feeling strong enough, reach out to a supportive friend or family member that you can trust. Workit Health is always here to listen. Join our Facebook group for extra support

Remember you are capable for making positive change for yourself and any goal such as recovery is reachable when it’s a bite at a time.

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

Lourdes, LMHC, Ed.M., is a bilingual mental health counselor with background in education as an expert in child development and comprehensive family mental health services for Head Start programs. She has extensive experience working with families in trauma and crisis, providing parenting guidance and assessing developmental delays in young children. She has a special interest in self help and addiction recovery treatment. 

Amy Dresner, author of 'My Fair Junkie,' Talks Family, Sex Addiction, And Coping Tools

Amy Dresner’s ‘My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean‘ is the addiction memoir everyone’s talking about.

In My Fair Junkie, Amy recounts the grim places addiction to drugs, alcohol, and sex took her. I snagged some of Amy’s time to ask her what small victories she celebrates today at 5 years sober, how her family feels about the memoir, and more…

Writing About Addiction

Kali: Hi Amy, and thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions from me and the rest of the Workit World. I stayed up late every night until I finished your book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir Of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. I’m going to ask you the first thing I’m sure everyone asks you: how hard was it to write about some the lowest points in your addiction?

Amy: It was very difficult to write about those moments because I wanted to bring the reader into the addict’s mind, no matter how insane it seemed, so I had to put myself back into that active addict headspace. Of course, at the times I write about, none of what I did seemed nuts to me then. It was all necessary, survival and the demonic possession that is addiction. I needed to take breaks because writing about some of those points was so depressing and uncomfortable. So yes, it was painful, but moreover puzzling. I just don’t recognize that person now.  I know it was me and I remember it all vividly, but in some way I feel so far removed from that woman, that it was almost like writing about a stranger. But perhaps that’s a protective mechanism on my part, the detachment.

Did you have to warn your family members and friends before the book came out? Or did they already know what to expect?

I’ve been chronicling a lot of my ups and downs on over the past 6 years and I was never somebody who kept my using a secret, so yes, they all knew what to expect. Saying that, some friends have chosen not to read the book because they love me too much to hear about my self-destruction in such exquisite detail. I specifically told my father not to read the parts about drug use or sex addiction or my suicide attempts. He lived through all of that stuff once, he doesn’t need to be re-traumatized. My mother is a sober alcoholic and I think identifies more and read the whole thing.

Amy On Sex Addiction

You struggled not only with addiction to substances, but also sex addiction. There’s a real advocacy movement around drug and alcohol addiction, but process addictions (like sex addiction and gambling) are often overlooked. Do you think we need to be talking about them more?

Sex addiction was more shameful and more painful than any of the drug use.

I can only speak for myself but the sex addiction was more shameful and more painful than any of the drug use. For me, personally, my sex addiction is part of my general “addictive nature”. I consider it an arm of my alcoholism. It’s just me searching for a new way to check out, another route to dopamine. And I’m not alone in this. Many people when they get sober struggle with compulsive behavior around food, gambling and sex. I definitely think we should be talking about process addictions more. They can also be extremely destructive just in ways that are less blatant and immediate than drug addiction.

What advice do you have for young women struggling with sex addiction?

Check out SLAA and SAA. They really work for a lot of people. I just didn’t connect to those programs. Aside from escape, I was looking for love and validation in my sex addiction and you certainly don’t find that in the beds of strangers! I’d advise them to read about it. Get support. Don’t beat yourself up. And know that you can come out the other end. It’s not a life sentence. There are some doctors now saying sex addiction doesn’t really exist but I will tell you it felt pretty real and compulsive to me but hey, I’m not a doctor.

Talking 12-step Programs

In the book, 12-step programs seemed as harmful to you as they did helpful. What is your relation to 12-step today? What would you tell people considering 12-step?  

I disagree with that and I apologize if it came off that way. I was very angry when I first got into the program and I was bothered by the fundamentalism and the remnants of the program’s Christian roots in some of the language and prayers. I think 12 step is great. The tools are gleaned from many religions and psychologies and are very effective. I took issue in my book with the fellowship which can get very complicated (with power hierarchies and sexual predatory behavior) when you take a bunch of sick broken alcoholics and put them in a room together.

I’m in a 12 step program now. I’m in AA. I don’t adhere to the 11th tradition. I think it’s outdated and actually does more harm than good by keeping the program shrouded in secrecy and perpetuating the mythology that it’s some cult. I have a sponsor, sponsees and I secretary a meeting. The steps worked better than any therapy I’ve ever been in and I’ve been in them all. AA is really like free group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy if you remove the spiritual element. The program saved my life and made me into a person that I actually like and am proud to be.

To people considering it, I’d say check it out. There are a lot of different types of meetings. See if one feels right for you. Keep an open mind. Some people go to their first 12 step meeting and are like “Ahh I’m home”. Others find it a little creepy at first. If it doesn’t feel like a fit after you’ve checked out a few meetings, there are other programs like Smart Recovery or Refuge Recovery. And of course, if you’re not open to being completely abstinent, there are harm reduction therapies/programs.

The Gifts of Recovery

You just celebrated 5 years. Congratulations! What has been the most surprising thing about recovery for you?

I would have to say that things that I was convinced were “just me,” characteristics I was sure I’d be stuck with forever, have fallen away. And also I’ve been able to accomplish things I only dreamt of before: writing a book, being a good employee, being a good friend or partner.

How important was it for you to separate yourself from the “hot mess” identity you created for yourself when drinking and using? In addiction, we can begin to identify with these stereotypes (hot party girl, mom who drinks to relax, chill stoner guy) that society seems to perpetuate. Was it difficult to find yourself away from drugs, alcohol, and sex?

People took care of me and tried to fix me…. until they didn’t anymore.

Not really. I’ve had periods of long-term sobriety before but still always considered myself broken on some level. I think the key problem is that I was getting perks by being this broken person who couldn’t get it together. And by that I mean I was freed of any responsibility for myself and my life. People took care of me and tried to fix me…. until they didn’t anymore. But this time around I dropped that “I’m broken” story.

I agree that those “labels” can be excuses and self-fulfilling prophecies and I used them for a long time to explain away my behavior. “What do you expect? I’m a…..” Saying that, being clean and successful still feels new and unfamiliar as I was such a fuck up for so many years. That “hot mess” identity is part of my past and I have to honor that. That’s the part of me that people who are still struggling with addiction can identify with. But not being that person does take some adjusting. Even when you change dramatically, after 20 years of a lifestyle or behavior, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Your book is called My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. There’s a big push in the medical field to move away from phrases like ‘clean’ and ‘junkie,’ but you refer to yourself as a junkie in the book. What does the term mean to you?

Well I don’t think “My Fair Girl with Substance Use Disorder” would have sold very many books! The book is not PC and neither am I. That’s why most people love it and some find it sort of brash or offensive. The book is VERY raw and I never had any shame or denial about being a drug addict. I think at some points I even had a weird reverse pride about it. We addicts have a tendency to glamorize the darkness. To me, a junkie is a “fiend” and I was a fiend… for everything. And also the “clean” in the subtitle doesn’t just relate to being clean from drugs but clean after washing all the street soot off you after community labor.

You have to understand that although I support recovery, I’m not an official “recovery advocate” per se. I’m not trying to start a movement. I’m just a recovering addict and a writer. I appreciate changing the vernacular to reduce stigma but I think that’s going to take a very long time. I was a junkie. Why not own it? I’m not into candy-coating anything. That’s not my style. I mean has using the term “African American” really reduced racism or just put a PC veil on it? I think we change people’s thinking by showing the plethora of different people with addiction and coming out of the closet with our recovery. In meetings people say “I have 5 days clean” so I was just using the real vocabulary of the addiction/recovery world. Also I come from a comedy background where you use the most funny, shocking and effective words. Same with editorial writing. There’s a saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.” My book wasn’t meant to be a recovery manual. It is just a gruesomely honest addiction memoir and from the feedback I’m getting, that’s why it’s helping people. Because I don’t tip toe around things or get preachy, precious or self-pitying.

In the Workit program, we celebrate Workit wins. These are small victories that may not seem like a big deal to the outside world, but keep you on the right track. What Workit wins have you had recently?

I started meditating again regularly and it’s made a huge difference in my happiness and mood stability. I’ve been better about keeping my house clean. I finally took care of my taxes. I make sure that I thank people and show my appreciation.

Creativity is key. And I don’t abandon myself anymore or expect other people to fix me.

Sobriety is a hell of a lot better than drug addiction, but it’s no cake walk. Being sober means navigating through life’s tough stuff with tools that work better than drugs or alcohol. What tools are vital to your recovery today?  

The usual stuff. I work a program: meetings, steps, etc. I stay connected and close to my support group. I do breathwork. I make sure I’m of service in and out of the rooms. I don’t run away from my feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are and I try not to let them dictate my actions. I say “no” and enforce my boundaries. I try to stay grateful and keep things in perspective. Much of that is staying in the present and knowing that everything, good and bad, passes. But most of all I stay busy and creative. Creativity is key. And I don’t abandon myself anymore or expect other people to fix me. I’m able and resilient. I know that now.  

My Fair Junkie is available now! Buy it on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Find Amy on Twitter and Instagram @AmyDresner or visit her website at

Workit Health helps you meet your recovery goals.

What Exactly is an 'Eating Addiction?' – How Workit Can Help

What if you can’t stop eating? Is there such a thing as ‘eating addiction?’

You were going to eat two Girl Scout Cookies. That was the plan. It was reasonable. Instead, the entire box is gone, and a trail of crumbly destruction leads from the couch, where the carnage began, to the bed, where you polished off the box, aching stomach be darned. Now you’re cursing the universe and its bewitching combinations of sugar, salt, and fat. They seem to have a power over you greater than any drug ever could.

Your diet is blown, you feel sick, and your roommate is going to wonder what in the world happened to their cookies. You didn’t want any of this to happen. So what gives? Is this what an eating addiction feels like?

You didn’t want any of this to happen. So what gives? Is this what an eating addiction feels like?

 There are technical definitions of eating addiction.

There are the technical definitions, that live in that nearly 1,000 page bible well-known and loved by all mental health professionals, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Inside the DSM, you’ll find everything from Anorexia Nervosa (food restriction and fear of gaining weight), to Rumination Disorder (regurgitation of food), to Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (whatever doesn’t fit in the already defined categories). Where would eating addiction fall in there, you ask?

Right now, probably in Binge Eating Disorder, which is classified by eating large amounts of food in a two hour period. But there’s some argument that eating addiction could become its own classification, a behavioral addiction not associated with substances (currently, gambling is the only non-substance related addiction to make the DSM’s cut).

We haven’t always had such a problem with overeating. As a species, our brains are programmed to love salt, sugar, and fat. Early humans didn’t always have access to these high-calorie foods, and from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense to gorge on them when they’re available (like in spring, with fruit trees blooming), to prep for the hardship of winter (when snow covers the ground and foraging was rough for our hunter-gatherer ancestors).

But in modern Westernized cultures, we no longer live in periods of feast and famine. We live through the unreal bounty of the grocery aisles, each box and bag crying out to us for attention. Food corporations have tapped into our evolutionary weakness for sugar, fat, and salt, and they know just what flavor combinations get our brain chemicals going.

Food corporations have tapped into our evolutionary weakness for sugar, fat, and salt, and they know just what flavor combinations get our brain chemicals going.

 Eating addiction isn't all about food.

On the reverse of this, this isn’t all about food. Notice we’re saying ‘eating addiction’ here, and not ‘food addiction.’ Because food isn’t the problem, it’s your relationship to it. This detail seems like a small one, but it’s important. This transfers eating addiction into a behavioral addiction category (along with sex, shopping, and gambling), rather than implying that the food alone is getting you high. Behavioral addiction has an element of compulsion, and can feel just like a drug addiction.

But just because eating stimulates the reward system of your brain, doesn’t mean certain nutrients themselves are creating a physical dependence in your body. It’s the actual process of eating itself, and the brain circuitry that process is stimulating, that creates a behavioral addiction.

There are the technical definitions, sure. But then there are the realities, that live at home alone with you. Like a dark cloud hanging over your head, or an invisible chain around your neck. The stuff you don’t talk about with anyone. Eating brown sugar straight out of the bag when you can’t find anything else to give you a fix. Waiting for friends or family to leave so you can eat, alone, uninterrupted, in peace. This is the real definition of eating addiction: your relationship with certain foods blown up so big it’s taken over, resulting in a life made small. Which may cause you to feel bad, and eat more, seeking relief. And thus, a downward cycle begins.

So how to push up, outwards? When you don’t feel like going out, and you don’t want to talk about what’s going on with anyone? What if you don’t want to turn anything over? What if you don’t even feel like getting out of bed?

We’ve made a program for secrets like this called Workit Eating. Like the one you’re carrying around. It’s private, and painless. It can be done from home, or from work. From a park bench, or from the couch (pre- or post-Girl Scout Cookie binge). There’s no announcing your addiction in front of strangers, although we’re not opposed to that, if that’s your thing too. You’ll have private chats with a coach through a format you are comfortable in. You’ll work through exercises that explore your relationship to food, and how you can change it. We’re ready to help, if you’re ready to begin.

Get 25% off Workit Eating. Use code Workit25 at checkout.

As Workit Health’s Community Lead, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. Connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

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