Addicted to Grief?

When time doesn’t heal, the brain’s reward system may be playing a role

When Anne Schomaker lost her husband in 2002, she did everything you’re supposed to do to heal from grief. She went to therapy, she volunteered, she traveled, she took up new hobbies, and she dated. To the outside world, she looked like she was moving on. To the outside world, it looked like she was healing the “right” way. But inside, she was frozen in mourning, unable to move forward emotionally. Nine years after the death of her husband, nightmares still haunted her in her sleep and she avoided reminders that would push her further into despair, such as the arias from the operas they had enjoyed. “I wasn’t really doing well. I had terrible pangs of sadness and despondency. I was missing my husband so badly. The pain just didn’t go away.”

Complicated bereavement is a disruption of the normal grieving process after a loss. While the loss of a loved one can be expected to be deeply painful and elicit emotional distress long after the loss has occurred, the symptoms of grief usually dissipate over time. Sometimes, however, healing does not occur. Instead, you become locked in a state of ongoing mourning; the emotional wound of your loss remains wide open and you are unable to move on. You may be preoccupied with constant thoughts of your loved one, experience intense longing, and be overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow, numbness, or anger. You may feel intense loneliness, even when you are surrounded by others, and may go out of your way to avoid reminders of the person you have lost. Or you may do the opposite—you may surround yourself with objects that make you feel close to your loved one, continuously return to the places that elicit memories of your time together, and live as if you are constantly waiting for their return. You are especially likely to experience complicated bereavement if you lost a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly, without the opportunity to emotionally prepare yourself for their death.

Many people with complicated bereavement are encouraged by well-meaning friends and family to move on, and you may feel that your emotional state is nothing more than a personal shortcoming. You’re told that you’re not grieving the right way. However, research indicates that complicated grief is actually a complex psychological illness with a neurological basis. A study by Mary-Frances O’Connor, published in NeuroImage, examined the effect of grief on brain function via functional magnetic resonance imaging. When people with complicated bereavement were shown pictures of their loved ones, “the nucleus accumbens – the part of the brain associated with rewards or longing – lighted up.” Those who experienced “normal patterns of grieving” exhibited markedly less nucleus accumbens activity.

This area of the brain is also associated with the longing for alcohol and drugs, suggesting that memories of loved ones may actually have an addictive effect on those with complicated bereavement, providing a new understanding of why you are unable to move beyond acute grief. As Dr. O’Connor says, “It’s as if the brain were saying, ‘Yes I’m anticipating seeing this person’ and yet ‘I am not getting to see this person.’ The mismatch is very painful.” Recognizing the neurological underpinnings of complicated bereavement may help researchers and clinicians develop more effective treatment protocols. More importantly, it may help you better understand your experience and reduce the feelings of self-blame and shame you may feel.

Unfortunately, the addictive qualities of your memories may also lead you to develop other addictions. In your attempt to cope with the overwhelming pain of your loss, you may have turned to drugs or alcohol or even food, compounding your emotional distress and presenting new dangers to your well-being. While using substances to escape psychological suffering is common among people experiencing grief, people with complicated bereavement are particularly vulnerable to developing substance addiction issues as they seek to soothe themselves from severe and ongoing mourning. However, any relief you find is only temporary and once the effects of the alcohol or drugs wear off, you’re back where you started or even worse off, as the effects of the substances themselves exacerbate your distress. The resulting cycle of grief and addiction can have serious implications for your ability to function, your physical health, and your fragile psychological state.

If you are suffering from complicated bereavement and a co-occurring substance addiction, healing is within reach. However, effective treatment requires specialized care designed around your unique needs to address the full scope of your emotional and behavioral health issues. In practice, this means that both your grief and addiction must be treated simultaneously to ensure that you process your state of bereavement while attending to the physical and psychological effects of your substance use.

Through comprehensive clinical care, you can develop the skills you need to move forward with your grieving process, cope with your pain in healthy, productive ways, and regain your sense of joy and possibility. Meanwhile, you will learn how to gain control over your addictive drive toward harmful substances as well as safely exploring the complex relationship between your use and your grief to give you a complete picture of your psychological state within an environment of hope and support.

The goal of treatment is never to minimize the loss of your loved one, but to discover ways of expressing, understanding, and coping with that loss in ways that are nourishing, revitalizing, and restorative. With the right therapies delivered with compassion and respect, you can begin the process of meaningful recovery to reawaken your spirit and enhance your quality of life.

 

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Sober Singles Say Dry Dating Can Be A Grim Waste Of Time

Dating is hell — and it’s even harder when you’re sober.

Yet, thanks in part to an increased interest in health and wellness, more and more people are drinking less, with the International Wine and Spirits Record reporting that alcohol consumption is down across America for three years straight.

But how do you break the ice without a drink — and where can you do it when the usual dating spot is a bar?

“You know little tricks,” Mitch Leff, 32, tells Phicklephilly. The Upper East Sider has been sober since he was 19 when he sought treatment for alcohol addiction. He says he often takes first dates out for ice cream at UES., which has a speak-easy-style bar hidden in the back, or on walks in the park with his miniature Goldendoodle, Mazel.

But he hasn’t given up entirely on traditional bars. One of his longtime favorite places to meet first dates is Nobu Downtown — in part because of the half-dozen nonalcoholic drinks on its mocktail menu.

Though he says he’s now “comfortable” ordering a seltzer or soda, the former health-care worker and current experience coordinator didn’t always feel that way.

“When I was newly sober, I was completely overwhelmed,” he says. He worried that dates wouldn’t be able to get on board with his dry lifestyle. “I was like, ‘I’m never going to find someone.’ ”

And although he’s currently single, he’s sure that he’s not alone in feeling that way about dating and drinking.

“There are so many people who have no idea what they’re doing, and it probably causes them to relapse, ’cause they’re so anxious about dating,” he says.

Since socializing so often involves drinking, Malia Griggs, the social media director of The Daily Beast, finds it hard to go out. For a year after she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017, the Brooklynite says she didn’t have a drop of alcohol.

These days, the 31-year-old will have an occasional cocktail, but she says that sobriety has definitely affected the way she socializes.

“I think I’ve been maybe avoiding dating, ’cause I don’t want to explain it over and over,” she says.

She also finds that bars have lost their appeal.

“I think when you’re sober, all the things that are annoying about bars stick out — how loud they are, how expensive they are, how obnoxious other people can be,” Griggs says.

Queens resident Tynan DeLong, 35, agrees. The film director calls booze sobriety a “lifestyle decision” he made over a decade ago, only to find that he got flak half the time for ordering a cheaper, nonalcoholic drink.

But he found it hard to meet people anywhere else during prime dating hours. “Late night options for date spots are pretty limited,” says DeLong, who’s now seeing someone steadily.

Mike Abrusci, 30, agrees.

“It’s hard to think of somewhere after 8 p.m.” for a date that isn’t a bar, says the office-services clerk, who lives in Queens. That’s why he often finds himself at bars, even though he’s never been a drinker.

While restaurants seem an obvious alternative, the pressure of being required to sit through a whole meal on a first date is unappealing, since it gives you no chance to duck out.

“You’re definitely stuck there for as long as the meal takes, whereas, at the bar, you can have a drink and then be like, ‘Oh, I have a thing,’ ” he says.

DeLong also lets his dates know ahead of time that he doesn’t drink — he’s had bad experiences when he hasn’t. Abrusci says he usually tells prospective dates that he’s sober, to filter out any haters. He knows it’s a risky move and that people might overreact and think that it’s “a big deal” — but he’d still rather not waste his time on people who can’t handle it.

“We got to Night of Joy and I was like, I don’t drink,” DeLong says, referring to a Williamsburg bar. His date was confused and cold. “She was like, ‘Then why did you choose this place?’’ It was very mean and that set the tone.”

As far as Griggs is concerned, being sober has had some positive side effects on her dating life. “I feel less fun, but I also feel more mature,” she says, adding that her standard for dates has increased. “You really need to have chemistry with someone — sober chemistry — for the date to work.”

It’s also raised her standard for herself.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Conan the Barbarian

 Philadelphia, PA – 1970s

I always loved comic books as a kid. I liked the artwork and the stories. Something that many people don’t know is that Marvel Comics were always written at a college reading level. So reading comics is a good thing.

I was never really into superhero comics because I just felt that those stories had been played out by the 1970s. I loved horror comics like The Unexpected, Tales from the Crypt, The Witching Hour, etc. The stories were always fun, and many had cool twists at the ends of them.

But my favorite comic series of all time was Conan the Barbarian. What I loved about the character is the same reason my father always loved Batman. He was just a regular guy. No superpowers. Just his strength and wits.

Whereas Batman was a millionaire playboy who donned a costume to fight crime with his cool car and gadgets, Conan solved most of his problems with a broad sword.

Here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conan_the_Barbarian

Conan lived in a savage world, filled with other barbarians, crazy kings, wizards, scary monsters, and hot women.

I wasn’t good at sports and was kind of a nervous wimp as a kid. I would disappear into my fantasy world of comics for hours on end as I listened to my records. I liked Conan because he was buffed, brave, and nearly indestructible. He was constantly pitted against those who wanted to destroy him and rule the world. He solved pretty much every problem he faced with a swift swing of his broad sword. He didn’t even have a costume. Just a necklace, a pair of shorts, and sandals. That, and his trusty cutlass.

There’s only way to deal with the coils of the Man-Serpent!

Being a timid kid I wished I could solve my problems with the bullies and teachers in school in much the same way as Conan faced his adversaries. On top of all of that, Conan was always surrounded by attractive scantily clad women. What teenage boy wouldn’t want to be Conan the Barbarian? A kick-ass warrior and a chick magnet? Count me in!

Red Sonja

Red Sonja - Wikipedia

Valeria

Arnie and Sandahl Bergman (Valeria) from the movie Conan the Barbarian. | Conan the barbarian movie, Conan the barbarian, Sword and sorcery

Belit

Fan Casting Ruth Kearney as Bêlit in Conan the Barbarian on myCast

All babes, that could kick ass side by side with Conan!

Conan was a beast and a ruffian, but he always had a soft spot in his hardened heart for the fairer sex. But I digress…

The series began in 1970 and were based on the stories by Robert E. Howard. So it was some hardcore sword and sorcery stuff originally written in the pulp paperbacks and now had been brought to life in the Marvel series.

The stories were amazing, filled with twists, turns crazy battle sequences, and loads of huge monsters of every kind imaginable. The writing was on point and I owned them all! But the best part of the series in the first 22 issues, was the incredible artwork by Barry Smith.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Windsor-Smith

Other than Neal Adam’s Batman, and Johnny Romita’s Spiderman, Barry Smith was my favorite comic book artist. The way he drew Conan and the other characters made you feel like you were living back in that time and place. It really added to the realism of the stories from that period. Each panel on every page was like a little piece of artwork. If you get a chance, please look up the art of Barry Smith. Conan was the only comic he ever drew. It’s what made those first 22 issues so incredible. That coupled with the great stories made for an amazing storytelling experience. I’m going to look for a compendium of those early issues and read them all again!

Being an insane fan of the American hard rock band, Aerosmith I would listen to their music while I read the comics. I loved guitarist Joe Perry and guess who Barry Smith’s Conan looked like?

Yep… Joe Perry.

Alison Lucas (goldilox1964) on Myspace | Aerosmith, Joe perry, Rock and roll

So it made me love them both even more!

I was a wimp and Conan and Joe were superheroes to me. They both had long black hair and rocked out the only way they knew how. Conan with his broad sword, and Joe with his guitar!

I would vanish into the music and stories in my bedroom and wished I could one day become one of these guys. I would sneak a little flashlight into my room at night and read the comics in bed. The trick was to place the flashlight in your armpit and then you could hold the comic while the light shown on the pages.

So Conan and my other comics helped me survive my adolescence.

 

1983 – California

I was working at Merlin McFly’s in Santa Monica as a cashier at the kitchen. I was the guy you came to if you wanted to order food at this magic-themed bar and grill.

I wrote about my experience there last year:

California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Merlin McFly’s

And here…

Chinese Chicken Salad

Anyway, I was standing there like any other night taking people’s food orders and just doing my thing. It was maybe around 7 pm and night when this tall gentleman walked up in a green polo shirt to place his food order. The first thing I noticed was his huge biceps.

“Can I get a Merlin McFly Burger and a Southwest salad?”

“Yes, Sir!” I nervously wrote down his order on a ticket to give to the cooks behind me. Thinking quickly, I reached for the only piece of paper I could find. It was a laundry receipt that was in a bag of freshly washed blue cloth napkins we used to line the baskets of fried appetizers.

Here’s the Packing List for 100 Blue Visa Napkins

I pushed a scrap of paper and pen toward this customer and spoke:

“I loved you as Conan the Barbarian, may I have your autograph?”

“What’s your name?”

“Chaz!”

The man begins to write my name and sign the paper.

“I spell Chaz with a Z!”

He makes a quick correction and slips the paper back to me.

“Thank you! We’ll call you when your food is ready, Sir!”

There he was, the living personification of my comic book hero. The actor and bodybuilder who brought my hero to the silver screen standing before me ordering a burger.

But at that moment I saw this guy:

Conan!

Conan holding his “Problem Solver!”

It was such an exciting event to meet one of my heroes.

To be honest, I’ve never felt that any Conan the Barbarian films ever captured the true spirit of the early Marvel Comic books. Conan was never as popular as many of the beloved superhero characters that people adore today, but that never mattered to me. Conan will always live in my heart as a fond childhood memory that belongs to me.

Here’s the back of the slip with Arnold’s autograph!

Just think, back then I would never have guessed Arnold would become a character even more famous than Conan, (The Terminator) but also later become the governor of California!

On a final side note, my father once met his wife Maria Schriver in Atlantic City and got a chance to speak with her at an event. He told her how much I loved her super cool husband and his movies!

Every Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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Thanksgiving Tradition

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s one from 2017

My family has always celebrated Thanksgiving, but Christmas was always our big holiday. I’m always welcome at my older sister Janice’s house every year. She has a big house and we refer to her place as Holiday Headquarters. There was one year many years ago when I was invited to go to my other sister Gabrielle’s house all the way down in North Wildwood, New Jersey. Back then I was newly divorced, and I just didn’t feel like making the drive all the way down there. My daughter was little then and with her Mom and that side of the family for Thanksgiving. I was just happy that my ex-wife was out of the house and out of my life for that matter. I was looking forward to a day of listening to music, watching movies, and eating and drinking. I like to be alone. I’m a very social animal, and I get my energy from those around me, but I just wanted a day of sweet nothing and solitude.

I lived in Woodbury, NJ back then. I drove over to the local convenient store and picked up a box of frozen Ellio’s Pizza. It’s a cheap and tasty treat I have loved since I was a lad. The lady at the counter says, “I hope you’re not eating that for Thanksgiving!” I coolly replied, “Oh, no. My daughter loves these things. I always keep them in for her.” (a bald-faced lie)

That night I happily sat on my sofa watching some cool movies, drinking Ketel One vodka and tonics, and eating my delicious Ellio’s Pizza. I had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. I was grateful to have a family that cared about me and most of all that little Lorelei was in the world.

So I joked around with my sisters about that day, and of course, they felt bad for me. They didn’t want me eating frozen pizza and drinking liquor by myself on Thanksgiving, but that’s what I really wanted to do that day. So it’s sort of becoming a family joke every year for Thanksgiving. It came up again this year when I declined my sister’s invitation. It’s not that I didn’t want to see her, but I’ve seen her a lot lately, and my parents have passed, so what’s the point? Once the main anchors of a family die, usually the children retreat to their own little families. She understood and we’ll all get together at her annual holiday party in December at Holiday Headquarters.

I went to the Midtown Diner and had a huge breakfast at the counter. Scrambled eggs, bacon, and french toast. It’s too much food, but I crushed it all and it was delicious. I went back to my house and did some writing. Lorelei escaped the clutches of having to spend Thanksgiving with her mother. She went to her boyfriend’s mother’s house. She’s a hard-core vegan and made some really creative dishes. I’m glad she’s happy and I’m sure they were glad to have her there for the holiday.

I finished a chapter and wanted to get something to eat around 4:30. I left the house and walked down to South street. Everything was closed, but I didn’t feel like going into Walgreens where I’d have to get something to heat up or bake in the oven. Then I looked to the left and remembered there was a new 7-Eleven a block away.

I stopped in and was surprised at all of the people in there buying stuff. Maybe I could start a little Thanksgiving club with them. They could come over with a load of 7-Eleven food and I’d supply the booze. I picked up some things and headed back to the house.

The city was deserted. Dark and eerily quiet because everybody was off doing their family things. I got home, went to my desk, and fired up an old episode of Columbo on Netflix. I poured myself a vodka and club soda. I don’t drink Ketel One anymore at home. Too expensive. I only have it out now in a martini, straight up with a twist. My current brand is Platinum X7 by Sazerac. A 1.75 bottle is $20. My favorite thing to mix it with is Polar club soda with lemon that I buy by the liter at Walgreens. I tore open the small bag of Lay’s potato chips. Then opened the box that contained the quarter-pound 7-Eleven hot dog, and spread mustard along its length.

Changed it up this year! Wanted to send a pic to all of my sisters but decided against it.

A man who can sit in a room alone and be satisfied is a man who has found inner peace.” – My Dad

 

 

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Romantic Thanksgiving Date Ideas

A lot of people believe that Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving unless you spend it stuffing yourself silly with food, surrounded by annoying uncles and aunts. But for couples without children or whose families are far away, Thanksgiving can be a wonderful opportunity to spend some romantic time together without distractions. So skip all of the stress this Thanksgiving and plan a special day for just the two of you with one of the ideas below.

Cook a meal together for two

While playing hostess to your in-laws and simultaneously cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 10 may seem like a recipe for a panic attack, cooking a turkey together with your best guy is filled with sexy opportunities. Envision sipping wine together as you stir the cranberry sauce and let your imagination run wild!

Have someone cook a meal for you

For those of you who think cooking is a chore rather than a delight, there’s nothing like enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner out on the town. Simply make a reservation, show-up and voila! While other women are spending the day slaving over a stove, you and your man can enjoy all of the pleasures of eating a five-course, candle-lit meal with none of the work.

Stay at a B&B

Holidays are so few and far between, why not extend your Thanksgiving into a Thanks-weekend and spend four days being thankful you’re not at home?

Go somewhere warm

Or even better, chuck the idea of a traditionally chilly Thanksgiving and relax the weekend away, basking in the sun at a tropical resort. The trees may not change color in Florida or the Bahamas, but there is still a lot of holiday cheer to be found there.

Watch a parade

You don’t even need to go anywhere to enjoy a romantic Thanksgiving. Sipping hot chocolate and holding hands together while watching a local parade can be just as lovely.

Or snuggle on the couch

Don’t even get dressed! Thanksgiving is one holiday that’s made for sleeping in, so don’t hesitate to ignore that alarm for once. You can always TiVo the parade and watch it later.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen

For couples in pursuit of the true meaning of Thanksgiving, soup kitchens and charity organizations are always in need of volunteers on the holiday when attendance is even higher than usual.

Go see a movie

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is going out to the movies with my boyfriend, just the two of us.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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