Breaking News: Women Also Suffer From Alcoholism

I have a love-hate relationship with the 24-hour news cycle. I mean, we get the best and worst of humanity delivered “live and as it’s happening” all day, every day. Don’t get me wrong – I realize I’m part of the problem. As a consumer of knowledge, I have a genuine desire to know what’s going on in the world. I guess I just don’t want every dirty detail. Don’t tell me how the clock works, just tell me what time it is.

But I think a casualty of our “breaking news” obsession are the journalists who deliver it to us. There’s  a lot of pressure on those folks. I think it’s particularly tough for broadcast journalists. For some reason, possibly out of oddly placed respect, we place them on a pedestal. Not only is their hair supposed to stay in place while reporting on the beach during a hurricane, we expect them to maintain a certain level of ethical and moral standards off camera. So when they’re on camera, they’re more trustworthy.

And when their private lives don’t jive with our expectations – they suffer the wrath of public scrutiny. Such is the case with national TV journalist Elizabeth Vargas. On camera she’s perfect.  Poised. Eloquent. Respected. Off camera she’s a recovering alcoholic.

In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Ms. Vargas talked candidly about her long struggle with alcoholism and anxiety. You can catch that interview here.

But I love her honesty when she said, “When you’re in the cycle of this disease though, it doesn’t matter how much you have or how little you have, I—it didn’t matter,” she continued. “It leveled me. It knocked me flat on my butt. I lost sight of everything.”

According to the article, “nearly 63 percent of women in trouble with alcohol say they are also fighting anxiety.” I think we can look at Ms. Vargas at this point in her recovery and understand that alcoholism usually has trigger – in her case it was anxiety. It’s rarely, if ever, an independent disease. And alcoholism is no respecter of fame, fortune or social status. Just ask Ms. Vargas. The key is to identify the trigger.

If you are struggling with alcoholism, especially if you are a woman, we understand that you face very different struggles, pressures and expectations. We can help you. Watch our video, “Women & Addiction” to learn more, then give us a call at (214) 733-9565 to start the discussion.

give me liberty or give me death

Give me liberty, or give me death.

I don’t know if there’s a more fervent statement in our nation’s history than Patrick Henry’s impassioned declaration at the 1775 Virginia Convention, when he asserted: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying our country’s liberty was that easy to win. Henry didn’t just say it and “POOF!” we’re free! Oh no. King George III wasn’t about to hand over his “new world” to the colonists. It took strength, bravery, resolve and courage for the early colonists to fight for liberty. It took making a stand and then acting on it.

Our country’s liberty and the courage of those early Americans has so many parallels to our addictions. That’s because there’s a common thread with freedom – sometimes, you just have to fight for it.

Freedom from addiction is worth the cost, the risk, the challenge to achieve a life liberated from harmful behavior. The road to liberty is not easy – but once you make the first move, we promise, you won’t regret it. Here are some steps that you can take to get started:

DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE – In 1776 the Continental Congress declared that the original 13 colonials were done with the British Empire. British rule (like an addiction) was just too much of a burden. So just like Patrick Henry, you have to say it out loud. You have to say it with resolution. Whether its drugs and alcohol, pornography or shop lifting, admitting that “enough is enough” is the first step in declaring your independence from addiction.

ASK FOR HELP – The colonists didn’t fight for their freedom alone. Independence was a battle that was too big for their scant resources and experience. They brought in allies, like the French, to help them be strategic in their approach. Our team is your ally. We can help you defeat your addiction, and through our Life Development program, help you achieve enduring freedom from destructive habits.

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT – The colonists wanted their independence more than the British wanted their afternoon tea. They didn’t win every battle. But because they kept fighting, they won the war. Fighting addiction can be a long, engaging war. It can feel overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. Don’t give up. FIGHT for it!

CELEBRATE YOUR WINS – Fireworks. Picnics. Hot Dogs. Hamburgers. Family. Close friends. July 4th is a day of celebration. Every win over an addiction deserves a celebration. Maybe you resisted the urge to drink at the party. Maybe you decided to turn off the computer rather than look at porn. Celebrate those wins. Tell someone who knows you’re struggling that you won today. Share your successes and revel in them – those celebrations will become the motivation that pushes you through the next time your addiction resurfaces.

Today is the day to declare your independence from addiction. And we can help you stand resolute in that declaration. Please call us if you’re struggling with addiction. We’ve seen and heard it all. You won’t embarrass us. You won’t offend us. You won’t surprise us. We can help. Please call us today.



Read Kevin Gilliland’s Dallas Morning News OpEd

Dr. Kevin Gilliland’s recent OpEd: “Facing the Cunning, Baffling, Power Nature of Substances and Addiction” was published in the Dallas Morning News on May 27th. Read the full article here to understand how prescription drugs are holding our society captive.


Depression and Susan Hawk, Good Day Talks to Kevin Gilliland

In case you missed it, Dr. Gilliland was featured on this morning’s Good Day (Fox 4 News) to discuss mental illness and depression. Click here to watch the interview on Fox 4 News!


Mythbusting: Why people resist alcohol treatment

In a prior post, we shared some questions to help assess whether you or a loved one might have an alcohol addiction.  But once denial is out of the picture and someone realizes that they have a problem with alcohol, many people still resist getting help.  In fact, although an estimated 25 million Americans struggle with addiction, less than 10% of them will seek treatment.

Here are some of the most common objections we hear when people come close—but don’t actually commit—to getting help for an alcohol issue.  Spoiler alert: none of them are valid reasons to delay getting on the road to recovery.

“I can do it on my own.”
Self-efficacy—your belief in your capacity to succeed­ at accomplishing something—is a great thing when it comes to achieving goals.  In fact, it is probably why you have been successful in work, sports, and challenges in life.  However, it can also be a serious stumbling block for someone struggling under the power of an addiction.  The notion of self-efficacy is especially strong for high achievers battling alcoholism—they’re accustomed to feeling capable and in control. We often believe we can ‘out think’ or ‘out run’ an addiction without any outside help.  The reality:  except in rare cases, going it alone to treat an addiction usually doesn’t work.

“I can’t stop working/taking care of my family to get help.”
Getting treatment for addiction doesn’t always mean that you’re going away and checking into a residential facility. ‘Rehab’ isn’t the only—or the best—approach for everyone with an alcohol issue. Your daily routine doesn’t necessarily have to come to a halt.  Effective alcoholism treatment can take many forms, such as at-home support or a hybrid approach combining counseling and lifestyle changes.  This is what our ‘Treatment in the Midst of Life’ philosophy is all about—being alongside you to make positive changes within your unique environment.

“I can’t afford treatment.”
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, and with the right guidance from a reputable professional, everyone should be able to find a treatment approach that fits their budget.  Plus, when you consider the financial alternative to letting a serious addiction spiral out of control, even ‘pricey’ treatment starts to look like a bargain.  Think about it.  Divorces and custody battles are expensive. DUI convictions are expensive.  Doctor visits for alcohol related physical problems are expensive.  Actually, I’m not sure you can afford to keep drinking the way you do.

“I’m not a ‘group therapy’ type of person.”
While support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are excellent recovery outlets for many people, they’re not a ‘must’ for everyone in recovery.  One-on-one counseling is sometimes the best fit.   And once they are detoxed and have a clear head, even folks who previously swore they’d never be caught dead in an AA meeting develop a new appreciation for the support of a community.

“I’m ashamed/embarrassed.”
It can be frustrating to be unsuccessful in trying to quit something or to try to make a healthy change in life.  You feel two ways about it:  you enjoy certain elements and you really dislike others.  It’s frustrating to feel that way and can lead to feelings of sadness and shame when we act in ways we don’t want to.  That is often the power of an addiction.  And there’s no denying that a degree of stigma exists around addiction.  But fortunately, as more and more of our friends, neighbors and loved ones are joining celebrities to publicly share their stories of recovery, our society is starting to chip away at the unnecessary shame around addiction. Plus, the reality is that alcohol treatment can be as discreet as you want it to be.

“I’ll lose my job.”
You might.  You might also lose your job if your alcohol use continues to escalate out of control.  Legally speaking, your job shouldn’t be at risk (yes, key word: shouldn’t).  There are two pieces of federal legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, that guarantee that addicts and alcoholics who undergo treatment for substance abuse will be given the time they need to do so by their employers, and that their jobs will be secure when they return.  And again, some problems with alcohol don’t require “going away”.  There are other options.

Not convinced?  We believe that addiction treatment works.  And the unique way we do it may just surprise you and shatter a few more myths you might have about recovery. We encourage you to reach out to us to learn more.


Seriously, this is no joke.

So, this probably comes as no surprise that I’m a bit of jokester. I love pulling an all-in-good-fun prank on an unsuspecting friend or colleague. Just a few weeks ago, for example, our team pulled a great prank on Chris Epstein, our Clinical Director. What made it so funny for all of us involved, was that he had NO idea he was being played. (When you get a chance, ask him about it!)

So naturally, I love April Fool’s Day. (Although making a national holiday out of pranking kind of ruins the element of surprise for guys like me.) Really, what’s the fun if someone knows it’s coming?

And while April Fool’s Day gets a lot of love in April, there’s something far less funny that’s also being recognized this month. April is National Alcohol Awareness Month.

Yes, yes. I know EVERYTHING gets its own month or a day to celebrate.  Ferrets (April 2), chicken cordon bleu (April 4) and barber shop quartets (April 11) are also celebrated this month. It’s like we’re all in search of our happy rainbows. Oh wait, April 3 is National Find a Rainbow Day. So there you are.

But, let’s take this opportunity to recognize that alcoholism really is no joke; and this is a great opportunity to talk about it. Because, despite its prevalence in our society, alcoholism is still largely misunderstood.

In fact, one of the most common questions I hear is, am I an alcoholic? Well, if you have to ask, yah there’s probably a reason you’re asking. But, man, that’s a loaded question too. Because there really is a difference between my drinking is ruining my life, my drinking causes me problems in my life, and I don’t like the way I think about drinking.

So we’re going to take this month to walk through some key points about alcoholism with you.

And to get us started, here are a few general “self awareness” or “reflective” questions I think would be a good lift off point:

– What’s your drinking pattern? On any day in the past year have you had more than 4 standard drinks (men) / 3 standard drinks (women)
– On average, how many days a week do you drink alcohol?
– On a typical drinking day, how many drinks do you have?
– Does alcohol cause you to neglect your personal or professional responsibilities?
– Do you have alcohol related legal problems? (domestic violence, DUI, public intoxication)-
– Do you fight with your friends or relatives when you drink?

Again, these are just a few questions to ask to get you started on the journey of thinking about the role that alcohol plays in your life. If you do have concerns, please reach out to a professional who can help you walk through your struggles. Or, if you know somebody who you feel is struggling with alcohol, you may also be their lifeline.

If you’re not sure where to start, please call us and we’ll begin the journey together. And stayed tuned to this month’s emails. We’ll pack them full of helpful insights.


Staying Clean at Concerts & Music Festivals

As the spring season approaches and music festivals like South by Southwest ramp up, many like myself are getting the itch to experience live music. The fact that so many festival and concert goers drink and do drugs make attending such gatherings especially difficult for those of us who’ve struggled with addiction and are in recovery.

Due to live music being something we previously associated with drinking and drugging, attending concerts and music festivals can be challenging experiences that place our sobriety at risk. But for those in recovery who want to enjoy the experience of live music, the question is how to do so safely without putting our sobriety in jeopardy.

In my near 5 years of sobriety, I’ve had the chance of experiencing live music in different surroundings and have come up with a few guidelines on how to do so staying sober while still having fun.

My first and most important suggestion is to go to these events with like-minded friends who are also in recovery. I have found that I have a much better time, feel safer and more relaxed when I’m in the company of friends who are also sober.

There is a feeling of strength in numbers that comes with it. It makes a world of a difference to experience it all with a group who think like you and share a mutual understanding of and respect for sobriety. With this kind of support you are much more likely to not be pressured or coerced into doing something you don’t want to do. If you are going with people who drink or use drugs, you will want to make sure they have an understanding of your sobriety, are discrete about their personal use and are willing to keep it out of your sight.

Something you may want to look into before attending a concert or music festival is if there are any on-site recovery or 12 step meetings. A lot of music festivals unofficially host meetings throughout and just require a little bit of online research prior to find out where and when they meet. Some of the nation’s most popular music festivals are now featuring sober tents that are spots for water, shelter and a venue for recovery meetings. Finding and attending recovery meetings at music festivals provide a source of empowerment for staying clean, an oasis in a party atmosphere and an avenue for meeting like-minded friends.

I’ve come to believe that it’s about staying in the right mindset while enjoying the music.  Recovery meetings during concerts and festivals can give you the boost you may need to stay in the right mindset. If you are having trouble finding meetings at the music event, you can look online for a list of recovery meetings to attend in cities nearby before or after the festival.

My next suggestion would be to keep physical distance from those you see who are visibly under the influence of drugs. I would suggest a 10-foot distance from anyone who is visibly impaired. That buffer will make you feel safer and it’s less likely for those under the influence to invade your personal space or interact with you in an uncomfortable fashion. As a general rule of thumb, daylight hours at concerts and festivals are easier than nights when it comes to avoiding those heavily under the influence.

I’ve found that past midnight, you’ll often become more and more aware of your sobriety and the lack of others’. If you find yourself surrounded by people who under the influence of drugs and you can’t seem to get away from them no matter where you go, you may want to reconsider whether or not it’s time to leave.

Never accept anything to eat or drink that you have not personally purchased as drinks and foods can be laced with a variety of drugs. It’s also important to never leave what you’re eating or drinking out of your sight. It’s never worth risking.

If you do end up feeling uncomfortable or the desire to drink or use is heightened, you’ll want to formulate an exit strategy ahead of time. Whether its finding a safe place on the outskirts of the festival to cool off and call someone for support or deciding to take an Uber ride home, you should create a plan ahead of time, in the event things get overwhelming. When in doubt, leave and find a safe ride home.

Seeing live music is never worth risking your sobriety. Assessing yourself before attending such an event is also necessary. If you are newly sober or are feeling shaky in your sobriety, it is probably best you stay home and not subject yourself to such a scene until you have some time established sober and are free of the desire to drink or use.

Following these suggestions, I have a new found appreciation for seeing and experiencing live music. What I have found is that I still have fun and I actually remember what I experienced. I tend to spend a lot less, not end up in sketchy situations and best of all, when it’s all over, I don’t have a terrible hang over or come-down followed by a deep depression. I get to make it home safely, without risking arrest and I feel great the following days and weeks.

When I first got sober, I thought I would never be able to enjoy the experience of live music again. What I have found is quite the contrary. Experiencing music sober has allowed me to redefine myself and the way I have fun. If you are in recovery from drugs and alcohol and seeing live music is something you are passionate about, you can still partake and have fun, but please keep these suggestions in the forefront of your mind and remember the fun is not over just because you got sober!


Smartphones Why do we call these “smart” phones?

A new study published recently by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows a sharp increase in pedestrian traffic deaths, and cites walking while texting as a possible reason. Have we really come to this?

The latest research is just confirmation of our growing obsession with our devices.  In 2014, pedestrians using their cell phones went to the emergency room with related injuries more than 2,500 times, up from under 250 in 2006. Smartphones and similar devices are now blamed for 10% of pedestrian injuries, and even about six deaths per year.

Numerous studies have demonstrated just how oblivious we can become while using our devices.  A National Geographic experiment proved that many device-focused folks on the street would stroll right past a guy in a gorilla suit without even knowing he was there.  And there was even a (very lucky) fella a few years back who almost walked straight into a wild bear because he was too busy texting.  Yup, that really happened.

And while death or injury by device is legitimately scary, there’s an equally alarming but more insidious toll that handheld technology may be taking on our relationships and mental health.Our collective obsession with being ‘connected’ could actually be serving to distance us from loved ones, and robbing us of the ability to just be in the moment once in a while.

When counseling couples, we often hear about a husband and wife who end their day by checking email or playing a game on their smartphone in bed.  Seems like no big deal, right?  But it’s the little things in our relationships that can chip away at intimacy and connection like slow but powerful forces of nature.  Before you know itthat solid land mass of your marriage has eroded into something unrecognizable.

For people prone to anxiety and depression, devices can become another way to isolate or fuel irrational fears.  Anxiety is driven by ‘what if’ thinking.  Sometimes all it takes to quell the demons of worry and fear (whether or not you realize they’re eating at you) is to be present in a moment.  Breathe.  Notice what’s around you, or who is across from you.  That’s tough to do with your head buried in a phone.Will checking Twitter or Facebook for the 11th time today really do anything to change your mood or your frame of mind?Probably not.But actually calling a friend or taking a (phone-free) walk might.

I challenge you to try a few experiments with your cell phone in the coming days:

If you and your partner routinely forgo a goodnight kiss (or more) in favor of checking your social media accounts, pledge to ban devices from the bedroom for one week.  Talk to each other (what a concept!).  Even watching TV together is better than sinking into the smartphone silos we create without even realizing it.

Or the next time you find yourself tempted to turn to your phone while you’re walking down the street, don’t.  Look around.  Observe the sights and sounds of your environment. Make eye contact with another human being.  Heck–you could even smile at a stranger!  It will probably be more fun than whatever your phone could have offered in that moment.  And, according to the recent study, it just might save your life.


Addicted to pornography? Ask yourself these questions.

I recently read an article about Terry Crews (read it here), former NFL player and herculean actor in the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the Old Spice commercials, and movies including The Expendables. He revealed to the public his struggle with pornography addiction. He shared that his obsession had devastating consequences in his life. It took up all of his time, objectified his view of other people, and alienated his wife and children.

As more celebrities and public figures begin to speak out about this issue, it confirms what we have seen in our office. A large number of men, and increasing numbers of women describing that their use of pornography or other problematic sexual behavior has severely impacted their life. They share it prevents them from meeting their responsibilities, gets in the way of their goals and what they value most in life. Some even report having lost their jobs and families because of the habit. Hollywood is getting into the mix as well. Movies with characters wrestling with out of control sexual behavior are being produced including Shame (2011) starring Michael Fassbender, Thanks for Sharing (2012) starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Jon (2013) starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Why is there becoming a greater increase in public awareness? Listen to these stats: There are 68 million pornographic search engine requests on a daily basis—that’s 25% of total requests made worldwide. There are 1.5 billion pornographic downloads per month (peer-to-peer)—that’s 35% of total downloads worldwide. 72 million worldwide Internet users visit adult sites per month. And, the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11 years old.* In addition, various risk factors can contribute to the development of pornography or sexual addiction, including a history of addiction and/or mental health issues in the family, abuse or early trauma experiences, and the development of other addictive behavior that might interact with or reinforce sexually compulsive behavior. Any or all of these factors can lead to compulsive behavior.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography or sexual addiction, there is hope. Dr. Patrick Carnes and his team developed the PATHOS questionnaire to provide a brief and effective screening tool to properly determine whether a person would benefit from seeing a professional for sexual addiction assessment and treatment. Here is the simple set of questions that can help you assess whether to seek help.

  • Preoccupation–Do you find yourself fantasizing, daydreaming, or ruminating about sexual images or experiences?
  • Ashamed–Do you compartmentalize or hide some or all of your sexual behavior from others?
  • Treatment–Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like?
  • Hurt others–Has anyone been hurt emotionally, physically, or psychologically because of your sexual behavior?
  • Out of control–Do you feel controlled by your sexual behavior?
  • Sad–When you view pornography or engage in other sexual behaviors, do you feel depressed afterwards?


If you answered with a positive response to one of the questions above, that would indicate a need for additional assessment.Here at i360, we have trained professionals that can help with the issue of sexual addictionand/or any co-occurring mental health issues. There is hope for healing and restored relationships.

Written by Mitchell Isle, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.



Kevin Gilliland: An offer for Ben Carson

I want to make a deal with Dr. Ben Carson, the current GOP presidential frontrunner. I’ll not practice neurosurgery if he won’t speak again about addiction and recovery. Please.

Recently, Dr. Carson told a Sunday morning news show host:

“[U]sually, addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives. And so we have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached?

“And why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?”

Huh? So, the problem of drug abuse and addiction is caused by a lack of “values and principles” and can be traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness.”



Honestly, I’m not really sure what point Ben Carson is trying to make. His logic begs these follow-up questions, “How does he view patients who struggle with obesity? With hypertension related to diet, exercise and stress? With adult-onset diabetes? With politicians who lie and cheat on their spouse?”

He must think his answer about drug abuse and addiction explains all that ails America. Actually, it explains nothing when it comes to addiction.

I’m not singling out Dr. Carson for his politics. I am singling him out for his lack of reasoning and factual knowledge when it comes to addiction.

A number of people, including physicians, unfortunately, still often consider psychiatric illnesses and mental health struggles a moral issue or a “weakness” rather than a biological, social, or neurochemical issue that affect us in ways that other illnesses affect us.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson’s all too common view interferes with individuals seeking and receiving treatment – treatment that is truly changing lives.

What we know about addictions is that they often take over the lives of good people with good marriages and good jobs, and people who live in wonderful communities.

Why is it that one brother develops an addiction and the other doesn’t?

Why is the reward experience from alcohol so completely all-consuming for some individuals that they cannot imagine life without alcohol, but not for others?

We do know this: when you ask alcohol or drugs to do something for you, it’s a path that can lead to destruction.

If you use alcohol (or another drug of choice) to help you relax after a long day with the kids or at the office; if you use alcohol or drugs because you want to be less nervous at a business meeting; if you use to forget about the troubles in your marriage by overindulging, you are asking for trouble.

And, if you really like the way it makes you feel, the rush of the pleasure, and you indulge frequently and in large amounts, you could end up on a long, difficult road.

Every day, it seems we are learning something new about the complexities of addiction.

Lest, anyone think differently, remind them of H.L. Mencken’s truism: “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Oh, and as a values and morals guy myself — and I hope it’s politically correct for me to say so — I promise not to perform neurosurgery. I’ll stick with addiction treatment and recovery.

-Kevin Gilliland, PsyD Gilliland@i360life.com.