The Importance of Telling Your Story: Alcoholics

Human beings are selfish by nature. But the most selfish thing we do is believe that our journeys and our experiences effect only us, when that is simply not true.

People seem to think their struggles are vastly unique to them. While we all experience our own emotions and reactions to situations in our lives, sometimes the pain is the same. But we will never know that unless we share our stories.

This was the case for 50 year old Tina Kane, whose ex-husband passed in 2009 from alcoholism. “I was selling all his old recording equipment,” said Tina, “and a man walked up and asked why I was doing this. I told him that my ex-husband had drunk himself to death, and he just kind of stared at me. I didn’t know why until he sent me this email.” (See email pictured below)

Email to Tina Kane, part I
Email to Tina Kane, part I
Email to Tina Kane, part II
Email to Tina Kane, part II

Alcoholism currently affects a documented 30% of the United States population. This does not account for “functioning alcoholics,” or people who abuse the substance but still maintain jobs, families, and have never sought treatment.

Below, an interactive graphic with data provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism outlines what percentage of people from each age group (by gender) are affected with alcoholism.

According to Healthline, while the specific causes of alcoholism are unknown, the dependency known as addiction comes when a person drinks so much that it causes chemical alterations in the brain that emphasize the pleasurable effects of alcohol, making the drinker crave it. Eventually, the brain alters to an extent where the body believes it needs alcohol to survive, like water.

Michael Cosver, a teen alcoholic, speaks on his experience with alcoholism. “It was like I could feel it coming, but I didn’t think it would ever be this,” says Cosver. “We’d be at parties and everyone was drinking. Everyone. And people would throw up and black out all the time. But I guess it was different for me because it started happening more and more where, like, I would hit people up to drink and they’d say no. And I’d get mad they didn’t want to drink as much as me. And then I started drinking alone. And I guess that’s a problem.”

Registered Nurse Moira Miranda works in the rehabilitation center at Mills-Peninsula Hospital. “You’d be surprised how many people come in and out and back again,” said Miranda. “And it’s hard, especially when my daughter was in elementary and middle school because I’d see teachers, parents, people I knew from my daughter’s school. And I’m cleaning up their puke and watching them struggle with addiction. And the hardest part was saying nothing because you see these patients out in their normal lives at parent night and meetings and they seem normal, but they are addicts.”

Not surprisingly, studies have shown that children of addicts tend to seek out addicts as life partners due the the codependent behavior they develop after living and growing up around addiction. However, in an article by PsychologyToday, psychologists actually suggest that an addict paired with a non-addict is the most beneficial relationship one can have. Having a relationship with a non-addict shifts focus away from the addiction into a more “normal” lifestyle that can help aid with recovery. However, in the event of relapse or emotional turmoil, it can be hard for a non-addict or someone who has little experience with addiction to cope emotionally, mentally, and physically.

This is a very real disease. It is frequently joked about and brushed off, but it kills nearly 88,000 people in the U.S. annually, making it the third leading cause of premature death in the United States.

You never know when sharing your story could be the jump start to someone’s recovery. While you may think you walk a lonely road, the more you speak out, the more people you will find are on the same path you are. Do not be afraid to share your story; you have the potential to save someone’s life.

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Unpopular Opinion: Dear White People from Another White Person

There’s a lot of political unrest right now, so let’s get some things straight.

I am not proud to be an American right now. While I do not agree with what this country was built on (stealing land from natives, murder, and rape), I agree in the motto and belief it was built on: the American dream. An idea that everyone deserved freedom. Everyone deserves to be happy. Everyone who works for success deserves it.

So someone, please, explain to me, why in 2015 Starbucks changing the color of their holiday cup causes more outrage than African American students being assaulted because of the color of their skin.

Here’s some stuff other people won’t say, but I will because I don’t care if I tick you off:

  • You are not better than anyone because you are white. Period. And if you think you are, go fork yourself.
  • You have no place to say who belongs in America and who doesn’t. If you want to get technical, unless you are 100% Native American, some part of your ancestry is an immigrant. Some part of YOU is the intruder. America did not start out a white country. We stole it from “minorities.” Remember that.
  • It’s fine to have an opinion. But when your opinion starts infringing on other people’s happiness and freedoms, your opinion is wrong.
    • But Rachel, being a racist jerk IS my opinion. Hating gay people IS my opinion. Cool, that’s fine. But when you act on it and endanger other people and take away their rights, you’re wrong. You are completely entitled to be a crappy human, but don’t take the rest of us down with you.
  • Your hashtags help no one. Jumping on the latest social media bandwagon of statuses or tweets or whatever doesn’t do jack. You want to show black people you stand with them? Go stand with them. In public. In the eyes of people who will judge you. In the shoes and next to the people who are actually fearing for their lives. Not behind your computer with a keyboard. You help no one.
  • Most likely, you’re a hypocrite. You cannot say “f**k the police” and then call them when someone is breaking into your house. You cannot abuse the n-word and tell racist jokes, and then #standinsolidarity. You cannot claim to want to deport a nationality because they are “rapists” or “lazy” and not deport all the white people who are “rapists” and “lazy” too. You cannot.
  • Stop turning years of other races’ hardships and struggles into YOUR drama. Stand with them. Cry with them. Support them. But this is NOT about you. This is about THEM and about US as a nation. Which brings me to this….

We are a society that is destroying itself. We are attacking our own people. We are creating civil war. People are more concerned with looking like they are a part of something than actually being a part of something. We would rather solve problems for citizens over seas than citizens in our own backyard. You can preach being a “proud American” until you’re blue in the face. But if you lack the capacity to even be a decent human being to your fellow Americans? You’re the outsider. You might be a proud American, but America is not proud of you.

 

What They Never Told You About You Falling In Love

I was never that girl. I never pictured my wedding, or fantasized about a husband, or dreamed about being a Mrs. So-and-so. I dreamed about being a lawyer, or a cardiologist. I had crushes, but I couldn’t for the life of them get them to notice me. And if they did notice me, it’s because I was insanely and utterly creepy towards them (sorry, Jerry).

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I had my first “real” boyfriend in seventh grade. And I thought I was in love with him and that I’d marry him and all that jazz. Same with my sophomore year boyfriend. But they came and went and after a couple months, I’d move on and I wouldn’t even miss them.

My junior year, I switched schools. I asked my friend who went there, and who the “big men on campus” were. She mentioned a guy I went to grade school with and this other boy. Ironically, I met the “other boy” at a party that weekend, and I did my very best to blow him off in an attempt to knock his ego down to size. But the boy knew the game, and he knew it well. I was no match.

I fell and I fell hard. And for the first eight months it was something out of an ABC family movie: nominations for homecoming court, kissing on the football field after games, walking each other to class, and passing notes in between. For the first time in my life, I felt normal. I felt stereotypical. I felt my age. Then college admission time came. That was the beginning of the next two years which would be a hectic, dramatic, on-off nightmare. However, even though things got bad, when we were good, we were still really, really good.

But in those three years, we’d both really messed up. He’d broken my heart a few times, and my trust, and I’d betrayed him in ways so shallow I’m still ashamed of them. The love was still there, but there was a pain now too. There were cracks in our perfect “high school sweetheart” armor.

Neither one of us would admit it. We tried to force long distance, balance different friend groups and lifestyles, and ignore all the shit we’d put each other through.

But we couldn’t. And that was just life.

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I feel like our generation is so scared of emotional attachment due to being products of divorce, single-parents, infidelity, and numerous other relationship breakers that seem to be more prevalent in our parents generation than in any before them. We tend to care too much or too little, and there is an imbalance that leaves us thinking we either don’t need anyone, or we need the first person we fell for. We have continuously seen marriages and relationships fail, and the idea of loving one person forever isn’t a fairytale anymore, it’s a threat.

This is unhealthy, and this is a terrifying mindset. So I’ve penned some things we all (myself heavily included) need to remember about falling in love:

  1. Having emotional attachments is not a death sentence. Humans are social creatures. Whether we admit it or not we do depend on others for survival and wellness. This includes emotional wellness. Sometimes you’ll crush on someone who doesn’t feel the same way and that doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. It just means it wasn’t right.
  2. Do not put the people you love on pedestals. I made this mistake. I set an impossible standard of what I thought I needed and wanted, and when he didn’t meet that, I freaked out. Love is about accepting people for exactly who they are. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards, but do have realistic ones. As you grow older, what you look for in people will change, and that’s okay. But it is wiser and better (for both of you) to move on rather than try to force your changes onto someone else’s personality.
  3. You are only hurting yourself with the hookup culture. We’re young. It happens. You drink too much, or you want some sort of affection, or you think it’ll get them to like you. But at the end of the night, what? You’ve had meaningless sex. And although you may wake up next to someone, you’re still alone. Stop settling for sex, and start holding out for something else.
  4. If he’s a dick to you/If she’s a bitch to you, it’s not right. I strongly, strongly believe that even the douchiest of douches will be a sweetheart for the right girl, and the wildest of untamed women will settle down and stop playing games for the right boy. If you find yourself constantly trying to tame them and keep them focused on you, it’s not right. Let them go.
  5. You cannot force someone to love you. This is so important. Even if you’ve had history in the past. Even if you’re cute together. Even if you’re friends. Even if you’re there for them 24/7, and you have fun together, and you connect. Even if sometimes it seems like they might love you back. There is no amount of affection and adoration you can give someone to make them love you. Period.
  6. You cannot force yourself to love someone. Sometimes you know someone would be really good for you. You know they’d treat you well, and never hurt you, and they just get you. But if it’s not there, it’s not there. Do not force yourself to date them or spend time with them in hopes that one day you’ll just magically wake up in love. That will only hurt both of you.
  7. Let go of your past, and your parents’ past, too. Staying hung up on an ex only makes you miss out on new and amazing people that could change your life. Fearing love and relationships because your parents had a shitty marriage or you’ve seen love fail only ensures that you will fail too. We’ve learned that if we touch a hot stove, it burns, so we never touch a hot stove again. This is an adequate rule for stoves, but a shitty one for relationships. Refusing to love because you got hurt once or twice only ensures that you end up alone. Take a damn chance.
  8. More than one person can love you. I promise. Stop focusing on who you lost, and focus on who you have. I know friends and family aren’t the same as a significant other, but they love you. They’re there for you. They also get you. So focus on that. Focus on friends and family, because then you’ll be happy. And your happiness will be what causes someone else to notice you and fall for you.
  9. There is no such thing as “the one.” There is no emotional cap on the human heart. There is no law saying that there is only one person out there for you, and if you lose them or never find them it’s hopeless. You are more than capable of loving someone else. Multiple someone else’s. The only one limiting that is you. So stop.
  10. Love yourself. Your body responds to your thoughts. This is scientifically proven. If you think positive, and think you’re the shit, even if you don’t believe it at first, you will eventually start too. The mind is an amazing tool. It can heal itself. If you focus on loving yourself, you will never be discontent. People can come and go, and you will be strong enough in your self-worth to say, “thank your for the experience,” and move on.

This is a bit ranty, and if you actually read all of it, I’m impressed. Moral of the story: don’t trip on the past. What’s meant to be, will be. And life will surprise you. It will give you everything you need. Just make sure you don’t miss it by looking backwards.

BABE IT’S OUR SONG: Music Psychology and Why You Can’t Stop Listening

Music. It can replay your most vivid memories, remember all your best times, and renew emotions you’d thought had long passed. You can study a textbook for hours and remember nothing, but a song from seventh grade comes on and you know every word. And something about a cute boy playing an acoustic guitar will melt any girl’s heart. But why? What is it about music that it seems to be so vividly engrained in our minds and hearts?

Charles Darwin in the past had hypothesized that music was associated with intelligence and physical dexterity, and that’s what attracts someone to a potential mate who plays music. That is one theory: that music sticks with us because we associate it with the basic principles of mating (sex, intelligence, survival of the fittest, etc.) However, another study done at Dartmouth College suggested that we can associate emotions with music because it mimics certain physical postures and movements with sound.

parts of the brain that react strongly to sound
parts of the brain that react strongly to sound

But on a more psychological level, the music that sticks with us is the music we can relate to. The song that was playing during your first dance, the song you listened to on repeat when she dumped you, the song that played when you realized you were in love with him. Perhaps it is just coincidence that music seems to make an appearance in crucial moments in our lives.

It has been hypothesized that music doesn’t affect our relationships; there is very little evidence and research on music affecting relationships. Rather, we seek out and select music based on the kinds of relationships and emotions we are pursuing. This article from “The Science of Relationships” starts off with a perfect example:

“As you sit down for a romantic dinner with your partner, you’ve thought of everything: great food, fine china, candles, and a nice bottle of wine. Now you just need a little music to set the mood, so you put on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” This will certainly set a mood (i.e., confusion), but probably not the mood (i.e., romance).”

Another study suggests that favorite music genre is linked to personality type. This could lead one to believe that maybe we’re drawn to people with similar music tastes to us because their personality lines up nicely with ours.

rundown of personality types from psych central
rundown of personality types from psych central

But at the root of music is sound. And sound has been tested and proven to have a huge effect on the brain. An article on the Psychology of Sound outlines how different regions and functions of the brain react to sound:

  • Brain stem reflex: acoustic characteristics of sound (i.e. volume or dissonance) can signal urgency or importance and cause us to react on an instinctual level
  • Evaluative conditioning: An emotion can be elicited by a sound because we’ve heard it repeatedly in a certain setting, and it causes a strong association.
  • Emotional contagion: we perceive what we believe to be the emotion of a song, and react accordingly.
  • Visual imagery: the sound and rhythm of a song cause us to imagine certain scenes or sensations, like how an ascending melody is associated with upwards movement or flying.
  • Episodic memory: the “babe, this is our song!” thing
  • Music expectancy: when music takes a turn in melody or beat we didn’t expect, and it causes curiosity or confusion (perhaps why the “bass drop” is so popular now?)

But what about the people making the music? Did Adele sit down and write “Someone Like You” and think, “yes. Sooooooo many people are going to cry listening to this song. I’m stoked!” Or did they simply play their emotions and we, the listeners, related? I wanted to learn a little more about how musicians use music to influence their audience. So I took my questions to Cal Poly’s insanely underrated music department.

The first person I ran into was a alumni by the name of Kyler Fischer. His band, CHUNK, was having an album release October 31. When asked how he used music to influence his audience, he said, “a lot of my music that I write and record is purely inspire by emotions that I’m feeling. Whether that emotion is happy or sad or angry, I always try to channel my positive and negative emotions into the art that is music, and you can definitely see that on this album. A lot of it is pretty heavy.”

Music student James Gallardo was quoted as saying music “definitely” affects his emotions, and he is pursuing it to have any career in music, although he doesn’t have a specific on in mind.

Finally, Professor Christopher Woodruff, Associate Director of Bands spoke on the difference between major and minor scale and how they are used to emulate emotions. “There is a Swedish or Czech group or something, and they take songs in Major scale and switch them to Minor, and Minor to Major, and it’s fascinating because just by changing the scale, you change the entire mood and feeling of that song.”

[[Not sure if THIS is the group Prof. Woodruff was talking about, but these are some popular songs that switched from either major –> minor, or vice versa.]]