Most people who own a television have probably seen Gabriel Byrne at work, but just in case you haven’t, go watch The Usual Suspects. In fact, if you haven’t seen that movie in a few months, go watch it again. Totally worth it. Or you may recognize him from one of many other roles, including:
- Stigmata (movie)
- End of Days (movie)
- Vikings (series)
- Marco Polo (series)
Gabriel Byrne is Irish born actor who has also a grown into a successful film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator. Since the beginning of his acting career in 1979, he has struck the silver screen and small screen a multitude of times with powerful and intense performances.
He won a Golden Globe Award back in the HBO drama In Treatment, which aired from 2008 to 2011. That role also earned him nominations for various other awards.
But just last week the 67-year-old actor accepted another awesome honor- a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA). The following night, he took the time to reflect on what he considers one of his biggest victories– his 21 years of recovery from alcohol.
Gabriel Byrne on Drinking and Recovery
During an interview on Ireland’s The Late Late Show,
“I think like a lot of people, I drank to escape from myself and to escape from the pressure that I felt around me. But I knew that I could never handle it, I was absolutely allergic to it. It was not a good thing for me to do.”
“With this lifetime achievement thing, it’s not about the work, it’s of a life and one of the biggest victories to me in my life was that personal one of stopping that and saying I’m not going to be that person anymore.”
But Gabriel Byrne didn’t stop with discussing his own issues with alcohol. He also spoke about his feeling toward the culture in Ireland which endorses drinking.
“That kind of thing became to me kind of frightening because my drinking was spiraling into a place where I couldn’t remember what I did.”
“One day I woke up and said, ‘If I don’t stop this, I am going to die.’”
Byrne admits that it took him a long time to be brave enough to admit he had a problem and needed help. His agent of 30 years, Teri Hayden, was instrumental in getting him the help he needed. She was the first person he went to for help. Describing walking into a room full of strangers looking for help with his drinking Gabriel Byrne says,
“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
After over two decades in sobriety, it seems Gabriel Byrne seems committed to his work as both an actor, an activist and an advocate for recovery. He also acknowledges that a lot has changed since he left Ireland for the United States, adding that he is actually encouraged by how the culture is shifting. He is happy to see now that it is no longer strange in Ireland for people to recognize their drinking problems and ask for help.
We love sharing celebrity recovery stories because they remind us that anyone can be impacted by addiction. Actors, artists and musicians often experience the same devastation that can be caused when drugs take hold of their lives, and their stories of overcoming fear and stigma to get help can be inspiring. Everyone might not have access to the same resources as celebrities, but there are still effective treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Maintaining Mental Health and Well-Being
by Thomas G. Beley, Ph.D., LCSW
Executive Director of Palm Healthcare Company
We hear a lot about the importance of mental health. However, exactly what is mental health. If one looks at the research literature there is not very much written about what constitutes mental health. Often times, by default, mental health has been referred to or alluded to as the absence of a mental illness. To complicate the situation further, the literature seems to be overly ripe with how to treat various mental disorders as well as how to reduce the specific symptoms a person may be experiencing. Unfortunately, our society has become overly preoccupied with treatment focusing on the reduction of a person’s symptoms as an indicator of a mentally healthy person. Although treatment and symptom reduction are important facets of a person’s mental health, neither treatment nor symptom reduction guarantees a sense of well-being.
In examining the various disorders as outlined in the DSM IV and the plethora of research that has been conducted on how to treat these disorders, there appears to be a common thread that seems to exist between all of these disorders and conditions. The common thread appears to be an on-going interrelationship between the biological or neuro-chemical make-up of a person; the existing stress factors that may be presented in a person’s life; and the actually coping skills or mechanisms that a person uses as a way of dealing with everyday life. Furthermore, it appears that all three of these influences have the ability to impact the other for the better or for the worse. This article will examine these various influences on a person’s mental health and how these influences are involved in maintaining a person’s sense of mental health and well-being.
Stress is a constant in everyone’s life. Hans Selye, the father of the stress response, defined stress as “any change.” So the fact of the matter is that stress is a constant in one’s life. In essence, the moment a person opens their eyes in the morning, that’s stress. The moment that same person gets out of bed, that’s more stress. And, the moment that person jumps into the shower, even yet more stress. In most instances, our bodies are able to handle this stress much of which is attributed to a person’s balanced neurobiology and neurotransmission.
Much of this can be explained through the “fight or flight response” of a person. This mind-body connection, which has been a part of human evolution, has worked the same way over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, the same way. Any time a person’s brain, either conscious or unconscious, senses any type of danger whether real or not, there are a whole host of stress hormones that are being released into the body (neurotransmission) gearing the person’s body up to do one of two things, to run away from that danger or to fight that danger. In either scenario, the body has to be an efficient machine. Although a person doesn’t necessarily have to hunt for their food any longer per se or run away from man-eating animals, a person is still faced with the everyday modern dangers of life such as unemployment, finances, marital problems, parenting, etc. The list is endless. The important point, here, is that regardless of what that perceived danger, the mind, and body via neurotransmission, kicks into action.
A problem that arises, however, is that once the mind and body have turned it up a notch to deal with the stress, it takes the body a longer time to calm down. The mind or more specifically the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain) is able to easily dismiss stress and false alarms of stress in a relatively short manner. A person can become instantly alarmed at the prospect of their electric being shut off from a notice received in the mail, however, instantly “feeling” a sense of relief realizing that the notice is not meant for them but for the neighbor. Although the mind has dismissed the danger, the stress hormones have already been released to key parts of the person’s body. Studies have shown that these stress hormones or the signaling of the mind to the body to calm down can take anywhere between six hours to seventy-two hours for the body to receive the signal of no danger. So what can actually happen is that a person can be walking around “feeling good” and the least little thing can happen, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, that can send a person into a stressed or panic state.
There are three key points that need to be remembered about stress.
The first key point is that stress is a constant in anyone’s life by virtue of the constant change a person is going through from the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. All too often a person thinks of stress as “nothing bad has happened to me lately.” It is irrelevant to ask the question whether a person is stressed, it is more appropriate to think in terms of whether that person’s neurobiology is handling that stress in an appropriate manner.
Secondly, the body doesn’t really know the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.” It may be more relevant for a person to think in terms of how much and to what extent has that person experienced change during the course of the week or the month regardless of whether that change has been “good” or “bad.” The more change the person has experienced, the more stress that has been absorbed into the body.
And, finally, the third key point is that the body is a very slow responder. It takes the body a much longer time to calm down than the cognitive processes that are occurring in the brain. A person needs to be mindful that just because they are “feeling relaxed” doesn’t necessarily mean that their body is relaxed.
It is not always feasible to assume that lowering the stressful situations in one’s life is the answer since many people may be unable to avoid a stressful lifestyle. Firefighters, police officers, emergency room medical staff, are all faced with potential chronic conditions of stress. It is not fair to say these individuals will be excluded from feeling a sense of well-being because they are in constant stressful situations. It is important for a person to be aware of trying to lower stress in their life where they can, but for those individuals who are in situations where stress is a constant, it will be more important for that person to develop the necessary coping skills to deal with stress such as exercise, nutrition, yoga, or meditation.
Research in the neurosciences in recent years has continued to shed new light on a person’s brain chemistry and how neurotransmission impacts a person’s sense of well being as well as behavior. There have been numerous studies conducted on certain neurotransmitters of well being such as serotonin, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), dopamine, and others to suggest the necessity of these neurotransmitters for the person to function at an optimal level. This is where the explosion of new prescription drugs has come on to the market to solve the ills of the world. Needless to say, pharmaceutical companies have long since been proponents of this neurobiological research due to the ability to develop newer and more efficient drugs to attempt to balance a person’s neurochemistry. An important aspect that has evolved over the years, however, is the recognition of, not only the importance of a person’s neurobiological chemistry to be in balance for a sense of well-being, but also the fact that a person’s biochemical makeup can be extremely delicate and subject to a whole host of outside influences such as stress, medical conditions, nutrition, and behavior that can throw a person’s neurochemistry off creating a variety of symptoms. As a result, there continues to be a growing movement toward alternative methods of treatment to address brain chemistry issues such as acupuncture, nutrition, or chiropractic intervention to intervene and/or to enhance a person’s brain chemistry.
Regardless of whether you are a proponent of Prozac or a devotee to acupuncture, the important point to emphasize is that a person’s neurochemistry plays an important role in a person’s sense of well-being and contentment. Furthermore, the imbalance of neurotransmission in the brain can interfere with that person’s overall level of functioning and well-being.
Coping with everyday life situations is another area which is an important influence on a person’s ability to achieve a sense of well-being. A person needs to feel a sense of satisfaction about how they handle given situations that confront them whether if it is with themselves or with others. However, in order to do this effectively, a person needs to have a repertoire of coping mechanisms to choose from. All too often, a person doesn’t develop or change the necessary coping skills needed to deal with life situations. An interesting point to make, here, is that the human species, which is supposed to be at the top of the so-called food chain of life, is the only species that will continue to do the exact same behaviors to problem solve a situation despite the fact that these problem-solving behaviors may have repeatedly failed in the past. For a variety of reasons, it appears that change is often difficult for a person to make. In order to effectively cope with a situation, it is of vital importance for a person to maintain a degree of flexibility, adaptation, and a willingness to change regarding any given situation.
In a sense, a person’s self-esteem can be viewed as being borne in a series of “failures.” Once a person makes a decision to do something, it is usually followed by a series of behaviors or actions. Often times these initial behaviors and actions are not going to be a success since doing something for the first time often leads to a number of miscues or possible “failures.” However, if a person is willing to persist at following through with these behaviors and actions or be willing to try something different in an attempt to reach their goal, there is a greater likelihood the person will develop a sense of competence in that area. Once that person achieves that level of competence, a person’s self-esteem will increase. Once a person’s self-esteem has increased, the easier it becomes for that person to make decisions and take action in other areas of life and the cycle begins all over again.
The important part of coping is that both coping mechanisms and skills need to be constantly reviewed and refined by a person. There is no guarantee that a particular coping skill or mechanism is going to work in all situations. As a person begins to adapt to the various complexities of life, the greater the need for a more complete range of coping skills to maintain that sense of well-being.
The Systemic Relationship of Neurobiology, Stress, and Coping
In considering these various influences on a person’s mental health and well-being, it is vital to understand the interrelationship that exists between them. One must comprehend that all three of these influences are constantly impacting one’s functioning and a person cannot focus on one of these areas without taking into consideration the ramifications it will have on the other areas. There is a cyclical force that each area has on the other areas and vice versa. For instance, if a person is experiencing an inordinate amount of stress, whether it is “good stress”
or “bad stress,”
the neurochemistry of the brain is going to be impacted. If the neurochemistry of the brain is affected, there is a greater likelihood that this imbalance is going to affect the neurotransmission which can result in symptomatic behaviors such as panic, anxiety, depression
, or other symptomatic behavior. As a result of the symptomatic behavior the person may be experiencing, the person’s coping mechanism and problem-solving abilities are probably going to be compromised at least to some degree. If the person is unable to cope with a given situation in an effective manner, there is the potential of the stress level increasing again. As a result, there is a cyclical process of impact.
Balance and Well-Being
It appears that a key factor for a person maintaining mental health and a sense of well-being is the ability to monitor and balance the areas of neurobiology, stress, and coping. The challenge, however, that confronts a person is the ability to maintain this balance on an on-going basis. One of the difficulties stems from the fact that it is not always clear as to what a person needs to attend to at any given time. For instance, let’s say that a person’s depression may simply be stemming from their genetic make-up. If this is the case, it would probably be more prudent for that person to be prescribed the appropriate anti-depressant medication to correct the neurobiological issue as opposed to getting involved in therapy or attempting to reduce stress. Although the latter two methods can be extremely effective in the long run, the more effective and efficient intervention may be from a pharmacological approach.
On the other hand, let’s say a person is depressed as a result of a great deal of existing stress that is occurring in their life, let’s say from being fired from their job, or the person has limited coping skills to deal with real-life traumas like the death of a loved one. In this scenario, a pharmacological intervention may be of little value, since the depression may be more a product of “normal” life situations that would be better addressed through support and the development of better and more appropriate coping skills for that given situation. In these situations, yoga, meditation, and exercise may be extremely efficient in addressing stressful situations whereas psychotherapy can be effective in developing better coping skills. In many instances, it is not necessarily the fact that a person’s anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication is not working, the fact of the matter is that the person’s life is still a mess and they need to begin to put it in order. Unless the person is able to address these matters, the likelihood of a person responding effectively to a pharmacological intervention is going to be minimal.It is safe to say that one’s mental health and sense of well-being is not a given in anyone’s life. Just because a person has a positive outlook on life, doesn’t mean that their genetic make-up couldn’t play a factor in that person’s level of functioning. Or, the person who has savvy coping skills in dealing with incredible amounts of stress, doesn’t mean that the accumulative effects of those stressors will not take a physiological toll on that person via heart disease or cancer.
Maintaining mental health and well-being needs to be worked at on an on-going basis, not too different than an athlete needs to train to maintain peak performance. In the arena of mental health and well-being, a person needs to monitor and train how they are performing in the areas of neurobiology, stress reduction, and the development of more effective and positive coping skills. The ability of a person to attend to these areas through the use of yoga, nutrition, exercise, diet, meditation, stress reduction techniques, psychotherapy, hypnosis, just to name a few approaches, the greater likelihood the person will maintain that sense of well-being. A question that a person needs to ask themselves is what is it they are doing to ensure the balance of these three key areas of their life.
For over 25 year, Thomas G. Beley, PhD, LCSW has worked in the field of addictions and mental health. Over these two-and-a-half decades of helping people who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders, he has proven to be an expert clinician and innovative and compassionate leader. Palm Healthcare Company is proud to have an executive team with experience and incredible commitment to helping others. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
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Ladies and gentlemen, we have made it to the 12th Step of Christmas!
Those total lords have been jumping all around, the maids have stopped milking and are dancing with the other ladies. All the beautiful birds are flying around like crazy… but we have been waiting for the bass drop… BOOM! In comes the 12 drummers, and I mean they come in like the Ohio State Marching Band, just killin it!
Still don’t know why your true love brought so many birds, but hey it’s a party.
So to follow the classice sense of the song, we are going to rehash the other 12 Steps of Christmas for our final thought.
1. Admitting that I am powerless over the Holidays and they can make my life unmanageable.
2. Came to believe a Power Greater than myself could restore my holiday cheer
3. Made a decision to turn your Holiday over to the care of your Higher Power.
4. Made a Searching and Fearless Christmas List.
5. Admit to ourselves and another human when we are being a Grinch.
6. Become entirely ready to let go of the Ba Humbug.
7. Humbly asked our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings of holiday spirit.
8. Made a naughty list and checked myself twice; became willing to make amends and be nice.
9. Made amends when it wouldn’t ruin someone else’s Christmas.
10. Continued trying to stay off the naughty list, and when we are naughty we promptly get jolly.
11. Seek more of the Christmas spirit with through prayer or meditation.
Step 12: Carry the Christmas Spirit to others in all our affairs
This is what it is all about, really. This is why Christmas is such a beloved and cherished holiday for so many around the world. Without trying to take anything away from the vital role that religious faith plays in it for many, the spirit of Christmas is about sharing peace and love, goodwill toward others, compassion and connection.
We have talked about all of this through every step of the 12 Steps of Christmas. That is because love, peace, compassion, connection are all in the spirit of Christmas AND in the spirit of the 12 Steps of recovery. It isn’t hard to draw this relationship because at the core they give us inspiration and hope to build a better life, with fulfilled relationships and meaningful purpose.
In the 12th Step of most recovery fellowships they put a lot of emphasis on carrying the message of recovery. In Step 12 of Christmas let us say we can use the same idea; spread that love and connection to everyone. Of course there is the literal giving of gifts during Christmas when we try to bring joy to others with materials, but in the end these are just an offering or a gesture by which we communicate that love and connection to them.
It is just one way we give of ourselves to spread the love.
Practice the Christmas spirit in all things…
The truth is too often we forget that these attitudes and practices are not just meant to be done on the holidays. Too many people forget about acceptance, willingness and openness when the sleigh bells have come and gone. Many will make strong resolutions for the New Year, but few will remember to carry these principles on with them. Those who work the 12 Steps in recovery are actually very fortunate to have a program that provides a consistent practice of compassion and growth.
The 12 Steps remind us of the importance of self-awareness, reflection, humility and selfless action. They give us an outline for personal development while helping us try to mend damage done in active addiction.
So even if you are not in recovery from drugs or alcohol, you can learn a lot about yourself and about your impact on the people who matter most to you. Doing things like taking inventory, addressing your character defects and helping others is really just a path toward spreading the cheer, joy, love and connection that Christmas gives us.
This year, try to carry the spirit of Christmas in all things. Try to remind yourself to make every day count; to move away from the attitudes that hold you back and toward the wish list of a sober and fulfilled life.
Keep the Christmas party alive every day. Hey, you can even keep partrige. He’s not such a bad bird anyway.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
Remember, this time of year the best gift you can ever give is yourself. For those who suffering from addiction, that means the opportunity for a life of recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
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The lords leaping and the ladies dancing have got the party going. The farm animals are all running a muck and suddenly this super-band of 11 dudes with pipe-instruments come in and break out in a jam session.
I take back what I said earlier about your true love… this is getting turnt.
With one more day to go in the 12 Steps of Christmas in Recovery, we are grateful for Step 11 giving us a chance to get grounded again. Ask the band to play some mellow jazz for a minute.
Step 11: Seek more of the Christmas spirit with through prayer or meditation
In earlier steps we talked about the importance of self-awareness and honest reflection, so with the prayer and meditation of Step 11 we seek to further connect with our Higher Power, whatever that means to you, in order to align with the spirit of Christmas.
For some of those who are still not so sold on the whole idea of spirituality, prayer might still be a little outside of your comfort zone. Remember, that is fine. For those who embrace the practice of prayer, you can take some time out for yourself on Christmas to seek a deeper spiritual connection to the experience.
For those who would prefer to meditate, take time for yourself to reflect quietly on what Christmas means to you. You don’t have to go sit cross-legged in a room with candles to do this. See if you can manage a few moments here or there to truly take a step back and witness all that you have received this Christmas.
I don’t mean just stare at your presents. Actually think on the impact your sobriety has had on the holiday. Look back at every step you have taken up to this point and seek to understand with how it has made a difference to you and the people who love you. Seek a stronger connection to this moment and this holiday through a deeper understanding of it.
The meaning behind being merry…
Meditation and prayer can show us even more of what the true meaning of being merry is. When we pray or meditate honestly and openly, we make room for more of that meaning to be revealed. The truth behind our joy and our merriment is so much more than you can put under the tree. A wise person once said that nothing has any meaning except the meaning we give it. If that is true, what meaning are you giving to Christmas? How are you aligning with the spirit of the celebration?
Ask how far you have come by doing the work on yourself to be more close with others. Ask yourself what is possible if you continue to be the person you set out to be when you got clean and sober, and how it makes these memories so much more. Somewhere in there, we can seek gratitude for what gifts we’ve been given. Not just the toys and gadgets, or the clothes and cards, but the gift of being alive and sober and with people who you care about. To have people who care about you to spend the holiday with.
Christmas in recovery is an amazing thing, and for some of us the meaning behind being merry is true fulfillment through tremendous gratitude. For our lives, for our hopes, and for each other.
Prayer and meditation are just some of the ways we can work on appreciating Christmas. Sometimes, we have to keep praying for those who are still struggling this holiday season. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. The greatest gift you can give is letting someone know you care, and want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
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So, the party your true love got together is kind of intense. Suddenly there are 10 dudes who claim to be lords are jumping around, and it looks like they might start a mosh pit with the 9 ladies dancing.
Needless to say, Christmas in recovery never sounded so wild.
Anyway, welcome back to the 12 Steps of Christmas in recovery, where we are putting a holiday twist on each of the 12 Steps of recovery used all over the globe.
Are you ready to talk about the next step?
Step 10: Continued checking myself to stay off the naughty list, and when we are naughty we promptly get jolly
After making our naughty list in Step 8 we have a pretty good idea what mischief we made to get on that list. We took a look at how we had wronged people over the year and how it has effected our holiday so far, and in Step 9 we began looking for ways to make this Christmas better by doing more for those we have harmed.
But we still have to make sure we don’t stay in our naughty ways. Step 6 and Step 7 we looked at how our moments of Grinch-ness and Ba Humbug have to be recognized. Now we continue to keep tabs on that naughty list. If you are anything like me, checking it twice and calling it a day just won’t cut it.
So throughout the holiday we need to watch out for those moments when the Grinch in us gets through. It just happens. Nobody is perfect.
What is important is that when we are enjoying the season that we are willing to accept our mistakes and make a conscious effort to interrupt that pattern with a healthy helping of jolly.
Being jolly ain’t always easy…
Of course it isn’t always easy to be jolly. Christmas is full of frustrating moments, even with the people we love. In fact, in some moments it is much easier to revert back to our old ways. Getting overwhelmed or feeling like you aren’t meeting your own expectations is not a sign that you are failing. It just means you have to keep at it.
Even Santa isn’t jolly all the time. Come on, the guy takes most of the year off after one of the most stressful night-shifts imaginable. But those toys don’t all get made in a day.
Christmas can take work, just like recovery. Being happy isn’t just something that happens to you by accident whenever its convenient. Being jolly during the holidays can be like that. So when you slip up and get a little Grinch thing going on, check yourself and promptly turn your attitude toward that which you have already received; a new chance at a better year with your family and friends.
Don’t let yourself stay Scroogey. Check it and get back in the spirit.
Spending Christmas facing the impacts of addiction on others can be extremely difficult, but take this opportunity to be more aware of what truly matters and what that means for your recovery. For those struggling this holiday season, ask for help; not just for your family but, for yourself. Give yourself and those who love you the most the best gift you can. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398