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Family History and Addiction Risk: What You Need to Know to Beat the Odds



You grew up in a family of substance users. You know that your risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol is greater because of this hereditary factor. But what exactly are your risks? And is there anything you can do to reduce your risk?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the single most reliable indicator for risk of future alcohol or drug dependence is family history. In an article written for NCADD, Robert Morse, MD, former Director of Addictive Disorders Services at the Mayo Clinic and member of NCADD’s Medical/Scientific Committee, says, “Research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment…millions of Americans are living proof. Plain and simple, alcoholism and drug dependence run in families.”

How Family History Affects your Chances for Addiction

Family history affects your chances of addiction in many ways. Genes are one important factor. But alcoholism and drug addiction are “genetically complex.”

Recent research has identified numerous genes, and variations within these genes, that are 005associated with the addictive process. One way genes affect a person’s risk for addiction involves how genes metabolize alcohol. Another is how nerve cells signal one another and regulate their activity. Such changes in genes can be passed down from one generation to another.

Perhaps the strongest evidence for heredity’s role in addiction comes from twin studies and adoption studies. Studies of twins found a 60% rate of similarity regarding addiction in identical twins vs. a 39% rate of similarity in fraternal twins. Studies of children adopted in infancy and studied for addiction risk in adulthood found that biological sons of alcoholics were four times more likely to become alcoholics, even when the adoptive parent had no issues with addiction, so the l factor of family environment was minimal.

But genetic predispositions are not the only factor in predicting the role of family history in addiction risk. Environmental aspects also play a role, even though they may be less significant in some cases.

Researchers have identified several family-related risks for increased vulnerability:

  • Family dysfunction (conflicts or aggression)
  • A parent who is depressed or has other psychological issues
  • One or more parents who abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol

Additional social and personal issues that contribute to risk include:

  • Limited social skills
  • Fragile self-esteem
  • Minimal or no support system
  • Personal history of impulsivity, aggression or difficulty managing emotions
  • A history of trauma or abuse (high risk for post traumatic stress)
  • Other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder
  • Friends or acquaintances who are regular users and who provide easy access to drugs or alcohol

Addressing and Reducing Risks

An alternative viewpoint regarding a family history link for addiction comes from a National Institute of Health (NIH) meta-study of 65 published papers documenting 766 study participants who were college or university students. Controlling for alcohol consumption and use disorders, family history was reviewed as the variable. The meta-study found that students who had family histories of alcohol or drug problems did not drink more but they were likely to be more at risk for problems that are associated with drug or alcohol use (ex: causing shame or embarrassment to someone; passing out or fainting; or having problems with school).

The bottom line is that there are still a lot of uncertainties when it comes to assessing drug and alcohol risks as they relate to family history. The good news is that even if you come from a family with a troubled history, or a history of addictions, that does not mean you will automatically become an addict. The risk is higher, but there are ways to prevent that from happening. You can choose to be proactive and greatly reduce your addiction risk.

Here are a few suggestions to reduce your addiction risk:

  • Avoid under-age drinking or substance use; early-onset of use increases risk
  • Choose abstinence or carefully monitor your consumption
  • Avoid associating with heavy drinkers or substance users
  • Manage your psychological health; seek assistance from a mental health provider if you are highly stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Participate in workplace or school prevention programs

Intervention Strategies

Should you already find yourself dealing with an alcohol or drug issue, here are some intervention strategies provided by the National Institute of Health, in their publication, Alcohol Alert:

  • Motivational Interview: This strategy focuses on enhancing your motivation and commitment to changing your behavior, if you are currently abusing drugs or alcohol. Typically you would work with an addictions counselor or mental health professional and discuss your beliefs, choices and behaviors associated with substance use. The purpose of the interview is to help you develop a realistic view of your use, problems associated with it and your treatment goals and expectations.
  • Cognitive–Behavioral Interventions: These strategies are taught by a counselor or therapist, or they can sometimes can be accessed via an online self-help program. They help you change your behavior by helping you recognize when and why you drink excessively or use illegal substances. Cognitive-behavioral approaches challenge irrational expectations about substance use and raise your awareness of how drugs or alcohol affect your health and well-being. They provide tools for mentally and emotionally addressing denial, resistance, self-criticism and shame.
  • Drug-Free Workplace programs: Many workplaces now help their employees who are abusing alcohol or drugs. Lifestyle campaigns encourage workers to ease stress, improve nutrition and exercise, and reduce risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or drug use. Other programs promote social support and volunteerism. Many Employee Assistance Programs offer employees referrals to substance abuse or other treatment programs, and may help pay for treatment.

Remember, the risk for alcohol and drug addiction does run in families. But you can manage the risk and avoid an addiction problem in your own life. Be proactive in monitoring your substance use, manage your mental and emotional health and seek support if you need it. The final outcome will depend on you and the choices you make today, not on your history.
Complete Article HERE!

A Farewell to a great man

Dear sex fans,

I realize this is a bit off topic for this blog, but I want to acknowledge the death of famed British neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks.

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City.

In February, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

Earlier this summer I read Dr Sacks’s memoir, On the Move.  I love it.  It’s an interesting memoir by a fascinating personality.  And while reading I discovered that we had a dear friend in common, Thom Gunn.  What a small world!  So I decided to send him a note.

Dear Dr Sacks,

I just finished reading your memoir, On The Move.  What an amazing life you’ve lived.on-the-move-by-oliver-sacks

Of all the marvelous things you’ve done and all the fascinating people you mentioned in your book nothing surprised me more than your close friendship with Thom Gunn.  I was a friend of Thom too and I lived directly across Cole Street from him.  I moved to the flat at 1207 Cole Street in 1979.  At the time I was working on my doctorate in clinical sexology at the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.

I didn’t know Thom well at first.  However, I would regularly see him walking both in our neighborhood and elsewhere in town.  He was always in his leathers, rain or shine, and used to think to myself, “What a mensch!”

It finally dawned on me that he lived across the street from me.

Once he saw me in my roman collar.  (I was ordained a catholic priest in 1975 at the age of 25 in Oakland, CA.  I had come out to my local superiors; I was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, before I was ordained.  Like I said, I was working on my doctorate to become a sex therapist and prepare for an upfront gay ministry.)  Thom smiled at me when he saw me; I blushed and told him what I just told you.  He was fascinated, but I also believe he thought I was a twit.  He probably was right.

I knew nothing about Thom other than he was my neighbor.  Then one day I was in a bookstore on Haight Street and there was a photo of Thom in the window advertising a reading.  That’s when I started asking around about him.  Despite his cult status within the gay community, he was the most unassuming person.  I was honored to have a personal connection with him.small_front

I finished my doctorate in 1981.  My dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance was directed by Wardell Pomeroy.  A firestorm of media attention followed.  The media branded me as THE gay priest, as if.  I think Thom read about me in the New York Times because next time he saw me he clapped me on the back and said, “Well done.”

No sooner did I complete my doctorate, and because of the media attention my public coming out caused, the leadership of my religious community in Rome began a process of dismissal against me.  I was devastated and lost.  I was even getting death threats.  Thom was always so supportive and encouraging.

I fought the church for the next thirteen years in an effort to save my priesthood and ministry.  Alas, the writing was on the wall back in 1981 and it was only a matter of time till they had their way with me.  I wrote about the travail in a book that was published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction of an Oblate Priest.

Thom was always so solicitous about my wellbeing.  He knew how difficult life had become for me.  And both of us found ourselves on the forefront of caring for friends who were dying of AIDS.  One of my landlords died in 1986.

Thom introduced my housemate and I to Augie Kleinzahler and his girlfriend, Caroline Lander, who lived only a few blocks from us in Cole Valley.  We all became great friends and copious amounts of strong drink were consumed.  I wonder, do you know Augie?

When Thom turned sixty I surprised him with a homemade German chocolate cake.  I told him he was the oldest person I knew.  This made him laugh and he called me a whippersnapper.

In 1992 the surviving landlord sold the Cole Street duplex and I and my housemate moved to Oak and Ashbury.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see Thom as much as before.  I move up here to Seattle in 1999 because I could no longer afford to live in SF.  I was deeply saddened to learn of Thom’s death in 2004.  He was such a great guy, what a marvelous soul.

Again, thank you for your memoir; it was grand getting to know you on a personal level.  I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat when it came out in the mid-eighties and loved it.  But I never guessed you and Thom knew each other or that you actually visited him when I lived across the street from him.  What a small world.  I wish I had known you back then.

Anyhow, thank you for the bringing me this unexpected flood of memories of Thom.  I wonder what he would have made of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges).  I contend that we got marriage equality only because we walked through AIDS first.  I think Thom would have agreed with me.

All the best,

Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS

To my astonishment, Oliver wrote back; I mean that literally, a handwritten note.  Apparently, he never used a computer.

Dear Dr. Wagner (can I say Richard?),                                                          6/60/15

I am greatly interested and greatly moved, by your letter — your courage in being honest and forthright, at a time and on a subject bound, sooner or later, to cause your ejection from the priesthood. In another few years perhaps, with Pope Francis at the helm, these last bastions of Catholic bigotry may have fallen.

I like to think of you as living across the street when I visited Thom, and glad to know that he appreciated you and your works. I still miss him deeply — there were not too many people with whim I could be entirely open — and I like to think that his ghost is pleased that my title came from his poem. (I find it a huge relief being open now to all and sundry {Oliver came out earlier this year} — I am so glad I completed my book before I became ill).

And what a liberation, an affirmation for us all that the Supreme Court voted as it did. I suspect that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, quite ill now, stayed on to ensure the 5/4 decision.

Thanks for your letter and my very best wishes,


Oliver Sacks01     Oliver Sacks02

Click on this link to see a copy of Oliver Sacks’s note.

Thank you Dr Sacks and farewell!

Beginning Sex Play — Tips and Techniques

I most frequent hear from your average Dick and Jane, (or Dick and Dick, or Jane and Jane) who want to spice up their sex life. When they write to me they inevitably describe the kind of sex they’re currently having. And almost universally that description makes this grown man cry. Jeez, the boredom. How can they stand it? It’s a wonder any of them are having sex at all.

big funWhat’s with all the humdrum, run of the mill, we’ve always done it that way mentality? Are ya’ll afraid that if you add a little something new to your sex chore from time to time that the sky will fall? Holy cow!

Today’s tutorial is yet another attempt to motivate you to get off your butts and make something interesting happen in the sex department. We’ll begin today with what was once called foreplay.

First off, I hate the word “foreplay” because it suggests that all the really great sex play activities out there are only a lead up to a single — more important activity — that is fucking. It also implies that ya’ll can dispense with the one in order to hurry up and get to the other. And that, sex fans, is always a huge mistake.

From now on I want you to banish “foreplay” from your vocabulary. Instead let’s start using “Beginning Sex Play.” It says it all. It says it’s at the beginning, but there’s no suggestion that anything in particular must follow.amazing sex secrets

I’m of the mind that we’d all be better served if we thought of sex play as a continuum of pleasure with a beginning, middle and an end. If you ask me, our sex play ought mirror our sexual response cycles — arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution. That way we’re less likely to overburden one particular activity at the expense of all the others. Get it? Got it? Good!

Experienced sex fans agree; the best sexual encounters include an extended period of sensual play at the beginning of most all sex play. This brings increased pleasure to both partners, and will make whatever else that might follow more satisfying. Just remember, beginning sex play can be a meal in itself.

Beginning sex play brings spice to the encounter because it gets our motors started. Even all you major sex athletes out there, who are perpetually primed for sex, will benefit from more beginning sex play. It will help cool your jets and make the encounter last longer than a firecracker. And I know that you know what I mean!

erotic talkIn our hectic rush-around-world, beginning sex play is particularly important. It helps us transition from the daily cares and woes to the realm of sensual pleasures. The workaholics among us need more time to become fully aroused. Our minds are still filled with the junk of the day, and not yet ready to give or receive pleasure. And pleasuring and being pleasured, I might add, takes a big attitude shift from that of the rest of the day. In fact, if you’re gonna try and approach sex and pleasure with the same mindset as you have on the job or with the kids, give it up now and be done with it. You’ll only walk away from the encounter disappointed.

Beginning sex play primes us for maximum pleasure. Us men folk will have the time we need to come to full erection and the women folk will have the time they need to properly lubricate. (By the way, this is called the arousal stage in our sexual response cycle).

When we stop thinking of beginning sex play as “foreplay” we realize there is no such thing as spending too much time giving and getting pleasure. If beginning sex play evolves into full-on fucking — SWELL. Both partners will be fully aroused and fucking will flow naturally and effortlessly from the pleasure enjoyed at the beginning of sex play.

Beginning sex play can include everything from chocolate and whipped cream to whips and chains. But let’s not get too far ahead of our selves. Let’s start at the beginning of beginning sex play, shall we? beginner's guide

Most people miss out on the pleasure of undressing with and for their partners. Stripping out of, or being helped out of our daily wear and into something sexy or nothing at all can be very arousing. It’s also a visual signal that we’re shifting out of our work-a-day world and entering the realm of sensuality. Stripping is an art form, ya know. We could all learn a lesson or two from the folks who do this for a living, but more about this in THIS tutorial.

Creating the right sex environment is important too. Make sure the room is warm. Proper lighting and music will surely add to the mood. Scents are also important. More and more people are incorporating erotica into their sex play — reading a sexy story together or enjoying some hot porn will make the encounter memorable.

Most women complain that their partners don’t kiss long enough and rush the kissing to get at their pussy. Guys, what the fuck? You want pussy? Use your mouth to maximum advantage kiss and nibble all over everything. Literally devour your partner with your mouth. Believe me, if you do this right, by the time you get to her pussy she’s gonna want to give it up big time.

Hanky Spanky Gift SetBeginning sex play is the perfect time for setting the mood for all that might follow. It’s a time for sharing fantasies, role-playing, dirty talk or some full body massage. Always have some nice lotion available then use your hands, forearms, feet and elbows to knead your partner’s muscles and naughty bits.

Certain areas on the body are more hot-wired than others. It’s your job to find each and every one your partner has. As you massage vary your strokes and touch to stimulate your partner. Roll your fingertips across his or her nipples and behind his or her ears as you kiss him and tease her with your tongue.

If you’re doin things right, your partner will be moaning with pleasure. If she or he starts getting impatient it’s time to bring out the restraints. There’s nothing like some hot erotic bondage to punctuate the beginning sex play.

While your darling is subdued and possibly blindfolded, crank things up a notch. Add different sensations and stimuli, a warm chocolate sauce followed by ice cream. A fur mitt followed by a Loofah. Introduce some sex toys — a vibrator, tit clamps, or an anal simulator.

Don’t forget to check in with your partner from time to time. Ask for some feedback and direction. Do you like this? Or do you like this better? If you presume that you know what your partner likes simply because he or she liked it before, that, my friend, is a recipe for boredom and the dreaded bed death. If words fail you, SHOW your partner what you want. Then encourage your partner to do the same.002

Beginning sex play is not about pressing the right buttons in the right order. It is about understanding what makes your partner tick and supplying and applying those things to their greatest sensual advantage. There are many ways to give your partner extreme pleasure, and it all begins in your brain. Beginning sex play is as much of an art form as it is a necessity. Finally, the basic premise behind all of this is that the great lover is one that gives pleasure because it is its own reward, not a means to getting something else.

Good luck

When did sex become shameful?

By Hanna G Ruby

Once upon a time sex was enjoyed without shame, as a gift of God, Goddess, the Great Spirit – an act of joy, of devotion, something perfectly natural and wholly divine – all at the same time.  Once upon a time the goddesses were venerated as the embodiment of love, passion, and sex, which were considered holy when performed in reverence for and in service of the female divinity.

But the mindset of patriarchy killed off the Goddess more than five thousand years ago. She was constrained to submission at worst, or virginal purity and celibacy at best; her divinity denied. With that, the idea of sexuality as spirituality, as something inherently divine, was eradicated for all women – young and old. Indeed, for all men as well!  Sexuality was severed from spirituality and became its extreme opposite; sex was dirty, primitive, and instinctual (and feminine in nature), while spirituality was pure and clean and transcendent (and masculine in nature).

In the West, however, it was only from our Bible onward that sexuality became a sin, the means by which the devil could tempt mankind into damnation, a shameful necessity of physical gratification that was obscene and dirty. Only from our Bible onward, were women considered inherently sinful and destined for eternal punishment.

Even before Eve bit that apple, there was poor, feisty Lilith (born initially as one with Adam – “male and female created He them” says the first Biblical reference), who, according to legend, preferred to have sex on top. Lilith represents lunar consciousness (waxing and waning, death and rebirth), sexuality, body, and intuitive wisdom – all of which patriarchy degraded and denied. She got a terribly bad press.

Previously, the Goddess had ruled the mysteries of sexuality, birth, life, and death. Now the patriarchal God took control of life and death, and split procreation and motherhood from sexuality and “magic and mystery”. Lilith refused to submit and flew off in a rage. Until recent decades, she has been universally demonized as seductive, witch, outcast – the enraged, avenging goddess, wife of Satan.

Solar was split from lunar; psyche from soma or physical, corresponding to a general disassociation from the body. Mind and body, spirit and body, soul and body were split entities, and unequal. The body was inferior, an unfortunate necessity – together with its most basic of functions, sex; and it was associated with the feminine. (I once read an old text that described women as “bags of filth”. The males’ organs of excretion were not referred to.)

Male and female were unequal; spirit and nature were unequal. Man headed the chain of command – after God. As women, and as a culture, we have paid dearly for this division. The misogyny of the patriarchy affected all cultures in the last 2000 years, one way or another.

The fierce, sexual, independent-spirited wise dark goddess aspect of Lilith was replaced by submissive Eve, who was yet blamed for the whole messy business anyway. She was the sinful one, secondary to Adam, and cursed forever to give birth in pain. (Medieval midwives were sinning when they alleviated the pain of childbirth.)

As long as Eve is sinful and physical matter corrupt in any way whatsoever, our sexuality is compromised – and our liberation incomplete. This split must be healed.

I am proposing that sexuality and spirituality are aspects of the same thing; that the split between psyche and soma (the physical) is resolved in the energetic unity of a higher order. “We have lost contact with what unites them,” says Alexander Lowen in The Spirituality of the Body.  Sexuality is psychosomatic – and by that I mean, not that it’s some kind of illness, in the more common meaning of the word, but that it overtly operates on both the physical and the psychic level.

Where science and religion are finding rapprochement in the infinite wave world of quantum physics, we find fresh metaphors for the lost unifying element. Waves of sexual sensations that emanate from the body can be visualized as cosmic, psychic energy, high-frequency vibrations that bridge us to higher consciousness.

These metaphors indicate possibilities that have profound implications generally, and more so for aging women today.

Complete Article HERE!

A Time For Every Purpose

Name: Pete
Age: 22
Location: Ohio
Dr Dick: I am gay and I have no idea how to break it to my family. And they say, every time they see a gay guy, look at that fag glad he’s not my kid. I would disown him. Just wondering if u could help me.

Ain’t it a bitch being surrounded by a bunch of yahoos! Coming out is rarely easy, but doing so to ignorant, fearful, bigoted people is the worst.

Pete, you should know that such bigotry is deeply rooted in the bigot’s own fear about him or herself. It stands to reason, all irrational fears and hatred, like homophobia, are more indicative of the troubled psychological make-up of the one with the prejudice rather than the people he or she abhors.

christian coming out

Often people will use religion to back up their prejudice. It’s particularly galling when non-religious people do this. But it’s safe to say that authentically religious people don’t need to persecute or ostracize those who do not believe as they do. Any more than authentically heterosexual people need to persecute or ostracize people of other sexual persuasions. Let that be the standard by which you judge the worth of any message coming from a religious dogmatist or a moralizing heterosexual.

Before you start in on the self-disclosure thing with your family, Pete, I suggest you first try to clear a path for that discussion. Begin by challenging those around you who shame or denigrate those who are different. Ask them why they make such ridiculously uninformed and hurtful statements. Ask them if degrading other people makes them feel superior. And if it does, what does that say about their inadequacies. You could suggest that their intolerance of gay and lesbian people proves they have some hidden, unresolved sexual issues that they need to address. I mean — me thinks you doth protest too much — and all that, right?

If your family environment doesn’t improve with that tactic, you may find that, at least in the short run, discretion is the better part of valor. Sometimes coming out to one’s family is best done only after you’ve come out to friends and co-workers. This strategy will provide you a bank of support that you can fall back on if the family disclosure things turn out badly.

My counsel to those just starting the coming out process is to reserve the good news about you and your sexuality for the audience best situated to receive it. Celebrate your queerness with open-minded people first. Nowadays there’s way more acceptance of alternative lifestyles in the popular culture then ever before. Younger people, particularly, seem to have more tolerance for diversity. But however you choose to handle this difficult yet important developmental task, don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Don’t cave into the bigotry that surrounds you. Don’t let it intimidate you into a life of shame, repression, or self-loathing. Live authentically, Pete. And live proud! Because when you do, you are a shining example of a happy, healthy and integrated and well-adjusted human being.

Read other people’s coming out stories; they may offer you strategies for your own coming out.  Then consider sharing your story to help others.

Finally, just remember you are not alone. Sex positive and gay positive organizations abound. If you need help with any of your coming out, if you’re feeling isolated and alone — turn to one of them. They are there to help. And there are even support organizations for your family members too. Turn them on to: PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians).

Good luck

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