Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Recently I did an interview with the wonderful Kenneth Anderson of HAMS on blogtalkradio:


I’m embarrassed to say that before Kenneth reached out to me about doing the interview, I had not heard of the Harm Reduction Network. But now that I’ve delved into it a bit I realize how aligned it is with my own beliefs and experiences in drinking and in recovery. Kenneth is very passionate and devoted to helping people find what works for them and to reduce the harm to themselves. From their website:


HAMS is a peer-led and free-of-charge support and informational group for anyone who wants to change their drinking habits for the better. The acronym HAMS stands for Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. HAMS Harm Reduction strategies are defined in the 17 elements of HAMS. HAMS offers information and support via a chat room, an email group, and live meetings–as well as in the HAMS Book and the articles on this web site. All information on this site may be reproduced free of charge as long as the HAMS copyright is included.

HAMS supports every positive change. Choose your own goal–safe drinking, reduced drinking, or quitting. For more information please visit our page How HAMS Works. Please also check out the HAMS Podcast and the HAMS Psychology Today Blog.



And on harm reduction:


Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies intended to reduce the negative consequences of high risk behaviors such as overdrinking or drug use. Harm reduction is a nonjudgmental approach that attempts to meet people “where they are at” with their drinking or drug use. Instead of demanding perfect abstinence, this pragmatic approach is supportive of anyone who wishes to minimize the harm associated with a high risk behavior such as drinking or drug use. Harm reduction accepts that high risk behaviors such as recreational alcohol intoxication are part of our world and works to minimize their harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them. Harm reduction does not attempt to force people to change in ways which they do not choose for themselves. Harm reduction is a compassionate approach whose primary concern is the increased well-being of its constituency. Moreover an overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows that harm reduction works!!


What strikes me about this approach to recovery — even if ‘recovery’ is not about abstinence but about finding a moderation or alternative approach that works for you wherever you happen to be — is the potential for helping so many more people than if there were just one road to recovery.

Recently I went through a very difficult period and found myself searching desperately for some relief. As I’ve always mentioned, I never closed the door on “the rooms” and vowed to be honest with myself if my current approach to staying sober stopped working. As a result, I found myself attending some local AA meetings.

While I continue to identify with the people and the themes that I find in the rooms, it’s just not me. I’ve talked about my initial experiences in recovery and realize that I very well could have used my rejection by other alcoholics as a rationale to continue drinking as I had been. Had I known about opportunities such as those offered by HAMS, my somewhat rocky road to recovery might have followed a different route.

Definitely check out HAMS, have a listen to the interview, and let me know your thoughts!

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Lauren Stahl created SPARKite to help people like you and me hold ourselves accountable to the goals we wish to meet (but to do so, we might need some additional support). Lauren and I sat down for a little chat the other day. View the video here:

In addition, we will be hosting a conference call on Wednesday, February 26 (Yes! Tonight!) at 8PM EST. Dial in details are below. Here you can ask me your questions about food, nutrition, intuitive eating etc.

Conference call with Jenna Hollenstein MS RD
Wednesday, February 26th @ 8PM EST
Dial-in Number: 1-857-232-0159
Conference Code: 329250




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I first became aware of Jennifer Storm during my alcoholism memoir-reading days. After reading her first memoir, Blackout Girl, which was raw and brutally honest, I felt as if I knew her personally. Her second memoir, Leave the Light On, was one of the first to chronicle the recovery process, addressing a glaring dearth of such stories. A fellow Penn Stater and warrior for victims’ rights, Jennifer was kind enough to grant me this interesting interview. Please enjoy!



D2D: You have written several books about your experiences with sexual assault, addiction, and recovery. Tell me how the writing process and the recovery process have worked together.

JS: Writing has been something I have always loved; I still have the first book I ever wrote in 4th grade for an assignment. It’s a healing process for me to be able to get out the things from my past and put them on paper. It allows for a deeper level of understanding, analysis, and healing. I am all about understanding the “whys” of my disease. I truly believe that in order to be successful in sobriety, I had to get down to the core of why I was using, which meant I had to revisit the things that haunted my past. That began with being raped as a child. Writing providing a safe venue for me to begin that process, and then I had to share it with others. Exposing my past and my issues became a key element of my recovery. I was told early on that my “secrets would keep me sick.” I took that to heart and truly believe today that in order to maintain recovery, I cannot have secrets.



D2D: While many books about alcoholism are written from the perspective of the author before getting sober, you wrote one of the first memoirs that chronicled your experience after rehab. How were the two books received differently?

JS: Blackout Girl did better in terms of sales because society loves the drama; they love the dirt of the story. Leave the Light On was more about the “what now?” of sobriety. Here I was a 22-year-old young girl waking up after a ten-year stupor. I didn’t know myself, what I wanted, how to connect to people. I moved 400 miles away from home, started and new life, and decided to go to college. It was a whirlwind but a story I felt young people could really benefit from. Leave the Light On had more critical praise, as I think my writing certainly improved but it hasn’t flown off the shelves like Blackout Girl. I do however, continue to receive weekly emails from readers, usually of Blackout Girl, who thank me for putting my story out there and sharing how it has helped them. That is the reception I hoped for and am so proud to receive.



D2D: Your first two books were memoirs while your latest book, Picking up the Pieces Without Picking Up, is more interactive with the reader. What motivated you to write this book and to take the next step from telling your story to influencing the stories of others?

JS: Working as the Executive Director of Victim/Witness Assistance Program has opened up my eyes to the amount of trauma caused by crime and, more often than not, that the crimes involve substance abuse on some level. It is such a hand-in-hand occurrence, yet I couldn’t find a resource for my clients that dealt with trauma and healing, and that walked the person through the various justice systems, all while dealing with co-occurring substance abuse issues. I’ve watched victims really struggle after a crime, which at times has led to relapse or new onset of substance abuse. I wanted to provide a quick and easy workbook that would help them through the various stages of healing. I’m very proud of this book and wish I could get it into the hands of many more victims.


Jennifer Storm is the Executive Director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, PA. Ms. Storm recently received the 2011 Pathfinder Award for Excellence in Victims Services by Gov. Corbett. In 2002, Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed Ms. Storm as a commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. She has appeared in We, Women, Central Penn Business Journal, Rolling Stone, TIME, and many newspapers. Read more about Jennifer here.

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This interview was featured on the writing website She Writes but I wanted to share it with Drinking to Distraction readers as well. Look for a post about writing and drinking soon.

In her latest book The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love, Susan Piver speaks from her own experience of heartbreak, sharing wisdom, stories, insights, exercises, and beginning meditation instruction. Here, Susan answers five questions from Jenna Hollenstein in a conversation about writing and meditation.



Jenna: Can you describe your daily writing practice?

Susan: My writing practice is all over the place. Not a day goes by when I don’t try to stick to a schedule. My preferred schedule is to get up very early, make a cup of tea, and write “morning pages.” Then I try to write for a few hours. On good days, this is what happens. I’d say my good days are running at about 40% currently.

Then I spend the rest of the day doing the business behind my writing and teaching. I sometimes find that late in the day (around 9 or 10 at night), I’ll go back to what I was working on in the morning.

When I’m working on a book, at some point I have to sort of sequester myself for a few weeks or longer and just live and breathe the manuscript.


Jenna: What are some similarities between your writing practice and your meditation practice?

Susan: I think they are identical. Both require simultaneous one-pointed focus (meditation: breath…breath…breath; writing: word…word…word) and panoramic awareness, a kind of agenda-less attunement to the environment. In writing, this is how you know what to say next. It just sort of comes to you while paying attention to the silence—thus you are able to detect whatever may arise from it.


Jenna: How has meditation influenced your writing?

Susan: It has made me much, much more comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing—both of which seem to be essential to writing something meaningful, something beyond your comfort zone.


Jenna: How do you deal with writers block and “bad” meditation days?

Susan: I just try again. I seem to have endless energy for trying again. At least, so far.


Jenna: How would you advise writers interested in meditation to begin?

Susan: Definitely learn it from some place connected with a lineage that is older than, say, 2500 years. No new age nonsense. My Shambhala Buddhist lineage is a great place to begin, but so are Zen centers or Vipassana centers. If anyone is interested, beginning on March 5, 2011, I’ll be teaching meditation on my site and also sending out a daily email to offer encouragement and insight into how to bring the mind of meditation into your everyday life. You can find out about it here.


Susan Piver is the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do,” How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, and her latest, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love. She is also a frequent contributor to Shambhala Sun, Body+Soul, and The Huffington Post. Susan is a meditation practitioner and has been authorized to teach in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage since 2006. She offers talks and workshops internationally on the topics of love, creativity, meditation, and spirituality. Read more at www.susanpiver.com.


Jenna Hollenstein is a medical writer, blogger, and aspiring memoirist. Read more at www.drinkingtodistraction.com.


Connect with Susan and Jenna on their SheWrites profile pages.

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“Less is more” ~Robert Browning

“More is more” ~Unknown

When it comes to certain things in life – especially those we seek out for their pleasurable qualities – how do you know how much is the right amount?

Whether it’s booze, shopping, TV, sleep, food, exercise, sex, work…even relaxing or keeping busy, how much is too much and when do you know you’ve crossed the line?

I struggled with these questions when it came to drinking. When was it a wonderful, cultural, social, and perhaps even nutritious thing to do? At what point did it become distracting or – worse – self-destructive?

I loved the first drink – the initial experience of taste and smell, the softening of hard edges, the feeling of release that washed over my whole body. But I could never hold myself at that pleasant brink without overdoing it. I tried to keep that feeling going by drinking more, which always pushed me over the line. And once past the sweet spot, I continued to drink in an irrational attempt to regain it.

One of my long-ago nutrition clients told me “alcohol dissolved her resolve.” She meant dietary resolve but it also dissolves the resolve to drink moderately. The more I drank, the harder it became to judge whether I’d crossed the line. The next morning, I’d judge myself very harshly, as if I should have been able to cut through alcohol’s chemical effects on my brain and think clearly.

After enough nights like this, it was time to take a very honest look at myself and consider making a major change. As Petros Levounis pointed out:

“In life in general, when things start to go bad, most people do something about it – change something. If they don’t, things will get worse. If you have a fracture and you don’t do anything about it, chances are things are going to get worse – you might get septic and die. If you are in credit card debt and you don’t do anything about it, it will get worse. If you are gaining weight and you don’t stop eating like crazy, you are more likely to suffer from obesity. Same thing for addiction.”

I avoided taking a truly honest look at my drinking by trying every moderation management technique in the book – drinking only on the weekends, switching from hard liquor to wine, trying to stop at two drinks. While none of those attempts worked for long, the idea that the next approach would be the one that worked felt very much within reach. So rather than quitting, I conducted my life as if I just hadn’t found the right approach that would let me continue to drink.

In order to quit, I had to admit that I didn’t know where my line was, that I couldn’t recognize the moment it was crossed, and that I lacked the judgment necessary to keep drinking.

Looking back at these choices and behaviors over time, I wonder:

  • How do you develop the judgment to know your own limits?
  • How do you know where the line is and when it has been crossed?
  • Does the line move? Is it different from day to day? At different stages of life? Is it something that needs to be constantly reassessed?
  • And what things – drinking and other things – have you asking these questions?

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