Monthly Archives: December 2013

010 – Cannabis: Curse or Cure for PTSD?


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In this episode we will discuss:

  1. A report on 21 days of my gratitude exercise from episode 007 – Can Gratitude Save Your Life?
  2. Cannabis: Curse or Cure (or something in between) for PTSD

21 Days of Gratitude

  • Consistency was difficult
  • Helpful or not?

Medical Cannabis (Marijuana) Curse of Cure?

(List of topics and terms.  There are hours of research linked below.  I would love to hear your thoughts and credible resources you may find.  Please share them in the comments section.  Some of the journal articles only link to an abstract.  When that is the case, the full article is only available at a library that subscribes to the journal or for a fee.  Links to news reports about many of the articles is also provided.)

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves a complex body/brain response – anxiety, intrusive memories (flashback, nightmares, anger, fear and other emotions
  • Full disclosure: I am not a medical doctor and none of this should be construed as medical advice.  Consult with your licensed healthcare provider for all your medical needs and guidance in making medical decisions.  Also, I never used cannabis.
  • Antidotal Reports: Billy Bob’s Smoke Blog – non-scientific, credibility questions, no check and balance to the facts or outcomes.
  • Scientific Evidence: more “objective” controlled, peer reviewed studies
  • Effects of Long-term/high use of cannabis = Study shows direct relation to decrease in memory, metal processing and intellectual markers even when sober.  There appears to be a direct link to duration and intensity to low performance on cognitive test for long-term and heavy users.  (Full JAMA article)
  • Brain chemistry and function (senses, emotion, memory, reasoning)
  • Developing Brain – The reasoning center does not complete until about the age 25!  Don’t mess with it!
  •  Medication for depression (SSRI) or other mental illnesses – Are they helpful for PTSD?
  • Cannabinoid Receptors (emotions, memory, appetite) CB1 and CB2
  • Endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by our bodies)
  • PET-image of brainPositron Emission Tomography (PET) scans of PTSD brains
  • Brains with PTSD show greater number of CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain and a decreased anandamide concentration compared with subjects not diagnosed with PTSD  (Brain-Image Study at NYU)
  • Anandamide (an endocannabinoid produced by our bodies)
  • Researching ways to increase anadamide w/o causing damage and minimal side-effects


Other news articles and references:

Question: Do you think that the government should allow more research into the use of cannabis and its components in the treatment of PTSD and other disorders?  Why/Why not?

If you could not fail, what would you set out to achieve?

Imagine a world in which it is possible to overcome anxiety, to successfully deal with stress and to grow stronger following traumatic events, to be successful in business, to have healthy relationships.  Well, that world exists and we live in it!

One of the surest ways to not achieve something is to not try.  The old adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, still rings true.

We do not have to wait for the New Year to get started on the rest of our lives.  We can START to make changes now (7 our series on Change: part 1part 2part 3) .  Today is a new day.

You may have desires to accomplish new heights in relationships, work, business or health.  You may desire to overcome anxiety, fear or things from the past.  Whatever it is, you can start a new path today.

Perhaps fear of failing hinders us from attempting or even setting goals. (See: Is Fear Holding You Back?)  Whatever it is, it can be dealt with and overcome.

What can we do to help?  This post links to some other resources on our site.  If there is something else we can do, please let us know.

Michael Hyatt, in his free video, “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever Part 1” has a lot to offer.  In this video you will find encouragement to get started, make it through the messy middle to the joy of final accomplishment.

Question: If you could not fail, what would you set out to achieve?  Share you goals and desires in the comments sections.

Additional resources available from Michale Hyatt at

Can peace be experienced in the midst of chaos? Part 1 of 2

Hurricane_Isabel_ISS“Just make it go away!”  Many of us can relate to this desire to escape or just get rid of a problem we are facing.  At times circumstances in our lives can seem overwhelming.  It is no wonder why many turn to substances (alcohol/drugs) or unhealthy levels of certain activities (shopping, gambling, eating, etc.), in order to try and cope with their circumstances.

There is no escape.  These things may provide a diversion.  The reality of the problems still remain.  Our attempts to alter the perception of reality do nothing to the real situation.

Is it possible to experience a peace, and the resulting clarity and strength, in the middle of whatever is happening?

YES!  This has been my experience.  And not my experience alone.  Many followers of Jesus Christ report the same experience.  One such follower is Paul, the Apostle.  He wrote in his letter to the Christians at the city of Philippi in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey): “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7 – NRSV)

Sometimes we may confuse the idea of “prayer” with wish making or demands.  St. Paul, in prison for his faith at the time of writing, expresses prayer as “requests”—not demands.  When we use prayer as some magical wish or demand formula we miss the relational aspect God is offering.

God does not sit on high and only have an abstract connection with our suffering.  He entered into our suffering.  Jesus lived a life that included much suffering.  He still enters our suffering every time we call upon Him. 

People, in their freedom, may choose to hurt us.  They may choose to do wrong to others for whom we care.  At times there seems to be no shortage of people choosing to do hurtful acts.  No matter what others choose to do; God will never leave us alone in our distress.

From my perspective I would rather God simply remove the problems, problem people, etc.  However, God most often does not choose to violate our (or other’s) human freedom.  At the same time He will provide all that we need to make it through the difficult environment we create for ourselves or others create that impacts our lives.  His presence, strength, wisdom and peace are available to all who call upon the Name of the Lord.

If all our problems were removed then the peace Paul speaks of would not go “beyond understanding.”  It is understandable to experience peace in the absence of conflict or adversity.  A peace that “goes beyond understanding” is a peace experienced in the middle of turmoil and chaos.

In Part 2 we will consider some examples of experience God’s peace and provision in the midst of our troubles.

Question: Have you ever experience a peace that “goes beyond understanding”?

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009 – Substance Use Vs. Abuse: 3 Warning Signs


In this episode we will discuss:

  • Substance Use/abuse and PTSD.
  • 3 Signs Substance Use has become Substance Abuse
  • 3 Strategies for dealing with Substance Use/Abuse

Substance Use/Abuse and PTSD

  • Both civilian and military suffers of PTSD are more likely to also deal with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), according the U.S. VA
  • Self-medication
  • Why?  Deal with intrusive memories (forget for a while), sleep problems, covering feelings of: anger, numbness, depression, etc.

The following is not an exclusive list.  Add your own thoughts to the comments.

Also, this is not intended to diagnose any mental or physical disorder.  This is based on the host’s experience with family members who suffered from substance use/abuse, his experience as a pastor/chaplain dealing with many individuals and families and his reading of the literature in the area of addiction.  Please consult a qualified healthcare provider for your specific needs.

Prefrontal cortex is the blue shaded area on the left of the diagram of the brain

Prefrontal cortex includes the blue shaded area on the left of the diagram of the brain.

[Special Note:  The adolescent brain is still in development until about the age of 25.  The region to last develop is the reasoning center of the Prefrontal Cortex.  Don’t mess with it!  Why is this so important for our discussion?  Some sufferers of PTSD are below the age of 25.  Much research show that illicit drug use at younger ages run significant additional potential psychological and neurological problems.  For more info:]

3 Signs Substance Use has become Substance Abuse

  1.      Used to escape, avoid or “deal” with problems
  2.      Lying about or hiding use
  3.      Defensive about use

What can I do if I think substance use has become abuse in my life?

3 Strategies for Dealing with Substance Use/Abuse 

What can I do if I think substances use has become abuse in the life of a loved one, friend, or coworker?

  •  Individually (or with another) Confront:  Do this only when all are sober and there it is a safe environment with no risk of violence or abuse.  Also, be prepared for resistance, denial, defensiveness, other manipulative tactics and/or hostility.  A first discussion about substance abuse rarely result in the abuser willingly surrendering for the necessary help.  Be patient.
  • Set boundaries:  Let them know what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your presence, work or home.  They may deny the problem that does not mean that the problem does not exist.  It is important to let them know that how they are handling things in their life is affecting your life as well.  There are consequence for their choices.  Do not hesitate to get counsel on what would be healthy and reasonable boundaries for your specific situation.
  •  Intervention:  At some point you may determine that an intervention is necessary.  It may take a group of people who care for the individual to get through to them—especially if the first actions have not been successful.  Be prepared.  Make sure the group is on the same page.  It is extremely helpful to have someone experienced present at the intervention.  Make sure you have resources lined up to deal with the needs if the individual is ready to accept help.  For further help with an intervention read the following link from the Mayo Clinic

Question: How has reaching out to help other assisted you in your journey?

[For a discussion of the medical distinction of use vs. abuse see:]

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What do you do when one thing piles upon another? 3 suggestions…

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Sometimes things happen on top of things that happen on top of other things.  Sound familiar?  If it were not familiar than statements like, “When it rains it pours,” would not be so common.

This has not been an uncommon theme in my experience as a pastor and a coach.  Often the events seem to be unrelated.  Physical illness, loos a job, car breaks down, furnace breaks, dog gets sick, a close friend passes…  You get the picture.  It could be any number of things that pile up one each other—on you.  And if you are already dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress or anxiety…

  1. Double down on what you know works.  This is the time to stand firm.  Take a breath and review all the tools you have already acquired.  What has worked for you in the past: exercise, healthy food choices, meditation, prayer, study, and time with friends, action…?  This is likely different for each of us.  Stand strong in all that you know how to do to deal with adversity.  If that is not enough, learn new strategies to deal with adversity!  The more difficult the circumstance the greater possibility for growth.
  2. Reach out for help!  Humble yourself and let trusted resources know you are struggling.  Let them know how they could help.  Don’t dump your problems on them.  Rather, let them know how they could help you solve or deal with one of the issues.
  3. Consider reaching out to help another person.  (listen to our podcast: “3 Reasons to Reach Out To Help“) When things seem to be snowballing in our lives it can be helpful to take some of the focus off of our circumstances and reach out to help someone else through something difficult in their lives.  This is not to deny the reality of our situation.  Rather, it helps contextualize our situation.  We also seem to receive so much more when we give.

Question:  What do you do that is helpful with everything seems to be happening at the same time?  Or What affect do other life circumstances have on PTSD?

008 “3 Reasons to Reach Out to Help”


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What role does helping others play in our own recovery process?

We will start out with an update of our 21 day gratitude experiment from last week’s episode: Can Gratitude Save Your Life?  

3 Reasons to Reach out: The Power of Outreach

[Note: You do not have to be a veteran and suffering from war related PTSD to help a veteran with moving forward in their lives.  The same is true for veterans.  What you learn through your battle with stress, anxiety and PTSD can benefit non-veterans.]

  • Gets focus off of you and your situation.
  • Reinforces what you already know.
  • It helps discover areas for improvement.
  1. Reaching out to others gets the focus off you and your situation.  It can be easy to become consumed with our own immediate and long-term problems.  Even in partial state of growth it is possible to reach out to other in need.  It fact we will always be in a partial state of growth.  Now may not be our moment to reach out.  We should reach out in an area that we have experienced some victory.
  2. Reinforce what you already know.  By reading out to others we strengthen the foundation we have been building the in RESTORE and START process.  We have the opportunity to teach another what we have learned from our resources (tools) and experience in applying those tools.
  3. At the same time we may discovers even more effective ways of addressing areas in our own life’s and situation.

Some quotes about helping others… (from

  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  – Charles Dickens
  • “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” –  John Bunyan
  • “Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)”  – Cicero

Listen to Devastation or Transformation for an overview of the START goal setting process.

Listen to RESTORE: 7 Practical Parts to the RESTORE process for a summary of the process.

  • Question: How has reaching out to help other assisted you in your journey?


Is fear holding you back?

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Most people I know admit that fear affects their decision making in some way.  In a way that they feel usually holds them back from attempting to accomplish something new.  To overcome this fear it may not be enough to simply recognize its existence.  It is a start to recognize that fear is fueling an internal distraction; but all that might do is bring to your awareness that something is holding you back.

Many offer what appears to be a simplistic solution such as, “Just go for it!  Get over it!” Or they may share a cliché such as “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.  As true as these statements are, the often fall short of releasing someone, or equipping someone to move forward with confidence and competence.

It can be difficult to overcome a nebulas obstacle.  For many identifying and understanding the source of the fear can be an important part of moving beyond the fear into new areas of success.  This process should not devolve into an endless loop of self-pity.  It should be with the intent of addressing and ultimately overcoming the obstacle.  This process itself takes courage!

Some shrink away from this process are assert that this sort of what they may call “navel-gazing” as pointless.  If it turns into navel-gazing, I would agree.  If we become self-absorbed and stuck in the fear or the past we are not addressing and overcoming.  Yet if we do not face and deal with whatever reality is holding us back then we are not likely to be able to boldly move forward.

The first step may be to acknowledge and accept that there is some fear holding you back.  Don’t stop there!  Courageously and patiently move forward.  If you feel stuck, have the courage to reach out for assistance.  Sometimes friends can help.  If not, a counselor, mentor, pastor or coach can help identify the core elements that may be holding you back.

It takes work to overcome our internal obstacles; but the rewards are great.  When we overcome these things we are free to act; and even free to not act.  In our freedom we may find that our lives take on an entirely different direction then we expected when fear was guiding our thinking.

Some will not enter into treatment for PTSD, or any other issue, because of fear.  Fear that they will be seen as week.  Fear that the treatment won’t work.  Or many other fear based obstacles.  We can overcome fear.  For me, as my faith in God grows stronger fear starts to take a back seat.

Today is the day that can start to turn around.  If you need someone to walk this part of your journey with you contact me at

How have you overcome fear in the past?  Please share your experience in our components section (at the top of the post).


Struggling with Physical, Psychological, Spiritual Pain

BW Soldier Hand on face(In this post I share a bit of my personal struggles in the hope that it will encourage those in need to press on in their journey.  Struggling is a normal part of our human existence. We can grow and overcome obstetrical.  You do not have to do it alone. Peace, David Fell)

I have experienced physical pain and struggles as a result of the war in Iraq.  I have also experience emotional and psychological pain as a result of the same war.  Both are extremely difficult to handle; and keep handling day after day. 

The psychological/emotional has the added difficulty as they deal with the brain and mind—areas that are still taboo for many in our society.  This kind of wound may not be visible to the naked eye.  Nevertheless, they are just as real and just as physical as the physical struggles I experience in my lungs and elsewhere in my body.

Struggles, even pain, has been a part of my spiritual journey.  One aspect (among many) of this struggle is facing the difficult questions of believing in a good God and yet facing such evil, apparent injustice and destruction.  I know some convincing philosophical and theological answers to these questions. At times these intellectual answers prove to be little comfort.  At the same time I have experienced a peace that goes beyond comprehension.

No quick fix:  The doctors tell me that there is no solution for my lung problem—nor any effective treatment at the time.  For some of the other physical problems (diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cataracts, neuropathy…) there are treatments, some unpleasant, tedious and burdensome; but treatment to limit and slow future damage.  Yet it is hard to not be at least a little peeved that all these problems showed up when I was young and having lived a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weigh.

There has been some help for the nightmares, anxiety and other aspect of the psychological struggles (Post-Traumatic Stress).  I say some because there is a long way to go.  I have found many things that were of limited benefit toward recovery and growth. Some of these things that did not help me are helpful to others.  Even those “failed” attempts have been helpful in helping my understanding and ability to assist others on the journey. 

The Hope and Restoration Team (HART) understands struggles, endurance, and pressing forward.  There are unique aspects to each of our struggles.  As such, no one can completely understand what you are facing.  Nevertheless, we do understand struggles that involve the physical, psychological and spiritual.

You can help those in need!  Here are several options: Liking our Facebook page.  Share this blog and podcast! Organize a RESTORE seminar for your company, organization, church, civic group.  Share your story.  We are looking for people willing to share their stories of facing difficult life challenges on different kinds on our Podcast:Healing The Wounds of War: Hope & Restoration for PTSD”.  For any of the above, contact me at

How can we serve you?