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Understanding Addiction & Family Support

January 15, 2020

Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease, not a lack of willpower, not a moral weakness, not a sign of a weak character, not a result of life’s pressures, and not a symptom of another disease or disorder. Alcoholics and addicts drink/use because they have a disease. The bio-chemical changes in their brains create a physical craving for the chemical. This makes it very difficult for them to abstain from (to choose not to use) alcohol or drugs, especially if they don’t realize that they are addicted. You may have noticed the alcoholic or addict in your life trying to “control” their alcohol/drug use in a number of ways, not realizing that the disease is deciding for them, and indirectly, you. You cannot control the alcoholic/addict, their alcohol/drug use, or their disease.

Alcoholism/drug addiction is primary; it is not a symptom or a result of another condition or disease. For example, depression does not cause addiction but addiction often causes depressive symptoms. The addictive process can be arrested and managed, though never cured, just like many other chronic diseases such as diabetes. The alcoholic/addict, family and friends may not readily notice the changes caused by the disease until they reach crisis proportions and the problems become “unmanageable.” It is also a progressive disease that goes through stages, and if unchecked only gets worse, and is eventually fatal. The causes of fatalities because of addiction include organ damage/failure, overdose, suicide, and addictions.

What can I do as a concerned friend or family member? Learn about the disease, including the effects it has on you. Take the responsibility for your choices and learn to develop and set healthy boundaries. Allow and respect the addictive persons need to take responsibility for his or her choices and behaviors. Except your situation honestly, realistically, and lovingly. Reach out for help and learn from others’ experiences through community support networks. Give yourself credit for slow steady progress. There are no quick fixes.

Keep Calm and Carry On: Helpful Reminders for Managing Holiday Stress

December 18, 2019

managing holiday stress

The holidays are rife with triggers. For many, they are indicative of jovial social events and spending time with family. For others they can be a lonely and isolating time. But no matter what your personal circumstances, there is always the potential for unexpected feelings and emotions to arise.

The key to maintaining your sobriety and your emotional health during the holidays is to manage your expectations and follow the Boy Scouts motto of “Always Be Prepared.”

Manage Expectations

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the cookies are a little burned, the wrapping paper is crinkled, and the tree is lopsided?  The joy is in the doing and the sharing of the experience, not the outcome.

Hand in hand with “everything doesn’t have to be perfect” is that you don’t have to be happy all the time either. We often convince ourselves that we must always have a smile on our face and that our emotions must always be positive, but sometimes they’re just not. And that’s OK. The holidays are stressful. Family is stressful. By simply acknowledging that we feel sad, or angry, or less than happy, we can change our perception and expectation of any given situation.

So your mom drives you nuts, your brother still gets away with everything, and your aunt asks way too many personal questions. You know that they haven’t changed, but the most important thing is that you have. Go into these interactions knowing that the only thing that you can control is yourself and how you react. If the conversation takes an uncomfortable turn, take a deep breath and excuse yourself.

You know that your best friend from college is going to invite you to her holiday party. And you know that alcohol will be served. It’s OK to say, “Sorry, but I can’t make it this year”.  And you might have to say that several times. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, make one-on-one plans with your friend in a more private setting where you can better control the situation.

For those that find themselves away from friends and family during the holidays, be mindful about how you spend your time.  Research a cause that you’re passionate about and volunteer. Get a jump on your new year’s fitness goals and join the gym. Ask someone you trust to help keep you accountable to not just sitting around the house alone.

Start new traditions. Make new memories. A vital part of recovery is switching up your routine so as not to fall back into old, potentially detrimental habits. Why should the holidays be any different? Talk to your family about doing something new this year. Suggest hosting dinner at a different location. Instead of sitting around watching football after the Thanksgiving meal, play a game of flag football in the back yard. And don’t be afraid to skip some of the old traditions all together. (Nobody really likes fruitcake anyway!)

Always Be Prepared

If you decide to go the party after all, practice a few brief responses to use if someone offers you a drink. “No thanks! I’m good!” works just fine. Don’t feel obligated to tell anyone why you’re not partaking. Your reasons are personal and private; you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Don’t go around empty handed. Whether it be sparkling water, apple cider, or a soda, the best way to keep someone from offering you a drink is to already have one!

If you start to feel nostalgic for “the good ol’ days”, take a moment and bring yourself back to reality. Remind yourself of why your sobriety is so important; of all the positive things in your life that sobriety has made possible. If your emotions really start to get the better of you, head to a meeting or call your sponsor. Know that you are not alone and others are available to support and encourage you.

Have an exit strategy. If you are at a social event or even a family gathering, make a plan for when to leave. Take a friend with you who can make an excuse for stepping out of the room. Set a timer on your phone, and when it goes off, say you have to make a phone call. And if it all possible, always drive yourself to that you can leave when you want to. Who cares if you leave early? The thing is to do what’s right and healthy for you.

As you head into the holiday season, remember to be honest with yourself. You know which circumstances and which people are difficult to manage. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits and don’t berate yourself if you have to pull the escape hatch on a situation. Use the hard-won skills that you’ve learned in recovery: contact your sponsor regularly and stay in touch with your support network. Beef up your meeting attendance. There are even meetings held on holidays; make them part of your new holiday tradition. Remember: recovery is a life-long process. And you get better at it every day.

Holiday Tips for Supporting People with Substance Use Disorders

November 13, 2019

The holiday season can be tough for many, especially those experiencing homelessness, trauma, and mental health and substance use challenges. Marc Dones shares his tips for supporting family and friends living with substance use disorders during the holidays and throughout the year.

  1. Don’t Talk About “Choices.”

As Christmas and the New Year draw closer, many people living with substance use disorders (SUDs) are hearing a familiar refrain: “Make good choices over the holidays.” This is less helpful than you may think. While it certainly can be difficult to get through the holidays when folks around you are engaging in behaviors you’re no longer able to, “choice” has little to do with it.

Substance use disorders are chronic diseases affecting powerful mesolimbic circuitry in the brain. These diseases are compulsive disorders similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder or compulsive gambling. People living with SUDs don’t use substances to feel pleasure—they use them to feel relief. If you have trouble imagining the difference, think about being given a piece of candy in contrast to removing a nail that had been driven through your hand. Different, right?

To be helpful during the holidays—and all year long for that matter—focus on prevention planning. Rather than saying, “Make good choices,” ask, “Have you put together a use prevention plan? If not, is that something we can do together?”

Identify strategies for not using when the person experiences craving. For example, if he or she finds cooking to be relaxing, suggest spending time in the kitchen preparing meals. If time passes more quickly for him or her when reading, suggest a trip to the bookstore to splurge on some new reading materials. The holidays are filled with triggers for using and relapsing. By identifying strategies like these in advance, you can reduce the potential of harm.

  1. Adapt Family Traditions.

Many people think about how best to support loved ones over the holidays—especially if they are beginning a journey of recovery and are unable to have alcohol or other substances for the first time.

Many families may not know how to coordinate a meal. Do we serve alcohol and if so, how do we relate to a person in recovery? While family dynamics can be difficult and are unique to each situation, a good rule of thumb is to think of SUDs in the same way you think about other chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma.

We would never say: “Well, we generally have ice cream with this dessert, but since Jim is diabetic, we have decided not to serve it.” Why? Because it embarrasses Jim, makes it seem like he’s the reason we are depriving others of ice cream and like there is something shameful about his illness. Instead, we can say, “There’s ice cream in the kitchen for those who would like it!” Maybe Jim isn’t the only person who can’t have ice cream. Maybe the kids shouldn’t be having ice cream because of its high sugar content. If you wouldn’t say it about someone with diabetes, don’t say it about someone with SUDs!

  1. Remember that Words Matter.

In this post I haven’t used the terms “addict” or “addiction.” Instead, I have referred to people living with a substance use disorder. This is a deliberate choice. Many words are stigmatizing and can be hurtful. I encourage you to adopt the term “person living with a substance use disorder” instead of “addict” or “addiction.”

Person-first language describes the problem as a disease—not a choice or a moral failure. It separates the two in the same way I would say, “Person living with HIV.” These changes in our language are more than symbolic; they impact the way people think and interact. The more we shift away from stigma-laden words towards language that highlights the problem as a disease that people have to live with, the more we are likely to empathize and be supportive.

SUDs are powerful illnesses requiring that we work together to eradicate the stigma and shame so that everyone can get the help they need and deserve. Share your tips for supporting people with SUDs during the holidays and year-round!

Written by Marc Dones

Trainer for T3 and the Center for Social Innovation

Best Recovery Tips from Fellowship Hall’s Counselors

October 30, 2019

This blog is a part of our ongoing series on recovery tips. Each month beginning in October 2019, a Fellowship Hall counselor will give our readers their very best tips for getting treatment, being successful in therapy and maintaining sobriety.  Be sure to read them all.

 

“My best recovery tip to anyone is to ‘stay in the process.’ What I mean by that is don’t give up before the miracle happens. People need to realize that recovery does not happen overnight. Most people do not obtain sustained recovery because they don’t stay with the process. When things get better for them, they stop doing the things that got them better. So, I always encourage people to keep doing the things that got you better.  Stay in the process.”

Michael Bryant

Primary Counselor, BS/CSAC/CPSS

 

 

What Is A Typical Day at Fellowship Hall Like?

October 16, 2019

Each day at Fellowship Hall is filled with counseling, education, medical support, companionship and the hope of recovery. Guests are involved in a variety of activities designed to lead them to self-awareness, improved health, and a lifetime of sobriety.

Morning

The day begins early with everyone dressed and at breakfast by 7:30 a.m. At 8:30, all guests assemble for a meeting called the Eye Opener, during which the Thought for the Day is read, the day is organized, and all guests being discharged have the opportunity to say goodbye. The rest of the morning is spent in various classes or in individual therapy with the assigned counselor; each guest has a minimum of two individual sessions per week. The classes range from lectures on various aspects of addiction, to study of the Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous texts, to discharge classes on how to maintain sobriety. Some guests also participate in relapse prevention classes, drug education classes or grief groups, depending on individual needs. Lunch is served at noon.

Afternoon

The afternoon begins with group therapy daily (except on Sunday), with 10-12 guests per group led by a counselor. This is followed at 3:00 by activities therapy for all guests who have been medically cleared by the doctor; an activities coordinator leads the group in a variety of games, exercises, dances and social events. Usually guests then have a free hour before dinner is served at 5:00. Meals at Fellowship Hall are served cafeteria-style, with a main entree, soup of the day, and salad bar offered. After a guest has been at Fellowship Hall for 7 days, Sunday visitation may be approved. A guest can complete a visitation request form and submit it to their counselor for review by the treatment team. Approved visitation is Sunday from 1:00-4:00pm.

Evening

In the evening, a short film is shown at 6:30 to those guests who are not going to an AA or NA meeting, but most guests attend a local Twelve Step Meeting four nights per week. On Sunday, a demonstration meeting is held at Fellowship Hall, and everyone attends. On Saturday, the Activities Coordinator plans a social event for guests to enjoy, such as a pizza party, feature film with popcorn, or games tournament. The day ends at 11:30 with “lights out.”

When not scheduled in class or therapy, guests are free to enjoy a variety of activities on their own. Meditation Trail winds its way almost a mile through the woods, with Step-themed garden spots along the way. It ends at a small pond, which is stocked with fish for catch-and-release fun. The Gratitude Garden offers a quiet space for contemplation, meditation, and visitation among native plants and trees. Our Activities Room features a ping-pong table, treadmills, elliptical trainers, punching bag and weight machine, with outdoor basketball hoops, volleyball net and horseshoe pits. A piano provides entertainment whenever a musical guest is in treatment or a staff member shows his/her talent. Of course, televisions are available for leisure-time watching as well. The beautifully-landscaped grounds and outdoor sitting areas are a favorite gathering place for sharing with others in the guest community.

Finding a comfortable and dignified environment, such a Fellowship Hall, is important to  recovery and learning to enjoy life free from alcohol and drugs.

Why Combating Stigma Is Part of the Fight Against Addiction

September 19, 2019

For years, society has stigmatized addiction. No matter who experiences a substance use disorder, shame is usually part of addiction’s debilitating effects. This can contribute to the burden of a substance use disorder.

A Lack of Understanding Contributes to Stigma

The truth is, many people do not fully understand addiction. They believe that it is just a bad choice that people continue to make and do not understand why they just cannot say no. They are not aware that addiction is a disease that can negatively affect certain parts of the brain that are in charge of decision-making.

At times, those dealing with addiction not only have to fight the urge to use their drug of choice and the physical effects of quitting, but they also have to fight the stigma attached to their addiction.

Today, substance use disorders and mental health issues have become a more talked about topic of conversation. Yet many Americans still do not treat people who experience mental health issues in the same way that they treat those grappling with other physical diseases, like cancer. It is still difficult for some to accept that addiction is a disease that requires medical intervention.

Yet social inclusion and support are key components to a successful recovery, while isolation and discrimination as a result of stigma can increase the risk of relapse and can hinder a person’s recovery from addiction. Lack of understanding about substance use can be a major hindrance to treatment for those suffering from addiction.

Stigma appears to be one of the main reasons people who experience a substance use disorder avoid treatment. Patients who fear the repercussions of stigma are less likely to get the help they need to overcome their addiction.

Further, stigma can even worsen addiction. When people suffering from addiction believe that they are being socially persecuted or discriminated against because of their substance use disorder, feelings of anxiety or depression can occur. The situation becomes even worse if the person suffers from mental health issues as well.

Why Is There Stigma Attached to Addiction?

There are a few reasons why addiction has long been stigmatized:

Association with illegal activity: While this is not always the case, many people who commit crimes do so while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because of this association, some people perceive a link between addiction and criminal activity, which further strengthens the stigmatization of substance use disorders.

The notion of choice: Many people falsely believe that using drugs is a choice. While that might be true for the first time a person tries drugs, it goes far beyond that once addiction sets in. It’s hard for many people to understand that people dealing with addiction are being controlled by the drug, rather than the other way around.

Language: The language surrounding addiction is rather negative in nature. Many words linked to addiction have a stigmatizing effect, which can actually keep people from seeking help, no matter how badly they might need it. Words like “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “drug user” are also negative connotations that are often used to refer to someone who experiences addiction. There is power in words, and such language can perpetuate the stigma that continues to exist around addiction.

While stigma fosters shame and isolation, reducing stigma and discrimination can have the opposite effect. Removing such stigma from addiction can help patients with substance use disorders recover from their addiction.

Written by The Recovery Village Columbus

Celebrating Sobriety During Recovery Month

September 4, 2019

September marks a special time in the recovery community. It’s National Recovery Month, and while we’re on the heels of International Overdose Awareness Day, Recovery Month gives us something to be grateful for. For years, people who struggle with addiction, as well as people who live in recovery, have spent their lives in the closet. They haven’t felt like they can share their pain or their triumph because of the stigma attached to it.

That’s where Recovery Month comes in. Recovery Month is a national observance that is now in its 27thyear. It aims to celebrate the accomplishments of people who have reclaimed their lives in long-term recovery and honors treatment and recovery service providers who help make recovery possible. Thanks to Recovery Month, many of us feel comfortable talking about what we’ve been through and where we’re going.

Here are 5 ways you can celebrate Recovery Month.

Find a local event near you

SAMHSA has a comprehensive list of Recovery Month events located on their website, where you can search and find one near you. If there aren’t any Recovery Month events near you, there is information on how you can start your own. These events can teach you and your community about local recovery efforts, what else you can do to make your community recovery ready, and actively promote the benefits of recovery in real time.

If you are in the area of the Fellowship Hall campus, check out the online calendar for events throughout the month of September.

Share your personal story

I cannot stress this one enough! Sharing my personal story of recovery has transformed my life in every way. Recovery Month is the perfect time to do this if you haven’t before. Fortunately, there are many different blogs and websites that collect personal stories of recovery. Our stories have power. By just sharing our personal narratives, we have the chance to connect with others on a human level. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve related to other people’s stories and they’ve related to mine. When people who struggle read or listen to our stories, they can identify and picture recovery for themselves.

Write an op-ed or talk to the media

Another good way to get the word out about Recovery Month is to talk to your local media or write an op-ed for a newspaper or other media outlet. These talks or op-eds can be your story, or it could just be why you’re supporting and celebrating Recovery Month. Media outreach can increase awareness of Recovery Month events, clarify the importance of recovery in communities, and the local impact everyone can have by offering help. When communities are recovery ready, people are healthier and happier.

Start a conversation

People tend to underestimate the power of a simple conversation. Yes, we live in a digital world and sharing our stories and having conversations on social media are also important. But it’s in speaking with our neighbors, the people at our gym, and other people who we interact with in our daily lives that can really create an immediate impact. Not everyone will be understanding or open-minded, but it’s having these hard conversations that help us grow as people, and help educate the world about Recovery Month and all it has to offer.

Educate yourself and others

There is no better way to celebrate Recovery Month than to continue learning about what recovery is, how it’s changing, and what you can do to help this movement. There is a Recovery Month toolkit available on the Recovery Month website that you can download that has statistics, facts, a media guide, an event, and frequently asked questions about this month. It’s also a great time to research any other questions you might have about addiction and recovery, read the latest studies, and take your new knowledge with you as you go out into the world and celebrate.

Recovery Month is a time for us to reflect on the importance of recovery, how it changes lives, the many pathways that people take to get here, and the village it takes to sustain it. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s an achievement. It saves lives, it makes our world a better place, and it should be celebrated any time of the year, but especially in September.

Article Written by AddictionCenter.com

4 Tips for Managing Prescription Medicine in Recovery

August 15, 2019

Are you anxious about undergoing a medical procedure while in addiction recovery? Are you hesitant to take prescription medications for fear of relapsing? These dilemmas pose unique sobriety challenges for those in both early and long-term recovery. With a little planning and a proactive approach to post-operative care, the following tips from Jerome Lerner, MD, director of Sierra Tucson’s Pain Recovery Program, can help lower the risk of relapse and guide recovering addicts into a successful healing process.

  1. Get Honest with Your Provider

Prior to surgery, talk to your health care provider and let him or her know you are in recovery. When treating a patient for pain, a doctor needs to look for potential risk factors of substance abuse. Having a conversation about your concerns of relapse will prompt your doctor to carefully assess your situation and select an anesthetic and/or medication that will be in the best interest of your recovery. When a situation warrants medication, it is not safe to under-medicate or over-medicate—the most effective route for managing pain is to consult your provider for post-operative recovery techniques and a tailored treatment plan.

  1. Ask for Help

If you are concerned about having medication in your home, ask someone else to monitor your follow-up treatment and dispense your medicine at the designated times. If that is not an option, a pharmacist can partially fill a prescription on a schedule.

  1. Take a Non-Narcotic Approach

Similar to tip #1, maintain regular conversations with your doctor after surgery and secure his or her permission to switch to non-narcotics as soon as possible. Examples of non-narcotics include Tylenol (chemical name: acetaminophen); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, Motrin or Advil (chemical name: ibuprofen), Aleve or Naprosyn (chemical name: naproxen sodium); and hot and cold packs, to name a few. This approach to pain management post-surgery may help expedite the healing process, thereby resulting in less pain, and reducing the risk of opioid dependence.

  1. Get Real with Your Recovery Network

Honesty and open-mindedness are essentials in addiction recovery. Don’t be afraid to seek counsel or talk with your sponsor or support system if you are experiencing cravings or feelings of withdrawal or despair. There is strength in numbers—realizing you are not alone and that intense feelings will pass can help you stay sober throughout the process.

Surgical pain is common and often expected, but each individual’s pain tolerance varies. If symptoms evolve into chronic pain that disrupt normal movement, functioning, and daily activities, adversely affecting your overall quality of life, seek professional help without delay. At Sierra Tucson, we understand how debilitating chronic pain can be. Our Pain Recovery Program is tailored to meet the needs of men and women who are struggling with complicated pain and the conditions that cause it.

Article written and provided by Sierra Tucson

 

Mindfulness: A Secret Weapon Against Cravings?

July 31, 2019

If you haven’t heard of Mindfulness, it’s a form of meditation designed to bring greater awareness to your mind and body, allowing you to separate your thoughts from your emotions.

For years, Mindfulness has been used to help manage cravings; more recently, mindfulness-based interventions have been used to specifically target cravings to bring about relevant changes to behavior.

According to a new review from City University of London, mindfulness meditation strategies can help to prevent cravings for food and drugs including cigarettes and alcohol.

Dr. Katy Tapper, Author of the review and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at City University of London said, “The research suggests that certain mindfulness-based strategies may help prevent or interrupt cravings by occupying a part of our mind that contributes to the development of cravings. Whether mindfulness strategies are more effective than alternative strategies, such as engaging in visual imagery, has yet to be established. However, there is also some evidence to suggest that engaging in regular mindfulness practice may reduce the extent to which people feel the need to react to their cravings, though further research is needed to confirm such an effect.”

Ready to give Mindfulness a try?  Allow yourself at least 20 minutes and follow these three steps:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair
  • Put your attention on how you’re breathing
  • When your mind begins to wander, bring your attention back to how you’re breathing

Practicing Mindfulness is simple, but not easy. Staying focused on your breathing keeps you in the present moment, but it can take 20 minutes or more to settle your mind. The more you practice, the better your ability to use Mindfulness as a tool to manage – possibly even prevent – cravings for the substances that challenge your recovery every day.

Letting Go Of Toxic Relationships After Rehab

July 8, 2019

Your recovery should come first. Don’t make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.

Rehab is about getting rid of the toxins that affect your life in a negative way. During detox, the physical substances that have been causing harm to your body will be flushed out in order to restore a neuro-chemical and physiological balance. During treatment, you will learn more about the relationships in your life and what kind of toxic aspects they may carry. Removing toxic people from your life is equally as important as removing the toxic chemicals, though in some cases, it may prove even more difficult. Ultimately however, excising toxic people from your life is going to prove beneficial to your overall mental, emotional, and physical health in the long term.

“People who are not happy with themselves cannot possibly be happy with you.”

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