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The statistics are staggering and the numbers continue to climb. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 64,000 people in the U.S. died from opiate use and abuse in 2016. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control, 1,956 of those deaths occurred in N.C. Last year in Guilford County, 142 lives were lost due to drug use and abuse; I knew 10 of them – and a few of them were close friends.
Reports, documentaries, articles, even photo essays have been done about the crisis, but some have done more harm than good by portraying stereotypes of what an opiate addiction looks like. Unfortunately, these horrifying images only stigmatize those who are suffering even further, bringing about feelings of hopelessness and despair. Our society too often is quick to make judgements with insufficient information. Yes, addiction is ugly – but hope lives because recovery is available.
Early recovery is often described as an emotional roller coaster ride. Elation and relief can quickly turn into anger or shame as feelings come flooding back after being masked by substances for so long. Starting a recovery journal is a helpful way to make sense of these conflicting emotions. As the pen hits the paper, there exists a space for vulnerability and honesty to live and thrive.
The goal of a recovery journal is not to dwell on the past or look to the future, but instead to explore feelings in the present. Putting our thoughts down on paper helps us better understand our actions and reactions in a way that is seldom revealed by talking or thinking. Writing gives us the answer to questions we never even knew we had.
Exercise plays a critical role in the health of both body and mind. As a society, we’re exercising less and the effects can be clearly seen in our collective physical state. However less noticed and understood is how exercise affects the brain. Exercising does not have to be an incredibly difficult nor does it need to be monotonous, but its effects are profound, especially in those recovering from substance abuse or addiction. So, let’s drive into why exercise is so important for the recovering addict:
Protecting your recovery at all costs must be emphasized at every stage of recovery. Because relapse starts well before a person picks up a drink or a drug, it is essential to understand what your relapse triggers are. You may ask, “What the heck is a trigger?” A trigger can be described as a person, place, thing, feeling, or situation that leads to a thought that taking a drink or using a drug would be a good idea.
Addiction to alcohol and drugs affects one’s body, mind, and soul. But the damage doesn’t end there. Families and friends also suffer as their loved one’s dependency progresses, stress builds, and communication starts to break down. Families need to recover from addiction, too.
Family members and loved ones find ways to cope and adapt to the evolving lifestyle that addiction is shaping. It’s not uncommon for family members to feel imprisoned by this disease. As destructive, self-defeating behaviors increase, family members and addicts alike shift into survival mode, just trying to make it through another day of ever-worsening problems.
By David Sack, M.D.
When a patient discovers that they have an illness, one of their first questions is, “How long until I get better?” In the field of addiction treatment, there is an ongoing debate about what the answer should be. Some feel the only way to instill hope for recovery is to define a specific endpoint at which patients can consider themselves fully recovered.
But this ignores the true nature of addiction. Unlike a cold or a broken bone, research has confirmed that addiction is a chronic brain disease akin to heart disease or diabetes. There is always hope for recovery – a hope I see fulfilled every day through education and treatment. But for hope to be authentic, it must be directed toward living a healthy, fulfilling life while managing the disease, not blind hope for curing it.
People in recovery must be especially careful when taking any kind of over-the-counter (otc) or prescription medications. Many otc meds contain alcohol or other ingredients that could endanger their sobriety by triggering a relapse. Even physicians not familiar with addiction may prescribe meds that are not safe for the addict/alcoholic. People in recovery must be vigilant in protecting their sobriety. They must read ingredients, ask questions, and use much caution in using any kind of medication. If in doubt about a specific medication, contact your psychiatrist/addictionologist or another knowledgeable person for guidance.
For preventing a relapse, it is important to recognize warning signs before the actual relapse happens. Here are five signs to look for that may help you prevent a relapse:
HIV is a scary disease – despite the best efforts of the medical community, there is no cure, no effective vaccine and HIV therapies are expensive with significant side effects. And while we have a good understanding of the disease, it is estimated that 1 in 7 of the 1,000,000+ HIV positive people in the United States do not know they are infected – thus increasing the risk of transmission. Following are 7 important facts about HIV:
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.