Why is Group Therapy So Commonly Used to Treat Addiction?
One aspect of addiction treatment most people are familiar with is group therapy. Every film or TV show about addiction and recovery will have a scene where a character either goes to a 12-Step meeting and shares or participates in a group therapy session in rehab. For many people considering treatment, this might seem a bit intimidating. It’s a bit too much like public speaking and on top of that, the subject of conversation may include your worst thoughts, memories, and emotions. It’s no wonder that people are often hesitant to participate. However, group therapy is a staple of addiction treatment for good reasons. What’s more, once people get started, they usually find group therapy helpful, rewarding, and even enjoyable. Here are some reasons why group therapy is so common in addiction treatment programs.
You’ll See You’re Not Alone
Shame, stigma, alienation, and isolation are among the biggest barriers to recovery for people with substance use disorders. Trauma is perhaps the single element that people with substance use issues have most in common. This could be in the form of childhood abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, sexual assault, or some traumatic event. By some estimates, half of people with substance use disorders also have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Addiction is commonly the result of trying to cope with shame. Most people’s instinctive reaction to shame is to try to hide it, bury it, or push it away, but that only makes shame more powerful. The best way to deal with shame is to open up about it in a safe environment, such as individual or group therapy. What makes group therapy especially good for healing shame is that group members quickly learn that they are not alone. Whatever they experienced in childhood, whatever they did during active addiction, there are almost certainly other members of the group who have had similar experiences. Being able to open up about these experiences and know you’re not alone is liberating.
Group Dynamics Give the Therapist Insight into Your Behavior
One of the limitations of individual therapy is that, for the most part, you control what information your therapist has. Even if you aren’t deliberately distorting events that you relate in therapy, you necessarily see things through your own perspective. That limits the information your therapist has to work with. However, in group therapy, the therapist can see how you interact with others. Maybe you have a tendency to be defensive or critical without realizing it. Maybe you are friendly to women but not to men. Maybe you believe you’re hopelessly awkward but in fact are charming. These are things that are far more obvious in real interactions than in the privacy of an individual session.
You Enjoy Social Support
Feeling socially connected is one of the most important parts of a strong addiction recovery. For many people, drugs and alcohol are a way to try to fill a void, which is often caused by a lack of belonging or purpose. There are many different reasons people feel this way and you are likely to find in the group some people who understand.
There are also more concrete reasons social support matters. For one, it creates a greater sense of accountability. People are more likely to show up to sessions, and show up on time, and be engaged if they know other group members are depending on them. In other words, it matters that group therapy is about helping as well as receiving help. Having a connection with the group also makes people a little more reluctant to slip up because they know they will have to tell the group.
Social support has benefits outside of the group as well. One challenge a lot of people face early in recovery, especially as they transition back to regular life, is that they have to distance themselves from friends who drink or use drugs. Sometimes there is stress within the family and they have to work on maintaining boundaries. These kinds of behaviors are easier when you feel like you have people supporting you, even if they aren’t physically with you at the moment.
You Get Many Different Perspectives
Another particular advantage of group therapy over individual therapy is that group therapy gives you many different perspectives. As an expert, your therapist’s perspective may be well informed but your therapist is still just one person. The group will have had many different experiences and will have many different ways of thinking about things. These will sometimes be surprising and illuminating. Problems that seem intractable to you might seem easy to someone else and being open to other perspectives can expand your repertoire of solutions.
You can also get different perspectives on your own behavior. Part of the challenge of resolving interpersonal conflicts is that it can be hard to tell whether we are acting reasonably. Getting feedback from the group is one way to orient yourself and better understand if your attitude is fair. It can also help you understand someone else’s perspective. For example, if you’ve been arguing with your spouse, it’s possible that your spouse can’t explain themselves well and perhaps someone in the group could be a better advocate with less emotional investment.
You Can Practice Vital New Skills
Recovering from addiction is, at its core, about learning a lot of new skills for managing emotions, thinking, and behavior. It’s one thing to know, rationally, how to do these things and another thing entirely to be able to use these skills when they matter. For example, if you tend to explode when you are criticized, that will lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and conflict but it’s also hard to practice responding better in real time. The group is the perfect time to practice these kinds of skills in a safe, moderated environment. If someone gives you feedback you don’t like, for example, it’s a perfect time to practice, perhaps with the help of the therapist, using your strategies for responding more constructively. This is why modalities like dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, specifically include group therapy rather than relying solely on individual therapy.
Group therapy can be intimidating at first but most people end up finding it helpful and they even enjoy it. The sense of connection you can find in group therapy is one reason so many people say they’ve met their best friends during addiction treatment. Group therapy heals shame and isolation, it gives your therapist extra insight, it provides social support, and gives you a valuable opportunity to practice new skills. At The Foundry, we use a variety of evidence-based methods, including group therapy and DBT, to provide clients with individualized, holistic treatment. To learn more about our programs, call today at 1-844-955-1066.
When Do You Need More Than the 12 Steps to Beat Addiction?
AA and the many mutual-aid programs they’ve inspired have been helping people get sober since 1935. Working the 12 steps is a time-tested method for quitting alcohol and drugs, and millions of people are now staying sober one day at a time. The social support of mutual aid meetings like AA is especially important, which is why most people go to meetings even after completing professional treatment programs. However, it’s important to remember that 12-Step meetings are just one approach to recovery. Everyone has different needs when trying to overcome addiction. For many people, AA or NA will be all they need. Others may require more help. The following are some reasons you might need something more than your neighborhood 12-Step meeting.
When You’re Facing a Tough Detox
You don’t have to be sober to attend a 12-Step meeting; you only need to want to be sober. Unfortunately, beyond possibly offering some helpful advice, your 12-Step group won’t be able to help you detox. Sometimes, you will be able to tough it out at home, but other times that might be too difficult or too dangerous to attempt. For example, people trying to quit opioids often have a hard time making it all the way through detox because the withdrawal symptoms get too intense. It can be hard to take care of yourself when you’re experiencing what many have said feels like the worst flu you’ve ever had.
If you’re detoxing from a serious drinking problem or a benzodiazepine addiction, your life may even be at risk. Severe alcohol detox, DTs, can come on without warning and lead to death in a small percentage of cases.
It’s hard to know when you might need a medical detox and when you can do it at home. It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before deciding. If you have any medical conditions, especially cardiovascular issues or pregnancy, a medical detox is typically a good idea. If you’ve had a difficult time detoxing in the past, it’s likely the next time will be tough too. In general, the longer and more heavily you’ve been drinking and using drugs, the harder detox is likely to be.
When You Have Comorbid Health Issues
As noted above, if you have any medical conditions, it’s best to detox under medical supervision. However, medical issues can continue to be a challenge even after acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Many people starting in recovery have problems related to malnutrition, weak immune systems, and other issues related to substance use. Spending some time in a residential treatment program can help you avoid complications and restore your health more quickly. You get healthy meals, plenty of sleep, a bit of exercise, and easy access to medical care, should something go wrong.
When You Have a Co-occurring Mental Health Challenge
Perhaps the most common problem that mutual-aid groups aren’t well suited to deal with is mental health issues. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at least half of people with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health issues, such as major depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and others. Many of these conditions require specialized care and medication. That’s far beyond the support that a mutual-aid meeting can provide.
Trying to get sober without diagnosing and treating co-occurring mental health issues is extremely hard and probably won’t succeed for long. For most people with co-occurring disorders, the mental health issues are the main driver of their substance use. Mental health issues and substance use each tend to make the other worse, so only treating the addiction is not likely to solve the problem for long.
When You Have Trouble Sticking with a Program
Mutual-aid programs can be very effective in helping you to stay sober if you keep going. The problem is that most people don’t keep going. They may go to a few meetings but that’s all. One study¹ found that only about 10 percent of people who go to AA meetings keep going for three months. Some of the features that make AA attractive, such as free attendance, anonymity, and open doors, also make it easy to quietly disappear.
When you invest in a professional treatment program, you are far more likely to stick with it. For one thing, you may actually be in residence, perhaps far from home, so you’re less likely to just stop showing up. You can leave, of course, but your level of commitment is much higher, especially if you’re paying to be there. What’s more, the staff and other clients are more invested in your success. People will definitely notice if you don't show up for group therapy or other activities. You also form connections to others more quickly in treatment and that social bond creates an incentive to stay engaged.
When You Don’t Fit In
There are many effective approaches to addiction recovery, but unfortunately, some people who have succeeded through 12-Step meetings don’t always see it that way. Some groups are fairly rigid and dogmatic, which can put people off. Since 12-Step groups aren’t centrally organized, there is a lot of variation among meetings. However, if you’re in a place without many options, you might have trouble engaging with a group where you don’t feel welcome or comfortable. You may have to explore other options.
Twelve-Step meetings like AA and NA can be a great option for many people who want to get sober, but sometimes meetings alone are not enough. If you might face a hard detox, have co-occurring mental health issues, have had trouble sticking with the program, or you just don’t feel comfortable with the available groups, you might need something more. At The Foundry, we use the time-tested 12-Step principles combined with evidence-based modalities for treating co-occurring issues. To learn more, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
Do Drugs and Alcohol Permanently Affect Your Brain?
We’ve all heard clichés like “alcohol kills brain cells” or “drugs fry your brain.” Watching someone who’s under the influence of drugs and alcohol, few of us are inclined to doubt it. However, the idea that a period of heavy substance use can leave you mentally damaged for life is also terribly discouraging. If you’ve struggled with drugs and alcohol, the following can give you some idea of how that might have affected your brain.
Most effects are temporary.
First of all, the vast majority of effects from most drugs only last as long as the drugs are in your system. If you drink too much, you can sleep it off. The next day or two might be rough, but you’ll be okay before long. Our bodies are pretty good at maintaining equilibrium, so individual episodes of drinking or drug use typically won’t have lasting effects except perhaps in extreme circumstances, like an overdose. It turns out that the anti-drug scare tactics of the 1980s and 1990s largely backfired, so it’s not a good idea to overstate the dangers of isolated drinking or drug use. It’s worth noting, however, that substance use does have a larger effect on the developing brain and people who experiment with drugs and alcohol at a younger age are more likely to have substance use issues later in life.
It may take months for your brain chemistry to rebalance.
A bigger concern than isolated use is developing a tolerance, which is another way of saying developing a dependence. This is when your body is so used to the presence of drugs and alcohol that it compensates in order to bring you back to equilibrium. Once you’ve developed a dependence, you need drugs or alcohol in your system to feel normal — and when you quit, you will probably notice some emotional and cognitive effects.
Exactly what those are depends on what substance you’ve recently quit. If you’ve quit drinking, you’re likely to experience irritability and insomnia. If you’ve quit cocaine, you’re likely to feel lethargic and unable to focus. While the effects of the drugs themselves might wear off pretty quickly, the effects of withdrawal might hang around for a while. Acute withdrawal typically only lasts about a week or two, but many people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. Symptoms of PAWS often include emotional numbness, depression, trouble concentrating, and lack of motivation. These are thought to be caused by changes in your brain’s dopamine system, which is related to motivation, reward, and goal-seeking behavior. This typically lasts a few months, but some people report symptoms lasting up to 18 months.
The long-term effects of addiction aren’t entirely clear.
There’s still quite a bit of discussion in the scientific community over whether addiction permanently changes your brain. We know that addiction does appear to cause some structural changes in your brain. As noted above, some of the most important changes have to do with the dopamine system. The dopamine system is designed to reward behaviors that keep us alive and help the species propagate. However, drugs and alcohol can throw this system into overdrive — especially among people with the right genetic predisposition.
This overclocking of the dopamine system has downstream effects, too. In your prefrontal cortex, there’s a region that becomes sensitized to stimuli that might lead to substance use. We call these stimuli “triggers,” and they are a direct result of the dopamine system realigning your brain’s priorities.
There is also a region of the prefrontal cortex that is primarily in charge of inhibiting behaviors — a sort of mental brake — and this region becomes weaker as addiction progresses. The result is that after a certain period of addiction, you have a brain that is completely bored with anything other than substance use, is extremely sensitive to the possibility of substance use, and is less able to inhibit behavior related to substance use.
Much of the debate around this subject relates to whether this structural change can go back to normal. It’s possible that some people’s brains were never “normal” to begin with. As noted above, there’s research showing that some brains are just wired to respond more strongly to drugs and alcohol. However, we do know that the dopamine system will gradually respond more normally to other stimuli over time and that the prefrontal cortex can change its structure in a matter of weeks using techniques like mindfulness meditation. In other words, we don’t know for sure whether your brain can ever return to some pristine, pre-addiction state, but it can certainly get much better.
Damage from long-term, heavy use may be permanent.
There are a few cases where brain damage from substance use may be permanent. Inhalants, for example, are extremely damaging to the brain. There’s also a condition called stimulant psychosis, which is usually temporary but may be permanent in a small percentage of cases. Korsakoff syndrome, also called “wet brain,” is typically caused by decades of heavy drinking and results in severe memory impairment, confabulation, and apathy. Probably the most common concern in terms of mental impairment is early-onset dementia. A large study¹ of more than a million patients in France found that alcohol use disorder was the single biggest cause of early-onset dementia.
Brains are more resilient than we used to think.
The good news for anyone recovering from addiction is that our brains are extremely adaptable and resilient. Even people who have had strokes that would have been debilitating 20 years ago are able to regain much of their original function. As recently as ten years ago, most neuroscientists believed the adult brain didn’t create new neurons, but now we know it does and that exercise promotes this function. In general, our brains will typically figure out a way to do what we repeatedly ask them to do and new methods and technologies can help them heal even faster.
It’s normal to worry that maybe you’ve abused your brain so much that it will never work quite right again. In some cases, your brain might have undergone some permanent changes, but our brains change anyway, whether we’ve struggled with substance use or not. The important thing to know is that brains are adaptable and they can always get better. At The Foundry, we use a variety of evidence-based methods to help our clients heal and create better lives. To learn more, explore our website or call us today at 1-844-955-1066.
Five Challenging Activities to Try in Addiction Recovery
When you’re recovering from addiction, it’s a great idea to pick up a new interest, hobby, or activity. These do several good things for you. Perhaps most importantly, especially early on, they give you something to do.
Too much boredom and restlessness are not good for recovery, and having a new pursuit gives you something to do. Also, if it’s something you enjoy — which it should be — it gives you something to look forward to every day; a sense of direction or focus. Finally, when you learn new skills and see them improve day by day, it increases your sense of self-efficacy: the feeling that you are in control of your life.
There are many possible challenges to take on in addiction recovery. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and something that connects with your values. You may have to try out a few things to find what you like. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Learn to play an instrument.
Any kind of expression is good for recovery and music has some attributes that make it especially good for some people. First of all, music therapy is an alternative form of therapy that involves many different ways of engaging with music.
It often helps people who aren’t helped much by more conventional modes of therapy. A number of studies have found that it can be particularly effective for treating trauma and depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500733
However, the benefits don’t stop with therapy. Several studies have found that the act of making music in itself can improve your mental health. For example, researchers at Oxford¹ have found that singing in a choir can have many benefits, including increasing your feelings of happiness and wellbeing, reducing pain, and even improving your immune system.
Music is good for you because it is a complex activity that promotes social cohesion. Music requires cooperation between many parts of your brain in both hemispheres. It is one of the best workouts you can give your brain and some studies suggest practicing music can even stave off dementia.
No matter what, a certain level of fitness should be part of your recovery plan. Few things are as good for your physical and mental health as daily exercise and emerging research even suggests that it may help prevent relapse.
However, a basic level of self-care is not the same as making sports or fitness a particular interest in recovery. All you really need to be healthy is to walk about 30 minutes a day, but that won’t provide as much of a challenge or motivation as an activity.
For that, you need something that gives you plenty of room to grow — something that requires strength, skill, and stamina. Team sports are a great place to start, because they not only require skill and keep you active, but they also add a social element that holds you more accountable and helps you feel more socially connected — one of the most powerful aspects of a strong recovery².
Even if you never thought of yourself as a sports person (perhaps especially if you never thought of yourself as a sports person), learning a new sport can be a huge boost for your mood and confidence.
As with music, art is a great recovery activity because it emphasizes self-expression. Much of what you go through in life may be hard to put into words, but you still need some way to express it.
Drawing, like dreaming, can be an expression of your inner world. Most of us were encouraged to draw when we were kids, but creativity is discouraged as we get older.
Making art, whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpting, knitting, collaging, or anything else, is often a great way to get back into contact with the parts of your mind that can’t easily express themselves in words.
Learn a new language.
Most people only learn new languages for the sake of practicality. It takes a special kind of person to do it for fun.
However, if you’re that kind of person, learning a new language can be a great recovery activity. For one, it opens up a whole new world that wasn’t available when you were limited to English.
The change of perspective when you can suddenly read a newspaper from Mexico City or Berlin is startling. Perhaps more importantly, a new language connects you to new people.
Language is fundamentally social and even the process of learning a new language can help you build new relationships. Like music, language learning is also great exercise for your brain.
If you’ve been through an addiction treatment program or worked with a therapist, there’s a good chance you’ve already done quite a bit of writing as part of recovery. However, there’s no reason to stop there. Like art and music, creative writing, such as poetry and fiction, can be a way of exploring thoughts and feelings you can’t quite articulate directly.
What’s more, writing is a great way to process what you’ve been through and find meaning in it. Think of all the people who have been through horrible things and then redeemed those experiences by writing about them — from Victor Frankl and Malcolm X to the many excellent recovery memoirs that have come out in the past 10 years or so.
Writing your story is a way to own what you’ve been through and create a story where you’re the hero rather than the victim.
There’s essentially no limit to possible activities to engage in during recovery. The great thing about recovery is that your future is no longer about drugs and alcohol; it can be about anything you want. The more you challenge yourself, the more you’ll grow. At The Foundry, we know that recovery isn’t just about abstinence; it’s about living better. For more information about our treatment programs, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
- Launay, J. (2015). Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker. The Conversation.
Twark, C. (2018). Can exercise help conquer addiction? Harvard Health Publishing.
Detox from Alcohol, Heroin & Meth: What to Expect
Addiction is a battle for anyone who experiences it, but the next daunting task for anyone who wants achieve recovery is the detoxification process. The thought of having to stop the substance of choice is the first step to finding sobriety and peace.
Everyone is different, and the detox period can last anywhere from 24 hours to weeks. Here is a brief outline that can be used as to what may be expected during the detox process. The most important thing overall is to go into it with a willing attitude, and a positive thought process that you can do this! The first step to freedom!
Alcohol detoxification can be broken down into three stages depending on the severity of alcohol consumption. The first stage involves anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can be expected 8 hours after the last drink. Next, the body may experience increased blood pressure, increased body temperature and respiration, irregular heart rate, mental confusion, sweating, irritability, and heightened mood disturbances which comes 24-72 hours after the last drink. The last stage involves possibility or hallucinations, fever, seizure, and agitation which tends to begin 72+ hours after the last drink. Alcohol detoxification can be life threatening, so it is recommended that it be done in a supervised setting.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically begin about 12 hours after the last use, and can peak around day 1-3 and gradually subside between 5-7 days after the initial onset. The symptoms of heroin detox can be described as “super flu” with some of the symptoms including cold sweats, depression and anxiety, loss of appetite, unstable moods, muscle cramping, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. The distress during this process can be debilitating, sometimes leading people back to use. In this case the next use can be lethal, especially if the user takes too much of the drug in order to compensate for the withdrawal effects.
Methamphetamine, referred to as “meth”, is referred to as “the most dangerous drug on earth” due to its wide range of availability. Detoxing from meth is not pleasant, however it is not one of the more dangerous drugs to detox from. Symptoms include deep, dark depression, decreased energy, increased sleeping, teeth grinding, night sweats, emotional instability, irritability, resumption of eating leading to weight gain, anxiety, cravings, suicidal ideations or suicide.
It is recommended that whenever someone chooses to come off of substance use, it be done in a supervised detox center or treatment center. Asking for help is the first step, but also knowing what to expect can be helpful. Withdrawal is a challenging process, and no matter how quick or long it is, it is hard not to create expectations that it is not going to be enjoyable.
With strength and hope, anyone struggling with addiction can make this important step in the right direction. Always remember the detoxification process is only the first step. Once clean, long term treatment center will be the next destination. Aftercare can provide the tools to help maintain sobriety and find healthy coping mechanisms.
Sonia Kulberg is an Addiction Tech at Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a rehab and substance abuse treatment center in Colorado, and provides support to those in recovery throughout their stay in residential treatment.
Alpha-Stim: Powerful Addiction Treatment Technology
Alpha-Stim is a powerful treatment tool to help individuals achieve recovery and relieve pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia - all without the use of medication.
These challenging symptoms, which present additional obstacles to those entering recovery, are controlled by the the billions of different cells that comprise the body’s central nervous system. With every sensation, these cells communicate by conducting electrochemical signals between the your body and brain.
A clinically proven medical device, Alpha-Stim treats the body at the electron level by changing the electrical and chemical activity of certain nerve cells in the brainstem. By transmitting a unique electrical waveform to modulate the cells’ signals, cells are returned to baseline, normal functioning. No pain or discomfort is experienced while using Alpha-Stim.
In essence, the Alpha-Stim focuses on achieving equilibrium in the “alpha” state of your brain, which can be measured and monitored on an electroencephalogram recording.
In a healthy alpha state, stress-effects are reduced, as well as agitation. A patient’s mood is more stabilized, and the ability to regulation sensation and perception of particular types of pain are improved.
When treating anxiety, insomnia, and depression, a current is applied with easy-to-use clips attached to the ear lobes for at least 20 minutes several times per week, or on an as-needed basis. Anxiety is reduced immediately while insomnia and depression may require up to three weeks to see a significant change.
When treating pain with the Alpha-Stim, two wands or attachable electrodes are placed directly at the site of the pain. A microcurrent waveform signals the cells to immediately and significantly reduce the sensation of pain. Results can be felt instantaneously.
Whether you are treating anxiety, depression, insomnia or pain, a pleasant and relaxed feeling of well-being will be experienced. I have seen Alpha-Stim help countless people reduce the discomfort and pain that is common in the first stages of recovery. This treatment is available to all participants during a residential treatment stay.
Rudy Spector is a Registered Nurse at The Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a rehab and substance abuse treatment center in Colorado. She takes pride in helping those achieve recovery and is a firm believer in the healthy benefits of outdoor activities. She has been a resident of Steamboat Springs since 2000 and enjoys spending time with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.
Overcoming Addiction Cravings With Nutrition
As the chef at The Foundry and someone who has overcome addiction to celebrate four years of sobriety, I have seen why nutrition is such an important topic for those in recovery. When in the throes of addiction, we usually don’t care about the negative effects our substance abuse has on the mind and body. My intention is to help educate, inform, and explore how we can improve our lives through nutrition in recovery.
The first topic to address is one everyone is familiar with: cravings. Whether it be for chocolate, nicotine, salty snacks or alcohol we all have experienced cravings in our lives. The difficulty about handling these cravings in sobriety is that we as addicts need instant gratification. Cravings are a signal from your body telling you that it needs something, and your brain recognizes these needs in the way you usually fulfill them. If you always eat candy bars, when you experience a sugar craving your brain will think of candy bars first. If you start satisfying that sugar craving a banana or green smoothie, your brain will begin craving these healthier options when your blood sugar drops. This is part of a lifestyle change. The goal is to live healthier and as your brain chemistry changes, your health will change as well.
Another option is to practice moderation and upgrade your favorite snacks to healthier options. Going back to our candy bar example, instead of eating processed refined sugars, corn syrup and chemicals, snack on a few bites of fair trade organic dark chocolate for a “healthier” treat. Chocolate is still chocolate, so if you can opt for fresh fruit instead, that would be even better. You don’t need to starve yourself of your favorite snacks, just try to find the most natural, whole food version of what you are craving and maintain portion control. This will help with satiation and give your body the nutrients it needs. If you can learn how to make the snacks you prefer, even better. Not only will you impress your friends, you’ll learn in the process.
If your cabinets are filled with cookies and chips, this can seem overwhelming. To help you, I have provided a food craving roadmap to help you understand what your body is actually asking for during a craving.
At The Foundry, we incorporate all of this information into our meal planning and nutrition education at our residential treatment center in Colorado. It’s important to us that we help you as much as possible on your recovery journey, and for some that can include cooking lessons and being introduced to new foods. As they say, if you teach a man to fish...
Hopefully this blog has helped to answer any questions you had in regards to what cravings mean and what healthy options are in terms of satisfying them. Remember to practice self-control, and moderation and you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
-Eric Powers, Chef of The Foundry
Exercise and Recovery: Understanding Exercise Addiction
So you are new to recovery from some form of substance abuse. You learned and experienced in treatment that exercise is of great benefit to you. It has aided you in reducing your stress, decreasing your anxiety and improving your mood. You feel better about yourself and your body as a result. It taught you that you can overcome adverse conditions thus cultivating your self-confidence.
Some of your friends and family have begun to verbalize concern about your exercising. They have even mentioned that you are becoming addicted to exercise. You find yourself firing back at them when the topic comes up that exercise is good for you and it is better than using heroin. However, part of you secretly wonders if it is true. Are you replacing one addiction with another?
Is there such a thing as exercise addiction? According to Psychology Today, it is a “legitimate problem whose prevalence is thought to be highest amongst triathletes, runners, and individuals who suffer from eating disorders.”
A published review from 2012 estimated that about 2.5 to 3.5 percent of the general exercising public may be affected by exercise addiction. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has published a number of studies attempting to understand and define exercise addiction. However, the American Psychiatric Association has not recognized it as a primary disorder.
Despite the conflicting data as to whether exercise addiction exists, there are some agreed upon symptoms identified by various researchers regarding exercise addiction: tolerance, withdrawal, inability to limit amount of time engaged in exercise, reduction in other activities to engage in exercise, and continuing to engage in the exercise despite the negative effects it is having.
To put these symptoms into actions that are recognizable, those addicted to exercise may feel driven to work out daily, for long periods of time, and do so even through illness and injury. The person may miss so much work (due to exercising, recovering from, or preparing to exercise) that they can no longer successfully pay their bills, and /or is spending more than they can afford on equipment. The person may express increased stress levels when not exercising, and may display irritability, frustration and the inability to concentrate when not engaging in exercise.
Do some of these sound familiar? These are some of the same criteria for substance abuse disorder. The symptoms of exercise addiction seem to parallel substance abuse, but what about the effects? Individuals who engage in exercise addiction may find themselves suffering from injuries due to repetitive motion, fractures due to overuse, and muscle damage due to overtraining. They may also begin to experience irregular heartbeats and enlargement of the heart.
Exercise addiction may also take a significant toll on a person’s family, work, and social life as more and more time is dedicated to exercising since it has become the main priority. Family and friends may accept the heavy training schedule, because a specific performance is the goal, a marathon or triathlon for example, with the expectation that a more normal lifestyle will resume after the event. However, the event comes and goes and the behavior remains the same. Again, the toll seems to be equivalent to that of substance abuse.
You find yourself asking since exercise addiction is a possibility, and recall you were taught in treatment that once a person has been addicted to one substance they can more easily cross over to another addiction, should you exercise at all?
Yet, you recognize that exercise has been good for you. It has improved your mood by decreasing your depression and anxiety, as well as improving how you respond to stress. You also know it has been shown to reduce cravings for substances, for those who abuse alcohol, illegal drugs and/or some prescribed drugs, and believe it has assisted you with cravings and filled your time. In addition, you have made some new friends and begun to develop a positive support network as a result of working out through The Phoenix or fitness center.
So the question remains: should you stop exercising?
The answer lies in whether you can exercise in moderation and have a balanced lifestyle. Do the symptoms above describe you? Has exercise become a compulsion? Look inside and you will know the answer.
Here at The Foundry, we know how important physical fitness can be to recovery, and have created an entire Wellness Program centered on yoga, hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, gym fitness as well as countless other activities related to well-being. In the beautiful state of Colorado, receiving drug and alcohol treatment at a recovery center in a beautiful setting can show you how beneficial exercise and the outdoors can be for the body, mind and spirit. We can help cultivate your interested in fitness and help you understand how to keep this new (or reignited) passion healthy.
Jasmine Aranda, LPC, LAC, is the Chief Quality & Compliance Officer at The Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a rehab and substance abuse treatment center in Colorado, providing clinical therapy services for Foundry participants to help envision a life after recovery. The Foundry provides nearly double the therapy time of a traditional treatment program to provide the guidance and support needed for lasting recovery.
Are Chronic Pain and Addiction Connected?
Chronic pain is one of the hardest to manage conditions for people with a substance use disorder. Coping with physical ailments and pain can be the reason some people start using substances. They may start using substances for another reason and end up spiraling in their use of substances and alcohol as a means to cope with chronic pain. Either way, the treatment for chronic pain and substance use disorders is called a dual diagnosis. When more than one other thing is coinciding with a substance use disorder, both should be treated concurrently to ensure the person gets the best chance for recovery. Find out how chronic pain and substance use disorders are connected and why it matters.
Defining Chronic Pain
Pain starts in the brain. The brain sends signals that something is wrong and tells the body damage has occurred or may be occurring. Pain may last a short while or become chronic (long-lasting). Chronic pain is pain lasting beyond the healing of an injury, which continues for several months or longer, even years. Diagnosis and treatment often are required by healthcare professionals who can look at how the pain started, why it continues, and any pathways involved in sustaining the pain. The type of pain and its origin are determining factors in how to best treat the pain going forward. Narcotics are almost always a last resort because of how toxic they are to the body and the risk of developing an addiction.
Types of Pain
When it comes to types of pain, it is essential to know what kind of pain can develop and how it emerges. This knowledge can determine how a person decides to manage it on their own, typically with the use of substances or alcohol.
- Somatic pain: injury to muscles, bones, joints, or tissues can occur. Somatic pain is dull, aching, and localized in one area. It can be caused by inflammation, but it does not disappear after a reasonable period.
- Visceral pain comes from an ongoing injury to an organ or tissues supporting the organ.
- Neuropathic pain: believed to be caused by changes in the central nervous system that sustain pain after an injury. May be associated with physical or emotional trauma or any number of different diseases.
- Psychogenic pain: chronic pain linked to emotional upheaval. Depression or anxiety can create stressful situations. Emotional distress may be a consequence of pain or contribute to pain itself.
Addictive medications like opiates should be a last resort because they can cause lots of problems for people over time. Harmful substance use over time can have severe medical, legal, and social consequences for a person’s life. The only course of action to discontinue medications is to detox safely with a treatment center focused on helping people become healthy and whole after a substance use disorder.
Opioid and opiate medications are readily prescribed to treat chronic pain and physical injuries for different reasons. No matter how a person came to use the drug, they likely need it to help mask the pain symptoms and function normally in their everyday life. Substance use disorders are a pattern of compulsive behavior characterized by cravings for opiates and opioids. Cravings can become overwhelming and can result in loss of control or compulsive substance use, despite consequences, and obsessive behaviors regarding the use of a substance. Life may become pretty unmanageable by the time they are desperate enough to seek help. Even then, they may not be able to admit the need for help. A person with chronic pain has likely suffered from mental health disorders that are untreated because chronic pain is the primary symptom being treated. Many people fear the only solution to relieve chronic illness lies in taking opiates or medication indefinitely. Pain symptoms may become aggravated when they cannot sleep, are not eating well, or taking care of themselves because of substance use behaviors.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Treatment centers can provide counseling and support services for individuals with chronic pain and substance use disorders. These services help people in recovery control chronic pain using other techniques and coping tools without potent substances. It might mean a holistic approach to constant pain control that includes exercise, meditation, and breathwork. Substance dependence can develop, and discontinuation of opiates is not recommended alone due to withdrawal symptoms. Treatment of chronic pain and substance use disorders also includes support for mental health issues. A team of medical specialists and clinicians is needed to treat the person with care, dignity, and respect. In this way, they can find treatment for chronic pain but also support for substance use behaviors. Healing from all of it will take some time, even if chronic pain never completely heals. The goal is to find hope that things will get better, gradually, and that life is better when substance use disorders are finally in the past.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.
How to Quit Enabling Substance Use Disorders
Someone who is dearly loved can fall deep into harmful substance use behaviors. Enabling their behavior only makes it worse. It is hard to identify the signs of enabling behavior because it seems closely related to “helping” them figure things out or alleviating discomfort. Spending lots of time and energy on a loved one like this is only going to end in heartache. Eventually, it ends up with the person resenting the entire process and feeling stuck in the cycle with the loved suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Find some tips on how to identify what is going on and how to quit enabling behaviors for good.
Defining Enabling Behavior
Enabling is complicated. Most people don’t even realize they are engaging in enabling behavior. The line is an essential one to draw, and it is vital people understand the ways enabling behavior can keep everyone locked inside a substance use disorder. Enabling occurs when a behavior keeps someone from experiencing consequences or the truth of their behavior, and they may not ever experience the pain of their reality. Some common ways people enable loved ones with substance use disorders include:
- Secretive behavior, sneaking substances to them or “covering” for them.
- Making ultimatums but not following-through with any consequences.
- Providing care-taking for a person with a substance use disorder when their ability to provide self-care is impaired.
- Ignoring or dismissing undesirable or dangerous behavior.
- Prioritizing their needs above those of others in the family possibly creating conflict.
- Bailing that person out of jail, financial trouble, or any bind that they could correct themselves.
The enabling behavior continues because they love them so much, but love is not enough to fix the challenges. Those with substance use disorders who struggle must be accountable for their choices if they want to change. It may be a hard lesson to learn for both the enabler and the person dealing with addiction, but responsibility for self shouldn’t be compromised.
Enabling From Fear
One of the key ways people continue to enable is from fear. They worry if they don’t care for their loved ones, something bad will happen. A caring mother may offer a home to the child because it seems safer than living on the streets. Fear is not a good motivator for loved ones of those with a substance use disorder. Many loved ones want to shield the person from pain rather than let them face harsh consequences. They don’t realize it also encourages them to continue doing what they’re doing. It proves to the person with substance use disorder that this way of living is acceptable and encourages them to manipulate others to get what they want.
The more a person learns about substance use disorders, the better they become at dealing with it. The more objective the person can be in support of a loved one, the better off they will be. There are many myths surrounding substance use disorders, including that helping them is healing. They are not going to help if they are enabled to keep using substances or drinking. Education means learning the true nature of substances and alcohol and how it affects everyone. Recovery is beneficial when family and loved ones are all involved in the process. Every person plays a role in reinforcing substance use behavior. Recovery is more beneficial when everyone knows how to play a part in doing better.
Don’t try to help the loved one alone. Peer support groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and others provide resources for loved ones struggling with substance use disorders. The meetings are helpful, and they provide support for those who need it most. Participation is not required all the time, but people can show up as they please and feel supported. Talking about the issues can help find solutions they may not have thought about and find healing for their issues, along with a loved one’s substance use disorder.
Create Space Financially
One way that families often enable loved ones is by taking care of them financially. They may pay their bills for them, give them credit cards to use, or offer bank account information. There is a good chance a loved one is taking advantage of this opportunity. Consider ways to stop the financial issues in their tracks. Set limits by refusing to bail them out of consequences, require rent payments, and limit the money you give your loved one. Don’t freely give if it is funding drugs or alcohol, because this keeps them in the cycle. Cutting them off helps them feel the consequences and forces them to try and seek other means of getting help.
Interventions, treatment programs, and family support groups are key to healing. An intervention most often is successful when set up by a professional. Every person needs to participate that is impacted by the substance use behavior to be effective. Be sure to be ready for whatever outcome arises. They will not quit until they are ready to quit, but the support of loved ones in a healthy way is essential to the journey of recovery.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.
Why Are Some Afraid of Entering Treatment for Their Addiction?
Having a loved one with a substance use disorder is often painful and frustrating. If you’ve never struggled with substance use issues yourself, it’s very hard to understand the behavior of your addicted loved one. They may ignore the overwhelming evidence that they have a problem or, if they admit they have a problem, they may resist getting help. This stubbornness can be baffling, especially since it often comes off as anger. What’s important to understand is that the prospect of going to treatment and fundamentally changing how you live can be terrifying, even when your life isn’t going that well at the moment. Seeing your loved one’s resistance as fear rather than stubbornness can give you insight into their behavior and help you be more patient. The following are some common fears people have about entering treatment for addiction.
Fear of Losing Control
Just getting to the discussion of treatment can be a long road. You might think that when someone admits they have a problem, getting treatment is just the next logical step. Clearly, if they could quit on their own, they would have done it by now. However, many people with substance use issues don’t see it that way. They’ll admit they have a problem but insist on dealing with it on their own.
This is another form of denial because they’re denying the full implications of having a substance use disorder. It doesn’t just mean that you use drugs and alcohol excessively and to your own detriment, but also that you don’t have control over it. Insisting you can deal with it on your own is denying the nature of addiction. Again, this is typically motivated by fear. No one likes to give up control of their life. Admitting you need help means admitting that you really don’t have control over your drug and alcohol use. In the context of treatment, it also means you will have to do some things you don’t want to do. The key is to emphasize that they have already lost control of their lives and that seeking help is a way to get it back.
Fear of Withdrawal
You can’t start recovery until you go through withdrawal, and for many people, the prospect of withdrawal is intimidating. Many people try to quit on their own but give up when withdrawal symptoms get too bad. The thought of having to see it through with a supervised withdrawal may be frightening. This is especially true for people addicted to substances that have intense withdrawal symptoms. Opioids, for example, have symptoms that people often compare to the worst flu they’ve ever had, with runny nose, watery eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, sweating, aching, and chills. It’s no wonder people aren’t eager to go through that.
Withdrawal after heavy alcohol use is no joke either and can include headache, irritability, shaking, seizures, vomiting, and, in a small percentage of cases, death. Anyone facing those symptoms would be anxious. The key is to emphasize the safety of a supervised detox. Detox staff can make you a bit more comfortable and respond quickly if symptoms become dangerous.
Fear of Loneliness
When people think of going off to treatment, especially an inpatient program where they will spend at least a month, they are often bothered by the prospect of being locked away in this facility where they don’t know anyone. They fear embarking on this adventure with no support. While it’s true that they probably won’t know anyone at first, it’s the staff’s job to make sure they have everything they need and that they feel comfortable. They will be talking to a therapist very soon after arrival and they will probably have a roommate. Since people in treatment share a lot of traumatic experiences, they often form deep bonds. A lot of people say they’ve met their best friends in treatment. If you feel lonely at first, it probably won’t last more than a few days.
Fear of Sharing
Group therapy is a common feature of both professional treatment programs and mutual-aid groups like AA. Many people feel intimidated by group therapy because you have to speak in front of people and often share things you’re not particularly proud of. However, there are good reasons group therapy is part of nearly all addiction treatment programs. One of the biggest reasons is that members quickly learn they have nothing to be ashamed of. Other people in the group have probably had similar experiences and they learn they aren’t alone. This is important for dispelling the stigma attached to addiction as well as related issues like having been physically or sexually abused. People tend to find a lot of support in their group sessions and despite their initial trepidation, find it rewarding.
Fear of Coping
For many people, drugs and alcohol are a way of coping with challenging emotions and memories. Someone with PTSD, for example, might use alcohol as a way of coping with intrusive images. The thought of getting sober and having to go through life without a trusted coping mechanism may be too much to bear. This is why treating co-occurring conditions is so important. Long-term recovery entails figuring out the underlying causes of addictive behavior and finding more productive ways of coping.
Fear of Failure
When someone agrees to enter treatment, especially for the first time, everyone gets a little hopeful. The person’s history of increasingly problematic behavior might be about to turn around finally. What’s more, treatment represents an investment of time, money, and effort. What if it doesn’t work? Everyone will be disappointed and it will have been a waste of resources. This is an understandable fear but all you can do is try and make an honest effort. If it doesn’t work out the first time, it may work out the second or third time. You don’t fail at getting sober until you quit trying.
Fear of success
Ironically, success can be just as frightening as failure. If you do manage to get sober and stay sober – then what? You can no longer blame your failings as an employee or a parent on drugs and alcohol. You are responsible for yourself and you have to make decisions about what kind of life you want to live, whereas before, drugs and alcohol were making those decisions for you. While this can be a lot to deal with at first, it’s by far the better problem to have. You will, of course, make mistakes, but you will gradually learn to live the kind of life you want to lead.
Fear is normal when it comes to entering treatment for addiction. You fear losing control, you fear to be vulnerable, you fear the pressure of living without drugs and alcohol. However, that fear is a good sign. It means trying something new and taking responsibility for the results. At Foundry Treatment Center, we share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.
Does Your Brain Fully Recover from Substance Use?
We’ve all heard someone say something like, “He’s fried his brain,” referring to someone whose drug or alcohol use has gotten out of control. If you have struggled with substance use, or someone you love has, you’ve no doubt seen changes in personality and cognition and wondered “Is this permanent?” It’s a distressing thought.
So much of who we are – our thoughts, memories, skills, and personalities – is encoded in the roughly three pounds of neurons in our skulls. Drugs and alcohol obviously have some effect on our brains, which is why people use them in the first place, and too much can have a pretty bad effect.
The belief that alcohol kills brain cells is widespread, but it doesn’t appear to be true. However, some drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA do appear to kill brain cells. While losing a few neurons among billions is not a big deal, it does add up over time. Heavy substance use can cause cognitive impairment, personality change, and behavioral change. If you’re worried that you or someone you love might suffer permanent effects from substance use, here are some things to consider.
Some effects fade quickly.
Most of the psychoactive effects of drugs and alcohol are temporary but if you’re using them all the time, you may not notice. In order to know what effects are temporary and which are longer-lasting, you actually have to go through withdrawal and get completely sober. This may sound obvious but a lot of people forget what their baseline even is after a period of continued substance use.
For example, alcohol is a depressant. If you are a heavy drinker, you may have depressive symptoms that are mainly caused by your drinking. These may include depressed mood, poor concentration, and poor memory. It’s possible that your depressive symptoms will abate once the alcohol is out of your system.
However, you may also have an underlying mental health issue to deal with too. The main point is that substance use interferes with the normal functioning of the brain and the first step in assessing your degree of impairment is to get the drugs and alcohol out of your system.
Some effects may last a year or more.
Unfortunately, the direct effects of drugs and alcohol on your brain are only part of the picture. Another part consists of the adaptations your brain makes to counter the effects of drugs and alcohol over time – in other words, you build a tolerance.
In the case of alcohol, for example, your brain gradually makes less of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA and more of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. This is why you may feel like you need alcohol to relax and why you may experience irritability, shakiness, and even seizures when you quit drinking.
The worst of these symptoms – acute withdrawal symptoms – typically only lasts a week or two but other symptoms may last weeks or months. These are sometimes referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. These symptoms may include emotional numbness, inability to concentrate, lack of interest in pretty much everything, and depressed mood.
This is thought to be the result of your neurotransmitters slowly returning to pre-addiction levels. Another factor likely has to do with changes in the limbic system. After months or years of using drugs and alcohol, your brain has gotten used to artificially elevated levels of dopamine so getting excited about having a nice dinner or going to the beach is pretty hard. It may take more than a year for that baseline to reset.
Some structural changes may never fully go back to normal.
As noted above, drugs and alcohol mainly mess with the brain’s limbic system, which is involved in pleasure, reward, and goal-seeking behavior. There appear to be three main brain structures involved with addiction: the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex.
Areas of the basal ganglia are involved with motivation, reward, and creating habits. The extended amygdala regulates the brain’s reaction to stress and negative emotions like anxiety and irritability. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for “executive” functions like planning, prioritizing, and organizing – or “go” functions – as well as self-control and emotional regulation – or “stop” functions.
When we say addiction “hijacks” the brain, what we mean is that the massively disproportionate reward of substances causes the basal ganglia to tell the prefrontal cortex to organize its efforts in a way that prioritizes getting drugs and alcohol. At the same time, it undermines the “stop” functions of the prefrontal cortex, which get weaker from disuse.
This is the main area of debate when it comes to whether the brain ever fully recovers from addiction. On one hand, you have this miscalibrated basal ganglia that only goes back to normal very slowly and on the other hand, you have this impaired “stop” function in the prefrontal cortex.
The latter is much more malleable, which is why treatment strategies tend to focus on tools to regulate emotions and control behavior. There is also good news in that the urge to use drugs and alcohol typically declines the longer you stay sober. Most people say their cravings get noticeably weaker after one year and five years sober.
The brain is much more adaptable than we used to think.
If you’re concerned about whether your brain can ever fully recover from addiction, there is plenty of room for optimism. It has only been in the past decade or so that neuroscientists have come to believe that the brain keeps making new neurons in adulthood. We’ve also known for a long time that the brain has significant powers of adaptation.
Even people who have had strokes or experienced traumatic head injuries are often able to regain most or all of their cognitive functions. New technologies like transcranial magnetic stimulation may help heal brains even faster. The key is that your brain will adapt to whatever you consistently ask it to do. Your concentration, willpower, and memory will get stronger the more you use them, even after years of substance use.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body, allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How to Stop a Relapse Before it Even Happens
We all want to feel like we have a hold on our addiction. We try to do everything right. We avoid people, places, and things, go to the meetings where we feel comfortable, and work through the steps with a sponsor. Unfortunately, no matter what we do, life is going to happen. We will be triggered, and we aren’t always going to be working our program perfectly. To avoid relapse, it's essential to learn the early warning signs that we might be closer to picking up than we’d like and how to walk through those signs in a healthy way.
When thinking of relapse, we often think of the part where we pick up and start using again, but just like everything else, there are phases we can look out for before we pick back up. Relapse begins with our emotions, then it becomes mental and, finally, physically, putting the substance into our bodies. These phases can be very gradual and hard to spot if you aren’t looking for them and adequately dealing with each stage as it comes.
Phase 1: Emotional
Emotional relapse often happens before we even consider picking up a substance. This phase can manifest in many different ways. We could notice that we are becoming angry by situations that generally wouldn’t bother us; it could be that you are noticing that you feel anxious more often than is typical. We could even begin to start eating and sleeping in ways that don’t feel healthy.
These could all be signs that you are beginning to slip down into emotional relapse, but the only way we can realize that we are slipping is by motoring our emotions. If you notice these, get connected to your support group. Verbalize the way you feel to people you trust. Consider meditation to quiet your mind and calm down or, physical exercise can be a healthy way to let out a lot of emotions.
Phase 2: Mental Relapse
Most people in recovery have two parts of their brains that are constantly at war. One part is the part of the brain that wants to remain sober and continue to lead your life in such a way that you can look back with pride and contentment at all of your achievements. On the other hand, there is also the part of the brain that misses the old life.
This part of our mind tends to forget all of the harm we caused others; all of the pain we put ourselves through and tends to focus on the good times. Everyone in recovery struggles with this, but when your thinking shift and the part of your brain looking back on those memories fondly takes the steering wheel, you’ve slipped into mental relapse.
If you notice mental relapse happening, it's time to fight harder than ever. Try and remember how dark active addiction was. “Play the tape forward’ and think about what your life would look if you went back into active addiction. Talk about it with your sponsor, your support group, your dog, your cat, anyone who will listen and listen to their suggestions and let them help you.
Phase 3: Physical Relapse
Physical Relapse is what most people probably imagine when they hear the word relapse. It is the action of actually consuming any form of mind-altering substance. Even just using one time can bring all of the old cravings back. Without help, often time, people find themselves exactly where they left off, which can be deadly. Our bodies aren’t used to consuming drugs and alcohol the way we used to, so it’s very easy to take too much and find yourself hospitalized or even dead.
If you find that you have physically relapsed, it’s not too late. It’s going to be easier to get help early on, rather than waiting until things get bad again. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust. Going back to treatment might be the best option. It’s never a sign of weakness. You now are that much more educated about your disease and have better ideas of what to look out for.
Recovery is not something that everyone gets on the first try. Relapse is a part of many recovering addicts' stories, and if it happens, there is no shame in starting over. Of course, we want to save ourselves from being dragged through all of that pain and torment, if possible. The best way to avoid relapse is to be aware of these early warning signs and to take appropriate action when they come.
The most important thing to remember is that this a team sport and we all have to work together to have long and happy sober lives. Get a group of other sober people to walk through life with, avoid triggers, and always be aware of your mental health and keep pushing forward.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body, allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
What Is the Difference Between Casual Drinking and Addiction?
Enjoyment of a casual drink is no big deal for some people. They can go out with family and friends, have a few drinks, and enjoy time with loved ones. Some people go out every weekend, go to the club, or go see a band. We pop Champagne or buy rounds of drinks to celebrate. Alcohol is socially acceptable and available everywhere, making it hard for people who suffer from substance use disorders.
The casual social drinker will not give it a second thought, but to the person struggling, every store, restaurant, bar, alcohol commercial or TV show with a bar in it can be a trigger. When someone cannot control how much they drink or doesn’t know how or when to stop, it can be a sign of alcoholism. One of the most significant differences between those who casually drink what they want and those who cannot stop is control. When drinking becomes excessive, frequent, and out of control, it often leads to traumatic consequences, including death.
Signs of Alcoholism
People who go out with their friends and loved ones to enjoy a drink are not usually addicted to alcohol. Casual drinking behavior is having a few drinks with friends one or two nights a week socially but returning home to normal activities, as planned. Problem drinking behavior means not being able to stop drinking, feeling an urge to drink, and more. The lack of good judgment that accompanies drinking in excess can have many undesirable consequences. There are warning signs to pay attention to, including:
-Giving up hobbies, friends, and special interests just to drink.
-Developing a high tolerance to alcohol that requires a person to drink more to feel the effects.
-Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, tremors, and other issues when a person tries to stop drinking.
-Drinking before work or doing normal daily activities.
People can often gauge for themselves how much they are drinking or if they are experiencing problems with alcohol. Problem drinkers don’t need to go to rehab to stop drinking, but many do because they cannot stop on their own. If some of the following statements are true, there may be a problem with drinking:
- Drinking alone is a habit.
- Drinking too much happens more often than not.
- Every day there is a drink or the thought of drinking.
- Turning to alcohol to cure boredom.
- Using alcohol to anesthetize pain, trauma, or other issues.
- Requiring a drink to deal with regular everyday occurrences.
- Keeping a hidden supply of alcohol.
People who have issues with alcohol may be able to stop on their own, but they may not want to stop drinking. Some people may require some form of therapy or support to learn how to control drinking and stay away from its dangerous effects.
When someone cannot control their drinking, that is usually a sign of alcoholism. They may appear to be high-functioning or normal functioning, but they are experiencing problems with drinking. Their behavior may get them in legal trouble, jeopardize their professional license, or have other dangerous effects. If others think drinking is a problem, school or work suffers, and if there have been failed attempts to quit, then it may be time to consider outside support services.
Finding Help for a Substance Use Disorder
It is difficult to quit drinking by oneself without the support of loved ones. Still, the decision belongs to the person experiencing substance use disorder symptoms. When a loved one struggles with alcoholism, recovery can take a long time, and they need to feel they will have that support. It means physical, mental, and spiritual work to free themselves from the confines of substance use behavior.
Whether a person needs structured inpatient treatment or monitoring from professional staff, there is a program that will support people’s individual needs in recovery. It is not useful or necessary to suffer alone. To create a personalized plan means seeking out all the help that is needed. Most methods include mental health support, physical health support, detox, long-term treatment, aftercare, and much more.
For people who struggle with alcoholism, finding the right support and acting with intention are positive first steps to a successful recovery. The right program may come along, but outside supportive services are necessary to help a person healthily navigate their healing. Recovery is difficult, but a person who feels free and can heal will usually do so much better with loved ones standing alongside them.
Alcoholism can often push people away because it puts them in bad situations. The loved ones may be frustrated and tired of dealing with their behavior, so they are not able to deal with the issues. Putting effort into navigating the journey with those who will stand alongside the person as they go to treatment might mean asking friends, rather than family, for support. Regardless of individual needs, the resources and information are available to those seeking assistance.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Why Is Prescription Pill Addiction Hitting Suburban Areas Hardest?
Opioids and prescriptions are taking over the streets and suburbs. Prescription pill dependency is at an all-time high everywhere, with suburban areas being hit hardest in recent years. Opioid overdoses are also increasing, with a high rate of deaths amongst young adults and women. These demographics were less prevalent in the past years, concerning overdoses.
Still, these populations are hit harder than ever with increased rates of prescription medications flooding the marketplace (and homes). Understanding why prescription pill dependency hits the suburbs hardest and how to support a loved one who may be struggling with a substance use disorder can save a life.
Poverty and Substance Use
There has always been a consensus, historically, that poverty drives substance use. People in poverty are more likely to become addicted, for various reasons. Prescription pill use does not discriminate. Across all demographics, people have struggled with opioid substance use.
There are areas and pockets of poverty that struggle more than people in suburban areas, but it is also better hidden. People in financially robust regions and in more affluent neighborhoods are more likely to be functionally addicted. Poverty does not have as much to do with how many people become addicted as it does any other aspect of someone’s life like career or hobbies.
People from all walks of life are getting addicted to substances and need help. Effective substance use programs are the best at supporting people as they walk through treatment and seek help for a substance use disorder. To better understand the geography of growing substance use and overdoses, it is essential to look at all factors and assess the best ways to address the crisis.
Suburban Versus Rural Crisis
One of the reasons substance abuse has hit suburbia so hard is that it remained hidden for a long time. Suburban counties in the metro area have seen a rise in people addicted to prescriptions. Economically struggling places are still being ravaged by the opioid crisis, but there is a reason the conversation has highlighted economic distress and instability as a factor driving “deaths of despair.”
Among high-poverty counties, there has been an increased rate of people dying from overdoses. Counties that are poor, or remain poor, are seeing higher than average overdose deaths in their areas. Counties that have lower poverty rates are also seeing an uptick in people dying from overdoses. Not everyone is going to die from a substance overdose. In fact, many people remain addicted to prescriptions for a long time and never experience an overdose.
The vast majority of counties have no registered substance use nonprofits, including areas where poverty is higher. Rural areas are going to be less resourced in general as people have been moving to cities and suburbs for many years. The suburbs have not been immune to the ravages of the substance crisis.
Putting it All Together
Widespread substance use in these communities has led to more discussion about how the intersection of substance use disorders and suburban life has unfolded. The impact it has on community structure, individuals, and families is shocking. The need to find services to address this issue is widely noted and is appearing in the news more frequently.
In suburban areas, mothers, wives, daughters, husbands, and sons are all struggling under the weight of prescription addiction. There is nobody immune to the effects. Those struggling with substance use disorders feel they have nowhere to go. Often, high-functioning substance use disorders are harder to give up because people struggle to admit they need help.
They are afraid of what it might look like to give up the substance use disorder. Substance use service providers working in rural and suburban areas rely on different services and things to help them connect to recovery programs. The key is to find supportive networks that will help them navigate resources so they can stay healthy and clean for a long time to come.
Combating Substance Use
The best way to combat substance use in suburban areas is to ask for help. Families of loved ones need to be educated on what is available, what to ask for, and how to ask for help. Unless families and loved ones step out in faith to ask for help, it will continue to be an issue that hides in plain sight. Medical doctors are wary now of over-prescribing prescriptions, so they are creating a space for people to use other medications where needed.
National efforts help stem the flow of substances that are taking lives across the United States. Networks of families and friends affected are meeting to connect over their grief, loss, pain, and struggle while offering hope to others. The best way to move forward from this substance use disorder crisis is to seek supportive services in the area. Ask for help from loved ones and find the right treatment center, which includes treatment, detox, and recovery services long after treatment ends.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Beating Insomnia in Addiction Recovery
Getting plenty of quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. This is especially important if you’re recovering from a substance use disorder. Many studies have linked sleep deprivation with both short-term and long-term problems. Short-term problems include increased anxiety, poor concentration, poor working memory, and less self-control.
Long-term problems include increased risk of anxiety disorders and depression. One meta-analysis of more than 170,000 participants found that insomnia significantly increases your risk for depression. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, there’s a high probability that you already have issues with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges.
Therefore, it’s especially important to look after your mental health by getting enough sleep.Unfortunately, getting enough sleep is not always so easy. Insomnia is often a symptom of mental health issues as well as a cause. What’s more, insomnia is a typical withdrawal symptom and it may persist for weeks or months into recovery. If you’ve been having trouble getting enough sleep, here are some tips that might help.
Talk to Your Doctor
First, if you can’t sleep or if you feel like you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night but you somehow still feel tired all the time, talk to your doctor. If you’re experiencing insomnia or sleep apnea, there may be medical causes and medical solutions.
You will want to eliminate physiological causes first. When you talk to your doctor, be sure to share your addiction history. Many sleep aids are basically just benzodiazepines and you don’t want your doctor to prescribe something that will just cause you more problems.
Talk to Your Therapist
If there is no medical cause of your sleep problems, talk to your therapist about it. There are primarily two reasons for this. First, your sleep problems may be a symptom of a mental health issue that isn’t being adequately addressed. For example, most people think of sleeping too much as a symptom of depression, which it is, but insomnia or disturbed sleep are also extremely common, especially for men with depression.
Insomnia may also be a symptom of ADHD, anxiety disorders, or bipolar disorder. The bottom line is that it could be an important psychological symptom and co-occurring mental health issues must be addressed for your sobriety to last.The second reason to discuss sleep problems with your therapist is that there is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, called CBT-I, specifically tailored to deal with sleep problems.
It includes some of the things mentioned here, such as sleeping on a regular schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene. Your therapist may also help you identify and challenge unhelpful beliefs about sleep. For example, when you can’t sleep, you may think something like, “Oh no, not this again, I’m going to be exhausted all day tomorrow,” and so on. A more helpful way to think is something like, “Hmm, can’t sleep.
That’s ok, I’ll just rest. I’ll probably fall asleep before I even realize.” In other words, many of the cognitive distortions that can disturb us during the day can also disturb us when we’re trying to sleep. Your therapist can help you sort these out.
Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule
As noted above, one of the most important things is to sleep on a regular schedule, even on the weekends. Sleep is a complicated process, involving changes in neurotransmitters, hormones, and body temperature. These are much more efficient when they happen on a regular schedule. This is why people who do shift work tend to have a lot more sleep problems.
Try to be in bed by a certain time no matter what. Block off plenty of time to sleep--most people need at least eight hours--and be sure to include a few extra minutes for the time it will take you to drift off and wake up. Then, get up at the same time every morning. It may also help to work with your body’s natural rhythms by waking up with the sun.
One study found that spending a weekend camping significantly improved participants’ circadian rhythms, helping them sleep and wake more easily. So, if you’re having trouble getting on a regular sleep schedule, a few days of camping might be just what you need, even if you only camp in the back yard.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
In addition to keeping a regular sleep schedule, practice good sleep hygiene. This starts during the day by not taking naps--at least for a while. At some point, you can take naps again, but not after 2 p.m. and not longer than 20 minutes. At night, have a bedtime routine to signal it’s almost time to sleep. Don’t use the bed for anything except sleep and sex. You want a strong association between getting into bed and falling asleep.
Don’t watch TV or look at your phone in bed. Try to keep your bedroom cool, between 68 and 70 degrees. Also, keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. If that’s an issue, get a sleep mask and ear plugs. Even if light and sounds don’t wake you up at night, they can still disturb the quality of your sleep.
Cut Down on Caffeine
For most people, moderate caffeine intake is not a problem and some studies suggest coffee and tea have some mild health benefits. However, it’s important to realize that caffeine has a half-life of between four and six hours.
That means if you have a cup of coffee at noon, about a quarter of that caffeine will still be in your system at bedtime. You may feel tired but still be unable to sleep or you may sleep but not as deeply. If you’ve been having trouble with insomnia, try cutting down on caffeine.
Finally, try to get regular exercise during the day. Research shows that even moderate exercise, such as a 30-minute walk, can help you sleep better the very same night. We don’t quite know why this works but it’s likely that exercise reduces stress and anxiety, which helps you sleep better. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Getting your heart rate up within two hours of bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.Getting enough quality sleep is a crucial aspect of wellness.
Not only does it make you mentally sharper, improve your self-control, and reduce your risk of anxiety and depression, but it also improves your physical health, reducing your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In short, it’s an important part of your recovery to get right.
At The Foundry, we recognize that wellness is a key component to sobriety and it is integrated into our programs at every level. To learn more about our treatment options, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
The Value of Compassion in Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Different people think of different attributes when it comes to addiction recovery. Some people may think of discipline or self-control. Others may think of social connection or spirituality.
One attribute that is critical for everyone involved--treatment professionals, family and friends, and people with substance use disorders--is compassion. Compassion plays a vital role at every stage of recovery for the following reasons.
Addiction Is Fueled by Pain
The most important thing to understand about addiction is that most of the time, it’s fueled by pain. Most people who struggle with substance use have some kind of trauma in their past, whether it was childhood abuse, neglect, domestic abuse, sexual assault, or some other traumatic event. The pain of trauma can last years, perhaps even your whole life. Many people use drugs and alcohol as a way to escape the pain in their own heads.
Typically, addiction treatment professionals are well aware of this, often from firsthand experience. Their compassion for people feeling that pain is what inspired them to work in this field. However, it’s also critical for family and friends to understand this. Seeing the pain behind addiction can be hard at times, especially since addictive behavior negatively affects family and friends.
For example, it can be hard to have compassion for someone when you feel like that person is manipulating, deceiving, or otherwise taking advantage of you. Addictive behavior can seem like the height of self-involvement, especially when the pain is buried beneath aggressive or secretive behavior. As challenging as it might be at times, family and friends have to remember their loved one is acting that way because they are hurting. Compassion, not criticism or judgment, is typically what helps the most in the end.
Compassion for Yourself Is Critical
It’s also crucial for anyone with a substance use disorder to develop compassion for themselves. People with substance use issues can often be extremely compassionate towards others and extremely harsh on themselves. This is especially true for people with co-occurring conditions like major depression and anxiety disorders. If you struggle with addiction, you are probably no stranger to self-critical thoughts.
You may think things like, “Why am I like this? Why can’t I stop? What’s wrong with me?” Often, the self-criticism goes much deeper than that and precedes substance use by years. You may feel a deep sense of shame or worthlessness. If you pay attention, you’ll probably notice that you say all kinds of nasty things to yourself, probably things other people have said to you and you accepted as true.
Perhaps worst of all, you may feel like flagellating yourself in this way will inspire you to be better. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It’s almost impossible to make positive changes from a place of shame and hopelessness. A much better approach is to work on being more compassionate and supportive toward yourself. Try talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. Accept that we all make mistakes and know that even your really bad blunders don’t make you a failure or a horrible person; they just make you human.
Compassion Brings People Together
Finding a sense of social connection is an important part of addiction recovery. It gives you a sense of purpose and accountability, whereas loneliness, isolation, and alienation typically lead to depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Connection makes you feel better about life and keeps you focused on recovery. Few attributes are as good for fostering social connection as compassion.
People like to know that you care if they are hurting and want to help. When you have compassion, you listen and try to understand rather than make judgments or just wait for your turn to talk. When you are part of a group that values compassion, you know you can talk to each other and rely on each other.
Compassion for others makes you happier.
One thing people are often surprised to discover about compassion is that it makes you happier. Too often, we get caught up chasing our own happiness and, as a result, end up feeling dissatisfied and miserable.
We may think of caring for others as an obligation or a burden, but in fact, it’s one of the best ways to boost your own happiness. There are even a number of scientific studies showing that participants who work on increasing their feeling of compassion through metta, or loving-kindness, meditation, report a long-term increase in positive emotions.
How to Develop Compassion
Nearly all of us have some baseline of compassion already. We wince when we see someone get hurt, we want to protect small animals, and we feel bad when we hurt people we care about. The main thing is to build on the compassion you already feel. Remind yourself periodically that you want the people close to you to be happy and safe and help when you can.
However, the real challenge is feeling compassion for people we don’t get along with or particularly dislike. Inevitably, there will be some of these people in your family, at work, in your therapy group, or at your 12-Step meeting. The key here is to recognize what you have in common. You both want to be happy and feel like you matter.
You both have suffered pain and disappointments. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that behavior that seems obnoxious to you is usually caused by some kind of pain or insecurity. Being able to understand that pain and wanting to relieve it is what compassion is all about.
Compassion is critical at every phase of addiction recovery. No one recovers alone; everyone needs love and support. Compassion for yourself is always the place to start and sometimes this is the hardest to nurture. Compassion for others builds strong social connections.
At The Foundry, compassion is one of our guiding principles. We know that recovery from addiction is first and foremost a process of healing and our caring staff uses a variety of evidence based treatments to help our clients heal. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
What Is EMDR?
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a form of psychotherapy developed specifically to help clients process and overcome trauma. EMDR is a targeted form of therapy that uses bilateral movements, such as side-to-side eye movements, to mute the intensity of traumatic memories.
For cases of simple trauma in adulthood, this can often be accomplished in only a few sessions, compared to months or years of traditional therapy. A course of EMDR therapy usually takes between six and 12 sessions, with clients attending one or two sessions per week.
Why EMDR Is a Great Tool for Addiction Treatment
EMDR was originally developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and it is still primarily used for that purpose. Trauma is a factor common to many, perhaps even most, people who struggle with substance use issues. There have been many studies examining the connection between PTSD and substance use disorders and these have found that among people seeking treatment for substance use disorders, between 20 and 50 percent also have a lifetime diagnosis of PTSD and between 15 and 40 percent met the criteria for PTSD in the past year.
Childhood trauma is an especially large risk factor for developing substance use issues as an adult. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, include things like being abused or neglected, witnessing domestic violence, having a parent get arrested, and other experiences that make a child feel threatened or unsafe. The more ACEs someone has, the greater their risk of negative outcomes such as substance use and mental health issues as adults.
According to an article published in the North Carolina Medical Journal, each ACE increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder by two to four times and as many as two-thirds of people who struggle with addiction can trace their problems to ACEs. For these reasons, identifying and treating trauma should be a top priority for any addiction treatment program and EMDR is a targeting way of doing that. What’s more, it delivers quick results, making it perfectly suited to the context of an intensive addiction treatment program.
How It Works
The big idea behind EMDR is that the mind will heal itself, given the chance. Just as your body will heal a cut or a broken bone on its own, your mind has its own way of healing from trauma. This becomes apparent when you consider that PTSD is actually surprisingly rare. According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, about 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience trauma in their lives but only about four percent of men and 10 percent of women will develop PTSD.
That indicates that trauma is necessary but not sufficient for developing PTSD. Something is preventing the mind from healing itself in the normal way. Often, this happens when the brain is still developing at the time of the trauma or the trauma is repeated.
The idea behind EMDR is to help the client change the way the trauma is stored in the brain so it can be processed in the normal, healthy way. The exact mechanism by which this works is not exactly clear but we know from many clinical trials that it does work. Part of it has to do with re-experiencing the trauma in a safe, controlled environment. Often, people with PTSD are unable to access certain aspects of the experience and part of EMDR therapy is to bring those into conscious awareness.
There is also a hypothesis that the bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, mimic the process your brain uses during REM sleep to consolidate new memories. The effect is that you change the way you think of the traumatic memory at a deep level. Some people describe it as forgetting to let the traumatic memory – or things related to it – bother you.
What to Expect From EMDR Therapy
EMDR is delivered in an eight-phase process. How long this process takes varies by individual and depends on factors like whether you’re treating a single trauma or complex trauma, when you experienced the trauma, and how severe it was.
In phase one of treatment, the therapist will take your history, decide whether EMDR is a treatment approach that makes sense, and develop a treatment plan. You will work with the therapist to identify possible targets for processing. These may be traumatic memories from your past or even recurring situations you are currently dealing with.
During phase two, you will work with your therapist to develop interim strategies for coping with emotional stress. Since the process will take at least a few weeks to work, it’s important to have ways of coping with stress in the intervals between sessions. These might include imagery or relaxation techniques.
Phases three through six are when you identify and process target memories. You will start by identifying three things: an image related to the memory, a negative belief about yourself, and emotions and bodily sensations related to the memory. You will also develop a positive belief.
During the processing phase, you will be asked to focus on the negative image, thought, and emotions, while simultaneously engaging in the bilateral stimulation. You might be asked to follow the therapist’s hand side to side with your eyes, follow a light, or tap with your fingers. The therapist will then ask you to notice whatever spontaneously happens. When you no longer have negative emotions associated with the memory, your therapist will ask you to recall your positive belief.
In phase seven, you will be asked to keep a log for a week to remind you of the calming techniques you used in phase two and to note any additional issues that come up. Phase eight is about evaluating the progress you’ve made so far.
EMDR is becoming increasingly popular because it is a focused, time-limited, and effective way to process traumatic memories. Instead of changing your thoughts or beliefs around a trauma, you change the way that trauma is stored in your brain. At The Foundry, we understand that trauma is the driving force behind most addictions and we use a number of methods, including EMDR, to help our clients heal. To learn more about our methods and programs, explore our website or call us today at (844) 955-1066.
6 Common Reasons People Are Afraid to Get Treatment for Addiction
If you have a loved one struggling with a substance use disorder, you may feel incredibly frustrated that they won’t get help. Can they not see what drugs and alcohol are doing to them? Don’t they want to be happy? What’s important to understand is that your loved one may be miserable but they’re also afraid.
That may not be obvious since many people cope with their fear by becoming aggressive or disengaged but the fear is there. If you understand their fear, it can help you be more patient and supportive and you may ultimately have more success getting them into treatment. Here are some of the reasons people are afraid to enter addiction treatment.
They’re Afraid to Admit Having a Problem
It may be obvious to you and everyone else that your loved one has a problem with drugs and alcohol and you may believe it’s obvious to them, but denial can be powerful. Keep in mind that there’s no clear line when addiction begins. It’s a gradual process with a lot of gray area. That is to say, it looks very different from their perspective.
There is still a lot of stigma attached to addiction and when you admit to having a problem, you feel like you’re accepting membership in a rather dubious club. When you admit to having a problem, you also have to confront the possibility that you might need help, which leads to a bunch of new anxieties.
They’re Afraid to Give Up Control
One of those anxieties is giving up control. Often, people with substance use issues will accept that they have a problem but then insist on dealing with it on their own. They insist they are still in control, even though the most common symptoms of addiction include trying to quit but being unable to and not being able to drink or use drugs in moderation.
When you insist on doing it your own way, that’s usually an attempt to avoid the hard but inevitable aspects of recovery. They want things to change but they don’t want to be uncomfortable, which is really true of everyone. And in addiction recovery, there are plenty of opportunities to be uncomfortable.
They’re Afraid to Be Alone
When people imagine entering an addiction treatment program, they often picture some remote facility, not unlike a prison, where they’ll have to spend 30 to 90 days among strangers. In other words, they feel like they’re going to have to endure this ordeal alone.
While it’s typically true that people entering treatment don’t know anyone there, the loneliness will only last a few days at the most. The staff wants you to feel welcome and you may have a roommate.
Most importantly, good treatment programs know how important it is for clients to feel connected and supported and they facilitate that connection through group activities and group therapy. People often say they met their best friends in addiction treatment because it is a place where most of the people have experienced similar struggles.
They’re Afraid to Open up
Most people know that if they enter addiction treatment, they’ll have to talk to a therapist and participate in group therapy. This can be a frightening prospect. Men appear to be especially reluctant to seek help for mental health issues and talk about their feelings, but it can be hard for anyone.
Not only does it entail revisiting painful memories and emotions, but many of these experiences have been buried deep down for years or decades. Feelings of shame or a general reluctance to open up and be vulnerable can make someone want to avoid therapy entirely.
However, a good therapist won’t push a client to talk about anything before they’re ready. That often ends up being counterproductive. Eventually, most people discover that keeping things bottled up is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s often a tremendous relief for people to discover that their deepest, darkest secrets are not that uncommon and they no longer have to feel ashamed.
They’re Afraid of Living Without a Coping Mechanism
One of the most important things to understand about substance use disorders is that people typically start using drugs and alcohol for a reason and they continue to use them because they get something out of it. For example, at least half of people with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health issue, although they may not know it. Childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect are very common among people with substance use issues.
Although drugs and alcohol are a bad way to cope with emotional pain, they are the only coping mechanism many people have. When you say to someone, “You need to get sober,” they may be hearing you say that you want to deprive them of the one thing that makes life tolerable, even if it does cause other problems.
to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy--and more effective--ones. One reason therapy is such a central component of treatment is that it helps resolve many of the issues that drive substance use and teaches clients skills to cope with challenging emotions.
They’re Afraid to Disappoint You
Finally, many people resist entering treatment for addiction because they’re afraid of failure. Recovery can seem like an overwhelming challenge. They may have failed at it before, perhaps even several times. Failure is bad enough in itself but it’s even worse when other people are depending on us. What’s more, a lot of time, money, and effort goes into quality addiction treatment.
That adds up to a lot of pressure to succeed at a time when most people don’t feel equal to even the most mundane challenges. It’s important for them to know that sobriety is worth the risk of failure--even repeated failure, if necessary. Recovery never goes perfectly for anyone. There are always challenges and setbacks but you don’t fail until you quit trying.
There is plenty to fear when embarking on addiction recovery, but there’s even more to fear from not trying at all. People lose their money, their jobs, their families, and their lives to addiction, but they don’t have to. Some fears--such as the fear of being uncomfortable--are valid, but also an inevitable part of the process. The key to overcoming those is to realize the payoff is worth the price. Other fears, like being alone or having to live without a reliable coping mechanism are largely illusory. At The Foundry, we understand that getting help for addiction is a hard decision but we also know that quality addiction treatment changes lives. To learn more about our programs, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Choose a Good Addiction Treatment Program?
If you, or someone you care about, has finally realized drugs or alcohol have become a problem and it’s time to get help, congratulations, you’ve taken the first big step toward a better life. However, the next step--figuring out where to get help--can be incredibly challenging. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than 14,000 addiction treatment facilities in the US alone.
Some of them are excellent, many are mediocre, and a few are terrible. Treatment is a big commitment of time, money, and effort, so it pays to do your research before you commit. The following will at least help you narrow down the field of treatment options.
First, Assess Your Needs
Start by figuring out exactly what you need from treatment. It’s a good idea to start by talking to your doctor and therapist, if you have one. There are also independent consulting services that help people identify good treatment options. You may also ask for recommendations from your doctor, therapist, or people you know who have been through treatment. As noted above, be sure to research those recommendations thoroughly before committing.
One thing you definitely want to look for is accreditation. The two main accrediting agencies are The Joint Commission and The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. These are non-profit organizations that base accreditation on industry standards, client outcomes, and value. Typically, treatment centers will display these accreditations somewhere on their homepage.
Evidence-based methods are the next big thing to look for. That means there is actually scientific evidence for the treatments provided. Just as you expect that any treatment administered by your doctor has been shown to be effective in clinical trials, you should expect that addiction treatment has some evidence supporting its effectiveness. Unfortunately, evidence-based practices are the exception rather than the rule among addiction treatment providers.
Some common evidence-based methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, family therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, and motivational interviewing. There is also substantial evidence that wellness practices, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise significantly strengthen recovery.
The best available treatment methods don’t mean much unless there is a competent, experienced staff to administer them. Ideally, a program will have a doctor certified in addiction medicine as well as qualified nursing staff. There should be therapists with graduate degrees in psychology or social work, as well as qualified counselors. Common certifications for addiction counselors include LADC, LPC, CAC, and CCDP. There should also be experts in other areas, such as exercise and nutrition.
Works with Insurance
Most people entering addiction treatment will rely on insurance to help them pay for it. However, even if you’re paying out of pocket, you want to be sure that a facility works with insurers. Insurance companies want to know their money is well spent and typically don’t cover programs with poor outcomes. Good programs typically work with several different insurers.
Clean, Comfortable Facilities
Some programs try to sell you on their luxury facilities but that’s typically not what you want. It suggests that your money is going to amenities rather than treatment. Neither do you want facilities that are excessively spartan. That suggests low regard for clients and perhaps even cutting corners. You certainly don’t want facilities that are dirty or shabby. Look for the middle path--something clean and comfortable but not too fancy.
Everyone has different needs in treatment and it’s crucial to find a program that tailors its treatment to the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all in addiction treatment. Patented methods and miracle cures rarely work. You want a program with flexibility, that can use a diversity of methods to meet your specific needs.
Equipped for Co-Occurring Disorders
Most people seeking help for addiction will have some kind of co-occurring disorder. At least half of people have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and others that must be treated concurrently for recovery to last. Many people will also have medical issues, perhaps related to their substance use that will require special care. Be sure to ask in detail about a facility’s capacity to provide care for these issues.
Watch Out for Red Flags:
Lack of Rigor
As noted above, addiction treatment should be individualized. Even programs that provide individualized care know that not everyone is suited for their program. Quality treatment programs will want to be sure you or your loved one are a good candidate, that they can meet your needs and that you will do well in their specific environment.
Therefore, they should ask lots of questions about your addiction and medical history, ask to see your medical records and contact your therapist. Treatment centers are bound by the same privacy rules as hospitals, so don’t worry about sharing this information. However, if a program seems to take anyone who calls, it might be a sign that they don’t really care whether you are a good fit for their program.
Guarantees of Success
Addiction is a chronic condition and therefore inherently difficult to treat. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse in the first year after treatment. Therefore, if a program guarantees a high success rate like 80 or 90 percent, you should probably be skeptical.
Some programs offer a guarantee in that you can return for free if you relapse after completing the program and that’s fine since they’re acknowledging the ongoing nature of addiction recovery. As with anything in life, beware of miracle cures.
Finally, beware of generic addiction treatment services that don’t seem to have a physical location. These are often referral services who claim they will match you to an appropriate treatment provider but will really sell you to the highest bidder. You want to be doing your own research and making your own decisions as much as possible.
Choosing an addiction treatment program is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. Treat it with the gravity it deserves. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you feel weird about a program or you feel like someone is being evasive, move on. There are plenty of fish in this particular sea and you should feel good about your final decision. At The Foundry, we know what a big decision this is and we want to help you make a good one. Call us today at (844) 955-1066 to ask us anything you want to know.
Six Common Misconceptions About Addiction Treatment
In recent years, the media has paid a lot more attention to issues related to addiction and treatment because of the opioid crisis. Despite this increase in attention, many myths and misconceptions about addiction, treatment, and recovery persist. These misconceptions can stand in the way of people getting the help they need. The following are some of the more common misconceptions around addiction treatment.
“You have to hit rock bottom before treatment will work.”
One of the most persistent myths about treatment and recovery is that you have to hit rock bottom before you can recover from a substance use disorder. The biggest problem with this myth is that there’s no guarantee someone will hit bottom before they die of an accident or overdose. In 2018, more than 67,000 people died from drug overdoses, and each year, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes.
While a rock-bottom moment may help convince someone to get treatment, it’s not the only thing that can. For example, about 120,000 people go through drug courts each year and those who do are far less likely to reoffend than people who just go to jail; indicating that treatment can be effective even if you don’t really want to go. What’s more, interventions are typically successful at getting people into treatment if they’re led by experienced interventionists. The truth is that most people who enter treatment are ambivalent about getting sober and they typically feel more motivated as treatment progresses.
“Treatment is for rich people.”
With so many news stories about celebrities going to rehab, it’s easy to associate addiction treatment — especially residential treatment — with the rich and famous. In reality, even inpatient treatment is more affordable than most people realize. In fact, the less luxurious treatment centers often offer better value, since more of your money goes to treatment rather than amenities.
Beyond that, there is a spectrum of care for addiction, starting with counseling or other outpatient services on one end and inpatient treatment on the other. Most people can afford some level of treatment, especially now that there are more ways than ever to pay for treatment. Most insurance companies will pay for at least a portion of treatment, and the recent SUPPORT Act has made more federal money available for treatment. Before you assume treatment is out of reach, call a few programs and see if they can help you pay for it.
“All you really need is detox.”
Since detox is the first really big barrier many people see standing between them and sobriety, they assume that if they could just get past that, then the rest of recovery will be easy. However, that’s typically not the case. Most people’s addictive behavior is driven by something else, such as a mental health issue or trauma. Until these are resolved or brought under control, any attempt at recovery is likely to be difficult and short.
A strong recovery typically entails addressing any mental health issues, creating healthy lifestyle changes, and connecting with a strong sober network. A good treatment program can help you get a good start on these tasks in a short time.
“If treatment didn’t work the first time, it won’t work the second — or third — time.”
Addiction is a chronic condition, and it often takes years of trying before recovery finally sticks. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people who get treatment for a substance use disorder relapse within the first year. However, just because treatment didn’t stick in the past doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.
While it may feel like you have to start over after a relapse, you’re actually starting from a better position than you did the first time. You are already familiar with the recovery process, you probably have some kind of sober network, and you have some new mistakes to learn from.
What’s more, not all treatment programs are the same. If you didn’t succeed with treatment in the past, it could be the program wasn’t great or it wasn’t well suited to your needs. You might do better in a different program. Or, if you liked the program, you might benefit from spending more time there. You have not failed until you give up.
“You can’t get treatment when you have a job or family to worry about.”
A lot of people feel like they can’t get addiction treatment because they have family or work obligations and they can’t just drop everything. While you do have to put life on hold to some extent to enter inpatient treatment, it is worth it for some people. If that’s just not possible, there are treatment options that allow you to live at home and work while still getting treatment — there are mutual-aid programs like AA and NA, you can talk to a therapist, you can get outpatient services, or you can enter an intensive outpatient program. Most treatment options don’t actually require you to go live in the facility for 30 to 90 days. Find a treatment option that works for you.
“After treatment, your addiction is cured.”
Too often, people assume that once they go through treatment, they’re set for life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. As noted above, addiction is a chronic condition that most people will have to manage for life. Treatment is a great way to get away from an unhealthy situation, learn some crucial recovery skills, start treating any mental health issues, begin creating some healthy lifestyle habits, and forming social connections.
The first challenge comes after you leave, since many people have trouble making the transition back to regular life. This is why follow-up care, stepping down in treatment intensity, finding a local 12-Step meeting, and possibly even arranging a sober-living situation are often helpful for making the progress you made during treatment carry over into regular life.
There are many misconceptions about addiction treatment; those mentioned above are among the most common. Overcoming addiction is complicated and personal. There is no one-size-fits-all, and it often takes years of persistent effort for recovery to last. At The Foundry, we know that a lot goes into a strong recovery. We use multiple modalities to provide individualized care. For more information about our treatment options, call us today at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
What Can You Do to Help Reduce the Stigma of Addiction?
Because of the opioid crisis, the public has been more well-informed in recent years about addiction. Most of us know someone who has been affected by opioids in some way, and that tends to force us to examine our assumptions about addiction and who becomes addicted. Despite this progress, there is still a long way to go. For example, a 2018 poll found that while a slim majority of Americans now believe that addiction is a disease that requires treatment, many people still hold inaccurate views about addiction and biases against people who struggle with substance use disorders.
For example, 44 percent of respondents said they believe opioid addiction results from a lack of willpower or discipline and fewer than 20 percent said they would be willing to closely associate with someone with a substance use disorder. Clearly, the stigma of addiction is real, and it is often a factor that makes people reluctant to seek treatment. The following are some things you can do to help reduce the stigma of addiction.
Educate yourself about addiction.
You can’t help others if your own beliefs are wrong or outdated. There are many resources available online, including information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Public Health, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Organizations such as AA, NA, and SMART Recovery also offer a lot of free literature online and at meetings. Additionally, there are many excellent books about addiction, including In the Land of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, High Price, by Carl Hart, and Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz.
Addiction science is relatively new and experts disagree, even on certain fundamental details. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get some different perspectives. However, most experts agree on several points about addiction. First, it seems clear that genes account for about half your addiction risk, so if you have a parent or a sibling with a substance use disorder, you are at greater risk.
Second, addiction is far more common — between two and five times as common — among people with mental health issues. Third, trauma and adverse childhood experiences significantly increase your risk of addiction. The more you know about addiction, the more you can help circulate accurate information and prevent the spread of misinformation.
Beware of stigmatizing language.
It’s important to pay attention to how you communicate about addiction both in speech and writing. You want to especially be on guard against stigmatizing and dehumanizing language. Never use words like “crackhead” or “junkie.” It’s also important to beware of more subtle stigmatizing language. Just calling someone an “addict” is stigmatizing and it’s still fairly common in media coverage, even sympathetic media coverage. Similarly, “substance use disorder” is preferable to “substance abuse.” Stigmatizing language reduces someone to a label rather than recognizing that a real person is struggling with a real problem.
When you talk about addiction or someone with a substance use disorder, imagine that it’s your friend, sibling, parent, or child and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say about them or to them. It’s possible that even in a small group of friends, someone in your company might have a substance use issue that you don’t know about. Remember that addiction is a tragedy, it happens for reasons that are mostly beyond your control, and it can happen to anyone.
Correct misinformation when you hear it.
While paying attention to your own language is a good start, it’s also helpful to correct misinformation when you hear it. If someone uses stigmatizing language or repeats false information, correct them. Most of the time, people just don’t know any better and they’re just repeating what they heard somewhere. When you contest wrong information, you might change the mind of the speaker, and you will certainly reach the listeners, as well. They might not otherwise know about alternative viewpoints.
Don’t just limit yourself to correcting misinformation you hear in person. When you see stigmatizing language or stories in the media, either in news stories or fictional representations, say something. Often, these sources prefer to be fair and simply aren’t aware of their mistakes.
Support treatment over punishment.
One of the biggest ways addiction stigma matters is that public opinion affects public policy. If people believe that individuals with substance use disorders are dangerous criminals who chose addiction, they are likely to favor punishment over treatment and resent public money being used for harm reduction and treatment.
However, people who are more informed know that the scientific evidence supports treatment and harm reduction. For example, drug courts give people the choice of treatment or jail and those who choose treatment — which is most — have much better outcomes.
Since so many people have now been personally affected by the opioid crisis, most politicians are pretty reasonable in their attitudes toward addiction these days, but there are still some who hold to the old punitive view. Support politicians at every level who advocate for treatment over those who promote punishment, and make sure your representatives know your views on addiction.
Share your experiences with addiction when appropriate.
Finally, when appropriate, consider sharing your own experiences with addiction and recovery. Addiction largely remains an invisible problem and people often don’t even realize when a close friend or relative is struggling. This allows many negative stereotypes to persist. Sharing your own experience can put a real face on addiction and it might encourage someone to seek help if they know they aren’t alone.
The stigma of addiction remains a real problem. Not only does it discourage people from getting help, but it makes people feel less than; it makes them feel more ashamed when they are already struggling. By educating yourself, correcting errors when you hear them, and being open when possible, you can do your part to fight the stigma of addiction. At The Foundry, we know that addiction is something you go through, not something that defines you. We give our clients the tools they need to be resilient and live more fulfilling lives. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
Six Persistent Myths About Addiction
Despite increased media attention in recent years, there are still myths and misconceptions about addiction that won’t go away. These myths can have real effects on people’s lives, since they affect public opinion and public policy, not to mention they can make individuals reluctant to seek help. The following are some of the more common misconceptions about addiction.
“Addiction is a choice.”
Since substance use is typically a choice, many people assume addiction is a choice, as well. However, no one chooses to become addicted. What’s more, many people with substance use disorders want to stop but can’t. In fact, trying to quit but being unable to is one of the defining features of addiction. It’s important to remember that more than 86 percent of Americans have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives, but less than six percent develop an alcohol use disorder.
Even people who use highly addictive drugs like heroin don’t become addicted as often as you probably think. That means there are factors at work beyond choosing to use drugs or alcohol. It’s not possible to predict who will develop a substance use disorder and who won’t; and anyone who has seen addiction close-up would never believe someone would choose it.
“Addiction is caused by a lack of willpower.”
A lot of people think addiction is down to willpower — that if you resolve to quit drugs or alcohol, you can do it. A 2018 poll¹ by AP-NORC found that while a slim majority of Americans now see addiction as a disease that requires treatment, a large minority (about 44 percent) believe that opioid addiction indicates a lack of willpower or discipline.
While willpower and discipline can play a supporting role in recovery, they are not in themselves enough to keep you sober. The major risk factors for addiction include trauma, childhood environment, genetic factors, and mental health issues. Recovering from addiction requires addressing these issues, as well as creating a support system and making healthy lifestyle changes. Anyone who tries to stay sober using willpower alone is likely to have a hard time and a short recovery.
“Only a certain type of person gets addicted.”
A lot of people believe, perhaps on a subconscious level, that there’s a certain kind of person who develops a substance use disorder. They may think it depends on race, socioeconomic status, or personality type. In reality, addiction cuts across all of these. Ever since the beginning of the opioid crisis, this fact has become even more evident, due to the fact that millions of people who might never have otherwise been exposed to opioids were prescribed addictive painkillers by their doctors in large enough quantities to cause physical dependence. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.
“Once an addict, always an addict.”
This particular myth is doubly harmful. For one thing, it’s terribly stigmatizing. If someone has issues with drugs or alcohol, they get branded for life with the “addict” label, which isn’t fair.
More to the point, it just isn’t true. Research shows that the general public tends to vastly underestimate how many people successfully recover from substance use disorders. As noted above, addiction is often driven by other factors, including untreated mental health issues. Once you get these under control and learn some recovery skills, there’s a good chance you will be able to manage your addictive behavior.
Moreover, addiction often appears during early adulthood, between the ages of 18 and 25, when the brain — particularly the areas involved in judgment and self-control — isn’t fully formed yet. Substance use issues often get easier to manage after age 25. As we age, we also typically get less neurotic and more conscientious; a personality pattern that makes you less prone to harmful substance use. In other words, most people with substance use issues will recover with time and treatment.
“People with substance use disorders are typically unemployed and often homeless.”
A common stereotype of someone with a substance use disorder is that they are unemployed or even homeless. The corollary is that if you have a job, a family, and a place to live, that proves you don’t have a serious substance use issue. While it’s true that substance use issues are more common among unemployed and homeless people, it doesn’t follow that most people with substance use issues are unemployed or homeless.
Addiction is a largely invisible problem and many outwardly successful people struggle with substance use in private. In fact, most people with substance use issues are able to keep their lives together for at least a while. Professionals in particular will go to great lengths to keep their substance use from affecting their work. In the long run, though, most people can’t keep this up. Either they get help, or their substance use will affect their jobs and families.
“You have to hit rock bottom before you can recover from addiction.”
This is a particularly destructive myth because it probably keeps people from getting help in time more than any other myth. In reality, most people who get help for addiction aren't quite sure they’re ready to get sober. Sometimes they don’t even believe they have a problem and they just want to placate their families. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t recover.
For example, each year, more than 120,000 Americans opt for treatment in drug courts and they have significantly better outcomes than people who go to jail. Additionally, interventions are often successful in getting people to accept treatment. Once in treatment, most people become more motivated to stay sober and they often do well. If you wait to hit rock bottom, it may be too late.
Myths about addiction persist mostly because we tend to believe whatever fits in our worldview, not necessarily what the evidence tells us. There are mountains of evidence telling us that addiction is not a choice, that it is caused by factors such as mental health issues, genetic factors, and trauma, and that treatment — not punishment — helps people recover. At The Foundry, we know that treating addiction is a complex and individualized process and we use many evidence-based modalities to help our clients create a strong recovery. For more information, call us today at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
Six Ways to Boost Your Willpower for Addiction Recovery
Most people vastly overestimate the role of willpower in addiction recovery. They assume that staying sober is just a matter of gritting your teeth and pushing through. In reality, addiction is typically caused by a combination of factors including genes, childhood environment, trauma, and mental health issues. The root causes of addiction have to be addressed for recovery to succeed. Saying willpower is all you need to recover from addiction is like saying willpower is all you need to recover from diabetes.
However, willpower does play a role. You need a bit of willpower to use your cognitive therapy skills, go to meetings when you really don’t feel like it, and do the other things in your recovery plan. While treatment and a recovery plan are what really help you recover, willpower can help you stay engaged. The following are some tips to give you a bit of extra willpower when you need it.
Exercise your willpower muscle.
For a while, there was an idea going around that willpower is a finite resource that you have to conserve throughout your day. While this is true in the short term — just as you might be tired after climbing a few flights of stairs — in the long term, the more you use your willpower, the stronger it gets. Just like how taking the stairs will get you into better physical shape in the long run, working your willpower muscle will increase your self-control.
For example, one study asked smokers to engage in activities that required some degree of willpower — either refraining from eating sweets or squeezing a hand gripper — for two weeks, while a control group was assigned tasks that didn’t require willpower. It turned out that the group that had performed tasks requiring willpower were more successful at quitting smoking.
You can easily apply this principle to your own life by making it a point to do small, slightly irritating tasks. You might give up sweets, like in the smoking study. Alternatively, you might make it a point to improve your posture or brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. The point is to practice doing things that are slightly uncomfortable and that you would rather not do. Be sure to give yourself a bit of rest between tasks that require willpower, so you have time to recover.
Clean your house.
Cleaning your house is surprisingly good for boosting willpower. First, it’s an excellent way to strengthen your willpower muscle, since no one ever really feels like taking out the trash or washing the dishes. Keeping a clean house provides many small and useful ways to build your willpower.
However, a cleaner environment also appears to boost your willpower even if you weren’t the one to clean it. One study² put some participants in an orderly environment and others in a messy environment, then asked them to make various choices. The participants who were in a more orderly environment were more likely to choose healthy snacks and donate money. Having a clean house might give you the extra bit of willpower you need to exercise or eat a bit healthier.
Get in touch with your values.
Nietzsche famously said that whoever has a why can endure any how. One of the biggest challenges to our willpower is when we face a choice that appears not to have any stakes. For example, you know that one cookie won’t really make a difference in the scheme of things, and since it doesn’t matter, you might as well eat it. Skipping one 12-Step meeting is probably not going to sink your recovery.
However, these things add up. That’s why it’s important to identify your most important values and connect your daily activities to those values. So, for example, a lot of people decide to get sober for the sake of their families. If that has been part of your motivation, as well, keeping “family” in mind can help you overcome whatever resistance you’re feeling when you’re trying to decide whether or not to attend your 12-Step meeting today.
Use your willpower where it will do the most good.
In addition to strengthening your willpower through exercise and other things that can give it a boost, be sure you’re using your willpower to your best advantage. For example, it’s much easier to use your willpower to take a different route to work every day than it is to pass by the bar and not stop. It’s easier to go past the bar than it is to go in but not order a drink, and so on. Use some foresight and strategy so you can avoid the need for herculean displays of willpower.
Create healthy habits.
Often, what looks like willpower is just a matter of good habits. Most of our behavior is habitual to some degree, so use that to your advantage. When creating a new habit, it’s important to link it to an existing habit, start small, and only create one new habit at a time. So, for example, if you want to start exercising regularly, start by tying it to something you already do every day, like waking up or coming home from work.
Say you come home from work, change into your exercise clothes, and walk for five minutes. After a month or two, this will become automatic and you won’t have to use any willpower to get your daily exercise.
Spend time with the right people.
You can only expect to do so much on your own. Your motivation and willpower are always stronger at some times and weaker at others. Having the right people around you can get you through rough spots by keeping you focused on the right things and holding you accountable. In the context of recovery, for example, the camaraderie of your 12-Step group can help keep you engaged even when you have other things on your mind. It’s essentially a way of outsourcing your willpower to get you through tough times.
No one recovering from addiction should be relying entirely on willpower, but it certainly can help you stick to your recovery plan. Your beliefs about willpower matter too; if you believe your willpower will run out, then you won’t have as much. Otherwise, it’s important to build your willpower in small ways, remember why you’re exercising your willpower to begin with, create healthy habits, and find supportive people. At The Foundry, we know that addiction is complex and that overcoming it is about creating a healthier, more fulfilling life. To learn more about our treatment options, explore our website or call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Why Don’t People Seek Help for Addiction?
If you have a loved one with a substance use issue, it can be hard to understand why they won’t get help. It may be obvious to everyone that their drinking and drug use is having a negative effect on their lives and the lives of everyone around them, but they still refuse to do anything about it. If you care about someone, it’s important to encourage them in a supportive, nonjudgmental way to get help for addiction. To that end, it helps to understand some of the most common reasons people give for not seeking help, as identified by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Most Don’t Believe They Have a Problem
Of all the people with substance use issues of various degrees, relatively few seek help and even fewer get the help they need. Of the people who never get help, more than 95 percent just don’t believe they have a problem. Why they believe that is a whole other issue. Many could be in denial. It’s hard to come to grips with the idea that you’ve lost control of your substance use and that it's a problem that you can’t solve on your own.
Rationalization is also a defense mechanism that protects addictive behavior. The remaining five percent of people know that drugs and alcohol have become a problem but they either haven’t sought help or they have sought help but were unable to get it for some reason. The remaining obstacles apply to both groups, although not necessarily in the same order.
Many Just Aren’t Ready to Quit
Of people who know they have a problem but don’t get help, the bigger group is the one comprising people who know they have a problem but haven't sought treatment. This can be incredibly frustrating for loved ones because it seems so obvious that if drugs and alcohol are a problem, you should seek help to quit. However, it’s crucial to understand your loved one’s ambivalence.
If they know their substance use is hurting them but they keep doing it anyway, there is probably a reason. Often, people with substance use issues are self-medicating for trauma or mental health issues. They feel like getting sober would deprive them of their only coping mechanism. Whatever their reasons, it’s important to listen and try to understand.
Cost Is Often an obstacle
We tend to think that addiction treatment is only for the rich and famous. We hear about celebrities doing long stints in rehab and assume it’s not for regular people. However, treatment is more affordable than most people realize. First, there is a continuum of care, ranging from outpatient services to extended inpatient treatment and most people can afford some level of professional care.
Even if it’s not the level of care you think you need, it’s important to know that any amount of work put towards recovery is worth it in the end. If you can only afford to go to 12-Step meetings, then do that and supplement with therapy if necessary. Many therapists work on a sliding scale for people who need it.
Second, there are more ways to pay for treatment than there have ever been. Most insurance will pay for at least some of treatment and quality treatment centers typically accept several forms of insurance. Recent changes in the law also allow federal money, such as from Medicare and Medicaid to be used for more addiction treatment options. Before you assume you can’t afford treatment, call some programs you like and see if they’ll work with you.
Many Are Afraid It Will Affect Their Jobs
There are several ways that treatment might affect your job. The most obvious is that people are afraid they’ll get fired for taking a month or more off of work to get treatment. According to the Family Medical Leave Act, your employer can’t fire you for taking up to 12 weeks off for addiction treatment. That doesn’t protect you from violations such as drinking or using drugs on the job, but it does guarantee time off for treatment.
Many people can’t afford to take time off work, even if they can afford treatment. In that case, it’s important to be aware that most treatment options don’t actually require you to miss work. An intensive outpatient program, for example, allows you to live at home and work while still receiving a high level of care.
The Stigma of Addiction Is Real
Many people are just afraid of being stigmatized as an “addict.” They don’t want their friends, neighbors, or coworkers to know they have a problem. Unfortunately, addiction is a progressive disease and at some point they will likely find out due to circumstances beyond your control. Declining work performance might lead you to lose your job, for example, or you might get a DUI.
It’s better to address the problem on your own terms. Keep in mind that addiction treatment programs have to follow the same strict privacy rules as hospitals and doctors offices, so there’s no reason anyone needs to know you’re getting treatment.
It’s Hard to Know Where to Get Treatment
These days, it feels like we’re constantly inundated with ads for addiction treatment. There are more than 14,000 addiction treatment facilities in the US and it can be hard to choose. Many of these facilities are mediocre and some are really bad. If you want your loved one to get help, you’re probably going to have to do most of the research to find them a good program. Look for accreditation, qualified staff, and evidence-based treatment methods. Good programs will want a lot of information about potential clients to know whether they are a good fit.
Some Want to Handle It on Their Own
Finally, some people don’t seek help because they think they can handle the problem on their own. This is another form of denial, since addiction is typically characterized by trying to quit but being unable to. When someone insists on handling it on their own, they are either stalling or they are slightly delusional about the amount of control they have over their situation.
As they often say in AA, your best thinking is what got you here. If you want to get sober, you will have to tolerate some level of discomfort and loss of control in the short term.
There are many reasons people don’t seek help for addiction; these are just some of the more common ones. When encouraging a loved one to seek help, it’s important to listen without judgment and try to understand what substance use does for them, what’s stopping them from getting help, and what might motivate them to get sober. At The Foundry, we know that every client is different and that individualized care is essential to long-term success. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
Five Common Misconceptions About Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery
In recent decades, meditation — especially mindfulness meditation — has gone from a sort of fringe practice to the mainstream. Workers practice mindfulness to boost their productivity and reduce stress, and mental health professionals regularly incorporate it into their treatment methodologies. Mindfulness is an integral part of dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, a method of therapy used to treat tough conditions like borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and suicidal depression. Mindfulness can help people cope with physical pain and emotional distress.
It can give them insight into their thinking and behavior. While mindfulness is frequently in the media, there are many persistent misconceptions about it. This is partly due to conflicting information and partly due to people conflating mindfulness with other forms of meditation. Here are some popular misconceptions about mindfulness.
“Mindfulness means having no thoughts.”
Perhaps the biggest misconception about mindfulness and meditation in general is that the goal is to empty your mind entirely. This may even sound pretty appealing. If you struggle with any mental health issue, you may feel like your thoughts are constantly attacking you and you would welcome even a temporary break from your own mental chatter. Unfortunately, mindfulness doesn’t work that way. For one thing, stopping your thoughts is nearly impossible. Thinking is what your brain does.
For another thing, flipping the “off” switch is not necessarily the best way to deal with painful thoughts and emotions. On the contrary, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. This way, you can better distinguish between challenging emotions and you have more insight into how thoughts and emotions are connected. Our most challenging emotions are often caused by irrational thoughts. Seeing your mental life more clearly is a big asset in therapy.
Finally, while mindfulness meditation doesn’t stop your thoughts, it does change your relationship to your thoughts. We tend to take our own thoughts far too seriously. In reality, thoughts are sort of like guesses about the world. Instead of reacting to them as if they are all true, we should ask whether they are true. Mindfulness helps you take a more realistic view of your own thoughts.
“Mindfulness means blissing out.”
While there are forms of meditation that are intended to help you cultivate certain states of mind — including bliss — mindfulness is not one of them. The problem with blissing out is that at some point, you have to come back. In that way, you would be substituting the escapism of drugs and alcohol with the escapism of mediation.
Mindfulness is rather about cultivating awareness and acceptance. Research shows that people who are more accepting of their negative emotions are less likely to suffer difficulties like depression as a result of emotional stress.
“Mindfulness makes you passive.”
One criticism of mindfulness you often hear is that it makes you passive. Since the whole point is to let go of attachments, be less judgmental of yourself and others, and be more accepting of situations beyond your control, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that you might become inert or willing to accept bad things that you might be able to change.
However, that’s not quite how mindfulness works. There’s a difference, for example, between being judgmental and having judgment. The former is a sort of ego-reinforcing exercise and the latter is a form of discernment. Often, our behavior and emotional reactions result from years of habit and conditioning and we aren’t even aware of it.
This is perhaps nowhere more obvious than in addiction. Mindfulness allows you to distinguish between what you really want for yourself and others instead of allowing yourself to keep going on autopilot, which is really far more passive.
“Mindfulness is just a way to relax.”
If you look at a group of people practicing mindfulness meditation, it probably seems very peaceful. They’re all sitting there quietly, relaxed, perhaps with their eyes closed. Indeed, mindfulness meditation can be quite relaxing and practice even begins with some deliberate relaxation. Even if mindfulness meditation were just a way of relaxing for 30 minutes a day, you would probably still get a lot of benefit from it.
However, there is far more to it than that. As discussed above, mindfulness is more about becoming aware and accepting whatever is going on in your mind. This is quite often the opposite of relaxing and can be quite intense. When your defenses are relaxed, troubling thoughts, emotions, and memories might come up, in which case, the last thing you are thinking about is relaxing.
This is a space where you can experience these things and learn not to be afraid of them. This is also why it’s typically a good idea to learn mindfulness meditation under the guidance of a trained instructor or therapist, who can help you out when troubling emotions and memories arise.
Mindfulness is just something to do when you feel like it.
Finally, a lot of people seem to have the idea that mindfulness meditation is something you do intermittently as needed, the way you might take the occasional mental health day off work or bathe your dog. To get the most out of mindfulness meditation, you need to practice every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Our brains are highly adaptable, but they only change through persistent effort.
Occasional meditation might be a nice thing to do on a hike or after a stressful week, but it won’t change your relation to your thoughts. The real value of mindfulness is being more aware and less reactive, and that takes consistent effort, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it.
Mindfulness is everywhere these days, but it is often mischaracterized and therefore generally misunderstood by the public. Mindfulness isn’t thoughtless, blissing out, or passivity. Nor is it a panacea for everything wrong in your life. It can help you become more aware of what’s going on around you and inside your own head, making it great for addiction recovery because it can improve your relationships and make you more aware of the connections between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At The Foundry, mindfulness is one of several modalities we use to help our clients break their dependence on drugs and alcohol. To learn more about our program, call us today at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
How a Growth Mindset Can Help You Beat Addiction
Beneath everything else, recovery from addiction is not about abstaining from drugs and alcohol but rather about improving the way you relate to yourself and the world. There are many ways in which our own minds can cause us problems. We have intrusive thoughts, we worry too much, we have inaccurate beliefs about the world, and we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. One very common way we make ourselves miserable and limit our own progress is by having a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
A fixed versus growth mindset is a concept developed and popularized by Carol Dweck. In her research, she noticed that some children were more tenacious in solving problems and she discovered that the main thing that differentiated these children from those who gave up easily was that they had what she termed a “growth mindset” while the children who gave up quickly had a “fixed mindset.”
The difference between these two mindsets is simple: If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that you’re basically born with certain talents and capacities, such as intelligence or social skills or athletic skills and so on, and there’s not much you can do to improve your performance in any given area if you’re not especially talented in that area. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that with a bit of effort, you can improve your skills and grow as a person.
The reality is, of course, somewhere between these two. Talent is certainly a real thing. Few people will reach the heights of Lebron James or Elon Musk no matter how hard they work. On the other hand, many--perhaps most--of us have too little confidence in our ability to make meaningful changes in our lives. In other words, most of us would be much better off if we made an effort to adopt a growth mindset. That’s especially true for anyone recovering from addiction.
A Growth Mindset Reduces Resistance to Change
Resistance to treatment is a common problem. Many people have what AA people call “terminal uniqueness.” This is sort of the idea that “I’m not like everyone else here, so I don’t have to engage with treatment the way they do.” This typically stems from a need to protect your sense of identity. Everyone else is an “addict” while you are basically a decent person who hit a rough patch. To participate fully in treatment is like admitting that you got lost somehow and you can’t find your way back.
To a person with a fixed mindset, this is a serious threat. It implies that this edifice of self you have constructed has a faulty foundation. You want to reject any evidence to the contrary. However, to someone with a growth mindset, the idea that you might need help is much more palatable. You’re not broken on some fundamental level; you just have some weak points you need to strengthen and you know that you can get stronger with persistent effort.
A Growth Mindset Opens Up New Possibilities
When you’re first considering the possibility of treatment or just starting out in recovery, it can be very hard to imagine a better life. You are probably at a low point, or else you wouldn’t be considering a major life change. All of your future possibilities are colored by your present circumstances. This is especially true if you have a fixed mindset. That’s because when you try to imagine living a happier, more fulfilling life, you’re trying to imagine living that life as the person you currently are.
You may think, “How am I supposed to live a good life when I can barely get out of bed, when I can’t get through the day without drugs and alcohol, when I’m constantly tormented by anxiety, and so on?” It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask when you don’t believe in the possibility of growth.
If you have a growth mindset, it’s easier to imagine that a better life is possible, even if you aren’t yet sure how. You may still be aware of all the obstacles in your way but perhaps you can also remember overcoming other obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. You may not be able to imagine living a better life as the person you are now, but you can imagine living a better life as the person you can become.
A Growth Mindset Turns Challenges into Opportunities
Perhaps the greatest advantage of a growth mindset is that it turns challenges into opportunities. There is no shortage of challenges in addiction recovery. In fact, every stage of recovery--detox, treatment, therapy, transitioning home, continuing with your recovery plan, and so on--offers a different set of challenges.
If you have a fixed mindset, every challenge is just an opportunity to fail. You have your little set of skills and qualities and if those don’t equip you for the challenges you face, then you’re just out of luck. People will see that you, as a person, just don’t measure up.
However, if you have a growth mindset, your model of challenges is completely different. Instead of seeing them as the rocks that sink your ship, you see them as weights that make you stronger. A challenge is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. It’s a chance to learn new skills and expand your ability to persevere. Every new challenge recovery presents is an opportunity for growth and will prepare you to overcome even bigger challenges down the road.
Adopting a growth mindset is one of the best ways to become more robust to the challenges that you will face in addiction recovery. It makes you less afraid of change, it makes you better able to imagine a happier life without drugs and alcohol, and it makes every new challenge into a chance to grow.
At The Foundry, we know that getting sober and staying sober is probably the hardest thing you will ever have to do. We also believe that abstinence from drugs and alcohol is only one outcome of a process that will increase your overall quality of life, including your mental and physical health, and your relationships. For more information about our treatment program, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How to Adopt a Growth Mindset for Addiction Recovery
Having a growth mindset is one of the best ways to enhance your recovery from addiction. As discussed in a previous post, a growth mindset can help you feel less resistant to change, make you feel more confident about the good possibilities for your life, and help you transform the many challenges you will face in recovery into opportunities to grow as a person.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Our ideas about our abilities and potential are largely molded by our childhood experiences. If we’re frequently told by our parents or teachers that we’re stupid, lazy or whatever else, we often accept those assessments as limits to our possibilities.
Psychologist Carol Dweck, who developed and popularized the idea of fixed and growth mindsets, found that even well-meaning parents who praise their children as smart or talented may be doing them a disservice by reinforcing the idea that we’re all hardwired with certain abilities. Breaking out of this conditioning can be hard but it is possible. Here’s how.
What Are Fixed and Growth Mindsets?
First, a brief description may help clarify what we’re trying to accomplish by moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is believing that whatever you are now is basically how you’ll be the rest of your life. If you’re good at playing the violin, for example, then you’ll probably get a little better but if you’re not good at it, then you’re just “not musical” and you shouldn’t bother.
The same is true of anything, whether it’s math, sports, socializing, thinking creatively, or anything else. The fixed mindset tells you to stay in your lane, do things you’re already good at, and don’t embarrass yourself by trying something new.
The growth mindset, on the other hand, operates on the fairly common-sense assumption that we get better at things we practice. We may not be very good at sports or the violin--or getting through a day without a drink--right now, but with consistent effort, we can certainly get better. That’s not to say you’ll ever be the best at something--few people ever attain that status--but you can certainly improve on the things that matter most to you and your quality of life.
Notice Your Thinking
Whenever we have a challenging emotion, there is typically a thought behind it, even if we don’t notice. Fear is often a result of fixed-mindset thinking. For example, a loved one suggests you talk to a therapist or consider getting treatment for your substance use and you feel a sense of panic, perhaps followed by anger. What was the thought behind that? Was it, “I can’t live without drugs or alcohol”? “I can’t go off to treatment alone”? There are many possible thoughts for which the subtext is “I can’t handle this.”
However, treatment is not a test; it’s an opportunity to get help. You can’t fail at treatment or therapy; you can only fail to engage. The belief that you can fail or be exposed as somehow inadequate is only in your head. The first step is to become aware of these assumptions and challenge them. You may catch yourself saying something like “I can’t speak in front of groups,” perhaps because you believe you’re shy or inarticulate or whatever else.
However, in reality, plenty of people with varying personalities and skills are able to become effective at speaking in front of groups. Notice any thoughts or words that imply your abilities are fixed and make a conscious effort to challenge them.
Reframe Failure and Frustration
Too often, we take frustration or initial failure as a sign that we have no talent for something. In reality, every new thing is difficult and frustrating and you will have some failures. The challenge is to push through that initial frustration until you can acquire the minimum skills to start making real progress. One way to do this is to reframe failure and frustration.
You may have heard the expression, “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Failure is just a part of the learning process. The important thing is to learn what you can from it and try again. This is an especially important lesson in addiction recovery since relapse is fairly common.
Similarly, don’t take frustration as an indication that you lack aptitude. Frustration is merely a sign that you’re having to push beyond your current limitations. What’s frustrating today will be easy later.
Remember Past Growth
When we’re born, we basically can’t do anything. We can’t talk, walk, read, stand, spell, feed ourselves, or do arithmetic. We can’t even focus our eyes. Pretty much everything we do all day that we don’t even have to think about took years of daily effort to master. Yet many people don’t even make it through a month of 12-Step meetings because they say it’s too hard or “not my thing.”
As adults, we take for granted the difficulty of most of our routine skills and so we doubt our ability to master comparatively easy new skills. Keep in mind that everything is hard at first but it becomes easier with practice.
Adjust Your Expectations
Related to the point above, we often underestimate the time and effort it will take to get good at something, often by orders of magnitude. For example, many people have had the experience of having had two years of Spanish in high school but then they take a trip to Mexico and they can’t even order lunch. So they throw up their hands and say, “Well, I guess I have no talent for languages.”
However, consider what it took to learn your own language. For the first four years of your life, your brain is optimized for learning language. Everyone around you only speaks in your native language and tries to help you learn it. You desperately want to learn to speak in order to meet your basic needs and desires. And yet, how many four-year-olds speak their own native language with much fluency?
From that perspective, it’s not surprising that your two years of high school Spanish didn’t make you fluent. Often, we have to accept that reaching our goals is going to take a lot more work than we had originally estimated. It doesn’t mean you lack talent or ability; it just means you’ll have to do more work than you expected.
View Challenges as Opportunities
Finally, practice viewing challenges as opportunities. Challenges are threatening to people with a fixed mindset because they are opportunities to fail. If you feel threatened by something, it could be that you fear it will expose you as weak, stupid, or somehow inadequate. People with a growth mindset view challenges much differently: They see opportunities to get stronger.
When you feel threatened by a challenge, pause and think, “Whether I succeed this time or not, it will certainly be an opportunity to learn and grow.” If you take this attitude toward challenges and even seek out new challenges, you will grow much faster.
It’s hard to change your mindset, especially since it was probably formed in childhood. However, the first step is knowing that change is possible. Everything we think or do changes our brains in some small way. If you make consistent efforts to change your brain in ways that encourage a growth mindset, you will start to notice all the possibilities that come with it.
At The Foundry, we want to help you recover from addiction, but we don’t stop there. We want you to have a more joyful, healthier, and more fulfilling life overall. We use a variety of evidence-based methods to help our clients grow and become the best versions of themselves. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
9 Tips for Resolving Conflict
For most of us, interpersonal conflict is one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives, perhaps second only to financial stress. In fact, interpersonal stress and financial stress often overlap. People starting out in recovery typically identify stress, and interpersonal conflict in particular, as a major trigger of drug and alcohol cravings. The early days of recovery following might also have more conflict than you’re used to.
As you try to make some big changes in your life, some people will resist. However, you have to live your life and maintain healthy boundaries if you want to stay sober. The following tips can help you resolve conflict, reduce stress, and generally reduce the amount of friction in your recovery and your life.
Be Aware of Your Tendencies
As with most aspects of emotional intelligence, being more self-aware will help you resolve conflict more effectively. Many people tend to avoid conflict, even when doing so makes them worse off, while others tend to create and escalate conflict unnecessarily. It’s always good to be aware of your own tendencies, learn to take a step back, and ask yourself objectively if there is a problem you need to address.
Acknowledge a Problem
If there is a problem, the first thing is to acknowledge it, even if you don’t know how to resolve it or you don’t feel like you can handle it. If there is a real problem, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Just because you aren’t yet sure how to deal with it doesn’t mean a resolution isn’t possible.
Don’t try to resolve conflict while you’re feeling overly emotional, whether you’re feeling angry, scared, hurt, sad, or whatever else. When you’re feeling that way, you will be focused on expressing yourself. That’s fine, but it also makes it harder to listen and consider the other person’s point of view and you are more likely to say or do something to make the situation worse. Give it a day before you try to work out the problem with the other person. If that’s not possible, take a few deep breaths, let yourself calm down, and try to proceed objectively.
The first step in actually resolving the conflict is to listen to the other side. Any satisfactory solution will have to be based on mutual understanding. It’s hard to listen to someone you feel is your adversary but it’s a crucial step. You gain information and often the other person will become more reasonable if they feel like you’re listening and taking their considerations seriously.
Conflicts often begin with a communication from the other party, such as an angry phone call or a demanding email. You might feel ambushed. As noted above, let yourself cool off before responding. Take some time to think about what the other person really wants or needs. Often, they are under pressure too, and understanding that will be important for resolving the conflict.
Define the Problem
Having a clear understanding of the problem is necessary for a good solution. You can move toward a clear understanding by practicing reflection. This is when you summarize the situation as the other person has explained it to you. This shows you were listening and taking them seriously and it also helps resolve any potential misunderstandings. Often, just clearing up miscommunications is enough to resolve a conflict. If not, you can at least start with an agreed understanding of the facts.
Find Common Ground
As noted above, it’s hard to listen and have an open discussion with someone you view as an adversary. Most of the time, your disagreements will be with people who are actually on your side--relatives, coworkers, friends, and so on. Although you may want different things in this specific situation, it’s important to remember that you’re not actually enemies.
Even if someone isn’t actually on your side--and perhaps especially when they’re not--finding common ground is a great way to start working toward a solution. Agreeing on facts, as noted above, is good. Even better is if you can identify any aspects of the problem that are not actually in conflict.
Be Willing to Compromise
There’s an old saying that the sign of a good compromise is that no one is happy. That may not sound reassuring, but sometimes you have to be prepared to make sacrifices to achieve your larger goals. Know which aspects of the conflict are most important to you and which are secondary and be willing to compromise on those secondary aspects. Also, keep the context in mind. For example, it’s typically not worth sacrificing a friendship over a minor argument.
Work Toward a Solution, Not Vindication
While working on a solution, don’t get too hung up on being right. Being right or getting credit are typically not worth very much in the scheme of things. Wanting vindication, wanting to have things your own way, and so on, typically just get in the way of a resolution. Stay focused on what outcome you want and don’t get distracted by the cosmetic stuff.
Be Ready to Forgive
When you have finally reached a solution or resolved an argument, be willing to let it go. If you don’t let it go, then the problem hasn’t really been resolved. If you tell the other person that you are satisfied with whatever compromise you decided on, continuing to complain about it, even if you’re just silently resentful, is essentially like reneging on an agreement. That’s bad for your own mental health and it’s bad for the relationship.
Conflict is inevitable and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nor does it mean that the person you’re in conflict with is bad. It’s normal for people’s legitimate needs and desires to clash from time to time. With a little patience and empathy, conflict can usually be resolved satisfactorily, if not perfectly.
At The Foundry, we know that a strong recovery from addiction is about far more than just abstinence from drugs and alcohol. That’s why we focus on skills such as emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, family relationships, and building social support as part of a holistic approach to addiction recovery. To learn more, call us today at 844-955-1066.
4 Ways to Be More Conscientious
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an addictive personality. Substance use disorders afflict the outgoing and the shy, the kind and the mean, the curious and the conservative. However, there is one personality pattern that research shows is more common among people with substance use disorders: high neuroticism and low conscientiousness. These are two of the big five personality traits most commonly used by psychologists, the other traits being extraversion, openness, and agreeableness.
Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions and it’s highly correlated with mental health challenges and substance use issues.
Conscientiousness involves things like being goal-oriented, organized, responsible, and law-abiding. Even people who are high in neuroticism are less prone to substance use issues if they are also high in conscientiousness.
As fundamental personality traits, these are both slow to change, but since conscientiousness is the trait most directly related to behavior, it’s the trait you have the most control over. The following tips can help you be more conscientious and thus strengthen your recovery from addiction.
Avoid Black-and-White Thinking
If you’re a creative person, a non-conformist who likes to find your own way, you no doubt hear things like “law-abiding, organized, achievement-oriented,” and so on and think, “No thanks.” You may imagine turning into some kind of conformist, validation-seeking automaton. That belief can be a major barrier to positive change.
Don’t worry, no matter how hard you try, that will never be you. In being more conscientious, we’re not talking about overhauling your personality; we’re talking about turning up one particular dial from about two to about four. The idea is to boost your conscientiousness just enough that you’re not so vulnerable to your own destructive impulses.
Get Clear on Your Priorities
One major characteristic of conscientious people is that they’re highly organized. They have a schedule and a to-do list and they stick to them. If you’re currently low on conscientiousness, you probably won’t have much luck trying to jump straight to a schedule broken down into 15 or 30-minute blocks. Instead, start by organizing your day according to your priorities.
Each day, or even the night before, identify the things you must accomplish and then prioritize them. So maybe you have a 12-step meeting, a therapy session, and work as your top three. There are probably some other things you could do, and perhaps some things you want to do and you may get to those or you may not.
Before you do anything else, schedule your priorities and work everything else in around them. That way, you won’t get distracted by “urgent” things that won’t really improve your quality of life.
Set Relevant Goals
Another common characteristic of the highly conscientious is that they are goal-oriented. Setting goals and working toward them consistently is often difficult for the conscientiously challenged. Goals feel constrictive. You have to work on them even when you don’t feel like it and besides that, you may set a goal today that you don’t care about tomorrow. Sometimes just setting a goal ignites a determination deep within you to do the exact opposite. So how do you deal with it?
One solution is to set process goals. Instead of setting a goal that’s SMART--specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound--identify the direction you want to go and work on developing behaviors that take you in that direction. For example, if you want to be a rockstar, make sure you practice your instrument at least 30 minutes every day. If you want to stay sober, identify the behaviors that will lead to that result, and make them part of your life.
It’s especially helpful if you can associate your long-term goals with your core values. For example, “I want to stay sober because I care about my family’s happiness.” Then, whenever you have a decision to make, you can ask yourself, “Does this take me closer or farther from my goals and values?” If it takes you closer, then go for it.
Create a Healthy Routine
Related to the points above, creating a healthy routine will significantly boost your conscientiousness. Routines have two major advantages: First, any routine, even a terrible one, will reduce uncertainty. Uncertainty is a major source of stress and anxiety in life and if you kind of know what to expect from day-to-day, you manage those feelings a little more easily.
Second, a healthy routine is an easy way to automate healthy behaviors. Instead of having to decide all the time if you’re going to have a healthy breakfast, if you’re going to exercise, if you’re going to attend your 12-step meeting and so on, you make them regular parts of your day so that you just sort of do them on autopilot. You don’t have to exert much willpower once those routines are set.
Creating a healthy routine is another challenge altogether. Start with your top priorities for the day, as noted above. If you’re recovering from addiction, these should be elements from your recovery plan. You may already have a head start on some of them if you’ve completed an inpatient treatment program. Otherwise, start with one or two anchor points.
For example, you might get up at the same time every day and you might go to a 12-step meeting at the same time every day. Then you can start building other things around these two. So maybe you get up and exercise right away, perhaps walking for a few minutes until you’ve formed a solid habit. Then start adding other elements directly following previously established anchors. The idea is that you want to go from one thing to the next, like stepping stones.
Since conscientiousness is a personality trait, it is slow to change. While a low-conscientiousness person will never magically turn into the most goal-oriented, focused, and responsible person around, they can gain more control over their lives. The keys are to keep your values in mind and make consistent efforts. You will also have a bit of a tailwind since conscientiousness tends to increase slightly with age.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery from addiction isn’t just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but rather about making the kinds of changes that allow you to take charge of your own life and live in a more connected, meaningful way. That’s why our holistic program focuses on growth in every area of life. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Cope with Shame?
Most people with a substance use disorder know about shame. It may be the central feature of their emotional lives. If you struggle with substance use, you likely feel shame on several levels. There may be shame resulting from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, whether as a child or as an adult. Research continually shows that abuse, trauma, and PTSD are incredibly common among people with substance use disorders. Many people carry shame from those situations, even though they weren’t to blame.
Substance use disorders can also lead to shame in themselves. Addiction can override your moral judgment to the point where you’re willing to manipulate or deceive your loved ones to get what you want. You may act impulsively and recklessly while drunk or high, causing harm to yourself and others.
You may feel shame because of the stigma of substance use and you may feel shame about having to ask for help. Shame is common and it’s also one of the most corrosive emotions. Like any wound kept hidden, it only gets worse with time. The following are some suggestions for coping with and healing shame.
The first step in dealing with shame is to acknowledge what you’re feeling. It’s not always obvious that what you’re feeling is shame. Sometimes you experience it as anger, irritability, defensiveness, procrastination, or depression. It may take some introspection to realize shame is behind some persistent challenging emotions. You can dig down into these emotions by asking why. Why do you get angry when a loved one suggests you talk to a therapist? Why do you get defensive when certain topics are raised?
Shame likes to hide. There’s a good reason people often say after telling an embarrassing story, “I wanted to crawl in a hole.” You want to protect yourself from those who would deride you. Unfortunately, when you feel shame, you are the one deriding yourself and so shame takes on different forms.
Observe Shame Nonjudgmentally
When you are able to identify shame, try observing it without judgment. This can be incredibly hard because no one likes how it feels. Your natural reflex is to push it away or think of something else. However, that only makes the feeling stronger because you continue to fear it. Instead, allow yourself to feel it. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it feel like fear? Disgust? What thoughts are associated with it? Make sure you’re not feeding the shame with self-criticism; just experience it as it is.
Is It Shame or Guilt?
It’s also important to distinguish shame from guilt. Guilt is a useful emotion. It’s our conscience letting us know we’ve let ourselves down in some way. Feeling guilt prods us into fixing our mistakes and improving our behavior. The important distinction is that guilt applies to our actions and shame applies to our inherent value.
When you make a mistake, perhaps you’ve made a rude comment to a friend, guilt says, “That was badly done; I’ll have to apologize and be more careful in the future,” but shame says, “I’m a horrible person and I’m always going around hurting people.”
The irony is that shame actually makes you less able to improve your behavior. It implies that you’re permanently, inherently bad, rather than affirming that you’re capable of growth. If there is something you feel ashamed of, something you perhaps did as a result of addiction, try transferring it to the guilt category.
For example, instead of thinking “I’m an awful person for stealing from my parents,” change it to “It was wrong to steal from my parents and I’m determined never to do that kind of thing again.”
Is It Something Else?
Shame has other functions as well. For example, an overt display of shame can signal remorse to the people around you. If you’re beating yourself up, they feel more inclined to let you off the hook. In this case, shame performs a social function, preserving your connection to the community after you’ve done something bad. Of course, after a certain point, this no longer helps.
Shame may also be a way of keeping yourself stuck. You may feel like you don’t deserve to be happy because you’re so rotten. Conveniently, this also spares you the effort of trying to make positive changes in your life. After all, you can’t fail if you don’t try. The thought of failure or really any kind of change may be so frightening that even living with shame seems preferable.
Develop Compassion for Yourself
To move past shame, start by developing some compassion for yourself. We are often much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. In fact, if we treated others the way we treat ourselves, we’d probably be ostracized or locked up.
When you have identified some source of shame, take a step back and try to regard yourself the way you would a friend. Imagine a friend telling you they were ashamed of whatever it was that you did, or whatever happened to you. Imagine reacting with compassion, knowing that although your friend isn’t perfect, they deserve to be happy. Try extending that same feeling to yourself.
Try Opening Up
Finally, try opening up about shame. This is what really allows you to heal. As noted above, shame wants to hide but that only makes it worse. If you don’t yet feel like you can open up to someone you trust and care about, consider opening up in therapy.
Your therapist has probably heard it all and anything you say is confidential by law. Often, just saying it out loud to someone helps, but your therapist can also help you work through your feelings. Group therapy is also a great place to open up because you will probably discover that some other members of the group have had similar experiences and you will no longer feel alone.
If you’re not quite ready to talk about your feelings of shame with anyone, try writing about them. Just acknowledging them and exploring them in some detail will probably make you feel better, and perhaps prepare you to discuss it with a therapist.
Shame is a destructive emotion because it convinces us that we’re bad, that we’re weak, that we’re unlovable, and that we don’t deserve anything good in life. The good news is that shame can’t live in the daylight. The more you are able to acknowledge and share feelings of shame in appropriate circumstances, the less it will control your life.
At The Foundry, we know that trauma and shame are often at the core of a substance use disorder. That’s why our program focuses on treating trauma with proven methods, including dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, EMDR, mindfulness meditation, trauma-informed yoga, and other methods. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Forgive a Loved One After Addiction?
It’s hard living with a loved one with a substance use disorder. You may have put up with years’ worth of bad behavior, including lying, stealing, violent behavior, manipulation, and general unreliability. You may find that even when your loved one gets sober that you still have trouble forgiving them for everything they put you through when they were actively addicted.
If you want to repair and preserve the relationship, it’s necessary to forgive them at some point, so you can move on, but that can be a huge challenge. It’s hard to let go of the hurt. The following tips can help you forgive a loved one for their sake and yours.
Remember That Forgiveness Is Not Approval
One reason people find it hard to forgive is that they feel like forgiving someone is the same as condoning their behavior, that it’s like saying that they really didn’t do anything wrong after all. That’s not what forgiveness is about.
Forgiveness is nearly the opposite. It’s saying, “You certainly did something wrong but I’m not going to continue being angry about it.” Forgiveness is not approval and it’s not forgetting. You should certainly retain the lessons you learned from your loved one’s addiction, but in forgiving them, you let go of your resentment.
Remember That Forgiveness Is for You as Much as Them
Your loved one may want your forgiveness and even ask for it but that doesn’t mean forgiveness is only for them. In fact, forgiveness is primarily for you. Holding on to anger and resentment is bad for you. It’s a form of chronic stress that impairs your immune system, disturbs your sleep, and generally makes you less happy.
Resentment also means you are continually reaffirming your status as a victim in this situation since you still feel harmed by the person’s past actions. Forgiveness means taking responsibility for your own mental state, leading to greater freedom and well-being.
Try to Understand Addiction
If you’ve never experienced addiction for yourself, it can be very hard to understand from the outside. Every bad thing your loved one does seems like a choice--something they deliberately do to you. It’s easy to take their actions personally and hard to forgive. However, as you learn more about addiction, the role of choice in addictive behavior appears to shrink significantly.
Addiction often causes structural changes in the brain that optimize your thinking for drug or alcohol-seeking behavior while ignoring collateral damage. The roots of addiction are also complex, involving genes, childhood environment, and mental health issues. Being angry at someone for a substance use disorder is like being angry at someone for having diabetes. It’s not something anyone chooses.
In addition to understanding addiction better in general, it’s important to understand your loved one’s particular experience. For that, listening is important. Becoming a better listener is a whole skill in itself but the basics include giving your loved one your full attention, reflecting back what they say, “So, what you’re saying is...” and trying to put yourself in their place.
That means suspending judgment at least temporarily and trying to imagine what it must have been like for them to struggle with substance use and related behaviors. Often, you’ll find that their experience has been far worse than yours, which will engage your compassionate instincts.
Talk to a Therapist
Forgiveness isn’t something you have to work through on your own; you can always enlist the help of a therapist. Your therapist can help you untangle the difficult emotions you feel related to your loved one--love, hurt, anger, sadness, fear, concern, compassion, resentment, and so on. You may be having trouble with your own feelings including guilt, shame, and anger towards someone you’re supposed to love and care for.
Validating these feelings is just as important as understanding what your loved one has been through. It may also help to participate in family therapy as part of your loved one’s treatment. Many programs like to involve the families in treatment as much as possible. It helps untangle unhealthy family dynamics, improve communication, and educate families on the recovery process.
Seek Social Support
If therapy isn’t an option for you, or even if it is, you may consider attending a group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon for families of people with substance use disorders. Forgiveness is a common theme of these groups and you can talk things over with people who have had many of the same experiences as you’ve had.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
As noted above, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. In fact, remembering how bad things got can give you ancentive to maintain healthy boundaries with your loved one. Part of the ongoing resentment is the fear that you’ll be hurt again. If you are able to insulate yourself from the consequences of your loved one’s substance use, you will be better able to forgive their past behavior.
Be Patient With Yourself
Finally, be patient with yourself. Often, the anger and resentment you feel towards a loved one with a substance use disorder is a habit of mind built over years of pain and disappointment. You can’t expect to let it all go overnight. The point of forgiveness is to allow yourself to be free from that anger and resentment but if you criticize yourself for being slow to forgive, you only add to your own pain. Give yourself time. The important things are that you want to forgive and that you’re actively working on it.
Forgiveness can be hard. It feels like you’re condoning your loved one’s past behavior or leaving yourself vulnerable to being hurt again. In reality, you’re letting go of an unnecessary burden, even if you have to do it one brick at a time.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery is stronger when you have the support of friends and family. That’s why we promote family involvement and building a strong recovery community as well as addressing the underlying causes of addiction. To learn more, contact us today at (844) 955-1066.
Can Reducing Inflammation Improve Your Recovery from Addiction?
Inflammation has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, as research has connected it to a lengthening list of physical and mental health issues. As it turns out, inflammation is relevant to addiction in several ways.
It can worsen medical issues associated with excessive drug and alcohol use, it can worsen mental health issues associated with addiction and relapse risk, and some research even suggests that inflammation can directly increase addiction risk. The following is a brief look at inflammation and how it affects addiction and recovery.
What Is Inflammation?
First, it may help to understand a bit about inflammation, since it’s often used in a vague way. Inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to injury or infection. If you’ve ever had a sore throat or cut your finger, you’ve experienced inflammation. The body’s healing process is complex, but basically what you experience when something becomes inflamed is that your blood vessels expand, allowing more blood to reach the affected tissue. This allows the blood to carry more immune cells to the tissue and facilitate healing.
When you have an injury or an infection, this process is helpful. Not only does it speed antibodies to the site of an infection, but it also causes pain to make you protect the area, and it causes you to feel lethargic in order to save energy for healing. The problem is that we sometimes have an inflammatory response without an infection or injury, such as when we have an autoimmune disorder or we’re exposed to certain other conditions. Then, the result is chronic inflammation, which serves no purpose and causes other problems.
How Does Inflammation Affect Recovery?
As noted above, inflammation may directly increase your risk of addiction and relapse. However, it can also exacerbate medical issues related to addiction and mental health issues that commonly occur with addiction.
Excessive drug and alcohol use can lead to a number of medical problems, depending on which substances you use most frequently. For example, excessive drinking increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and several kinds of cancer. Research suggests that inflammation plays a significant role in all of those diseases, and since alcohol itself is an inflammatory substance, chronic inflammation may even be one way alcohol causes these health problems. If you’re recovering from addiction, especially early on, your risk is higher for these conditions, and inflammation will only make them worse.
The link between inflammation and mental health has only come to light in the past few years. Before then, it was thought that the brain and the immune system didn’t interact much. However, now we know that inflammation is associated with a number of mental health issues including major depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.
Of these, the link between depression and inflammation seems to be the strongest. Various studies have subjected participants to pro-inflammatory compounds and found behavioral effects very similar to depression. These effects included decreased motivation, anxiety, anhedonia, and suicidal thoughts.
Other research has found that an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce the symptoms of depression. It’s important to note, however, that inflammation is only one possible cause of depression and about half of people with depression don’t have markers of increased inflammation.
The link between depression and inflammation is significant because depression is a major risk factor for addiction and relapse. One study found that 16.5% of people with major depression had an alcohol use disorder and 18% had a drug use disorder--both significantly higher than the average for the general population.
How to Reduce Inflammation
See Your Doctor
If you are experiencing the symptoms of inflammation, which may include pain, swelling, heat, or loss of function--or depressive symptoms, as discussed above--the first thing to do is see your doctor. If you do have depression, a blood test can determine whether inflammation is a factor. Also, inflammation is a symptom of a number of other conditions, including some serious autoimmune diseases so you’ll want to find out what you’re dealing with as soon as possible.
An anti-inflammatory diet is both about what you eat and what you don’t eat and, in fact, what you don’t eat may be more important. Inflammatory foods include sugar, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable and seed oils, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains, and alcohol. Eliminating these foods should go a long way toward reducing inflammation.
Replace them with anti-inflammatory foods including green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruit, especially berries and cherries, nuts, beans, olive oil, and fatty fish. In general, whole foods are better than packaged and processed foods.
Exercise is good for your mental and physical health for many reasons, and one of those appears to be that it helps reduce inflammation. We don’t understand exactly how this happens but it may be that your body releases anti-inflammatory compounds in response to the mild physiological stress caused by exercise.
We also know that mental health and inflammation can go both ways; in other words, just as inflammation can cause depression, depression can cause inflammation. Therefore, the reduced stress and improved mood from exercise may also have a secondary effect of reducing inflammation.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, you should be moving in the direction of a healthier body weight. This is also important for reducing inflammation because a number of studies have connected excess body fat to increased inflammation, as fat tissue produces inflammatory cytokines.
This may be one reason exercise helps reduce inflammation. It also appears likely that increased inflammation is one reason obesity increases your risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Inflammation appears to be a major player in many different physical and mental health problems, including those related to substance use disorders. Reducing inflammation through diet, exercise, therapy, and possible medical treatment will make you healthier, make you feel better, and increase your chances of a strong recovery from addiction.
At The Foundry, we understand that living a better life free from drugs and alcohol is about holistic change. It means living a healthier, more active lifestyle, feeling connected to supportive people, and having a sense of purpose in life. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Protect Yourself With a Family History of Addiction?
Much of your addiction risk is influenced by your family history. Genes and the environment both play a significant role in how addiction is passed down in families. Research has identified many gene variations that appear to be related to substance use disorders.
These aren’t “addiction genes” per se but rather they affect different aspects of your physiology. For example, genes related to how well you metabolize alcohol and its intermediate products, how your dopamine system responds to alcohol, and how active your brain’s fear centers are may all contribute to your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
However, there is also a saying that genes load the gun but the environment pulls the trigger. In other words, having a genetic predisposition to substance use issues doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop an addiction. Your odds are significantly higher if you grow up in an environment where you feel unsafe or neglected, where you’ve experienced trauma, or where your parent or guardian had substance use issues.
Children are especially sensitive to trauma and chaos and they often learn substance use behaviors from their parents. As a result, if you have a parent or sibling with a substance use disorder, you are at much greater risk for developing a substance use issue yourself. The following tips can help limit your risk.
Ask About Your Family History
Addiction, even now, is a largely invisible disease. Families want to protect their loved ones’ reputations and people with substance use are often very good at hiding it. However, if your relatives have struggled with substance use, you need to know about it. Ask your relatives about your family history. Be curious about that aunt that no one ever seems to hear from, what your parents were like before you came along, or that grandparent who died at a suspiciously young age.
Limit Your Exposure to Drugs and Alcohol
If you’re concerned about your own addiction risk, the safest bet is just not to drink or use drugs. If you do drink, set strict limits for yourself. What those limits are, depends on your situation and how worried you are about your risk.
If both of your parents had an alcohol use disorder, you might not want to drink at all but if you had an uncle with a drinking problem and your other risk factors are low, perhaps you’ll feel safe having a drink with dinner now and then. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. It’s much easier to avoid addiction than to recover from it.
Know the Red Flags
It’s also important to know the red flags of addiction. This is true even if you have decided to abstain completely. Depending on your risk factors, you may also be vulnerable to process addictions, such as gambling, shopping, sex, or eating, so being aware of addiction red flags, in general, is a good idea. The trouble is that really clear signs tend to come too late. These are things like getting a DUI, losing your job, having serious relationship issues as a result of addiction, and so on.
Addiction typically creeps up on you slowly and by the time you realize what’s happening, it’s already hard to get clear of it. If you pay attention, you might notice addictive behavior before it becomes very hard to change course. For example, you might notice that you’re drinking every day, even if you’re only having one or two drinks.
That might be fine for most people but if you have an elevated risk, it might be time to take a break. If you feel like you need drugs or alcohol to relax, that’s another pretty clear sign because it indicates you may have begun to develop a physical dependence.
Needing more to feel any effect is another sign of dependence, as is feeling achy, jittery, shaky, or irritable when you go for a few days without drugs or alcohol. Also, beware if you find yourself lying or being deceptive about your drug or alcohol use. If you notice any of these signs, take action immediately, whether it’s talking to a therapist, addiction counselor, or doctor, or going to a 12-step meeting.
Talk to a Therapist
One of the best ways to preempt a substance use disorder is to talk to a therapist, even if you’re not sure if you need therapy. As noted above, genes are only part of the equation. Most people seeking help for addiction also have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as major depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and others.
Substance use often begins as a way of self-medicating these conditions. If you did grow up in a house with addiction, it’s likely that you have some issues stemming from that experience and it’s better to address them on your own terms rather than wait for addiction to derail your life. If you don’t know what to tell your therapist, just say that your parents struggled with addiction and you don’t want to fall into the same trap. You certainly won’t be the first.
Make Your Doctor Aware of Your Concerns
Unfortunately, much of the opioid crisis in the US is a result of people using prescriptions as directed by their doctors. They would get these prescriptions for chronic pain or pain following a medical procedure, use them for far too long, and end up addicted, often switching to street drugs like heroin.
Doctors are typically far more cautious about prescribing opioids these days but it’s still important to make your doctor aware of any family history of addiction, just as you would make your doctor aware of any family history of cancer or heart disease. There are often non-addictive treatment alternatives and at the very least, you can take precautions against overusing potentially addictive medication.
Talk to Your Kids When They’re Ready
Finally, make sure your own kids know about the family history of addiction when they’re ready. This should be part of an overall approach to teaching your kids about drugs and alcohol from a young age. For example, when you give a young child cold medicine, you can remind them that they should only take medicine from you or a doctor, and scale up the lessons as they age.
At a certain point, they will need to know if they have a genetic vulnerability to addiction. This point may come much sooner than you realize since early experimentation with drugs and alcohol is another major factor in addiction risk.
Genes, epigenetics, and early environment play a major role in our lives, but they aren’t destiny. By taking sensible precautions, keeping an eye out for warning signs, addressing problems early, and taking care of your mental health, you can avoid the trap of addiction. If you do end up developing a substance use issue, help is available.
At The Foundry, we know that the roots of addiction are complex. We involve the entire family in treatment to create a supportive home environment through healthy boundaries and better communication. We also use evidence-based methods to treat co-occurring conditions and help you live a happier, more fulfilling life free of drugs and alcohol. For more information, call us at (844) 955-1066.
Four Thinking Mistakes that Can Stand in the Way of Addiction Recovery
One of the most important ideas in modern psychology is that our thoughts are largely responsible for our emotional reactions. This is a central concept in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, and other cognitive therapies. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic and you become angry.
However, the other driver didn’t directly cause you to be angry. What made you angry were your own beliefs about the situation, perhaps something like, “That guy shouldn’t have done that,” or “That was a deliberate insult.” Most of the time, these things are just accidental, the result of momentary inattention. If you can think about them in that way, they don’t upset you very much.
A lot of cognitive therapy is focused on identifying and challenging these distorted beliefs. In another post, we looked at how inaccurate thinking can contribute indirectly to addiction by worsening anxiety. Here, we are going to look at some ways that inaccurate thinking can more directly keep you from seeking help for addiction and sticking to your recovery plan.
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
One of the worst offenders is all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking. In this way of thinking, something is either a total success or a total failure. The problem is that pretty much everything in life is a mixed bag and if you’re only happy with total victories, you are not going to be very happy and you’re not going to try many things.
There are several ways all-or-nothing thinking can hold back your recovery from addiction. The first is if you’re waiting for the perfect time to act--because there will never be a perfect time. There will always be some excuse--you’re busy with work, you’re not feeling well, you have to feed your cat, and so on. Since addiction is a progressive disease, getting help will always be harder in the future, so it’s better not to wait for the perfect time.
Second, there are a lot of treatment options, all requiring different levels of commitment in terms of time and money. Sometimes you just can’t get the level of treatment you feel you need but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get some kind of help. For example, you may feel like you need inpatient treatment to help you deal with cravings and avoid toxic influences, but it’s just not possible right now for whatever reason. It’s still worth your time to try something, whether it’s an outpatient program, seeing a therapist, or going to 12-step meetings. Look for ways to improve your situation, even if they’re not perfect solutions.
Third, it’s pretty common for people to slip in recovery. It’s also pretty common, when this happens, to think, “Well, I’ve already ruined my recovery, so I might as well go all the way.” In reality, a slip and a full relapse are not even close to the same. A slip is a setback but it’s also easy to fix. If you keep going, you put yourself at risk for an overdose and when you finally do decide to get sober again, you may have to go through withdrawal again. It’s better to limit the damage when you can.
Overgeneralization is another extremely common error. It can take two forms. It’s typically either, “I did badly in this one particular thing, and therefore I’m no good at anything,” or “I failed on my first try and therefore I’ll never succeed.” Both of these are objectively false and they make recovery harder. For the first one, overgeneralizing horizontally, as it were, you will probably find some aspects of recovery harder than others.
Maybe group therapy is a challenge or maybe you’re trying to make some healthy lifestyle changes and they just don’t seem to stick. That can be terribly frustrating but it also doesn’t mean you’re comprehensively screwing up your recovery. There may be other aspects that are going really well, perhaps individual therapy or improving communication with your family. Give yourself credit for those things as you continue to work on the more challenging aspects.
Similarly, you may have tried to get sober once or twice, slid back into drinking and using drugs, and decided, “I’m just never going to be able to stay sober.” You’re taking that very limited data to be decisive. In reality, plenty of people have to try several times to stay sober. People slip up, they have full relapses, but they keep at it and eventually have a long recovery. Persistence will eventually pay off.
Telescoping is when you focus on the bad aspects of a situation to the point where you can’t even see the good. For example, you might enter treatment feeling ambivalent about being there and immediately start looking for reasons to leave. You become laser-focused on every little thing that’s wrong with your treatment program or facility.
Maybe a counselor misspoke and called something by the wrong name, so you decide the staff doesn’t know what they’re doing--also an example of overgeneralization--or maybe your room isn’t quite as nice as you would like it to be so you complain about the facilities being awful, and so on. You may be so focused on these things that you really believe they prove the program is no good.
However, you may also be missing out on a lot of benefits by being too focused on the negative aspects of your experience. Maybe you’ve met some pretty great people or your therapist is really astute or you discovered that you really love hiking. When you feel like you’re too focused on the negatives, try broadening your scope. See if you identify some positive things too. It will not only improve your treatment experience, but it will make you happier overall.
4. Fundamental Attribution Error
The fundamental attribution error is not typically identified as a cognitive distortion in CBT but it is relevant for anyone in recovery. It’s the belief that your own actions are the result of specific circumstances but other people’s actions are a result of their basic character. Going back to the traffic example, when you cut someone off, it was because you just didn’t see them or you weren’t aware the lane ended, or something, and you’re usually a very courteous driver but when they cut you off, they’re a reckless jerk. In the context of recovery, a very similar thing is common.
You go to a 12-step meeting or you enter a treatment program and talk to other people a little bit and you suddenly feel like you don’t belong there. You’ve just been under a lot of stress at work or your friends have been partying a lot lately so you’ve been drinking or using drugs more than you probably should, but all the other people there are addicts.
This can be a big impediment to engaging with treatment because you feel like what applies to other people doesn’t apply to you. In AA, they call this “terminal uniqueness.” What’s important is not to yoke yourself with the addict label but rather to realize that everyone around you is also there because of specific circumstances.
Everyone has been feeling stressed, or coping with traumatic memories, or struggling with depression, and so on, and everyone there--including you--needs a bit of help with their substance use. Accepting that everyone there has a story, helps you overcome terminal uniqueness, allowing you to be more engaged in treatment and feel a genuine connection to the people around you.
There are many ways your mind can play tricks on you when it comes to addiction. The thinking mistakes discussed above can apply to pretty much anything but they are particularly relevant for people seeking and engaging with treatment. Being aware of them is the first step in overcoming them.
At The Foundry, we know that everyone has a different story and different needs from treatment. We believe that treatment for addiction should always be individualized but that everyone benefits by making the journey together. We also use evidence-based therapeutic methods including CBT and DBT to help clients untie the knots that are holding them back. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Six Ways to Manage Pain in Addiction Recovery
For many people who struggle with substance use, especially opioids, pain is a major barrier to recovery. Perhaps you’re afraid that without drugs or alcohol, you won’t have a way to manage pain, or perhaps you’ve already gotten sober and the pain is a major challenge to staying sober. Pain is still frustratingly elusive and although it’s the subject of intensive research, there is still a lot we don’t know about what causes pain, especially chronic pain. However, we do know something about managing pain, and that knowledge grows by the year. The following are some ways you can reduce and manage pain in addiction recovery without drugs or alcohol.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
When it comes to pain management, talking to your doctor is always the place to start. Make sure you are honest about your addiction history. This might feel uncomfortable, especially if you have been in the habit of bamboozling doctors for opioid prescriptions. People with a history of substance use also know that doctors sometimes take them less seriously once they know about their addiction history. However, in this case, you are specifically saying that you need help managing pain without addictive drugs.
What your doctor suggests will largely depend on your circumstances, specifically whether you’re dealing with acute pain, such as from an injury or medical procedure, or chronic pain, especially if it has no apparent cause. Over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs are often more effective for acute pain than many people realize--especially in combination--even for pain resulting from surgery. Chronic pain can be trickier. However, one important thing to understand is that opioids are actually not very good for treating chronic pain since long-term use increases your pain sensitivity and may even spontaneously cause new pain.
2. Try Physical Therapy
For some kinds of pain, physical therapy can be a powerful treatment. There are primarily two ways physical therapy helps. First, movement is good for pain. When you have pain, your natural reflex is to limit your movement to prevent pain. This is good in the short term, as it allows an injury to heal, but in the long term, your mobility becomes limited and your pain increases. Physical therapy is a way to improve mobility under the care of an expert.
Second, chronic pain is often caused by weak or unbalanced muscles. This is especially common in knee pain and lower back pain. Strengthening and balancing the muscles around the affected area reduces stress on the area, which reduces pain. It often takes someone with a detailed understanding of anatomy to help you strengthen the right muscles.
Finally, there are newer methods that rely on electrical stimulation in specific areas that can help reduce pain. This has been shown to be especially effective for neuropathic pain, or pain that’s caused by nerve damage.
3. See a Therapist
It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but there are several reasons you should see a therapist if you’re struggling with pain. First, and perhaps most importantly for people recovering from addiction, pain is often a symptom of depression--one people typically don’t think of. It may manifest as headaches, muscle aches, chest pain, or joint pain. In fact, pain is one of the primary reasons people seek medical attention leading to a diagnosis of depression. This is especially common among men. Effectively treating depression should also reduce pain.
However, even if you don’t have major depression, your therapist can help you cope with pain. There are cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, techniques that can help you cope with pain. Another form of cognitive therapy is acceptance and commitment therapy that is also helpful for pain. Typically, these help you change your thinking so that the pain isn’t worse than it needs to be and it allows you to better function despite the pain.
Exercise also seems like a counterintuitive way to cope with pain, however, it can be tremendously helpful. First, it’s important to consult with a doctor to make sure exercise won’t aggravate an injury. It may also be good to consult a physical therapist for the reasons described above. However, exercise is good for reducing pain overall.
It trains your nervous system to be less sensitive to stimuli and to re-categorize the sensations associated with exercise as normal sensations rather than pain. It also helps in a peripheral way by improving your mood and reducing your sensitivity to stress, and perhaps reducing depressive symptoms, as discussed above.
5. Pay Attention to Your Diet
Diet is too often overlooked when it comes to managing pain. An anti-inflammatory diet is particularly important. Inflammation is the redness and swelling that occurs at the site of an injury or infection and the pain associated with inflammation helps immobilize the injured area. Therefore, it only makes sense that if you want to reduce pain, you also want to reduce inflammation.
That means reducing or eliminating inflammatory foods such as sugar, alcohol, processed flour, processed meats, and vegetable oils, and most fried foods. It also means eating a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods instead. Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet is especially good for reducing inflammation. This diet is rich in whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fatty fish, such as salmon.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s also important to note that excess body fat is highly inflammatory. Fat cells promote the release of inflammatory molecules and the extra weight often contributes to joint pain and lower back pain, while reducing mobility. We’ve already looked at how exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce pain and those benefits are compounded insofar as they also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Pain is a real concern and chronic pain is one of the few things that reduce your happiness long term. It’s no wonder that some people fear the thought of living without drugs and alcohol if they believe it will leave them vulnerable to pain. However, unless you have a terminal illness, opioids are not a good long-term solution to pain and they will probably make it worse. Instead, work with your doctor and therapist to develop a comprehensive plan to manage and perhaps even eliminate pain.
At The Foundry, we know that both mental and physical pain are the primary drivers of addictive behavior and we help our clients deal with pain in a holistic way, using cutting edge therapeutic methods like CBT, EMDR, and Alpha-Stim as well as healthy lifestyle changes including exercise, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and healthier eating. To learn more about our program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Stay Sober When Your Partner Drinks?
In a perfect world, once you realize you have a problem with drugs and alcohol and decide to quit, your friends, your family, and especially your significant other would all respect your struggle and quit drinking too, at least around you. However, reality is seldom so obliging. We live in a drinking culture where the majority of Americans and Europeans drink at least occasionally and often regularly.
For people who are capable of drinking moderately, that’s not a big deal but for you, it can be terribly frustrating trying to stay sober when the people around you are drinking. It can be especially challenging if your significant other continues drinking in your presence, especially early on. However, you will often find that in recovery you have to make the best of an imperfect situation and this is no different. If you are trying to stay sober and your partner still drinks, here are some tips for making the best of it.
It’s crucial to communicate and not every couple is good or even competent at this. There are several reasons for this. First of all, you can hardly expect your partner to help you out if they don’t know what you need. Maybe you’ve said, “Hey, would you mind not drinking around me for, say, the next six months while I’m just getting started?” And they said, “Sorry, no,” and that was the end of it.
Maybe you just assumed they would quit drinking too but the thought never crossed their mind. Even if you did raise the issue and they said they wouldn’t quit drinking, there may be other ways they are willing to accommodate you but you have to learn to communicate to work these things out. You may even need couples therapy to work on communication in general.
The second reason communication is important is that poor communication leads to more conflicts, and frequently arguing with your significant other is one of the biggest ways to ratchet up your stress--one of the most powerful triggers of cravings. Learning to communicate better reduces stress and reduces cravings.
Know Your Triggers
It’s always important to know your triggers--the people, places, and things that cause drug and alcohol cravings. While there are some general things that tend to trigger cravings for most people--stress, for example--other cravings can be very specific, such as a friend you always used to drink with, a favorite bar, or even a particular holiday or anniversary.
The good news is that the more aware you are of your own specific cravings, the more information you can give your partner and the better you can work out effective compromises. Maybe one particular restaurant triggers cravings but another similar restaurant doesn’t. Maybe the smell of tequila triggers cravings but the smell of gin puts you off entirely. The more you are aware of these things, the more you can work around them.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
As with communication, maintaining healthy boundaries is always important in a relationship and it’s especially important when you’re recovering from addiction. Simply put, healthy boundaries are when you respect your partner’s values and autonomy and they respect yours. So while it’s important to express your needs and ask them to help, it’s also important to realize that you ultimately can’t control what they do.
It’s also important to assert your own values and independence. It’s fairly common for people with substance use issues to get involved in codependent relationships, in which one person forsakes their own needs and desire to care for the other, which is bad for both partners. If boundaries are a problem for you, you may need couples therapy or you may even need to consider separating.
Involve Them in Recovery
As noted above, it’s often a good idea to participate in couples therapy when communication or boundaries become a problem. Often, family therapy is even an integral part of addiction treatment programs. However, involving your significant other in recovery goes far beyond that. Many programs offer education sessions to help family members better assist their loved one’s recovery. Just having a better understanding of how addiction works and the roles family play can make them feel more engaged in the process and better able to help. They may also benefit from participating in a group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, which can help them better understand what you’re going through while also offering them some emotional support.
Move Things Around
One major challenge in having a partner who still drinks is if they want to keep alcohol in the house. While it’s better to keep alcohol and drugs out of the house entirely, you may be able to reach an acceptable compromise. For example, maybe they can keep their beer in a different fridge, perhaps in a room you don’t go into very often, so you aren’t confronted with a case of beer every time you want to make a sandwich.
Maybe they can drink something you’re not especially fond of, rather than your go-to drink. Perhaps there are other triggering items in the house that you could get rid of, put in storage, or put somewhere you’re less likely to see them. As discussed above, it all comes down to knowing your triggers and being able to communicate.
Make a Plan for Socializing
Home arrangements aren’t the only challenge. If you’re going out, especially with friends, you may have to strategize on how best to avoid triggers and temptations. For example, you might take separate cars, in case you want to leave early. You may prefer certain friends to others. You may decide that for some occasions, it would be better if you stayed home or did something else while your partner goes out. When you do go out together, it may be a good idea to remind your partner that they shouldn’t let you drink. Get them to promise, if necessary.
Remember That You’re Ultimately Responsible
It would be great if your partner was completely committed to helping you stay sober and willing to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and even supportive partners don’t always know the right thing to do in every situation. The important thing to remember is that although support is nice, you are ultimately responsible for your own recovery.
Life is often messy and sometimes you just have to weigh up all your competing motivations and make the best choice you can. It’s possible that your partner won’t stop drinking but is still, on balance, good for you and good for your recovery. Communicate your needs as well as you can, maintain healthy boundaries, and make strategic compromises, and most of the time, you should be able to stay sober, even if your partner drinks.
At The Foundry, we know that no one recovers from addiction alone. Having a strong sober network as well as a supportive partner are among the greatest assets you can have. Our program aims to involve the family in recovery as much as possible, providing both emotional support and educational opportunities for the people closest to our clients. For more information, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
What Are Some Lesser-Known Signs of Addiction?
No one likes to believe their loved one has a substance use disorder. Not only that, it’s a fairly serious thing to confront someone about unless you’re pretty sure. This is bad for two reasons. First, if your loved one does have a substance use issue or other addiction, they will use your attentional blindness and uncertainty against you. They can easily leverage your doubts into making you apologize and drop the subject. Second, the longer you wait for clearer evidence, the worse their addiction will get. Addiction is a progressive disease and it will never be easier to overcome in the future, so time is valuable.
Some signs of addiction are fairly obvious. Someone may use drugs or alcohol excessively in your presence, even in appropriate situations. They may cancel plans or neglect other responsibilities so they can drink or use drugs. They may show withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking or using drugs for a few days. They may seem incapable of drinking in moderation. Or they may promise to quit or even try to quit but then continue using or drinking anyway.
However, the signs of addiction are not always so evident or decisive. Addiction affects people from all walks of life and often people who are capable and resourceful in their careers and other areas of their lives bring those same talents to hiding their addictions.
No matter how skilled someone is at hiding their addiction, there are two things addiction always requires: time and money. Therefore, someone with a substance use disorder or other addiction will always need ways to account for missing time. The closer they are to you, the harder it is. One excuse that is convenient for many people, especially high achievers, is that they’re working late.
Typically, working late on its own is not definitive proof--which is really true for any item on this list--but it’s one piece of evidence. If your loved one is suddenly working longer hours, it could be a sign of addiction--perhaps even to work--or it could be a sign they’re hiding something else like an affair or planning a surprise party. Or they might actually be working. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Traveling a Lot
Another way of reserving time for an addiction is to travel more. This gives you time alone and you’re less likely to run into people you know. People who are especially concerned about their reputations, for either personal or professional reasons, often prefer to buy drugs and engage in other addictions farther from where they live so they are less likely to run into people they know. Traveling more for work or to visit relatives and insisting on going alone may be another sign of addiction.
Running More Errands
It’s tricky to hide an addiction from someone you live with. Even if you can duck into the garage or the laundry room for a drink or whatever, you still risk being discovered or having your stash discovered. It’s much safer to drink or use in another space. But what if you’re at home and the craving suddenly hits you? Well, maybe you get called into work unexpectedly or you left something important at the office.
Maybe you need to run out to the store or someone your spouse never talks to is having some kind of crisis. These kinds of errands that seem to come up more often may be cover for addictive behavior.
As noted above, every addiction requires time and money. We’ve looked at some ways of accounting for missing time but the money is perhaps the more decisive factor. This is true whether it’s a substance addiction, like drugs or alcohol, or a process addiction like gambling, shopping, or sex. Missing money is always cause for concern. You might notice cash missing, a sudden drop in your checking account or a savings account, or new debts.
Sometimes, this is very hard to catch. For example, your spouse may have taken a lot of money out of their retirement account and you would have no way of knowing. Or they may say they want to transfer some savings into another investment that doesn’t really exist. Any kind of scheme to move money around or borrow, steal, or scam money should be a big red flag, especially combined with other evidence.
It’s possible to keep up appearances, maintain your relationships, and perform well at work despite a substance use disorder for a while, but eventually, cracks will start to show and illnesses are among the more difficult cracks to paper over. Illness might be an excuse for being hungover or otherwise impaired or it may be genuine. Many substances, especially alcohol and opioids leave you more vulnerable to illness and infection.
You may even develop fairly serious medical issues like liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. Fatty liver can develop even with relatively few other signs of alcohol use disorder.
As with more frequent illnesses, more frequent injuries are often a sign of substance use issues. Alcohol and other drugs often impair balance, coordination, and judgment. What’s more, they can impair your pain perception and your memory, so you might not even be aware that you were injured or know how it happened. If your loved one has injuries but they don't know where they got them or they lie about where they got them, it could be a sign of substance use.
If your loved one gets a DUI or gets arrested for fighting while drunk, they will probably give you some kind of story like, “The one time I have a few drinks before driving home and I get busted!” That’s possible, but it’s very unlikely. If your loved one gets into some kind of trouble while drunk or high, it more likely indicates a pattern of behavior, even if it was a pattern that you were completely unaware of.
It’s a pretty serious thing to confront someone about a substance use disorder or other addiction and it’s also a lot to deal with if they do have a problem. Keep in mind that it’s not an accusation, it’s a conversation. Maybe mention you’ve noticed they’ve been behaving differently lately and ask if they’re ok and how you can help. Ask open-ended questions and listen attentively. You’re not trying to trap them; you’re trying to figure out if there’s a serious problem they need help with. The best approach is always non-judgment and compassion.
At The Foundry, we know that it’s not easy to face the possibility that your loved one has a substance use disorder. It’s much easier to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope everything turns out ok. However, addiction is a progressive disease and if you look the other way for too long, you might find your life unraveling. We provide comprehensive addiction treatment for mind, body, and spirit. We also involve the family throughout the process because we know that social connection and a supportive environment can make all the difference in recovery. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
Can You Detox at Home?
Detox is the first major hurdle in addiction recovery. Fear of withdrawal keeps many people drinking and using long after they stopped having fun. Withdrawal is often miserable but unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Many treatment programs, particularly residential programs, have medical detox built-in. There are also facilities you can go to specifically to detox before going into a treatment program or just trying to stay sober on your own.
A lot of people feel like they can detox on their own, perhaps following instructions from the Internet. That might work for some people--although you should consult a doctor before detoxing at home--but others should definitely consider detoxing in a facility. The following considerations can help you decide which is best for you.
When You Shouldn’t
You Have a Long-Standing Addiction
Withdrawal symptoms happen because your body has adapted to the presence of drugs and alcohol and it won’t function normally without them. The severity of withdrawal varies a lot from person to person but your level of drug and alcohol use and how long you have been physically dependent play a major role. They are the primary factors that determine how far your system has deviated and therefore how big of a shock it will be to suddenly have no drugs or alcohol in your system.
The timeline may not be as long as you would expect--better to think in terms of months, not years. For example, a man who averages 12 drinks per day for two months will have about a 50% risk for major withdrawal symptoms.
You Drink Heavily
Alcohol is an especially tricky substance to detox from because DTs can come on suddenly after two or three milder days, seizures may happen with even moderate withdrawal, and DTs can be fatal in a small percentage of cases. As noted above, drinking consistently over a long period of time increases your risk, but the more you drink, the shorter your timeframe for serious withdrawal.
For example, a man who consumes 25 servings of alcohol per day has a 50% chance of serious withdrawal after only three days of continuous drinking. The catch is, of course, that if you’re drinking 25 drinks per day, you’ve probably been drinking heavily for a while already, alcohol poisoning would probably be the more pressing issue. The moral of the story is that DTs are nothing to mess around with.
At the very least, you should discuss your options with your doctor before you quit cold turkey after many days of consecutive drinking. Given how quickly you can go downhill and how much pain you can save with early intervention, detoxing in a facility is often the best choice for heavy drinkers.
You’ve Tried Before and Given Up
Every stage of recovery has its own challenges but withdrawal is an especially high wall to climb. People often try to sober up on their own and do well for two or three days, only to give up and go back to using when withdrawal symptoms get too severe. This is especially common when detoxing from opioids, since withdrawal symptoms are so miserable and for alcohol, since people are often aware that DTs can be dangerous.
When you detox in a facility, you have extra assurance that you’re detoxing in the safest way possible and therefore are less likely to fall back on the health excuse. Being in a facility can also increase your level of commitment and accountability, making you more likely to persevere through a tough detox.
You’ve Had a Rough Detox Before
It’s hard to predict how bad detox will be. As discussed above, severity and length of substance use are relevant factors, but perhaps the best predictor is if you’ve had a rough detox before. If your symptoms were severe or you had medical complications, it’s a pretty good sign that your next attempt will be similar and you would be better off detoxing in a facility.
You Have Co-Occurring Issues
Finally, withdrawal symptoms can put a lot of stress on your body, so if you have any co-occurring conditions, it’s much safer to detox under medical supervision. Relevant co-occurring issues might include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or pregnancy. It may also be a good idea to detox in a facility if you have co-occurring mental health issues like depression, any anxiety disorder, or other conditions that might compound an already stressful ordeal.
When It Might Be OK
You Don’t Have a Long Addiction History
As discussed above, the longer and more heavily you’ve been drinking and using drugs, the greater your risk for a severe withdrawal, and consistency is nearly as important as volume. For example, if you have unhealthy drinking patterns but you’re mostly bingeing on weekends, you probably won’t have serious problems with detox--unless you’re drinking 25 drinks per day, which, again, is another issue entirely.
Younger people also tend to have less severe withdrawal symptoms, partly because they’re more physically resilient and partly because they haven’t been drinking or using for as long. If you’ve been staying below about five drinks per day on average, you are fairly unlikely to have a severe detox, but everyone is different.
Your Doctor Is Helping You Taper
As noted above, if you’re considering detoxing at home, it’s always good to consult your doctor first. Sometimes a long taper is possible or even necessary. For benzodiazepines, for example, you typically have to taper down over a period of weeks or months to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms. People often taper down from prescription opioids so they can have a month or two of unpleasantness rather than a week of abject misery. The challenge with a taper is staying on track and not backsliding, so you will need some form of accountability.
You Have Someone at Home to Help
Finally, if you’re going to try to detox on your own, it’s much easier with help. It can be someone who lives with you, is willing to stay with you, or is willing to check on you frequently. Part of it is accountability--to keep you from running out to the liquor store, or whatever--but part of it is safety. For example, DTs can come on quickly, leading to confusion and loss of coordination.
You may not be able to call for help when you need it. Even if you are facing a less life-threatening detox, it can be hard to take care of yourself when you’re experiencing something that’s like the worst flu you’ve ever had. Having someone reliable to watch out for you while you detox makes the process more comfortable and likely to succeed.
At The Foundry, we know that detox is often the one thing people fear most about getting sober. We offer detox that begins with a full medical evaluation and an individualized plan that ensures detox will be as safe and comfortable as possible. We want you to be as healthy as possible as you move from detox to recovery. To learn more about our approach to addiction treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
6 Ways to Deal With Boredom in Addiction Recovery
Boredom during addiction recovery is both common and dangerous. There are several reasons boredom is more common when you’re starting recovery. First, you may discover that you suddenly have a lot of extra time on your hands and you’re not sure what to do with it. Most people don’t realize how much time drugs and alcohol can devour. You may also be trying to distance yourself from friends who use drugs and alcohol, so your social activity may be temporarily diminished.
Boredom is also amplified by what’s going on in your brain when you first get sober. When you use drugs and alcohol, you’re essentially overclocking your dopamine system and this may go on for years or decades. When you quit, your brain is underwhelmed by things that might normally be interesting and enjoyable. Your brain is only sensitive to things related to drugs and alcohol. As a result, a lot of things will seem boring during the time it takes your brain to recalibrate.
This can be dangerous because boredom is stressful and during active addiction, it’s a problem you likely solved with drugs or alcohol. Therefore, it’s important to learn to deal with boredom in addiction recovery. Here are some tips.
There Is No Quick Fix
These days, most of us immediately reach for our phones when we feel the slightest bit bored but this is really only a superficial solution. It turns down your boredom from a distressing eight to a tolerable six. As a result, you may end up wasting hours doing a moderately boring activity like scrolling through Facebook or Reddit rather than doing something that might actually be fulfilling or productive. These kinds of time-wasters are fairly mind-numbing and will probably only make you feel more agitated in the long run.
What Is Boredom?
Keep in mind that your boredom may be trying to tell you something. Your problem is usually not that you have nothing to do, but rather that no available option seems appealing, engaging, or satisfying. Your brain may be trying to tell you something. Perhaps your usual activities don’t promote ends you really care about or perhaps your values or priorities have changed in ways you haven’t acknowledged. Boredom is an opportunity to think these things over and possibly consider new directions. Just be careful that you don’t fall into negative rumination.
Examine Your Thinking About Boredom
Boredom is not fundamentally different from any other challenging emotion. It’s typically some mix of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and lethargy. You want to do something but you’re not sure what. You can cope with boredom and the distress caused by boredom using the same techniques you would use to cope with other challenging emotions like anger or anxiety. If you have been through an addiction treatment program, you probably learned quite a few of these techniques while participating in cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy.
One common approach is to examine your underlying assumptions. For example, you might have trouble engaging with an activity if you’re thinking something like, “I’ll never get better at this,” or “there’s no point in doing this anyway.” Or perhaps you’re feeling distressed because of how you think about boredom, maybe something like, “It’s unfair that I feel bored; I shouldn’t feel this way,” when in reality, everyone feels bored occasionally. Spotting these faulty beliefs and challenging them can help you feel less bored or at least less bothered by boredom.
Do Something Boring
This one seems paradoxical, but if you try it, you might find it helpful. Part of the reason boredom is irritating is that we do something with the expectation that it will be fun and interesting but then it doesn’t deliver. However, when you vacuum the living room or put away your laundry, you don’t expect it to be fun; you just want the result. If you’re bored and nothing seems to engage your attention, pick something on your to-do list and do it. You may still find it boring but you’re bored anyway and this way, you’ll at least get something done. What’s more, you may find that doing something--anything--gets you out of your rut.
Rearrange Your Schedule
Occasional boredom is unavoidable. Maybe you’re stuck in another pointless meeting at work or your dentist is running behind schedule. However, if you’re frequently bored, you may not have enough to do. See if there’s something you can add to your schedule to keep you a little more busy--a 12-Step meeting, a standing coffee date, a workout, an art class, whatever. The trick is to structure your days so that you have enough to do that you’re not bored but not so much to do that you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Set a Timer
Finally, when nothing seems satisfying, try setting a timer for 10 minutes or so and sticking with an activity for the whole time, even if it feels tedious and pointless at first. Many activities, especially complex and productive activities, take a certain amount of effort and focus for them to be engaging. It may take a few minutes to get into a novel you’re reading or to remember where you left off on a project.
If you give up after a couple of minutes of feeling disinterested, you’ll never get into it. Sometimes you just have to persist until you overcome that initial resistance. Try picking something you want to do and sticking with it for a certain length of time no matter what. If you’re still not into it after 10 or 15 minutes, try something else.
Boredom is a real problem in recovery, but it’s no different from other challenging emotions. Remember that, like other emotions, boredom is just information. It’s an opportunity to think things over and it doesn’t have to be distressing. It can also be an opportunity to do something useful and to practice overcoming inertia.
At The Foundry, we understand that recovery from addiction isn’t just about abstinence from drugs and alcohol; it’s about living a happier, more fulfilling life. We use a variety of proven methods to help our clients tolerate and manage stressful emotions as part of a holistic treatment program. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How to Write an Intervention Letter That Makes a Difference
When you have a loved one with a substance use disorder, sometimes you get to a point where you’ve done all you can to encourage them to get help and all that’s left is to stage an intervention before it’s too late. If you do decide to stage an intervention, it’s essential to do it with the help of an intervention specialist, someone who has training and experience in running interventions.
There’s a lot more to it than just getting everyone together in a room and asking the person to get help and the specialist can help with the planning and facilitation. Everyone participating in the intervention will be asked to read an intervention letter. There are several reasons it’s important to write a letter rather than just making it up as you go.
First, an intervention is a form of public speaking with pretty high stakes and you don’t want to get stage fright and forget what you intended to say. On the other end of the spectrum, you also don’t want to start going off on tangents and taking up everyone else’s time. You want your remarks to be focused and effective. Finally, an intervention is an emotionally charged situation. You want to say what you have to say without getting drawn into arguments that might sabotage the whole process. The following are some tips to help make your intervention letter as effective as possible.
Start From a Place of Love and Support
First, make it clear that the reason you’re participating in the intervention is that you love the person, you’re worried about them, and you want to help them. None of you would be there if that weren’t true, but your loved one might not see it that way. Their defenses will probably be up and you’ll want to do what you can to establish that you’re on the same side. It’s often a good idea to share a happy memory of the person or describe something about them or something they did for you that you’re genuinely grateful for.
Say That Addiction Is a Disease and Treatment Is Possible
The next thing is to make it clear that you see a clear difference between the way your loved one is really and how they act while in the grip of addiction. Make it clear that you understand addiction is a disease, that it’s not their fault, and that treatment is possible.
Describe Specific Times When Drugs and Alcohol Caused Problems
The main event of an intervention, the part we’re all familiar with, is when you describe the negative consequences drugs and alcohol have had on your loved one and the people they care about. This can easily turn into a laundry list but there are several important factors to keep in mind if you want your letter to make an impact. First, only describe events that you have firsthand knowledge of.
These should be things that affected you directly or that you personally witnessed. This helps to avoid credibility issues that may arise if you relied on secondhand accounts or rumors. Second, there is a room full of people waiting their turn to speak and they’ll probably cover those other incidents themselves.
Next, be sure to stick to facts. Avoid generalizations, value judgments, and attributing motives to your loved one. Again, these all open the door to arguments and rationalizations. The idea of an intervention is that the accumulation of hard facts gradually becomes overwhelming and undeniable. Avoid statements like, “You’re always getting drunk and yelling at me and the kids.”
Instead, say something like, “The police have been called on us three times this year and all of those times, you had been drinking.” You might want to start by brainstorming all the ways drugs and alcohol have hurt your loved one and then narrow it down to three to five of the most potent incidents to include in your letter.
Ask Them to Accept Help
After you have described exactly what addiction has done to your loved one, as well as their friends and family, reiterate that you believe addiction is a disease, one that experience shows they can’t deal with alone and ask them to accept help. Affirm that they can’t keep going on like this but that life can get better with treatment.
State the Consequences of Not Accepting Help
An ultimatum is only advisable in a small percentage of cases. Your intervention specialist will determine whether you should include consequences for your loved one refusing help. However, if you do include an ultimatum, you have to be prepared to follow through.
If you’re telling your child, “If you don’t get help, I’m not going to keep paying for college and I’m not going to support you financially,” then you have to follow through, or else it will undermine any future efforts you make to persuade them to accept help. They’ll know your threats are empty and they can do what they want.
Get Feedback and Make Revisions
Finally, don’t be satisfied with the first draft of your letter. To paraphrase Hemingway, the first draft of everything is, well, not good. After you’ve written your first draft, put it away for a day or two, if possible, then read it aloud to yourself. This will make any mistakes or awkward phrases jump out at you. This is especially important because the ultimate purpose of the letter is for you to read it out loud, so make it easy on yourself.
Next, show it to some people whose judgment you respect and see if they have any feedback. Don’t take criticism personally; keep in mind you’re all working together to try to help your loved one. Finally, make sure to get some feedback from your intervention specialist. Ideally, you will do a full rehearsal so you can all read your letters and get feedback, but at the very least, they should be able to read it over and give you suggestions. Keep in mind that this person has a lot of experience in interventions and has most likely been the subject of an intervention themself, so their feedback is especially valuable.
An intervention led by an experienced specialist has a good chance of getting your loved one into treatment. You can do your part by writing a compelling letter and being a team player. Always write from a place of love and support and when discussing the consequences of your loved one’s substance use, stick to undeniable facts.
It’s always hard to see a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder but life can get better. At The Foundry, we know that evidence-based treatment, healthy lifestyle changes, and family support are keys to a sustainable recovery from addiction. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us at (844) 955-1066.
The Pros and Cons of Caffeine in Addiction Recovery
One stereotype about addiction that may actually have some truth to it is that people in recovery smoke and drink a lot of coffee. A study of nearly 300 AA members in Nashville found that nearly 57 percent smoked cigarettes, compared to just 14 percent of Americans overall, and nearly 89 percent drank coffee, compared to about 64 percent of Americans overall.
Smoking is clearly bad for you and your recovery, as discussed in another post, but what about coffee? As you might expect, the picture with coffee, and caffeine in general, is more complicated.
The Source Is Important
First, it makes a huge difference whether you’re getting caffeine from coffee or tea or from energy drinks. Health experts are pretty much unanimous that energy drinks should be avoided. Part of the problem is that you never quite know what you’re getting. Some energy drinks have extravagant levels of caffeine. Others contain exotic ingredients, the effects of which are poorly understood, especially in combination with other ingredients.
Perhaps most importantly, energy drinks tend to have a lot of sugar. The average energy drink has about 23 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 36 grams of sugar per day total for men and no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women. The energy drink with the most sugar is Rockstar Xdurance, with a stunning 69 grams.
Excess sugar consumption is bad for your health in general and has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic inflammation, and fatty liver disease. For people recovering from substance use disorders, these outcomes are especially bad. Someone recovering from alcohol use disorder, for example, is already at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.
Sugar can take a toll on your mental health as well, putting you at greater risk for relapse. Several studies have found that high-sugar diets and obesity increase your risk of depression. Inflammation has also recently been implicated in some forms of depression. In short, if you’re recovering from addiction and drinking energy drinks, you would be far better off consuming an equal amount of caffeine in the form of coffee.
There Appear to Be Some Mild Health Benefits
As for whether you should drink coffee or tea, it’s a mixed bag and it largely depends on your situation. There do appear to be some mild health benefits associated with coffee and tea. The case for tea is pretty straightforward. It’s loaded with antioxidants and numerous studies have shown that heavy tea drinkers have a slightly lower risk of various cancers. The only real downside is burning your mouth when drinking it too hot.
Coffee is a bit harder to pin down since contradictory studies emerge every few years. For example, some older studies found a slight increase in bladder and pancreatic cancer risk but those have been largely discredited. It does appear that coffee raises your blood pressure and that unfiltered coffee can raise your cholesterol.
However, a number of studies have identified a number of health benefits from moderate--that is, about four cups a day or less--coffee consumption. These include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, and gout--all risks that are heightened by excessive alcohol consumption. These positive effects aren’t huge, but if you’re already drinking a few cups of coffee a day, they’re a nice bonus.
Caffeine Can Improve Your Mood
Caffeine can also have some positive effects on your mental health. Coffee’s effects on mental health have been pretty well documented and they include increased alertness--obviously--more energy, better cognitive function, and better mood, as well as fewer depressive symptoms and lower risk of suicide. These effects can give you an edge in dealing with the sluggishness and irritability common early in recovery.
Drinking coffee might be considered a form of self-medicating, but for most people, the negative effects of moderate coffee consumption will be preferable to those of even well-tolerated SSRIs. The only caveat is that you shouldn’t use caffeine as a substitute for therapy for a mental health issue.
Caffeine Can Aggravate Anxiety
The biggest drawback for many people in recovery will be caffeine’s tendency to aggravate anxiety. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which feels the same as anxiety or even panic. If you’re not prone to anxiety, moderate consumption is probably fine but if you have issues with anxiety, even a little caffeine may make them worse. According to one study, nearly 18 percent of people with a substance use disorder had problems with anxiety in the past year. That means there’s a decent chance you should be trying to manage your anxiety levels, which might include cutting down on caffeine.
Caffeine Can Disturb Your Sleep
The other major concern about caffeine for people in recovery is its effect on sleep. Insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom and it may persist for weeks or months into recovery. If you’re guzzling coffee all day, that’s not likely to help you sleep any better. Caffeine has a half-life of about four to six hours, depending on your metabolism. That means that even if you quit drinking coffee at noon, there may still be quite a bit of caffeine in your system at bedtime. That may keep you up or it might just cause you to sleep less deeply.
Insomnia and chronic sleep deficit have been linked to a number of mental health issues. In the short term, these include poor concentration, poor working memory, and poor emotional regulation. In the long term, it significantly increases your risk of anxiety disorders and major depression. Since both of these are common factors in developing substance use disorder and relapsing to substance use, it’s important to get enough quality sleep, which may entail reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake.
Everyone’s situation in recovery is different. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and some people metabolize it very quickly. Some people can’t sleep after drinking a cup of coffee in the afternoon, others can sleep fine if they have a cup right before bed. Some people have anxiety issues and some don’t. It’s important to be aware of your own vulnerabilities and act accordingly.
At The Foundry, we understand that recovery from addiction is highly individual, which is why we work with clients to come up with a treatment plan that best suits their specific needs. We also know that a strong recovery depends on making healthy lifestyle changes, including diet. We incorporate all of these things into our holistic addiction treatment. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
7 Mental Health Challenges that Drive Addiction
Most people who struggle with substance use issues also struggle with at least one other mental health challenge. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that at least half of people with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health issue. Typically, the mental health issue comes first and substance use is often a means of self-medicating.
However, drugs and alcohol only make symptoms worse in the long run. A strong recovery requires that you get integrated treatment for substance use and any mental health issues. The following are the most common mental health issues that occur with addiction.
Anxiety disorders include several specific conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Anxiety disorders affect more people than any other mental health issue. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 30 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
Anxiety is also a significant factor in developing a substance use disorder. According to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions--a survey of more than 43,000 adults revealed nearly 18 percent of respondents with a substance use disorder also met the criteria for an anxiety disorder not related to withdrawal.
Perhaps not surprisingly, marijuana was the most commonly used substance among people with anxiety disorders. Perhaps more surprisingly, cocaine and amphetamine use was also common, while the association with alcohol was weaker. It’s important to note, though, that this survey didn’t include PTSD, which is a major risk factor in itself.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, may be one of the single biggest risk factors for developing a substance use issue. PTSD is far less common than anxiety disorders generally, affecting less than eight percent of Americans, but its effect on addiction risk is huge.
Some studies estimate that as many as half of people with substance use disorders also have symptoms of PTSD. PTSD itself has a complicated relationship with other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. For this reason, addressing trauma is often a crucial element of addiction treatment.
Just over seven percent of Americans will have a depressive episode in a given year and the World Health Organization estimates that depression is the world’s leading cause of disability. Depression also significantly contributes to addiction risk. One study found that among people with major depression, 16.5 percent had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent had a drug use disorder.
In other words, depression roughly doubles your risk of developing a substance use issue. This is especially true of men, who are less likely to seek therapy and more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Bipolar disorder is technically considered a depressive disorder, but it’s a much different challenge than unipolar depression and a much greater risk factor for addiction. The study cited above also found that among people with bipolar disorder, 56 percent developed a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.
Bipolar disorder also complicates addiction treatment since it often requires some trial and error with medications and people experiencing manic episodes sometimes believe they’re cured and no longer need treatment. Bipolar is also frequently misdiagnosed as unipolar major depression, which slows treatment and recovery.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a bigger risk factor than many people realize. It’s typically characterized by racing thoughts or jumping from one line of thought to another. In adolescence, this can lead to poor performance in school, social ostracism, and impulsive behavior--all risk factors for substance use.
One study found that more than 15 percent of adults with ADHD met the criteria for a substance use disorder, which is at least twice the rate in the general population. The good news is that that number appears to drop when ADHD is controlled with therapy and medication.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder, or PBD, is a condition characterized by volatile moods, unstable self-image, and turbulent relationships. While BPD only affects about 2.7 percent of adults, about 78 percent of people with BPD will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. One reason that number is so high is that BPD also increases your risk of anxiety and affective disorders, including PTSD.
BPD also presents special challenges to addiction recovery, since people with BPD are more likely to drop out of treatment and remain sober for shorter periods. BPD requires special treatment methods and currently, dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is the best available treatment.
Schizophrenia affects just over one percent of Americans, but of those, around 50 percent have a co-occurring alcohol or drug use issue. The relationship between schizophrenia and substance use remains a bit more mysterious than that of other mental health challenges. For example, we aren’t quite sure why 70 percent of people with schizophrenia are nicotine-dependent, why they appear to use marijuana more heavily and at an earlier age, or why marijuana appears to precipitate symptoms in adolescents. As with bipolar and BPD, schizophrenia presents special challenges to addiction treatment since it often involves antipsychotic medication and difficulty sticking to a treatment regimen.
Mental health issues significantly increase your risk of developing substance use issues, and they also increase your risk of developing other mental health issues. For example, major depression and anxiety disorders often go together. For this reason, it’s often hard to pin down the relationships between substance use and mental health issues and it’s often hard to pin down exactly what mental health issue is causing your problems. However, this is crucial to figure out if you want to sustain recovery from addiction and feel better in general.
At The Foundry, we understand the huge role mental health plays in addiction recovery. That’s why we employ a variety of proven methods to help our clients manage their mental health challenges. These methods include DBT, CBT, EMDR, and others. To learn more about our addiction treatment program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Can Hypnosis Help You Overcome Addiction?
Hypnosis has been around for hundreds of years, and during that time, its reputation has periodically risen, fallen, and risen again. It has been used for everything from entertainment to battlefield surgery and some attribute to it near-magical abilities while others believe it’s pure nonsense. Using hypnosis to treat anything is generally based on the idea that if you can directly affect your subconscious mind in some way, you can dramatically change your experience of reality, whether you’re on stage believing you’re a chicken or undergoing surgery without pain.
The idea that you could use this power to overcome addiction is tantalizing. Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if someone set a glass of beer in front of you and instead of feeling a powerful desire to chug it, you only felt bland indifference? This is the dream that has been sold to many people trying to overcome various substance use issues. As with many treatment methods, hypnosis appears to be a bit of a mixed bag. Here are some of the things hypnosis can and can’t do.
What Hypnosis Isn’t
First of all, hypnosis isn’t some kind of magic power. There’s no animal magnetism, as Franz Anton Mesmer--where the word “mesmerize” comes from--believed. There may not even be anything physically identifiable as a hypnotic state. No one can hypnotize you to do anything you don’t want to do, contrary to many Hollywood storylines.
Although the relaxed state you typically achieve in hypnosis may make it easier for you to recall certain memories, it’s not like opening a file on your computer. In fact, hypnotically retrieved memories are no longer admissible in court, following a disastrous spate of false accusations in the 1990s. Most importantly for our purposes, it’s very unlikely that hypnosis is like flipping a switch for major behavioral change, such as overcoming addiction.
What Hypnosis Is
Experts actually disagree about what exactly hypnosis is. As noted above, various studies have failed to identify a specific hypnotic state in the brain. To the extent that hypnosis works, it is typically by a combination of deep relaxation and subtle reframing. So, for example, the hypnotist may ask you to relax and just notice the weight of your body against the couch, which, of course, you can feel.
And don’t you also notice a warm feeling in your chest? Sure you do. And now it’s expanding outward. And your arms and hands, which are feeling warm and also heavy, and so on. In the context of a medical procedure, the hypnotist may describe an incision as a feeling of slight pressure, drawing your attention to the feeling as it is, rather than the frightful thought of your skin being cut. Much of hypnosis is just allowing yourself to be led into a certain way of thinking.
Some Studies Show Promise in Treating Addiction
We’re currently on an upswing in scientific interest in hypnosis and a number of studies have found some promising results in using hypnosis to treat addiction. For example, one small study found that treatment that included hypnosis for alcohol use disorder led to an impressive 77 percent sobriety rate after one year. Another small study of people with opioid use disorder found that hypnosis helped all participants remain abstinent from all drugs for six months and 56 percent remained abstinent from heroin for two years. These were small preliminary studies but they suggest hypnosis may be a useful tool for addiction treatment.
Hypnosis May Enhance the Effect of Other Treatment Methods
In addition to treating addiction directly, hypnosis may be useful in addressing some of the factors that contribute to addiction. These typically include mental health issues, such as major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others, trauma, and dysfunctional relationships--in addition to genetic factors, which, unfortunately, we’re stuck with for the moment. Insofar as hypnosis can help improve these issues, it can help your chances of long-term recovery success too.
Hypnosis Can Help With Mental Health Issues
At least half of people with substance use issues also have some kind of co-occurring mental health issue. Addiction and mental illness each make the other worse and they must be treated simultaneously. Hypnosis may be useful in conjunction with other therapeutic methods. As noted above, hypnosis is really a skillful way of managing your attention through subtle suggestion and reframing.
In a way, this is what your therapist is trying to accomplish anyway. For example, a therapist using CBT might help you reframe a situation by bringing to your attention your irrational beliefs about the situation. Hypnosis can be used as an extension of this process.
Hypnosis May Help You Manage Pain
Many people develop substance use issues because they are taking opioids for chronic pain. This puts them in a bind because they are afraid quitting opioids will leave them defenseless against the pain. However, there are other ways of treating chronic pain, and hypnosis may play a part. Pain feels real and undeniable, but it’s actually complex and somewhat ephemeral.
It depends to some extent on our expectations and how we think about pain. In this regard, hypnosis can be helpful. As noted above, hypnosis has been used in battlefield medicine and its use for surgery is pretty well established. If it can help you through surgery, it can help with chronic pain. Just relieving some of your distress about pain can make the pain less intense and make it easier to give up your reliance on pain medication.
Not Everyone Is Equally Susceptible to Hypnosis
Finally, it’s important to note that not everyone is equally susceptible to hypnosis. We all fall somewhere on a spectrum from highly-hypnotizable to not at all hypnotizable, and so far, researchers have no idea why some people can be hypnotized and others can’t. This clearly will affect whether hypnosis can play a part in your recovery.
While this seems like a clear strike against hypnosis as a treatment methodology, it’s important to understand that the same applies to pretty much every treatment method. SSRI medications, for example, only work for about 40 to 60 percent of people with depression, but they remain an effective tool in the kit, and perhaps something similar is true of hypnosis.
Hypnosis isn’t magic and it won’t cause major behavioral changes overnight, but it is an adjunct treatment method with some scientific backing. If you’re interested in trying hypnosis as part of therapy or addiction treatment, look for a therapist or addiction counselor with real training in hypnotherapy, ideally, one certified by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, or ASCH.
At The Foundry, we understand that addiction is a complex problem that requires individualized solutions. We bring a number of evidence-based practices to the table to help our clients. These include CBT, DBT, EMDR, family therapy, lifestyle changes, and more. For more information about our approach to addiction treatment, call us at (844) 955-1066.
Should You Quit Smoking While Recovering from Addiction?
One stereotype commonly associated with people recovering from substance use disorders is that they are constantly drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. At least one study suggests there may be some truth to this particular stereotype. The study of nearly 300 AA members in the Nashville area found that nearly 57 percent smoked cigarettes, compared to only about 14 percent of Americans overall.
By now, we’re all aware of the negative health effects of smoking but many in recovery tend to regard it as the lesser evil--it’s clearly bad, but if it helps keep you sober, maybe it’s worth the health risks down the road. However, it’s not clear that smoking does help you stay sober, and there may also be other reasons to consider giving up smoking at the same time you give up drugs and alcohol.
Smoking and Relapse
As noted above, smoking in recovery is a bit of a gambit: You’re accepting possible risks down the road to hedge against a present threat. The assumption that smoking can help prevent relapse is largely based on the idea that it can help manage negative affect--more on that below--but research suggests there may be more important factors in play.
One study of more than 34,000 adults found that smoking was correlated with a much higher risk of relapse. Researchers from Columbia University examined three years’ worth of data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, or NESARC, and found that among people who had struggled with substance use issues in the past, those who smoked were nearly twice as likely to relapse as those who didn’t--about 11 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively. Those who started recovery as smokers but later quit had a relapse rate somewhere in the middle, about 8 percent.
With so much data and such a large disparity between smokers and non-smokers, this is one of the more compelling studies related to addiction. However, it does leave some questions unanswered. Although the study controlled for a number of factors, including demographics, mood, anxiety, alcohol use disorders, and nicotine dependence, it may be that smoking correlates with more serious substance use issues. And this was a population study, not an intervention. Despite these limitations, there may still be reasons to think smoking increases relapse risk, including those below.
Smoking Can Trigger Cravings
Perhaps the biggest reason to think smoking may increase risk of relapse is that it is often a powerful trigger. For example, people quite often drink and smoke at the same time. Smoking is a perfect trigger because it has a distinctive taste, smell, and motor pattern associated with it.
So, for example, if you had been in the habit of coming home from work, lighting a cigarette and pouring your first drink of the evening, you may find yourself craving a drink after you light a cigarette. Identifying and avoiding triggers is especially important early in recovery and smoking may be a potent one.
Smoking Kills More People
Since the rationale for smoking involves a risk calculation, it’s a good idea to look at the actual numbers. In 2018, more than 67,000 people died of a drug overdose, and each year, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. That’s about 155,000 deaths a year combined. By comparison, more than 480,000 people die from smoking-related causes each year. These include lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory infections, and COPD.
For many people, a serious health scare--perhaps an overdose, a heart problem, or a diagnosis of liver disease--is what finally convinces them to get sober. It makes little sense to trade one serious medical issue for another.
Even if the trade buys you an extra 10 or 15 years, diminished quality of life is almost certain. Other people decide to get sober because of the way their substance use affects their families. Similarly, it’s worth considering how a protracted struggle with cancer, heart disease, or emphysema would affect your family.
Smoking and Unresolved Issues
In the study of Nashville-area AA members, smokers typically reported that the reason they smoked was to reduce negative effects, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. While these are all common problems early in recovery, they may also be symptoms of untreated mental health issues, such as major depression or an anxiety disorder.
Mental health issues affect at least half of people with substance use disorders and they must be treated simultaneously for recovery to succeed long term. One shortcoming of mutual aid groups such as AA is that they can’t offer mental health treatment. So, if you are smoking more specifically to ward off depression or anxiety, it’s possible that you need to talk to a doctor or therapist about getting to the underlying cause.
Quitting and Willpower
Finally, quitting smoking might give you a slight boost in willpower. While it’s not a good idea to rely on willpower alone to recover from a substance use issue, it does play a supporting role and it can be handy in a pinch. One line of psychological research suggests that willpower is a faculty that can be strengthened with use.
A study on--of all things--smoking cessation found that participants who were asked to avoid sweets or squeeze a hand gripper for two weeks were more successful at quitting smoking than participants who were given a task that required no willpower. It’s possible you get a similar boost in willpower from quitting smoking, which can transfer to greater adherence to your recovery plan and longer abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but then, neither is overcoming any addiction. People with multiple addictions are expected to quit them all at the same time--with the exception of cigarettes. Although most addiction treatment programs don’t currently offer help quitting smoking, you can always decide to do it yourself. Given the other challenges of recovering from addiction, early recovery may be the least difficult time to quit smoking and it may improve your chances of a long recovery.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery from addiction isn’t only about abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but rather about making changes that help you live a healthier, more fulfilling life. We provide a supportive recovery environment and use a variety of evidence-based methods to help our clients succeed long term. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
Why Is Social Connection Important for Addiction Recovery?
If you look at most approaches to addiction treatment, from AA to residential programs, you’ll notice that social connection plays a big role--perhaps the most important role. While treatment programs typically include individual therapy and lifestyle changes, they also focus heavily on group therapy, family therapy, and group bonding activities. This isn’t to promote a summer-camp atmosphere; it’s the serious work of recovery. The following are some of the main reasons why social connection is so important for addiction recovery.
Connection Is a Basic Human Need
First, it’s important to understand that having family and friends you trust, that you feel comfortable talking to, and whom you can rely on is not just a luxury, it’s a real human necessity. While chatting with your friends or complaining to a sympathetic ear may seem frivolous in the scheme of things, they are the type of interactions that hold communities together and make you feel like you belong.
Although we tend to value self-reliance--especially men, and especially in the US--we all understand instinctively that our safety and wellbeing ultimately depend on cooperation. In our ancestral past, exile likely meant death, so feeling socially alienated is a major source of stress. In modern society, financial transactions have replaced many of our social transactions but in the end, we all need some sense of connection to feel happy.
Using Drugs to “Fill a Void” May Be Literally True
We’ve known for a long time that feeling unable to connect to others is a common theme among people who struggle with substance use. Whenever you get to know someone with a history of addiction, you will typically find they also have a history of trauma, abuse, or neglect. These kinds of experiences, especially in childhood, impair your ability to form trusting and meaningful relationships later in life.
People often say they use drugs to “fill the void.” Recent research suggests that may literally be true. In one fascinating experiment, researchers gave some participants a placebo for four days and gave other participants naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that prevents opioids from binding to receptors in the brain. The participants were then asked to rate their social interactions in terms of their feelings of social connection.
On the final day, they were given a task specifically designed to elicit feelings of social connection, such as reading statements of gratitude written by people close to them. After a 10-day clearing period to get the naltrexone out of the participants’ system, the placebo group was given naltrexone and vice versa. The researchers found that while taking naltrexone, participants reported significantly lower feelings of social connection.
Interestingly, other sources of pleasure appeared to remain unaffected. That suggests that our opioid receptors may be specifically related to the pleasure we derive from social connection. When those needs aren’t being met by healthy social interaction, the void may literally be filled by synthetic opioid molecules. The study also suggests that naltrexone injections, which are sometimes court-ordered for drug offenders, may actually inhibit authentic recovery.
Connection Reduces Stress
People recovering from addiction typically cite stress as their number one trigger for cravings. The type of stress doesn’t really matter, although we are all more vulnerable to certain kinds of stress. The feeling of being overwhelmed, feeling helpless, or feeling worthless makes you want to escape the situation. You feel like you can’t deal with it anyway, so you might as well go back to drugs and alcohol.
Social connection is one of the best buffers against stress. There are several reasons for this. One is that, as discussed above, socializing fills a basic human need. Just as you feel stressed when you’re hungry, you feel stressed when you are deprived of social interaction. The coronavirus pandemic illustrates just how strong this need is. People are willing to risk their lives and the lives of their family members to hang out in groups. Just as eating relieves the stress of hunger, social interaction relieves the stress of isolation.
Second, when you’re more socially connected, you have more resources available to solve problems. This is the underlying cause of the effect discussed above but it works on the rational level too. For example, being short on rent is much less stressful when you know a friend will lend you some money or a relative will let you stay with them if necessary. Often, just knowing these resources are available to you makes you feel more able to cope with stress, even if you never have to ask for help.
Connection Improves Your Health
Social connection isn’t just good for your mental health; it’s good for your physical health too. Research has linked chronic loneliness to a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and poor immune function--all common health problems caused by substance use, especially alcohol. In other words, if you feel chronically lonely in recovery, not only are you fighting an uphill battle to stay sober, but you may also be compounding already elevated health risks.
On the other hand, feeling connected reduces stress--and therefore stress-related illnesses--and increases the likelihood that you will continue other positive lifestyle changes and have access to medical care when you need it.
Connection Keeps You Focused on Recovery
Finally, having a strong sober network keeps you focused on recovery. There are always ups and downs in recovery. Sometimes you will feel very motivated and sometimes even the easiest part of your recovery plan will feel like an insufferable chore. Being part of a recovery-focused group will help keep you going even when your motivation is low or when you are distracted by other concerns.
You have frequent reminders of what you need to be doing in recovery, inspiring examples of what is possible if you stick with it, and possibly some cautionary examples reminding you of what’s at stake if you backslide. Furthermore, the dread of walking into a meeting and admitting you slipped is an extra incentive to stay strong in moments of temptation.
Social connection isn't the only factor in a strong recovery. Research also shows that genes play a major part in addiction risk. Furthermore, if your past experiences have impaired your ability to form social connections, you will probably need therapy to fix the problem. Just being more social won’t be enough on its own. However, having the right kind of sober support, reliable friends, and a good family environment can make a huge difference.
At The Foundry, we understand the importance of social connection in addiction recovery. We involve family in the recovery process to facilitate support, communication, and healthy boundaries. We also emphasize connection among our clients through group therapy and group activities. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Seven Ways to Avoid a Relapse of Depression
If you’ve had an episode of depression in the past, your chances of having another episode are about 50%. And if you’ve had two episodes of depression, your chances of another episode rise to about 80%. Depression is inherently miserable and no one wants to weather another episode. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, there is even more at stake, since depression is a major driver of addictive behavior. The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your chances of another episode of depression or reduce the severity of an approaching episode if you are able to catch it early.
1. Know Your Patterns
First, it’s important to know your patterns and triggers. Typically, the first episode of depression is triggered by something--a traumatic event, major stress, grief, and so on--and that can give you a clue to what might cause a relapse. Stressful events like having a baby, moving, a breakup or divorce, losing a job, getting a promotion, and so on are all things to watch out for.
Many people are also affected by seasonal changes, especially as winter approaches and the days get shorter. This is known as seasonal affective disorder and it can happen in the summer too. Finally, anniversaries are often a problem. It could be the anniversary of the death of a loved one or the first holiday after a divorce. Knowing your triggers and taking extra precautions can help prevent a relapse of depression.
2. Keep Track of What Works
Second, keep track of what works. If you had help from a therapist to get through your earlier episode, you have a headstart in this regard. Depression is different for everyone and it appears to have a variety of possible causes, which means it also has a variety of solutions. It’s a good idea to keep a record of what works for you someplace you can easily reference it.
For example, some people do really well on one kind of medication but not another. You may discover that there are two or three kinds of cognitive distortions that cause most of your problems. It can be hard to keep track of all these things so make a list and consult it often.
3. Stick to Your Treatment Plan
If you worked with a therapist during previous depressive episodes, you probably worked out a recovery plan, even if it wasn’t strictly codified. It might involve taking an SSRI, keeping up with therapy, making some healthy lifestyle changes, and so on. As you start to feel better, it’s tempting to start cutting corners.
You might be able to coast for a while but it will eventually catch up to you, especially if you suddenly have to deal with a lot of stress. Sticking to your treatment plan--or going back to it as soon as possible--is the single best way of preventing a relapse of depression.
4. Stay Connected
One common early symptom that depression is coming back is that you don’t want to be around anyone. People ask you if you want to go out but you’d just rather stay home. You feel like you can’t be bothered. Unfortunately, isolation is one of the things that will make you spiral down the fastest. The worse you feel, the more you want to be alone.
Staying connected is one of the best ways to improve your mood and feel better about yourself. It’s especially important when you feel tempted to isolate yourself. It’s crucial to resist that temptation, even if you’re only texting with friends and family.
5. Talk to Your Therapist
These days, psychotherapy isn’t typically like psychoanalysis, where you go every day for years. A course of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, might only last a few months. It tends to be more targeted to specific solutions and when those goals are met, there’s no reason to continue meeting. However, you shouldn’t hesitate to resume therapy if you feel like you might be heading for another episode of depression.
The earlier you see your therapist, the better. Often, just feeling somehow “off” can be a sign that depression is returning. Maybe you feel irritable or that mundane tasks are extremely frustrating. It’s better to talk things over when you’re not sure exactly what’s wrong rather than wait until you’re in the middle of a crippling episode of depression.
6. Boost Your Mood
When you’re already in the middle of an episode of depression, advice like “Cheer up,” “get out of the house,” “do something fun” sounds hopelessly oblivious but if the feelings of depression have just started creeping in, a little boost in mood can go a long way. There are many ways to change your mental state. You can listen to music, go for a walk, go out with friends, watch something funny, do something creative, or try something new.
If you can, travel is often a great way to change your state. Even a short trip to a new place can interrupt a downward spiral. The key is to figure out what works for you and add it to the list, as discussed above. Having a few go-to tactics for improving your mood can make the difference between being in a bad mood for a day or two and being depressed for months.
7. Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is extremely important for avoiding depression, avoiding a relapse of substance use, and for staying happy and healthy in general. The three main pillars of self-care are a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. These all help reduce your sensitivity to stress, help you regulate your emotions, boost your mood, and reduce inflammation, which is a factor in more than half of depression cases.
In addition to these, it’s also important to take time each day to relax and do something fun, even just for a few minutes. Spending time with friends and family, as discussed above, is also an important aspect of self-care.
Depression is a major risk factor for substance use and it is also very likely to return after you’ve had one episode. Fortunately, it’s not guaranteed to return. If you know your patterns and triggers, are aware of early warning signs, and take action early, you can avoid future episodes or at least reduce their severity.
At The Foundry, we know that substance use is often just a symptom of other problems. Mental illness, substance use, dysfunctional family dynamics, and maladaptive behaviors all feed on each other and keep you trapped in the cycle of addiction. That’s why we emphasize mental healthcare such as CBT and DBT as well as healthy family dynamics and healthy lifestyle changes as part of our holistic treatment program. For more information, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Six Easy Ways to Eat Healthier for Addiction Recovery
Healthy eating is one of the key lifestyle changes that will support a strong recovery from addiction. There are many reasons healthier eating is important. One is that addiction and poor nutrition often go together, typically from neglect but also because alcohol impairs your digestive system’s ability to absorb nutrients. This malnutrition can have many negative health effects and should be corrected as soon as possible.
Second, prolonged substance use increases your risk for a variety of medical problems, including heart disease, stroke, liver disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancers. Although you may not be able to fix these problems with a healthy diet, you can certainly reduce your risk. Finally, many studies have found that healthy eating reduces your risk of depression, which is a major driver of addictive behavior and affects about 20% of people with substance use disorders.
Adopting a healthy diet can help you feel better, be healthier, and have a stronger recovery, but it’s also challenging to change long-standing eating habits. The following are some relatively easy ways you can improve your diet quickly.
1. Write Down What You Eat
First, it’s crucial to actually know what you’re eating. Our memories tend to be very selective about what we eat so spend a week or two recording everything you eat as you eat it. Either write it all down in a notebook or use an app like MyFitnessPal. The latter has the advantage of being more accurate and recording nutritional information automatically, and it’s free. You may be surprised to see what your eating habits are really like.
2. Make One Change at a Time
One mistake people often make is trying to completely overhaul their diet right away--maybe going totally whole-food plant-based or totally keto or something else. That’s a lot of work up front, you encounter a lot of friction from friends and family, and you’ll be lucky to make it a week using that strategy.
Instead, focus on one small change at a time. There are two ways to approach this: You can either start by making an easy change and gradually make more challenging changes, which helps boost your confidence, or you can start with a change that will make the biggest difference in your health and mood. Say, for example, that after writing down everything you eat and drink, you realize you’re drinking more than two liters of Coke every day.
That’s nearly 800 empty calories and more than 42 grams of sugar, while the American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of sugar a day for an adult male. Therefore, tackling that one habit is going to have huge benefits in terms of a better mood, less inflammation, and maintaining a healthy weight.
3. Make Healthy Substitutions
A common mistake people make when trying to quit any bad habit is to just try to stop doing it. This leaves a sort of void and it’s very easy to slip back into the old habit. A better approach is to replace the bad habit with a good or neutral habit. Changing food habits is no different. Leaving something off your plate is hard; replacing it with a healthier option is much easier. In the example above, maybe you habitually pour yourself a glass of Coke every time you sit down to eat.
There are many easy substitutions that are much healthier. Water or unsweetened iced tea would be ideal, but you could also go for flavored sparkling water, or even a soft drink with less sugar would be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, fruit juice is often just as bad as soda in terms of sugar but a lot of people believe they’re choosing the healthier option.
You can make many different kinds of easy substitutions in order to eat healthier. You can eat baked or grilled chicken instead of fried, get the vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch, and get the baked potato instead of fries. Substitutions--especially those that favor whole foods--are an easy way to eat healthier without feeling deprived.
Add One Vegetable
Another tactic that you can use by itself or in combination with substitution is to just add one vegetable to every meal. That way you’re increasing your fiber and nutrition while only adding a few calories to your meal. It works with anything. For example, which is healthier: a burger and fries or a burger and fries and a carrot? Obviously, it’s better to have meals composed entirely of healthy whole foods, but it’s also important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and an easy way to do that is just to add a serving of vegetables to every meal.
Learn to Cook One Easy Meal
There’s a lot of research showing that people who cook more meals at home are healthier and closer to their ideal weight. There are a number of reasons for this but perhaps the biggest is that commercial foods tend to have more sugar and fat than the equivalent foods you make at home. Unfortunately, most people don’t have a big culinary repertoire and they don’t have time to cook every meal.
Start by learning to cook one easy thing that you don’t mind eating frequently. For example, rice and beans are super easy and you can make one batch and eat it all week. Even a sandwich is fine if the ingredients are fresh and healthy. You can buy frozen vegetables and pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and they taste fine. Figure out a few easy go-to recipes. The more meals you make at home, the healthier you’ll be.
Follow the 80% Rule
Finally, observe the 80% rule, which is that you should stop eating when you’re 80% full. It takes a few minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s full because the hormonal signal has to diffuse through your body. As a result, by the time we feel full, we’re often overstuffed. You can eat only healthy foods and still make yourself unhealthy by eating too much of it. It’s easier to observe the 80% rule if you pause occasionally while you’re eating to let your food settle. This gives the “full” signal a chance to reach your brain.
At The Foundry, we know that healthy lifestyle changes make everything else in addiction recovery easier. That’s why we emphasize a healthy diet, as well as exercise, mindfulness, and social connection as part of our holistic approach to treatment. There are no shortcuts to living a healthy lifestyle, but we can get you off to the best possible start. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
What Are the Most Common Challenges People Face Early in Addiction Recovery?
When people start thinking about quitting drugs and alcohol, they often imagine that recovery is only about abstinence. They believe they’ll be fine as long as they can resist drinking or using again. However, they soon discover that there’s a lot more to recovery. They encounter many unexpected challenges, and some of the biggest challenges are the tricks played by their own minds. The following are some of the most common challenges people encounter during their first year of recovery from addiction.
For many people, staying sober isn’t terribly difficult as long as life is going pretty smoothly and they’re in a pretty good mood. Unfortunately, few of us get to abide in such a carefree state for long. Problems arise, bad things happen, and sometimes we just feel bad for no apparent reason. Dealing with difficult emotions is one of the biggest recovery challenges because drug and alcohol use often begins as a way of coping with these kinds of emotions. Stress is perhaps the biggest culprit but shame, anger, grief, sadness, and anxiety are major challenges as well. One of the most important parts of addiction recovery is learning strategies to manage stress and cope with challenging emotions.
You might predict that cravings would be a problem when recovering from addiction since you no doubt experienced plenty of cravings during active addiction. However, coping with cravings when you intend to never use drugs and alcohol again is a next-level challenge because you often experience a craving as a sort of command that’s very hard to refuse. Learning to deal with cravings takes a multifaceted approach that includes identifying and avoiding triggers, behavioral strategies to keep from giving in to a craving, and emotional regulation strategies such as distraction, “surfing” the craving, and staying present.
Your health and your career can survive addiction for a little while, but your relationships are usually the first to suffer. Substance use issues quickly lead to deceptive behavior, which undermines trust in a relationship. Your priorities become focused on drugs and alcohol and you neglect your responsibilities to your friends and family. You may even get to the point where you’re lying to them and stealing from them to feed your addiction. Drugs and alcohol impair your judgment, leading to more fights and faster escalation, and the list goes on. On the other hand, social support is one of the most important things in recovery. A lot of sober people find themselves examining all their burnt bridges, wondering which ones can be repaired.
After relationships, addiction is almost always hard on your finances. Drugs and alcohol cost money. Some drugs cost a lot of money. However, the really crippling expenses are secondary. They include high-interest debts, legal and medical costs, and lost income. It can be pretty demoralizing to come out of treatment, feeling like you’ve made a pretty good start turning your life around, only to realize your finances are in total chaos. It can certainly add to the stress discussed above. These problems can be overcome and they are certainly easier to overcome when you’re sober, but it will still take time.
People starting out in recovery often face a dilemma: They know that if they spend time with old friends who drink and use drugs, they will likely slide back into old habits, but they haven’t yet made new friends and so they often feel lonely. Loneliness itself is often a challenge because it can lead to boredom, depression, and anxiety, which are not helpful for recovery. As noted above, social connection is an especially important part of recovery, so loneliness is nothing to take lightly. Typically, the best way to deal with loneliness is to make friends within your recovery community. They could be people you went through treatment with or people from your 12-Step group. These are people you see regularly, who understand what you’ve been through and share your commitment to sobriety.
People are often surprised how big of a challenge boredom is in recovery. There are two reasons boredom is so powerful. First, drugs and alcohol actually take up a lot of your time. You have to get them, which sometimes takes some effort, and you have to carve out enough time to use them with the least amount of trouble. When people quit, they suddenly find they have loads of free time and they aren’t sure what to do with it.
The second reason is that addiction actually restructures your brain. Drugs and alcohol become the most interesting things in the world and everything else is a bit dull by comparison. Drugs and alcohol can also enhance your experiences, so even things you liked to do that weren’t substance-related might suddenly seem flat. Again, coping with this is a matter of deploying smart behavioral strategies and to some extent just being patient while your brain adapts to sober life.
Mental Health Issues
The majority of people with substance use issues have co-occurring mental health issues. A quality treatment program will identify and begin treatment of any mental health issues, since managing them is essential to a long recovery. However, people who try to get sober on their own or by going to AA or NA meetings might find that getting sober throws their mental health issues into sharper relief. Often, some form of therapy is necessary if recovery is going to last.
Transitioning from a treatment facility back to normal life is often more challenging than people realize. They go from a highly structured, sheltered, and supportive environment back to basically the same environment where their drinking and drug use was out of control. There is a big difference between coping with problems in a controlled environment and coping in real life. For that reason, transitional care is especially important. This might take the form of stepping down to a lower level of care such as an intensive outpatient program, a sober living environment, or transitional services.
Finally, it’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic disease and relapse is fairly common. It can be dangerous and demoralizing. You might feel like you’ve wasted all your time and money and disappointed everyone who cares about you. You might feel like since you already messed up, you might as well go all the way. However, a relapse doesn’t have to be a permanent failure. People do recover after several tries. The important thing is to minimize the damage and try again as soon as possible.
At Foundry, we understand that substance use problems are only partially about substances. Recovery doesn’t come from white-knuckled abstinence, but from creating the kind of life where you feel happier and more connected and no longer feel like you need drugs and alcohol just to get through the day. Our treatment program is a multifaceted process that involves treating mental health issues, learning effective behavioral strategies, learning practical life skills, and building social support to help you solve whatever problems you may encounter. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How to Control Panic Without Xanax
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in America and they are a common route to developing a substance use disorder. Panic attacks may be a symptom of a panic disorder or perhaps of post-traumatic stress disorder. People who experience frequent panic attacks are often prescribed a fast-acting benzodiazepine such as Xanax to cope with their symptoms or they may self-medicate with alcohol, marijuana, or other substances. If you have struggled with panic in the past, the thought of having to give up these crutches may sound intimidating but it’s possible to learn to control panic without them.
If you have experienced panic attacks in the past--which are characterized by shortness of breath, racing heart, confusion or disorientation, squeezing in the chest, feeling of impending doom, or feeling like you’re about to “lose it”--then you should certainly seek professional help. In the meantime, the following tactics can help you weather a panic attack.
Understand What Panic Is
Part of the reason a panic attack is so frightening is that people who experience them are often not aware of what’s happening. The symptoms are similar to a heart attack and, in fact, many people go to the emergency room because they think that’s what’s happening. If you believe you’re having a heart attack, that will clearly make you more anxious, which will only increase your panic. It’s actually pretty hard to distinguish between a panic attack and a heart attack based on symptoms alone. Context makes a big difference. For example, if you’re under 40 and you have had panic attacks before, your symptoms are more likely panic. Symptoms such as squeezing in the chest, pain that radiates to the jaw or arm, or a ripping sensation in the chest or back is more likely a heart attack. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and seek medical help.
More generally, it’s important to understand that panic is what happens when your fight-or-flight system gets out of control. Perhaps something causes a bit of anxiety--a test or a confrontation--and that bit of anxiety signals a threat, and then you get stuck in a sort of feedback loop. The first step in controlling panic is to realize that anxiety, in appropriate amounts and in appropriate circumstances, is a useful emotion. The next step is to understand the role your own mind plays in escalating anxiety.
Identify Catastrophic Thoughts
The next step is to identify the thoughts that are amplifying your panic. These aren’t typically hard to spot, but the trick is to remember to be aware of them when you’re under stress. For example, when you feel anxiety or panic coming on, you may be thinking something like, “Oh, I’m having a panic attack--or a heart attack!--this is awful, I’m going to die, I’m going to go crazy, why can’t I stop this?” and so on. These kinds of thoughts only make things worse.
When you find yourself thinking these thoughts, there are two ways to respond. First, you can challenge your catastrophic thinking. For example, if you’re thinking, “I’m having a heart attack! I’m going to die!” think instead, “I’m only 25, so it’s probably not a heart attack, there’s no radiating pain or other symptoms. If I still feel this way in half an hour, I can go to the hospital. It’s probably just anxiety and anxiety can’t hurt me,” and so on.
The other way to cope with these kinds of thoughts is to step back and be an objective observer. This takes a bit of practice and regular mindfulness meditation might help. When you do this, instead of trying to guess what every sensation might mean, you just observe it. “Oh, I’m feeling anxiety and now I’m feeling short of breath, which is making me feel more anxious. I mainly feel it in my stomach,” and so on. By accepting your anxiety and experiencing it without trying to suppress it or push it away, you avoid compounding your distress.
As noted above, an anxiety attack comes when your sympathetic nervous system or your fight-or-flight system gets out of control. The fastest way to get it back under control is to take some slow deep breaths. Since constricted breathing is often a symptom of panic, this may be challenging but if you can manage it, it will calm you down pretty quickly. The exhale is especially important for stimulating the vagus nerve, which activates the rest-and-digest system.
Try taking 10 to 12 breaths with a regular rhythm such as inhaling for three seconds, exhaling for six seconds, and pausing for a second before repeating. Research suggests that a rate of about six breaths per minute is ideal for relaxing and synchronizing your pulmonary and cardiac rhythms. Again, it can be challenging to slow down and breathe deeply when you’re having a panic attack, so just do what you can; even if your breathing rate isn’t perfect, it’s the aspect of your physiology that you have the most control over.
Pay Attention to Your Environment
Another good strategy during a panic attack is to connect with your immediate environment using a grounding strategy. The idea is to use sensory input to connect to the here and now. Panic is always about what might happen--you might pass out or lose it, and so on, and wouldn’t that be awful? The initial anxiety likely stemmed from worries about potentially catastrophic outcomes from failing a test or interview or whatever. Grounding yourself with sensory input allows you to forget about all of that stuff and focus on the present.
One common grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: Identify five things you can see around you, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Take a moment to really experience each thing you identify. If you’re in a hurry, figure out which sense helps ground you the fastest and focus on that. It’s generally a good idea to practice this technique--and the other techniques, such as breathing as well--regularly, at least once a day, so you are more comfortable using them when you need to.
Panic is not an easy problem to deal with. The essence of panic is that it undermines your ability to think clearly and regulate your emotions. The best approach to treating a panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder is to work with a professional therapist to uncover the roots of the problem and develop comprehensive solutions. These typically involve a mix of behavioral and cognitive strategies, possibly with the aid of non-addictive medications, such as SSRIs. The strategies outlined above can help in the moment, but it’s also important to practice them in advance. If you need to use a grounding technique, for example, you don’t want to be thinking, “What was that technique again?” You want to recognize the onset of symptoms and automatically use a strategy that works for you.
At The Foundry, we know that emotional regulation skills and treating any co-occurring mental health issues are major factors in long-term recovery success. We emphasize the treatment of trauma, including PTSD, as well as other anxiety disorders. We know that mental and physical wellness is key to recovery success. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.