How Does Mindfulness Help You Recover From Addiction?
We’ve all heard a lot about mindfulness in recent years. It has gone from a fringe practice to a common, even obligatory wellness practice. It has even been incorporated into mainstream treatments for addiction and other mental health issues. Treatment modalities such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT, and dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, use mindfulness to help clients become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in general and better tolerate challenging emotions. Mindfulness meditation is often incorporated into addiction treatment programs, too. There are a number of reasons mindfulness is such a powerful addition to any recovery program, including the following.
Mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety.
One of the most publicized benefits of mindfulness practice is that it can reduce stress and anxiety. This is crucial for two reasons. First, having an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or PTSD, significantly increases your risk of addiction. If you want to have a long recovery, you must find effective ways to manage your anxiety. Second, most people identify stress as their biggest trigger of cravings. Therefore, learning effective ways to manage stress will also reduce the number and severity of drug and alcohol cravings.
One of the first clinical uses of mindfulness meditation was to reduce stress. Programs like Herbert Benson’s relaxation response and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, are perhaps the two most prominent examples. If mindfulness were only about spending 20 or 30 minutes a day sitting quietly and relaxing, that in itself would help reduce stress. However, there’s more to mindfulness meditation. Perhaps the most important effect in terms of stress and anxiety is that mindfulness trains you to stay in the present moment, rather than worrying about things that might happen. This effect will eventually extend into your regular life, not just when you’re deliberately practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness improves metacognitive awareness.
Another useful aspect of mindfulness meditation is that it builds metacognitive awareness — or being aware of what you’re thinking about. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Much of the time, our thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, and even emotions, lie beneath the level of conscious awareness. Other times, we get so swept up in some train of thought that we’re not even aware of what’s going on. Both of these can be barriers to insight and recovery.
Most treatment programs and therapists use techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy, the premise of which is that our thinking, rather than external events, is what causes disturbing emotions. If you adjust your thinking to be more objective, you will naturally suffer less, emotionally. The problem is that thoughts can be evasive and slippery. Practicing mindfulness will make you more aware of what you’re thinking and how it affects your emotions. This makes therapy much more effective.
Mindfulness improves behavioral awareness.
Part of the challenge of overcoming addiction — and bad habits, more broadly — is that a lot of our behavior happens on autopilot. If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking or quit biting your fingernails, you’ve probably noticed your body seems to engage in these behaviors without your consent or awareness. This automatic behavior happens on an even deeper level with addiction.
It’s hard to change your behavior when you’re not even aware of what your behavior is. Mindfulness helps you bring more attention to what you’re doing at any given moment. You are more aware of what you’re doing and also how you feel about it. For example, smokers who are asked to smoke mindfully are often surprised to discover that they don’t like the taste or smell of cigarettes or the feeling of smoke in their lungs. Getting off of autopilot through mindful attention gives you more control over your behavior.
Mindfulness changes patterns of avoidance.
Substance use is often a symptom of avoidant behavior. That is, you may use drugs or alcohol as a way of avoiding some kind of emotional stress rather than deal with it. While this offers temporary relief, it makes the problem worse in the long run and causes new problems to go with it.
Mindfulness is really the opposite of avoidance. Instead of trying to ignore or suppress a challenging emotion, you accept it and observe it without judgment. You notice what the emotion is like, what thoughts arise with it, where you feel it in your body, how it changes over time, and so on. Several studies have found that people who are more accepting of their emotions suffer less distress and fewer negative outcomes, such as depression when they’re under stress. This isn’t only limited to emotions like anxiety or pain from traumatic memories, but it can help you get through cravings, as well. This is sometimes called “surfing” a craving.
Mindfulness can improve your relationships.
Having strong relationships is one of the most important parts of addiction recovery. Social connection reduces stress, gives you a sense of purpose, and helps keep you accountable. Mindfulness helps improve your relationships in several ways. First, from a practical perspective, it helps you pay attention when someone is talking. We’re often too distracted by our phones or by our own thoughts to listen properly. Just making an effort to give someone your full attention will improve your relationship.
Second, one of the challenges of communicating is that we are often too reactive. We get angry, defensive, or critical and a conversation quickly devolves into an argument. When you learn to be more mindful, you’re aware of these emotional reactions within you but you don’t necessarily take them too seriously. You can entertain different interpretations and consider things from the other person’s point of view before you respond.
Mindfulness is not a replacement for therapy or treatment, but it can be a powerful addition to any recovery program. It reduces stress, helps you to be more aware of your inner life and outer behavior, and improves your relationships. At The Foundry, mindfulness meditation is one of many modalities we use to treat substance use disorders. For more information about our programs, explore our website or call us today at 1-844-955-1066.
Why Is Structure Important for Addiction Treatment and Recovery?
One thing you’ll notice in pretty much any addiction treatment program is that structure and routine are important. Part of this is just practical; afterall, you can’t just have people showing up for group therapy and other activities whenever they feel like it, or nothing would get done. However, structure also plays an important part in treatment and recovery. Here’s why.
Structure in Treatment
In treatment, most activities are scheduled. You’ll wake up at a certain time and go to bed at a certain time. You’ll exercise and eat meals at certain times. There is free time, but there is also much to accomplish in a relatively short stay, so there are a lot of activities scheduled during treatment.
As noted above, this is practical, but it’s also therapeutic. By the time most people enter treatment for substance use disorder, their inner lives are fairly chaotic. This results in confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety. One way to bring those feelings under control is to impose some degree of outward order. With a reasonable structure in your day, you are less restless, bored, and anxious. You know basically what to expect from the day. This lets you focus on healing and sorting out your thoughts.
Structure in Recovery
Ideally, you should try to continue your treatment routine after you finish the program. While a month is typically not enough to make a new behavior automatic, it’s a pretty good start. If you make an effort to keep getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time, going to meetings, eating healthy meals, and so on, it should be relatively easy to stay on track. The following are reasons having structure and routine in recovery makes things easier for you.
A regular routine helps manage stress.
Stress is a major issue for most people starting out in recovery on their own. This is especially true when transitioning out of an inpatient treatment program where they are mostly sheltered from everyday stressors. Stress is typically cited as the number one trigger of cravings, so it is crucial to manage stress in the first year.
Keeping a regular routine is a great way to manage stress. For one thing, it reduces anxiety resulting from uncertainty. When you have to constantly decide what to do next, or have no idea what each day might bring, you’re always a little anxious. Having a regular routine allows you to have some idea what your day is going to be like. What’s more, it’s a way of increasing your self-efficacy. How you spend your time is something you largely have control over. When you intentionally structure it in a productive way, you exert more control over your life, which reduces feelings of stress. Having a plan for the day, even a provisional one, even helps you deal with unexpected problems.
A routine makes healthy decisions easier.
Another major advantage of having a regular routine is that you don’t have to put so much effort into making healthy decisions. Once you’ve established a healthy routine, you make healthy decisions on autopilot. For example, it’s much easier to go to 12-Step meetings every day at the same time, rather than going at different times or just two or three days a week. That’s because you get into a routine. It’s time for your daily meeting, so you go to your meeting. The same is true for any part of your recovery routine — exercise, writing, getting up and eating breakfast, and so on. When you’ve established a good routine, it takes more effort to break it than it does to just do what you’re supposed to do.
A routine revolves around your priorities.
A good routine isn’t just about doing the same things every day; it’s about doing the important things every day and doing them first. This ensures that the things that will most benefit your recovery and your life don’t get lost in a sea of low-priority obligations. Incidentally, having clear priorities and making them part of your daily routine also reduces stress. If you don’t get to a low-priority task or you have to put it off to the next day, you don’t worry about it too much because you know it’s a low-priority task. By creating a routine around your recovery plan, you can be sure you are always prioritizing your recovery.
How to create a healthy routine.
For most people recovering from a substance use disorder, the whole idea of structure and routine will feel at least slightly irritating. It may feel restrictive or patronizing. If that’s the case for you, then trying to schedule your day in 15-minute chunks, like some productivity gurus advocate, will probably not go well for you. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of living a slightly more structured life.
The first thing you have to do is adjust your thinking about structure and routine. Routine isn’t a cage; it’s a ladder. It’s a way to ensure you’re doing the things that matter to you and that you’re making some kind of progress. The first concrete step is to establish one anchor point for your day. It might be getting up at a regular time or it might be going to your 12-Step meeting at a regular time. If you have a job with regular hours, that’s a pretty good anchor point.
Next, you want to connect new behaviors to your anchor points. So, for example, you might get off work and head immediately to your 12-Step meeting. It shouldn’t take long for this to become routine. Now you have two solid points of structure in your day. For behaviors like exercise, don’t be afraid to start small. It’s most important to establish the habit; you can always scale up later.
Structure and routine are crucial elements of addiction recovery. They build conscientiousness, which is a personality trait that research shows protects against substance use issues. They reduce stress, ensure you address your priorities each day, and make healthy choices easier. At The Foundry, we strike a delicate balance — we provide enough structure for therapeutic purposes while changing things just enough to keep them interesting throughout treatment. To learn about our treatment options, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
Six Good Things That Happen Once You Quit Drinking
When people with an alcohol use disorder decide to quit drinking, there’s usually one big reason. Maybe they lost their job because of their drinking, their spouse threatened to leave and take the kids, or they ended up in a drug court with a choice between getting help or going to prison.
Even if you do have one big reason for quitting, there are many less important — but still pretty nice — benefits that come with it. Whether you have a serious problem with alcohol or you feel like you could just use a break from alcohol, the following are some of the good things that happen once you quit.
You sleep better.
A lot of people assume alcohol helps you sleep better, but really the opposite is true. Alcohol helps you fall asleep more easily, but it also prevents you from reaching deep, restorative sleep.
When you’ve been drinking, you spend more time in the shallow parts of the sleep cycle, especially REM sleep, which is why you tend to remember your dreams more. After the first few hours, your sleep becomes disrupted as the alcohol is metabolized and your body starts to experience the rebound effect, which typically results in increased anxiety.
Typically, people find they sleep better pretty quickly after they stop drinking. They feel more rested because they sleep more deeply and sleep all night instead of waking up frequently in the early morning hours. If you’re getting sober after a serious addiction, it may take weeks or months for your sleep patterns to return to normal, but it will happen eventually.
You feel better.
If you drink a lot, it might be that you only feel good or even normal for a short period when you’ve had a certain amount to drink. The rest of the time, you may be hungover, sleep deprived, or in the early stages of withdrawal.
If you’re a very heavy drinker, you may be feeling some health effects such as lack of energy from malnutrition, frequent illnesses, or even problems resulting from heart or liver disease.
When you quit drinking, you may temporarily feel worse while you’re going through withdrawal, but then you’ll start to feel much better in general. You won’t be hungover or starting withdrawal and you’ll have more energy because you’re digesting your food better and sleeping more deeply.
You think better.
Obviously, no one is mentally sharp while drunk but the cognitive effects of drinking tend to persist even when you’re not drinking. One reason is alcohol’s effect on sleep.
When you’re not sleeping deeply and running a chronic sleep deficit, your brain doesn’t work as well. Research shows that sleep deprivation and sleep deficit lead to cognitive impairments, including poorer working memory, poorer concentration, poorer long-term memory, and worse decision making.
Poor sleep also interferes with memory consolidation, so if you’re in school or trying to learn new skills, drinking will make it harder. When you quit drinking, you will probably notice your head feels clearer even if it takes a while for your sleep to get back to normal.
You lose weight.
Most people find they lose weight pretty quickly once they stop drinking. Alcohol has a lot of empty calories, which add up fast, even if you’re only having a few drinks a night.
For example, a can of beer has about 150 calories, so you could easily drink an extra 600 calories a night — about a quarter of the daily caloric needs for an average male — without even reaching the threshold for binge drinking. Not only that, but alcohol boosts estrogen production in both men and women, making it harder to metabolize fat.
As a result, many people are surprised to find that they lose weight when they stop drinking, even if they aren’t trying. It should be noted though, that some people actually gain weight. It’s not uncommon for people to start eating a lot of sweets when they quit drinking, which quickly leads to weight gain.
You look younger.
You’re probably aware that alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it extracts water from your body. That’s why you pee so much when you drink — you actually discharge more liquid than you consume. This has a number of effects, but the most apparent is its effect on your skin.
When your skin dries out, it becomes less elastic. As a result, you might look older and more wrinkled after just one night of heavy drinking.
If you drink often, the effect is compounded. However, once you quit drinking, you start looking younger pretty quickly. Your body wants to be adequately hydrated, so it will hold on to that water once you stop messing with your system.
You have more free time.
Most people are not aware of how much time drinking consumes until they quit. Heavy drinkers often block off time specifically to drink, which means they aren’t doing other things with that time.
Alcohol also distorts your perception of time, especially when you start missing chunks due to blacking out. What’s more, alcohol often makes people and activities seem more interesting than they really are. When people quit drinking, they suddenly find they have a lot of free time on their hands they can use to spend time with people they care about, engage in new hobbies, read, get things done, or whatever else they want to do.
A lot of good things happen when you quit drinking. The benefits described above are only the ones you might notice pretty quickly and don’t even include many of the health or relationship benefits that will become apparent with time. At The Foundry, we know that recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is about far more than just abstinence; it’s about becoming free to live the life you want to live. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
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.
Why Recovery is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
On April 18, I finished my 20th marathon. My time—4 hours and 16 minutes—was the slowest I’d ever run. But that didn’t matter—because this was the Boston Marathon, a dream of mine ever since I started running marathons in 1981. Now at 63 years old, I can check this off my bucket list. But why this is so special to me is not that it is my high point as a runner, instead it is the gift this has been for me as a recovering alcoholic.
Ten years ago, running a marathon, let alone running the Boston Marathon, was incomprehensible. My life was in shambles. I was awaiting transport to a regional prison in Glendive, Mont., where I would spend the next six months in a very intense alcohol and drug rehab program. Physically, my six-year binge had taken its toll on my legs; peripheral neuropathy was affecting my ability to walk. Somewhere in the middle of that prison stretch, I had a turning point. I thought about the classic line from the movie Shawshank Redemption when Andy DeFrain says to Red “It comes down to a choice really, get busy living, or get busy dying.”
My best thinking had gotten me into prison so maybe it was time to make a choice to live and go all in for the recovery program this place was offering. Once committed, I found the hope I so desperately needed, on page 152 of the AA Big Book: “The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.”
There is another line in the AA Big Book that is also true. “Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.” I never liked that line because it reminded me of how difficult the process is after a person gets sober. Recovery is not about stopping drinking; it is about staying stopped and even more, about learning to live in sobriety. Recovery is truly a marathon. But I have discovered in the 10 years of working my recovery program that this can be the best marathon a person ever runs.
The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead! You can get all of your life back and more, much more than you ever imagined. And I am not alone. My wife went with me to Boston to cheer me on, as did a friend in recovery from my home group. Boston is where she grew up, and it was a chance to both see her daughter and celebrate how life can become so good in recovery. She camped out at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, just before I had to start that climb at mile 20.5. She’d made a sign—in Bronco Orange of course, and had the others in my AA group sign it to cheer me on. That encouragement was what I needed to make that climb and finish strong.
I don’t know if I’ll ever run Boston again, or even another full marathon, but I do know that the marathon of recovery I am in now is worth every step. And the full life I’m experiencing now… I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
If you find yourself facing alcohol addiction rehab with trepidation and dread, I hope my message can offer some hope and inspiration. And if you join The Foundry, I hope I am able to talk with you about the vibrancy of life that comes with recovery.
-R.J. Koerper, Life Recovery Therapist Consultant with The Foundry
Equine Therapy: How Connecting With Horses Supports Recovery
A slightly anxious, markedly skeptical Veronica stepped into the horse arena wondering how equine therapy could help in her fight for recovery. Within an hour of the first session, searing insights started emerging for her in spades.
A nursing journal article once defined healing as an incremental awakening to a deeper sense of self in ways that foster profound change. Equine-assisted psychotherapy is yet another forum for Foundry participants to explore their individual array of underpinnings that can drive addictive behavior.
So why horses?
They are prey animals that are hard-wired to instantly interpret and respond to the emotional states of those around them with moment-to-moment acuity. Horses tend to mirror human behavior, which makes them ideal for this kind of work. Therapy horses can help people work through their emotional struggles in real-time as they can serve as powerful metaphors for problematic perceptions, relationship patterns, and obstacles.
Veronica, her real name withheld to protect her privacy, said her experiences with the horses has led to her redefining her perspectives on confidence, vulnerability, and success.
“When we were first trying to get the horses to do these exercises, I would use bribes and other forms of manipulation. The horses didn’t respond to that at all. You can’t hide what you are on the inside from them. It’s like they can see right through you. The horses only respond to authenticity. Only when I absolutely believed I could get the horse to do what I wanted and demonstrated it with my actions, only then did he respond. The immediate feedback taught me to recognize what true confidence feels like on the inside. The horse taught me to connect with that confidence which is huge because one of the reasons I would drink is because I felt I wasn’t good enough.”
In one of the group exercises, Veronica was asked to stand blindfolded in front of the horse. “I felt like that was a forced vulnerability which was a bit scary for me. The horse picked up on my fear so he allowed me to pet him for support. In most all of my relationships, I’m the caretaker. I focus all of my time and energy on tending to the needs of others without giving any consideration to my own needs. For those moments with that horse, I felt like we were in a partnership. I surrendered my caretaking self and allowed for him to support me and that was really enriching. It showed me the value of a true partnership as opposed to just caretaking.”
At one point during a session, the horse Veronica was working with decided to lay down on the ground and not get up. “I was so frustrated with that because I knew the horse trainer could do something and the horse would get up for her instantly. I tried to get the horse to get up, but he wasn’t having it. That’s when the equine therapist and horse trainer explained the horse’s behavior and that made me look at it in a completely different light. The trainer explained there is no way the horse would have taken such a completely vulnerable posture if he didn't feel an unusual level of comfort and safety in the presence of the group. My agenda for the horse suddenly wasn’t so important anymore. With that new understanding came new perspective. Before this, I would look at success and failure as two distinct things. Now I understand that failure can lead to success and to not put so much pressure on myself to make it happen all of the time. My experiences with the horses was amazing.”
At The Foundry we offer an equine therapy program that includes sessions with horses and a certified equine therapist, all held over a three-day period. Participants are encouraged to explore the healing process by connecting, interacting and observing these kind, gentle animals. Equine therapy sessions are available to all residential Foundry participants.
Nicole Roberts, MA, LAC, LPC is a Clinical Residential Therapist at The Foundry, a rehab and substance abuse treatment center in Colorado. She has worked in substance abuse treatment for five years and supports an integrative and individualistic approach to recovery.
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
Recipes for Recovery: Sweet Potato Pancakes
At The Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a healthy lifestyle is an important part of complete recovery. The link between the body and the mind is powerful, and a healthy diet combined with regular exercise is an integral component of lasting recovery from Substance Use Disorder.
There is a common misconception that healthy food is bland and without flavor or excitement. Our goal is to shift how our clients define "healthy food", and shift their lifestyles towards sustainable nutrition. Serving bland, flavorless food would only set the stage for old eating habits and patterns to return down the line.
Below is the recipe for Sweet Potato Pancakes - One of the many healthy meals served to clients at the Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat.
- 1 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (the flesh from 3 medium-small cooked sweet potato)
- 6 eggs
- coconut oil (for cooking)
- 2 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- Whisk together the sweet potato and eggs until well-combined. Add seasonings, if desired, and stir. Heat oil over medium-low heat.
- Drop the sweet potato mixture by the tablespoon and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Flip each cake and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until lightly golden brown on the outside and cooked through. Lower heat works better, and don’t try to flip them before totally cooked on one side.
- Optional topping ideas: yogurt, nut butter, fresh fruit, or maple syrup. They are also good plain! OR go savory and try avocado and sliced turkey. Enjoy
Scott Przymus is the Executive Chef at The Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a rehab and substance use disorder treatment center located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Navigating and Resolving Resentments
We all get resentments toward people around us, and when we do, it can be hard to sit down and have those uncomfortable talks. Looking another person in the eyes and telling them what they are doing is bothering you or admitting that you haven't been acting in a way you are proud of can be hard to do if we don't have a plan to do it reasonably, and mutually. As uncomfortable as these talks are, they are worth it if they can save a relationship with a friend or family member.
We can do things to make these talks easier for the other person and us. So, here are some tips for handling these awkward talks productively and positively.
Before We Even Have the Conversation
These talks can be anxiety-inducing and overall just icky feeling, but it helps to take time and make sure our intentions are clear, and we know what the goal of the conversation is. Often we assume we know why the other person did what they did. Try and clear what you think from your mind so that when they tell you their side of the story and you can be ready to hear that instead of just assuming you know best and walking away without anything changing.
It can be helpful to set aside a time and place to have this problematic talk. When thinking of a location, it's useful if the area is not in public. You don't want to be distracted by people around you or be worried that others are listening in on you while you are vulnerable. When you invite the person, you want to make sure that you are clear that you want to have this talk. Otherwise, the other person may feel ambushed. You could tell them, "hey, ___ I've noticed a tension between us about ___, would you be able to meet at my house around 8 to clear the air?". Warning the other person gives them the opportunity to think about there perspective on the situation so that they can be ready to talk about what is bothering them. Often if you spring a hard conversation on someone with no warning, they will become defensive, and they may throw excuses out, so it's better if you give the other party time to process things.
Time to Have a Hard Talk
Bringing up the topic can be scary. We frequently fear how the other person will react and if they will still like us after we bring this up. Remember, we are looking for a solution to save the relationship. If you don't have this talk, the feelings you are having won't go away. They will only get worse. So the first thing you need to do is state what upset you. Try and use specific examples and make it clear how you felt in those examples. Avoid using extremes such as "you always" or "you never." Have the mindset that you are going to fix this together.
You need to know the difference between what the other person's intentions were vs. how it impacted you. Likely, their plans were not to hurt. That doesn't change the fact that what they did DID hurt you. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt can go along way in helping to resolve the conflict. It is still essential that you let them know that their actions did hurt you, but it's equally important to let them know that you are aware that they likely not their intention. A simple way of phrasing this is "when you did ___ it made me feel like ____, I don't think this was what you meant to do, but I need you to know how it made me feel so we can clear the air."
Listen to what they are saying.
After you explain the way you felt, you should ask for their version of the events. Listen to what they are saying, and after they've finished, acknowledge what they've said. "What I heard you say way ___."
Own your part. If the other party has said that you did something that made them feel bad, take ownership of that, acknowledge what was said, and apologize for your role in that conflict. Owning your part could be as simple as saying, "when you did ___, I was hurt, so I was defensive for a few days, and I see how that could add strain to our relationship. I should have been up-front with you that I was hurt at that moment." Even if they don't mention anything you did, it's not a bad idea to let them know that there are ways you could have handled the situation better. Identify a few examples of your part in this before you have the conversation.
Come to a Solution
Ask them for ideas and listen to what they say and don't interrupt them. When you tell them your ideas for a solution, make sure to use we/us rather than me/you. Promise to try harder in the future and move on.
These conversations don't always go the way we want them to go. If it starts to feel like an argument, don't be afraid to tell them that you don't feel comfortable talking to them when emotions are running this hot. You can reschedule and come back to it later.
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 1-844-955-1066.
What Is Evidence-Based Treatment?
When looking for an addiction treatment program, one of the most important factors is whether that program uses evidence-based treatment methods. Evidence-based simply means there is some scientific evidence that a treatment method works. Treatment methods are typically compared to a placebo, to other common methods, or to doing nothing at all. The idea is that if you are going to put time, money, and effort into some form of treatment, you want some kind of indication that it is better than doing nothing and certainly some assurance that it isn’t harmful.
For example, if you go to the doctor, you assume whatever treatment the doctor prescribes will be evidence-based. The standard way of developing medical treatment is to try one treatment on one group and another treatment on another group and see which treatment helps more people. For a medication to get FDA approval, it has to go through a rigorous process testing both its safety and effectiveness. For a new drug to be considered effective, it has to perform better than placebo with no active ingredient.
Unfortunately, testing treatment methods related to addiction is not so straightforward. For example, it’s hard to create placebo psychotherapy. A bigger problem has to do with the nature of the disease. Mental health issues play a significant role in addiction but you can’t monitor mental the same way you would an infection or cancer. As a result, it’s hard to quantify the effectiveness of an intervention for, say, depression, because symptoms are erratic and evaluation is subjective.
Despite these challenges, some treatment methods do appear to work better than others and evidence-based treatment has become an increasingly important aspect of addiction treatment – and mental health treatment in general – in recent decades. Not only is evidence-based treatment important in itself to ensure you’re doing something that actually works, but when a treatment program uses evidence-based methods, that indicates that the staff and administrators keep up on new developments in the field.
The following are some common evidence-based treatment methods for addiction and common co-occurring conditions that you should look for when choosing a treatment program. Keep in mind that a program doesn’t have to use all of these or use them exclusively, but their main focus should be evidence-based.
Twelve-step facilitation is the oldest method on here, based on AA, which was developed 85 years ago. The 12 steps are also the basis of many professional treatment programs, including those at Foundry Treatment Center. Since so many people have used 12-Step programs to get sober, researchers have long been interested in evaluating its effectiveness. The key elements of 12-Step facilitation include accepting you have a problem; surrender to your higher power, the program, and support structure; and active participation in 12-Step meetings and activities. As you might expect, the strongest evidence for the efficacy of 12-Step facilitation exists for people who want to stop drinking, especially if their peer group supports drinking. However, there is evidence that it is also effective for other substances, including cocaine.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is currently considered the gold-standard for psychotherapy. CBT is a collection of techniques and strategies to manage your behavior and thinking. Whereas other forms of therapy might focus on your past, CBT tends to focus on the present, especially your underlying thoughts and assumptions that may be creating challenging emotions. CBT also includes behavioral strategies like thinking of positive and negative consequences for actions, coping with cravings, and avoiding high-risk situations. What makes CBT especially effective is that it involves learning a set of skills that clients retain after treatment, essentially allowing them to act as their own therapist.
There are also a number of other treatment methods based on CBT. Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is one that is commonly used to treat addiction and related conditions, including borderline personality disorder, suicidal depression, and eating disorders. Other methods based on CBT include acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT.
Motivational interviewing is a process of helping someone find their own motivation for getting sober and staying sober. It is not a persuasion technique like an intervention where you might lay out an overwhelming case that someone has a problem and needs treatment. Rather, it’s a process of helping someone think about their substance use, its effects on their life, and how that relates to their values and priorities. Pretty much everyone enters treatment feeling ambivalent about sobriety and these tensions can undermine recovery. Motivational interviewing is typically a series of a few conversations that can help people resolve their internal conflicts, freeing them to succeed in recovery. Motivational interviewing is just a first step, designed to help clients commit to a treatment plan. It also appears to be most effective for people trying to quit alcohol and marijuana, while being less effective for opioids and stimulants.
Family Behavior Therapy
It is often said that addiction is a family disease. This is true both in terms of genetics and behavior. If you struggle with addiction, there is a very good chance that at least one parent also had substance use issues or that you grew up in a family with some kind of dysfunction. Often, people assume their own family environment is normal and don’t realize how it may have contributed to their addiction and the same is true for other family members. Family therapy is often an effective element of treatment, especially for adolescents and young adults. It helps to resolve family conflicts, improve communication, help family members set and maintain healthy boundaries. This creates a better family environment for everyone and a more supportive environment for addiction recovery.
It’s important to note that there are significant variations among individuals, even those that are apparently struggling with the same problems. For example, there is mounting evidence that depression may be several kinds of conditions with similar symptoms. Treatment that works for one kind of depression may not work as well for another. An evidence-based approach is not a guarantee that a particular treatment will work for you, only that there is good reason to try it. Quality programs typically incorporate a number of evidence-based treatments and focus on providing individualized care.
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 1-844-955-1066.
“What Should I Expect at My First 12-Step Meeting?”
AA has been around for about 85 years now and has helped millions of people get sober and stay sober. It has also spawned many other 12-Step programs based on the same format. These include Narcotics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and many others. Since these groups are free and widely available, they are often the first thing someone will try when they decide their drinking or drug use has become a problem.
These meetings are also helpful for people who have completed a professional treatment program. Meetings provide much needed social support and help keep you focused on recovery in the long-term. Therefore, they can help you transition from a treatment program back to regular life while providing support indefinitely.
Attending 12-Step meetings can be a great asset for recovery but many people are nervous about going to their first meeting. In addition to walking into a room where they don’t know anyone, they may have some mistaken preconceptions based on what they’ve seen on TV or in movies. The following should give you some idea of what to expect in your first 12-Step meeting.
What Not to Expect
Most people have seen a movie or TV show where a nervous first-timer is called on to introduce himself and share. Reluctantly, he stands up and says, “I’m Bill, and I’m an alcoholic.” The group says, “Hi Bill,” and then Bill proceeds to share the worst thing he’s ever done. While you will be given an opportunity to introduce yourself to the group during the meeting, you won’t be forced or even expected to. Still less will you be expected to share anything about yourself? Everyone there knows how hard it is to walk through those doors for the first time and they won’t pressure you to do anything.
Some people also expect to be swarmed when they walk in the door, as they might have been the first time they attended a church or youth group. For people who harbor some suspicions that 12-Step groups might be a sort of cult, an excessively warm welcome is the last thing they want. In reality, people will mostly leave you alone. Some people might introduce themselves to be polite but you are unlikely to feel like you’re in the spotlight.
How a Meeting Goes
There are several different kinds of meeting formats including a single speaker, speaker/sharing, step study, and round-robin sharing. They all follow the same basic structure. First, the chairperson will read the group preamble, then the Serenity Prayer, which you’re free to join in or not, then someone will read the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. After this, the chair will ask if there are any first-timers who want to introduce themselves by their first name. You can introduce yourself if you want to. If you decide to introduce yourself, it doesn’t mean you have to share. Next, the chair hands out chips, another well-known part of 12-Step programs.
After that, the meeting proceeds according to what kind it is. If it’s a single speaker meeting, then one person will speak for most of the time. If it’s a speaker/sharing meeting, the chair will introduce the speaker, who will speak for most of the meeting and then other members will share. If it’s a step study meeting, the chair will introduce a speaker to speak on a step or topic and then members will share on that same topic. If it’s a round-robin sharing meeting, everyone who wants to shares.
The meeting concludes with welcoming newcomers, announcements, and a prayer.
After the Meeting
People typically stick around for a while to talk after the meeting. You can go if you like or you can stick around and have coffee and doughnuts. There isn’t much opportunity to talk to people during the formal meeting, so after the meeting is the time to chat with other members. When you feel comfortable enough, you might consider introducing yourself to the meeting chair and maybe volunteering to help clean up afterward. This is an easy way to get to know people and be more engaged in the group.
Open vs. Closed Meetings
Some 12-Step meetings are open and most are closed. If a meeting is open, it means anyone can come, whether or not they want to stop drinking or using drugs. This includes family and friends of members as well as students and counselors who want to understand addiction or how meetings work. If a meeting is open, it will be listed as “open.” Otherwise, assume the meeting is closed.
A closed meeting is only for people who want to quit drinking or using drugs. Most meetings are closed because members typically prefer to share in the company of people who understand what they’ve been going through.
Bring a Friend
It’s normal to be nervous about going into a meeting where you don’t know anyone. If that’s the case, then consider bringing a friend for moral support. The ideal situation would be to attend a meeting with a friend who is already a regular member. That way, you already know someone and they can introduce you to other people and let you know what to expect. If you don’t know someone who is already a 12-Step member, bring a friend who is also interested in getting sober. That makes it easier to walk into the meeting and you can help keep each other accountable. If you don’t know anyone who wants to get sober, bring a friend to an open meeting.
12-Step meetings are a great way to take your first steps toward sobriety and a great way to transition from a treatment program back to regular life. It’s normal to be nervous about going to your first meeting but keep in mind that everyone in the room has been in your position and no one is going to pressure you. You decide your own level of engagement and you can take as much time as you need to.
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 1-844-955-1066.
How Can I Best Support a Loved One Preparing to Enter Treatment?
No part of treatment or recovery is exactly easy. Each phase of the process has its own unique challenges. For example, it can take quite an effort to convince your loved one they have a problem at all and it might be just as difficult to convince them to accept professional help. Once they’ve agreed to accept help, getting them physically into treatment is sometimes a project in itself. There’s no point at which you should assume that recovery or even treatment is a done deal. You will probably have to put some energy into it throughout the process. There will be times when your loved one is scared or when they just don’t have the ability to help themselves. This is when you, as a friend or relative, have to do what you can to help. Once your loved one has expressed willingness to get help for a substance use disorder, the following are some things you can do to help make sure it actually happens.
Help with a treatment plan.
There are a dizzying number of options for addiction treatment. There are more than 14,000 addiction treatment centers in the US alone and that doesn’t count other elements of treatment such as consulting with counselors, therapists, or doctors. With all these options, it’s hard to narrow down the best one, and it may be next to impossible for someone with a serious substance use issue, especially if there is a co-occurring issue like major depression to consider.
Choosing a good treatment program is beyond the scope of this post, but start by getting recommendations from your doctor, therapist, or people you know who have gone through a program and have a strong recovery. Also, look for accreditation and credentialed staff. When making a final choice, a good program will want to know a lot about any potential client to make sure they are a good fit. Be wary of a program that accepts anyone. This is quite a bit of work and it’s likely you will be much more motivated than your loved one to make the effort.
Pack a bag.
One common route to getting a loved one into treatment is to hold an intervention. Most people are familiar with this concept. A group of people, typically family and maybe a close friend or two, get together and explain calmly and clearly why the person has a problem and needs to accept help. One element of an effective intervention is that there can be no space between someone agreeing to accept help and actually leaving for treatment. Otherwise, they start having second thoughts, come up with excuses for why they don’t need treatment or why they want to go later, or maybe just disappear.
By the time you have the intervention, everything should be ready for them to enter treatment. That means they should have a place booked in a treatment program, travel arrangements to get there, and a bag full of necessary items packed and ready to go. Each treatment center has its own list of items to bring and this list can typically be found on its website. These items typically include a credit card for medications and other expenses, current medications, insurance card, photo ID, family and emergency contacts, a small amount of cash, casual clothes, sleepwear – assume they will have a roommate – gym clothes, toiletries, a journal, and recovery-related books. Items that typically aren’t allowed include clothing with drug or alcohol references on them, excessively revealing clothes, anything – including toiletries – with alcohol in it, weapons, valuables, food or drink, electrical devices, and books not related to recovery.
Escort them to the facility.
A lot can go wrong between intervention and walking into the treatment center. Your loved one’s motivation is already fragile and it might collapse at any point, especially if the treatment center is far away. Also, keep in mind that you might be dealing with someone whose mind may not be that sharp outside of drug-seeking behavior. Sometimes people intend to enter treatment only to get lost or distracted on the way. You should have a plan either to accompany them or to have someone accompany them to treatment.
Some treatment centers provide this service and there are also third-party services that will escort your loved one to treatment. As noted, travel arrangements need to be made ahead of time so you’re not working out details while your loved one has time to reconsider.
Encourage them to complete treatment.
Your loved one will likely have some fears about treatment. These typically revolve around being out of control, being vulnerable, being lonely, letting everyone down, or fear of change in general. Again, this is beyond the scope of this post, but do your best to assure your loved one that it’s going to be fine, that everyone has their best interests at heart, and that they will be happy they saw it through.
It’s not uncommon for people to spend a week or two in treatment and sort of panic, often feeling like they don’t belong there or that they’ve gone through detox and can handle the rest on their own. Sometimes they feel like staff members are out to get them. This is especially common among people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. If those are considerations in your loved one’s treatment, they should be in a program that is equipped to handle those co-occurring conditions. As for their promise to complete the program before they leave and if they call wanting to come home, remind them of their commitment and encourage them to stay.
Sending a loved one to treatment for a substance use disorder is never easy, for you or for them. They have no idea what to expect or how their life might change. They may feel like they are being treated unfairly. You don’t know what to expect either. Your time, money, and hope may not amount to anything. On the other hand, you might save your loved one’s life.
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 1-844-955-1066.
How to Feel Better by Ending Rumination
You probably know the feeling: you’re a bit bored at work or home, or maybe you’ve just gotten into bed, when some thought pops into your head and you can’t let it go. Maybe it’s something embarrassing you did when you were a child or something you’re worried might happen at some undefined point in the future.
Maybe you start replaying a conversation, thinking about all the things you should have said. The next thing you know, you’ve been rehashing these thoughts for 20 or 30 minutes, perhaps even longer. You haven’t gotten anything done, you haven’t slept, and now you feel more depressed and anxious than you did before.
This is rumination and it’s strongly associated with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. When you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, ruminating definitely doesn’t help, but it’s also a hard habit to break. The following tips can help you quit ruminating and feel better.
Learn to recognize rumination.
Like other bad habits, you can start ruminating without even being aware of it. You quickly get swept up in your thoughts and are not aware of what your mind is even doing.
If you want to stop ruminating, then you have to learn to notice when you’re doing it. This is a skill called metacognitive awareness — being aware of what you’re thinking about. The first step is to label rumination whenever you catch yourself doing it.
It’s important that you do not scold yourself when you realize you’ve been ruminating. Instead, congratulate yourself for noticing: “Ah, there’s rumination again, good catch!”
Notice your rumination triggers.
Noticing rumination is only the first step. Your real goal is to better understand what’s causing it.
Rumination typically has triggers, just like any bad habit. That is, it doesn’t come out of the blue but rather is caused by something you hear or see — or even a particular train of thought.
When you catch yourself ruminating, notice what you’re ruminating about and notice what triggered it. For example, maybe you were reading an article that mentioned a topic you recently argued with someone about or that reminded you of a bad decision you made, perhaps years ago.
You will probably notice there are only a few topics you get stuck ruminating about and your triggers are likely things closely related to these topics. Once you are aware of your triggers, you can be more vigilant about falling into the rumination trap in the first place.
Our minds are very associative and once you fall into the rumination trap, it’s hard to get out just by trying to force yourself to think of something else. If you’re sitting or lying in the same position, in the same room, trying to do the same task, you’ll probably keep getting drawn back into the rumination.
Although rumination has negative outcomes, it is also more interesting to your mind than whatever you’re supposed to be doing because your mind thinks it’s solving a problem. If someone were running toward you and yelling, you would definitely pay attention to them even if you’d rather not have to deal with that situation.
Rumination is similar, except the threat you’re preoccupied with might be far in the past or a hazy possibility in the future.
To get out of that rut, you may have to change more than your focus. You might have to get up and walk around for a while, switch to a different task, go to a different room, or do something that demands more attention than whatever you’re ruminating about.
Maybe get some exercise or play a video game. The more you ruminate on a particular topic, the deeper that groove gets in your brain.
That means you fall into that rut more easily and have a harder time escaping. Distracting yourself will limit rumination and help keep that groove from getting much deeper.
Write down your thoughts.
Writing down your thoughts helps with rumination in several ways. First, it helps you recognize when you’re ruminating, identify your triggers, and distract yourself, as discussed above.
When you write about rumination, you’re automatically enlisting some of your metacognitive awareness. Second, when your mind ruminates, it believes it’s solving a problem, except that it never gets very far.
It just keeps rehearsing the initial steps. Typically, it’s gotten hold of some insight it doesn’t want to forget, so it gets stuck in a loop.
Writing down your thoughts commits them safely to paper so your brain can stop rehearsing it. Writing it down also helps you actually make progress thinking through the problem instead of repeating the first few thoughts.
This helps you process whatever it is you’re ruminating about. If it’s something you’re worried about happening in the future, it can even lead you to some concrete steps that might help you solve the problem and worry less about it.
Practice mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to expand metacognitive awareness, since it’s essentially a practice of spending 20 or 30 minutes a day just watching thoughts and emotions rise and fall in your mind.
With practice, you learn to avoid getting swept up in your thoughts. Mindfulness meditation also helps moderate activity in the brain’s default mode network, which is active during rumination.
Remember that it takes practice.
Finally, keep in mind that getting rumination under control will take practice and persistent effort. Rumination is a habit, probably one that you’ve been doing for years.
Breaking it for good will probably take months. The good news is that every time you catch yourself ruminating and take some definite action to stop it, you’re also sparing yourself a lot of pointless anxiety and self-criticism. After a while, you will notice rumination gradually diminish.
When you’re recovering from addiction, it’s crucial to look after your mental health. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues are common among people recovering from substance use disorders and they are all conditions highly associated with rumination. Awareness is key, followed by action.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery begins in the mind. That’s why we use cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation, and other treatment modalities to help our clients become emotionally resilient. To learn more about our treatment options, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.
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 a Relapse Prevention Plan and How Does it Work?
Sobriety is no easy feat. Voluntary work is needed to get there and a focus on doing the work, one step at a time. One of the biggest fears of going into substance use treatment is facing life sober. These fears are not without warrant. Relapse statistics are alarming. However, it is possible to learn to live without substance use and experience joy and success. With a combination of supportive services, backed up by a strong prevention plan, there is hope and promise for people to recover.
Prevention Is Key
The difficult work of recovery does not start and end when the person decides to attend the program. It begins when the person finishes detox and starts to process the experience of a substance use disorder. Through therapeutic work, there are ways to look at the experience, uncover the issues, and identify triggers to avoid in the future.
The goal is to complete treatment with the right tools and confidence necessary to make healthier life choices. The proper aftercare and staying focused on goals helps ensure success.
Hitting Relapse Prevention Goals
Leaving a residential program may feel like going out into the world without support and it can cause some anxiety. It is important to connect with a network of people and continue with needed therapies to provide adequate support. Recovery is one day at a time, assisted by friends and supportive people who understand the journey and are available in times of need.
Defining and following a concrete plan that helps achieve set goals and instills self-confidence will only make success easier. Recognizing when these goals are met is added support on the journey. A relapse prevention plan is worked on in a group setting, sharing experiences, and receiving feedback.
It is a formal, written plan, but it may be hard to follow at first. Committing to the prevention of relapse takes intention. The person has to want to stay sober. Some common goals outlined in a relapse prevention plan include:
- Changing thought patterns and behaviors.
- Identifying and avoiding triggers.
- Knowing how to handle cravings.
- Managing life’s pressures.
- Facing life’s ups and downs efficiently.
Counseling helps people reflect on the mindset that builds dependence. It helps to formulate a plan in which major targets are identified with a clear plan for reaching them. The family can be part of the process, along with learning specific tools developed through cognitive behavioral therapy, role-playing, and other practices.
Three Stages of Relapse
Relapse does not happen overnight. It evolves slowly, beginning with emotions and ending in action. With the three stages of emotional, mental, and physical relapse, it helps to understand how each stage sets the foundation of relapse prevention.
Emotions are a huge part of recovery. There is no escaping emotions; sometimes, they bubble up out of nowhere. Those relapse triggers are red flags. The emotional relapse plan can include how to deal with post-acute withdrawal symptoms, along with breathing exercises, meditation, and finding support during times of sliding into old patterns. It makes a big difference for someone to find healing in recovery if they can manage their emotional states better.
The intention is key with a mental focus on relapse prevention. Minimizing life’s ups and downs will not help. Focusing on mental preparation and trying to avoid a situation that may present surprise triggers requires planning.
Actions often follow thoughts when there is no redirection and support. Going back to the old days where the beast is, will result in a person finding themselves on the doorstep of addiction again. The last thing people need is to focus on the past. Keep focused on the present and future to find hope again in recovery.
During the mental collapse, the thought process jumps to “one drink won’t hurt,” and “I've done the work to drink like others.” Without a plan, it is just a short hop towards using drugs again. One slip can lead to feeling guilt, shame, fear, and failure. Physically the body is going through a lot. Give it time, rest, eat well, and get enough sleep to help in the healing process.
If a person finds themselves isolated, skipping meetings, and dropping out of their recovery lifestyle, they may be at risk of relapse. Finding the best place to get help means strategizing who to call when the flags are flying, and the warning signs are there. Ask friends to be aware of any issues and to help pull the person out of the pit they’ve found themselves in, which will help them get support when they need it the most.
The following keys will help practice as much as possible mindfulness, healthy habits of living, and being around positive people who support recovery. Without this, it will be difficult to stay clean and sober. With the right help, the person in recovery can find hope. Completion of a program is a start, but plugging into the community, finding a mentor, and seeking support are key to encourage the journey 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 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 Do I Have to Go to Group Therapy?”
Group therapy is a central component of nearly every addiction treatment program. In fact, the original AA format is similar to a group therapy session in that people share their struggles and triumphs in a supportive and confidential setting. Unfortunately, many people are wary of participating in group therapy.
This is perhaps understandable. After all, you have to discuss difficult personal topics with people you hardly know. Although it can seem intimidating at first, most people end up getting a lot out of group therapy sessions and even enjoying it. The following are ways in which group therapy is especially effective for overcoming addiction.
You see you’re not alone.
Addiction can be a terribly alienating experience. One reason is that it tends to lead to physical and social isolation. People with substance use issues often go to great lengths to hide the fact, which may lead to secretive or deceptive behavior. People often isolate themselves to protect their drinking or drug use time, blowing off plans with friends and family.
Addiction is alienating in a psychological way too. Many people who struggle with addiction feel like they’re uniquely burdened. They don’t see other people having the same problems they’re having. What’s even worse, many people who develop substance use disorders have also experienced challenges such as trauma, sexual abuse or assault, and childhood abuse or neglect. They often have a deep sense of shame as a result of these experiences and that shame drives their addictive behavior.
Part of the power of group therapy is that when you get a group of people who have had similar experiences together, they start sharing and they discover they’re not alone after all. Many people have suffered the same abuse and reacted in similar ways. Many people have done things they aren’t proud of as a result of their substance use. Discovering you’re not alone is liberating and it’s when shame starts to heal.
Groups provide social support.
There are mainly two reasons social support from the group can aid therapy. First, it helps keep you engaged. People tend to be a little more motivated to show up on time and participate when they know others in the group are depending on them. Greater engagement leads to greater outcomes.
Second, the group can provide moral and emotional support. A lot of what you have to do in recovery is hard to do on your own. For example, you may have trouble maintaining boundaries with family members or friends who still drink or use drugs.
Your group can support you and assure you that you’re on the right track. You also feel a sense of connection and belonging in the group that you might not get elsewhere. For many people, this sense of support helps them heal and find a greater sense of purpose.
You get different perspectives.
One of the great things about group therapy is that you get a lot of different perspectives on your problems. A drawback of individual therapy is that your therapist can only offer one different perspective. Sometimes you end up feeling like, “Well, that’s just your opinion.” In group, you can get a range of perspectives, including that of your therapist.
You are more likely to believe something about yourself when several people tell you the same thing, especially if it’s something you don’t really want to hear. However, diverse perspectives aren’t just about your behavior. They can open you up to different ways people see things in general.
For example, if you hate conflict, it might shock you to discover that some people in your group just see it as a normal and inevitable part of life and not something to be feared and avoided. That kind of insight can change your view of life outside of therapy.
Group is a better approximation of life.
When you’re in individual therapy, you are able to control the narrative about your life. You get to characterize other people’s words and actions and your therapist is left to speculate about how honest you’re being. In group, it’s much harder to control the narrative because your therapist can see how you interact with other people in real life.
For example, if you are overly defensive or critical, that will soon become apparent in the way you interact with the group. Since many of our social habits are fairly general, it doesn’t matter so much that the other people in the group aren’t actually family, friends, or coworkers.
You improve your social skills.
Related to the point above, group therapy is also a chance to practice new behaviors and social skills in a safe environment. Some therapeutic methods, like dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, incorporate group therapy for this specific reason. DBT was developed to help people with borderline personality disorder but is now used for all kinds of difficult conditions, including addiction. People with borderline personality disorder tend to have a lot of relationship problems because of how they interpret other people’s behavior.
Group therapy is an opportunity to put new social skills into use before you have to use them out in the world. It’s an especially good way of learning to hear constructive feedback without getting angry or defensive and give feedback without being mean or critical. Improving your social skills is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships and reduce the amount of stress in your life.
It’s more cost-effective.
No one likes to hear that their therapy is cost-effective because it sounds like another way of saying “cheap.” However, according to the American Psychological Association, group therapy has been found by more than 50 clinical trials to be as effective as individual therapy for treating a range of conditions, including substance use disorders and common co-occurring mental health issues.
If you are in an intensive addiction treatment program, you are likely getting both individual and group therapy and group therapy increases the number of hours you can spend in therapy each week without a commensurate rise in cost.
Group therapy can help you see that you’re not alone, it can provide support, show you different perspectives, and help you increase your social skills, all for a lower cost than individual therapy. Although it’s normal to be hesitant at first, you will probably derive a lot of benefits from group therapy and feel good about the experience. 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.
Being In A State Of Flow
Flow can be a tricky state to conceptualize. For something that is different for everyone, it can be hard to say when someone has reached true “flow.” For the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, he described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.
Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” For some, flow can come during sports, for others, during a hobby. Whatever you love to do, you can try to channel flow through that activity. Flow can be described as when runners feel like they have a “high” while running. They don’t feel tired, and it’s almost like they’re floating. Csíkszentmihályi says that there are 10 components to flow:
- Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable
- Strong concentration and focused attention
- The activity is intrinsically rewarding
- Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness
- Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing
- Immediate feedback
- Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented
- Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome
- Lack of awareness of physical needs
- Complete focus on the activity itself
Not all of these components must be present to experience flow, but the more you have, the more likely flow will be. There are also some ways you can try to achieve a sense of flow. These are things that can help produce flow:
Pick something that you enjoy doing, but that is slightly difficult. If you’re a marathon runner, you won’t reach the flow state with a jog around the block. Make sure you love what you’re doing, but also make sure that you’re pushing yourself a little bit.
- Develop your skills that relate to the challenge
Because your challenge is challenging, you’re going to need to develop the skills necessary to complete the task. Don’t let yourself get bored or let your mind wander — this is toxic for flow. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed either. That’s the opposite end of the spectrum.
- Set goals
Without goals, you won’t be achieving anything. You want to set clear, SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. If you want to reach the flow state while running, this might be your goal: run 3 miles every day for 3 weeks, then reassess where you’re at.
- Focus completely on what you’re doing
You can not expect yourself to reach the flow state if you are half paying attention to what you are doing. Don’t allow your mind to wander. Concentration is key for flow.
- Give yourself enough time
Flow takes time, too. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to get into the flow state. Once you are in the flow state, don’t rush it or wish it away. Make the most of it.
- Monitor your emotional state
If you’re struggling with getting into the flow state but you’ve done the above steps, monitor your emotional state. You might need to help calm yourself down if you’re too anxious or pick yourself up if you’re lacking energy.
From Csíkszentmihályi: “Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.”
Flow is a process. It doesn’t just come to you when you least expect it. You have to practice your skills that will get you to that space of flow. You must push yourself to be the best version of yourself. Here are the states of flow:
- Struggle phase
During this phase, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The struggle doesn’t really feel good, and most people are not willing to push themselves and struggle to reach flow.
- Release phase
After a struggle and once you have accepted it, the release phase comes. You become to do the activity without realizing that you are struggling anymore.
- Flow state
The flow state is what some people call being “in the zone.” This is where you are productive and do things with the flow.
- Brain rewiring and memory consolidation phase
After the activity has ended, you have a space to evaluate what just happened. This evaluation helps to further your future flow states.
Flow is like when a baseball player hits the fastball on the sweet spot of the bat. Some have said that they don’t even feel the ball hitting the bat on home runs. This is flow. Give yourself the time and space to experience flow for whatever activity you’re doing. Flow can be extremely beneficial for your 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 (844) 955-1066.
How Getting Outdoors Heals Body and Mind
Addiction recovery isn’t just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol; it’s much bigger than that. Recovery is about living a healthier, more fulfilling life. It’s about creating a general sense of well-being so you don’t want to use drugs or alcohol. That’s why healthy lifestyle changes are such a crucial part of treatment and recovery. The body and mind are one unit and what’s good for one is good for the other.
Among many positive lifestyle changes you will make in recovery, one of the best may be spending more time in nature. Our modern lifestyles keep us safe and comfortable indoors but we’ve lost a lot in the bargain. Nature can be a source of calm, joy, and wonder. Spending more time outdoors can benefit your recovery in the following ways.
Nature Is Good for Your Mental Health
Mental health is part of the equation for most people recovering from a substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at least half of people with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others. While these issues require professional therapy, spending time outdoors can help tip the odds in your favor.
Many studies have found that spending time in nature benefits your mental health, but one large Danish study is especially noteworthy. Because the Danish health system tracks the health of all of its residents from birth, this particular study was able to gather a huge sample of mental health data--in fact, they gathered mental health data from every citizen born between 1985 and 2003. The researchers then compared this data to satellite images that showed which citizens lived in greener areas.
The results were striking. The team looked at 16 different mental health issues and found that people who grew up in greener areas had a lower risk of 14 of the 16 conditions. Children who grew up in more urban settings had between 15 and 55 percent higher risk of developing mental health issues, depending on the specific issue.
Nature Promotes Exercise
One positive aspect of spending more time in nature is that it promotes exercise. Exercise is another crucial aspect of living a healthier lifestyle. Its many benefits include reduced stress, better mood, improved memory, better concentration, better cardiovascular health, healthier body weight, and better overall health. There is even relatively new research suggesting that exercise helps reduce relapse rates among people with substance use issues.
Unfortunately, not everyone loves exercise, especially in its modern form. Too often, we think of exercise as grinding away useless miles on a treadmill or stationary bike or pumping out reps on some sweaty weight machine. It’s no wonder the prospect of making exercise part of your day is less than thrilling.
However, exercising in nature is different; it was what we evolved to do. For example, hiking across varied terrain through changing scenery is both healthier and more enjoyable than mechanical forms of exercise. What’s more, there are so many ways to be active in nature--hiking, rowing, rock climbing, biking, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Whether you just want a calming walk or something more adventurous, there is an outdoor activity to suit your taste.
Nature Reduces Stress
One mechanism researchers frequently cite to explain nature’s positive effects on physical and mental health is its tendency to reduce stress. Chronic stress has many corrosive effects, including cardiovascular damage, digestive issues, poor immune function, anxiety, and depression and anything you do to relax between bouts of stress gives your body a chance to repair itself.
As discussed above, spending time in nature promotes physical activity--since you’re probably walking or biking, rather than driving--and that certainly helps reduce stress, but studies suggest that exercising in nature has an even greater stress-reducing effect. In a study conducted by Stanford researchers, participants were divided into two groups.
One group walked for 90 minutes in a park with trees, shrubs, and grass, while the other group walked for 90 minutes along a busy street. Both groups were given a series of tests including physical tests, brain scans, and questionnaires before and after the walk.
As it turned out, the group that had walked in the park had less activity in a part of the brain associated with rumination, the habit of obsessing over problems. Rumination has been linked to a greater risk of anxiety and depression. For some reason, walking in nature quiets the part of the brain that likes to stir up emotional trouble.
Nature Promotes Prosocial Behavior
Perhaps the most surprising effect of nature is that it can promote prosocial behavior. That may seem obvious if you’re camping with friends or doing other activities that require teamwork but spending time alone in nature can also make you more altruistic. This is because nature provides opportunities to experience awe--the sense of feeling overwhelmed by being in the presence of something greater than yourself.
A number of studies have found that experiences of awe, such as looking down from a mountain top or hiking through a redwood forest, can make us more sociable, less aggressive, more likely to help others, more likely to donate money, and more likely to behave ethically. These kinds of behaviors make you happier in general and they also help you find a sense of social connection, which is a crucial element of a strong recovery.
Spending time in nature can do us a lot of good. In addition to the benefits proven by scientific research, there is also something that is both soothing and restoring about the outdoors. At The Foundry, we understand the healing power of nature and we integrate many outdoor activities into our holistic treatment programs. To learn more about our treatment options, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Cope with Loneliness in Addiction Recovery?
It’s not uncommon for people to feel lonely when starting out in addiction recovery. There are several reasons for this. If you’ve just come home from inpatient addiction treatment, where you were around people most of the time, you might suddenly find a normal amount of alone time rather stark. None of the people you are used to chatting with in the dining hall or rec room are around anymore.
Second, when you’re starting recovery, it’s a good idea to distance yourself from friends and acquaintances who use drugs and alcohol. Even if they don’t pressure you to drink or use drugs, the association might trigger a craving. Feeling this avenue of socializing is restricted in this way might make you feel lonely.
This loneliness can have real consequences for your recovery, your mental health, and even your physical health. Loneliness and boredom often trigger cravings. Feeling both bored and sad is a bad combination for recovery.
It’s important to remember that loneliness isn’t just the absence of companionship; it’s the presence of psychological stress. Studies have shown that loneliness is linked to a greater likelihood of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and psychological distress. If you’re feeling lonely in recovery, here are some suggestions for what to do about it.
Accept That What You’re Feeling Is Normal
First of all, accept that it’s normal to feel lonely sometimes. We’re a social species and we depend on each other for survival. From an evolutionary perspective, to be isolated is to be vulnerable. Part of coping with loneliness entails acknowledging the feeling, accepting that it’s ok, and knowing that it will eventually pass. Just labeling the feeling can help you feel a bit better. So, if you’re alone and feeling restless, bored, or sad, think, “Ah, that’s loneliness; it won’t last though.”
Go to Meetings Regularly
The best way to beat loneliness is obviously to have regular social connections. For people in recovery, that often means attending regular 1Step or other mutual-aid meetings. This is a time to connect to other sober people and it may also be a good time to discuss your feelings of loneliness. Most of the other members will know what you’re talking about.
Some people may even make themselves available if you feel like you need someone to talk to. Going to meetings regularly also gives structure to your day so that if you do feel lonely, you have a definite idea of when that might end. Keep in mind, especially if you’re relatively new, that engagement is key. While it might help just to be around other people, you still might feel lonely if you just sneak into a meeting and sit in the back.
At the moment, we’re all under quarantine from the coronavirus and that might put a damper on meetings in your area. If that’s the case, you may be able to connect with your group digitally. A lot of meetings are now being held on Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other platforms. Not only is this safer, but it also gives you a chance to get some different perspectives from different groups.
Work on Repairing Damaged Relationships
Another reason you may be feeling lonely is that you may have alienated some of your friends and family when you were actively addicted. If you’re feeling lonely, that may be an indication that it’s time to start mending those relationships. This may be a long-term project but it has to start somewhere. Reach out to the people you’ve wronged and who you want back in your life.
You may have already done this to some extent while working the 12 steps. If so, great. Try reaching out to some of those people. Relationships are typically built through frequent, low-intensity contact. If you still haven’t apologized and made amends to some people, now might be a good time to do that. An apology and making amends won’t fix your relationship right away but it’s a good place to start.
Get Involved in New Activities
People are often surprised how much harder it is to make friends as an adult. When you’re younger, you’re around other people your age every day in school and other activities. When you’re an adult, you’re around other people at work--sometimes. However, people at work have their own lives and concerns and you may or may not have any points of connection.
One solution is to get involved in some new activities. Join a cooking class or a yoga class. Find a running or biking group. Join a recreational sports league. Volunteer for a worthy cause. These are great ways to see the same people regularly and meet people who share your interests. Beyond that, these all aid your recovery by giving you a challenge and a sense of purpose.
Another important thing to remember about loneliness is that it’s really just in your head. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you are necessarily lonely. Loneliness only happens when you are alone and craving company. Being alone can also be an opportunity to do some things you can’t do when other people are around. It may be a chance for you to read, write, meditate, create, listen to music, and think about your values and priorities.
Many of these things require deep, uninterrupted focus, which makes alone time perfect for working on them. Under the current quarantine, we’ve all been reminded several times that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while under quarantine from one plague and Newton invented calculus while exiled from another plague. While we all need to socialize to various degrees to be healthy and happy, we can also use alone time to think, focus, and work.
Loneliness is a common challenge early in recovery but it gets better. You can build a sober network pretty quickly if you make a regular effort and stay engaged in meetings. You may also be able to salvage some old relationships. In the meantime, it’s important to accept that what you’re feeling is normal and that it will pass, and to make what use you can of your alone time. At The Foundry, we understand that a strong recovery is about treating the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. We incorporate many different proven treatment methodologies to help you stay sober long term. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
9 Easy Tips for Sleeping Better in Recovery
Getting plenty of restful sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery. A night of good sleep can mean the difference between meeting the day with energy and focus and just dragging yourself through. Even a minor sleep deficit can have a significant effect on your physical and mental health, and therefore your recovery.
Sleep deprivation and running a chronic sleep deficit have been shown to cause cognitive impairments such as poor concentration, poor working memory, poor long-term memory, and worse decision-making. In the long run, inadequate sleep can significantly increase your risk of anxiety disorders and major depression. Since these commonly occur along with addiction, it’s crucial to do what you can to get enough sleep.
Unfortunately, insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom and it may persist for weeks or months into recovery, making the process harder. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, these tips might help.
First, See Your Doctor
Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to rule out medical causes for your insomnia. Talk to your doctor about your insomnia and be sure to share your addiction history. Many sleep medications are just benzodiazepines and you should definitely avoid those if you have a history of substance use issues.
Next, See Your Therapist
There are two main reasons to talk to your therapist about your sleep problems. The first is that insomnia is a common symptom of several mental health issues, including major depression and anxiety. It could point to an issue that hasn’t been treated or hasn’t been treated adequately. If such an issue does exist, your sleep should improve as you get it under control.
Second, your therapist can help you sleep better. There is a specific cognitive behavioral therapy protocol for insomnia called CBT-I. It includes many of the tips mentioned here but also entails examining your assumptions about sleep and what you say to yourself while lying in bed awake.
Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule
The best tip for sleeping better is one no one wants to hear: sleep at a regular time, even on the weekends. There are a lot of reasons we hate this advice--we have too much to do, we don’t like being constrained by a regular bedtime, we need to catch up on weekends, and so on. However, your circadian rhythm is complex and it doesn’t know what a weekend is.
If you keep your body guessing about what time you’re going to go to bed, you just won’t be able to fall asleep as fast or sleep as deeply. Start by setting a regular wake-up time and you will find it easier to fall asleep at night.
Turn Your Bed into a Sleep Trigger
You want a clear connection in your mind between getting into bed and falling asleep. That means your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Don’t watch TV in bed, don’t look at your phone, don’t read or eat or do anything else in bed.
If you lie down to sleep but you don’t fall asleep for 20 minutes, get up and do something low-key until you feel tired. Otherwise, your anxiety starts going up, you think, “Here we go again,” and you start to think of your bed as a sort of torture device, where you lie exhausted but unable to sleep.
Cut out the Naps
Naps can be tempting, especially if you can’t ever seem to get a good night’s sleep but they can also throw off your rhythm. Naps are especially disruptive if you sleep for more than twenty minutes or nap later than 2 p.m. When you’re trying to conquer insomnia, it’s best to cut out naps completely. Think of it as storing up your tiredness for bedtime.
Cut down on caffeine.
For most people, a bit of caffeine is fine and moderate coffee and tea consumption appears to have some health benefits. However, caffeine also has a half-life of between four and six hours. If you drink a cup of coffee at noon, as much as a quarter of that caffeine--plus whatever is leftover from the morning--might still be in your system at midnight, depending on how fast you metabolize caffeine. Even if it doesn’t keep you awake, it can disturb the quality of your sleep. If you can’t sleep, try cutting down on caffeine or setting a strict cutoff time.
Keep Your Room Dark and Quiet
This is an obvious bit of advice that almost everyone ignores. We evolved to sleep in dark, quiet environments but most of us now live in places where it’s hardly ever dark or quiet. There are street lights, traffic, noisy neighbors, 4 a.m. garbage trucks, barking dogs, and so on. Even low levels of light and sound can disturb your sleep even if they don’t completely wake you up. If you can’t keep your room dark and quiet, consider investing in some ear plugs and a sleep mask.
Turn Down the Thermostat.
Just as we evolved to sleep in dark and quiet, we evolved to sleep in slightly cooler temperatures. However, most of us now live in temperature-controlled buildings that are theoretically the same around the clock. One important sleep adaptation is that our body temperature drops. If you can, turn down the thermostat to between 68 and 70 degrees before bed, you should sleep a bit more deeply.
Have a Good Bedtime Routine
Finally, have a good bedtime routine. A regular sequence signals your body that it’s nearly time to sleep. A good routine can also help you wind down and relax before you get into bed. Try not to work or deal with other stressful things up to the time you go to bed.
Keep in mind that watching intense movies or TV shows right before bed can have a similar effect to real-life stress. Instead, do something relaxing. Listen to some music, pray or meditate, or take a warm--but not hot--shower or bath. You’ll sleep better if you lie down while in a good mood.
Getting plenty of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, especially if you are recovering from addiction. Unfortunately, insomnia is one of the most common problems people face when dealing with substance use and mental health issues. There are no guarantees that you’ll get a good night’s sleep on any given night, but if you create the right conditions, you can tip the odds in your favor. At The Foundry, we believe that wellness is one of the most important parts of a strong recovery from addiction. That’s why we emphasize overall health, including restful sleep, in our treatment programs. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
What Do You Do After a Relapse?
Addiction is a chronic condition and relapse is common. It’s hard to know exactly how common, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that about 40 to 60 percent of people who get treatment for a substance use disorder relapse within a year.
Although relapse is common, it should be avoided if at all possible. Not only is it terribly discouraging, but it also leaves you more vulnerable to overdose, since you no longer have any tolerance. The good news is that if you do relapse, it doesn’t have to be the end of recovery. The following steps can help you get back on track.
Know That Relapse Is Not a Permanent Failure
The first step after a relapse is to sort out your thinking. One common reaction is to think something like, “Well, I’ve already ruined my recovery so I might as well go all out.” It’s normal to feel disappointed and discouraged after a relapse, but this all-or-nothing thinking doesn’t help matters. Yes, it would have been better not to relapse, and starting again will be hard.
However, instead of thinking of relapse as a permanent failure, think of starting again as the second-best option. The best thing would have been to stay sober but since that opportunity is gone, focus on the second-best option. Many people relapse several times before ultimately staying sober long-term. The sooner you decide to move on from this setback, the easier it will be.
Reach out to Someone You Trust
Once you’ve decided to stop digging a new hole, reach out to someone you trust. Good options are your 12-Step sponsor, your therapist, your group, or a supportive friend or family member. Tell them what happened and that you want to get sober again. There are several reasons for this. For instance, it moves things along if someone can help you make a plan and follow through.
Another reason is that it creates a higher level of accountability. Once you tell someone that you relapsed and that you want to get sober again, you feel a greater sense of obligation to follow through. Third, being open and honest makes a clear break from addictive behavior, which is typically evasive and deceptive. Coming clean about a mistake is a clear sign you want to make a real change.
Figure out the Best Way to Get Sober Again
Once you’ve reached out, the next step is to figure out the best way to get sober again. If you had more of a minor slip, like just drinking or using once or even a few times, you’ll probably be fine getting sober again without a medical detox. However, if the relapse was more extensive, you may need to consider whether to go through medical detox. Your doctor or addiction counselor can help you make that determination.
Analyze What Went Wrong
After you’ve addressed the emergency of drinking or using and you’ve gotten sober again, it’s time for some serious reflection. You want to understand exactly what led up to your relapse. Start by writing out a sort of narrative that includes where you were when you actually relapsed, who you were with, how you felt, what you were thinking about, and so on. Then, think about things more broadly. What was going on in your life at the time? Were you feeling depressed or anxious? Were you feeling unusually good?
When people relapse, it’s often days or weeks after they make a definite decision to relapse and they are just waiting for the opportunity. Do you remember when you made that decision? Was it around the same time the possibility first occurred to you or was it sometime later? Had you been sticking to your recovery plan? These are all important questions to ask if you want to better understand what happened. Also, don’t rely solely on your own memory. Get input from your therapist, your friends and family, and from your sober network.
Think About What You Still Have Going for You
One of the biggest challenges in getting over a relapse is the feeling that you have to start over again from scratch. In some ways, you do have to start over. You might have to detox again and you have to start again at one day sober. This matters because sobriety tends to get easier the longer you’re in recovery. You may feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time, money, effort, and will power.
However, in some important ways, you don’t have to start over. You know that you can make it through detox and stay sober for a while. You are familiar with some kind of recovery process, whether it’s participation in a professional treatment program, talking to a therapist, or going to 12-Step meetings. You may have identified and made some progress toward treating any co-occurring mental health issues. You may have something resembling a sober network already in place.
Write down an actual list of all the advantages you have this time that you didn’t have last time. Take it one step further and write down all the advantages you have in general. When you see all the things you have going for you, the prospect of “starting over” won’t seem quite as overwhelming.
Make a New Plan and Try Again
Finally, once you’ve gotten sober, analyzed your mistakes, and taken stock of your current assets, make a new recovery plan that incorporates what you’ve learned. This will be different for everyone. For example, you might realize that after a few months, you started cutting a lot of corners on your recovery plan by skipping meetings, not exercising, and so on.
Your new plan will have to focus on keeping you more engaged and less complacent, possibly by increasing your social support. Another common problem is that people have a rough time transitioning from an inpatient treatment program back to their normal lives.
Your revised plan might include repeating treatment but this time with a more gradual transition, such as stepping down to an outpatient program or sober living environment before heading home. Whatever the stumbling blocks were last time, and there may be several, create a plan for exactly what you will do if you encounter them again.
Relapse is unfortunately very common in addiction recovery, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Plenty of people relapse and go on to have a strong recovery. You don’t fail until you quit trying. At The Foundry, we know that recovery from addiction is never a straight line. We use a variety of proven methods to give our clients the tools they need to stay sober long term. For more information about our treatment options, call us at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
How to Be Optimistic When Recovery Is Hard
Optimism is a good quality to have in addiction recovery and in life. Studies have shown that more optimistic people have better relationships, earn more money, and enjoy better health. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, a bit of optimism in challenging times can make the difference between pushing through and throwing up your hands and pouring a drink.
Unfortunately, optimism doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially to anyone who is at a low point in life. There is even some evidence that optimism has a genetic element. Even if you’re not a naturally optimistic person, you can learn to be more optimistic. Try the following if you want a more positive outlook.
Imagine the Best Outcome
Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we don’t want. We don’t want to be in pain, we don’t want to be poor, we don’t want to be unhappy, and so on. However, when we fixate on what we don’t want, our focus is essentially negative. Not only are we preoccupied with the fear of a certain outcome, we unconsciously move toward it. For example, you have probably had the experience while driving, riding a bike, or even walking of being distracted by something by the side of the road and then realized you veered in that direction without even noticing. The same can happen with more abstract things.
Instead, focus on what you do want. Don’t try to avoid getting dumped; focus on making your relationship good. This leads to better outcomes and makes you more optimistic. There are a number of ways you can do this. One is to wake up in the morning and ask yourself, “What would this day look like if everything went perfectly?” That will make it much easier to get out of bed. A more in-depth exercise is to spend a few minutes once a week writing about what your ideal life would look like in five or 10 years.
Record the Positives
Whereas imagining the best outcome looks to the future, writing down the positives looks to the past. We are mostly hardwired to notice threats and other unpleasant things because that helps keep us alive. Unfortunately, it also makes us unnecessarily gloomy. One way to push back against that tendency is to write down good things that happened during the day or week.
There are two similar exercises that can help with this. The first is the “three good things” exercise. Each night, before you go to bed, write down three things that went well and why they went well. The other exercise is the gratitude journal. Write down some things you were grateful for that day, either grateful to someone in particular or just in general. They can be big or small. Doing this regularly will make you more attuned to the good things in your life and the people who support you.
Look for the Silver Lining
In a sense, all of optimism is about finding the good in any situation. This is often challenging, especially if you’re prone to depression or anxiety and especially if you are under stress. One trick you can use is to tell yourself, “This situation is completely terrible, but if I had to find something good in it, it would be this.”
For example, most of us are currently in lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Thousands of people have already died from it, many more have lost their jobs, and all of our lives have been disrupted. This situation is completely terrible, but if you had to find something good about it, you might say that it gives you time to work on some projects you’ve been putting off for a while, it gives you more time to spend with your family, it helps to clarify your priorities, it brings out the best in people trying to help, and so on. This is not an exercise in ignoring the bad; it’s acknowledging the good as well.
Notice Your Thinking Style
Much of our pessimism is caused by faulty thinking. For example, you may think you know for sure that something will have a bad outcome, when in fact, no one really knows what will happen. Or you might think that since you failed at something in the past, then you will fail at it in the future when, in reality, most of us get better with practice and increase our chances of succeeding in the future.
Research on optimism has discovered a common thinking pattern among more optimistic people: they tend to believe their failures are temporary and based on external circumstances while believing their successes are permanent and based on their intrinsic qualities. Pessimists tend to believe the opposite.
In reality, all of our successes and failures are partly down to our own talents and partly down to external circumstances but since we can never know for sure to what extent each of those contribute, it’s more useful to assume that your failures are circumstantial and your successes are because of you.
Make Friends with Positive People
Finally, make friends with positive people. We tend to pick up on the habits of the people we spend the most time with. If your friends are optimistic, you will likely become more optimistic. That’s not to say you should ostracize anyone who complains. We all have bad days. However, if you have a friend who always complains, plays the victim, and expects the worst possible outcome, this might be a good time to socially distance yourself from that person.
It’s important to remember that optimism isn’t the naive belief that everything is great; it’s the awareness that even when things are really bad, they are almost never comprehensively bad and it’s possible, and even likely, they will get better. A pessimist will give up right away but an optimist will try. Even if they don’t achieve a perfect outcome, they will often achieve a better outcome. At The Foundry, we believe that true recovery from addiction is about living a happier, more fulfilling life. We use evidence-based methods to give our clients the skills they need for a long recovery. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Find a Good Therapist?
If you are recovering from a substance use disorder or even just considering getting help, a good therapist should be part of your foreseeable future. Substance use issues are rarely just about drugs and alcohol. They are almost always embedded in a nest of trauma, mental health issues, dysfunctional relationships, and other unhealthy behaviors.
Just trying to abstain from drugs or alcohol without addressing these other issues is difficult and typically short-lived. If you have been through a treatment program already, finding a good therapist is an excellent way to stay on track and work on applying the lessons of treatment to real-life challenges.
Even if you don’t see your therapist regularly at some point, it’s helpful to have someone to call when things get tough. However, the task of choosing a therapist is not that simple. If you live in a mid-sized city, there are likely hundreds of options. And now that more therapists are holding remote sessions, you have even more choices. The following are some ways you can find a therapist you like.
Ask for Recommendations
Asking for recommendations is a good place to start. There are several ways to go about this. Probably the single best way is to ask a therapist. Therapists know each other, know what their colleagues specialize in, know their treatment styles and personalities and, most importantly, know who to avoid.
The best situation is if you have a friend or relative who is a therapist because they know you and can better match you to someone you might work well with. However, if that’s not an option, you probably know someone who is in therapy.
If they like their therapist, you might contact them and ask for recommendations or have your friend ask. You might even consider seeing your friend’s therapist. It doesn’t hurt to put them on the list. Keep in mind, though, that therapists have rules about conflicts of interest, so your relationship to the person will affect whether you can see the same therapist.
Another possibility is to ask your doctor for a recommendation. This has the particular advantage of allowing you to describe your needs in some detail without worrying about confidentiality. However, it’s also important to make sure your doctor’s recommendation is based on personal knowledge and they’re not just picking a name off a list. When asking for recommendations, always ask for two or three names so you have some options.
See Who Your Insurance Covers
If you’re paying out of pocket, this isn’t quite as important, but if you’re relying on insurance to pay at least some of the cost of therapy, then this will narrow down your options to some degree, depending on your insurance. If you can afford it, it might be worth it to pay out of pocket even if you do have insurance. That way, you’ll be making your decision based on who you really think is best, not based on who is willing to accept your insurer’s rates.
There are several online listings of therapists. The most comprehensive is on the Psychology Today website. There, you can narrow down your choices by location, issues, type of therapy, insurance, and other factors.
Not everyone is listed in these directories but you can usually find several strong candidates. Their profiles often link to their professional websites so you can get more info. Do not look on Craigslist for a therapist.
Check Cut a Few Before Committing
It may be tempting to just commit to the first therapist who looks like a good fit. However, there is sometimes a huge difference between a good fit on paper and a good fit in person. Start by calling or emailing a few promising candidates.
See if you can do a 10 or 15-minute consultation. This should give you a pretty good idea if this is someone you feel comfortable talking to and has a therapeutic style you feel good about. Doing this over the phone instead of coming in for a whole session makes you feel less committed to a particular therapist.
Ask About Their Specialization and Experience
When you email, or during your initial consultation, be sure to ask about their background, their education, and their experience with your particular issues. Where they were educated is not nearly as important as their relevant experience. This is especially important because most people struggling with substance use issues will need a therapist who specializes in addiction and something else.
Most therapists will list depression and anxiety disorders among their areas of expertise, since these, by far, affect the most people. However, you should be able to get a sense of their specializations--whether they primarily treat children or adults, families or individuals, and specific issues like addiction, PTSD, sexual abuse, and so on. Beware of therapists who claim to be experts in everything.
Ask About Their Approach to Treatment
Different therapists have different treatment philosophies. Some are happy to use whatever works while others are more orthodox. Most therapists these days rely heavily on cognitive behavioral methods but there are still some practicing psychoanalysts. More therapists are now incorporating things like mediation, exercise, and healthy eating into their treatment.
Some have a more religious or spiritual bent while others pay close attention to the science. Ask open-ended questions like, “How would you describe your approach to treatment?” The more research you do beforehand, the better questions you can ask.
Ask About Price
If your insurance covers a therapist, ask about price anyway. Insurance is still very dodgy about covering mental health. Even if a therapist is in-network, you may end up having to pay for sessions exceeding a certain amount per year. In other words, in October, you might discover that your insurance has paid for all the sessions they’re going to pay for that year and you’re on your own for November and December.
Or your therapist may drop your insurance, meaning you have to pay out of pocket if you want to continue working with them. Either way, it’s best to know what it might cost you and decide accordingly. Often, therapists will work on a sliding scale, so ask about that before you decide you can’t afford to work with a particular therapist.
For some people, a good therapist is all they need to change their substance use habits. For others, a therapist can help them make the often difficult transition from treatment back to regular life. For anyone with co-occurring mental health issues, a good therapist is crucial for maintaining recovery. Ask for recommendations, do your research, ask questions, and take your time deciding. There are many good therapists out there but there might not be many good therapists for you. At The Foundry, we know that good mental health is the core of a strong recovery. That’s why we use a variety of evidence-based methods to help our clients address co-occurring mental health issues. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Why Is Transitional Care Important for Addiction Recovery?
A lot of people assume that completing an addiction treatment program is all they really need to do in order to recover. Unfortunately, treatment isn’t like taking your car to the shop. Treatment gives you a great start in recovery. It gets you away from bad influences and bad situations, helps you detox safely, gets you started in therapy, and it teaches you some crucial recovery skills.
However, all of this is just a beginning. Addiction is a chronic condition that requires you to stick to an ongoing treatment plan. As with high blood pressure or diabetes, when you abandon your treatment plan, the condition gets worse. Transitional care is a way of making sure that the positive changes you make during treatment continue long after you leave.
When you leave treatment, you go from a highly structured environment to an unstructured environment. When you’re in inpatient treatment, pretty much everything is scheduled such as sleep, meals, therapy, activities, and free time. While this clearly has a practical purpose, it also has a therapeutic purpose.
You know what to expect from each day and you don’t have to put much energy into deciding what to do, making healthy decisions, and so on. Having structure in your days minimizes boredom and restlessness and it fosters conscientiousness. This self-awareness is a personality trait that helps protect us against substance use.
It can be rather jarring to go from a highly structured environment like treatment to one where there is essentially no structure at all. Usually, a month is not long enough to make your treatment routine automatic, but it is a pretty good start. It’s a good idea to try to keep to that regular schedule as much as possible after you leave.
When you’re in treatment, pretty much everyone around you is invested in your recovery. The staff is paid to help you get sober and stay sober. Beyond that, most people choose that work because helping people with substance use issues means something to them. Most of the other people in treatment want to stay sober and many of them will support your efforts too.
It’s very different after you leave. Most people will have no idea you are recovering from addiction and some will actively make it harder for you to stay sober. There is also a lot more stress in regular life, which you were mostly shielded from during treatment. One of the first things you’ll have to do after leaving treatment is to create a sober support system as quickly as possible. Social support is one of the most important factors in a strong recovery.
Applying Recovery Skills
There’s often a big difference between theory and practice. During treatment, you’ll learn a lot of skills. You’ll learn how to manage your emotions, cope with stress, and to interact more effectively with others. You will even be able to practice these skills to some extent.
While this is great preparation, life often surprises us with new problems. It’s always important to have a plan but it’s also important to realize that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We face new challenges all the time and having someone to help you apply your new recovery skills to real-life situations can make a big difference.
What Is Transitional Care?
Having seen some of the issues that make transitioning back to normal life after treatment so difficult for many people, what can be done about it? There are many different modes of follow-up care but they mainly fall into the three categories below.
Creating Social Support
The lowest level of follow-up care involves helping clients create some degree of social support. For example, many programs help clients get situated in external 12-Step programs so they will have an established meeting when they leave. Some programs offer alumni services that connect program graduates to alumni in their area.
Some programs offer counseling services or virtual group sessions for a period following the formal program. These are not only helpful for clients but they often provide useful feedback for treatment programs.
Another common strategy is step-down care. For example, if you’ve just completed a period of inpatient treatment, you might continue on in an intensive outpatient program. This continues much of the intensive support and therapy and provides a bit of structure while giving you more freedom to live at home and work or go to school.
Even if you don’t enroll in a formal program following treatment, you should find a good therapist and go to appointments at least once a week. For many people, daily 12-Step meetings help them stay on track during the first few months following treatment. The basic idea is that whatever level of care you’ve recently completed, you move down to a slightly less intensive form of treatment rather than heading straight back to normal life.
Sober Living Environment
Finally, you might consider a sober living environment to help you transition back to normal life. These are typically houses where only sober people live. Structure is a condition of living there and you can usually enjoy some support from your housemates. Usually, there is a curfew, and residents are required to do some chores, attend 12-Step meetings, and work or at least look for work.
Intensive treatment is a great start to recovery, but it’s important to keep in mind that addiction is a chronic condition that will require management for years, and possibly for life. You typically have to make a lot of changes during treatment and making these part of your normal life will take a bit of time, practice, and social support. At The Foundry, we know that the transitional period after treatment is a difficult time for people. That’s why we do everything we can to smooth that transition and make it successful. To learn more about our transitional care and our treatment programs in general, call us at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
Nine Common Mistakes to Avoid in Addiction Recovery
Recovery from addiction is complicated. You have to learn new coping skills, make new friends, make lifestyle changes, and other big changes in a relatively short period of time. There are plenty of chances to make mistakes, especially early on. The good news is that these mistakes don’t have to derail your recovery.
You can avoid many of them, if you know to watch out for them. If you do make mistakes, you can usually get back on track if you catch them early enough. The following are some of the more common mistakes people make in addiction recovery.
Thinking You Can Do It Alone
Perhaps the hardest step is admitting you have a problem, but it’s also hard to ask for help. Many people admit they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but they want to deal with it on their own. This is usually a bad idea. The thinking that got you into addiction is unlikely to get you out. At the very least, you would benefit from social support like what you would find at 12-Step or other mutual-aid meetings. Additionally, many people need much more support and guidance, such as from a therapist or an addiction treatment program.
Not Treating Mental Health Issues
When most people decide to get help for a substance use issue, the first thing they think of is going to a 12-Step meeting. This is a great first step, and groups like AA and NA have helped millions of people get sober over the decades. However, it’s also important to be aware that most people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues such as major depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, PTSD, and others. If you try to get sober without addressing these issues, it’s going to be much, much harder.
Expecting Too Much Too Soon
Recovery from addiction is possible — and even likely, with the right help — and life will certainly get better when you’re sober, but it won’t happen all at once. It takes time to form new habits and get used to different ways of thinking. It also takes time for your brain chemistry and body to adapt to life without drugs and alcohol. The early months are typically challenging, and often uncomfortable.
If you expect life to turn around right away, you’ll likely be disappointed. You should probably expect to notice a difference by the end of the first year of sobriety, and then again at five years. In the meantime, you just have to commit to the process.
Comparing Your Progress to Others
It’s normal to want to know how your recovery is progressing, but comparing your progress to others is counterproductive. First and foremost, these comparisons are never accurate. Everyone in recovery is facing different challenges and you only know what others allow you to know. Also, recovery is a cooperative effort. Everyone benefits when they support each other, but making comparisons turns it into a competition. It’s hard to celebrate other people’s successes when you feel like they come at your expense.
There’s plenty of sobriety to go around. Finally, something about the act of comparison itself makes you less happy. It’s far better to judge your progress based on your own goals and values, as well as whether you did better today than yesterday.
Dating Too Soon
Most experts typically recommend that you have a solid year of recovery before you think about dating again. This can be challenging, since substance use issues typically first appear in early adulthood, when people are dating most actively. However, there are good reasons to hold off. First, it distracts from recovery.
Dating can be stressful and time consuming, and if you meet someone you like, you are likely to prioritize that person over recovery. That may be fine as long as things are going well, but it can be a huge liability if the relationship starts having problems. What’s more, people often fall back into unhealthy relationship patterns if they start dating again too soon. A year seems like a long time, but it’s really not.
Thinking You’re Cured
It’s easy to get complacent after a while if recovery seems to be going well. You might start to cut corners like skipping meetings or neglecting other parts of your recovery plan. You might even start to think it would be ok to have a drink every once in a while.
This is much like when people stop taking their medication for a mental health issue because they feel good. You feel good because you’re taking care of yourself, so it’s important to keep doing what you’re doing. Addiction is a chronic condition, and you’ve got to stick with your recovery plan.
If you’re recovering from alcohol use disorder, drinking is an obvious blunder, but many people in recovery don’t see alcohol as a serious problem. They may have issues with cocaine or opioids and see alcohol as more or less incidental. However, alcohol is often a powerful trigger, since most people combine drugs and alcohol. Not only that, alcohol impairs your judgment and self-control, making you more vulnerable to relapse. If you’re recovering from a drug use disorder, it’s important to stay away from alcohol, too.
Hanging Out With the Same People
We are all more vulnerable to peer pressure than we like to think. Even if your friends who drink and use drugs don’t pressure you to use, just being in that environment can trigger cravings and make it easier to relapse. People often struggle with loneliness early in recovery, which is why they hang out with old friends when they know they shouldn’t. The important thing is to create a sober network as soon as possible. Typically, attending regular 12-Step meetings is a good place to start.
Thinking Recovery Ends With Treatment
Finally, a lot of people assume that they can go into a treatment program, have their addiction problem fixed, and not have to worry about it too much after that. In reality, addiction is a chronic condition, and it takes about a year for your relapse risk to fall to 50 percent, on average. It’s especially important that you make a smooth transition from treatment back to normal life, perhaps by stepping down to an intensive outpatient program after you finish inpatient treatment, or by spending some time in a sober living environment. A strong recovery is really about changing your approach to life and not just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
Recovery from addiction is hard and everyone makes mistakes. The good news is that mistakes, even serious mistakes and relapses, don’t have to be final. You can learn from your mistakes and try again. At The Foundry, we use a variety of modalities to help our clients address co-occurring issues and make lasting change. For more information about our treatment programs, 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.
How Do You Care for Yourself When a Loved One Has a Substance Use Disorder?
It’s hard when you have a loved one who is struggling with a substance use disorder. Not only are you constantly worried about their health and welfare, but their substance use and resulting behavior probably affect you directly in various ways. They may get belligerent, ask to borrow money, keep strange hours, bring around suspicious people, and disrupt your life in countless other ways.
You want to help them but they may not be ready for help yet. The situation is a source of chronic stress as you try to deal with your own conflicting motivations. If you have a loved one with a substance use disorder, the following are some ways to take care of yourself.
Know That It’s Not Your Fault
First of all, know that whatever struggles your loved one is dealing with, it’s not your fault. Addiction is complex, typically involving genetic factors, mental health issues, childhood environment, or trauma. Sometimes these things combine in just the wrong way and most of the relevant factors are beyond anyone’s control.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
Maintaining healthy boundaries is good for both of you. Healthy boundaries mean you expect your loved one to respect your values and autonomy and you respect theirs. Healthy boundaries are also a safety issue. If your loved one is going to live with you, they need to respect certain rules, like not bringing drugs or alcohol into the house, not bringing people over, and so on. They also need to respect you and your property by not trying to manipulate you, lie to you, or steal from you.
Boundaries are a way of protecting yourself and a way of not enabling their addictive behavior. Maintaining healthy boundaries may also be a way of improving the situation. Dysfunctional family dynamics, including poor communication and weak or nonexistent boundaries, often contribute to addiction.
Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can wear you down and take a toll on your health. Chronic stress produces hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to various health issues over time.
To reduce stress and maintain health, three things are most important: sleep, diet, and exercise. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Even a modest sleep deficit can lead to increased anxiety, poor concentration and memory, poor planning, and lack of self-control. Over a longer period, a sleep deficit increases your risk of major depression and anxiety disorders.
Diet is the next important aspect of staying healthy. There are now many studies connecting a good diet with better mental health. One meta-analysis with data from more than 45,000 participants found that a healthy diet significantly reduces your risk of depression. Healthy diets in the various studies typically included mostly whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with very little processed grain, meat, or sugar.
Exercise is the third leg of the stool. It improves your physical health, especially your cardiovascular health, and helps you maintain a healthy body weight. Perhaps more importantly, it helps improve your mental health, particularly by making you less reactive to stress. All you really need is to walk 30 minutes a day to notice improvements.
Find Ways to Relax
Some people have trouble relaxing because they feel like it’s just doing nothing. However, relaxation helps you reduce stress and recover from the stress of the day. Find something that works for you whether it’s meditating, listening to music, reading, or taking a hot bath or shower. Schedule some time to relax every day.
Talk to a Therapist
Having a loved one with a substance use disorder is a difficult situation to deal with. You may have trouble dealing with guilt or setting boundaries. You may have trouble coping with the associated stress or communicating effectively. A therapist can help you with all of these issues.
As noted above, family dynamics often drive addiction and it’s possible that by improving your communication skills, learning to set and respect boundaries, and resolving your own issues, that you might have a positive effect on your loved one.
Seek Social Support
Finally, seek social support. One of the hardest things is feeling like you are dealing with this situation on your own. People with substance use issues will sometimes deliberately try to isolate you as a means of control. Connect with others who are facing the same challenges.
Consider attending Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings in your area. You can talk to people who have been through the same thing and understand. Having that sense of connection makes you feel less stressed and more confident about dealing with the challenges related to your loved one’s addiction.
Having a loved one with a substance use disorder is always a difficult situation. It’s hard to know to help without enabling. Many people feel personally responsible for their loved ones’ addiction and recovery and the ongoing stress can have a serious effect on your health. While it’s great to want to help your loved one and encourage them to get help, remember that ultimately, they have to make their own decisions and that you can’t help them if you are sick and depressed. At The Foundry, we know that family is one of the most important elements of a strong recovery and we want you to play an integral role in your loved one’s treatment. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.
How to Live in the Present Moment
You’ve probably heard the AA aphorism, “One day at a time.” The idea is that thinking about staying sober for the rest of your life is too much to think about. It’s too overwhelming. You get caught up in thinking “What if this or that happens?” “How am I going to stay sober for the rest of my life?” and so on. “One day at a time” is a mantra that has helped many people through hard days.
Sometimes “One day at a time” becomes “one hour at a time” or even “one minute at a time.” That’s fine. In fact, the more you narrow that time horizon, the closer you come to that classic dictum of happiness, “Live in the present moment.” This is good advice for anyone, but especially anyone with a substance use issue. Ruminating about past mistakes or worrying about possible problems are typical features of major depression and anxiety disorders, respectively. Living in the present spares you from having to carry the weight of the past and future but it can be hard to do. The following tips can make living in the present easier.
Focus on the Process
For many people, the biggest obstacle to living in the present is that we feel the need to plan for possible problems. This is especially true of people who tend to be anxious. Prying your attention from your worries feels a bit like taking your eyes off the road when you’re driving.
To overcome this resistance, focus on the process rather than the end result. Living in the present doesn’t mean you give up on the idea of progress but rather understanding that progress can only happen if you act on the present. So, for example, you can be engaged in writing down some recovery goals and some steps to get there. You’re planning for the future, but you’re actively engaged in that particular activity.
Write Things Down
One reason we often don’t live in the present is that we have something we feel is important that we have to remember. Maybe you have a meeting after lunch or you’re supposed to call your mom, or you have a great idea for your friend’s birthday present, and so on. If you have to devote mental energy to remembering those things, they will take away your focus.
Instead, just write them down. If it’s an appointment, writing it down on a calendar or planner is always a good idea, but just writing a reminder on a sticky note is usually enough to get it off your mind.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation simply means setting aside a certain amount of time every day to deliberately practice being in the present moment. It could be as little as five minutes or it could be as long as you want. The exercise is about accepting whatever you experience in the moment without judgment and without your mind wandering off to the past or future.
Your mind will inevitably wander off, especially at first. When this happens, just notice that it happened. Just noticing brings you back to the present because you become aware of what your mind is doing.
Use a Grounding Technique
A grounding technique is when you deliberately notice sensations in order to ground yourself in the present. You can do this as part of mindfulness meditation or just any time during the day when you find yourself preoccupied with worries or otherwise unable to concentrate. A common grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. You notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
This engages all of your senses and the mild complexity of the task keeps you cognitively engaged. However, you don’t have to go through this whole exercise to ground yourself. You can engage with any sensation. For example, you might notice the sensations in just your feet or you might notice the sensations of your breathing.
Forget About the Clock
Anyone who has ever had a job knows that the last 10 or 15 minutes of the workday are the longest. When you’re busy, you forget about time and focus on what you’re doing. When you start looking at the clock, you get restless. Time creeps by. You wish it were 20 minutes in the future and you were on your way home.
The same thing happens any time you’re too focused on the time. Part of your brain is always pulling you away from your task at hand to check the time. Try forgetting about the clock. If you have to do something at a certain time and you’re afraid you’ll get carried away and miss it, set an alarm.
Accept Your Emotions
Another major challenge to staying present is when the present feels pretty bad. Either you’re in physical pain or discomfort or you are experiencing challenging emotions. It’s normal to want to escape that situation, even if you’re just imagining how nice it would be if you didn’t feel so miserable.
Ironically, pushing away negative feelings only makes them stronger. The purpose of pain is to let you know that something is wrong. If you try to ignore it, it keeps tapping you on the shoulder. However, if you accept your discomfort and can be present with it without judgment, it typically becomes more tolerable.
This is especially important for anyone recovering from a substance use disorder because drugs and alcohol often serve as an avoidance mechanism. If you can look challenging emotions straight in the face and accept them for what they are, they have less control over you.
Living in the moment improves the quality of your recovery and your life in many ways. You’re more engaged in what you’re doing and you’re less bothered by rumination and worry when you live in the present. However, it does take practice. Focusing on the process rather than the outcome you want, practicing mindfulness, and periodically grounding yourself through your senses are great ways to spend more time living in the present.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery from addiction is about treating the whole person. That’s why we incorporate mindfulness meditation and trauma-informed yoga into our treatment program, along with evidence-based therapeutic methods and positive lifestyle changes. For more information, call us 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.
8 Tips for Dealing With Anger When You’re Sober
Emotional regulation is one of the key skills to learn when recovering from addiction and anger is one of the most challenging emotions to regulate. Anger can come on quickly and feel overwhelming. It can lead to rash decisions, arguments, strained or broken relationships, or even accidents.
If you tend to repress your anger, you can avoid some of the consequences of anger but you may have other problems instead, including depression, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and more frequent illnesses. Whether you more often lose your temper or stuff it down, dealing with anger in the wrong ways can damage your health, your well-being, and your recovery from addiction. The following are tips for dealing with anger in a healthier way.
Know What Anger Is
First, it’s important to understand that anger, like all emotions, is not inherently bad and is useful in some situations. Fundamentally, anger is a response to a threat. In the simplest situation, someone attacks you physically, you get angry and fight back, and they leave you alone.
However, these days, anger is rarely the result of a direct physical threat. It’s the result of disagreements, obligations, criticism, unfair situations, and other kinds of frustration, most of which won’t respond to physical threats. As a result, unresolved anger becomes a kind of chronic stress. Resolving it is largely a matter of identifying the perceived threat and finding an appropriate solution.
Know Your Own Tendencies
As noted above, people tend to inappropriately respond to anger either by exploding or suppressing, neither of which is typically helpful. It’s important to be aware of which behavior is more typical for you. If you explode, you probably know it, but you may not be as aware of suppressed anger, especially if it’s a habit you formed in childhood. Depression, resentment, and chronic pain often involve an element of suppressed anger.
It’s also important to know what kinds of things make you angry--your triggers. Often, anger involves some combination of stress and insecurity. For example, if you’re under a lot of stress at work, you may be more likely to lose your temper with your spouse, especially in some area you already feel insecure about.
Learn to Pause
The first skill to master when it comes to managing anger is the pause. This means that when you are aware of becoming angry, you give yourself some time before responding. This isn’t suppression; it’s just collecting yourself so you don’t say or do anything to make the situation worse.
It often helps to have a go-to technique. Maybe you count down from 10 or take five slow, deep breaths. After the first wave of anger passes, you should be able to think a little more clearly and employ an appropriate strategy.
Learning to relax has two important benefits for managing anger. First, it lowers your baseline. We all have a certain set point that is partly physiological. Also, stress tends to accumulate. If you practice relaxing every day, you shake off some of your accumulated stress and you gradually lower your set point for anger. Typically, relaxation will involve some deliberate routine, such as progressive relaxation, where you focus on each body individually and let it relax.
Or you may use some kind of visualization or some kind of breathing exercise. The second benefit of practicing relaxation daily is that you are better able to relax when you feel yourself getting angry. It’s easy to get swept away with anger, so practice is key when you need to relax under pressure.
Mindfulness meditation is a great practice for managing anger because it combines the relaxation and awareness of your own tendencies discussed above. Mindfulness meditation is just spending a few minutes every day keeping your awareness in the present moment, nonjudgmentally observing any sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise. After practicing this for a few weeks, you’ll be more aware of the relationships between your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
You will also be able to use your mindfulness skills in the moment to manage your anger. For example, when you pause, you can watch the progression of anger without getting swept away by it. You can feel the physical sensations, such as your face getting hot, your throat getting tense, and so on. You can also notice what thoughts are associated with your anger, which brings us to the next point.
Watch Your Thoughts
As noted above, these days, we rarely experience anger as the result of a direct physical threat. Our anger is mostly a result of our thoughts and beliefs about a situation. Anger is typically caused by frustration, which is often associated with assumptions about how the world should be, “That guy should be more considerate,” “This process should be more efficient,” “That policy should be fairer,” and so on.
And maybe some of those things are true, but we have to take the world as we find it. Another common distortion is jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst possible outcome. That feels threatening, which can lead to anger, but in reality, the worst possible outcome rarely happens.
Improve Your Communication
Sometimes anger does actually signal that something needs to change. This is the kind of situation in which you want to express your anger but in the most constructive way possible. To do that, you typically need to pause and collect yourself before moving forward.
The next step is to communicate clearly. That means understanding what you want from a situation as well as being willing to listen to the other person. Communication is a huge topic but start by listening with an open mind and communicating your needs without accusing or condemning the other person.
Work on Solutions
Finally, not all anger is the result of direct interpersonal conflict. Forgetting your password can be just as enraging as being slapped in the face, but smashing your computer on the desk will only make you feel better for about three seconds. Instead, allow yourself to calm down and start working on a solution. Think of it as an opportunity to practice frustration tolerance, the core skill in managing anger. Pause as often as you need to but keep working steadily toward a solution.
Anger is a common problem and the nature of anger makes it a difficult problem to solve. It takes practice and it may take therapy as well. The good news is that anger appears to respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy, the most commonly used form of therapy today. Medication will also be part of therapy for some people with anger issues.
At The Foundry, we know that emotional regulation—including anger—is one of the most important aspects of addiction recovery. We use a number of proven methods to help you live a richer, more fulfilling emotional life, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, trauma therapy, mindfulness meditation, and more. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
8 Tips for Cultivating Compassion in Addiction Recovery
Compassion is simply feeling someone else’s pain and sincerely wishing to relieve it. In a previous post, we looked at how compassion benefits addiction recovery. Compassion allows you to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and form stronger bonds with other people. Perhaps most importantly, greater compassion leads to greater happiness.
Concern for helping others rescues you from your own fear and rumination and gives you a sense of purpose. However, you may not know how to be more compassionate, or even if that’s possible. We all know people who seem like they were born to watch out for other people, whether they’re first responders or preschool teachers.
You may think, “That’s just not me.” However, we’re all more adaptable than we believe. With persistent effort, you can become more compassionate and enjoy the benefits that come with it. Here’s how.
Keep an Open Mind
For some people, the benefits of compassion are obvious but others may be more skeptical. They may see kindness and compassion as forms of weakness, believing self-reliance is the only true form of strength. The good news is that you don’t have to flip the compassion switch forever.
You can try it out and see how you like it. Like most things, it takes a bit of work to make compassion a habit but you can try out compassionate thoughts and behaviors without too much effort.
Most of the time, when we resist the idea of compassion, it’s because we feel like no one has done much for us, so why is it our responsibility to help others? However, no one makes it very far in life without help. We’re born helpless, so if you’re alive, someone had to keep you alive for at least a little while.
Other people have helped you along the way, whether you realize it or not. The first big step toward being more compassionate is understanding and feeling grateful for the help we’ve received, even if it was small.
You can easily cultivate gratitude in two ways. First, keep a gratitude journal. Every day, just write down three things that you were grateful for that day. Eventually, you will start noticing things as they happen and feeling more grateful.
Second, write a gratitude letter to someone describing what they did for you and what it meant to you. Then you can deliver the letter if you want. These practices are not only the foundation for compassion, but they have also been shown to make you feel happier and more optimistic.
Start With Compassion for Yourself
When developing compassion, it’s typically easiest to start with yourself. Even if you don’t like yourself very much, at least you genuinely desire your own happiness. Many people struggle with guilt and shame as they try to recover from addiction and developing self-compassion will definitely help with that.
When you think about the mistakes you’ve made, try to have compassion for your past self. Imagine you’re talking to a close friend and trying to support them. It’s also important to have compassion for your future self. Compassion for your future self can give you the motivation to do the hard things now that will benefit you in the future.
Empathy is about half of compassion. If you are going to feel compassion for someone, you have to understand what they’re going through. The best way to do that is to listen. Give others your full attention and listen without judgment. Reflect back what they’ve said and try to put yourself in their place. Ask, “What was that like?”
Try to Stay Present
Staying present is an often overlooked aspect of compassion. If you’re ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, you are necessarily stuck in your own head, and most likely worrying about your own problems. You’re not paying attention to the people around you. Compassion really only happens in the moment, when you become aware that someone else is having trouble.
You have to be present to listen too. One trick you can use to stay mentally present is to think about your feet. Your feet have a high density of nerve endings, yet we rarely pay attention to those sensations. Doing that will instantly bring your attention into the present.
Set Aside Judgments
We make quick judgments all the time and most of the time, we’re trying to answer the question, “Is this useful to me?” as quickly as possible. The problem is that applying these judgments to other people is basically the opposite of compassion.
Once you can stick a label on a person and put them in a box, you don’t have to think about them anymore. Try to be aware of when you're making judgments about people--including yourself--and pause before you do it. Instead of thinking, “they’re this or that kind of person,” just try to see them as they are.
Look for Commonalities
Whereas judgments oversimplify people for easy categorization, looking for common ground builds a bridge. You start to think about what it might be like to be that person. If you don’t know someone well or at all, you can start with some fairly universal assumptions, like that they want to be happy, they want to feel appreciated, they want to be free of pain, and so on, the same as you. Even if they seek these things in a very different way, you will have some points from which to build empathy.
Try Metta Meditation
Metta means something like loving-kindness and it comes from a Buddhist meditation practice. The idea is simple. It’s almost like lifting weights for compassion. You start with something relatively easy: feeling compassion for yourself. You direct a few positive thoughts towards yourself, something like, “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be healthy,” and so on. When you feel a genuine sense of compassion for yourself, just allow yourself to rest with that feeling for a few minutes.
Then, move on to someone close to you, perhaps a relative or your best friend, and do the same thing. Then, move on to a stranger, and finally a challenging person. You don’t have to do all this at once. You can work up to it over the course of weeks or months if you have to. The key is to challenge yourself to feel genuine concern for people you aren’t really close to or that you may even dislike. This is incredibly hard for most people, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it right away.
Developing a greater sense of compassion is one of the best ways to strengthen your recovery because it makes you feel happier and more connected to others. Cultivating compassion is mainly a matter of intention and persistence. Remind yourself daily that you’re going to listen to others, try to understand what they’re experiencing, and try to be kind.
At The Foundry, we know that connection is one of the most important things in recovery. It makes you feel happier and gives you a sense of purpose and belonging. That’s why we promote a sense of community in our treatment program through group and family therapy, group activities, mindfulness meditation, and other methods. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
7 Easy Grounding Techniques to Help You Manage Anxiety
Anxiety is a common problem for people with substance use disorders. Research shows that nearly 18 percent of people with substance use disorders also have an anxiety disorder. And that doesn’t include PTSD, which other research suggests may affect up to half of people with substance use issues. Often, substance use begins as a way to cope with anxiety, and learning to cope with anxiety will be a top priority for anyone recovering from addiction.
Even if you don’t have a particular problem with anxiety, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by ruminating over past mistakes or getting too caught up in worries about the future. There’s a good reason “One day at a time” is so often repeated in AA meetings. Whether you are prone to anxiety or just feeling overwhelmed by the idea of staying sober forever, the following grounding techniques can bring you back into the present moment and help you calm down. They aren’t a replacement for therapy but they can help you out in a pinch.
The crux of any grounding technique is that it takes your attention away from the thoughts and sensations that are causing anxiety and focuses it on something immediate and positive, or at least neutral. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a systematic way of bringing your attention to sensory input. You start by naming five things you can see around you, then four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Take a moment and fully experience each item. This isn’t just a checklist; it’s also a mindfulness exercise, so try to make the most of it. If you don’t have time for the whole exercise, you can pick one of the senses and briefly bring your attention to that.
Deep breathing is an excellent way to calm down. First, it’s something that’s always happening in the present moment and you can bring your attention to the sensations of breathing. Second, you can actually slow your heart rate by slowing your breathing.
When you’re anxious, your sympathetic nervous system is overactive, which often creates a positive feedback loop, making you even more anxious. You can interrupt that by activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
When you breathe deeply, and particularly when you exhale slowly, you stimulate your vagus nerve, which activates your parasympathetic system. Any regular deep breathing with a focus on a long exhale will calm you down but research suggests that about six breaths a minute is the ideal pace to promote a sense of wellbeing.
A body scan is like an expanded version of “things you can feel” from the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Close your eyes and put your attention at the top of your head, noticing any sensations there--an itch, tension, a slight breeze, warmth from the sun, and so on. Next, move down to your face and do the same thing.
Systematically move downward, feeling both internal and external sensations in every part of your body until you reach the bottoms of your feet. Again, this brings you into the present moment and it also serves as a mindfulness exercise.
You will probably feel physical sensations related to anxiety, such as tension in your face or neck, constriction in your chest, or a lump in your stomach. See if you can observe these sensations without judgment. Just be with them for a moment before moving on.
Think About Your Feet
If you don’t have time to do a whole-body scan, a short cut you can use is to just bring your attention to your feet. There are two main reasons this works. First, your feet have a density of neurons similar to your hands and face but we typically don’t think about them unless they hurt.
Therefore, they can be a source of new sensations--weight, heat, shoes, and so on. Second, they are at the far end of your body, so you will peripherally notice more body sensations by noticing your feet.
Count Down or Up
Another way to divert your attention from anxiety-inducing thoughts and sensations is to give yourself a mental task that demands a bit of focus. It can really be anything--remembering the US presidents in order, retracing your route home from school in your mind, reciting a favorite poem from memory, and so on.
One handy task that anyone can do is to count down or up by some awkward number. Seven typically works pretty well. So, for example, you might count down from 100 by sevens. That’s usually challenging enough that you have to focus on it but not so challenging that you’ll give up quickly.
Imagine a Safe Place
Another way to occupy your attention is to use visualization. Visualizing something clearly is both cognitively demanding and it can have a powerful effect on your state of mind. If you’re prone to anxiety, visualizing a safe, calming place can be a powerful way to ground yourself.
What you imagine depends on you. You might think of your childhood room, a warm beach, a cozy cabin with a fire, anywhere that makes you feel safe. If it’s a real place that you know well, you can mentally look around the place and involve your other senses to make the experience more real.
Go for a Walk
Finally, getting a bit of exercise is a great way to ground yourself and boost your mood. You don’t have to do a serious workout; usually, just walking for a while is enough. The great thing about exercise is that you don’t really have to try to change your thoughts or your focus. You can continue worrying as you walk, but eventually, you will just start to feel better and worry less. Whereas other grounding techniques work by changing your focus, exercise works mostly by changing your physiology and a bit by changing your focus too.
Grounding techniques are a great way to deal with anxiety in the moment. As noted, it’s not a replacement for therapy. Anxiety disorders are serious mental health issues and shouldn’t be dismissed as just worrying too much. If you try to recover from addiction without treating anxiety, you’re in for an uphill battle. However, finding one or two grounding techniques that work for you and practicing them regularly can go a long way.
At The Foundry, we know that addiction is often just one part of a larger issue. We use a variety of proven methods to help clients overcome common co-occurring mental health issues, including anxiety disorders, trauma, depression, and others. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Manage Anxiety in Addiction Recovery?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the world and it often goes with addiction. The National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a survey of more than 43,000 people, found that 15 percent of people who experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year had at least one co-occurring substance use disorder--more than twice the prevalence of substance use disorders in the general population.
Conversely, nearly 18 percent of people with a substance use disorder in the past year also had an anxiety disorder. As with any mental health issue, treating anxiety concurrently with addiction is crucial for staying sober long-term, as is taking care of your mental health. The following tips can help you manage anxiety while recovering from a substance use disorder.
Anxiety is the mental health issue most likely to be dismissed as no big deal. People might just tell you to relax or calm down or you might even tell yourself that. However, an anxiety disorder isn’t just a matter of being nervous. It often has a physiological component and sometimes requires medication. Often, anxiety has roots in childhood environment or dysfunctional belief patterns and you need help fixing the problem. The following tips are meant to augment therapy, not replace it.
Don’t Avoid Anxiety
When you’re prone to anxiety, your natural tendency is to avoid situations where you might feel anxious. This is particularly true of people who experience panic attacks. Unfortunately, this strategy only shrinks your sphere of comfort to the point where you might be afraid to even leave the house. As hard as it may be, the thing to do is intentionally expose yourself to things that make you anxious in a graduated way.
It’s like doing a workout for your ability to handle anxiety. Your therapist can help you create a plan for doing this in a structured way but you can also look for opportunities to engage in activities that might make you anxious but not too anxious.
In the short term, deep breathing is one of the best ways to manage anxiety. There are two reasons it helps. First, focusing on your breathing brings your attention into the present moment, to the sensations you feel when you breathe. You’re not focused on the future or whatever thoughts are making you anxious. Second, taking slow, deep breaths is physiologically calming.
In particular, the long, slow exhale stimulates your vagus nerve, which activates your parasympathetic--or “rest and digest”--nervous system. Although any slow, controlled breathing will calm you down, research suggests that taking six breaths per minute, or one full breath every 10 seconds, helps synchronize respiratory and cardiac rhythms, optimizing calmness and wellbeing.
As noted above, one of the ways deep breathing helps calm you down is that paying attention to the sensations of the breath grounds you in the present moment. You can use this principle with pretty much any sensation though. For example, you can pay attention to just the sensations in your feet or just pay attention to ambient sounds. You can go through all the senses systematically. The more you engage with your immediate environment, the less you worry about the future.
Exercise is great for addiction recovery in at least a dozen ways. High among those is that it helps reduce stress and anxiety. There are a number of ways exercise helps accomplish this. It increases levels of endorphins in the brain, as well as the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and creates structural changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, which is connected to areas of the brain involved with identifying threats and fear.
These structural changes make your brain less reactive to stress and anxiety. Research suggests that 20 or 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each day is ideal for improving mental health, but really, any exercise should provide some benefit.
Get Enough Sleep
As with exercise, there are plenty of reasons to get enough sleep in addiction recovery and in life, generally. A major reason for anyone with anxiety issues is that too little sleep worsens anxiety. We’ve long known that anxiety leads to insomnia, but it appears the reverse is also true. Research suggests that sleep deprivation leads to more symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
One study suggests this is because sleep deprivation leads to maladaptive activity in the brain’s anticipatory responses, leading to more rumination and worry. Sleep deprivation also weakens the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which acts as a brake on anxiety. Therefore, it’s crucial to sleep at least eight hours a night. If you have problems with insomnia, talk to your doctor or therapist.
Cut Down on Caffeine
Current research suggests that, on the whole, moderate consumption of tea or coffee isn’t bad for you and it might even have some mild health benefits. However, if you have problems with anxiety, it might be a good idea to cut down on caffeine. The physiological effects of caffeine are identical to those of anxiety.
Even if a few cups of coffee don’t directly lead to an anxiety or panic attack, they raise your baseline of arousal, making you more vulnerable to stress. Furthermore, caffeine has a half-life of between four and six hours, so even if you cut off your coffee at noon, you might still have a lot of caffeine in your system at bedtime. This may keep you awake and cause you to sleep less deeply when you do fall asleep. As discussed above, insomnia and sleep deprivation significantly increase symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety issues can be challenging to deal with because they are rooted in our primitive survival instincts. They often don’t respond to reason, which can be terribly frustrating. Overcoming and managing anxiety starts with a good therapist. After that, it’s a matter of challenging yourself to get comfortable with anxiety and finding techniques to help you manage it.
At The Foundry, we know that addiction is about far more than physical dependence. Most people have co-occurring mental health issues that need attention if recovery is going to last. That’s why we use a variety of methods to foster mental health, including evidence-based treatment methods, outdoor activity, mindfulness meditation, and healthy lifestyle changes. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Make Friends When You’re Sober?
Many people starting out in recovery face a dilemma when it comes to friends: They want to distance themselves from their old associates who are drinking and using drugs but then they struggle with loneliness, which, in some ways, is almost as bad. Having a strong support network gives you a feeling of belonging and reduces stress.
It’s one of the most important factors in a strong recovery. However, few people actually have much practice making new friends as adults. The following tips can help you make the kind of friends that will help you stay sober.
Have the Right Attitude
First, you have to have the right attitude. Mainly that means being willing to take some risks in terms of going into unfamiliar situations and reaching out to others. If you’re naturally outgoing, this is not a big deal, but if you’re reading a post about making friends, you may need to prepare yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Keep in mind that if someone isn’t interested in being your friend, you shouldn’t take it personally.
We all have our reasons or lack thereof for who we’re friends with. Think of it this way: If you talk to enough people, you will eventually make some good friends. Also, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need your new friends to be sober; you just need them to respect and support your sobriety.
Find Good Situations
The other part of the new-friends equation is to put yourself in circumstances where you are more likely to make friends. The best circumstances are those where you are in frequent contact with the same people and you all share a common interest or value. Frequent contact allows you to build familiarity and trust, while sharing an interest gives you something to talk about and possibly collaborate on. The following are examples that typically provide both of those elements.
People often say they meet their best friends in treatment and that shouldn’t be surprising. You spend a lot of time with those people and you all share certain core experiences around addiction and trauma. Being open about these struggles is cathartic and it’s often a bonding experience. The only thing is that people often travel to attend treatment so you may have to make an effort to keep the friendship alive after you all leave and go back home, but it’s well worth the effort.
The next logical place to make sober friends is at a 12-Step meeting. These aren’t quite as intense as treatment since you typically won’t be living in the same space as your group members, but you do share similar experiences and a commitment to staying sober, just like in treatment. The more regularly you go to meetings, the more quickly you will get to know people, and the sooner you will make new friends.
People just starting out in recovery often go to a meeting every day, or even several meetings a day. The environment is typically welcoming and supportive, making it one of the easiest places to make new friends.
Try a Meetup
If you want to meet people who share your interests, try looking for things that interest you on meetup.com. This is a site that lists special interest groups in your area by subject. There are groups for art, music, film, sports, wellness, finance, languages, travel, dance, careers, and so on. These groups often meet regularly and they aren’t too big so it’s not hard to talk to people.
Join a League
There are many reasons to be physically active in addiction recovery. Regular exercise is one of the best things you do for your physical and mental health and it can also be a great way to make friends. Joining a recreational sports league is one of the most fun ways to exercise and it’s a great way to get to know people without a lot of awkward conversations and even more awkward silences.
If you’re not a team sports kind of person, there are other ways to be social with exercise. You can join a running or biking group. Exercise classes are also great, whether you’re into spin, yoga, or boxing.
Take Some Classes
Most people didn’t find it too hard to make friends in school since you see the same people every day for years and most of them are near your own age. The closest experience most of us have as adults is work. While, for some people, work might qualify as a shared interest, for most people it doesn’t.
Furthermore, most of your coworkers, even your “work friends” have their own lives and families to worry about and may not be interested in making new friends. However, you can take classes as an adult. And unlike when you’re a kid, you don’t have to take a class in anything that doesn’t interest you.
You can take an exercise class, as noted above, a cooking class, an art class, and so on. You see the same people for weeks or months, you share at least one interest, and you may get to work on a project together. It's a great recipe for making new friends.
Use Your Existing Network
Finally, make sure you’re using all the resources that are right in front of you. Your friends and relatives probably know people you would hit it off with but it may not occur to them unless you ask. Making friends through common acquaintances is good because those people have already been vetted, in a way, and you already know someone who can introduce you.
This is especially helpful if you are living in an unfamiliar area--say, for example, if you are staying in a sober home after attending treatment out of state. You can ask the people you live with and your friends and family back home if they happen to know anyone in the area. Most won’t, but you might get lucky.
Making friends in recovery takes some initiative and perseverance but it’s mainly a matter of talking to a lot of people and putting yourself in the right position. If you find situations where you see the same people a lot and you share interests, it should only be a matter of time before you make some good friends. The main thing is to be patient; friendships have to develop on their own schedule.
At The Foundry, we know that no one recovers from addiction alone. Connection is the key to a long recovery. We promote social connection and healthy relationship skills through group therapy, family therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and various activities. To learn more, call 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.
What if Exercise Makes You Feel Worse?
Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle habits to adopt when you’re recovering from addiction. There’s a lot of research showing that regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, and reduces relapse risk. Exercise also helps reduce some of the physical health risks of excessive drinking and drug use. Adopting even a moderate exercise regimen, such as walking for 20 minutes a day should definitely be part of your recovery plan.
However, some people find that exercise makes them feel worse--typically more anxious but sometimes depressed as well. If you’ve tried adopting an exercise habit and find that you feel worse, here are some possible reasons.
You’re Relying Only on Exercise
With all the media coverage of the wonderful ways exercise benefits your mental health, a lot of people get the idea that exercise is all you need to deal with a mental health issue. However, mental health is about more than mood. Your thinking, your external circumstances, and even your brain chemistry all play a role as well.
You’re not likely to have any kind of strong recovery if you don’t look at the whole picture. That’s why exercise should be just one part of a recovery plan that includes therapy and possibly medication and other lifestyle changes.
You’re Prone to Panic Attacks
If you have a panic disorder, exercise is a bit of a gambit. On the one hand, exercise is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. It reduces your reactivity to stress and improves your mood. It’s also a great way to desensitize yourself to the physical sensations of panic.
When you exercise, you feel physiological stress similar to anxiety, but you know it’s just a normal response to exertion. However, if you push too hard, you may actually trigger a panic attack because your heart is beating too fast, you’re having trouble catching your breath, and so on. Typically, the best thing to do is back off and just push yourself a little bit at a time.
Get your heart rate up for a few minutes, then take a break for a few minutes. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is normal. It might help to have some soothing music handy to calm you down during the rest intervals. Gradually build the challenge by pushing yourself a little bit, then resting and calming down.
You’re Going Too Hard
Most people getting into exercise for the first time tend to overdo it. They’ve seen too many training montages and Nike commercials and they think they have to exhaust themselves during every workout. Excessively-long endurance workouts are especially bad for raising the stress hormone cortisol and they may actually disrupt your sleep, further compounding your anxiety.
At the other end, you may be overdoing high-intensity exercise such as heavy lifting or high-intensity interval training--HIIT--by cramming too many workouts into a week. These kinds of workouts take more time to recover from and you may end up feeling worn down, depressed, or anxious. There is a saying in fitness circles: Volume, frequency, intensity--pick one.
More to the point, you don’t have to exhaust yourself every workout. In fact, when you’re first starting out, it’s far more important to create the habit, which means making your workout as easy as possible. Once you’re in the habit of exercising most days, you can gradually make it harder.
Also, you can get a lot of benefits from even moderate exercise, such as walking 20 or 30 minutes a day. Instead of trying to train like a pro, take the opposite approach and ask yourself how little you can do and still get some benefit. As you get in better shape, that minimum will gradually increase.
You Need to Give It More Time
A lot of people, especially in January, start exercising, then give up after a week or two. They don’t see results and they just feel tired all the time. As discussed above, the first thing is to make sure you’re not going too hard, but rather focusing on establishing a regular and sustainable habit. The second thing is to give it a bit of time. Every change is uncomfortable at first.
You have to squeeze a new activity into your day, you have to use more energy than you’re used to, and you’ll probably feel a bit sore for the first week or so. Many people notice an improvement in their mood and sleep pretty quickly, but if you don’t, try to stick with exercising for at least a month before you give it up.
You’re Exercising at the Wrong Time of Day
Time of day can make a big difference. For example, if your body doesn’t regulate blood sugar well, working out before breakfast may be especially miserable. At the other end, exercising too close to bedtime may increase your cortisol and make it harder to sleep, which increases your anxiety. Everyone is different so the important thing is to try some different things and figure out what time of day works best for you.
You’re Doing the Wrong Exercise
Most research on exercise and mental health has focused on moderate aerobic exercise. The typical recommendation is at least 20 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise, such as running, biking, or swimming. Weightlifting typically doesn’t have quite as strong an effect on mental health, although several studies show it does help.
However, as noted, we’re all different and we all respond differently to different kinds of exercise. Research may show that aerobic exercise is best, but plenty of people have put many miles on their running shoes to no avail. Then they give it up and start lifting instead and feel like someone flipped a switch on their mood. Listen to your body. If one kind of exercise makes you feel more anxious and another kind calms you down, do the latter. There’s no right or wrong here.
You’re Exercising in the Wrong Environment
Finally, consider the environment where you exercise. If you run along a busy and dangerous street, you’re going to feel more anxious about it than if you run on a treadmill or in a nice park. If you feel like people are staring at you and judging you every time you walk into the gym, you are likely to feel self-conscious and anxious.
Typically, no one in the gym is worried about what you’re doing so make sure you don’t have distorted beliefs about the situation but it is important that you’re exercising in an environment where you feel safe and accepted.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and some level of regular exercise should be part of every addiction recovery plan. When exercise makes you anxious or depressed, the most common issue is overdoing it. It’s also important to listen to your body and make exercise decisions based on your own needs.
At The Foundry, we know that exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make when you’re recovering from a substance use disorder. We help you make exercise a regular part of your life in a way that’s fun and promotes social connection. 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 to Build Resilience in Recovery
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and perhaps even become happier, smarter, stronger, and healthier than you were before. There is no shortage of adversity in addiction recovery. You may have your own demons to slay, you may have family and friends who actively try to undermine your efforts, and you may slip up or fully relapse several times.
The good news is that none of these setbacks have to be permanent. Like all of recovery, resilience comprises a variety of skills that you can improve with practice and persistence. The following are some tips for becoming more resilient in addiction recovery.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the first way to improve your resilience is to expect challenges. Too many people think they’re going to enter treatment or their loved one will enter treatment and everything will turn around right away. In reality, every phase of recovery presents new challenges. If you expect too much too soon, you’re likely to be discouraged.
Life will improve when you’re sober but it will take consistent effort. When you inevitably encounter challenges, if you are expecting them, you know that’s normal and you may even have a plan ready.
Have a Team
Social support is one of the most important parts of recovery in general. It helps you feel connected, it increases your feeling of accountability, and it makes you more resilient in the face of challenges. Your sober network can be a source of moral support, practical support, and good advice from people who have been in your place. Remember that no one succeeds alone. Even if there’s only one person you can confide in, whether it’s your best friend or your therapist, it lightens your load considerably.
Banish Black-and-White Thinking
Watching out for distorted thinking is one of the most important ways of regulating your emotions, which is why learning to identify and challenge cognitive errors plays a central role in cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. One common cognitive distortion that can torpedo your resilience is black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking. This is the belief that if something is not a total success then it’s a total failure.
Nearly everything you do will actually be somewhere in the middle. Watching out for black-and-white thinking is especially important after you’ve had a slip. A lot of people will slip up and have a drink or something and then think, “Well, I’ve already blown it, so I might as well go all the way.” Instead of trashing your whole recovery over a small mistake, keep in mind that there’s still a lot to gain by minimizing the damage and getting back on course.
Look for the Silver Lining
When something bad happens, it’s natural to fixate on the negative consequences. Most of us are naturally wired to spot threats. That’s great for keeping you alive on the savanna but it can also blind you to a lot of good possibilities.
Few situations are completely bad--see above--but when we fixate on the bad aspects, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Whenever something bad happens, even something small, challenge yourself to find something good about it, even if it seems slightly absurd.
Figure Out What You Can Control
Often, what’s most demoralizing about a challenging situation is that you feel like you have no control over what happens. It’s often true that you have little control--like when you get laid off or your house floods, for example--but it’s rarely true that you have no control at all. Finding something you can control--anything at all to improve your situation even a little bit--can be a way to both reduce stress and get yourself into a situation where there are more options.
Even when you can’t see the whole solution, doing what you can with what you have is the first step in finding your way out of trouble. It also affirms that you haven’t given up.
Affirm Your Values
Feeling connected to your values is often a key factor in persisting in the face of setbacks. This is called self-affirmation and research shows that it helps you better cope with negative feedback and make healthier decisions in general.
You can do this by taking a few minutes to write about your core values and why they matter. For example, a lot of people decide to get sober because they realize their family’s happiness is at stake. Regularly connecting to that value of family can help you persevere in the face of setbacks.
Take Care of Yourself
When challenges arise, they are always easier to deal with if you are healthy and rested. That’s why self-care is so important for resilience. Sleep is particularly important because sleep deprivation or chronic sleep deficit erodes your resilience on two fronts--the parts of your brain responsible for identifying threats become overactive and the parts of your brain responsible for emotional regulation, attention, and problem-solving become underactive.
In other words, when you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to see any given situation as threatening and less able to come up with solutions for actual problems. It’s also important to exercise regularly since that reduces your reactivity to stress while increasing blood flow to the areas of the brain responsible for planning, self-control, and emotional regulation.
Finally, when facing a tough situation, it’s crucial to stay present. Typically, people have two kinds of unhelpful reactions to a crisis--they either try to ignore it and pretend it’s not happening, or they catastrophize and imagine all the horrible consequences it will have for their lives. Neither is helpful. You can only act in the present, which means you need to pay attention to what’s going on.
Also, you can’t shoulder the responsibilities for whatever will happen in the future. Thinking about that will only overwhelm you, which is why they say in AA “One day at a time.” This is especially true with anything having to do with recovery since it’s a challenge you have to deal with every day. If you think too far ahead, you’ll only feel discouraged. Do today’s work today, then rest, then do tomorrow’s work tomorrow.
Some people just seem to be more resilient than others, but most of the time it’s because those people have faced adversity that you don’t know about. Bouncing back takes practice and the more you practice the better you get.
At The Foundry, we know that emotional resilience is at the core of a strong recovery from addiction. That’s why we’ve designed our holistic program around building and nurturing our clients’ resilience through evidence-based therapeutic techniques as well as positive lifestyle changes such as exercise, mindfulness meditation, and social connection. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Staying Socially Engaged When You Really Don’t Feel Like It
Feeling socially connected is one of the most important ways of making recovery from addiction last. Social support improves your mood, reduces stress, provides more resources for dealing with problems, and makes you feel more accountable. However, staying socially connected can often be a challenge for people in recovery. At least 20 percent of people with substance use disorders struggle with major depression, an anxiety disorder, or both. Those conditions typically make you feel inclined to stay home and isolate yourself.
Unfortunately, isolation only makes them worse, especially depression. The tendency to isolate can cause a downward spiral, turning a bad mood into a full episode of depression. You can often interrupt that spiral by making yourself do things that improve your mood, such as socializing or going to meetings. This is a well-established intervention called behavioral activation. However, socializing when you feel depressed or anxious is not easy and sometimes it’s impossible. The following tips can help.
Accepting invitations is a freebie. If people are reaching out to you and asking you to do things, you’re already in a pretty good position and it may be nice to take a moment to appreciate that there are people in your life who want to be around you. Unless there’s some specific reason for declining an invitation such as a scheduling conflict, go ahead and accept, even if you know for certain you won’t feel like going when the time comes.
If you accept the invitation, you will be more likely to actually go out and do something, whereas if you decline, you will almost certainly stay home alone. You can always cancel later, but if you accept now, you will at least have options.
Don’t Wait Until You Feel Like Socializing
Whether you have already made plans or not, don’t wait until you feel like socializing to actually do it. When you’re feeling down or actually depressed, you’re never going to feel like it. The whole point is that you do something to interrupt your current mental state. The trap we often fall into with socializing is that we expect it to be a pleasant thing that we actively want to do, so when we don’t feel like it, it makes sense just to stay home.
However, when you’re depressed, anxious, or moving in that direction, the whole matter is different. You don’t feel like socializing because you don’t feel like doing anything. Socializing is something you have to do for your mental health so you have to draw on different resources. It’s more like going to work--perhaps you rarely feel like going to work but you usually go anyway. It may help to remind yourself that your resistance to socializing is mostly inertia and that once you’re with your friends, you will usually feel glad you came.
Do What You Can
You may have some default idea of what socializing looks like--maybe dinner with a group of friends, maybe a family outing, or a party. When you think, “I should socialize,” you immediately think of that default and you feel like you couldn’t possibly manage it. However, you are being subtly undermined by all-or-nothing thinking. When you’re in a funk, any social contact at all is better than none. If all you can manage is texting a friend or relative, then do that. If you can call them and have a chat, even better.
This is especially important to remember as we’re all dealing with the pandemic and our social interactions are restricted anyway. Texting and FaceTiming might not be perfect but they still help. Often, frequent contact with different people throughout the day is better for your mood than minimal contact throughout the week and then a big gathering on the weekend. Too much alone time with no outside contact only gives you more time to ruminate.
Exert Some Influence Over Plans
When someone asks you to do something, it’s rarely a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. You can usually exert some control over the plan. This is important for two reasons. First, as discussed above, socializing isn’t all-or-nothing. Some socializing is better than none and you should only do what you feel like you can handle, which might mean asking your friends or relatives to modify plans.
For example, maybe your friend invites you out to a restaurant and you don’t feel like you can handle that, so you propose instead that your friend comes over and you order pizza. You get the social interaction and you let your friend know you actually do want to spend time with them but you avoid a supposedly fun thing that you’re just not up for.
Second, exerting influence over plans nurtures a sense of self-efficacy or the feeling that you have some control over your life. A common symptom of depression is helplessness--the feeling that nothing you do matters, that you’re just sort of dragged along by life. Exerting your will over your social plans reinforces that you do actually have some control over your life.
It may be worth making some small change to any plan, even if the plan is broadly acceptable, just to work your self-efficacy “muscle.” For example, bowling sounds fine but you’d rather go to a different place, or you’d rather go at eight instead of seven. Furthermore, having more control over plans makes you feel more engaged and less likely to skip out at the last minute.
Take a Break When You Need It
When you’re depressed or anxious, you may have very short battery life. If you’re already an introvert, then socializing when you’re in a bad mood can really take it out of you. It’s important to give yourself breaks. You can either step away from the group, or just have a way to leave early. As discussed earlier, shorter, more frequent interactions are typically more important than marathon social engagements. There’s no point in burning yourself out and dreading the next engagement even more.
Staying socially connected is one key to a strong addiction recovery but an episode of depression or anxiety can make you want to isolate yourself from everyone, including your sober network. To combat this, it’s important to do what you can, even if it’s small and even when you don’t feel like it. Think of it like going to work or brushing your teeth. Exert some influence over plans when possible and be willing to give yourself a break.
At The Foundry, we know that no one recovers from addiction alone. We work hard to make sure our clients feel supported and develop bonds with other people in recovery. We also involve families in treatment because we know that a supportive home environment is a huge asset. To learn more about our approach to treatment, 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.
6 Tips for Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries in Addiction Recovery
Learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries is an important part of addiction recovery. Maintaining healthy boundaries means that you respect other people’s values and autonomy and you expect them to do the same for you. Unhealthy boundaries are typical in dysfunctional relationships and these are often one of the factors driving addictive behavior.
For example, a physically abusive relationship is a situation where one person uses violence to control the other. This violates their right to personal safety and their right to make their own decisions. What’s more, physical abuse often leads to depression and substance use. If you are in an abusive relationship, the best thing to do is usually just to leave and get as far away from your abuser as possible. This is a very clear boundary, using physical distance. However, other relationships may be more complicated, and learning to maintain boundaries is a healthy behavior to learn in general. Here are some tips.
Know Your Values and Priorities
First of all, if you are going to set boundaries, it helps to know why. Start by identifying your core values, whether they’re family, integrity, honesty, learning, kindness, or whatever else. It might help to take some online tests to help you clarify your values or you may spend some time writing about it. Perhaps look back through the major decisions you’ve made in your life and see what your guiding principles have been.
For example, maybe you turned down a job that paid well because you felt you were being asked to do something dishonest. That indicates that you value honesty above money. That’s good to know and it indicates honesty is a value you are willing to protect. Knowing what’s really important to you can help you figure out where to draw the line and give you a boost in courage when you need it most.
Listen to Your Gut
Another way to identify your values and to recognize when someone might be violating your boundaries is to listen to your gut. We often react emotionally before we fully understand a situation rationally. That doesn’t mean your gut is always right, just that if you feel weird about something, pay attention to the feeling and don’t dismiss it without consideration.
For example, if you feel confused by what someone is telling you, it could be they are trying to manipulate you--a clear violation of your boundaries. Take a step back and don’t make any decisions until you are seeing things more clearly. Or perhaps you just have a bad feeling about a situation. That might indicate that you should move away from that situation. Our instincts have evolved to keep us safe so give them some credit.
No relationship is perfect and there will be plenty of times when you just disagree. Boundary issues don’t always imply sinister intent; often people just go along with things and the other person has no idea they don’t want to do them. This happens every day in big and small ways. It’s your responsibility to be clear about what you want and don’t want.
That means learning to communicate clearly. No matter how well the other person knows you, they aren’t psychic and they may not know what you want unless you tell them. The key is to do it politely. Not every disagreement has to lead to an argument. In fact, most disagreements can be worked out pretty easily if both parties are willing to listen.
Keep in mind that this goes both ways. It’s important to communicate clearly about what you want and it’s also important to listen to the other person and respect their values and autonomy.
Learn to Say No
In many situations, especially when you’re recovering from addiction, learning to say no is a skill in itself and it’s one of the first skills you should learn. When you leave treatment, people may offer you all sorts of things. Since drinking is so common in American culture, there’s virtually no chance you won’t be offered a drink from time to time, usually by people with good intentions. That’s why a polite but firm no is a crucial skill to master quickly.
Work With a Therapist
So far, we’ve discussed some important considerations in setting boundaries, but there may be deep-seated psychological reasons why setting boundaries is difficult for you. If you grew up in an abusive household, for example, or if you’re currently in a codependent relationship. Sometimes people lose touch with their own needs and desires entirely and sometimes they feel like setting boundaries is just impossible for them. If that’s how you feel, you need to talk to a therapist. They can help you figure out what you want and need and help you develop the skills to assert yourself.
Family therapy is also great for this since it focuses specifically on family dynamics, clear communication, and healthy boundaries. Getting the relevant people to work through their relationship issues can make a huge difference. However, not everyone has to participate in order for family therapy to be effective. Just changing the behavior of one or two family members can change the whole family dynamic.
Get Reassurance from Your Support System
Finally, it’s always harder to set and maintain boundaries when you feel isolated. This is especially true when you’re first trying out a new behavior that you’re not really sure about. It feels like a big risk. However, if you have a strong support system behind you, you don’t feel quite so alone, even if your support system doesn’t happen to be with you at the moment.
This is one reason going to 12-Step meetings is helpful, even after you’ve completed a professional treatment program. You may also want to consider attending Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings, for family members of people with substance use disorders, since you may fall into that category too. If you do have a family member or close friend with substance use issues, these meetings can give you a different perspective on setting boundaries with them.
Boundaries are crucial not only for recovery but for being your own person and directing your own life according to your core values. Setting and maintaining boundaries means knowing what your values are, listening to your gut, and learning to communicate clearly and respectfully. It’s also important to keep in mind that maintaining values requires practice. You’ll get better the longer you keep at it.
At The Foundry, we know that much of recovery from addiction is about learning practical skills to improve your relationships and manage your behavior. Great relationships are especially important for a strong recovery. We use a variety of evidence-based practices, including CBT, DBT, and family therapy to help you improve your communication and relationship skills. For more information, call us at (844) 955-1066.
4 Ways Writing Can Help You Stay Sober
Daily writing is one common element of addiction recovery plans. To some people, the reasons for this will be obvious. Others may be skeptical, especially if they don’t think of themselves as writers or they are skeptical of self-expression in general. However, daily writing can be a potent and versatile element of your recovery plan. Here are some different writing exercises and how they can help you stay sober.
The writing exercise most people are familiar with is keeping a simple journal or diary. This is just sitting down for a few minutes every day and writing whatever you feel like. You might just write down what you did that day or what happened that was notable. Or you might go into depth about something you’re thinking about or challenging emotions. This simple practice can help you in several ways.
Most notably, it helps you relieve stress. Instead of stewing over a problem, you get it down on paper where you can think it through. You will probably find that after you write about something that’s been bothering you, you will feel better about it, even if you didn’t come up with a specific solution. Just writing about your day, your thoughts, your emotions, your challenges, and so on will help you spot patterns in your life. And, of course, you can also incorporate any of the following exercises into your daily journaling session.
ABC stands for activating events, beliefs, and consequences. It’s a framework developed by psychologist Albert Ellis, one of the pioneers of cognitive therapy. The central idea is that events only bother us because we have certain beliefs or assumptions about those events. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, there’s no reason to be angry about it for the rest of the day.
That only happens if you have an irrational belief about it. You may think that guy shouldn’t have done that or that it was a deliberate insult to you. In reality, it was probably just a mistake; it happens all the time.
The ABC exercise is a way to practice identifying the beliefs that disturb us. Whenever you feel angry, anxious, depressed, and so on, write down exactly what you’re feeling. This is C, the consequence. Next, identify the activating event, A--the guy cutting you off in traffic or the remark by a coworker, or whatever. Finally, identify the belief, “He shouldn’t do that,” “Everyone at work is against me,” and so on.
This is the trickiest part since we are often unaware of our own assumptions. You may need a therapist to help you identify your irrational beliefs at first. In fact, his exercise is often given as a homework exercise in therapy. You can use it that way or you can try it on your own. Either way, it’s a good way to get in the habit of identifying and challenging irrational thoughts.
In recent years, research in positive psychology has identified a range of benefits of gratitude. It improves relationships, lowers stress, improves sleep, makes people feel more optimistic, increases your sense of wellbeing, and it might even help you live longer. The problem is that when you’re starting out in recovery, you might not feel very grateful. Your life is likely at a low point and you have a lot of work ahead of you. The good news is that there are two easy writing exercises that studies have shown, can boost your gratitude.
The first one is to keep a gratitude journal. This is simple and only takes a couple of minutes. Just write down about three things you were grateful for that day. It’s fine if they’re small--you slept unusually well, the weather was nice, you got a text from a friend you hadn’t talked to in a while. Not life-changing stuff but they make your day a little better.
Since we’re hardwired to notice pain and threats, training yourself to notice more of the good things makes you happier and more optimistic. You might want to do this exercise daily for about two weeks, then switch to doing it weekly so you don’t get overly accustomed to it.
The second exercise is to write a gratitude letter. This one takes a bit longer but research shows the effects last longer too. Think of something someone did for you that you never really thanked them for. Again, it doesn’t have to be huge, just something you truly appreciated. Describe in a letter what they did and what it meant to you. You can deliver the letter or not. Research suggests you get a happiness boost either way.
Writing is an excellent way to relieve anxiety. It takes those amorphous fears that are haunting your mind and gives them some definite form on the page. This is true whether your anxiety is caused by a past or future event. A number of studies have found benefits from expressive writing. This is where you choose a stressful event, one that’s at least six months in the past, and write about it on four consecutive days.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and write the whole time without censoring yourself or worrying about spelling or grammar. No one will read it but you. This exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and even improve physical health over the following months.
What’s more, an abbreviated version of this exercise can help relieve anxiety about an upcoming challenge. Research has shown that having students spend a few minutes writing about their worries just before a test reduced test anxiety and improved test scores. A similar strategy can help with other tasks, such as going to your first 12-Step meeting or going to a job interview.
Writing alone won’t replace therapy and solve all your problems but it can be a helpful tool to manage your mood, analyze your patterns, and generally understand yourself better. A regular writing practice can be a powerful element in your recovery plan.
At The Foundry, we believe that a strong recovery is built on mental health and self-knowledge. We use a variety of evidence-based methods, including CBT, DBT, family therapy, mindfulness meditation, and others to help our clients understand themselves better, regulate their emotions, and manage their behavior. For more information 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.
Why Comparing Yourself to Others in Recovery is a Losing Game
For most people, whether they’re entering an inpatient treatment program or slipping into their first 12-Step meeting, beginning recovery from addiction is an uncertain time. You aren’t sure whether you are doing the right things or if you have any chance of success in the long-term. When we aren’t sure what to do, we instinctively look around to see what other people are doing.
While this might get you through your first few meetings without making too many faux pas, comparing what you’re doing to what others are doing is not a great approach to recovery. Here’s why.
Comparison Makes You Unhappy
First of all, comparing yourself to others is perhaps the fastest way to wreck your mood. There have been quite a few studies on the psychology of social comparisons and they all agree that it’s bad for your mental health. One study found that people who made more frequent social comparisons were more likely to experience guilt, envy, regret, and defensiveness.
They were also more likely to lie, blame others, and have unmet cravings. All of these are counterproductive for anyone trying to stay sober. Lying, guilt, envy, resentment, and cravings are all typical elements of addictive behavior and you want to move away from those as much as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that comparisons don’t just make you feel bad when you come up short. One study of participants' tendencies to make comparisons on Facebook found that participants who made more comparisons experienced more depressive symptoms, even when they felt like they were better than the other person. Something about the comparison itself makes us unhappy.
Perhaps it promotes self-consciousness or self-criticism, even when the scale tips in our favor. This is an important point, given that the early weeks and months of recovery are already emotionally challenging and many people who struggle with substance use issues have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders as well.
Comparisons Are Always Misleading
If the primary purpose of comparing yourself to others is to orient yourself or measure your progress, then comparisons aren’t very useful anyway. First of all, your needs in treatment and recovery will be different from everyone else’s. You have different strengths, weaknesses, personal history, addiction history, values, and goals. You have different medical and psychological needs. Some people will have a lot of family support and others won’t. In the end, you’re never really comparing apples to apples.
Second, you only know what others want you to know. It’s entirely possible to seem like you have everything together but still be struggling on the inside. If you doubt it, just consider how long you were able to keep your substance use issues secret. Someone who seems to be doing great may or may not actually be doing great. You just have to be comfortable with the fact that you can never really know where you rank among your sober peers and that such a rank would be so qualified as to be useless anyway. You just have to accept some degree of ambiguity.
Everyone Has Different Needs and Goals in Recovery
Since everyone’s situation in recovery is different, everyone will have different needs and therefore different goals. Your recovery plan should reflect your individual goals and values. One person may be invested more in repairing family relationships while another may be more focused on dealing with a mental health issue.
Your goals and therefore your recovery plan will, therefore, look different from anyone else’s. You’re going to get off track if you start feeling the need to start competing in areas that aren’t central to your own recovery. It’s much better to keep your eyes on your own particular prize.
Comparisons Create a Competitive Environment
Finally, you don’t want to feel like you’re competing against your peers in recovery. There may be some limited space for friendly competition in recovery--for example, if you and a friend are challenging each other to stick to a healthy diet or exercise regimen--but overall, you want to encourage feelings of mutual support. Making constant comparisons creates a mindset of competition.
You feel like when someone else succeeds, then you lose. In reality, the opposite is true: When one person succeeds, you’re all a little better off. Instead of comparing yourself to your peers in recovery, try to be happy for them when they do well, and support them when they struggle.
How Can You Break the Habit?
Comparison can be a tough habit to break. The first step is to just accept that comparison won’t do you any good. You’re all sort of on separate journeys together. Second, be conscious of when you’re actually making comparisons. Notice what it feels like to need that kind of reassurance and notice how that feeling of grasping makes you feel worse.
It may be a good idea to limit your social media use since social media use tends to promote social comparison and defensiveness. In fact, comparison is what most studies have focused on as the reason social media use exacerbates feelings of depression and loneliness.
Finally, instead of comparing your progress to others’, figure out more relevant ways to track your own progress. This might be by setting goals and subgoals related to recovery, such as attending 90 meetings in 90 days or it might be tracking your progress according to goalposts you came up with along with your therapist for measuring your progress. What matters is that you set your own goals and stay engaged in the process.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery from a substance use disorder is always an individual journey. No two clients are the same and we work with you individually to create a recovery plan that will promote your long-term success. That’s why we use a variety of proven methods to help you overcome the diversity of challenges you’re likely to face along the way. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How to Make Exercise a Regular Part of Your Addiction Recovery
If you look at any quality addiction treatment program, you’ll notice several things many of them have in common and one of those things is exercise. It’s becoming much more common for regular exercise to be an integral part of addiction treatment. Experts also frequently recommend that your post-treatment recovery plan includes regular exercise.
However, this can be challenging for many people, especially those who are busy or don’t really think of themselves as athletic. The following is a look at why exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes for recovery and how to more easily make exercise part of your daily life.
Why Exercise Is Important
First, if you want to motivate yourself to exercise more, it helps to understand why you’re doing it. Otherwise, it just feels like a chore. There is now quite a bit of research supporting the role of exercise in recovery, both in terms of physical and mental health.
Heavy substance use is hard on your body. Its exact effects depend largely on which substances you use the most, but overall, you may suffer from malnutrition, increased cardiovascular risks, and more frequent illnesses due to poor immune function. If you want to recover your health as quickly as possible, it’s important to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
Exercise--especially aerobic exercise like walking, running, swimming, and biking--improves your cardiovascular health pretty quickly. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces your risk of type two diabetes, as well as reducing your risk of infections and cancer. Exercise may not totally offset the physical damage of substance use, but it gets you going in the right direction.
Perhaps more importantly, exercise boosts your mental health. It improves your mood by increasing levels of endorphins, serotonin, and BDNF, a neurotransmitter that grows neurons. It also causes structural changes that help you react better to stress. It’s thought to be this change, along with improved sleep, that is most responsible, for the health benefits of exercise.
The improvements in mood reduce your risk of depression and anxiety symptoms, which in turn reduces your risk of relapse. Given that most people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues, it’s hard to overstate this particular benefit of exercise for anyone trying to stay sober.
How to Build an Exercise Habit
It’s one thing to know that exercise is good for you and it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. The following are some tips for going from “not an exercise person” to someone who exercises daily without really thinking about it.
Find Something You Like
First, find something you actually enjoy. According to research, the best exercise for mental health is a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that lasts for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a week. However, that doesn’t matter at all if you aren’t willing to do it. It’s crucial not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You will get some benefit from staying active, even if it’s not the scientifically validated “best” exercise. Walking is great. So are gardening, boxing, yoga, dancing, and fencing.
There are two divergent strategies that work pretty well: Either pick something you don’t mind doing and can just participate in mechanically or perhaps even socially, like walking; or pick something that really fires your interest and is complex enough to keep you engaged, like high-skilled sports or martial arts.
Pick a Regular Time
The next thing is to pick a regular time and stick to it. Instead of picking a regular clock time, though, attach your exercise to an activity you already do every day or almost every day. So, for example, you get out of bed every day--ideally--so you can connect your exercise habit to that. The goal is to have one daily activity lead directly into the next so that you don’t have to exert any willpower to do it. Be patient though, it will probably take a month or two for the new behavior to become automatic.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they decide to start exercising is that they go hard right away like they’re in a training montage. You actually want to do the opposite. You want to start out easy so you don’t resist building the habit. In the beginning, building a habit is the most important thing. At first, you may just want to put on your exercise clothes and leave it at that.
Or you may walk for five minutes. You want to have the feeling that exercise is just something you have to cross off your list, not something you have to brace yourself for and grind your way through. You can build the intensity later.
When the habit is pretty well established, then you can begin to increase the volume or intensity. You may start to do this automatically just out of boredom. Five minutes may feel too easy so you start walking for 10 minutes. Building gradually accomplishes two things: You are less likely to get exhausted and burned out and quit after a few weeks or a month, the way 90 percent of people give up on new year’s resolutions.
Second, it keeps you from getting injured, which interrupts both your fitness progress and your habit formation. Also, being injured is painful. There’s no rush and, over the course of months and years, consistency beats intensity every time.
Finally, set up some kind of reward for doing your exercise, even if it's just patting yourself on the back. This is especially important to remember on bad days. So, for example, you intended to run a mile but you felt terrible and ended up walking most of it. That’s fine. We all have bad days. The important thing is to congratulate yourself for showing up and doing the work rather than chastising yourself for not doing it as well as you would have liked.
It may also help to schedule some rewarding activities after your exercise. For example, you might tell yourself, “Ok, after I exercise, I can have dinner, or watch TV, or go hang out with my friends.” This gives you something to look forward to and immediately associates something positive with exercise.
At The Foundry, we know that lifestyle changes like social support, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are the foundation of a long recovery and a healthy life. That’s why these are incorporated into our holistic treatment plan along with meditation, yoga, and outdoor activities. To learn more about our approach to addiction treatment, call us at (844) 955-1066.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for Addiction Recovery?
In recent decades, more people have become aware of the importance of emotional intelligence, and it is especially important for recovering from addiction. While cognitive intelligence can help you get good grades in school and excel in certain jobs, it won’t protect you from developing a substance use disorder. In fact, some studies suggest that IQ correlates with a greater risk of substance use issues.
The problem is that cognitive intelligence has little influence over emotions. And once you develop a substance use issue, you mainly use your intelligence to get more drugs and alcohol. That’s why they often say in AA that “your best thinking is what got you here.” In a way, recovery from addiction is all about strengthening your emotional intelligence. The following are the five standard components of emotional intelligence and how they contribute to sobriety.
Self-awareness is the foundation of all emotional intelligence. It means being aware of your own strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, biases, and triggers. It means knowing what your core values are, what you enjoy, and what you don’t. Having relatively good self-awareness is like having a good map of your own mind. It helps you accomplish the things you want to do.
Unfortunately, self-awareness is not easy. As noted above, well all have biases and blind spots and these are usually most extreme regarding ourselves. This is compounded by the illusion that we know ourselves very well. Luckily, you can improve your self-awareness. The best tools for doing that are group and individual therapy.
These provide the rare opportunity to get objective feedback about your personal history, your beliefs, and your thinking habits. Another way to improve self-awareness is just to ask for feedback from people who know you well--friends, family members, coworkers, and so on. However, these people may be reluctant to be too honest, so you have to make it clear that you’re trying to better understand yourself, including your weaknesses.
Self-regulation is when you put your self-knowledge to good use. It’s the ability to keep yourself from lashing out in anger or from pouring a drink when you feel stressed. It’s the ability to cope with feeling overwhelmed or comfort yourself when you’re feeling anxious.
When you know yourself, you know what kinds of situations are likely to trigger cravings and which people you have trouble saying no to. Self-regulation is the main area where the rubber meets the road in addiction recovery, where the self-discovery you did in therapy is put to practical use improving your real-life behavior.
Self-regulation, like self-awareness, is a never-ending process and each depends on the other. Again, therapy is the single most powerful way to improve self-regulation. You learn many cognitive and behavioral strategies to help you cope with challenging emotions and make better decisions.
Some therapeutic methods, like dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, specifically use group sessions as a safe space to practice new skills before you have to use them in the wild. For example, it’s a good place to practice hearing constructive feedback without becoming angry or defensive.
Motivation is being able to motivate yourself and others to do what needs to be done. In addiction recovery, self-motivation is most important, but it can also be a way to support fellow group members and possibly even mentor others later on. People often start out in recovery feeling motivated because they are desperate for change. However, motivation often wanes as people encounter unexpected challenges or start to feel complacent about recovery. Knowing how to motivate yourself can make the difference between sticking to your recovery plan and gradually sliding toward relapse.
Motivation is mainly about three factors: remembering why sobriety matters to you, remembering how bad things were when you were actively addicted, and overcoming your doubts about whether you can succeed. There are various ways to address each of these but a good place to start is by connecting sobriety to your highest values. Having a why can keep you going through tough times.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s place, to be able to have some idea of what they’re feeling and thinking. It’s the basis of compassion, which is empathy plus the desire to relieve someone’s suffering. In the context of addiction recovery, empathy is most important for its role in strengthening relationships--both with friends and family and with your sober network. The more connected you feel to others, the easier it is to stay sober. Socially connected people feel less stressed, less lonely, more accepted, and more accountable.
Increasing your empathy is mainly a matter of making a consistent effort to understand other people’s perspectives. This is especially important for people you don’t especially like or get along with. It helps to start by identifying the things you have in common. For example, you both want to be happy, you don’t want to be in pain, you want to feel like you matter, and so on. Recognizing these universal needs can help you understand what other people are going through.
Social skills are built on empathy and they are important for many of the same reasons as empathy is important. However, just as self-awareness is the foundation of self-regulation, empathy is the foundation of social skills. Much of our stress in life comes from interpersonal conflict, and much of that comes from poor communication. By improving your communication and conflict resolution skills, you can eliminate a lot of stress and irritation.
Improving your social skills is a huge subject, but it all starts with being a good listener. Give the person you’re talking to your undivided attention--which means put down your phone for a minute. Use reflection to show you’re listening and figure out whether you’ve understood correctly. Reflection usually involves phrases like, “So, what you’re saying is--” Validate what the person is saying and try to understand points of confusion or ambivalence.
Although some people are born with more emotional intelligence than others, we can all improve our emotional intelligence. What’s more, some people are stronger in some areas than others. You might have loads of empathy but poor self-awareness or vice versa. Correcting your weaknesses can help you have a better, longer recovery and be happier overall.
At The Foundry, we believe that overcoming a substance use disorder is really part of the larger project of living a better life. We use methods like DBT, group therapy, and mindfulness meditation to help our clients live fully realized lives, free from drugs and alcohol. For more information about our treatment options, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Improve Your Self-Awareness in Addiction Recovery?
Self-awareness is the degree to which you are aware of your own tendencies, your strengths and weaknesses, your values, your interests, and how you respond to various situations. Self-awareness is the foundation of addiction recovery and good mental health in general. It is a key skill of emotional intelligence and is the basis for the other skills of self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
However, self-awareness is also deceptively difficult. We all assume we know ourselves well because we have unique access to our own thoughts, emotions, and personal history. While that is true, we are also constrained by biases, blindspots, and cognitive distortions. What’s more, it’s hard to understand ourselves when we don’t really know what it’s like to be anyone else. Despite these challenges, we can all improve our self-awareness and reap the benefits in addiction recovery and in life. Here’s how.
The most direct route to greater self-awareness is therapy, both group and individual. Both can help you become more aware of your blind spots and biases. Individual therapy can help you dive deep into your personal history and explore your cognitive distortions. For example, if you have a habit of focusing on the negative or discounting the positive things about yourself, you may have an unfairly negative view of yourself and your abilities. Or perhaps you have unfair expectations of other people or the world in general. You may never even consider these possibilities without expert guidance.
Group therapy can be especially helpful for increasing self-awareness since you can get many different perspectives on your problems. Perhaps most importantly, in group therapy, you learn to give and receive feedback and generally improve your communication skills. These can help improve your self-awareness outside of the therapeutic setting as well.
Asking for Feedback
As noted above, getting feedback from different people is a great way to improve your self-awareness. In the context of therapy, this is relatively easy since much of your therapist’s job is to help you in this regard and create a healthy environment for sharing in group therapy. However, outside of a therapeutic environment, soliciting feedback becomes more challenging.
The people who know us well and spend a lot of time around us, whether they are friends, relatives, coworkers, or romantic partners are often reluctant to be completely honest. It’s uncomfortable to hurt someone’s feelings--even with the best of intentions--and then have to live or work together.
To get around this obstacle, you have to find ways to give them permission to be honest. This might start with choosing the right medium. For example, people typically find it easier to be honest over text or email than face-to-face. Also, make it clear that you are seeking honest feedback and not just testing them. You might also give them an opportunity to say something nice about you to offset the constructive feedback, something like, “What would you say is my greatest strength?
What is my greatest weakness?” Or, in a work environment, you might ask something like, “What’s one thing I could work on to most improve my performance?” People tend to feel more comfortable answering specific questions rather than making a judgment on you as a person. Just be sure you aren’t deliberately shielding yourself from the feedback you don’t want to hear.
One way to improve your self-awareness on your own is to practice mindfulness meditation. This is a simple practice; just set aside 20 or 30 minutes a day, and during that time, try to remain present. You typically do this by paying attention to your breath, listening to ambient sounds, or feeling for sensations in your body.
Inevitably, thoughts and emotions will arise on their own and you can use these opportunities to practice observing them without judgment. So, for example, an unpleasant memory may suddenly come to mind. Instead of trying to ignore it or think of something else, you might try tracing the chain of associations that led to that memory.
Or you might pay attention to the emotions the memory evokes and ask yourself why you respond that way. The more you learn to accept your own thoughts and emotions, the more you will be aware of what's going on in your own mind.
Journaling is another great way to improve self-awareness on your own. Part of the reason is that writing about what happens and how you feel about it helps you make connections that you might not notice otherwise. Just the act of writing about your feelings can change your brain in ways that make you more aware of your emotions. However, journaling can go far beyond that.
For example, just keeping an accurate and relatively detailed record of what you do all day can yield surprising insights into your behavior. If you’re skeptical, try estimating how much time you’ve spent on your phone today and then check it against your actual screen time in your phone’s settings. Writing is a way of keeping ourselves honest about what we’ve actually done, thought, and said.
Writing about what happens and how you feel about it will reveal a lot of patterns. Even if you never go back and read what you’ve written, you’ll probably notice you spend a lot of time worrying about your work situation or complaining about your parents, or whatever else.
Self-awareness is an ongoing project. Not only is it a big challenge in itself, but we are always changing and growing. Knowing yourself better requires that you make a consistent effort, keep an open mind, and learn to accept constructive criticism with equanimity.
At The Foundry, we know that overcoming addiction isn’t just a matter of abstaining from drugs and alcohol; it’s a journey of self-discovery. We use proven methods such as dialectical behavioral therapy, group therapy, and mindfulness meditation to help our clients better understand themselves and live a fuller life. For more information, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Stay Motivated in Addiction Recovery?
It’s often said that recovery from addiction is a marathon, not a sprint. As in a marathon, there are plenty of opportunities to give up in recovery and the people who do well aren’t necessarily the ones who come blasting off the start line, but the ones who can keep themselves going when they feel totally exhausted. There is no easy trick to staying motivated, but some of the following strategies might help.
Understand that Motivation Is Variable
First, understand that motivation is not some intrinsic quality and it’s not something you can do equally well every day. Motivation is a skill and sometimes you can do it well and other times you just have to be content to make it through the day. The good news is, that like any skill, the more you practice motivating yourself and creating the right conditions for motivation, the easier it gets.
Identify Your Core Values
When you’re trying to keep yourself motivated, it helps to have a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Otherwise, you don’t have much incentive to persist through tough times. While it may be hard to picture your perfect sober life, you can certainly identify some of your core values and how staying sober relates to those values.
For example, many people decide to get sober when they realize what their drinking and drug use is doing to their family. For these people, it’s important to keep the value of family clearly in front of them. You can do this in various ways. You might keep pictures of your family around you, where you can see them easily. You might periodically write about why family is important to you. Studies have found that this practice--called self-affirmation--can help you make healthier decisions and improve your relationships.
Create Good Habits
As discussed above, motivation goes up and down. Therefore, it’s important to create structures in your life to hedge against the risk of relapse on low motivation days. Part of that structure is made of healthy habits and routines. It typically takes about two months for a new behavior to become automatic, but after that, the healthy behavior is on autopilot.
This may be one reason people new to recovery are often advised to attend 90 12-Step meetings in 90 days. If you commit to that, then going to your meeting should be automatic by the end of the 90 days. That’s a major piece of your recovery plan that you won’t have to put any thought or effort into--you just go. The more healthy habits you create, the more the odds are stacked in your favor.
Build a Great Sober Network
Another big part of creating a structure that will keep you on track is creating a great sober network. This includes sober friends, supportive family members and friends, and fellow 12-Step members as well as your therapist, your doctor, your sponsor, and anyone else that has a special interest in your recovery. A sober network helps you in many ways.
It helps reduce stress because there are people who will listen without judgment and who can offer advice and support. You have more resources to deal with any problems that arise and you feel a greater sense of accountability. The last thing you’ll want to do is go to your 12-Step meeting and admit that you slipped up. That can be a powerful incentive to stay sober even when you don’t feel like it.
Find Ways to Cope with Doubt
Learning to deal with doubt is crucial for staying motivated because nothing kills your motivation faster than listening to that little voice that asks you, “Why are you putting yourself through this? You’re just going to fail anyway.” In order to stay motivated, you have to have a reasonable expectation of success. The problem is that it’s hard to judge what’s reasonable, especially when you’re just starting out.
The other strategies described here can help you cope with doubt. Having a strong sober network is especially helpful since you’ll meet people who have succeeded despite significant challenges. It’s also important to learn ways to push back against irrational thoughts. For example, if you think things like, “You’ll fail at this because you fail at everything,” you might recognize this as an overgeneralization and push back with a thought like, “Really? Everything?” and think of some evidence to contradict your overgeneralization.
Take One Day at a Time
This may sound cliche, but it’s a cliche because it works. If you think that you have to motivate yourself to keep going forever, it will feel exhausting. However, if you only think that you have to make it through the day or even through the hour, that typically feels more manageable. You can only act in the present moment, so if you can motivate yourself to not drink, to go to your meeting, to call your therapist, or whatever else you need to do right now, that’s really all you have to worry about. If you can do it today, you can do it tomorrow too.
Play the Tape
Finally, in an emergency, you can always play the tape. This is where you think through the consequences of drinking or using again. Typically, when you have a craving, you’re only imagining the immediate gratification of drinking or using again. Unfortunately, that gratification only lasts a short time and then you have to deal with the consequences of relapse. Instead of focusing on the relapse itself, think through the entire thing--the next hour, the next day, the next week, and so on.
Imagine how you’ll feel about relapsing after so much hard work, how disappointed your family will be, how hard it will be to tell your 12-Step group, and so on. Think about how bad things were in active addiction when you finally decided to get help. Picturing all of this clearly can make the momentary gratification of relapse seem small by comparison.
Motivation is a single thing, but rather learning to select and use a range of skills appropriate to the situation. Identify your core values, create good habits and routines, create a good support system, and learn to play the mental game.
At The Foundry, we believe that recovery from addiction entails a set of skills that anyone can learn. We use a variety of methods, including dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and lifestyle changes to help our clients learn recovery skills and build a sense of self-efficacy that will serve them long after they graduate from our program. To learn more, call us at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Escape a Recovery Rut?
Recovery from addiction isn’t a steady progression. There are times when you are super focused on it and make a lot of progress and there are times when you are distracted, indifferent, or depressed and can’t be bothered. Motivation is never constant. Many people find they are motivated and engaged early on when they still remember vividly how bad life was when they were actively addicted, when they are most hopeful that life can change, and when they are making a lot of progress quickly.
However, as recovery gets easier, it can also get boring. You forget what the big deal is and it’s harder to see progress from day-to-day. When you get complacent, you are in danger of backsliding. The following tips can help you escape your recovery rut and start making progress again.
Review Your Recovery Plan
The first thing you should do is have a look at your recovery plan and see to what extent you are still following it. Instead of just looking down the list and mentally checking boxes, spend about a week actually keeping track, in writing, of how you spend your time. You may be surprised by the disparity between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it. When you find some way that you’ve deviated from your recovery plan, try to correct it.
For example, you may discover that it’s actually been a while since you’ve been to a meeting or that your daily exercise has become weekly exercise. The whole purpose of a recovery plan is to help you stay physically and mentally healthy, maintain some accountability, and stay focused on recovery. It’s easy to start cutting corners when recovery gets less challenging and that can lead to trouble.
Pay Special Attention to Self-Care
Self-care is an especially important part of any recovery plan and it’s something many people find easy to neglect. It includes things like eating healthy and exercising, but it also includes things like taking time each day to relax, spending time with supportive friends, doing fun things, and getting enough sleep. We often sacrifice these things when we’re busy or stressed, but that’s when we need them the most.
Relapse is a process that typically starts with emotional relapse, and emotional relapse is typically caused by poor self-care. Fortunately, at this stage, it’s pretty easy to turn things around if you focus on self-care. Make sure you’re following your recovery plan, that you’re eating healthy and exercising, sleeping, taking time to relax, socialize, and have fun, and so on.
Talk to a Therapist
If you’re following your recovery plan and you still feel stuck, it may be time to talk to a therapist. Ideally, you’ll already be seeing a therapist regularly for at least the first year of recovery, but that’s often not the case. If you get to a point where you feel stuck, like you’re not seeing progress, or maybe you are seeing progress but you still feel awful, it could be that you have some co-occurring mental health issues that need to be addressed. At least half of the people with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health challenges including anxiety disorders, major depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others.
These issues tend to drive addictive behavior and it’s very hard to stay sober with an untreated mental health issue. Even if you did have therapy as part of treatment, it’s possible that the issue persists or that something new has come up. If your mental health issue is well-controlled, your therapist may be able to help you figure out why you feel stuck.
Having a regular routine in addiction recovery is a two-edged sword. On the positive side, a regular routine reduces uncertainty and stress, it helps you automate healthy decisions, and it helps ensure you’re giving adequate attention to your recovery priorities. On the downside, it can get boring. You feel like you’re just living the same day over and over without much challenge or engagement.
If it’s the monotony of your daily routine that’s dragging you down, change something, anything. It doesn’t have to be something big. In fact, too big of a change can be stressful and distract from the productive parts of your routine. But there is plenty of room for tinkering. You might decide to take a different route to work or text a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe you can go on a media diet or read a book that’s outside of your usual tastes. A change in perspective can make a big difference.
Take On a New Challenge
Along similar lines to making a change, it may be time to take on a new challenge. The point of recovery is not that it’s supposed to be challenging for the rest of your life. It’s supposed to get easier with practice, allowing you to do more in other areas of your life. If you’re sticking to your recovery plan and managing your mental health challenges, maybe you’re just bored and need something to do.
Maybe it’s time to get a job or take on more responsibility at work. Maybe it’s time to pursue another goal, like going back to school or learning a second language. Striving toward meaningful goals may be the next step in your recovery and feeling bored or restless may indicate it’s time to take that step.
Finally, it may be time to change the way you engage with recovery. When you’re first starting out, you need a lot of help and support. Later on, you don’t need so much help but it’s still important to stay engaged with your recovery community. That might mean taking on a more active role, like volunteering.
There are plenty of opportunities to help out at 12-Step meetings. Even if you don’t volunteer in any official capacity, you can get to know new people and help them feel welcome. This strengthens the group and it strengthens your own recovery.
Recovery from addiction doesn’t stay the same all the way through and you can run into problems if you try to resist these changes. On the one hand, you have to keep paying attention to the basics, the things that work. On the other hand, you have to be responsive to changing circumstances and your own growth.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery doesn’t end after 30 days of inpatient treatment. That’s why we include three to six months of partial care following treatment, to help clients transition back to normal life and deal with new recovery challenges. To learn more, call us today 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.
Have You Replaced Alcohol With Sugar?
There is a common pattern you may have noticed in people who have recently quit drinking: They start eating a lot of sugary snacks. They’re always munching on chocolate, candy, or pastries. Although it’s common for people to lose weight when they quit drinking, people who pick up this habit might actually gain weight instead. Here’s a brief look at why this happens, why it’s bad, and what you can do about it.
Why It Happens:
Many people aren’t aware that hypoglycemia--or low blood sugar--is extremely common among people with alcohol use disorder. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include irregular or fast heartbeat, pale skin, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, hunger, and irritability. Severe hypoglycemia may cause confusion, abnormal behavior, blurry vision, seizures, and loss of consciousness. Some of these may look familiar since they are also symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and hypoglycemia may easily be mistaken for protracted withdrawal symptoms.
There appear to be several reasons why heavy drinking causes hypoglycemia. First, the liver plays an important role in regulating blood sugar by storing and releasing glycogen. Alcohol impairs the liver’s ability to release glycogen, so this method of regulation becomes less effective. Simultaneously, alcohol changes the patterns of blood flow in the pancreas, increasing insulin production, which lowers blood sugar. These complementary effects are compounded by the high sugar content of many alcoholic drinks--particularly beer, which people often forget has a lot of sugar--which also causes an increase in insulin.
People suffering from low blood sugar typically try to fix it in the quickest way possible: eating sweets. They aren’t always aware of what they’re doing. Often, they just learn unconsciously that sweet snacks relieve their symptoms and it soon becomes a habit.
2. Low Dopamine
Another reason many people develop a sugar habit after they quit drinking is that it can replace some of the dopamine boost they lost when they quit drinking. Our dopamine system exists in order to reinforce survival behaviors like eating and having sex but drugs and alcohol overclock that system so that it mainly seeks drugs and alcohol. Normal sorts of stimulating behavior become dull by comparison.
However, sugary foods give you a little more dopamine bang for your buck than other foods. People who experience protracted depression or emotional numbness in the early days of sobriety might find a bit of relief from eating sweets.
Why It’s Bad:
In one sense, swapping alcohol for sweets sounds like a pretty good bargain. Sweets can make you fat and ruin your teeth but alcohol can ruin your life. While that’s true to a certain degree, there are some good reasons why replacing alcohol with candy is not a sustainable strategy.
First, refined sugar is a highly inflammatory food and inflammation is gaining attention as a major cause of a variety of problems, including mental health issues, medical problems, and even addiction itself. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection. It helps destroy pathogens that make us sick. It also triggers other adaptations that are designed to aid the body in fighting infection and prevent spreading disease. These adaptations include pain to immobilize an injured area, lethargy to help us conserve energy, fever to kill microbes, and social isolation to prevent it from spreading.
You may recognize lethargy and isolation as symptoms of depression, and in fact, recent research has found that as many as half of depression cases can be attributed to chronic inflammation. Depression is also a common driver of addictive behavior and must be treated and managed for recovery to last. Research also shows that a diet low in sugar and other inflammatory foods like processed meats and vegetable oils also reduce your risk of depression.
2. Health Risks
As noted above, inflammation is increasingly being identified as a mechanism behind many health problems. For example, why should it be the case that obesity increases your risk of heart disease? Part of the answer appears to be that fat cells release inflammatory compounds and chronic inflammation leads to problems such as heart disease. That means two things: First, inflammatory foods such as sugar can directly increase your health risks, even if you otherwise lead a relatively healthy lifestyle and aren’t overweight.
Second, excessive sugar consumption can lead to obesity, which can cause health problems. A lot of the health risks of prolonged heavy drinking--heart disease, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes, some cancers, and so on--are compounded by obesity. While making the switch from alcohol to sweets certainly buys you time, some of your long-term health risks will be similar.
What to Do:
1. See Your Doctor
If you think your blood sugar is out of whack, the first thing to do is see your doctor. Your body and especially your brain need sugar to function so hypoglycemia is a serious matter. You want to be sure there isn’t some underlying medical issue causing your low blood sugar.
2. Fix Your Diet
Most of the time, low blood sugar or blood sugar swings are caused by poor diet. You feel a bit faint so you eat a candy bar, which boosts your blood sugar temporarily, but then you crash again and need more sugar, so you’re always on this blood sugar rollercoaster.
You can normally sort this out by reducing your sugar intake as much as possible--it’s nearly impossible to eliminate sugar completely, unless you make all of your own meals from scratch--and eating foods that are high in fiber and protein, such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. These slow your digestion and ensure a more steady supply of carbs to your system.
If you must have something sweet, choose fruit. The fiber will fill you up and slow the absorption of sugar. Also, keep in mind that it may take a while for your body to adapt to the absence of alcohol in your system but you should start feeling better after a relatively short time on a healthy diet.
At The Foundry, we understand that healthy eating is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make to support a strong recovery. Our program emphasizes good nutrition and an active lifestyle, which boosts your energy and mood, as well as healing your body. To learn more about our program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
How Do You Keep Grief from Sinking Your Recovery from Addiction?
We typically think of grief as the result of losing someone close to us--a relative, a friend, or even a pet. However, grief is really a reaction to any loss and can be part of many of life’s challenges--a breakup or divorce, losing a job or business, losing a house, or even giving up drugs and alcohol. Grief can be intense and pose a major challenge to addiction recovery.
We typically have little or no control over the situations that cause us grief and life doesn’t care whether or not your recovery is strong enough to withstand a major loss. As difficult as grief can be, it doesn’t have to undermine your recovery. The following tips can help you stay sober while you process your grief.
Accept Your Feelings
First of all, it’s crucial not to suppress or avoid grief. When confronted with a loss, grief is a normal reaction, and trying to suppress, avoid, or numb it will only cause you problems in the long run. Research shows that accepting challenging emotions, particularly in stressful situations, leads to fewer mental health challenges, such as major depression. Of course, allowing yourself to feel painful emotions is inherently challenging.
Mindfulness can help but it works best if you’ve already been practicing mindfulness meditation consistently. If not, you might still benefit from just allowing yourself to feel grief, understanding that it’s normal, noticing how it feels in your body, and noticing how it comes and goes and changes over time.
Connect with Others
One of the worst parts of grief, especially after losing someone close to you, is that you feel alone. Perhaps you’ve lost a confidant or someone you depended on in some way. You can’t imagine anyone else filling that gap and you can’t imagine that anyone else really understands what you’re going through. However, that feeling is an illusion. Others probably feel the loss keenly as well and the people around you want to help you, so let them. It’s especially important to resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Isolation increases your risk of both depression and relapse. Stay in touch with friends and family.
Talk to a Therapist
People don’t always need therapy to cope with grief, but if you’re recovering from addiction while trying to cope with grief, it’s best to have professional help. You may be confronted with a flood of overwhelming and conflicting emotions and you may feel tempted to escape with drugs or alcohol. A therapist can help you sort all this out, lend a sympathetic ear, and help you make a plan for staying sober as you deal with your grief. And if you have a history of depression, grief is just the kind of thing that might trigger another episode so it’s important to do everything you can to look after your mental health.
Keep Going to Meetings
A major loss can severely disrupt your life and as a result, you may feel like it’s fine to skip meetings for a while. That’s typically a bad idea. This is the time when you need that structure and support the most. There are almost certainly some people in your group who have had to deal with grief in recovery and they can provide support and advice.
As discussed above, it’s also important to stay connected and avoid isolating yourself and going to meetings--perhaps even going to extra meetings--is a great way to ensure extra support and keep from feeling isolated. Also remember that even if you have to travel for a funeral, there are probably meetings wherever you’re going.
Beware of the Anniversary Effect
As time goes on, you will gradually feel better. You might start to feel almost normal again after a few months but then it’s time for that person’s birthday or it’s the first holiday without them and suddenly you come apart again. This is the anniversary effect and it often blindsides people. It typically happens around birthdays, holidays, and, of course, anniversaries--including marriage anniversaries and the anniversary of the person’s death.
Sometimes seasonal cues can trigger a return of grief. The best thing to do is to be aware of it and perhaps even deliberately mark the occasion with other friends and family members so that it becomes an occasion for remembering the best things about the person.
Be There for Others
Keep in mind that when you’re grieving, you’re probably not the only one. If a loved one has died, there are probably other people who are hurting too. While that doesn’t invalidate your own grief in any way, being aware of that fact and being there for others can be a way of connecting and sharing the load. Having compassion for others’ grief can make you feel a bit better, and if not, it can at least give you a sense of purpose that can carry you through and help you stay sober.
Take Care of Yourself
As noted, grief is often disruptive but you should still make an effort to take care of yourself as much as you can. Try to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals. Get some exercise if possible; that will boost your mood and help you cope with stress. The more you are able to stick to your regular routine, the less chaotic your life will feel.
Expressing your feelings about loss can be hard. You may be overwhelmed with conflicting feelings and find yourself at a loss for words when trying to talk to friends or even your therapist. You may have more luck with more creative pursuits--painting, drawing, poetry, music, or whatever you like to do. These modes of expression don’t require you to be very specific or accurate and can allow you to grapple with feelings there aren’t really words for.
Grief can be a serious challenge for addiction recovery because it can be traumatic and destabilizing, just the sort of emotions people typically rely on drugs and alcohol to cope with. Acceptance, social connection, and self-care are the major keys to staying on track when faced with grief.
At The Foundry, we know that life can throw some major challenges your way whether you’re ready for them or not. That’s why we emphasize skills for emotional resilience, as well as involving family in the process. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Brain Fog for a Stronger Recovery
People often complain about brain fog in their first year of recovery. This is the feeling that you can’t focus on anything, even simple tasks, you can’t remember things you should be able to remember, you don’t feel motivated, you can’t form a plan and follow it through, or maybe you feel sort of emotionally numb. Your brain has a lot of adjusting to do during this early period and it’s normal to feel a bit off. People who have recently quit stimulants may have an especially hard time with brain fog since stimulants unnaturally enhance the faculties mentioned above. Brain fog can be a major challenge for recovery because it makes you have doubts like, “Will I feel this way forever?” and “How am I supposed to function like this?” Brain fog usually goes away on its own as your brain slowly adapts to functioning without drugs and alcohol. The following tips may also help.
1.) Go to the Doctor
If it’s been a while since you detoxed--several months, at least--and you feel like your cognitive symptoms haven’t abated, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. Malnutrition is a common problem for people with substance use disorders. Medical detox and treatment programs typically try to address this issue, but if you didn’t go that route or if you’ve fallen back into old lifestyle habits, you may have some nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in omega-3s, magnesium, B vitamins, and other nutrients may be causing your symptoms and your doctor can figure this out with a simple blood test. These are also usually easy to correct.
It’s also a good idea to rule out possible medical causes. Sleep apnea, thyroid problems, autoimmune disorders, and traumatic brain injuries are all possible causes of brain fog that you’ll want to rule out. You may also be on medications that are messing with your cognition and you’ll certainly want to discuss any change in medication with your doctor.
2.) Talk to Your Therapist
If there are no medical causes of your brain fog, talk to your therapist, if you haven’t already. Brain fog may have a psychological cause. Depression is the most likely. People often don’t realize that impaired concentration, slow thoughts, and poor memory are all common symptoms of depression. Lack of motivation and energy and emotional numbness are more well-known symptoms. Your symptoms may also be related to stress and anxiety. Psychotherapy, possibly with the assistance of medication, can help get these under control and that should improve your symptoms. However, some medications like beta-blockers have cognitive side effects, so you may want to avoid those.
3.) Dial-In Your Sleep
As for the things you have the most control over, sleep is the most common culprit when it comes to cognitive issues. Even a relatively modest sleep deficit can significantly affect your cognition, impairing your concentration, working memory, recall, planning, and self-control. Most studies suggest that we need at least seven hours of sleep a night to function optimally and for many people, even seven hours will be too little. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep a night and the optimum amount will vary by individual and by any extra recovery needs, such as recovering from physical exertion or illness.
If you’re getting less than seven hours a night, there’s a good chance that’s causing at least some of your cognitive problems. While too little sleep is by far the more common issue, it’s also important to be aware that too much sleep can also cause cognitive impairment. So if you’re sleeping more than nine hours a night on average, you might want to shorten it a bit. It’s also important to sleep regular hours. That will make it easier to fall asleep and to wake up and you will feel less tired with the same amount of sleep.
4.) Experiment With Your Diet
As noted above, nutritional deficits can affect your cognition, so eating a variety of whole foods, especially nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, will help fill some of those gaps. It may also help to eliminate certain foods. Inflammatory foods have been found to be especially bad for mood and cognition since they essentially trigger the same immune response you experience when you’re sick. Try reducing your intake of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined wheat, fried food, and processed meats. Alcohol is also highly inflammatory and impairs cognition, but if you’re in recovery, you should be avoiding alcohol already.
5.) Get More Exercise
Exercise is just as good for your brain as it is for your body. It increases blood flow to every part of the brain, it makes you less sensitive to stress, it improves your mood, and it helps grow new brain cells. Most research indicates that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise has the most cognitive and mental health benefits and one large study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that team sports are the single best exercise you can do for mental health. If your head is foggy, a game of basketball, a jog, bike ride, or walk may be just the thing you need.
Most of the items on this list are about removing the impediments to healthy cognition, but it may also help to challenge your brain more as well. Some of the cognitive impairment you feel after quitting drugs and alcohol comes from lack of use. It’s very easy to concentrate on things related to drugs and alcohol but everything else takes a back seat. You can start building up your focus and other cognitive skills by using them more frequently. Meditation is a great way to do this deliberately, but there are other ways to do this as well. Playing an instrument, for example, uses the whole brain and requires a lot of focus and coordination. High-skilled sports and possibly even some video games may also help.
7.) Be Patient
Finally, it’s important to be patient with yourself. It can be hard to go through your days in a fog, struggling to complete even the simplest tasks, but it will get better. Your brain has to heal from possibly a long time of drug and alcohol use and that just takes time. It’s also important to remember that whenever you feel challenged or frustrated trying to focus, your brain is actually adapting. Alternate periods of work and rest. After a time of trying to focus and remember, give yourself a real break, where you don’t do anything at all and be sure to get enough sleep. This gives your brain more opportunity to make the changes you require of it.
Recovery from addiction is a process and sometimes it feels way too slow. At The Foundry, we know that one of the biggest challenges of recovery is persisting day after day when progress isn’t always obvious. We’re here to support you and your family through treatment and beyond, to give you the best chance of success. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us at (844) 955-1066.
7 Meditation Tips to Supercharge Addiction Recovery
Meditation can be an excellent part of an addiction recovery plan. In recent decades, there has been a lot of research showing practical benefits of meditation including stress reduction, increased productivity, better sleep, better relationships, and a greater sense of well-being. These can all serve you well in recovery. Because of the popularity of meditation in recent years, there has been a flood of information about it. Unfortunately, much of it is well-intentioned but misleading and if you follow it, you might easily miss out on many of the benefits of meditation or conclude that meditation just isn’t for you. The following tips can help make your meditation practice a more effective part of your recovery plan.
1.) Know Your Needs
First, meditation has become part of the current zeitgeist. It’s in the media all the time and you often hear people talking about their meditation practices. It’s almost expected that if you’re living a healthy, balanced life, then, of course, you’re meditating. However, it’s important to have some idea of what you actually want from the practice. Do you want to reduce stress? Do you want to have more compassion for yourself and others? Do you want to improve your concentration? Do you want to become enlightened? There are no wrong answers, but your individual needs will guide your approach to meditation.
2.) Find a Style that Works for You
Next, it’s important to understand that meditation isn’t just one thing. There are many different styles, traditions, and techniques. Currently, mindfulness meditation is the most popular and well studied and it will be a good place for many people to start. However, it’s not the only game in town. You may want to try a different style of meditation based on what you want from your practice. For example, if you want to reduce stress, mindfulness or a relaxation-response style of meditation may be the best for you. If you want to cultivate compassion then loving-kindness meditation (metta meditation) is the way to go. If you want to improve your concentration then a meditation that builds focus on an object, such as the breath, may be the most helpful.
3.) Find a Teacher
As noted, there is a flood of information on meditation out there and much of it is second-hand, perhaps a copy of a copy of a copy. The fastest way to get into a meditation practice and figure out if it’s right for you is to find a teacher. Depending on where you live and your particular situation, this may be easy or it may be hard. If your options are limited, the best strategy might be to work with the best teacher you can find. Even if it’s not exactly the style you want to do, they can show you the basics and help you figure out where to go next. If there is no teacher available in your area, look into online options. You can take a mindfulness-based stress reduction course online, which lasts eight weeks and has been shown to be pretty effective. There are also many good teachers on YouTube who do guided meditations for beginners. Look for videos by qualified teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg.
4.) Be Consistent
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they decide to try meditation is that they only do it when they feel like they need it. Perhaps they feel stressed or unable to relax, so they decide to light some incense and sit on the floor for a while and be peaceful. While that’s not the worst thing you can do, it’s about like exercising once in a while or practicing the piano once in a while. You really only get the benefits from regular practice. Meditation is a way of training your mind and you won’t see lasting changes unless your practice is consistent. It’s much better to practice 10 minutes every day than to practice for an hour at random intervals.
5.) Stick With One Approach for a While
Once you start learning about all the different approaches to meditation, you may be tempted to try them all. However, as discussed above, consistency is important. Spend at least a month with one practice and see what happens. If you don’t feel like it’s a good fit for you or your priorities change, try something else.
6.) Don’t Try So Hard
Another common mistake people make is that they try too hard. A common misconception about meditation is that the goal is to clear your mind, which isn’t very practical. Some meditation styles advocate single-pointed concentration. However, most people try to achieve this through intense mental effort, which often backfires. Typically, it’s more effective to relax and approach your thoughts in the role of an observer rather than a bouncer. If you get caught up in trying too hard and constantly judging your meditation, it’s going to be counterproductive.
7.) Focus On the Process
There’s a paradox when it comes to meditation: There’s something you want from meditation or else you wouldn’t bother doing it, but the more you focus on the result you want, the less effective the meditation is. The reason is that you can’t simultaneously focus on the present, accepting your thoughts and emotions, and think about how great life will be in the future when your thoughts and emotions aren’t so irritating. The way out of this paradox is to focus on the process. Make meditation a regular part of your day, like brushing your teeth. When you do the practice, just do it and see what happens. Whether your experience that day is good or bad, it still counts.
Meditation isn’t a silver bullet but it is a practice that can enhance your recovery in many ways. For example, mindfulness meditation practice helps people be more aware of their emotions, less reactive to stress, and deal better with cravings. It’s a sort of safety valve for your mind. It relieves some of the tension so you can think a little more clearly and make better decisions. Having an experienced teacher is the best way to learn meditation. Consistency, patience, and being gentle with yourself are also crucial for getting the most out of your practice.
At Foundry, we incorporate mindfulness meditation and yoga into our treatment program because we know treatment is only effective if we treat the whole person--mind, body, and spirit. Meditation is one aspect of our overall approach to wellness. Long-term success in recovery means creating a life that feels purposeful and connected, with no need for drugs or alcohol. To learn more about our addiction treatment program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
8 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems worldwide. It is also a common driver of addictive behavior. One study found that among people with a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder, about 32% also had a substance use disorder--that’s about four times the rate of substance use disorders in the general public. Common symptoms of depression include depressed mood, inability to enjoy anything, irritability, disturbed sleep or sleeping too much, weight changes, inability to concentrate, fatigue, lack of motivation, slow movements, aches and pains, substance use, reckless behavior, and thoughts of suicide or death. If someone you care about has depression, you probably want to help but it can be hard to know how. The following are some things you should avoid saying to someone with depression.
1.)“Snap Out of It”
If you’ve never experienced depression yourself, it can be hard to understand why someone can’t get out of bed, can’t focus, never seems to enjoy anything, never seems to be motivated, and so on. You may feel like they’re just not trying or they need someone to motivate them or wake them up. However, that’s not how it works. Telling someone to “snap out of it” or “cheer up,” even with the best intentions typically just makes things worse. Depression is a complicated problem and more and more research is showing that many forms of depression have physiological as well as psychological components. Telling someone to snap out of it may be like telling them to snap out of the flu.
2.) “Why Should You Be Depressed?”
We usually assume that if someone is depressed, they must be depressed about something. Often, this is true. Major life stressors such as a divorce, a job loss, or the death of a loved one can sometimes precipitate an episode of depression. Even a seemingly positive event like having a baby can cause depression. However, you don’t necessarily need a reason to be depressed, especially if you have had one or more episodes of depression in the past. It can occur spontaneously. Also, we all have different brains and different bodies and we all react to stressors differently. Even people who appear to have very good lives can be deeply depressed.
3.) “It Could Be Worse”
Similar to the point discussed above, “it could be worse” assumes you have to have a good reason to be depressed. You may be trying to put things in perspective, perhaps pointing out that there are people in your own neighborhood who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, so you should feel pretty good about your life. Typically, this kind of strategy backfires. Someone with depression is just likely to feel bad about feeling bad. Also, a typical feature of depression is that you can’t imagine life getting better but it’s very easy to imagine life getting worse.
4.) “It’s All in Your Head”
People who haven’t experienced depression often imagine it as a problem of perspective--a short-sighted gloominess that would go away if you only looked at life differently. While it’s true that your thinking often contributes to depression, such as when you get stuck in cycles of rumination, worry, and cognitive distortions, there are two problems with telling someone depression is all in their head. First, it’s not all in your head. As noted above, recent research has found that much of depression may actually be in your body, particularly in the form of inflammation. Second, to the extent that depression is in your head, it’s nearly impossible to think your way out of it. The bleakness of your outlook doesn’t seem like depression; it seems like reality and it’s hard to argue yourself out of something you believe is true.
5.) “Don’t Be So Selfish”
From the outside, someone with depression can seem self-centered or even solipsistic--they don’t want to work, they don’t want to help out, they don’t even want to get out of bed because their life seems so uniquely horrible. However, there’s no sense at all in which depression is an indulgence. As discussed above, depression feels more like a trap and you can’t think or motivate yourself out of it. Calling someone with depression selfish only adds to their burden of self-loathing. Again, imagine calling someone with the flu selfish, and that’s similar to calling someone with depression selfish.
6.) “You Should Try Exercising”
While it’s true that exercise is excellent for your mental health and should be part of any treatment plan, it typically isn’t sufficient by itself. It’s not bad advice, exactly, it just falls woefully short. When you’re depressed, everyone has some advice for you and most of those people have never been depressed themselves. Advice either falls flat or it makes you feel like there’s one more thing you’re not doing. At the very least, it underscores how little someone else understands what you’re going through.
7.) “Have a Drink”
Some people assume that depression is just a matter of feeling stressed and having a few drinks will help them relax and cheer up. While a few drinks may temporarily make you feel better, in the long run, alcohol will make you feel worse. As discussed above, depression--and especially bipolar depression--significantly increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder. You get to rely on these temporary boosts--or moments of relief--and before you know it, you can’t get along without drugs and alcohol.
8.) “You Should See a Therapist”
As with the advice to exercise, telling someone to get therapy isn’t bad advice in itself but it tends to fall flat. There’s a good chance that someone with depression spends half the day thinking, “I should see a therapist,” but, again, it’s just one more thing they should be doing but aren’t. They probably don’t need you to remind them.
What may be helpful instead is to offer to help. Even in a mid-sized city, there are possibly hundreds of therapists. The thought of finding a good one, making an appointment, and actually showing up may feel overwhelming to someone with depression. Instead of suggesting they see someone, offer to help them with the process of finding a therapist and making an appointment. Try to remember that depression attacks the very faculties--motivation, optimism, focus--that you need to make a treatment plan and follow through. Seeing a therapist may seem like a simple thing to you but it’s not to them.
Depression is one of the most common co-occurring mental health issues along with substance use disorders. Depression typically comes first and substance use is more often a symptom and a way to try to manage the symptoms of depression. Any plan to treat addiction that doesn’t also address depression is not likely to succeed for long. If you have a loved one with depression, it’s important to see things from your loved one’s point of view. Plenty of well-meaning advice will either make no difference at all or make them feel worse. It’s far more helpful to be there for them, to listen, to try to understand, and to help them get treatment.
At Foundry, we know that there is usually a lot more to addiction than substance use. We use a variety of evidence-based methods to diagnose and treat any co-occurring mental health issues, including depression. Our methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Alpha-Stim, and others. To learn more about our comprehensive approach to treatment, 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 Do You Fix Your Finances After Addiction?
There are two things addiction will ruin very quickly: your relationships and your finances. Drugs and alcohol get expensive when you need them every day, but the secondary costs are even more expensive. These include debts, legal and medical bills, and lost income. You might find yourself facing a pretty bleak financial situation in recovery. Financial stress is one of the biggest sources of stress for most people, which makes it a liability for recovery. As stressful as money problems are, it’s important to remember that they can be solved with a good strategy and consistent effort. The following is a brief look at how you can recover financially as you’re recovering from addiction.
Write Down All Your Debts
Before you can make a plan, you have to figure out exactly what your situation looks like. This part can feel incredibly demoralizing but it’s necessary. Write down all your debts, including credit card debt, private debts, past due bills, student loans, home, and car loans, as well as any money you owe people for damaging their property or stealing from them. It might help to sort of compartmentalize while doing this. Don’t worry about how you’re going to deal with all of this; you’re just taking inventory right now. In the end, it actually makes you feel a little better to know what all of your financial obligations are, rather than having them all lurking in the dark.
Contact Your Creditors
If you thought writing down your financial liabilities was unpleasant, wait until you have to contact your creditors and other people you need to repay. Talking to creditors and people you’ve wronged is one of the most humbling things you’ll ever have to do, but again, it’s a necessary step. At this point, you have two primary aims: let them know you intend to repay them and see if they’ll be flexible on terms. Many people underestimate how much their creditors are willing to negotiate on repayment terms. It’s important to understand that debt collectors often buy your debt for pennies on the dollar, so pretty much anything you’re willing to pay them is gravy and other lenders would much rather work with you than write off your debt or sell it for a big loss.
Your friends and family will likely be the most flexible on repayment terms, although it largely depends on how mad they are at you. Some might be willing to forget it entirely, but this isn’t just about the money; it’s also about taking personal responsibility and putting things right. Let these people know you intend to repay them even if it might take you a while.
Prioritize Your Debt Repayment
Once you have a complete picture of your debts and repayment terms, it’s time to make a plan for repaying them. Start with debts that are both urgent and important. For example, if you’re about to lose your house because you’re behind on the mortgage, focus on that first, and make minimum payments on the other things until you get out of danger. Next, focus on debts that are important but not urgent. Typically, these will be things like paying off high-interest loans or credit cards. Nothing bad will happen immediately if you don’t pay them, but the longer you wait, the bigger they get. Debts with high interest are like having a very big hole in your bucket: No matter how much money you make or how well you invest your money, your bucket is very hard to fill.
Another good strategy for paying off debts is the “snowball” strategy. With this strategy, you focus on paying off the smallest debts first. There are a number of reasons this is often a good strategy. First, it can give you a huge psychological boost. If you have a list of 10 debts but five are small enough to pay off in a month or two, you feel like you’re making great progress and it’s much easier to think about how to pay off five debts rather than 10. It’s a big load off your mind. Second, knocking out small debts frees up money that you can use to pay down larger debts--hence “snowball.” While focusing on getting rid of high-interest debt is often numerically superior, the snowball strategy is often less stressful and more sustainable.
Write Down Everything You Spend Your Money On
Next, you have to figure out where to get the money to pay off these debts. Just like you made a list of all your debts, make a list of all your expenses. The best way to do this is to actually track your spending in real-time. This includes big things like car payments and small things like candy bars. Online credit card and bank statements make this process easier but you might want to keep a notebook to record spending as it happens. We often spend more money than we realize on things that don’t really improve our lives. This will help you spot that kind of wasteful spending and recording each transaction as you make it will force you to reflect on whether you really need the thing you’re about to buy.
Eliminate Wasteful Spending
Once you have a clear picture of your spending habits, look for things you can get rid of. How deep you go will depend on your money situation. There are probably things you can get rid of and not even notice--magazine subscriptions, apps, the membership to the gym you haven’t been to in a year, and so on. The tighter your money situation, the deeper the cuts. You may have to consider finding a cheaper place to live or do without some things until you get your money situation under control.
Work on Increasing Income
Eventually, you’ll need some kind of income. For most people, that will be from a job. There’s a huge range of employment situations people find themselves in after treatment, from going right back to their six-figure professional job as if they had been on vacation, to having trouble getting any job because of their substance use history. If you’re in the former category, you’re probably doing fine in terms of income but people in the latter category are in a tighter spot. For the moment, any job will do but be looking to trade up as soon as possible. The main things are to establish your reliability and skills. It may help to volunteer for a cause you care about. This helps improve your reputation, builds skills, and broadens your network. If you can, it’s also a good idea to learn some new job skills, possibly at a university or community college.
Start Saving as Soon as Possible
Once you have things basically under control, which means you're making regular, perhaps even automatic, payments on your debts and you have some kind of steady income, it’s time to start saving some money. Living hand-to-mouth is extremely stressful and the more savings you have, the less you’ll stress about money. You might feel like you should wait until your debts are paid before you start saving but that might take years and in the meantime, you’ll be working without a net. Put a little money in savings every time you get paid, even if it’s only 10 bucks, and don’t touch it unless it’s an absolute emergency.
Getting your finances sorted out in recovery may take a while. The hardest part is taking an honest look at your financial situation and talking to creditors. However, once you get working on the problem with a good strategy, you’ll feel much better. Keep in mind that paying your debts isn’t just about money; it’s part of the recovery process and often explicitly part of making amends. At Foundry, we know that addiction is a problem that affects every area of your life and therefore requires holistic solutions. We don’t just teach skills to help you abstain from drugs and alcohol; we teach skills to help you live a happier, more purposeful, more connected life. To learn more, call us 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.
How Do You Make Relaxation a Regular Part of Recovery?
We often think of relaxation as a luxury, something we do every once in a while if we can manage to get a few days off of work or get someone to watch the kids. However, daily relaxation is a necessity. It’s a vital part of good self-care, especially for anyone recovering from a substance use disorder and their families as well. Most people recovering from addiction say that stress is their biggest cause of cravings, and in fact, many addictions begin as a way of coping with stress and other challenging emotions. Chronic stress can also worsen health risks, such as heart disease, obesity, insomnia, digestive problems, and more frequent illnesses. These are all risks that are also increased by heavy drug and alcohol use.
In short, taking time each day to relax isn’t just a luxury, but a way of protecting your physical and mental health, and a vital element of your recovery plan. However, it’s not always easy to relax, especially early in recovery when you may be feeling unusually tense, anxious, and irritable. The following tips can help you make relaxation part of your everyday life.
Set Aside Time
If you want to make relaxation a habit, you need to actually dedicate some time in your day to it. If you just figure you’ll squeeze it in when you have some free time, you’ll usually end up skipping it. Figure out a time that will work most days. Just before bed works pretty well for most people and relaxing can be a great way to improve your sleep as well. Right after work might be another good time and having a little buffer between your work and home life might improve your relationships. Find a time that works for you and try to stick to it every day.
As for relaxation itself, this is often harder than you would expect. You might sit down in your comfy chair with some nice music and still feel tense and agitated. One strategy that will probably help is progressive relaxation. Start at the top of your head, notice any tension there, and let it go. If it won’t seem to go away, try tensing the muscles for five seconds or so and then relax. When that area feels warm and relaxed, move on to the next area, perhaps your face or the back of your neck--both places that hold a lot of tension. It may also help to use visualization. For example, you may imagine the tense areas as a block of ice melting.
The body and mind are connected in complex ways and it’s very hard to relax your body if your mind is tense, agitated, or racing. Relaxing your body should help to calm down your mind, but it can work the other way as well. Meditation can be an excellent way to relax your mind. There are many different methods of meditation and many of these are great for helping you mentally relax. Mindfulness meditation is currently the most popular form of meditation and it specifically emphasizes not getting wrapped up in thoughts. The Relaxation Response is a simple meditation method that combines progressive relaxation and mantra meditation. Research published in Public Library of Science ONE found that this technique--and likely others as well--actually cause genetic changes in the way your body responds to stress, including genes related to inflammation and oxidation, two kinds of stress that can lead to heart disease and cancer, respectively.
Meditation can relax your mind and help you respond better to stress but it does take a little practice. In the meantime, deep breathing is a quick way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and get your body and mind to relax. Deep breathing, and in particular, a long exhale, has been shown in many studies to activate the vagus nerve, which stimulates your rest-and-digest system. The ideal rate for relaxation appears to be about six breaths per minute. A regular rhythm like a three-second inhale, six-second exhale, and a brief pause before repeating should help you relax both mentally and physically. Furthermore, taking a few slow deep breaths is something you can do pretty much any time throughout your day when you need a short break.
Many studies show that exercise is good for your mental and physical health, and good for addiction recovery. One reason is that regular exercise makes your brain less reactive to stress, which makes it easier to relax. If stress relief is your main goal, it’s best to keep your exercise fairly moderate because intense exercise, whether it’s long endurance-training sessions, or spending hours in the weight room can increase cortisol and require more sleep to recover. To relax, you would do better to engage in more moderate forms of exercise like walking or tai chi. Yoga can be a bit more intense but it also incorporates relaxation, stretching, deep breathing, and meditation, which can make it ideal for relaxing. The only caveat is that exercising within two hours of bedtime can make it harder to sleep.
Hot Bath or Shower
For relaxing your muscles and getting a little space from other people, it’s hard to beat a hot shower or bath. Music can make it more relaxing, and many scents, such as lavender are relaxing as well. Guys typically prefer showers but it’s hard to beat the relaxing power of a hot bath. As with exercise though, a hot bath too close to bedtime can raise your core temperature and impair the quality of your sleep. Therefore, if you’re taking a shower or bath near bedtime, go for warm, not hot.
Be Careful About Media Consumption
Finally, if you’re trying to relax, beware of unnecessary exposure to things that will make you tense. Exciting, suspenseful, or violent movies and TV shows get your adrenaline going and make it harder to relax. News and social media are terrible if you’re trying to wind down because much of that content is specifically calculated to make you angry. If you’re trying to unwind by looking at Facebook, you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you’re going to watch something to unwind, go for something funny or positive. Laughter is great for relaxing.
Relaxation plays an important role in addiction recovery. It helps keep you mentally and physically healthy. It’s crucial to make relaxation a regular part of your day. In fact, the more moments of relaxation you can work into your day the better. If you look at the best pro athletes, for example, they are typically the ones who look the most relaxed the instant they step off the field, off the court, or out of the ring. They know it’s time to let go of whatever mistakes they made and rest before they have to get back in the game. Stress is cumulative, so the more of those kinds of microbreaks you can incorporate into your day, the less burdened you will feel.
At Foundry, we know that recovery from addiction is really about living a better life. It’s about being more skillful in the way you cope with stress, manage your emotions, and relate to other people. That’s why life skills, emotional regulation skills, self-care, meditation, yoga, and other practices are integral to our holistic addiction treatment program. For more information, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
Can a Pet Help You Recover From Addiction?
People want pets for many reasons. They’re cute, they’re friendly, and they can keep you company. If you are in your first year or so of recovery, there may be ways that having a pet can actually help you out and make your recovery stronger. However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re not in a good place, a pet may be an unnecessary liability. It may be better to wait. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about getting a pet.
How a Pet Can Help
Pets Are Good Companions
One of the most common reasons people want a pet, especially a dog or a cat, is that a pet is a good companion. They don’t judge, they’re affectionate, and they’re always around. Loneliness is a common problem early in addiction recovery because people often cut ties with old friends who drink and use drugs. However, making new friends can take time and meanwhile, people often feel lonely. Loneliness isn’t just unpleasant; it can worsen issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that commonly occur with addiction. Finding ways to feel connected is essential to recovery success and having a pet around is one such way. It’s not a substitute for human companionship, but it’s certainly an improvement over isolation.
Pets Can Make You More Conscientious
We typically don’t think of responsibility as a selling point but for people recovering from a substance use disorder, it can be. Conscientiousness is a personality trait that appears to protect against substance use disorders. Conscientiousness includes things like being responsible, being organized, following rules, following a regular routine, and so on. While personality traits are inherently difficult to change, conscientiousness is more related to action than other personality traits are, which means you can become more conscientious by behaving more conscientiously.
Having a pet exercises your conscientiousness muscles in mainly two ways. First, having a pet is quite a bit of responsibility. You have to feed it, make sure it gets plenty of exercise, and make sure it has basic things like toys, a carrier, and somewhere to sleep. You have to make sure your pet is vaccinated and you have to take it to the vet when it’s sick. You’re responsible for the well-being of another living thing, which means you will get plenty of practice doing mildly annoying and unpleasant things. While this doesn’t seem very appealing, learning to care for a pet can help you cultivate compassion and get you outside of your own head, which may not always be a nice place to be.
The second way a pet will help you be more conscientious is that it will help you have a more regular routine. You have to feed a pet regularly and a cat, dog, or bird will even wake you up when it’s ready to eat. You are aware that you have to be home at night to feed your pet, so you’re less likely to stay out late or stay over with friends. This routine can help with other things like having a more regular sleep schedule and generally keep you tethered to the normal rhythm of the world.
Pets Are a Way to Connect With Others
Having a pet means you have an easy conversation topic most of the time. Everyone wants to talk about their pets because they love them, it’s rarely a controversial topic, and it’s more interesting than the weather. Having a dog is especially good for promoting social connection because you have to walk them and you are much more likely to meet and talk to your neighbors. Even people without dogs will be more likely to strike up a conversation. While most of these interactions will be superficial, it’s good to have more points of contact, especially with the people who live around you. As noted above, loneliness is a common problem in early recovery, and having a sense of social connection is one of the best ways to ensure your recovery lasts.
Pets Encourage You to Be Active
This is mainly true of dogs, who have to be walked. Some dogs need a great deal of exercise, which means you’ll get plenty of exercise, whether it’s walking them, running with them, playing fetch, and so on. Having a dog usually means you get more activity spread throughout the day and it means you will be less likely to skip exercise if the weather isn’t perfect. While a short walk with the dog doesn’t seem like a big deal, many short walks throughout the week add up to quite a bit of exercise. Not only is that good for your health, but it’s also good for your recovery. Many studies have linked regular exercise to less stress, lower anxiety, better mood, and even longer periods of sobriety.
When You Might Want to Wait
Pets Can Be Expensive
Pets are a lot more expensive than you think. There are sometimes adoption fees, vaccinations, accessories like beds, carriers, toys, grooming items, and so on, vet bills, and food. A lot of people aren’t in the best shape financially when they start recovery and the financial stress of taking care of a pet certainly won’t help.
Pets Entail Responsibility
As discussed above, responsibility can be a good thing for recovery, but it can also be too much. Keep in mind that if you drop the ball, it’s your pet who will suffer. It’s also possible that the responsibility of caring for a pet will be too much stress too soon. Stress is a major cause of cravings, so it makes sense to only increase your responsibilities gradually to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Pets Can Be an Emotional Liability
The emotions involved in having a pet aren’t always positive. Animals have much shorter lifespans than people. They get sick and they have accidents. If you’re attached to a pet, its death can be devastating. If you feel like that’s not an emotional shock you’re prepared to handle--meaning you’re not sure you could stay sober if your pet dies--then it might be better to wait until you’re in a more stable point in your recovery.
Pets can be great companions. They can help us learn to be more compassionate and responsible, both of which improve your recovery and make you happier and more fulfilled in life more generally. However, once you adopt a pet, you’re responsible for its welfare. If you think there’s any chance that you will forget about it, neglect, or not be able to afford to care for it, it’s better to wait. You can always get a pet later. It’s also important to remember that as emotionally rewarding as caring for a pet can be, it creates an emotional vulnerability as well. Getting a pet is just one of many life choices that will affect your recovery from addiction and your overall well-being.
At Foundry, we know that drug and alcohol use is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addiction. Mental health issues, trauma, stress, and isolation are often the real driving forces. That’s why we emphasize a comprehensive approach to recovery, one that doesn’t just emphasize abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but also addresses the root causes of addiction and gives clients the skills they need to live happier, more fulfilling lives. To learn more about our addiction treatment program, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
9 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Therapy
Therapy is a central feature of any addiction treatment program. The majority of people with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, major depression, personality disorders, PTSD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and others. Even those without a co-occurring disorder can benefit from discussing their thoughts around substance use and stress as well as learning new behavioral and coping strategies. Getting emotionally healthy is indispensable for a strong recovery. The following tips can help you make the most of your therapy sessions.
1.) Find the Right Therapist
If you are entering an addiction treatment program, there are probably only a few therapists but they should all have experience treating co-occurring addiction and whatever your particular challenge is. If you are choosing your own therapist out in the world, you have to be a bit more selective. Find someone near you--ideally within half an hour travel time--to make it easier to attend appointments consistently. Find someone with experience treating the issues you struggle with. Most therapists have some experience with depression and anxiety but fewer specialize in addiction. When you have narrowed down the field to maybe three candidates, see if you can talk over the phone or have a sort of trial session with each of them to see who you connect with most easily.
2.) Understand That Therapy Is a Collaboration
When you’ve found a good therapist, keep in mind that therapy is a sort of collaboration. Your therapist is like a professional consultant. They need a lot of cooperation from you. It’s not the case that you can walk in, tell them what’s wrong, and expect them to fix you. In fact, it’s a bad sign if your therapist does too much of your work for you--telling you exactly what to do, dictating your goals for therapy, and so on.
3.) Have Some Idea of What You Want to Accomplish
When you go to therapy, it’s a good idea to start out with some idea of what you want to accomplish. What’s bothering you that you decided to seek help? For most people, substance use is only a symptom of other problems but reducing or eliminating your substance use is a good objective to start with. You can work with your therapist to come up with other, more measurable objectives. You want to have some idea of whether you’re making progress in therapy and progress will look different for everyone.
4.) Don’t Censor Yourself
In normal conversation, we hold things back. Sometimes we don’t want to be too honest about our feelings or reveal too much about our past. Sometimes we just don’t want to say something that’s not relevant to the conversation. However, in therapy, it’s typically better just to say whatever is on your mind, even if you think it might be embarrassing or irrelevant. Honesty is essential, and it’s hard for your therapist to figure out what’s going on with you if you’re always being polite and curating your own thoughts and emotions. Furthermore, those odd, seemingly irrelevant thoughts that pop into your head may be more relevant than you think. Don’t worry about your therapist judging you; they’ve heard things you probably couldn’t imagine. And unless you make a credible threat against yourself or others, they are legally prohibited from sharing anything you say in a session.
5.) Ask Questions
Related to the point above, it’s good to ask questions. Indulge your curiosity. Ask questions about therapy, ask questions about psychology, ask questions about your therapist's experience with certain problems, ask questions about whether other people have the same problems as you, and so on. If there’s something your therapist isn’t allowed to reveal--such as information about other clients--they will make that determination. There’s no harm in asking if you’re curious.
6.) Talk About Therapy
It’s also good to talk about the process of therapy in your sessions. There may be times when you feel like you’re not making progress, you’re not really connecting with your therapist, or perhaps your priorities have shifted. It’s good to talk about these issues as soon as possible. They are often easy to fix. It takes a while to create a good therapeutic relationship, both in terms of sharing information and building trust, so if you’re in a situation where therapy was going well for a while but now it’s not, it’s certainly worth a conversation before quitting therapy or changing therapists.
7.) Do Your Homework
Your therapist will often ask you to do something between sessions. It may be a practical assignment like asking you to do at least one thing that makes you slightly anxious. Or it could be a written assignment, such as keeping track of times you feel angry during the week and what caused it. It’s important to take these assignments seriously since they are the bridge between your sessions and your life. If your therapist doesn’t give you homework, it’s still a good idea to keep a therapy journal. Write down briefly what you talked about, how you feel about it, and any thoughts or questions you have for next time.
8.) Keep an Open Mind
We all assume we know ourselves better than anyone else. That’s true in some ways, but we all have biases, blind spots, and patterns we’re not aware of. Much of therapy is about becoming more aware of your own behavior. This task is much harder when you cling to preconceived ideas about who you are, how other people see you, and how a person should act. Be open to at least considering suggestions that initially seem off base. Never forget that your best thinking is what got you into this mess to begin with.
9.) Set Boundaries
Finally, it’s usually a good idea to set boundaries around therapy. Some people in your life may be a little too interested in what you discuss in your sessions. They may be afraid they’ll get blamed for some of your problems or they may just be eager to give their own advice. Neither is really helpful. Be careful who you discuss your therapy sessions with. What goes on there is for you alone.
Therapy is central to addiction recovery because so much of addictive behavior is driven by challenging emotions that arise because of mental health issues. Although 12-Step meetings like AA and NA have helped many people, they aren’t designed to treat mental health issues, and so their benefit will be limited for many people. When participating in therapy, the most important thing to remember is that engagement is key. Your therapist may be best thought of as a sort of guide. They can help you get where you want to go, but you have to tell them where you want to go and you have to do the walking.
At Foundry, we know that mental and physical health form the solid foundation of recovery from addiction. We use cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, family therapy, group therapy, and other methods to treat co-occurring mental health issues. We also emphasize healthy lifestyle changes as a way to support mental health and addiction recovery. To learn more about our comprehensive approach to treatment, call us today at (844) 955-1066.