Monthly Archives: May 2016

Managing Your ‘New Life’

Posted on May 30, 2016

Adjusting to a richer, fuller life experience
~Green-In-MI, SMART Recovery Volunteer

“Getting used to sober life can be a process of adjusting in a number of ways.”

Life in the Fast LaneOne of the things the SMART community talks about is making changes in your life as part of the process for sustained abstinence from your drug of choice or problem behavior. People share experiences like creating new circles of friends or even moving to new places or cities.

SMART specifically talks about finding one or more VACIs (Vitally Absorbing Creative Interests). A number of us spent an awful lot of time planning on using, using, and recovering from using. For many of us, our drug of choice was the focus of day-to-day life. Without it, many find themselves clear-headed but with nothing planned for the evening and wondering what to do. As you continue to build a new life, you re-engage old friends and pick old hobbies back up. You also find new friends and new activities. These are all good signs of progress.

If you’re like me, you might find yourself very busy all of the sudden. At some point you threw yourself into your life, dominated by your drug of choice. Now you’ve thrown yourself into a new life, a life of addiction recovery. There’s family, work, friends, hobbies, and keeping up with the general demands of day-to-day life, Continue reading

How the Addiction and Recovery Process Differs with Teens

Posted on May 23, 2016

teen_postBeing a teenager is difficult enough, but when it when it comes to substance abuse, teens face their own set of challenges. Yet in many instances, the reasons for their addiction provide the focus for their rehabilitation. Most teens are:

Physically Immature

Obviously, adolescents are smaller in stature. They weigh less. And most importantly, their brains are not fully developed. This means that the same amount of alcohol or drugs taken by an adult is going to have a greater impact on a smaller person with a less sophisticated cognitive system.

Therefore, the road to recovery includes help in understanding the future consequences of addiction for a growing body and brain. Teens believe they are immortal. They rarely focus on how addiction can damage their kidneys, increase their chances of contracting HIV or change the way their brain perceives pleasure.

Acting Out

Many teens have self-image problems. They are insecure, shy and not socially experienced—which makes them highly susceptible to peer pressure. They go along with the crowd, maybe not because they really want to drink or try drugs, but because they want to fit in.

For this reason, recovery starts with therapeutic counseling, in order to understand the issues that trigger the addiction. These vary with each teen, but often include negative body image, conflict at home, trouble with academics or sexual abuse. Finding the root of the problem is the key to solving it.

Involuntary Participants

The majority of teenagers are forced into rehab by their parents, court or school. This is not the ideal situation, because an involuntary participant is frequently an unwilling participant.

For this reason, family involvement is crucial in treating teenagers. Rehab counseling stresses improved communication to smooth the relationship between parents and their children. Teens see their parents are willing to work alongside them in the recovery process.1)SMART Recovery’s program for Family & Friends includes tools from CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training).  CRAFT is a 20+ year old an evidence-based approach, found to be significantly more successful than other frequently recommended approaches such as interventions.  The goal of CRAFT is to improve communication, smooth the relationship and find ways to be truly supportive, in a healthy way.

Missing Activities

Addicted teens do not have the mental acuity or physical coordination required to participate in sports, music or art. These teens are missing out on many extracurricular activities, and they don’t even realize their loss.

Social events and sports, creative outlets and outdoor adventures are just some of the options that rehab programs can offer. It is easier for teens to give up a bad habit if they can replace it with an appealing new interest.

Long-lived

Young people have their whole lives ahead of them. While this is the ideal time for them to embrace abstinence, it can also seem like an impossible goal to give up alcohol or drugs for the next 60, 70 or 80 years.

Therefore, recovery programs for teenagers don’t promise a quick fix. Instead, they provide after-care or post-treatment programs of continuing therapy. Support groups (e.g., SMART Recovery, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, etc.) and 12-step programs also help teens stay focused after they have completed the initial recovery program.

The good news, of course, is that the sooner teenagers embrace recovery, the sooner they will be able to embrace their full potential. Rehabilitation provides them with a richer emotional and social life, while it allows them to become healthy, well-rounded adults.

About the author

Patricia L. Ryding, Psy.D is Executive Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center in Juno Beach, Florida. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who brings over 30 years of experience as both a clinician and an administrator in the behavioral healthcare field to her writing.

References   [ + ]

1. SMART Recovery’s program for Family & Friends includes tools from CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training).  CRAFT is a 20+ year old an evidence-based approach, found to be significantly more successful than other frequently recommended approaches such as interventions.  The goal of CRAFT is to improve communication, smooth the relationship and find ways to be truly supportive, in a healthy way.

Spring Has Sprung, Should You be Worried?

Posted on May 17, 2016

Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing. While you are replacing your boots with sandals and pants with shorts and skirts, you can feel the energy buzzing in the warm spring air. Sounds great, right?

As you work to cultivate a life of mindfulness and present-moment attention, you may start to notice another side of spring. The change of season can bring on a whole new set of challenges which may come as a quite a surprise for those trying to change their use of substances.

The sidewalk cafes are bustling with brunch-goers drinking wine and laughing. You may find yourself wondering, “Why can’t I have just a glass? It feels so good to finally get back outside after a winter of being cooped up indoors.” “Perhaps smoking a joint would make me feel even better?” “How can I go to a baseball game without a beer to go with my hot dog?” You may find that the impulse to pair fun, social, or just outdoor activities with the use of substances can grow much more intense as the weather heats up.

For people who do not struggle with substances, the decision to use a substance (including alcohol) or not can carry about as much weight as whether to have the steak or the fish for dinner. However, for people working on changing their relationship with substances, situations like these can be challenging, difficult, intimidating, and even overwhelming. External triggers (sidewalk cafes, concerts, sports, beaches, longer days) and internal triggers (feeling good, memories of warm weather past, relaxation) can become more apparent with the change of season.

So what can you do if you are looking to make changes? What can you do if you find yourself wrestling with these thoughts and feelings? How can your loved ones best support you? Improving your Awareness and Coping skills and well as building your ability to Tolerate is a threefold approach to relapse prevention which can be applied to coping with the change in the season.

To start, try to increase your awareness of the high risk situations, people and feelings that might increase ambivalence about your goals in this season of change. This will allow you to prepare yourself and plan for ways to stick to your goals. For example, you might take some time to think through your triggers and identify that seeing people at a sidewalk cafe drinking is triggering to you. Then you can plan your route home to limit the number of cafes you pass, or perhaps you make sure that you have an alternate form of decompression ready for you when you get home. Either way, your awareness of what triggers you allows you to prepare yourself in advance.

Next is coping. How does one cope with all of the new “triggers” brought about by the spring? One action for this might be making the decision to avoid certain events. Is a backyard BBQ full of beer too tough for you right now? How about planning a massage or lunch with a friend you don’t strongly associate with drinking? Another strategy might be to reduce the time you spend at these events and/or to bring a safe friend along. Maybe you can go late to the concert just for the music you want to hear and leave as soon as it’s over? Maybe you can bring a supportive friend or family member to the beach, since there is no need to do it alone. Find a way to have a (non-alcoholic) drink in your hand and partake in the food that is available in order to avoid people pushing drinks or craving a drink because you are hungry. Finally, if you find that your emotions start running high or your capacity to stick to your goals is weakening, have an exit strategy planned in advance. You can also book-end events with healthy people or things on either side of a potentially tricky situation.

And what about the all-important role of tolerating? What exactly does this mean? In this case what might be most important to remember is that cravings and feelings (both negative and positive) are time limited and they do pass. In the moment of intense cravings or feelings, it may seem as though the desire to use will never end. The reality…is that cravings always end.

If you are trying to really change your relationship with substances, it’s important to build up your ability to tolerate cravings and feeling of ambivalence without doing something that goes against the goals you set for yourself or makes things worse. Here are some suggestions to increase your ability to tolerate these tough moments…

  • Have a friend to call who can remind you that you will get through this moment and that you have before.
  • Make a note and put it in your wallet to remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to change and ways you have tolerated these moments in the past.
  • Create a mantra that you say to yourself over and over until the feeling or craving passes.
  • Cheerlead yourself with positive, supportive feedback. The way you “talk” to yourself really matters!
  • Practice meditation on a regular basis.
  • While none of these suggestions are a quick, easy fix, that all will build your capacity to tolerate difficult situations that may arise.

If you are new to making changes, getting through this change of season can seem a little daunting, but if you embrace and use these skills you can get through! If you’re a seasoned veteran of behavior change, it’s good to remember these skills! Each experience you have for the first time may challenge you in unexpected ways. Some things may be easier than you expected, some may be harder, and some may be just what you anticipated. Whatever the case, your decision to change is admirable and inspiring. Using these skills can help you achieve and maintain your change goals.

Julie Jarvis, Ph.D.

Reprinted from the Center for Motivation and Change at http://motivationandchange.com/cmcs-blog-for-individuals-and-families/

Addiction, Recovery and Transformation

Posted on May 10, 2016

By Tracey Helton Mitchell, author of “The Big Fix; Hope After Heroin

traceyWbookRecovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon. What this implies is that we use the tools at our disposal to plan for the long journey away from substances and into a new life. Putting down the drugs and alcohol is only the start. We have to find the motivation to press on. We have to cope with our urges to give in or give up. We have to push out negativity as we deal with the flood of emotions as we push forward. Finally, we have to find a way to accept ourselves and our limitations as human beings. SMART Recovery is a four point program that logically allows a person to plot their course along this journey. It allows for participants to move at their own pace, evaluating their own goals and their own reasons for change. Continue reading

Careers for People Who Want to Give Back

Posted on May 3, 2016

Pair of male friends greeting each other with a handshakeMany people who have struggled with addiction feel grateful for the support that they were given during their recovery process, and want to “pay it forward.” And fortunately, there are several careers that provide an opportunity to give back by helping others.

Whether on an individual, community, or population level, below are three options that allow people to give back through their career. Continue reading