Tag Archives: coping skills

How to improve your sleep while in addiction recovery

Posted on November 14, 2017

Sleep disorders are a common struggle in recovery from addiction

Guest blogger, Alisa, Nestmaven.com

According to a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the incidence of insomnia is five times higher in early recovery than in the general population. Insomnia is not the only sleep disorder associated with addiction; contribute to the development of circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnias and sleep apnea.

The relationship between sleep and addiction goes both ways: while the mechanisms of addiction and withdrawal cause sleep disorders, the resulting sleep deprivation can inhibit the recovery process. The consequences of sleep deprivation include low mood, impulsivity, and poor emotional regulation which increase the likelihood of relapse.

The SMART Recovery approach can be used to identify areas in your life where you are lacking balance. If you are experiencing sleep issues while recovering from an addiction, making changes in your lifestyle and environment can dramatically improve your symptoms.

Light Exposure

Light is the most powerful cue for our circadian rhythms which are responsible for guiding the sleep-wake schedule.

Timing light exposure for the correct times of day, while avoiding unnecessary light sources as bedtime approaches. Basking in light — especially sunlight — first thing after waking up can help combat sleep inertia; while dimming house lights in the evening signals that it’s time to start winding down for sleep.

Blue light is emitted by electronic device screens (including computers, laptops and smartphones) and is responsible for blocking the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. These devices should be avoided at night, and, when their use is necessary, nightmode should be activated.

Light Therapy is used to treat circadian rhythm disorders and insomnia, the two disorders with the highest incidence in recovery. Light therapy is also a useful tool in treating the depression which frequently occurs alongside drug addiction.

Diet

Diet, while an important part of any healthy lifestyle, lends additional benefits to those struggling with sleep disorders.

Foods that inhibit sleep include those high in sugar and refined fats, as well as spicy foods and chocolate depending on its caffeine content. People suffering from sleep disorders should avoid these foods, particularly after midday.

Foods that promote sleep do so by either inducing drowsiness or through inducing muscle relaxation to relieve discomfort. Experts recommend natural sources of magnesium, potassium and B vitamins such as legumes and leafy green vegetables. Dairy products and animal proteins contain tryptophan — a precursor to the neurochemicals serotonin and melatonin which are essential to sleep.

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Book Review: Alex Korb’s The Upward Spiral

Posted on November 7, 2017

Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2015, 225 pp.

Review by Ted Alston, facilitator

Bad feelings and bad habits fly together, and evasive maneuvers for one may serve for both. Accordingly, students of SMART Recovery may enjoy this book that addresses depression. Alex Korb, PhD, is an expert on neurotransmission, but he presents a model permitting self-management and and self-empowerment to have roles in mental health. In this model. a prescriber might help someone with a medication molecule that modulates neurotransmission, but readers have the power to choose other reasonable tactics that are non-pharmacological but have neurotransmission aspects.

Korb puts forth the important and attractive concept that neuroscience does not doom anyone to depression or addiction, nor to various other conditions with labels. He emphasizes that we all have pretty much the same instrument of thought and behavior. Whatever genetic or experiential differences may be, the troubled brain is usually out of tune rather than defective. Korb has a gift for analogy, and I do not want to spoil the encounters of his readers with those gems, but I will mention one. I liked when he said, “There’s nothing wrong with your brain, just like there’s nothing wrong with the air in Oklahoma–despite the devastating tornados.” This excerpted quote might seem inscrutable, but Korb’s full argument is easy to follow.

Korb offers much advice that is in line with the philosophies of SMART tools. For instance, a section of Chapter 2 is subtitled “The ABCs of Anxiety.” The Korb ABC is different from that of Albert Ellis, but it rhymes. One could delete all of the neuroscience from the Korb book and be left with a practical and reasonable pamphlet collating many SMART concepts. However, Korb offers a lot more than that. His every point includes a rationale based on what is known about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. The book is intended for a broad audience, so the science depth is limited. However, the work is a superb introduction to neuroscience. Even a professional neuroscientist might appreciate the book for Korb’s power of explication. Continue reading

Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide to Controlling Your Drug and Alcohol Use

Posted on October 10, 2017

Book review by A.Tom Horvath, Ph.D.

Although harm reduction is commonly used in other countries, this approach to coping with problematic addictive behavior is unfortunately uncommon in the US. The authors are two US harm reduction leaders. They founded the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000. This book is intended for persons considering change. The authors have also written a book for professionals, the acclaimed Practicing Harm Reduction Therapy, now in a 2nd edition.

To provide an overview of this impressive work I will extensively quote it. In response to the question “What is Harm Reduction?” they provide the following three paragraphs (p. 197)

“Harm reduction is a way to help people change their substance use without demanding immediate and lifelong abstinence. It uses many creative strategies to keep people alive and safe while they figure out how to develop a healthier relationship with drugs. For some people, that means abstinence; for others that means moderate or safer use.”

“Harm reduction takes a health perspective rather than a moral or legal perspective, on drug use. Drug use is not bad. It is normal human behavior, and most people don’t get into trouble with it. Drug misuse is a habit that has gotten out of hand, or it is a signal of other co-occurring problems.”

“Harm reduction attends to every aspect of health—physical, mental and emotional, social and economic. It is nonjudgmental, compassionate, and pragmatic—it starts where the person is, stays with the person through the entire process of change, and never ever kicks anyone out.” 

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A Portable Lapse Prevention Plan

Posted on August 29, 2017

Randy Lindel, Facilitator, SMART Recovery Boston

A “lapse” or a “slip” is a brief reengagement with your addictive behavior. Usually, you feel bad about it right afterwards, but weren’t able to successfully avoid it.

Many lapses are triggered by unforeseen events. Some pressure just occurs out of the blue. It’s an important reminder that you can’t control everything – what other people say or do or what happens that you didn’t expect. Strong emotions can result quickly and produce powerful urges.

But, there IS something you can do. And that’s to have a plan for the unexpected.

In SMART Recovery, we have many strategies to use when you know you’re going to be in a social situation. You “play the tape forward,” thinking through the event and develop your plan to deal with what you’re expecting to happen. After being in a few different situations, you refine your plan to a point that it starts to become automatic.

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Words are Hugely Powerful Mediators of Positive Change

Posted on August 1, 2017

Word Choice and Positive Outcomes

The leading barrier to treatment entry by people abusing substances is fear of stigma.

Words matter. Our beliefs about substance abuse and compulsive behavior problems—and the potential for change—are built into the words we use to speak about them. Maybe more importantly in this case is that words are reflective of culture beliefs, and the conveyors of those beliefs and attitudes.

And beliefs inform behavior. One study found that treatment providers who referred to patients as “addicts” had significantly more negative attitudes towards them when compared to treatment providers who referred to patients as having “substance use disorders.”

Words are an attitude, a belief, and have an impact. The leading barrier to treatment entry by people abusing substances is fear of stigma. Stigma is conveyed by word choice. Continue reading

How To Dispute Difficult Thoughts

Posted on June 6, 2017

by Kimberly Winters, SMART Recovery Volunteer Meeting Facilitator

Do you sometimes experience difficult thoughts and emotions…the kind that lead to unwanted behaviors?

Emotional upsets can wreak havoc with addiction recovery. SMART Recovery offers tools for disputing difficult thoughts, by examining those thoughts to see if they are true, helpful, hopeful, flexible and nurturing!

Did you know that having a tangible object for each of those questions can be helpful?  Below are some suggestions for items to help with that!

 All of these items can be found around the house, outdoors or at the craft store!

  1. Is this thought TRUE? Find a nice smooth and heavy rock and write TRUE? on it with a black sharpie.  Put that rock in your hand and hold onto it while you help your thought pass through the truth test.
  1. Is this thought HELPING me?  Find something with a smiley on it like a small yellow ball with a smiley face on it or a sticker or even a little kid toy that looks friendly.

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