Author: Pathways Florida

Enabling and Empowering

Earlier this fall, we shared about enabling and how this act can prolong a fight with substance abuse. The opposite of enabling is empowering. When you feel empowered, you gain self-confidence, determination and possess a better attitude.

Many of our clients have shared stories about how, when they are in their addiction, they are powerless against the cravings for drugs or alcohol. The need for more guides their lives at all costs. One client recently spoke to a group of high school students and explained to them how the desire for drugs can take over and ruin your life. This desire makes you not care about school, work, your family and friends…all things that most people highly value.

Now in recovery, the client explained how she feels empowered without the presence of drugs in her life. She is rebuilding relationships; she is making and achieving goals. With each accomplishment, she feels more and more confident and determined.

While you may feel like you are helping your loved one when you enable them, this will do more harm than good. Encourage them to get treatment; to become empowered.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Three substance abuse myths

Our society is full of myths and the internet and social media seems to those at a faster rate than ever before. The same is true of substance abuse – there are many myths about this disease.

Drugabuse.com has a list of 10 common myths. Today we’ll look at three.

1 – Addiction is a moral failure 
We cannot deny that the use of an illicit drug is a poor decision. The expression “curiosity killed the cat” somewhat applies – for many, the curiosity of what it feels like to drink or experience the high of a drug is very tempting. Many will try a drug once and never again, their curiosity has been satisfied. Others will use again, but opt not to make it part of their lifestyle. Finally, there will be a group that becomes hooked on the drug. Is this a moral failure?

Millions of individuals became dependent on and addicted to the medications prescribed to them by their physician. This is certainly not a moral failure.

Addiction is caused by the body’s inability to process the drug/alcohol. The body becomes dependent on the substance causing severe withdrawal when the substance is not present.

2 – Addicts are easy to identify
Stereotyping has given people a certain image of those with an addiction. Many people envision the homeless man carrying his drink in a brown paper bag, minorities and criminals as the groups of people who they associate as addicts.

In reality, substance abuse impacts all socio economic groups and races. The CDC reports that rates of use among non-Hispanic whites nearly double all other groups. While not all individuals with a substance use disorder are criminals, criminal activity is often fueled by the need to get drugs. Finally, individuals making between $20,000 and $49,000 are showing rates of use that are higher than those who make less than $20,000.

3 – Relapse is a failure
Many people believe that because a person has relapse, they have failed. In reality, relapse is often part of the recovery process – see related blog.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Addiction, the equal opportunity disease

While some diseases seem to target certain demographics and socio economic groups, addiction is what we call the equal opportunity disease. Statistics say it is more likely that women will be diagnosed with breast cancer than men; men under the age of 65 are more likely to have high blood pressure than women of the same age. A national study reports that children from lower income families had more than two times higher odds of being obese than children of higher income households.

Addiction impacts everyone. Often, individuals who begin drug/alcohol abuse at a young age make choices that limit future earnings potential – such as dropping out of high school and having limited job opportunities. We have treated many people who began their experimentation with drugs/alcohol during their college years. While many students will binge drink or try drugs, many “grow” out of this as they complete college and move into their professional lives. Others do not. Many professionals have come to our treatment programs for help, generally with an addiction to alcohol or prescription pain medication.

News reports commonly feature celebrities and athletes who have had struggles with substance abuse – Robin Williams, Amy Winehouse, Bret Favre, Brittany Spears, Elizabeth Vargas, Rush Limbaugh, Daryl Strawberry, and the list goes on and on.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, do not be ashamed…you are not alone.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

What is Recovery?

This month, we’ve been focusing on terms that are specific to the substance abuse treatment world. We’ve defined substance abuse and addiction, types of treatment: detox, residential or inpatient, and outpatient; methods of treatment: evidence-based, 12-Step and Faith Based. We shared the 12-Steps and provided additional information on the background of the steps. Now, it’s time to discuss the goal – recovery.

Many people debate if addiction is a disease or a moral issue. If they agree it is a disease, they want a cure. Sadly, there are many diseases that have no cures, but can be managed through behavioral habits, diet and exercise. Diabetes is one such disease that is very similar to addiction in many ways. If a person does not follow a diabetic diet and monitor their glucose levels, their health can rapidly deteriorate because their body cannot process sugar. Diabetics are never cured, but many live long, productive lives through management of the disease. Addiction is similar – there is no cure, but through behavioral change, addiction can be managed. In the treatment world, we call this recovery.

According to a 2007 article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, “recovery is defined as a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health and citizenship.” It is important to note that the definition includes all three and that sobriety alone is not recovery. While sobriety is abstinence from drugs/alcohol, personal health leads to improved quality of life, including physical health, psychological health, independence and spirituality. Finally, citizenship is the demonstration of regard and respect for others.

Recovery is an on-going process. There is no timetable on how long it will take an individual to reach a life of recovery – each person is different with different motivating factors. Recovery, especially in the newer phases, needs to be nurtured. This is most commonly done by attending aftercare and 12-Step meetings. The goal is lifelong recovery.

Regardless if you are living a life of recovery, or simply maintaining an abstinence from drugs or alcohol, the term used when abstinence is not maintained is relapse. Relapse will be the topic of our next blog.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Defining treatment terms

I caught up with an old friend the other day. For the most part, the encounter was much like when you see a friend for the first time after several years have lapsed. How are you, how is the family, where are you working, what is your job there…?

This particular friend had no knowledge of the substance abuse treatment system and I realized as I saw the blank look on her face that I’d lost her, as if I was speaking a foreign language. That led to an “ah-ha” moment as I thought, how many of our readers have no idea what the terms mean when we are blogging about substance abuse and recovery. That said, our September theme will define many of our treatment terms.

We’ll start with two of the basics, substance abuse and addiction. We’re also going to cheat a little and refer you back to a blog we published earlier this year entitled, “Substance abuse or addiction, which is it?” This piece goes into detail to provide a simple, but comprehensive definition of each and their distinguishing characteristics.

In short, addiction is a physical dependency to a foreign substance – this could range from tobacco to heroin and anything in between. The physical dependency means the body craves the drug and goes into withdrawal symptoms when it is not there.

Substance abuse can be a phase in the process. Many people abuse drugs, but not all become addicted to the substance. One may drink heavily over the weekend, but not drink again for weeks or months. Prescription drugs are abused when they are not used as medically intended, by the person who holds the prescription.

Next week, we’ll look at three types of treatment, detox, residential and outpatient and explain the difference between each.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

 

What happens when addiction rears its ugly head at work?

For individuals who are able to function at a very high level despite an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is often co-workers who are the last to suspect or know of a problem. Earlier this spring, I heard the story of a sales person who was an alcoholic. She recorded the highest sales figures in her region and was given an award for this honor at a national company conference. In front of peers and superiors, she took the stage to accept her award, which was a weeklong tropical vacation. She left no doubt in anyone’s mind, as she stumbled to the stage, slurred her words and stumbled back to her seat, that she had far too much to drink.

While a situation like this is quite embarrassing, it can be chalked up to several things – for someone who does not drink often and has a low tolerance, this could be the effect of a glass of wine or Champagne. This event, after all, was a celebration.

As the story was told, the woman received her award and booked her vacation. Midway through the trip, the company officials received a call from the resort informing them of an issue. The woman was being asked to vacate the hotel due to drunk and disorderly conduct on property. Upon returning to work the following week, she was dismissed from her position.

When we see our co-workers day in and day out, we may detect there is a problem. However, in this woman’s case, she worked in outside sales. She did most of her work in other people’s offices, often having lunches or dinners with clients, many involved having a drink. Her clients loved her and never reported seeing her overindulge. However, the company did not feel they could take the risk of exposing business clients to an incident similar to the company conference or vacation.

While each work environment and culture is different, many corporations offer support through a substance abuse policy. If you think about major sports organizations such as the National Football League or Major League Baseball, players who are identified as having illegal substances in their system are often suspended and mandated to treatment before they can play again. Future violations may have stronger penalties, but the initial report often results in an attempt to help. Meanwhile, other corporations may have a zero-tolerance policy. Companies who mandate substance abuse treatment for employees can also make recommendations of residential (inpatient) treatment, or outpatient if the employee is expected to continue working during the treatment period. They may even designate a specific treatment center.

Related blog:  Addiction in the Workplace

Pathways can work with employers and provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

 

Understanding and relating to your family member with an addiction

Many families go through life without addiction making an impact on their immediate family. If there is no history of addiction in the family, most people do not know how to understand or relate to the family member who is challenged with a substance abuse problem.

A common question is, “why can’t they simply stop using/drinking?” Or, “why don’t they realize how they are throwing away their life?” Having a family member self-destruct due to substance abuse can be one of the most painful and exhausting experiences in life. You worry for their safety, for their future, for their livelihood. As parents, you’ve raised them to be strong and independent, yet for some reason, they’ve chosen drugs over other life obligations – work, family activities, school…

There are several approaches many family members take. Some will enable their loved one, giving them money for rent and utilities. Others take the tough-love approach demanding that they “straighten up” or all ties will be cut. While enabling is dangerous and allows the individual to continue use at the expense of those who care for them, family members maintain a bond, despite continued and persistent substance use. The tough-love approach has different psychological effects on the person with the issue. More often than not, those in treatment for a substance use issue report low self-esteem and isolation from family members. This can lead to depression and perpetuate continued use.

What can you do to help a family member?

1 – Learn about addiction and how people are physically dependent on the substances they are abusing.
2 – Speak to your family member about the issue – encourage them to admit they have a problem.
3 – Research treatment options in your area. In some cases, it is better to get treatment out of town where is no risk of running into someone familiar in the treatment setting.
4 – Encourage them to consider the options you found – but remember, this is their fight and they need to take ownership of it and do follow-up research. This can also lead to a sense of accomplishment and pride.
5 – Set boundaries of expected behavior and stick to these boundaries, regardless how challenging it is.
6 – Find a local support groups like al-anon or nar-anon so you can learn from others who are also experiencing similar situations with a family member and addiction.
7 – If they agree to go to treatment, participate in the treatment experience. Attend visitations and family therapy sessions.
8 – Make sure they know you support them in their fight to be well and lead a life of recovery.

Related Blog:  Addiction and Family

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Do genetics play a role in addiction?

For years, there has been some debate as to how much genetics plays a role in addiction. Many believe that genetics is a key indicator in the likelihood of developing a dependency to drugs or alcohol, while others discredit the idea. They believe substance use is a choice that leads to dependency.

To a degree, both are correct. A family shared their story. The father was an alcoholic. It’s not known if there was a history of substance abuse in his family. The mother would drink, socially, with the father. She never became dependent on alcohol and when they divorced, she seldom drank. The family had three children. The oldest recognized early that his father was an alcoholic and made the choice to never try illicit drugs or alcohol in case he carried a genetic marker that would predispose him for an addiction.

The middle child began drinking as a teenager. While she did not appear to have a dependency, she had a tendency to binge drink on weekends. In her early 20’s, she was introduced to cocaine and claimed she was hooked from the first hit. She bounced in and out of jail and treatment centers for the better part of the next 10 years before finally accepting a life of recovery.

Finally, the youngest child settled in the middle. She had moderate experience with illicit drugs and alcohol. She enjoyed the drugs when they were a novelty and then “grew up” and dropped them from her lifestyle. She still enjoys a beer at the ballgame, a Champagne toast or a nice bottle of wine with dinner.

According to National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, Inc., while researchers have found ties to genetics and a risk for dependency on drugs and/or alcohol, there is not a specific gene that will designate if one person is more likely to become an addict and another is not.

Bottom line, if there is a history of addiction in your family, you may want to be extra vigilant when it comes to speaking to your kids about the danger of drugs and alcohol and monitoring their behaviors. Even what seems like regular teen behavior may not manifest into a problem until adulthood.

Related blog:  Recovery is a Process

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Gracie’s Emotional Rollercoaster

Some say that nothing in life is harder than having a family member or close friend who suffers from addiction. The worry and emotional stress is exhausting. I saw its toll a few years ago in my neighborhood.

After the housing bubble and crash, many of the modest 1950’s ranch style homes in my neighborhood went into foreclosure and were sold by banks to individuals able to pay cash. Some buyers fixed them up and re-sold them; others used the houses as rental units. Today’s story is about Gracie’s family, who rented a home down the street.

With out-of-state license plates on their car, they moved into the home late one summer. They appeared to be a young couple with one child, Gracie. As I pulled into my driveway after work one day, Gracie followed me on her bright yellow bicycle. She introduced herself and asked if I had any kids her age. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have children, just cats.” She said she had two cats of her own and pedaled down the street in search of new friends. Gracie was a frequent visitor. She’d see us outside and stop by to say hello, sell items for the school fundraiser or, I believe, simply to alleviate boredom.

I didn’t meet Gracie’s parents until Halloween. They walked around as she went trick-or-treating, introducing themselves to neighbors. Gracie’s mom said, “hello, I’m Carol and I’m in recovery.” I was surprised by this…was that her “costume” for Halloween or was this for real? I responded with, “it’s nice to meet you Carol, how long have you been clean?” Two years she responded, congratulations I said, keep it up, never revealing that I work at a substance abuse treatment center.

Carol didn’t keep it up; she relapsed. Gracie was sent to live with a grandparent and her father, whose name I never knew, attempted to work full time and care for Carol. Still, I never told Carol where I worked; I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for me to say something or mind my own business. I left some treatment brochures in their mailbox. As time went on, I noticed he became thinner and thinner. It seems that all of the energy he had once had been sucked right out of him. He looked almost frail. I worried he was using too. For a while, things seemed quiet at the house. I didn’t see either around and hoped Carol and gotten back on track. I believe she did because Gracie returned…and pedaled down to my house to visit. We talked about how she was, where she’d been and the new school year that was just starting. Her visits became more frequent, she liked helping me with projects in my yard and doing crafts. She seemed to crave one-on-one attention. I asked about her family from time to time, but she’d get quiet. I suspected whatever was happening in her home was not good. She never had obvious signs of abuse or neglect, such as bruises, and always appeared to be clean and well dressed. I’d offer snacks during her visits, but she never accepted unless ice cream was mentioned. Still, my heart ached for this girl. I could see she was lonely and hurting and maybe afraid. I feared her life was a never-ending emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows completely out of her control.  My home provided a short respite from the things at her home.

One late November morning, my husband and I awoke to find our street filled with emergency responders, an ambulance, fire trucks, police…they were all at Gracie’s house. A few phone calls to other neighbors confirmed my worst fear; Gracie’s mother had died from an overdose, and to make matters worse, Gracie found the body. It was a few days before I saw her again. Eyes swollen and puffy from crying, Gracie hugged me and said she was going to her grandmother’s home for Christmas. She never returned. Her father packed their things and in January, a new “for rent” sign appeared in front of the home.

Did Gracie’s rollercoaster ride end with her mother’s passing or does she simply have a new normal? I’ll never know. Does she receive the love and emotional support she craves from her grandmother and father? What is her new environment like? What does she comprehend about her mother’s death? I will always have these questions since I have no way of locating Gracie.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Managing Stress

For many, managing stress levels is a daily activity. Juggling family schedules, jobs, pets, school events, finances and household obligations can take a toll. Now, add another component to the mix – recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction.

Stress is a common “trigger” for addictions. If you are stressed, you may over eat or smoke more cigarettes, while some turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate their worries. For someone in recovery, this can be especially dangerous.

Here are four tips to managing stress while in recovery.

1 – Keep yourself on a schedule. Time management is a huge stressor. Finding times to do the things you need to do and balance them with the things you want to do can be challenging. Each week, create a calendar including the things you need to do, but be sure to factor in meetings and things you want to do. Allow time for yourself that can be used simply to relax, journal, meditate, attend a yoga or exercise class, or take a walk on the beach. Eventually, you will work yourself into a comfortable routine and won’t find your schedule to be as stressful.

2 – Engage in relaxing activities. As mentioned in suggestion number one, journal, meditate, take a yoga or exercise class. Find a sober activity that you find relaxing and do it.

3 – Get plenty of rest. This may sound old school, but one of the most important things you can do is get a full 6-8 hours of sleep. Being well rested helps you focus on your projects and will be a big stress eliminator. Ironically, while stress prevents many from sleeping, one of the best preventative measures for stress is sleep.

4 – Know your stressors and have a plan. This may sound odd, but if you know you have something coming up that is stressful for you, make a plan to deal with this event. For example, you have to give a presentation at work and the idea of this is very stressful for you. Make a plan that will help, such as, have your presentation ready in advance. Present it to friends and co-workers to practice, allowing you time to work out any bugs that could arise during the real presentation.

Related blog: Keeping a journal in recovery is helpful

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.