Category: Recovery

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.

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.

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.

“Fluffy” or “Fido” and your addiction

Several blogs and articles have appeared online recently about people in recovery how animanls have helped their recovery. One woman stated that before seeking treatment for her addiction, she’d divorced her husband, let him take the family cats and attempted suicide. Once she completed a treatment program, she felt like something was missing in her life. A conversation with her aftercare counselor led her to the decision that the time was right to adopt a pet. She adopted two kittens from a shelter, siblings. Knowing these young animals depended on her, helped keep her from relapsing on some particularly hard days. Caring for these cats forced her to stay clean, hold a job so she could stay in a nice, pet-friendly apartment. They also helped alleviate the depression and loneliness she had been feeling, which easily could have led her to a relapse.

In many cases, treatment professionals advise clients not to enter into new relationships or make any drastic changes in their lives for the first year of recovery. They say you need to focus on your recovery and learning to take care of yourself. If you need to nurture something, start with something simple like a houseplant. However, when you are ready for a more committed human-pet relationship, here are five good reasons pets will help you in recovery.

1 – Pet owners are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and are not as stressed as non-pet owners. Think of the joy animals bring when they are taken to nursing homes to visit the residents and all of the programs that use pet therapy – pets are calming.

2 – New sober activities – if you have a dog, you will need to walk the dog and may take it to the pet park. These activities can allow you to be acquainted with new individuals and keep your mind busy rather than wanting to use. On top of that, a good dog walk or time spent playing catch in the park is good exercise for both you and your dog.

3 – Love – your pet does not care if you had a good day or a bad day, they love you unconditionally. While people can be insensitive and say/do mean spirited things, your pet never will.

4 – Responsibility – As mentioned earlier, when you have a pet, you have someone else who is dependent on you, requiring you to be responsible about providing them food, shelter and at times, medical attention.

5 – Accountability – one article of a pet owner in recovery stated that he believed his dog recognized behavior changes and knew when the man had been drinking. He claimed that he felt the dog looked at him with disappointed eyes. In his opinion, the dog held him accountable for his actions.

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.


Relapse can be part of the recovery process

Often, treatment facilities are asked to provide their success rates.

First of all, that is challenging because there are so many ways to measure success.  Is success the percentage of people who successfully complete their program?  Is success the number of people who stay clean for six weeks, six months or a year after treatment, or is success measured as those who maintain long-term sobriety of five years or more?

Secondly, sadly, sometimes relapse is part of the treatment process.  Using the disease model of treating substance abuse and accepting that it is a brain-based disease much like diabetes or hypertension, to a degree, relapse is part of the learning process.  However, with substance abuse the impact can be far greater and hit much faster.

For example, if you are diabetic, you have been provided with a special diet of what you can and cannot eat.  It’s your birthday and you’ve been following your diet on a regular basis, but you really want a piece of birthday cake.  What do you do?  Some, who have been diabetic for a long period of time aren’t going to rock the boat of their diet and will have that bowl of sugar-free ice cream.  Others say, one piece of cake isn’t going to kill me.

Now, let’s say you are an alcoholic.  It’s your birthday and you’ve gathered with some friends to celebrate.  They don’t know you are in recovery.  One offers to buy you a beer.  You need to make a decision, fast.  How will one drink affect you and your recovery process?

The answer depends on several factors.  Maybe you say yes, have one beer and tell your friends that you need to stop – you have an early morning.  As soon as you leave, you call your sponsor and discuss what happened.  The next day, you go speak to your sponsor again and go to an AA meeting.  You are very careful to steer clear of those who may encourage you to drink and spend more times in meetings.  Maybe this is simply a momentary lapse and you right the course quickly.

Another option is that you accept the invitation to have a beer, and have multiple drinks before the night is over.  You feel guilty and know you should call your sponsor, but you had so much fun with your friends, you realized how much you miss them.  One night of drinking leads to two, you miss meetings, ignore calls from your sponsor and in six weeks, you are back in full addiction leaving your loved ones wondering what went wrong.

Scenario three is optimal.  You went to a treatment program and did well, but relapsed after 10 months of staying clean.  You incur a traffic infraction, which sends you back to a treatment facility.  Again, you do well, but this time around, you pay much more attention to the triggers that could cause you to relapse.  Upon completing the program, you surround yourself by people who are supportive of your efforts in recovery, and when your next birthday comes around, you enjoy an alcohol-free dinner and evening cheering for your favorite sports team.  You’ve learned from your past mistakes, you’ve grown in your recovery and you understand how much there is to lose if you go back to a life of drinking.

Pathways Florida has 28-day and extended stay residential treatment programs for those challenged with alcohol and drug use.  For more information, call 855-349-5988.


Sometimes it Takes Multiple Visits to a Treatment Center

Much of the work done in a treatment center revolves around retraining clients to think, feel and behave differently than they have in the past. Take “Billy” for example. Billy was a young man who grew up in a typical middle American family. As a teenager, he began spending time with “the wrong crowd,” a group of boys who introduced him to smoking marijuana and drinking. Billy began to lose interest in school; his grades were slipping. When he graduated from high school, he really wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His parents were upset how he had lost the opportunity to attend a prestigious University due to his GPA. He enrolled in a local community college, where he dabbled in a few courses, but nothing held his interest. At a part time job, Billy met James who introduced him to other, harder drugs. Billy’s drug use escalated. He started skipping classes and lost all interest in school. He continued to go to work every day because work was his link to drugs.

Related Blog: Why Did I Relapse?

Fast forward five years and Billy has been arrested multiple times on drug related charges. He has mastered the art of manipulation and stealing to get money for drugs. All of his old friends from high school have now graduated from college and have nothing to do with him at all; his parents are beside themselves. They take a line of credit to secure treatment for Billy. He goes, but never engages in the program. He goes through the steps as instructed, but never invests in the process. When the treatment session is over, he immediately finds his group of friends and is using. Before long, he’s arrested again.

At this point, Billy is finally starting to realize that he’s made some mistakes in his life. He sees the happiness that his friends and family, who were not abusing drugs, had. He hears stories that this person is getting married, that one just got a great job and is moving out of town. In the meantime, he’s looking for a place to sleep, an opportunity to score and evading law enforcement and his parents. He attends treatment again and this time, he’s engaged. He actively listens to what the counselors are saying, he participates in the group sessions. He starts to analyze what he’s done in his life and the people he’s hurt by his substance abuse. His treatment time is coming to a close and he’s working on his transition plan and relapse prevention plan. He’s not sure where he will live because he’s burned so many bridges and his parents don’t trust him. He ends up getting a part time job and finding an apartment in a neighborhood known for heavy drug activity. Initially, he starts off okay, focusing on going to work and 12-Step recovery meetings. He’s asked to take a few more hours at work and gladly does. One day, he has a rough day and gets out of work too late to attend a meeting. He runs into an old buddy on his walk home from work. The guy offers him a beer, Billy accepts and a relapse has happened.

Billy’s drug and alcohol use spirals out of control. Finally, he is arrested again for drug-related charges and given the opportunity to go to treatment one more time. There, he really connects with his counselors and some of the other clients. He’s fully opened up about his situation, his fears and is truly engaged. At the end of treatment, he makes plans to live in a sober living community associated with the treatment center. He finds a job in a part of town that is safer; he attends aftercare meetings at the treatment center and 12-Step recovery meetings. After time, he even begins sponsoring and mentoring other people who are new to recovery.

Stories like Billy’s are not uncommon. Recovery is a process and not everyone is ready for the changes and work they have to do to chance their lives in a short treatment cycle. It takes time to buy into the process and see the fruits of the effort because it’s easier to keep going on the way things have been.

Pathways Florida provides a comprehensive 28-day residential substance abuse treatment program. Compassionate, caring counselors at Pathways are trained in the latest evidence-based techniques and will work with you to develop a treatment and aftercare plan that works. For more information, please call 855-349-5988.

Co-dependency Can Hinder Recovery Results

As we work with our clients to get them on the road to recovery from drugs or alcohol, one of the things we do is look for issues in the client’s personal history that require resolution and trigger points that could cause a relapse. Understanding and overcoming co-dependency is part of the treatment process for many.

Related Blog: Recovery is More than Detox

What is co-dependency?
According to Mental Health America, “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about 10 years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.”

Why does this hinder recovery efforts? If an individual is co-dependent on another individual recovery efforts can be undermined if the relationship continues. For example, Becky is a female who is an alcoholic. Her boyfriend Brad is also an alcoholic. Brad has a tendency to belittle and be verbally abusive to Becky, which eats away at her self-esteem. She began drinking with Brad trying to dull the pain of his verbal assaults. At one point in Becky’s life, she is in a treatment facility – this may be due to her own decision to change her life, a family intervention or possibly a court-ordered treatment program because she’s received multiple driving under the influence charges. Treatment is difficult for Becky at first. She doesn’t like being away from Brad and worries what he’s doing and who he is with. She spends her time thinking about him rather than focusing on her own issues. Finally, one day in group, she hears another client speak about an abusive spouse. The words ring true to her and she begins to open up to her counselor and other clients about the situation. She begins to understand that the best thing for her is to end her relationship with Brad and get a fresh start on life, but….

Some of the common “buts” are “but, I love him/her,” “but I’m financially dependent on him/her,” “but we have children together,” “but I think he’ll/she’ll change,” “but I don’t want to be alone.” As long as the “but” is part of the client’s belief system and thought process, this individual’s long-term recovery is in jeopardy.

Overcoming co-dependency is challenging for most, but a necessary piece to developing a firm foothold in recovery because the subject of the co-dependent person is also often the trigger for substance use.

At Pathways, we understand that many clients have issues beyond substance abuse, such as co-dependency, and for full success, these challenges need to be overcome. For more information, please call 855-349-5988.

Co-dependency Quiz

Do you think you have a co-dependency issue? Take a look at the questions below:

1 – When someone else acts inappropriately, I often feel guilty for him or her.

2 – It is hard for me to accept compliments from others.

3 – It is hard for me to say “no” when someone asks for help.

4 – I feel terrible about myself when I make mistakes.

5 – I have an overwhelming desire to feel needed by other people.

6 – I stay quiet to avoid arguments.

7 – I value others’ opinions of me more than I value my own.

8 – I feel resentment toward people who will not let me help them.

9 – I am often preoccupied with other people’s problems.

10 – I feel rejected when my significant other spends time with friends.

If you agree with most of these statements, you possess traits/beliefs shared by many people who are co-dependent. You may want to consider seeking professional help.

In the Media: Tips on Choosing A Residential Treatment Center Wisely

Safety is a top priority when choosing a residential treatment center. According to P.J. Brooks of First Step in Sarasota, Florida, here are a few key components to ensure you choose the best option:

  • Find out what the reputation of the facility- how are they perceived in the community?
  • The facility should:
    -Have good quality clinical skills
    -Use evidence-based practices
    -Keep clients engaged in the treatment programs
    -Perform extensive background screenings, including federal screenings and fingerprinting

Watch the video below to learn more, or click here to watch the video on

Related Blog: Recovery is More than Detox

In the Media: An Effort to Keep Repeat DUI Offenders off the Roads

Last year, there were over 10,000 deaths related to DUI’s, with more than half being over weekends- all of which could’ve been avoided. According to P.J. Brooks of First Step, prevention is the key in this situation, because once a person is intoxicated, the ability to make smart decisions is greatly affected.

Watch the video below to learn more, or click here to watch the video on

Related Blog: Can a Drug Addict Drink Alcohol?

Pathways to Recovery is part of the First Step of Sarasota, Inc. family of treatment programs.