What Austin’s Doing to Fight Drunk Driving and What Other Cities Can Learn

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parking ticket on windshieldWhen a drunk driver plowed through a dense crowd of music lovers at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in March, horror rippled through the festival community and spread to the Austin community at large. When all was said and done, four people died because of that one drunk driver and many others sustained serious injuries. The road had been closed to vehicular traffic, but roadblocks and police officers didn’t stop the 21-year-old driver from steering toward the pedestrian crowd and accelerating. The tragedy cast a shadow over the remaining days of the festival and not just because of this one incident.

Culture Shock

The SXSW tragedy was a wake up call for many in the city of Austin, especially those in the music community. Known for being the “live music capital of the world,” Austin’s music clubs, many of which stand side by side, have live music performances most nights of the week. The drinks are cheap and drinking is a warmly embraced component of the live music scene in Austin. The biggest problem, aside from the addiction that can occur within a drinking-friendly subculture, is the lack of safe transportation options that can serve as an alternative to driving under the influence.

Like many midsize cities, Austin has taxi companies, pedicabs, and even a small train system. While none of these options are ideal yet for conveniently ferrying intoxicated individuals safely home, one of the bigger deterrents for those who drive into town to drink are the parking ticket fees for leaving a car downtown overnight. Many parking meter machines in town will allow drivers to buy time for the next day if they plan to leave their car after drinking. Since enforcement of parking meters doesn’t begin until 8 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays, drivers might be able to get back to their cars the next morning before they receive a ticket. However, despite these accommodations, drivers who make the responsible choice and take another method of transportation home after drinking, often return to their cars to find hefty tickets waiting for them on their windshields.

A Responsible Solution

To remedy this problem, the city of Austin is now allowing drivers who made the right choice to bring a receipt or ticket stub proving they took alternative transportation home to the Department of Transportation. The parking ticket fee will be waived if drivers bring in this proof. This is an approach many other cities could learn from – encouraging and giving incentives to drunk drivers to act responsibly will not only enhance the overall quality of life in any given city, but it will prevent serious injuries and fatalities, as well.

Of course, the city of Austin could still learn a few things from other cities on this topic. The buses and trains currently stop running before bars let out, leaving those who stay until last call short on options. The buses don’t run as often as they do in other cities and, for many people, the few stops on the train line are nowhere near where they need to be. Taxis and car services, although they exist in Austin, often have to be called rather than flagged down – especially if a potential patron is anywhere outside of the immediate downtown area. Nonetheless, the fee-forgiveness program is certainly a step in the right direction.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

How I Got through Opiate Withdrawals

October 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News

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hand coming through pile of pillsWith every choice you make, we know there is either a consequence or a solution. As addicts, while many are still fighting for the willingness to get clean, there are those who are finally ready to take the plunge into sobriety but do not yet want to go through the symptoms of withdrawal. Unfortunately, symptoms that come along with quitting drugs are almost inevitable.

Alcohol withdrawals can kill you. Benzodiazepines, more commonly known as Xanax, can also kill you. Opiate withdrawals, interestingly enough, though it may feel like dying, will not kill you.

Why It’s Scary

Opiate withdrawal cannot kill you but the symptoms can seem like reason enough to keep using. When I first decided to get sober, I lasted about 5 hours opiate-free–long enough to get the sweaty chills. The second time, during my short stint in rehab, I was given Suboxone to help subside the physical symptoms of the withdrawal. Of course, there was a number of attempts in between then and when I actually got sober, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. I was well aware of what was going to happen to me if I chose to get sober, which was my very excuse for putting it off.

Symptoms and Medications

I’d like to paint the road to sobriety gold but that wouldn’t be realistic. The symptoms can come sporadically or all at once. Cold sweats, chills, vomiting, cramps, sneezing, a flu-like runny nose, diarrhea–those may be just the beginning. Seemingly worse, the nighttime drags on with restless legs, insomnia, cravings, dizziness and even depression. Though it seems crazy to “plan” to get sober, retrieving a prescription for Suboxone beforehand can ease some of the fear. Methadone is another way to assist with the withdrawal symptoms of opiates but long-term, high doses of methadone can lead you right back to square one.

Why I Went Cold Turkey

For some people, it almost sounds borderline insane to attempt going cold turkey. In my eyes, that was the only way I knew I was going to successfully quit. I had heard horror stories of people who had gotten sober using Methadone, only to have a lifelong sentence visiting the Methadone clinic. The withdrawals from long term Methadone use could be equally as scary as opiate withdrawals. As far as Suboxone was, in my opinion, the taste alone made me feel sick to my stomach. Going cold turkey was important to me because I knew I had to experience every aspect of withdrawals to remind myself what I never wanted to go through again. I knew if I used any medication to get through the withdrawals, it would leave the door open for me to relapse again. I knew that once I had felt every ache and pain, every inch of sickness, every restless night – I would know what it would feel like to repeat.

What to Do When It’s Over

Whether you go cold turkey or use medicine, I finally realized that withdrawal portion itself is actually the easy part. Making sure that you’re finding activities to occupy your time and ignoring cravings is another important part of the process. It may take a few days or even a week or two to get all the way through the aches and pains of the withdrawal symptoms but remind yourself that it is only temporary. It’s hard to recommend going cold turkey because the fear of withdrawals alone is overwhelming but not using medication can be helpful if you want to avoid further dependence on a prescription drug. However, with that said, do not feel discouraged if you do need medication – as long as you are free from opiates, you are one step further down the road than you were before.

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Xanax Overdoses Double in Just Six Years

October 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News

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ambulanceOne substance, Alprazolam, commercially marketed as Xanax, Xanax XR or Niravam, is being credited with nearly 125,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2010. This number has risen from the 57,419 visits attributed to the drug in 2005, an increase of over 50%. All visits were for non-prescribed use of the drug(s). The number remained at a high of over 120,000 again in 2012.

The Dangers & Side Effects

Recreational and prescriptive use of this drug has increased steadily since its introduction in 1981 for treatment of anxiety. Within a few short years, reports of high levels of aggressive anger were recognized to be a side effect of the drug, decreasing its popularity for a short time. Dangerous side effects develop when the drug is used in combination with alcohol and other nervous system depressants.

Xanax has been held partly responsible for the drug overdose deaths of many noteworthy individuals, such as Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger. Because it is the most widely prescribed medication for psychiatric purposes (and in its classification as a benzodiazepine), the drug presents serious overdose risk. The number of prescribed users increased by 17 percent since 2006, nearly 94 million per year for Xanax by trade name, and over 23 percent for the generic brands of alprazolam.

The drug is recognized for its addictive properties, and remains one of the most widely popular substances for use with teens and young adults. The individuals most likely to abuse this drug are those aged 18-34, and white males, specifically. They are frequently addicted to other substances, such as alcohol, heroin, or other narcotic pain medications.

Why the Xanax Explosion?

Users are attracted to Xanax because of its fast-acting relief and addictive nature. Users quickly become tolerant to the medication, and require higher doses within a short time. This tolerance can lead to overdose. To gain the same effects from the drug, they begin to experiment with other substances that have similar effects. Under the influence of sedatives or pain medications, even alcohol, they may misjudge the amounts taken or mistakenly overdose due to lack of sober judgment. Whether intentional or accidental, death is a common and frequent outcome of these overdoses.

 

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

How the FDA Might Start Learning About Drug Side Effects Through Twitter

October 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News

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hands scrolling through twitter on iphoneAlthough we all want the drugs we take to be free of nasty side effects, that’s simply not realistic. Drugs, particularly pharmaceuticals, are made from combinations of chemicals that might affect each individual body in a unique way. The chemicals in these drugs can interact with everything from other drugs or substances in our system to the grapefruit we had for breakfast.

Unfortunately, it takes a while for reports of side effects in patients to make their way back to the FDA for official review and analysis. Side effects of drugs are usually reported to the FDA directly from a healthcare provider, like a doctor, rather than from the patients themselves. But patients who are experiencing side effects from a drug want answers as well as camaraderie – it’s scary to think that you might be the only one reacting to a drug in a certain way. This has caused many patients to turn to social media for side effect venting, particularly Twitter.

Tweeting About Drugs = Education?

Researches from several institutions, including Georgetown University Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital, recently released FDA-funded research pertaining to drug side effects published on Twitter. A pool of tweets mentioning popular pharmaceuticals and their side effects was examined by the team of researchers and paired against FDA data. The adverse effects reported via Twitter were generally not severe, which may be one of the reasons the side effects were reported on Twitter instead of to a doctor in some cases, according to the researchers.

How Tweets Can Affect Drugs’ Future

This study seems to demonstrate the very real possibility that the FDA and other medical establishments and healthcare providers, including doctors, may begin to monitor social media platforms likes Twitter in order to obtain the most up-to-date understanding of drug side effects.

This could prove to be helpful in the future for reducing the overall number of negative side effects from a drug–if doctors prescribing the drug can have access to information about the negative side effects sooner than later, those side effects will be taken into consideration by both the patients and doctors sooner, which might lead to a different drug choice and fewer side effects in the end.

This research is also important for the FDA, who no doubt funded the study because of how useful this information is to the FDA in particular. If the FDA can help to close the gap of dangerous time between a drug’s release and the official summarizing of the drug’s reported side effects, fewer people will be negatively affected by drugs and more people will be trusting of the drugs that are prescribed to them.

So, the next time you have a drug reaction you didn’t expect, consider tweeting it out to the world. It just might be that the people who need to hear about your side effect most will be listening.

Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Addiction from the Outside Looking in

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beauty girl cryHeath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Cory Monteith, River Phoenix – and other talented celebrities we had all seen and grown to love, only to later learn that these gifted individuals were are all victims of addiction. During my own active addiction I had many friends who overdosed, went to jail or passed away due to their drug abuse. Unfortunately, these crises weren’t concerning enough for me to get sober. It took more internally-driven motivation for me to straighten out and, after years of drug use, I finally got clean and am now standing on the outside of addiction looking in.

Celebrity Deaths

For most people, it is normal to not feel emotional about a celebrity who dies in tragic circumstances. Let’s be honest here: It’s not like they are family or we know them personally. But as an addict in recovery, I can’t help but feel a strong sense of sympathy and concern–not only sadness over the loss of a great human being, but for the family of the deceased. It had been almost a full year since I had chosen to get sober when I heard the news of Cory Monteith’s passing. As many people know, he was one of the stars on the hit T.V. show Glee. When I read the news on the Internet, I immediately started crying. I wasn’t sure if I was crying for Lea Michele, his on-screen and off-screen girlfriend; his family who had lost such a young member of their clan; or if it was the fact that he had overdosed alone. He died in a hotel room, by himself. The same sick, terrifying feeling overcame me when I saw the breaking news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The feeling was almost a morbid sense of relief that I never had to worry about that kind of ending for myself, but it was an intense reminder that a relapse is only one step in the wrong direction. Addiction has many faces. It can afflict a celebrity, a friend or a respectable-looking passerby in the street. I often remind myself that it is humbling to feel sad when someone passes away from drug or alcohol addiction.

Personal Acquaintances

Two months after I had gotten sober, I was told that a former friend of mine had passed away due to substance abuse. It was a friend I used to use with, so it wasn’t a huge surprise, but that did not lessen the blow. It was a strange, overwhelming feeling that I had never experienced, even with the loss of other people unrelated to substance abuse. In this instance there was something about the possibility that it could have been me. I have now cut off all contact with my old ‘playgrounds and playmates’ so I definitely don’t surround myself with any negative influences, but I still pray for the sick and suffering. It doesn’t cause any less pain to know that people I used to see everyday are out there still living in the same sick cycle that I had been caught in. I have a strange sense of compassion when I think of the path I was on that many people are still traveling.

Feeling Empathy

It’s odd to discover that people you barely know or don’t know at all can affect you. When a addict you were acquainted with dies, the feeling is similar what you feel when a celebrity you like dies, except it almost seems more real, in a sense. We generally put celebrities up on a pedestal, which places them at a distance, one step removed. However, when another “regular” person dies from addiction, it engulfs you. Before an AA meeting, if a regular member of the meeting has passed, they will be recognized at the beginning of the meeting. When this happens, it seems as if a cloud has fallen over his or her friends and the rest of us who were unfamiliar still feel empathy. It took a long time for me to realize that it is okay to feel such sadness for those who fall victim to addiction and lose the battle.

I think too many people with addiction problems often feel judged by those who have not experienced substance abuse – as if it others expect that they should just be able to get clean. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. So, if you find yourself crying or feeling upset over someone who has lost their battle with addiction and paid the ultimate price, then let it all out. When you’ve never been an addict or have a good amount of sobriety under your belt, it’s easy to forget about the small things on your gratitude list. Having empathy for others who have struggled with addiction is never a bad thing, and is a poignant reminder of how important it is to stay sober.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

The Dangers of Prescription Drugs

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TGDGprescriptionIt’s almost expected that when you visit the doctor, you will receive a prescription for medication. If you are in pain, the doctor prescribes medicine that will reduce the pain. If you are having anxiety or mental issues, the doctor or specialist will likely recommend pills for that. In fact, there is a pill that can be prescribed for nearly anything that ails you these days.

Obtaining “Legal” Prescription Drugs

As addicts, maybe even those who have not abused prescription drugs, we know how easy it can be to obtain a prescription. It may take a bit of “doctor shopping” before you find a doctor who is willing to write you a prescription, but it can be extremely easy to get the kind of drugs you are looking for. Doctor shopping is a term used to describe when a patient visits multiple doctors to try and obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled substances, usually addictive narcotics or opiates such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Some addicts are reluctant to carry out such a scheme, so they just look for others who use prescription drugs and are willing to sell their prescriptions. Furthermore, since addictive narcotics are so commonly prescribed, it is easy to search anyone’s medicine cabinet to “find” what you are looking for.

Spiraling Down

A big concern with prescription drugs is that consistent use may lead to addiction and a higher potential for abusing other drugs–a downward spiral many people have traveled. This may not seem likely for all people who receive prescription medications, but to those of us with addictive tendencies, it seems like a guarantee. With a prescription like Oxycontin, for example, which has been nicknamed the “legal heroin,” it’s easy to see why a prescription medication can lead to problems. An additional concern is the dangerous effects of mixing prescription drugs with other drugs or alcohol. We often see accidental overdoses in cases where people have combined multiple prescription drugs at the same time, or most commonly, combined pills and alcohol. Sometimes this is accidental. It is easy to forget you took a pill, and then accidentally take another medicine or even sip a drink without even thinking about the risks.

But I’m not an Addict!

In sober recovery meetings, I regularly talked with people who were addicted to pills because at the time, I was abusing prescription drugs myself. The people who shared their stories about prescription drug addiction often started their story with how they had sustained an injury or got into an accident and were prescribed painkillers. They would go on and on with their life story and, for some reason, I could never understand the point of their story. Finally I figured it out: Unlike me, these addicts had not taken their prescriptions with the intention of getting high or ever relying on these pills to function, but addiction does not discriminate. Some of these people had never even touched an illegal drug in their lives. They had relied on the recommendations of their doctors and had taken the pills as they were prescribed. Once the prescription ran out, however, they realized that they had developed a dependency on the pills and were helpless without them. Once the dependency on the prescription pills took hold and their doctors wouldn’t renew their prescriptions, these people felt they had nowhere to turn but to the streets for either the purchase of more painkillers or the use of illicit drugs to satisfy their body’s need for the drug. Luckily, many of these people found their way to addiction treatment and rehab programs.

What Is Being Done about Our Prescription Addiction Problem?

So what’s being done about the abuse and reliance on prescription drugs? There has been implementation of programs to reduce incidence of doctor shopping, and also more stringent monitoring of what kinds of prescriptions are being abused (and handed out). However, it never seems to be enough. The CDC has reported that every year at least 15,000 people die from prescription drug overdoses. We have heard positive news about one prescription drug that has been a problem–the pharmaceutical company Actavis is ceasing production of a popular cough syrup commonly known as “Lean.”  Yet, drug companies continue to release prescription drugs that are highly addictive. Zohydro, a new painkiller that is similar to Vicodin, has been shown to be much more dangerous than Vicodin because it only contains hydrocodone and no other active ingredients. For that reason, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick attempted to place a ban on the drug, but a federal judge overturned it.

We need more laws that protect the population from addictive prescription drugs. Must we wait and wonder when the madness from the pharmaceutical companies will end? Does it take years and years of drug abuse and overdoses to put more regulation on prescription drugs? It’s important to know that not all prescriptions are abused, but how many deaths will it take before someone in government or a regulatory position will step up and change the rules?

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Movies for Sober Inspiration

September 15, 2014 by  
Filed under People and Culture, Treatment and Recovery News

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The media and movies can be surprising sources of sober inspiration

The media and movies can be surprising sources of sober inspiration

Finding inspiration through the media and the arts can be extremely helpful for your sobriety. Music can be inspiring and lift our mood, and movies have an abundance of guidance and tools to help you get sober or stay sober. Movies can remind you to stay humble, grateful and emotionally alive. The storyline of a movie that covers the topics of alcoholism and addiction can be important reminder to you about where a relapse will take you or, if you are still finding your way to sobriety, it can keep the reality of what will happen if you continue to use.

Here are some movies to consider viewing as a way of keeping you on the path of sobriety:

Trainspotting If heroin was or is your drug of choice, this movie is as real as it gets. Starring Ewan McGregor and Johnny Lee Miller, the movie is very drug specific, but still a good example of the hardships that substance abuse brings. The movie brings life, death, withdrawal, relapse and more all to your living room. The movie still keeps a touch of humor and even has its own quotes and quips that can be used as references in your own life.

Gia This movie based on the true life story of Gia Marie Carangi, an American fashion model, and is a humbling biographical film. Starring Angelina Jolie, it’s a reminder that addiction does not discriminate. Whether you are beautiful, famous or a bum on the street, you can still suffer the pain and consequences of addiction. The movie only scrapes the surface of addiction because it focuses more on Gia’s life, but it is an emotional roller coaster that shows how quickly drug abuse can derail your life.

The Panic in Needle ParkOne of Al Pacino’s less popular movies, this movie is still effective at breaking down the everyday life of an addict and what hanging around with other addicts can do to you. It quickly dives into how substance abuse ruins relationships, and tears away your self-worth and pride. It also shows what happens when you get caught by the law. It is a clear illustration of how fast drugs can become an addiction and the things you’re willing to do to get them.

A Scanner DarklyFirst and foremost, I will admit I had to watch this movie twice to truly understand what was going on. Starring Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, it doesn’t necessarily focus on drug addiction as much as some other movies. This one leans more towards a conspiracy theory involving pharmaceutical companies and drugs, but it certainly is easy to relate to. As addicts, our personalities change during active addiction and the characters in the movie become so easy to associate with from this perspective. The movie is filmed in live action animation so it keeps your attention while keeping you entertained. The movie sums up drug-related paranoia, the desperate need for a fix, and how easily “friends” turn their backs on you in your time of need.

BlowThis is another biographical film based on the life of the drug smuggler George Jung. In addition to starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, and being an excellent and engrossing movie, it shows the effects of cocaine addiction, as well as the experience of being on the other side of the spectrum as a drug dealer. Although the movie starts out portraying the characters on their ‘pink cloud,’ so to speak, their dreams are swiftly dashed by the reality of being broke, desperate and depressed. The movie leaves you with a sense of compassion for the main character and the losses he experienced.

Requiem for a DreamLike Trainspotting, this movie depicts the raw reality of substance abuse. The movie, starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, is an extremely well-written film, but can be disturbing and nerve-wracking to watch. If you have already experienced the rock bottom of addiction, you’ll find yourself knowing what’s going to happen next because the movie gives the characters real life options as to what to do when they are desperate to get high. The film does not have a happy ending and it leaves you with an empty, terrible feeling in your stomach. The difference between this film and the others listed here is the sub-story it tells involving the use of prescription medicine. Many people don’t yet realize that prescription drugs are commonly used to get high and are very addictive. This movie will leave you truly grateful to be in sober recovery and drug-free.

Candy This may not be known as a top Heath Ledger movie, but it certainly should be. A little different than other films, the movie shows three stages of addiction – Heaven, Hell and Earth – which is the best part about this movie. The honesty in the film shows the false euphoria drugs may bring, but that it’s only temporary and the real life consequences that you’re hiding will rapidly come to life. It also reveals how relationships can be affected by drug use, as that many of the partnerships we form with other addicts are based solely on drugs or alcohol.

Some movies seem harder to watch than others because of the effect they may have on our emotions, but as a recovering addict, those are the ones I take time to watch. The movies and other media can provide an external source, not only of entertainment, but of tools and real-life situations that are easy to relate to and may help give you advice that you didn’t realize you were looking for. Although some of these movies may not end happily, it’s okay to be grateful when you shut the movie off and realize that isn’t your life anymore.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

What Is Rock Bottom?

September 10, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics, Treatment and Recovery News

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TGDGsadgirlWhen you Google the words “rock bottom,” you will find a dictionary definition that classifies this term as a noun that means “the lowest possible level.” When it comes to addiction recovery, the words “rock bottom” can have hundreds of definitions. This is because not everyone’s “rock bottom” will be the same. If only rock bottom truly were that simple.

I know during my active addiction, I often found myself asking what my rock bottom actually was. Unfortunately, that question could not be answered by others. Every addict or alcoholic has a different rock bottom, and the variations can be dramatic. Some addicts may undergo very traumatic life experiences that signify to them that they have hit rock bottom. Some may lose their homes, while others may file bankruptcy or turn to prostitution to earn the income needed to pay for drugs. If you are at the point where you’re wondering if you’ve hit your “rock bottom,” here are three ways to find your answer.

1. Decide If You Have Had Enough

I think the number one question I found myself returning to again and again was if I’d had enough. For many of us, we continue to stretch the limits of how much pain and suffering we can sustain. For some of us, losing our homes or jobs is enough to make us realize how great a problem drugs and alcohol have become. For others, it can take losing the support of friends and family. For many, “enough” comes in the form of overdosing or selling your body for drugs. Deciding you have had enough is a matter of deciding whether you want to live or die, and what lengths you are willing to go to save yourself and get sober.

2. Make a Pros and Cons List

Weighing the pros and cons may seem like a silly way to examine the options of wanting to get clean and sober or not, but I believe you need to do whatever it takes. Some people need to visually see a list of all the consequences of their drug use before they can fully understand the pros of getting sober. A pros and cons list may not be the thing that motivates you to choose to get sober, but many times we can’t see the damage we’re causing until we make a list like this. We may be in the habit of rationalizing away the negative consequences of our addictions, instead of seeing our addiction as a major problem in our lives. The pros of using drugs may seem to be numerous in our heads, but on paper, they are few in number to non-existent.

3. Evaluate What Have You Gained

Addicts regularly encounter people who are incredibly belittling toward those caught in the treacherous cycle of addiction. These people may list all the reasons why using drugs is bad, but when you are active in your addiction, you don’t care. Many addicts are okay with being homeless or broke, since there are many alternative ways to get money, food or anything else we need–as long as we can get our drug of choice. One question I never asked myself as an addict was what I gained from my addiction? Did using drugs gain me friends? Did I gain wisdom and knowledge? Who was benefiting from my drug use? Who was I helping?

Even in our darkest days, we addicts know there are things we want in life aside from drugs or alcohol. Bring those things to light and see if you have accomplished any of them. I wanted to be a writer, but had I published any work? Your dreams and goals are still important, but you may have lost sight of those because you’ve been so focused on how to stay drunk or high.

Finding your own definition of “rock bottom” is a difficult task. Though it’s nearly impossible to define “rock bottom” before you get there, you sort of just know when you hit it. In a way, it almost brings you a feeling of relief to know that you’ve finally had enough. When I hit rock bottom, I was not only relieved but I was beyond grateful that I had found the willingness to quit before it was too late. People say you won’t quit until you’ve had enough and, as insincere as it sounds, it’s true. Search for answers inside yourself and you will find a solution, if you are willing to look at the big picture.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Tips from an Insider: Getting the Best out of Rehab

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Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

One of the hardest pit stops on the journey to sobriety for me was gaining the courage to sign into a rehabilitation center. Although this may be the hardest thing you’ll have to bring yourself to do, if you’re ready, it is a very crucial and beneficial step in your recovery.

Understanding Why You Need Rehab

The number one reason that most people fail in their attempts to get sober is that they try quitting when they are not yet ready to quit. When I went to rehab, it was not because I wanted to go, but because my family had intervened and given me an ultimatum: Go to rehab and get sober or lose all contact with family and loved ones. That ultimatum was a wake-up call for me–it made me realize I was ready to quit using. Even if you’re ready, it’s hard to bring yourself to ask for help, but it is a humbling and helpful step in your recovery. If you still remain unsure about taking that first step to rehab, research different types of rehab programs out there–while they might be similar, some offer different types of therapy that may interest you more than others.

Making Friends in Rehab

Making friends in rehab can be quite tricky, and so is dating while both people are in recovery. Forming bonds with people in the program who come from your geographical area can be extremely advantageous, especially if you’re someone who would appreciate a friend accompanying you to sober recovery meetings. Being willing to share insecurities with someone who shares common interests with you is a lot easier than people you may never see again. As long as you keep your mind focused on sobriety, you will attract others with the same goals. It is important to be aware of and wary of those types of people who are not in rehab to get sober, and are only interested in glorifying their past drug use and talking about how great getting high was–you will likely meet those types in rehab. Don’t worry: One conversation with a person who’s simply there for someone else’s sake will be easy to sniff out and even easier to walk away from.

Accepting All Possible Solutions

Let’s face it: When you’ve finally dried yourself out and are slowly recovering from a week of detoxing, the ugly truths of getting sober and rehab slowly begin to become apparent. This does not stop at rehab, in fact, making amends comes much later, so don’t sweat the small stuff too much during your stay in rehab. Your brain may be flooded with apologies you want to make and people you’d like to repay, but you don’t have to address all that at the beginning. Just take it one day at a time. The employees at a rehab center do keep a certain emotional detachment, but it is only so they can assist everyone with as many possible solutions to help as they can. Some of the suggestions they make to you may sound silly, like yoga or taking up drawing classes, but it is important to stay open minded about the possibilities. Our own choices and decisions are what landed us in the cycle of addiction and in rehab! Suggestions that seem to be out of your comfort zone may turn out to be an exceptional hobby that helps you to stay sober.

Taking a Break From Reality

The stay at the rehab center is only temporary, of course, along with the withdrawals. Going through withdrawals, for lack of a better word, sucks. There isn’t a whole lot they can do for you to diminish the discomfort of withdrawal and, depending on what sort of rehab center you attend, medication may not be an option for you. Just remember, the detox is necessary for your body to recover from addiction. It has withstood months–for some, years–of wear and tear from drug use. Detoxification is a scary but necessary evil for your body to have a fighting chance in recuperating from all of the damage you have done to it. Once the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, it’s easy to instantly think you are ready to be out in the world and seeing your family, but you’re not! Take a few deep breaths, and remember you will be back in the world soon enough, so enjoy your time in rehab. Everyone around you in rehab understands your world needed to stop in order for it to continue, so relax and study the paperwork you’re given, read the big book and enjoy a break from all the aspects of life that can be so overwhelming for everybody.

Rehabilitation centers are wonderful establishments and were created in the best interests of people who need tools and support to help them get sober. Before you decide to sign yourself into rehab, remember all the positive assets that they can equip you with. Many people attend rehab for the wrong reasons and do not take all that they have to offer seriously. The staff in a rehab center can give you the tools to get sober but you must carry and use them on your own.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

The Importance of Making and Keeping a Schedule in Early Recovery

September 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News

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Scheduling can ease you through the recovery process day by day

Scheduling can ease you through the recovery process

While making a schedule is a good idea for keeping track of many of life’s events, we don’t always think of scheduling as a critical tool in sober recovery. We think, “Let me get sober first, then I’ll worry about a schedule.” Nevertheless, a schedule can be an important aspect of your recovery plan and a great tool for helping you stay sober.

Anxiety Can Prevent Clear Thinking and Planning

Even if you were relatively high functioning while using, you may find yourself struggling to know what to do next when you get sober. For some, alcohol or the drug of addiction was our anxiety-reliever, entertainment, recreational activity, and the glue that connected the different aspects of our life. When we get sober, we are usually a mess. Things will settle down eventually and seem less chaotic, but in the beginning, the reality is that the brain will not be able to focus on much of anything at all during the withdrawal period and for a short time afterward. Once that short time period after withdrawal and rehab is over, it may be time to begin planning a schedule of activities to keep us busy in our new, sober life. Having a schedule in place can help you steer clear of anxiety or avoid relapse during the early recovery process.

As Old Habits Are Broken, New Ones Must Be Put in Place

As with any habit, we need to break the old patterns in order to break the old habit. This is where a schedule comes in handy. Working with someone else in recovery to create this schedule may help. Nevertheless, there are a couple of ideas I can suggest to get you started on your own. Think of scheduling as turning over a new leaf.

Start with a template. Whether you use a computerized template, a calendar booklet, or a piece of paper, start with a weekly plan or weekly schedule sheet, with days of the week across the top, and times of the day down the side.

Plan on a full night of sleep. Sleep is important, so decide what your approximate sleeping times will be, and then mark your waking hours on the chart. Even though it may take a while to get a regular sleep schedule happening, it is good to start trying to do so.

Take time for recovery. One of the first events on your schedule should be some time set aside devoted to your recovery. Many people like to do focus on recovery exercises first thing in the morning with their coffee. Reading something on recovery, contemplating, and keeping a journal (“journaling”) are all things that can be included in this set-aside time. Try to make it a time when you are uninterrupted. You are setting a plan for the day, and you are setting your brain for the day. Take it seriously, and your day will begin on a positive note.

It is also important to schedule recovery support meetings, 12-step meetings or group therapy, or whatever else you are using to aid in your recovery. For any day of the week, it is best that you know where you are going, and at what time, so that you have only to look at the calendar and you know where to go. You can even schedule in extra meetings in the event that you find yourself with extra time on your hands (which can sometimes lead to anxiety). It never hurts to have a ready list of constructive and distracting things to do when you hit those down times or rough moments when all you can think about is drinking or using.

Include daily responsibilities—work, family, errands. If you are working or in school, you will want to put those daily commitments on your schedule. Be careful of spending too much time in these events, though. Time for recovery is crucial. We cannot simply stop using drugs or alcohol without giving attention to the part of us that needed that crutch in the first place. The time you spend on your recovery exercises and meetings, is the time you need to get in touch with that part of yourself, so you can begin to heal. And, as is often said, if you could find time to drink or use, you can find time for your recovery. Don’t let your work or school become an excuse to neglect your recovery or other areas of your life.

Time for exercise. Another helpful addition to your schedule is time for physical exercise. Whether that time is spent walking or running or working out at a gym, regular exercise will do wonders for reducing the anxiety created by withdrawal. Exercise can help relieve the anxiety that we generally attempted to cure with our favorite alcohol drink or drug of choice.

Time for play. Oftentimes, when we get sober, we get wrapped up in making up for lost time. As such, we sometimes forget that time is time, and we cannot undo a lifetime of mistakes in a few weeks. It is important to remember that we still need to take time just for relaxing and having fun. Organized sports, going out with sober friends, spending time with family, listening to music you love, and taking the time to do whatever you consider to be enjoyable. Fun time will rejuvenate you, and keep you from taking yourself too seriously.

Schedule even basic activities in the beginning. I find it is also important to include things in your schedule that may strike you as mundane. Learning to schedule everything is learning to get into a healthy routine. Schedule your daily shower. For example, perhaps you will get up, have your quiet time, exercise and then shower. That shower every day can be important for you psychologically. It says to you, I am going to show up for life today. Schedule a time to go to the grocery store. Plan what you will buy. Schedule time to make meals. All of these are merely suggestions, but it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about how you can take care of yourself, and learn to love your new, sober self. This is also a time to learn to care for your body. After all, you have spent a number of years abusing it, and it needs a little TLC!

Take a proactive role in your life. When we are using, we are reacting to life in a destructive way. Most of our reactions are based upon our need to feel good. When we get sober, we have the opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to live life proactively rather than reactively. Making a schedule is one way we begin doing that. We choose how we will live our day,and how we will spend our time. With this in mind, it is helpful, if you are unemployed, to decide when to add looking for a job into your schedule. Maybe you will schedule time to explore possible career fields. Maybe you have a dream job that you want to research. Maybe there is a skill you want to learn. When we schedule time for these things, they become more concrete. One small action can provide motivation for the next action, and the next.

Don’t become a slave to your schedule. More than anything else, though, it is important to remember that the schedule is a tool to help you organize your life. It should not be used to fill every minute, nor should it be used to beat your self up. You will find your schedule more helpful if you allow it to be dynamic. You may decide that it isn’t working for you. If so, you can change it. You may over-schedule yourself, so do what you can, and adjust accordingly. If the schedule becomes a weapon to beat yourself up with, you will quickly abandon it. Make sure the schedule works for you, not against you.

Create your new life. Consider scheduling as a process for learning to live one day at a time—and have confidence that each day will be better than the last. Design your schedule to meet life’s obligations, but also design it to make time for things that bring you joy. This schedule, and your life, is your work of art. Get busy creating it!

 

P. G. McGraw is a 30-plus year sober alcoholic, writer, blogger and “joyfully rebellious heretic and mystic.”  She enjoys learning about Eastern and Indigenous Religions and applying that knowledge to her spiritual recovery. A former attorney, McGraw has a certificate as a chemical dependency counselor assistant and has worked as a sponsor, helping many people in the recovery process over the years.

 

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