Life is stressful, and everyone needs something to help them decompress. While some people manage to find healthy ways of relaxing, everyone is tempted by vices: junk food, reality TV, video games, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana…you know, outlets which offer immediate gratification and don’t require any real physical or mental exertion. Everyone gives in to vices from time to time, but some indulgences are much riskier than others.
No One Starts with the Intention of Forming a Habit
People use drugs and alcohol to relax. They use them to diminish their inhibitions so they can socialize with people more easily. They use them to unwind after a stressful day at work. In other words, drugs and alcohol become a coping mechanism for many people. For most people, the inclination to use drugs and alcohol stems less from a desire to cause pain than a desire to reduce pain. The problem though, is that this form of “self-medication” commonly begets addiction–the coping mechanism becomes an even greater problem unto itself.
The True Cost of Addiction
Chronic use of any drug will deplete you financially, impair your ability to make decisions, damage your health, and color your perception of reality. Becoming addicted to something means that you no longer use to get high–you use to sustain a consistent low. What was once a source of joy and a vehicle for escape becomes part of a boring, expensive, and generally destructive pattern of abuse.
As you develop a higher tolerance, or a chemical dependency, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve the sort of buzz which got you hooked in the first place–which is the ultimate irony with drugs and alcohol. Certain substances will have you forever pursuing an idealized high which you may never truly experience again.
Finding Healthier Alternatives
There are other, more sustainable coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices that you might consider trying. What makes the healthier choices less desirable for some people, however, is that they won’t provide you with gratification without requiring you to put forth a little effort. Lighting up a joint and going for a jog are measurably different activities. But, just as drug and alcohol abuse commonly damages your self-perception, you might find that the activities which challenge you will likely enhance your feelings of self-worth. And, ideally speaking, you might find that building up your confidence and self-respect decreases your desire to consume drugs and alcohol.
Devising a consistent fitness regimen is one potential solution. Vigorous physical activity causes your body to release endorphins which provide you with their own unique–and completely natural–euphoria. What’s more, regular exercise lowers your blood pressure, increases your confidence, and has been found to generally decrease anxiety and depression over time.
Some people adapt a personal artistic practice. There are many creative activities which can bolster one’s sense of self-worth, and provide a constructive outlet for otherwise destructive emotional tendencies. There are many activities you might consider picking up: sewing, baking, drawing, creative writing, dance, or even playing a musical instrument.
You might also try bubble baths, reading classic literature, listening to records…there are many, many healthy ways of decreasing stress. One danger to be aware of, however, is when a healthy habit turns into an addiction itself.
Put One Foot in Front of the Other
The first and most crucial step towards overcoming your addiction is recognizing that you have a problem. Self-deception and inadequate excuses only further perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Take a good, long, honest look at your life. Determine what your sources of happiness are, and maximize them. Determine what your sources of unhappiness are, and minimize their presence in your life as best as you can.
Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based author who writes about a variety of topics — everything from vintage horror films to energy legislation to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them and partially also because he has experimented with them and has struggled with certain substances in the past–particularly with alcohol. Brandon is sober now and eager to help others overcome their addictions.
As active addicts, we were sick pups–spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Many times, we don’t give the physical aspect of our addiction recovery enough attention. Addiction treatment centers, recovery programs, counseling groups all help addicts with the spiritual, mental and emotional aspects of recovery. For physical recovery–eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly–the responsibility lies directly on the recovering addict or recovering alcoholic.
In Recovery: Eat Well, Get Adequate Sleep and Exercise
Physical recovery includes things as basic as getting enough sleep and eating the right foods. If we are not sleeping well, we are not going to feel well. Likewise, if the food we eat isn’t healthy or makes us feel low energy and sick, it is going to affect how we feel mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For example, junk food makes us feel sluggish, and sugar binges result in depression. We need to take better care of ourselves by eating nourishing food and avoiding those binges. Many recovering addicts run the risk of switching addictions from drugs or alcohol to food. Our relationship to food needs to be healthy, and while in recovery we need to eat well for optimal health.
Although there is much more that can be said about eating well and getting good sleep, the aspect of sober recovery I wish to focus on in this article is physical movement. We alcoholics and addicts, especially while in early recovery, are prone to anxiety—anxiety that makes us think of ways to escape it. If we have made a decision that alcohol and drugs are no longer options for us, then we need to find a better way to relieve our stresses and anxieties. The best way to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety is through movement and physical exercise.
Get Moving to Feel Better in Recovery
It really does not matter how you move, as long as you move. For some people, that may mean walking or running several times a week. If you can get outside for your exercise, all the better. There is nothing like fresh air and the outdoors to relax and rejuvenate you.
Maybe your thing is working out at the gym while listening to your favorite tunes on a portable music player. Maybe you get more energized by group classes, or maybe you played a sport at one time and you want to pick it up again. Whichever form of exercise you prefer, just get moving!
Make Physical Fitness Fun
When we were kids, we ran around outside and just called it “playing.” As grown-ups, we call it a “workout” and that makes it sound so much less fun! We don’t need to strive to be professional athletes. We don’t even need to be good at it! We just need to get moving and have fun doing it.
Personally, if I am not having fun while exercising, then I am not going to stick with it. In my search for enjoyable ways to stay physical, I have done a lot of different types of movement over the years, including Taekwondo, yoga, rollerblading, soccer, running, walking, and swimming. You might explore some of these fitness options, and also explore skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, playing baseball or basketball…Well, you get the idea.
Join a Sober League or Team
If a yoga class or jogging routine are not for you, there are sober leagues, and sober teams playing in leagues. Ask around, and you are sure to find others in sober recovery who want to form a sports team. It happens all the time, and this can be one of the best ways to get motivated to exercise and to get support for staying sober as well.
Enjoy the Benefits of Physical Fitness
No matter what you choose to do, if you stick with a physical activity that you enjoy, you will find other aspects of recovery, and life, much more satisfactory.P. G. McGraw is a 30+ 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.
Absorption of alcohol into the body begins in the stomach lining, where it is assimilated into the body of the drinker. However, on its way there, it passes through the mouth, down the throat and the esophagus.
Alcohol Poses a Danger to Your Body
Because of alcohol’s caustic effect on the lining of the stomach and throat, several things can occur during this short passage into the body. The stomach produces acid to help digest food and beverages. If there is no food in the stomach, alcohol may cause the acid to back up into the throat and esophagus, causing acid reflux. This condition can erode the esophagus over time, a not uncommon condition seen among those who drink–even those who drink moderately. This can then cause bleeding of the esophagus. Another factor that can cause damage to the esophagus occurs when a drinker vomits from consumption of alcohol. These alcohol-related issues with the throat and stomach can pose a serious health threat.
Again, a drinker’s stomach is in danger. Another negative effect of alcohol consumption and a risk for the drinker is to get a hole in the lining of the stomach. This is known as an ulcer, and many drinkers develop ulcers from the excess stomach acid combined with excess alcohol, which can become a toxic mix. Drinkers, even those with moderate habits, develop bleeding ulcers. Over time, this creates an inability for drinkers to digest any foods properly. The condition is painful, as well, and may lead to hemorrhaging of the stomach, esophagus or throat; which can sometimes be fatal.
Your Brain and Alcohol
Without the complex mechanisms of the brain operating fully, no one can function. Alcohol use, even a single drink, can impair brain function. Some of this damage is reparable, but not completely. Any drinking damages the brain by altering the signals and messaging taking place there. These changes can alter mood, behavior and the physical responses of the human body. Over time and with heavy alcohol use, the damage can be devastating and permanent.
Your Heart and Alcohol
The heart is heavily impacted by alcohol use; even moderate drinkers have developed heart disease. While some medical practitioners may tout the benefits of drinking a glass of wine or two daily, the risk for some people is too great, and outweighs the benefits. Knowing if your heart is in danger from alcohol is not always possible, so it is often best to assume the benefits are easily outweighed by the dangers. High blood pressure is the most common health risk resulting from alcohol, and may occur with even a single episode of heavy drinking.
Your Pancreas and Alcohol
The pancreas may become toxic with alcohol assimilation. This means that it begins to create poison out of the alcohol in the system of the drinker. The condition created is called pancreatitis and can lead to numerous health risks that include diabetes, problems with blood sugar levels and ongoing digestive problems.
Cancers of the throat, liver, mouth and esophagus may take place in drinkers. Damage to the immune system that occurs with alcohol consumption may increase risks for cancers of these and other types.
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.
Daily exercise is an integral part of the recovery process and most rehab programs for a reason. Exercise contributes to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of everyone, whether or not we are addicts. Exercise has been shown to enhance mood and fight depression naturally through the release of endorphins.
Endorphins can lower your perception of pain, improve self-esteem, and even act as a mild sedative. Incorporating regular physical activity into your life can reduce your stress and anxiety, increase your energy, and boost your sleep quality. Additionally, regular exercise can improve your heart health, blood pressure, bone strength, and muscle tone, as well as many other facets of your physical health.
Yoga offers all of the benefits of regular exercise and more to those who use it as part of their recovery process. The meditative quality of yoga encourages practitioners to examine their thought processes and learn to concentrate on posture and breathing with intention. If negative thoughts are dominating your mental space, especially during recovery, yoga will teach you to acknowledge those thoughts, and explore their source. If you have a self-defeating attitude outside of the yoga studio, yoga will shine a light on that attitude and force you to push yourself beyond your own boundaries and strengthen your willpower.
Here are three ways yoga can benefit your recovery:
1. Coping Mechanisms
An inability to cope with the everyday difficulties and the fluctuations of life is one of the underlying causes of addiction. Addicts who are in recovery often struggle with finding new and healthy ways of dealing with life stresses once they can no longer turn to a substance as a solution. Through reflective thought, controlled breathing, and mindful meditation, yoga intrinsically teaches the art of coping in healthy, appropriate ways. These new coping mechanisms are particularly useful for addicts and help to strengthen the recovery process.
Improved self-discipline not only helps an addict to begin the recovery process, but it can also help an addict to stay on course and prevent a relapse. An important part of drug treatment is learning to greet a negative impulse with a positive action. When those in recovery learn to turn to yoga when they feel weak, the self-discipline skills required to overcome addiction are reinforced and enhanced.
3. Supportive Community
The culture of yoga is largely community-based. For a recovering addict, finding a supportive community is one of the keys to success in sobriety. Becoming a regular at a yoga studio will help introduce you to a new source of community that is generally health-minded and supportive of newcomers.
In addition to these benefits that yoga lends to those in recovery, yoga is considered by many to be a good source of spiritual guidance. These days, at least in most yoga studios in the U.S., yoga isn’t about a specific religion, but is a practice that helps us all live in the present moment. It helps us explore the depths of our mental and physical capabilities. This spiritual element of yoga is an added bonus for addicts who feel their addiction is rooted in a misguided way of life or lack of spirituality.
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.
Dogs in the Betty Ford Center. Horses at Hazelden. Wolfdogs and young addicts in L.A. The use of animal-assisted therapy is increasingly used in addiction recovery, as well as many other fields.
So how does it work? The point is not that the animal is supposed to replace a human relationship, according to Phil Tedeschi, founder and director of the Institute for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Denver. Animal-assisted therapy instead aims to be a bridge back to healthy relationships with other humans.
As anyone in addiction recovery knows, trust issues are the norm. Most addicts have burned others and been burned by others. After this has happened, it becomes difficult to rely on your instincts about who to trust. Animals lack the emotional agendas of humans. You treat the animal well, and it will likely reciprocate. Developing a bond with an animal can open an addict’s heart and help to develop healthy bonds with humans again.
One study done by Seton Addictions Services in Troy, NY, found that patients opened up to addiction counselors more about their personal histories while dogs were present. Counselors gained insights into patients’ emotional and behavioral patterns and could guide them to better interaction choices. For example, when patients were annoyed that a dog didn’t immediately want to bond, the counselor could suggest ways to slow down and gain the dog’s trust.
While dogs are the most common therapy animals – easy to come by, fairly obedient, of a manageable size and easy to take them almost anywhere – many other animals are also used. The famous Hazelden recovery center in Minnesota introduced equine-assisted rehab therapy in 2005. Now some patients participate in an eight-week program that integrates horses with the 12 steps of recovery. The focus is more on interacting with horses on the ground rather than riding them. Several other rehab centers are now using equine therapy and other types of animal-assisted therapy.
Lynn Moore, the addiction counselor who developed Hazelden’s equine program, says that horses mirror human feelings. Patients who have lost all touch with their emotions find that horses can stir up joy, fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, resentment and peace. She recommends equine-assisted therapy for patients who over-intellectualize. Horses, she says, help people get out of their heads and back into their bodies and hearts.
Addicts and Wolfdogs
You could draw a pretty good analogy here: As wolfdogs are to dogs, addicts are to “normal” humans. While genetically similar to their “normal” counterparts in their respective species, wolfdogs and addicts don’t quite fit in. They’re considered dangerous in their societies.
Wolfdogs – hybrids that are too dog-like to survive in the wild but too wolf-like to be adoptable – really get a bum deal. Many are abused, neglected and abandoned. They might be confiscated by authorities, taken to a shelter and euthanized. Young addicts from messed up homes can relate to the difficult path that a wolfdog typically must journey on.
Promises, a West Los Angeles addiction treatment center, teamed up with Wolf Connection, which rescues wolfdogs. Now wolf therapy is part of Promises’ treatment for young adults. While the young addicts help save the wolfdogs from death, the wolfdogs teach their human caregivers wolf principles. These include teamwork, respect, setting and maintaining boundaries, forgiveness, trust and acceptance.
In 2012, more than half of the U.S. incarcerated population was doing time for drug charges. Prison dog training programs are not aimed solely at recovering addicts, but this type of animal intervention is important for many folks who are beginning recovery behind bars.
Prison dog training programs have popped up around the U.S. in recent years. Often the dogs themselves are on death row – about to be euthanized by local animal shelters – when they’re rescued and distributed to inmates. Prisoners see themselves in the dogs, according to Tedeschi, who works closely with prisoners in the program at Colorado Prison. As prisoners rehabilitate the unwanted pets, they begin to rehabilitate themselves. Usually the prisoners train the puppies until they’re between one and two years old, then hand them off to Tedeschi’s grad students in the School of Social Work for further training as therapy dogs. Both prisoners and dogs thrive under this system. The men and women in the training program are the most successful inmates upon release, Tedeschi says.
Someone Who Cares
Most addicts have alienated at least some of their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances by the time they hit bottom. Addicts can feel disgusting, dehumanized and thoroughly unlovable. But animals see people differently than other people do. As long as you treat the animal well, it doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, or have scars on your body and soul.
The beauty of animal-assisted therapy is that it’s two-way. The addict needs somebody who cares about him or her. The animal needs someone to care for it. The act of taking care of an animal turns an addict into someone who cares for another living creature.
Teresa Bergen is a Portland, Oregon-based health, fitness and travel writer. She enjoys exploring the human-animal connection in her writing and in her life.
They say that music soothes the savage breast. That phrase actually comes from a play called “The Mourning Bride,” written by William Congreve in the 1700s. The phrase, while now cliché, still contains a lot of truth: Music has the power to soothe us. Music can also trigger and express powerful emotions like joy and love, as well as anger and fear. Some music makes you feel bad and some music makes you feel good. Hearing emotions expressed in music can help the listener to release feelings or empathize with and connect to others. These are some of the reasons why music is used as therapy to help people recover from physical and mental trauma, and is often used in addiction recovery.
How does music have such a profound effect on us? What is it about music that creates such a strong emotional response? The truth is, scientists don’t know the exact mechanism that gives music such emotional power, but they do have several ideas about how our brains and bodies respond to music.
Music and the Brain
In the documentary The Music Instinct: Science and Song, scientists and musicians collaborate to explore the effects of music on the brain and body. One thing they discovered is that there isn’t one music area of the brain. Music actually affects multiple areas of the brain at once. For example, when listening to a popular composition by Max Richter and Dinah Washington, your brain actually interprets the music in several ways at once, using different parts of your brain. One area of your brain processes the words, another area processes the sound of Dinah’s voice, while another processes the sound of the strings, and another the melody. The brain then takes those individual elements and puts them all together. All these different levels of interpretation happen instantly and simultaneously, so that you don’t even notice how your brain is processing and interpreting the information.
Interestingly, there are those who can’t hear music in the same way, in part because their brains don’t process all the components properly, or they don’t synthesize and reintegrate them properly.
Music and the Body
Music is made up of vibrations of sound waves. Your ears register sound when they pick up the sound waves that flow through the air and vibrate your ear drum. Those same sound waves are also vibrating other parts of your body. You may not realize that sound is vibrating in other parts of your body beyond your ears, because your other organs are not necessarily as sensitive to sound as your eardrums, so you don’t realize what’s happening.
There are people, however, who are more sensitive to sound vibrations and can actually feel sounds resonate in various parts of their body. One example is Dame Evelyn Glennie, the deaf percussionist who was featured in the 2012 London Olympics. She hears by feeling the vibrations of the instruments through her feet and other parts of her body.
The body’s ability to feel sound is probably part of the reason why some people have a tendency to play music very loudly, especially music with heavy bass lines. That effect is especially noticeable in small, enclosed spaces, like your car. Because cars are small spaces surrounded by metal and glass, the vibration of sound within the car may be magnified, and you may experience that vibration more readily throughout your body. Many people enjoy this sensation.
It makes sense if you think about it. Your first experience with sound was in the womb where you were surrounded by liquid, which also amplified the sound in an enclosed environment. The very first sound you probably heard was the deep bass throb of your mother’s heartbeat. So, cranking up the sound on your stereo can be really comforting because it kind of reproduces the experience of the womb.
Music and Emotional Cues
The fact that music affects multiple parts of the brain and the body explains why certain music evokes an emotional response–sometimes a negative emotional response. For example, if you’re watching a scary movie, the music that is used to accompany the action actually does more to make you afraid than if the images ran without music. If you mute the music, you will probably have a very different response to the scene. For examples of this phenomenon, just look at the trailer for The Sound of Music, the trailer for Stephen King’s IT, or the trailers for any of the Harry Potter movies. In all of these, the music provides emotional cues and sets the emotional tone for the stories.
The reason music affects us the way it does is still a mystery, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Whether you like samba or soul, hip-hop or hard rock, music truly can soothe the soul.
Music is often used as a therapeutic tool during treatment for addiction, as well as during addiction recovery. Addiction counselors and music therapists may use music to help patients manage their physical, emotional, or cognitive problems. In a music therapy session, a therapist might have the patient listen to certain music, to sing along, or even to dance to it. Therapists in some recovery programs will encourage patients to discuss the lyrics of a song and what the lyrics might mean to them. Music therapists might even ask patients to create music or write music lyrics as a way of expressing their feelings and working through problems.
When used as a supplemental type of therapy during addiction recovery, music can help to reduce the negative emotions and stress levels that an addict encounters as they adjust to being sober. Some recovering addicts find that if they listen to music when they are bored or restless, the music can help distract them from negative thoughts or wanting to use again–music can help redirect thoughts and energies in a more positive and less destructive direction.
People in recovery sometimes encounter depression and anxiety, and in these instances music can help to lighten the mood. A word of caution: be careful to choose the right type of music to help lift the mood and keep things positive. It is best to avoid music that will make a recovering addict reminisce about old times when he or she was using drugs or alcohol. It is also best to avoid music that will trigger unpleasant memories. A music therapist or addiction counselor can discuss your individual needs and unique situation, and help guide you towards the types of music that will have the greatest benefit during your addiction treatment and recovery.
An eating disorder is a psychological condition where the person develops an unhealthy relationship to food. Sometimes, an eating disorder is linked to drug use.
There are three major eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
With anorexia the person develops an aversion to eating and subsists on an extremely low calorie diet in an effort to stay slim. In severe cases of anorexia, the anorexic person might not eat anything at all for days at a time. They ignore their hunger cues and, after a while, might no longer feel those cues at all.
With bulimia, the person develops a cycle of binging followed by purging, usually in the form of vomiting. Sometimes bulimia is connected to compulsive eating disorder. Bulimics might also use laxatives to eliminate calories or over exercise to burn the calories they have consumed.
Binge Eating Disorder
With binge eating disorder, the person has cycles of binging but without the purging associated with bulimia. A person with this disorder may binge-eat on a daily basis, or have periods of normal eating interspersed with binging.
Non-Specific Eating Disorder
There is another class of eating disorder which is often called “non-specific.” In general, non-specific eating disorders tend to combine some of the food restriction and aversions of anorexia, with the binging and/or purging elements of bulimia.
Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse
One of the most dangerous aspects of eating disorders is that they become so ingrained that people will do anything to maintain them, even when they know it is killing them. In that way, the psychology of eating disorders is similar to that of addiction. In fact, people with eating disorders might also abuse drugs (both legal and illegal) in an effort to control their bodies, and maintain their illness – the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse estimates that 50 percent of people with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol.
Drugs That Support Eating Disorders
The truth is that any drug can support an eating disorder if it affects your ability to eat, or encourages purging. For example, someone who is sensitive to aspirin could take it to induce stomach pain, which would prevent her from eating. Someone who is addicted to staying slim might use a drug that suppresses the appetite. Another person might take drugs that stimulate the appetite, to encourage binging. That said, there are certain types of drugs that are abused more often than others in relation to eating disorders:
Stimulant drugs suppress the appetite, and they also energize people so they can keep going on few to no calories. A person with an eating disorder might start with a mild, over-the-counter stimulant like caffeine, nicotine, or diet pills. As the disease progresses and they need stronger stimulation, they could graduate to the stronger, illegal stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Drugs like XTC (ecstasy) provide a sense of well-being and euphoria, in addition to increased energy and a reduced appetite. Some people might even combine stimulants, such as smoking several packs of cigarettes a day while using cocaine.
Opiates, Depressants, and Sedatives
Opiates, depressants, and sedative drugs dull the senses so that people don’t feel their hunger, or much of anything else. A person might start out using alcohol, which is a depressant, opting to dull her senses with drink to avoid thinking about food. The alcohol could also provide emotional insulation, to keep her from feeling strong emotions that could lead to comfort eating. Alcohol has calories, however, and someone with anorexia might graduate to using something that doesn’t contain as many calories – such as drugs like heroin and morphine, pain killers like Oxycontin, or an anesthetic-type drug like Ketamine.
In this context, prescription drugs refers to drugs that a doctor has prescribed to the individual, not prescription-level drugs purchased illegally.
Several legal prescriptions have side effects that can support an eating disorder. For example, some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs suppress the appetite. Unfortunately, some people with eating disorders are prescribed these medications to help treat their conditions, and the drugs end up making their conditions worse.
Laxatives and Emetics
These types of drugs cause vomiting or increased bowel activity and are often used by people with purging as a component of their disease. People with binge eating disorders might also abuse laxatives because it clears the bowels, allowing them to eat more.
Treating an Eating Disorder
Treating eating disorders is very difficult. In fact, eating disorders have some of the highest relapse rates around. When drug addiction is part of the equation, it is even harder, because these are co-occurring diseases where one disease feeds into the other.
At this point, there are no cut-and-dried solutions for treating eating disorders. Counseling or therapy, and even support groups, are considered to be the most effective approach to treating eating disorders. Most therapists or counselors treating someone with an eating disorder will also work with other healthcare providers to address the patient’s dietary needs to ensure she receives the nutrition she requires during recovery and in the long term. When drug addiction is a co-occurring problem, many mental health professionals opt to address the drug addiction first, or at least get their patients through a good detox program before tackling the eating disorder. Other professionals opt to treat both conditions together.
Back when I was drinking all of the time, I saw things a bit differently than I do now. My son had food, a place to live, family, friends, and much more. He wanted for little and had everything that he needed…or so I thought.
I Was an Alcoholic: Our Life Then
I worked almost every day in order to provide for my son. We were on government welfare, and we were in an assisted living apartment complex. I made pretty good money, so there was no reason that I should have needed help paying my bills, but I just could not manage them on my own. Looking back, I now know why.
You see, I went out every night that I was not working. I would take my son to a trusted family member or friend, and then I would go out and get drunk. If I was not working at my bar job that night, I was still going there to drink. I went to the birthday parties at the bar, the friends’ nights out, and a lot of times, just to go there to hang out. I was an alcoholic, but it was worse than that. I was an alcoholic who felt the need to be around other people to drink and, because of my alcohol addiction, I was often using my bill money to pay for my drinks.
Looking Back on My Drinking Years
What I thought was good parenting, was a lie. I was lying to myself, to my friends, to my family, and even to my son. I provided everything that he needed physically, but I was not there for my son in the way that really matters. I was not tucking him in at night–something he loved. I was not taking him to the park, and he enjoyed that so much. I was not even really speaking to him, and I feel terrible about that.
Looking back, I would change it all. I realize now that I was neglecting him. His needs were not being met, and I was not being a mom who he could be proud of. Through it all, he loved me. I do not know why or how I ended up with such an amazing child, but I did, and I was missing it. I was missing all of the little things. I was missing the late night snuggles, the morning laughter, and everything else that comes along with having a child.
We Have Come So Far
We have come a long way since those times. I have realized the mistakes that I made during the years I was drinking. I now take him to the park, I take him for mommy-and-me days, and I listen to him as much as possible. I have other children now, and we are a happy family. I was lucky to find a husband who is there for me, who loves me unconditionally, and who supports me through all of my trials and errors.
My family was once broken, but we are mending. It is a struggle every single day, and I will not lie about that. Recovery is tough and I have relapsed on occasion, but my family is there to help pull me through it. To be honest, I hate that my life is still focused on alcohol. I hate that there are some days that I just want to sit down and drink a six pack. I believe that I will always have the urge to drink, but I now know that I have the power to overcome that urge. And for that, I am proud.
Cryste Harvey has battled addiction since the day she was born. From family issues to personal issues, she has seen many things, but she has taken the leap to be sober and to help inform others of the hardships, trials and tribulations associated with addiction. She is now a mother and wife, and she has vowed to help others on their road to recovery. With little to no help from her parents and siblings, she was the first person in her family to graduate high school and then continue on to college. She is currently working towards an English degree, and she hopes to become a published author.
Most of us are familiar with the term methadone and relate it to a synthetic analgesic used to help heroin addicts detox from their active heroin use. However, there is more to the methadone story than just helping heroin addicts during withdrawal from the drug.
Heroin was created in 1937 in Germany, where there was need for a pain medication similar to morphine. Its use in the U.S. began in 1947 when it was discovered that there was cross-tolerance with heroin and morphine. This gave it the beneficial role of substituting for heroin in withdrawal circumstances. Heroin withdrawal can be debilitating and the discomfort, along with flu-like symptoms, lasts for several days. Those who are in withdrawal quite often use heroin again just to stave off the debilitating side-effects of “cold turkey” withdrawal. Although they pose no real danger to the health of the user, withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable and long-lasting that users are hard pressed to remain steadfast in their attempts to stop using heroin.
Methadone Has Dual Purposes
In use throughout most of the world as an effective treatment for cancers and other pain management situations, methadone has a dual purpose; as a pain relief provider and as a component in substance abuse treatment. Initial thinking was that substituting methadone for drugs of abuse would allow addicts the opportunity to restructure habits and behaviors that came with their addiction.
Methadone a Source of Secondary Addiction
The dosage used in the U.S. for a program of substance abuse recovery, often termed “methadone maintenance,” are believed to be high enough to assist heroin addicts in permanently kicking their heroin dependency. However, there are several gaps in logic regarding the use of methadone for those who are addicted to opiates. The first is that methadone has been found to be even more habit-forming than heroin, so a new addiction may be formed. As with nearly all drugs of this type (opiates), increasing doses are necessary to maintain a life free from related withdrawal symptoms, once addiction to methadone has occurred. If doses get too high, a methadone overdose becomes a real risk.
Because the costs of methadone treatment in the U.S. are primarily paid by taxpayers through government-assisted programs, the dose used has been capped at 100 mg. Most agencies will testify that their highest doses fall far short of that number. This then creates a need (desired) in the recipient to increase his dose on his own, which may lead him back to street drugs or buying methadone from other program participants. There are also many addicts who require much higher doses than the dose provided during recovery to combat the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Some can tolerate doses over 300 mg per day. This is one of the greatest faults found with methadone treatment in the US. There is little or no end date set for these programs, meaning that the addicts being treated may become life-long recipients of a substitute drug that creates an increased need for a higher dose and a cap on the dose they can receive.
Around the world, methadone programs vary in the dose amounts used in and in how it is dispensed. Program structure notwithstanding, there is little evidence for the efficacy of methadone to stop or stem the rising numbers of opiate addicts around the world.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addiction counselor.
Most addicts will enter treatment on the heels of a crisis situation. For some, this will be personal. For others, it will be legal or financial. And some people have health crises that motivate them to get help in quitting their addictions. While most addicts believe these are reasons for using or drinking more, they are really outcomes of the behaviors of addiction.
Signs You Might Need Rehab
Those who are ready to stop the cycle of dependence, abuse and addiction frequently go into treatment or rehab. One indicator or sign that you might need rehab could be that you are having trouble at work or home because substance abuse is interfering with these relationships. Your troubles at work or home may manifest as chronic lateness to work, important appointments, and personal engagements or just skipping out on any of these altogether.
Other signs you may need rehab include:
- being hungover or high at work or during important family occasions
- saying or doing inappropriate things during these events
- co-workers, boss or family members telling you that you are drinking/using too much
Perhaps there have been legal consequences, such as getting DUI or Reckless Driving tickets, missed court appointments, or failure to pay fines, alimony or child support
Financial signs that you need rehab might include things like spending so much on partying that there is not enough money to pay rent, car payments, utilities or food.
Health issues are another common area of recognition that drugs and alcohol are a problem. If any of these are happening for you, perhaps you might consider a rehab situation.
Stumbling Towards Rehab
Most addicts will maintain their conviction that they can control the situation by stopping, slowing down or otherwise controlling their use. This is certainly the way the addicted mind works. After numerous failed attempts to quit, addicts will most often remain convinced that they are “just fine, thank you.” One of the most difficult things to do that will occur in the life of an addict will be when they finally reach the point where they will actively ask for and accept help from outside sources. At that point, they may have already paid a very high price for their addiction. Some addicts have lost jobs, significant relationships, custody and visitation rights with children, their health may be seriously compromised, and jail may be a real possibility.
When Rehab Makes Sense
Rehab makes sense for most people, because an addict has created a structure in their life that supports their use and abuse of substances. Therefore, an interruption in that structure or routine may be the necessary tool that allows them to make the behavior changes and alter the mindset of active addiction. This can be done in 30, 60 or 90 day programs. Some rehab centers offer either residential or out-patient programs to allow for other responsibilities to be maintained. While it may be a hardship for the addict to seek and receive treatment, it is usually the best route to halt the ongoing cycle of abuse and dependence.
Rehab: The Road to Recovery
Relapse will likely be a part of early recovery for most addicts. This is like learning to ride a bicycle. While some riders will be very cautious and not fall off the bike, most will have a crash or two while they are developing skills for staying upright and riding easily. Family and friends who understand recovery are helpful, but most often they have been so negatively impacted by the addict’s behavior that they are not able to be supportive. Most of time, family members have their own feelings and issues around the addiction as well. Family programs are very useful for those who have an addict in early recovery. Knowing how and when to provide support and when to stand firm are difficult navigating tools family members need to learn. Ongoing support for early recovery is essential for addiction treatment. Those who know and understand both the addiction and the recovery processes are your best bet when you are looking for help with getting treatment for a possible addiction.
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.