Reasons for Relapse and Avoiding Them

August 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Businessman wearing blue shirt drunk at desk on white backgroundRelapse (i.e., going back to using after abstaining for a length of time) happens to many people on their road to recovery and, if it does, is not a sign of failure. The National Drug Association reports the relapse rate for drug addiction to be 40 to 60 percent. People relapse and then try again. But being aware of these three signs can help you be mindful and avoid your own triggers before relapse happens.

1. Old Playgrounds and Playmates

This is a big one to put on your priority list. Even those who have been sober for years are subject to relapse if they choose to play in old playgrounds with old playmates. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term often used in AA and NA, this refers to people and places you have used with or at. It’s easy for others to say if he or she is sober to obviously avoid the crack house, but it’s not always that simple. It may mean leaving behind your best friend of 20 years. It may mean breaking up with the love of your life, if they are actively using. Changing your surroundings is a vital part of your sobriety.

2. The Pink Cloud

If you have already gotten sober, congratulations. I’m sure everyone has heard of “the pink cloud” or, more bluntly, your new drug-free beginning. The first few weeks and even months of sobriety is so exciting, new and refreshing. The feeling of getting clean successfully is quite overwhelming, in a good way, but can also be something to remain wary of. Overconfidence may be something to watch out for, as those who are overconfident can overstep their boundaries, fall back into old practices and relapse more rapidly than they ever thought. When referring to the pink cloud, it is associated with those who think they can hang out in old places or around drug or alcohol use and assume that they themselves will not use. It may sound unreal but let me tell you from experienceit is real. It’s okay to stay away from people or places because you think you might use. There is no shame in being honest with yourself.

3. Emotional and Physical Triggers

A trigger is simplistically described as something that can set you off. It may be a person, place, thing that reminds you or even drives you to use drugs or alcohol. It can be anything from seeing someone you used to get high or drunk with to even the feeling you get when listening to a song you enjoyed while using. Recognizing your triggers is a key part in your recovery, although they aren’t always easy to spot in the beginning. Some people have to immediately experience their trigger to know that they are dangerously close to a relapse. If you have attempted to get clean several times before, you may already have a general idea of what sets you off to relapse. Unfortunately for myself, that was the only way I discovered my triggers to begin with; relapsing because of them, over and over again.

Other causes for relapse can sometimes be identified as H.A.L.T hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Those feelings or states of mind are also closely associated with reasons of relapse and are extremely important to stay mindful of. Ridding the chaos in your life is a big change for many addicts but getting bored may also lead you to a relapse, so keep your interests peaked and engaged. Do not forget that addiction is a disease, just like diabetes or cancer. We take steps every day to avoid consequences caused by our disease even if they may not always be laid out in front of you.


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.

How I Got through Opiate Withdrawals

October 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


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.

Movies for Sober Inspiration

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


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.

Tips from an Insider: Getting the Best out of Rehab


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.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Life on the Outside, Blog 8


family-sillhouetteSince leaving Axis, I’ve had good days and bad days, fluctuations which I’ve now learned to accept as part of the ebb and flow of life…and my newfound recovery. In the beginning, when I left the facility, I was on a total high (no pun intended). I had all the confidence in the world I could get through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead without slipping and drinking again. I didn’t know it at the time, but they actually call that syndrome the “pink cloud”—a kind of euphoria that comes in the wake of early sobriety. Luckily, even though my pink cloud has lifted, I haven’t broken yet, but I have been tempted.

When you leave rehab you want to feel normal again, which for me meant socializing with family and friends. While Jenny is very supportive and has chosen not to drink around me (she doesn’t even keep any booze in the house anymore), I can’t really say the same for most of my old friends. It’s definitely when I’m hanging with old buddies that I find I’m faced with the most temptation. You see, most of my colleagues deal with constant stress. Not only is alcohol one way to relieve the duress, it’s also been our primary way of bonding over the years. So naturally, when I went to catch up with old my friends the other night, they ordered a round of drinks, and it quickly became clear they really didn’t get “the whole rehab thing.”

“I’m sure you can have one drink,” my friends cajoled. And for a moment there, I was tempted. Maybe I could just have one and stop? Maybe I was cured? Maybe I could drink like a gentleman after all? As these thoughts raced through my mind, thank God Jenny and Ryder popped into my head as well, reminding me about how I got into rehab in the first place. Drinking just one could open that door and take me back to the place where my addiction was in control. Where my son was scared of me and my wife couldn’t even stand to sleep in our bed. I thought of what I’d put them through and the disappointment they’d both feel if they knew I drank again. On the one hand, I don’t know if I could handle another drink; on the other, I don’t know if my family could either. The time I spent at Axis would be for nothing; my drinking could spiral out of control again and then have to start from scratch. Only this time possibly without the support of my family.

Thinking back, one drink was never enough for me. There’s a lyric from a Grateful Dead song that pretty much sums up my approach to drinking: “It takes dynamite to get me off…Too much of everything is just enough!” The only problem was, too much of everything wound up making me feel lousy. Drinking led to prescription meds, which led to more drinking, ad infinitum. I would get drunk/high and then return home in a foul mood, either angry or wanting to be alone. I learned in rehab that sometimes living in recovery means letting go of people in your life if they don’t understand or support you; relationships can change. Some might strengthen, some might break. Sitting in the restaurant with my pals the other night, I realized just how relevant that lesson was.

Returning to the table from the excursion with my racing mind, I didn’t fold to temptation. I just got up and said, “Hey guys, I gotta run—I’ll catch you later.” They ragged on me about it, but I didn’t care. I knew I had to remove myself from that situation. Instead of going straight home, I sat in my car for a while and called my sponsor. I felt weak for being tempted, but he made me realize that I had a choice and that the choice I made was spot-on. I had reached a milestone in my recovery and didn’t even know it. For a moment, I felt like I deserved an award of some kind, a medal at least. I allowed myself a smile. The fact that I’d made a choice that confirmed my commitment to living a better life was reward in itself.

From the moment I left rehab, I have been going to regular AA meetings. I welcome the reinforcement and additional support. It feels good to be around people who understand my struggle and who have words of encouragement I can relate to. It’s good to hear how others deal with temptation, and the occasional slip. It’s very valuable for me to see these “slippers” welcomed back with opens arms and to hear them express their regret for having tried once again to take control of their lives, rather than turning them over to a higher power..

Back home, I told Jenny what had happened. I thought she’d be angry that I put myself in that situation, but instead she smiled and told me how proud she was. She truly is my champion. I felt a huge burden lift off of my chest. It’s amazing how much better life can be when you’re not running around trying to hide everything from those who love you most.

To keep from falling back into my old patterns, I know it’s crucial that I use the aftercare resources given to me by Axis, including reaching out to my sponsor, attending meetings back at the facility that are geared towards alumni, and meeting with my therapist regularly.

Being around people who are drinking and using is not an environment that is set up for me to win. Who knows? Maybe after some time passes, it will be easier for me to be nonchalant about it. But right now, I don’t want to risk putting myself in that situation. I know this now. I have to continue to stay focused, and that means continuing to engage in alcohol-free activities like golf, hiking, and going to the theater/bookstore. It means spending more time with my family and friends from rehab, or friends who understand my situation. It means playing catch with Ryder, NOT playing dice with my future!

When all is said and done, I’ve had more highs than lows after getting out of rehab. Whenever I think I have to stay sober for the rest of my life, I get overwhelmed and panicky. But the cliché is true: If I take it one day at a time, it actually seems manageable. And that’s how, little by little…slowly but surely…calling upon all the gratitude, grace, and compassion I can muster…I really have gotten my life back together, and I feel happier and healthier than ever before. I’m looking forward to my future.


Blog 7: Graduation!

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Graduation! Blog 7


heart-coinHard to believe that I’m coming up on 45 days at Axis now. Looking back, it seems like a lot longer since I made that first call and spoke with Greg, the Axis admissions specialist whose own story of recovery offered the first sliver of hope I’d had in a long time. I remember him saying he’d been clean for six years and thinking at the time I’d be lucky if I could stay clean for six minutes. But here I am, nearly a month and a half clean and sober and feeling better than ever.

Not that it’s been easy. I remember sweating on the phone call, but once I got to rehab, that’s when the real hard work began. From day one, the adjustment was severe and challenging—from filling out extensive paperwork and putting all my addictive tendencies on the table, to the mental and physical hell of detox, which included body aches, chills, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, and crazy mood swings that had me questioning my sanity. Literally. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget giving up my freedom to come and go as I please, and being told when to eat and when to attend therapy sessions. More than one time, I questioned whether or not rehab was for me. But then I’d talk to my family and remember how much I had to lose if I didn’t get better. And how much I had to gain if I did. (I think my family is as big a reason as any why I agreed to stay an extra 15 days here… I couldn’t wait to see Ryder and Jenny again, but I wanted to make sure I was further along the road of recovery before going home.)

Now it’s here. My last day. It’s definitely been filled with bittersweet moments. No matter how badly I wanted to get out of here, the truth is I have come to really feel fondness for the people I’ve met. Regardless of our differences, we’ve bonded because of our addictions and have leaned on one another for support. I’ve become close to the staff at Axis too. I know I couldn’t have made as many gains as I have without the staff and all the tough but real love I received here.

During the completion ceremony I got choked up—I shouldn’t have been surprised at my rising emotion, but I was. I am so used to having a stoic veneer in my everyday life. But I was so proud that I made it through this, that I can hold my completion certificate high; it’s more than a recovery milestone, it’s a milestone in my life. Getting over an addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do—I know that now.

Everyone in our last group session coined me out. It was the perfect good-bye. They each take a coin and as they pass it around everyone says something personal about you, what you meant to them, and how you contributed to their recovery experience. Cindy, my young meth pal, and sister from another mother, said she never would’ve lasted here without my friendship and support. (Hence the aforementioned choking up.) I had no idea how much of an impact I had on my new friends and how much my devotion to my family and this program has inspired them. Inspirational sayings are also on the coin. My favorite is: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” That really hit home because it reminds me that there is still more work to be done after I leave here and I have to be up to the task.

I notice now that my graduation is also accompanied by fear. And self doubts. Will I slip back into my addiction? Can I maintain my sobriety on my own without 24-hour support? What will I do when I feel weak? Despite having great tools in place—my family’s support, AA meetings, sponsors, new friends, relapse prevention strategies, therapy, a nutritional regimen, and an exercise plan—I still wonder if I am ready to leave the safe confines of Axis and begin the next chapter of my recovery… and my life. Dillon reminds me that these doubts are normal and, in fact, healthy, because leaving rehab with too much confidence often sets someone up for failure. He’s seen it before. Bottom line is, I know I’m as ready as I ever will be. Hopeful and excited, too. As Apollo Creed said at the end of Rocky, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.” I’m determined to make this the last time I face-off with my disease—for me and my family. From now on, if troubles surface (as they always do), I will breathe, say the serenity prayer, and go to a meeting. Take that, alcoholism. Ain’t gonna be no rematch, indeed!


Blog 6: Family Support Helps

Blog 8: Life on the Outside

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Mingling with Others, Blog 3


group-therapyWhen I first get out of detox, I keep to myself and mainly stay in my room. I feel out of sorts, not knowing how I should act. I’m glad they only have private rooms here; I can’t imagine having a roommate while I’m feeling this way. It is only when I go for meals or for group sessions that I mix with other people here. I have to admit, if it weren’t for these forced encounters, I feel like I’d never get to know anyone. But now that I have, I feel blessed and grateful. And humble.

Before I got to Axis Residential, I considered drug addicts losers—weak people who became the dregs of society because they were too lazy to try and help themselves. But listening to other people’s stories and getting to know them better, I realize that everyone is someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son. These people are “normal,” just like me…normal addicts and alcoholics anyway. They love their families as much as I do; they feel guilty about ruining their lives; they want desperately to overcome the addictions that have caused them, and their loved ones, so much pain. I feel ashamed for being so judgmental. I hear their stories and can understand how certain events led to their addiction, or maybe exacerbated their condition. Others seem to have been born this way, genetically predisposed to coping with the troubles of life by shoving drugs and alcohol into their systems. I also see that because of rehab, people do turn their lives around. They do get better.  It gives me real hope.

I feel like I am making real friends here. Regardless of social status and upbringing, we understand each other and are empathetic and supportive. My closest friend is a young meth addict named Carl who in the space of one short week has become like a brother to me. I’m also beginning to realize in listening to other people’s stories, my desire for drugs and alcohol may never go away. I’m coming to grips with that and learning different coping skills on how to deal with it. But having supportive people around who understand what I’m going through helps a lot. I see people who make it—who continue to make it—and that continues to fill me with hope. Maybe someday somebody will be able to look at me and see that I’ve made it too!


Blog 2: Checking In

Blog 4: Stepping out into the Real World

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

To Stop Using Is a Choice

September 27, 2013 by  
Filed under People and Culture


Selection concept“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

In life, there are two types of choices:

  • Primary choices which require clarity, commitment, and realization. These decisions have lasting effects, broad ramifications, and can alter our lives.
  • Secondary choices which are spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, frivolous, and with limited effects. An example is buying a magnificent pair of shoes. If your size is available, it can “make your day”, but if not, you’ll get over it.

As addicts, our number one primary choice must be recovery, which inherently assumes sobriety! Let’s break down the definitions in this choice, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Choice: “The ability, freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes (fate) or by divine intervention (God), free will, picking or deciding between 2 or more possibilities, the opportunity or power to make a decision, to select freely after consideration.”

Clarity: “The quality of being expressed, remembered, understood in a very exact way, clearly defined, easily understood.”

Commitment: “An agreement or pledge to do something in the future, the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled.”

Realization: “Follow through to the end, to complete, to bring to a conclusion.”

Throughout our lifelong recovery, we are faced with many opportunities to make responsible choices and rational decisions that will mold and shape our lives. We must be very strategic and thoughtful about our choices. Reasonable and positive choices lead to our greater wholeness as individuals, they give our identity more substance. No choice is without importance but at times we are unaware of the magnitude of the impact of our choice on our destiny. Sometimes there is no lightning strike when important decisions are made, but our future path in life becomes known silently. Consider the impact, the far-reaching ripple effects, and the consequences of each decision.

Pause and think through all of these questions before making any primary choice:

What is my goal or end result? Is my want or goal realistic and attainable? Or is it idle fantasy (setting me up for failure)? How will that result benefit me? Or will it cause me harm? How will this decision affect the future of not only me, but my loved ones, my career, my health, my financial and physical security?

Making critical primary choices are our own responsibility, no one else can make them for us. We are in control. It is our choice and we are free to be who we want to be. If we make the right choice, we contribute to the bigger plan for our life. But hindsight reveals wisdom. If we make the wrong choice, it may send us astray from our intended path, but sometimes we are given a chance to turn back and choose again. Other times, life changes in a split second as a result of a bad choice and it can never be reversed. That is why we have to be ever vigilant and forward-thinking. We face dangers, risks, and challenges daily. We can meet them fearfully with dread and doom or welcome them with pleasurable anticipation by embracing them with our spirit and relying on our faith and trust in a Higher Power to guide us. We must listen carefully to those around us and ask for support from our network of friends in the program. Sometimes our messages come to us through them. Our success and happiness are dependent on our attitude.

“A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him.” A. S.

Would you rather be with someone who finds joy and delight in small things or someone who does nothing but complain about what a mess their life is and how unfair?

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.Charles R. Swindoll

The choice is yours alone. How do you choose to live your life today for a better tomorrow?

Mal Duane is a best-selling author and personal life and recovery coach who has overcome life challenges using the steps in the Alpha Chick Process. Her personal mission is to help women excel in all areas of their lives from business to personal relationships. Mal has been featured with Fox 25 Boston Morning Show, CBS Radio, Aspire Magazine, Healthy Living and Metrowest Daily News. She has also been a featured guest on over one hundred Blogtalk Radio shows discussing recovery and personal transformation. Mal’s book, Alpha Chick, Five Steps for Moving from Pain to Power, is a best-selling book and is available on

I’m Still Sober…So Where Did the Applause Go?

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under General Topics, People and Culture


storm of applauseHearing you have three weeks to live is a very surreal experience. When you decide that you’re not ready to die, instinct kicks in and you do whatever you have to do in order to not die.

“Changing your life is actually harder than just surviving it. But when one can’t happen without the other, change is possible.”

—excerpt from Amy’s Story

And change I did. In fact, I’ve changed so much I’m unrecognizable to a lot of people, although I’m more me now than I ever was while I was drinking. (It’s a hard thought to wrap my brain around, after all who was I being when I was drinking if not me? A puzzler for sure, but it’s a puzzle for another time and another post.) It was a long hard road, the unmapped highway to this unrecognizable new me, but throughout the first two, two and a half years, it was rewarding in more than just achieving sobriety and improving my health. On a regular basis my ego was boosted with sincere and flattering compliments telling me how awesome I was. Every time I turned around someone else was hugging me fiercely, and I got used to hearing things like,

“Oh Amy, you are so brave, and we are so proud of you,””What you’re doing is amazing; you are so strong.”

“You deserve to have good things in your life after this ordeal because you are working so hard.”

I would practically beam along with them as they heaped praise on my head. Thank you, everyone. Thank you; I appreciate you noticing my tenacity, because I am working very hard, all the time, on improving my health and my life. You’re right; it’s not a walk in the park. Sobriety is tough. Yay me!

I’m not going to lie; it felt good, really good. I felt deserving, and probably a little smug, to be honest. And then I got a reality check.

As time marched on, the length of my sobriety increased and my health got better and better until one day—not all at once but as a persistent niggling in the back of my mind that wouldn’t go away—it slowly dawned on me that those special, heartfelt hugs and fierce whispers of pride and bravery had all but disappeared. Out of the blue, it seemed, the tides had turned, and I noticed people were finding fault with things I did or said, or didn’t say or didn’t do, or didn’t say loud enough or do well enough; you know, random, normal everyday peeves that irritate people were brought to my attention. I didn’t like it, not at all. I felt affronted, put out, not to mention confused.

“Ummmm, excuse me? What? Everybody? Helloooo. This is me…this is Amy. Remember how hard I’m working? Why aren’t we talking about that anymore? I’m still sober, for crying out loud. I’m brave and strong. This is a big deal. Where the hell did all of you go?”

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a result of all these life changes was getting used to the fact that not everyone likes the more-me version of Amy as well as they liked the previous one. This bothered me a great deal. Clearly, my perception about how others related to and felt about my illness and sobriety was way off base. I thought everyone loved me! I mentioned it one day to my friend, Jeff, who has been a sounding board for me since this whole ordeal started and points me in the right direction when I’m clueless about something (which is a lot) and lets me figure the rest out on my own. The truth was that once I got past the illness part of this journey, I still expected the virtual pats on the back and high fives for staying sober to continue indefinitely. It wasn’t a conscious train of thought on my part, but more a knee-jerk reaction anytime someone questioned my actions. When people criticized me, my immediate impulse was to point out, “Sure sure sure, I hear what you’re saying, but I’m still sober. Look what I’ve done; look at what I am doing. Remember when you were so thrilled I made it to six months? Well, now it’s been three long years! If you take this into consideration, you will realize your criticisms cannot possibly be valid,” when in fact many of them probably were. (I can’t say they definitely were valid because again, in all honesty, I usually wasn’t listening very closely.)

The point of this story is: Out here in the Game of Life, sobriety and the keeping of it are no less than expected. After all, millions of others manage it every day.  I erroneously believed that maintaining my sobriety means I am perceived by others as a wonderful, brave, amazingly strong and plucky individual, when all it really means is that I’m perceived as not drunk. That’s it. You get coins in AA for periods of sobriety; there are no medals for it in the real world. I needed to figure out—on my own—that I’m doing no more than what non-alcoholics do every day, and they do it without the awful past to haunt them, without the bridges burned, without the fierce hugs and murmurs of courage and awe-inspiring strength, without the accolade of a shiny new coin every month. Where is their applause? They might be wondering the same thing.

So…if you are like me and have a collection of coins at your disposal, today, try acknowledging someone who has never gotten the bear hugs and supportive whispers that he/she may have given to you, that some of us take for granted until we are set straight. It feels good, really good, when people acknowledge the work you’re doing to make a better life for yourself and your family, even if that work isn’t exciting or news worthy, even if that work is sometimes just staying afloat. I guarantee the person you choose to celebrate is long overdue.

Amy Oathout is a writer, blogger, mother of two boys, and recovering alcoholic who almost died from liver failure in 2008. She writes and rants about all aspects of life, from why men won’t ask for directions to the struggles with having an addictive personality in today’s quick-fix, instant-gratification world. She studied creative writing at the University of Cincinnati, and her blog Sober Rants in Skinny Pants is one of the top 20 sober blogs in the country.

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