Podcast: Center for Courageous Living

Jeff Price

We are real excited to hear about your center and learning a little bit more about your practice. I pulled some information off the website, so I’m going to maybe read a little back to you, and you tell me if I’m in line with that. It says that your practice focuses on both addiction, stress reduction, psychotherapy and mindfulness based stress reduction. How have you taken sort of this whole spectrum of services that you’ve provided and moved it into a practice, particularly in the work that you do with addiction? I guess more specifically, some of the work that you do with addiction and maybe mindfulness based stress reduction? How do those different services all kind of relate and work together for you?

Well, the Center for Courageous Living as a business that my wife and I created, and we’ve divided up our tasks, so I do the addiction and psychotherapy and she does the stress reduction. MBSR is her thing, and we keep it pretty separate. Although when I do my addiction work, I’m a graduate of the Roper University, so mindfulness is a big part of that. What I like to do is consider a person’s level of awareness and start from there. Continue reading “Podcast: Center for Courageous Living”

When Gray Drinking Leads to Long-Term Sobriety

Gray Drinking

by: Michael Rass

Sobriety is no longer just the earnest goal of recovering alcoholics. As of late, it has also become the holy grail of so-called “gray area” drinkers.

According to former social drinker Amanda Kudo that gray area is the “place where you’re not a super-casual, once-in-a-while drinker, but you’re also not a hit-rockbottom, time-to-get-help drinker, either. You’re just there, somewhere in the middle, drinking in a way that is still deemed socially acceptable if not socially necessary.”

Or as health coach Jolene Park put it in her TED talk, “from the outside looking in, my drinking did not look problematic, but from the inside looking out, I knew, the way I was drinking was a problem for me.” Many people like Kuda and Park say they never had a real drinking problem, but they had a problem with drinking.
One of those “gray area” drinkers was British expat Ruby Warrington, currently living in Brooklyn, who— according to the New York Times—”spent her early career quaffing gratis cocktails at industry events, only to regret the groggy mornings.”

“After moving to New York in 2012, Ms. Warrington tried 12-step programs briefly but decided that ‘Ruby, alcoholic’ was not the person she saw in the mirror,” wrote Alex Williams in the Times feature about a new sobriety trend spreading across the nation. “Three years ago she started Club Soda NYC, an event series for other ‘sober curious,’ as she termed them: young professionals who were ‘kind-of-just-a-little-bit-addicted-to-booze.’”
Being “sober curious” has caught on and Warrington wrote a whole book about this latest health fad. “For these New Abstainers, sobriety is a thing to be, yes, toasted over $15 artisanal mocktails at alcohol-free nights at chic bars around the country, or at ‘sober-curious’ yoga retreats, or early-morning dance parties for those with no need to sleep off the previous night’s bender,” wrote Williams.

But there is a serious side to avoiding alcohol use, of course. It is after all an addictive substance without any health benefits that physicians would acknowledge. And while the sober-curious vogue may well be short-lived, reducing or giving up alcohol consumption is certainly laudable since it comes with all kinds of health benefits.
When Jolene Park described her alcohol use as knowing “the way I was drinking was a problem for me,” she was actually paraphrasing the first diagnostic criterion of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which reads: “Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.” And when she said in the same TED talk that she had no trouble stopping but couldn’t “stay stopped,” she was paraphrasing the second AUD criterion in the DSM-5. Two criteria (out of eleven) indicate a mild alcohol use disorder.

Park probably wasn’t aware of the DSM-5 criteria at the time but she read the warning signs correctly and realized that she was “kind-of-just-a-little-bit-addicted-to-booze.” She understood that her alcohol use could escalate further and made the right decision. She embraced sobriety.

She also realized that her alcohol use was a coping mechanism for her anxiety issues and designed a new coping strategy for herself based on connecting with nature and other people, exercise, and meditation. Park now shares this healthy approach to life with other people.

Amanda Kuda also realized that she needed to drink in order to relax. “But there was a bigger part of me that wanted to feel happy, joyful, vibrant, inspired, energized, motivated, fulfilled. Once I realized that alcohol was not only failing to contribute to those feelings, but was actually dragging me further and further away from them, I no longer wanted to drink.” Neither Park, Warrington, or Kuda sought detox or residential addiction treatment for their alcohol problem, and only Warrington briefly tried a 12step program. This low level of care for a mild or moderate alcohol use disorder may not be the right choice in all cases, though. Some patients might require an intensive outpatient program or even partial hospitalization. Only a careful assessment of the patient’s individual needs can determine the appropriate level of care.

Although none of the three “gray-drinking” women made use of a treatment program, they nevertheless realized a core principle of recovery. Stop using and change your life! Real recovery goes far beyond giving up substance misuse. It is a life-changing journey to long-term wellness that should make you feel happy, joyful, and inspired.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS STRUGGLING WITH SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER, OR YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR PROGRAMS, CALL HARMONY TODAY AT 970.432.8075 TO GET THE HELP NEEDED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

Podcast: Foundations of Hope, Health and Wellness

Lisa Love

Lisa Love, MSW, LCSW, CBIS
Therapist

 

Gina Thorne:                      Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. My name is Gina Thorne, and I’m the chief marketing officer here at Harmony. And I’m pleased today to be joined with Lisa Love, who is the owner-operator of foundations of Hope, Health, and Wellness out of Casper, Wyoming. Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa Love:                            Thank you Gina, it’s a pleasure to be here. Continue reading “Podcast: Foundations of Hope, Health and Wellness”

Podcast: Hilltop Mediation

Gina T.:                 Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Amber Hill with Hilltop Mediation, and we’re going to be talking a little bit more about mediation services. It’s one of those things that people only hear about, usually, when there’s big conflict that’s going on and, usually, it’s family conflict and so I’m sure some folks are probably curious about mediators, and why Harmony. Continue reading “Podcast: Hilltop Mediation”

Harmony Fights Opioid Epidemic with HOPE

More than two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, escalating an epidemic the CDC says “continues to worsen and evolve.” From 2016 to 2017, opioid-related overdose deaths increased 12 percent overall, surging among all age groups 15 and older.

The CDC report’s recommendations for curbing opioid-related overdose deaths include “increasing naloxone availability, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, enhancing public health and public safety partnerships, and maximizing the ability of health systems to link persons to treatment and harm-reduction services.”

Naloxone is a medication often used by first responders because it can rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain relievers.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used to decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. Medications used for the treatment of opioid use disorder are buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), methadone, and extended release naltrexone (Vivitrol). Some of these drugs are controversial in the recovery community because they are themselves opioids.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government research institute, clarifies that contrary to what some critics say, “methadone and buprenorphine DO NOT substitute one addiction for another. When someone is treated for an opioid addiction, the dosage of medication used does not get them high–it helps reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal. These medications restore balance to the brain circuits affected by addiction, allowing the patient’s brain to heal while working toward recovery.”

The use of these medications should always be combined with behavioral counseling with the ultimate aim of ceasing all substance misuse.

HOPE – Harmony’s Opioid Programming Experience

Harmony has provided all clients with medication-assisted treatment for many years. This combination of education, counseling, and the use of medication in early recovery is part of the Harmony philosophy. HOPE expands MAT to include medications that alter the physical response to opioids, reduce cravings, and give the patient time to heal from the psychological, social, and spiritual wounds of addiction.

“It’s important to remember that MAT is only a small part of the picture,” says Harmony’s medical director Christopher Reveley. “That is why we call it ‘medication-assisted’ treatment, because by itself it is not the treatment. Used alone it has a low probability of being successful.”

At Harmony, HOPE begins with thorough medical and psychological evaluations. Collaboration with the patient, members of the interdisciplinary team and, when appropriate, family and referral sources, determine the most effective treatment plan. All HOPE clients are invited to participate in weekly support groups led by a professional addiction counselor. These groups address the unique challenges of early opioid recovery, including uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, cravings, and strategies to avoid relapse. In this setting, clients support each other and are educated about the process of recovery.

Medication-assisted therapy may help stabilize the patient for these challenges in early recovery. “It gives people an opportunity to step out of the chaos of addiction and consider other ways of being,” says Dr. Reveley. “I never felt that buprenorphine was meant as a lifelong or even long-term solution.” Although there may be exceptions. It all depends on the individual needs of the patient. Reveley remembers a patient who had been on methadone for 46 years. “He tried to taper off a dozen times and relapsed to heroin use every single time. His family was initially very opposed to him being on methadone but eventually they told him ‘this is working, your life depends on it.’ So there are people on either end of the bell curve but in most cases buprenorphine is only a small but important part of the solution.”

Buprenorphine can be an important tool, especially in early recovery from opioid use disorder. The medication offers patients the opportunity to start living a “normal” life, far removed from the drug culture lifestyle they may have been immersed in while using heroin and other opioids. People are dying every day from opioid overdoses, especially in the age of the fentanyl scourge. Buprenorphine may provide the buffer that enables them to launch into sustained recovery. It is a buffer that can save people with addiction from a potentially lethal overdose.

Harmony has been treating addiction for 49 years and HOPE is now offered to all Harmony clients with opioid use disorders. The program involves enhanced medical, counseling, and case management services specifically tailored to meet these clients’ unique needs.

The Harmony care team works closely with clients who choose to include buprenorphine in their treatment strategy. This will typically involve full participation in HOPE and a recommendation for participation in Harmony’s Transitional Care Program (TCP), an intensive, 90 day intensive outpatient program coupled with monitored sober living and medication management by Harmony providers. When clinically indicated or to accommodate client preference, Harmony’s case managers may refer clients to other programs with similar services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder and needs help, call Harmony at 970-432-8075 and one of our admissions specialists can discuss next steps.

Why Recovery Needs Healing Space

Addiction is a family disease. The Recovery Book advises family members of people in recovery that “Everyone in your family, as well as other people in your lives, has been affected by addiction in some way. Now you all need to work on getting your lives back to some kind of normal.”

Michael Arnold is a recovering alcoholic who now works as an alumni relations manager at the Harmony Foundation. In a recent Facebook Live with her twin sister, Michael and Casey talked about the impact Michael’s addiction and recovery had on their relationship. Both siblings demonstrated how important clear and honest communication is for the family dynamic.

Michael talked about the need to share with “brutal honesty what addiction can do to your family.” Casey talked about how hard it was for her to watch Michael decline in active addiction, realizing there was nothing she could do, that Michael had to save herself.

Michael recalls doing things to her family that “just weren’t nice.” Casey remembers all too well. Seven years ago Michael helped to put her twin sister briefly in jail—just to hurt her. Michael was in such a bad place that to hurt her sister made her feel better.

“I never thought I could be close with Michael again, never thought I could trust her again,” Casey said. But change can happen. Recovery can work miracles. “Michael has changed. She is not the person she was seven years ago,” Casey said. “She is not that selfish person that put me in jail. She’s working very hard at it every day.”

For desperate family members the trick is to be patient and supportive. “Don’t hammer people in recovery about all the mistakes they made in active addiction” all the time. “Show your love,” Casey said. “You need to have grace and patience with them. As family members you have to give them space to recover, the harder you are on them the worse it’s going to be.”

Appealing to people in the audience who have family members with addiction, Casey said, “You have to choose either to be there and support them or walk away. You can’t live in the middle and hold their past wrongdoings against them—that doesn’t help them recover. I have nothing but complete love for Michael now and I’m just so proud of her. It’s been a journey for both of us.”

Michael shared her side of that journey. Only “when I went through rehab did I get the tools to tell myself everyday to have that patience, to be so grateful that I’m sober. I have to know that my family will trust me; that they should realize that I’m a changed person but time is not on my side.”

It’s important to remember that recovery is a process. “I thought simply that Casey and I would be okay now that I’m sober. The relationship would be fine but it wasn’t,” Michael remembers. “Casey gave me that space for about a year to recover, but then she said ‘we need to talk about what happened’ so that we can move forward.”

Casey had to tell Michael what she had done to her and “she took it hard. I love you, I forgive you, but you have to earn the trust back.” That shook Michael, “but now our relationship is even stronger because you have to be able to open up about these things or they will simply fester.”

Making amends is an ongoing process for Michael now and Casey knows it. “Michael is ruthless and relentless about her recovery—she has even written a book about it. She is working hard every single day and that is all you can ask.”