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.”
by Walt Hester
I came into recovery, like so many, with extremely low self-esteem. The joke in recovery is that I didn’t think much of myself, but I was all I thought of. While I entered my 12-step fellowship immediately, it took me years to realize that one good habit I brought with me would serve me and my recovery for years to come.
The founder of The Phoenix, Scott Strode, states that something happens when we partake in athletic endeavors early in recovery. As we begin achieving goals, our self-esteem improves. As this happens, our identity shifts. We are no longer defined by the substance or disease that nearly killed us. We are no longer addicts. We become people in recovery; Survivors.
This is not an automatic event, not a switch that is thrown. This attitude takes time. It also takes more than movement. Exercise is not a replacement for the 12 Steps or therapy. Exercise is an adjunct, another tool in our recover toolbox. This, as it turns out, is something with which most addicts, in recovery or not, can identify; if one is good, more is better.
Exercise can by meditative. When one is hanging off of a rock face, forearms pumped, grip wavering, all one thinks of is the next handhold. The same is true with swimming or cycling or running. Just get through the next movement. This keeps us in the here and now in ways that we had not been capable of in the past. We don’t worry about the mistakes of the past or the mysteries of the future.
Similarly, movement can be a form of prayer. Perhaps there is an issue, a problem or challenge that I will take onto the bike during a long ride or even a walk with my family. The movement seems to lubricate those parts of my mind that help me solve the issue. I could explain the science, but then you would click on to something, anything, else. Just trust me on this.
Movement, exercise, athletics, can also promote fellowship. Many addicts, myself included, isolated in the latter stages of the disease. Shame and resentment drove me away from family and friends. Like the 12-Step programs, finding groups of like-minded people to share this experience helps us to break out of that isolation. We build friendships instead of walls. We relearn how to be a part of a community, instead of a part from. This promotes that sense of belonging that we craved but seemed incapable of before. It also begins to promote accountability. Like exercise, if one feels obligated to show up, one is more likely to follow through.
Exercise improves the bodies and brains of people recovering from addiction. It is also so much more. Our minds clear and our spirits are lifted as we lift more, run faster and climb higher. We feel better about ourselves as we encourage others to reach their goals. It’s another recovery tool. We can never have too much of that.
Those in early recovery have taken a monumental step towards a better way of life. Leaving a life of addiction behind is one of the best decisions an individual can make, and their lives are certainly better in recovery. However, a strange phenomenon can occur in recovery that causes a person to miss, or grieve over, their prior addictions.
It is understandable that a person very early in recovery might feel this way. They are newly sober, and have yet to truly experience a life of recovery. This line of thinking can also be present to those further along the recovery path. Why would a person that has experienced a better way of life grieve over an inferior way of life?
The primary reason is that recovery is real. The life of addiction is many times romanticized, and the good parts of the old life are highlighted while the bad parts are forgotten. “Freedom” is replaced by responsibility, and old memories are skewed and thought of as better than they really were. Using buddies are remembered as loyal friends, drug seeking as adventures, and day-to-day life as carefree.
Individuals, deep down, are aware these thoughts weren’t the reality in addiction. If they were brutally honest, they’d say the “freedom” was the exact opposite, using buddies took advantage of them, drug seeking stole time from their lives, and life was anything but carefree. Addicts are aware of the realities of their addictions, but chose to entertain a false truth from time to time.
Allowing the thought process to go down this road can be deadly or beneficial, depending on the type of support system the individual has in their lives. If the correct support is there, this line of thinking can be analyzed to discover why it’s entertained in the first place. This can be an extremely beneficial exercise, and reveal much about a person’s makeup. Without the correct support system, the person may never be pulled back to a healthy way of thinking. They may venture so far into the fantasy that they chose to pursue the old way of life and relapse.
Having a proper support system is of the utmost importance in all stages of recovery. These fantasy thoughts are typical, and having others around you to talk truth is vital. A residential treatment center is appropriate for those brand new to recovery. These thoughts can occur more frequently in early recovery, and a greater level of support is needed. The appropriate level of support never tapers off, it simply changes. Outpatient or Aftercare services are appropriate after treatment, and a presence in the recovery community will be appropriate the rest of your life. The further you go down the recovery path, the more you are able to provide the support you need for yourself. You will become able to bring yourself back to reality, and know to seek help when you can’t. Eventually the script will be flipped, and you will help teach others of the realities of their addictions.
Harmony Foundation provides the recovery support needed during treatment, and for the rest of your life. The road to recovery begins here.
Individuals in active addiction frequently have an impaired ability to fully realize the damage their substance abuse is causing to their lives. They also typically can’t fully realize the toll their addiction is taking on the lives of others around them. More often than not, any consequences stemming from their addiction are given a pass. Losing a job, relationship, or financial security while in addiction is contributed to anyone and anything besides the substance abuse. A common opinion on this occurrence is that addicts contribute problems in their everyday lives to things other than their addictions in order to justify continued use.
A recent study suggests the misdirection of fault addicts place on the source of their problems may not be entirely voluntary. The study measured the brain activity of cocaine users and sober individuals while playing a simple gambling game. The results showed that the cocaine using subjects had significantly impaired loss prediction signaling, a signal a nerve sends the brain to regulate dopamine. This signaling occurs to alert the individual that the act produced an unfavorable outcome, and should be avoided in the future.
The study further proves that the disease of addiction physically, mentally, and emotionally affects addicts in forms that are deeper than they appear to the outside world. While those around the addict, who don’t suffer from addiction, see the addict’s decision making as poor judgment, the study indicates what is occurring is a loss of ability to make sound choices. While in the grips of addiction, an addict has a severely dulled sense of the harm they are causing to their lives.
To improve this dulled sense of consequences takes time. An inpatient addiction treatment program, incorporating the 12 Steps, provides the time, setting, and teachings necessary to help addicts fully realize the damage their addictions have caused. This not only allows the individual to stop the damage being done, but also teaches them the steps necessary to repair some of the damage.
If you or a loved one have an addiction that is causing negative consequences to lives, Harmony Foundation provides treatment programs that teach the methods necessary to stop these consequences. If you suffer from addiction, and are interested in reversing the trajectory of your life, contact us to learn more about the solution.
In our previous blog post we wrote about how the holiday season can be stressful for those in active addiction who may isolate from family or, alternatively, may regret their actions during family get togethers while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
This time of year can also bring extra stresses for those in early recovery. Examples of this stress include being emotionally triggered from unresolved family issues or from the presence of alcohol at holiday parties. Family members and closed loved ones elicit deep emotions, which are likely to come out during the holidays because of the frequency or duration of family time. These emotions can become further complicated when experienced in the presence of alcohol. Holidays often provide the first big test to those in recovery- testing their resolve to stay sober while experiencing strong emotions. This becomes an even bigger test when access to alcohol is thrown into the mix.
Another stress faced by those in early recovery are the expectations that abound, beginning with self-imposed expectations. Some may experience negative emotions and may get into their character defects when with family. This may be a departure from their normal sense of elation and being on the “pink cloud” of early recovery, so they may feel they have failed somewhat in their recovery process.
There are also the expectations of close family members and friends. Those newly sober feel that their parents or spouses expect them to be healed after addiction treatment and they grow worrisome at any sign of imperfection, like being in a bad mood. Their auto response is often concern that the recovering addict may be using again. Others may expect those in early recovery to apologize for their past actions because they have seen on TV, for example, that amends is part of recovery, even if the person is not ready to do the 9th step.
These are all variations on the same theme, that holidays provide challenges for those in early recovery in many forms. The positive element is that they are healthy challenges and getting through them sober strengthens one’s recovery and faith in the recovery process.
This is where true recovery begins, and the newly sober need to harness the tools they learned in treatment, including relapse prevention techniques and 12 step principals and fellowship to face their emotions and situations in stride with grace – realizing that is it progress, not perfection.
The Internet is involved in nearly every aspect of American’s lives these days. Banking, communication, research, and navigation are all done primarily on the Internet. With the popularity of the World Wide Web growing, it was only a matter of time before it started to leak into the world of drug addiction.
Buying prescription drugs on the Internet is hardly a new thing. Individuals have bought painkillers and other drugs from shady pharmacies online for years. After several crackdowns on online pharmacies, dealers have needed to find new means of getting substances to addicts online.
The vast majority of the illegal drug trading online today is done on what is known as the Deep Web. This is the portion of the Internet that is not discoverable by search engines. The Surface web refers to the Internet that the majority of people use. Search engines index the Surface web, and these websites are discoverable using search engines like Google or Bing. The Deep Web has been estimated to be 4,000-5,000 times larger than the Surface Web. It is here where addicts meet a dealer and order their drug of choice. Chinese criminals seem to be at the forefront, or at least heavily involved with the illegal Internet drug trade, using bit coins as currency to facilitate the trading, and operate from both Mainland China and Hong Kong.
While in active addiction, addicts became masterminds in the art of procuring their drugs of choice. It used to be that the best way to get someone clean was to keep them contained – in a lockdown facility to prevent them from drug seeking behavior. Addicts are told to stay away from people, places and things related to their addiction.
Since drugs are accessible everywhere now, including the web, recovery has to be all encompassing. It may have been an addict’s thought that changing locations and “starting fresh” would be sufficient to beat addiction. Running away from addiction is no longer an option. Availability and therefore temptation is stronger than ever, and addicts need to have the tools necessary to face these temptations.
The recovery program at Harmony Foundation provides the tools to combat these inevitable temptations – including group and individual counseling, 12 step support meetings, aftercare, alumni support and highly credentialed addiction therapists to help addicts sobriety have staying power, even when faced with explicit opportunities to fall prey to temptations.
In most people’s first 12 step recovery meeting they get a glimpse of who an addict really is; who they really are. They hear their fellows describe their feelings and thought processes around not only drinking or drug abuse but also everyday situations and life in general. Through this process many find they share that others have had some form of depression prior to alcohol or drug abuse.
A recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that depression typically precedes alcoholism. The study indicates that people who are depressed as children are more likely to develop addictions when they reach adulthood. It found that those depressed in their teen years are twice as likely to start drinking alcohol than those without depression.
Other studies have shown that alcoholism causes depression – raising the classic “what came first the chicken or the egg?” question. In many cases, the two are present concurrently and when one is worked on, the other improves. Often it is the substance abuse that gets attention first and depressive symptoms improve. That is because most drugs are depressants and it is hard to clinically diagnosis someone with substances present because they skew an accurate portrayal of that person’s well being.
Here are Harmony Foundation’s residential treatment program, our clients find that their depression, anxiety or other co-occurring disorders are more manageable, improve or disappear altogether when they put down substances. By detoxing from substances and allowing the body and mind to heal through long-term recovery, addicts give themselves a fighting chance against what lies beneath their addiction, like depression.
Meditation is one of the most important tools in recovery, but many people skip this step, or feel they don’t have time for it.
When we meditate, we can relieve some of the stresses in our lives. Stress negatively affects our health, bodies, and minds. We become frustrated, unhappy, and impatient. Stress is also one of the main reasons people turn back to drugs or alcohol.
Taking time to meditate can save us from making a disastrous mistake. Meditation can give us balance and calm our minds. We can transform our thinking from negative to positive, disturbed to serene.
It takes practice to meditate. When I entered rehab and participated in meditation, I felt like my head was going to pop off my body. The silence and sitting still almost drove me crazy. However, after a couple of days of practice, I actually felt better and more comfortable.
When our minds are not at peace, finding happiness is almost impossible. If we train our minds to meditate, we can learn how to quiet our heads, and eventually know peace even in the most challenging times.
Many times it is hard to control our minds. Our mind is like a sheet blowing in the wind, blowing everywhere from external situations. If things go as planned for us, we are happy. If a wrench is thrown into our plans, we are instantly unhappy. Our mood fluctuates because many of us are tied to external situations.
When we train to meditate, we create inner peace, so we can eventually control our minds no matter how bad the external situation becomes. Eventually, we will become balanced, instead of constantly being pulled from happiness to sadness.
There are a plethora of ways to meditate to find peace. Of course there are the more traditional ways to meditate with breathing exercises and meditating on compassion, peace, and love, but there are also other ways to clear your mind.
I like to take a long drive. There’s something about taking a long drive that clears my head. I can just focus on the road, and clear my mind. I don’t have to talk to anyone, listen to anyone, or do anything except drive. It’s cleansing for me.
Some people recommend taking walks. Getting outside the office or house and into fresh air has healing properties.
Many people pray to their Higher Power when they meditate. The power of prayer can be extremely healing.
Journaling is an excellent way to meditate. Putting thoughts and emotions onto paper gives you more perspective. If something is bothering you, writing it down and actually seeing it in front of you can help you work it out. Writing a gratitude list is also helpful. Focusing on positive things can also change your perspective.
Yoga or exercise is also a great way to rid yourself of negative feelings. Exercising produces serotonin, a chemical responsible for mood balance.
I also meditate through cleaning. I always feel better after spending a few hours cleaning my home. I feel like my mind is cleansed as well as my home. There’s something about sitting in a clean house that is especially healing for me.
Meditation and prayer ties into the 11th step in Alcoholics Anonymous. The step tells us, “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Prayer can take many forms. If you are not comfortable with “God” in the dominant religious sense, don’t let that throw you off. “God” can be defined as your Higher Power, whatever you choose that to be.
You can pray to your Higher Power by asking for guidance, speaking out loud to Him or Her, or just expressing gratitude for living today.
Here at Harmony Foundation, we believe in the 12 Steps of recovery. If you are ready to start a new life and find peace in a life of sobriety, our treatment center is the perfect place for you. We have been successful in helping many people live 100% addiction free lives.
HALT is something we hear in AA meetings, telling us to stop and take a look at what’s going on with our minds and bodies. HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These are all thing we need to be aware of because it can throw a wrench in our day, or program of recovery.
H is for hunger. When we’re hungry, we cannot think straight. We are irritable, quick to fight, and it negatively affects our mood. A spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, Marjorie Nola explains, “when [blood sugar] is low, the hypothalamus is triggered and levels of several hormones such as growth hormone, leptin, and ghrelin are affected. This imbalance then causes a shift in neurotransmitters and suppresses serotonin receptors.”
When we aren’t producing enough serotonin, mood swings will surely arise. Frustration and anger usually follow. Eat a healthy snack, and healthy meals. Try to stay away from fatty or sugary snacks, and you’ll feel better throughout the day.
A for anger comes next. Anger is also something important to look out for. When we’re angry, we certainly don’t think clearly. We may say or do things that are mean, or inappropriate. Words spoken in anger cause pain and hurt. When we are in a program of recovery, we all strive not to induce any pain on others.
If we can stop ourselves before acting out in anger, real personal growth and development will follow. We will feel proud of ourselves and see a different person than we were when we were using.
L for loneliness can be scary sometimes. When we feel lonely, we feel like no one is there to support or understand us. Many times we turned to drugs or alcohol to fill the void of loneliness. When we enter the program of recovery, we learn we are never alone.
Most AA meeting will have a phone list on the literature table with the names and numbers of people who will be glad to talk to you or meet up with you. Every person in those meetings has walked a similar path, so they have a deeper understanding of what you’re going through. If you’re feeling lonely, pick up the phone and make a call.
T for tired. When we’re tired, we feel overwhelmed, irritable, and exhausted. Even the smallest task can seem impossible. It’s important we take care of ourselves and look out for our health. Get a good nights sleep. Meditate on a regular basis. Take a nap if it’s possible. It’s not selfish to take a break for yourself, it’s necessary.
When you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, it’s time to stop, and take care of yourself. Make sure you’re giving your mind and body what it needs. If you are self medicating through drugs and alcohol, checking into our Colorado based substance abuse treatment center is a great idea. Harmony Foundation is a safe place where you can find recovery and learn to live a healthy life free from addiction.