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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Personal Thoughts, Stories & Reflections From People In Early Recovery: Part 5

recovery reflections
Client A

Growing up

Growing up taught
Taught me to stay quite
And apologize for
Everything
Growing up taught
Taught me hide me tears
And put others over
Yourself
Growing up taught
Taught me..
Lies
Treatment
Treatment showed me
Me I can express
All emotions
Treatment showed me
Me the…
Truth

Client C

Acceptance 

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today
This doesn’t mean all my problems will go away
If I remember this, my life will be okay
When struggling, the acceptance prayer is what I’ll say

Client H

Canyon has taught me how to love myself. I have truly redefined my definition of beauty. Being around all these strong beautiful women has impacted my life for the better. I’m learning how to see the beauty in everything no matter how small.

Client K

Yesterday was my 6 months clean and sober and I have never been more proud of myself. This is my first attempt at sobriety and the journey has been such a blessing to me. I am finally learning to love myself and am grateful to have my Higher Power carry me through it all. Life is beautiful. My past, all the struggles, and all of my experiences have lead me to this moment and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Client K

Self Love 

I love myself today
Self love is important
Without loving myself I would be in a very dark hole
I haven’t told myself I love myself since I was 12 and now I am 19
It’s a great day to be alive when I love myself
I couldn’t have done it without people loving me until I love myself
I LOVE MYSELF
AND I WILL LOVE YOU UNTIL YOU LOVE YOURSELF

Client L

I was so scared when I came to recovery but I have met the most wonderful people here. They have made the adjustment here so much easier than it would have been. They are a family and they have let me be a part of it and that means more to me than anything.

Client M

I used to tell myself that nobody loved me, I wasn’t worthy, and that my voice didn’t matter. I lived in a world full of doubt and pain. My mind would race with thoughts of self- judgment, fear, and chaos. Today, I have been reborn. I am a new woman, full of hope, joy, and serenity. I owe all of the credit to sobriety. I look forward to the future, knowing that I am intelligent, beautiful, and that I can do anything that I set my mind to. Today, I have many friends who genuinely love me for who I am, not for what I have. It’s amazing, all of the gifts that sobriety has given me. My higher power, my friends and family, and the program keep me on the right track every single day. I have to use all of the knowledge I’ve learned in sobriety daily, to keep moving in the right direction, and to grow closer with my higher power. My heart is full of gratitude, and I am truly blessed to have the life that I do.

Client T

One of my most favorite quotes is “In the depths of winter I found an invincible summer.”

This is so true about my recovery. When I got to CCR 5 months ago I was living in pure darkness. Nothing was ok, I had no hope, no self love, no compassion for others, and I basically didn’t want to live. The recovery I have found here is second to none. none of the latter is true today. I live my life in light. I love being of service and engaging in life as much as possible. I never ever want to live the way I was in my past. CCR has shown me another way. I owe them my life!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Personal Thoughts, Stories & Reflections From People In Early Recovery: Part 4

thoughts early sobrietyClient A

Ever since I was a young girl I always looked for out-side esteem; since entering recovery I finally realized how to build true self-esteem. Out-side Esteem was one of my biggest downfalls. I never truly felt happy unless I was getting praise from others. Even at my old job I would only feel worthy because I am helping others as a cook; but I would go home and still be judgmental about my writing or project. True self-esteem means for me the ability to be curious, creative and accept everyone’s uniqueness throughout life. My quote to remember this is “remember our mind is like a garden and our thoughts and ideas are the seeds, you can either grow flowers or weeds” thinking of this quote makes me remember no garden is the same they all have their own unique qualities some have roses some have daisies, some have fountains and others do not but what we must remember is that all gardens can grow weeds (we all can have negative thoughts) but some just don’t show.

Client C

Progress 

I had no hope in myself
Thought I was as good as I could get
Didn’t think twice about my health
Felt like I was caught in a net
Now I'm sober and clean
I’m able to do great things
I’m proud to show myself, to be seen
I’m growing up, spreading my wings
I can do this, I know I can
I flew through hell, and now I can land

- A recovering meth addict

Client H

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,
Man I hate when I have a frown.
Moments when I do, I walk around town.
I look around at the people, cars and trees,
Enjoying this new life; free.
Living new and strong,
No longer doing the same wrongs.
Thank God my life will be long.

Client J

I have been struggling this week. I feel like I have grown more distant from my higher power. Things are becoming more difficult and I am feeling more and more discouraged. I am hoping that things will turn around and that I will go back to feeling spiritually connected. This of course will require me to become more open and surrender my life to something that I hope can help me. Hopefully the upcoming weeks will be better.

Client K

I am coming to the realization that I am not only triggered by alcohol but I am absolutely terrified of it. Thinking of how my disease affected my life makes me feel absolutely miserable. Thinking of how powerless I am over alcohol makes me feel weak. I know that this realization will only make me grow stronger and make me look at my disease in ways that I have yet to discover. Recovery is tough, but hey.. So am I.

One day at a time.

Client K

I’m healing. Slowly but surely. I’ve got my sponsor and call her every day. I go to my meetings and share as much as I can. I have a home group. I do what I can to help clean up after meetings and help set up. Recovery and service work has helped me so many ways. It helps me stay sober and serine. I am happy now and have a clear head on my shoulders. I surround myself with other people in recovery. Having friends in recovery makes me not feel alone and an outsider. Normies don’t quite understand, they don’t understand that I have a different way of life. A sober way of life.

Client M

Growing Pains

The earth crumbles beneath my feet
I burn alive falling to ashes
Becoming the soil that will grow life
Then the flowers begin to rise from my pores
Searching for the sun
B L O O M I N G

Client M

Run, Run, Run
Physically, emotionally and mentally
I pack a bag where ever I go
Full of hidden resentments and fear
Just in case
That one day comes
Full of fear
I’ll be prepared to disappear
But this isn’t living life at all
Always stuck to something
Not wanting to face the pain
Always ending up in the same place that I ran from
In the end, I was only running from myself
I’m stuck with me where ever I go
No matter what I do
I’m willing to be free today
I’m setting my heart on fire
I’m taking my power back
No more escaping
No more running
I’m free

Client S 

Dear God,

I worship you through being in nature. I feel connected to you when I’m in your creation. I need you to love me and be by my side so I don’t feel alone. I need help to block out the thoughts of hurting myself and for you to take them away from me. I want to be willing to believe in you an believe in your plan for me and my life. When I talk to you I want to be able to hear you answer me. I want to feel as if my needs are important enough to be asked for. I want to surrender my will to you and trust in you. And when my thoughts take over I want to pray to you to take them away. I want to be able to feel your presence every time I walk outside. My life has become a mess and I can’t get it together on my own so I ask you for help. Help me to see the bigger picture and understand the plan you have for me.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Changing Behaviors

changing behaviorsAchieving lasting and sustainable behavioral change when recovering from addiction is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of treating chemical dependency. Most individuals who are challenged to change long standing habits and choices are often resistant and terrified at the thought of change. When attempting to support an individual in initiating behavioral changes we tend to see a predictable series of stages that one moves through as part of his or her process of change. These stages are described in more detail below:



Stage 1: Pre-contemplation

Individuals in this first stage may have some awareness of the negative consequences related to their addiction, however they tend to minimize or rationalize poor choices, unable to see just how detrimental these choices and behaviors have been. During this stage there is not a high level of desire to make any changes, and the individual may not be entirely conscious of the severity of his or her condition.

Stage 2: Contemplation 

As individuals move in to the second phase, the contemplation stage, they become more aware of the impact of their addictive behaviors, yet they may remain ambivalent about putting forth the effort to change. The individual may start to consider changing “someday” but are not quite ready to commit to true change.

When the individual moves toward stage three, they gradually become aware that changing their behaviors outweigh the costs of not changing. At this point, behavioral change becomes a possibility and is given serious consideration.

Stage 3: Preparation 

At this stage the individual begins to assume more responsibility for their choices, decisions, and behaviors. They may set specific intentions to change and begin to gather the necessary resources that will assist them in making important changes. Sometimes these resources take the form of therapeutic support, 12 step meetings or other sober based fellowships. At this point, with resources available, the individual feels prepared to make a commitment to change.

Stage 4: Action 

In stage four, the individual begins to take action to initiate positive psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical change by immersing themselves in their recovery process. This involves much more than abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It is an entire transformation of cognitions, behaviors, and one’s general approach to life’s challenges. During this stage, the individual continues to take action to create sustainable change in all areas of his or her life.

Stage 5: Maintenance 

Once an individual has reached the maintenance stage they have been able to sustain new and positive behavioral patterns. The individual often discovers that the more consistently they engage in new positive behaviors, the easier and more natural these behaviors become. At this point in the individual’s recovery, he or she is aware of triggers and risky situations that could lead to relapse. The core values that guide one’s recovery and relapse prevention strategies become an integrated part of the individual.

Stage 6: Termination 

At the final termination stage, the individual often presents as an entirely new person. They are able to reflect back on their past and old destructive behaviors while considering it unthinkable to return to that former lifestyle. At this stage, the individual knows that if they maintain their commitment to recovery, they can enjoy a new and fulfilling life.

It is important to note that, although these Stages of Change provide a linear and orderly way in which to view the process of recovery, it is not a simple and straightforward path. Many individuals can move back and forth through the stages, become stuck, or even relapse. When this occurs, it can an opportunity to re-set and reinforce one’s sense of determination to change.

While it is important to understand patterns of behavior and the process by which one can make sustainable behavioral changes, it is equally as important to understand the practical application of this theoretical approach to change. How does one actually change patterns of behavior that have persisted for the majority of one’s lifetime? What happens when relapse occurs? How do I maintain positive behavioral change?

Any individual considering significant behavioral changes, might start by making a list of behaviors that may constitute a pattern. It is important to begin by raising awareness and taking an honest look at the behaviors one has engaged in most of his or her life. While a necessary step, taking such an inventory can be uncomfortable and challenging, often requiring the support of others who have already been through the process.

Behavioral modification approaches help to engage individuals in substance use treatment by providing incentives for progress and ongoing abstinence, modifying unhealthy beliefs and behaviors related to drug and/or alcohol use, and increasing the individual’s coping skills to manage stressful circumstances and environmental risks that may trigger intense cravings. Intensive cognitive and behavioral modification therapies go hand in hand. One of the most common and effective interventions in treating substance use disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The cognitive aspect of this modality addresses maladaptive thoughts and core beliefs, the behavioral aspect focuses on unhealthy habits and actions. CBT helps individuals work through the thoughts, behaviors, and risky situations that contribute to their addiction and relapse risk potential.

Behavioral modification can also help people deal with negative peer influence and interpersonal conflict--two challenges that can make it extremely hard for individuals to refrain from drug and/or alcohol use. Behavioral therapy can help people practice the coping and conflict resolution skills necessary to deal with situations that could place their sobriety and/or mental health at risk.

Relapse prevention education and planning is another important part of behavioral modification therapy and behavioral change in substance use treatment. Individuals are taught to consider all types of situations that could provoke a relapse, and then the individual can practice in a therapeutic setting managing those situations. The individual is also assisted in the development and implementation of a comprehensive relapse prevention plan for when they are faced with overwhelming cravings to use, risky situations and/or people, difficult emotions, and/or any environmental cues that may heighten one’s potential for relapse.

Behavior therapy and behavioral change as viewed through the stages of change can be very effective for modifying and changing unhealthy addictive behaviors and helping suffering individuals to generally improve their lives. If you or a loved one are interested in behavior modification therapy and lasting behavioral change, seek help and support through an initial consultation with a qualified professional, therapy, and support groups. These are powerful ways in which one can begin to make important and lasting changes, ultimately allowing for the achievement of desired goals and dreams.

Marie Tueller, MEd, LPC

Monday, May 28, 2018

Personal Thoughts, Stories & Reflections From People In Early Recovery: Part 3

stories early recoveryClient A 

Growing up with Disney and Grims brothers has taught me so many lessons. Mulan taught me respect and honor. Snow white showed how being friendly and kind can change those on others. Little red with that big wolf teaches us no matter the size of the person it doesn’t define the amount of bravery inside them. A beautiful tribal princess taught us we can respect the old yet embrace the new. So many lessons but my two favorite lessons were taught two rebellious princesses one who dreamed to escape the sea and the other dreamed of seeing the world. First a curious redhead who teach us curiosity is the key to understanding something new and lastly a princess shows us love has no social class… even a princess can love a street rat.

Client J 

This week I am struggling with living in God’s will. I recently have been starting to question my God and have been less spiritually connected. I originally thought I was a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home by my mother. My sister is a devout Christian. I have been thinking that maybe Jesus is just a man who did great things. I have been thinking that maybe I believe in Judaism rather than Christianity. My sponsor has been very supportive and encouraging me to search for a religion that fits me. I am very grateful to have her and Canyon Crossing in my life.

Client K 

I have never been a very open person and have always internalized my struggles. This has caused me much pain and suffering in my addiction and has continued to cause me pain and suffering in my sobriety. I have a deeply rooted core belief that my feelings don’t matter and shy away from being open about what I’m going through and how I am feeling. I realize how dangerous this is to my recovery and how important it is that I begin opening up more. Keeping all my struggles and emotions to myself is so unhealthy and holding all of that in leads me to the bottle every single time. I am terrified of relapsing and am willing to go to any lengths to stay sober. It’s time to be vulnerable and to connect on a deeper level with the people I love by opening up to them more and showing more of myself, the good and the sad!

Client K 

I Have to Tell You 

6 minutes. That’s all the time I have. I have to tell you… 
That you are beautiful. 
That you are strong. 
That you are worth it. 
That you can do this. 
That you can beat this disease. 
That your feelings matter. 
That you have a voice. 
That you are not your past. 
That people love and care about you. 
That you don’t have to give up. 
YOU GOT THIS! 

Client M 

My skin always felt foreign to me, like I was wearing clothes that were not mine. It did not feel like the home it was supposed to. It was a haunted house I had been locked in away in for years. I was empty and scared of who I was and what I was capable of being. It wasn’t until eighteen years later when I started to see light coming through the windows and flowers started to bloom inside of me. I am alive again.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Personal Thoughts, Stories & Reflections From People In Early Recovery: Part 2

stories early recoveryClient AJ 

When I came to Canyon Crossing I was angrier than I think than I have ever been. I was mad that I was in treatment and I was an alcoholic and drug addict. I was more scared than angry, that was the underlying emotion. I had many traumas which I had justified my use. I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and was in the delusion that he was the love of my life. I was perfectly okay with going back to my abuser. After going to EMDR therapy and finally believing that I was worth more than I had received, I became a powerhouse in my own recovery and have fought for my life here. I have been here a while, however I am willing to go to any length to say sober. I thank everyday that I came to Canyon Crossing and I thank my higher power that the staff here has given me that love. Now believe that I am loved and that I am worth it.

Client A
PAIN

I am scared because of the feeling of you. I associate everything negative in my life as you being the root cause and I run from you. Feeling emotional pain hurts to the very core of my soul and feels like I will not be able to escape you.

I try to treat you as if you don’t exist and will not get to me by building up barriers in my relationships. When you are able to seep thru a crack in that wall I have tried to numb you out with food, alcohol, drugs, work (business) or relationships. In the end you are still there.

Therefore, I would like to be able to identify and express the emotions that eventually lead up to pain in a positive way. Because of you, I have been able to make positive changes in myself. I would like to know you in not such a destructive way, but instead, as an opportunity for growth. Walking thru pain is ultimately how I find true joy!

Client B 

I found a short poem a few weeks ago, and as a worrier and someone who lives in shame about my past, it really hit home. When that feeling gets severe, I’ve been turning to it…

ONE DAY AT A TIME 

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry; two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed, we cannot erase a single word said—YESTERDAY IS GONE!

The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW with its possible burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond out immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds—but it will rise. Until it does we have no stake in tomorrow for it is yet unborn.

This leaves only one day—TODAY! Any man can fight the battle of just one day. It is only when you and I carry the burdens of those two awful eternities—YESTERDAY and TOMORROW—that we break down.

Client J

Just before Canyon Crossing Recovery I had settled into a life handicapped by a controlled substance that had taken away the things that meant most to me. My parents and family have always been my life and I had allowed myself to accept a new life without them. I always dreamed of having two or three kids close in age. After having my son, Subutex took that dream away from me and I had lied to myself believing I was fine in a life with only one child. The lies Subutex had me telling myself had me really thinking they were my own thoughts. I was content with a life that I would of said was a miserable life prior to this controlling substance. In recovery I was finally told something I truly wanted to know as true, that there is a happy healthy life without Subutex. There are no more lies. No more false contention. Only truth that I can have the life I’ve always wanted and the dreams I had can come back and be a reality.

Client K
My New Life 

I came to Prescott in February & started yet another treatment center at Viewpoint but due to changes, I came to Canyon Crossing. When I first heard the news that I was switching treatment centers, I was shocked & kind of scared but now that I am here at Canyon, I absolutely love it. I am so happy to be here surrounded by other girls that I feel truly care about me & my well being. I feel this helps me to have more motivation to move forward in my recovery & maintain my sobriety with support around me. My goal is to complete the program here at CCR & make myself & my parents proud. My parents have been surprisingly so supportive & caring throughout all this & I am beyond grateful for their support after all we have been through together.

Client R 
I Come From… 

I Come From Shakopee, Minnesota 
I Come From Peanut Butter Waffles 
I Come From You Are Pretty 
I Come From You Are Stupid 
I Come From Anything Pink With Ruffles 
I Come From In The Ocean 
I Come From The Dark Alone 
I Come From Staying Sober 
I Come From Pushing My Family Away 
I Come From 93 Days Clean 
I Come From Falling In Love 
I Come From My Grandfathers Dock In The Keys 
I Come From Just For Today 
I Come From My Scars 
I Come From My Tattoos 
I Come From In The Forest 
I Come From Promising Myself To Keep Working On Trusting 

Client T 

I WORK THESE STEPS 
THEY HELP 
IM LEARNING HOW TO LIVE 
THROUGH OPENESS AND SPIRIT IM LEARNING HOW TO GIVE 
SUCCESS IT COMES IN MANY FORMS 
SOMEDAYS I CANT BELIEVE 
WHAT LIFE HAS IN STORE FOR ME 
IM GLAD I DIDN’T LEAVE 
TODAY I TRULY LOVE MYSELF 
MORE AND MORE EACH DAY 
HEAD HELD HIGH 
I WALK THE LINE 
OF INTEGRITY AND GRACE

Friday, May 11, 2018

Personal Thoughts, Stories & Reflections From People In Early Recovery

reflections early recovery
Client C

“Triggers”

Walking down the street
Minding my own business
Me and some white substance meet
It took me back to my past, the mess
My heart drops
I want to look back
Ignore the urge, just stop
I don’t want that sack
I’m 5 months clean
Don’t throw your life away
Time to adult not act like a teen
One step at a time all through the day.

- A recovering meth addict

Client H

I can only go up from here
Never looking back
I have learned how to hack
Life and all my fears.
I love myself
More than EVER
I can now face all of life’s endeavors.

Client J

Today I feel very emotional. I miss my old life. I have been thinking about my ex-husband and my family. I spoke to a fellow client about the way I was feeling and I feel so much better. Now the feeling of sadness has gone away. Relying on your friends and speaking about your problems releases your fears and worries. If I had not had this support I would have carried around the sadness for hours, beating myself up and worrying about my past. I am thankful for the clients at Canyon Crossing and the help they have given me.

Client K

I am currently working on my 4th Step and it is really opening my eyes to how miserable I made myself. I was so comfortable in my misery and thrived on the fact that I would never be better. Having that mindset gave me the excuse to drink the way that I did for so long. Being better meant me having to make a change, and change scared the hell out of me. Looking back on it, I think I was more terrified of change and of seeking help than I was of dying. Now that I am on the other side of it, my miserable nature is no longer beneficial to me. I found myself trying to sink back into misery and internally numbing myself last week and quickly snapped out of it. Nothing about living like that makes me feel good and I am so happy that I now have the awareness and the tools to get myself back on track.

Client K

Why? You put me down a path I thought I would never take A path I tried to steer away from You took my father there You took my grandmother there You took my cousin there Why? Why did you do this? Did you think it would make us stronger? Or did you think it would kill us? Why? What were you thinking? You stole my father You killed my grandmother You are making my cousin suffer You are worrying my mother and aunt Why? Why did you do this? Well guess what… It’s time Time for me to fight you Time for me to show you whose boss Surprised? Why? Did you think you could take me? You thought wrong I’m not falling into your trap Not today buddy So let me ask you Why did you think you could win?


Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Addict's Brain

addict's brainAddiction involves intense craving, complete loss of control over the use of substances, and continued use despite adverse consequences. Decades of research has confirmed that addiction does in fact change the circuitry of the brain, first by subverting the way it registers pleasure and then by disrupting other normal drives such as learning, memory, and motivation. Although breaking the cycle of addiction is difficult, it can and is possible. With help, it is possible for the addicted brain to heal and reestablish equilibrium.

The way human beings learn to survive is based on a complex reward system that exists in the neurocircuitry of the brain. When we engage in some activity that helps our survival, like eating, having sex, exercising, etc., the brain’s limbic system alerts the brain by rewarding us for this behavior through the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that produces a sense of pleasure and reward. Since this reward feels good, we quickly learn to repeat the rewarded behavior so that we can continue to experience the sense of pleasure that it yields.

Various chemical substances (i.e. drugs and alcohol) can enter the limbic system (aka the reward center in our brains) in a variety of ways, but it is important to note that all abuseable substances cause the brain to release extremely high levels of dopamine. This release of dopamine can range anywhere from 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine the brain is typically accustomed to processing, thus resulting in the intense "rush" or "high" often experienced by users.

Because of this powerful release of dopamine and its subsequent impact on the brain's reward system, substance users’ brains learn very quickly to repeat the behavior (substance use) as it has activated the pleasure, learning, and memory centers of the brain. Substance users learn to continue and increase their use of the substance over time in the same way one learns to eat, reproduce, breath, or exercise, but even quicker and with much more intensity, since the release of dopamine is so much larger. Because the amount of dopamine released after using certain substances is so significant, the brain begins to have difficulty reestablishing a normal chemical balance after the effects of the substance wear off. This produces what we typically think of as a hangover, or in other cases withdrawal symptoms from a substance. These withdrawal symptoms can range anywhere from physical pain, depression, anxiety, confusion, convulsions, and even dangerous behavior. These symptoms can vary based on the substance, type and length of use, and quantity of use over time.

Prolonged use of a substance can actually change the physical make-up of the brain and cause the brain to stop producing as much dopamine as it normally does without the substance. This creates further withdrawal, leading to physical dependency. In other words, the addicted individual ultimately needs to use more of the substance simply to feel “normal”, thus creating a vicious cycle of addiction that can be difficult to break.

Because of this neurological learning process and growing physical dependence on a substance, the substance user becomes dependent on the drug, feeling as though he or she needs it in order to survive. As a result, the abuser loses total control over his or her use of the substance. Use of the substance becomes even more important than our most basic survival functions like eating, sleeping, breathing, and reproducing. Substance use IS survival for the addicted person due to the drastic neurological changes that have taken place in the reward, learning, and memory centers of the brain.

According to the disease model of addiction now endorsed by the American Medical Association and all other major medical and psychiatric organizations, the brain's learning and reward motivational centers become altered and reorganized. The priorities of the addicted individual become rearranged so that finding and using the substance becomes the brain’s top priority. In other words, the substance has high jacked the brain, and the addicted person is no longer in control of his or her behavior in many ways. The urge to continue using despite horrific consequences is quite literally irresistible.

The good news is that the human brain has a remarkable capacity to heal, rewire, and reestablish balance with training, support, and through learning new behaviors. With the help of treatment, therapy, support groups, in some cases psychotropic medications, while taking a holistic approach when addressing the disease of addiction, addicted individuals can and do recover. Approaches like CBT, behavioral modification, and skills training are particularly effective when helping the addict to recover while rewiring the brain to once again find balance.

Marie Tueller, MED, LPC 
 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Meditation - The Natural Drug

The research around meditation has become extensive and the scientists are finding more and more reasons why meditation helps the human race. Meditation is no longer the practice of yogi’s, Buddhist monks, and hippies. It has become the one single thing that helps people relax and feel at peace with in. The power of the brain is immense and when it is used to calm and relax an addict it is being used to heal the brain that has been abused by drugs for far too long.

A monk was put into a brain scanner and his brain waves were measured while he meditated. This experiment showed how meditation works on the brain and actually changes the way the brain reacts to stress. There are many such research experiments and neuroscience is coming up with more and more reasons why meditation helps the brain function better every day.

When we think about meditation and recovery we think of how it can help an addict stay sober. Can it help an addict stay sober? I think it can. Addicts use drugs to calm themselves and feel “normal”. Their bodies and minds are addicted to the substance that reduces their anxiety or heightens their awareness. Meditation can do both of these. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and heighten awareness.

I have used different apps and guided meditations to increase my ability to manage stress and reduce burnout. Taking time away from the stress of my day to breathe and calm my brain helps me to focus on allowing a Higher Power of my understanding to speak to me and guide my thoughts.

Meditation comes in a lot of forms. One of the things I have noticed is that in different times of my own life I have used different forms of meditations and they all have worked to help calm me and ease my stress. When I’m calm and less stressed I can show up for myself, my family, and my clients better.

I have also facilitated a guided meditation by using Tibetan singing bowls with the clients I work with. I have enjoyed watching the new experience make a difference in a person’s life and surprise a person because it helped them feel calm when they didn’t believe it would. Whenever we can use some form of meditation to teach the brain that it can have a positive experience without drugs we are increasing the addicts’ ability to stay clean and sober. We are also teaching the brain that it doesn’t need drugs to feel good. If the brain can be convinced the addict will come along too.

I recommend finding a type of meditation that works for you and giving it a try. There really is no wrong way to introduce personal meditation into your life.

Janet E. Bontrager – Primary Therapist

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Relapse Prevention


Relapse is not a sudden process that happens without warning. Most addicts and alcoholics in recovery that are at risk for relapse experience predictable and progressive warning signs that typically cause so much distress that self-medication with alcohol or drugs seems like the only option. This is often not a conscious process and can happen subtly and slowly over time. These warning signs can develop automatically and unconsciously. Since most recovering individuals have never been taught how to identify and manage relapse warning signs, they don't notice them until the pain becomes too severe to ignore.

Terence T. Gorski is internationally recognized for his contributions to Relapse Prevention Therapy. A renowned cognitive behavioral therapist, Gorski has a wide range of experience and expertise in the chemical dependency field. Through extensive research he has identified specific predictable relapse phases and how to intervene when one recognizes that he or she is on the path toward relapse.
The phases and warning signs of relapse according to Gorski include:

• RETURN OF DENIAL
• AVOIDANCE AND DEFENSIVE BEHAVIOR
• CRISIS BUILDING
• IMMOBILIZATION
• CONFUSION AND OVERREACTION
• DEPRESSION
• BEHAVIORAL LOSS OF CONTROL
• RECOGNITION OF LOSS CONTROL
• THE RELAPSE EPISODE

During the return of denial phase, the addict or alcoholic typically is unable to recognize honestly what he or she is thinking or feeling. This phase leads to avoidance and defensive behavior characterized by the individual not wanting to address anything that may lead to painful or uncomfortable emotions. As a result, he or she begins to avoid people and situations that would challenge an honest look at the self. The individual may become defensive when asked direct questions about wellbeing. Common symptoms include distortions in thinking and the beginnings of compulsive and/or impulsive behaviors. Following a period of denial and avoidance, the individual often finds him or herself building up toward a crisis situation as they begin to experience more and more life problems resulting from extreme denial and avoidance. The individual may begin to experience minor depression and have difficulty seeing realistic solutions to life problems. If left unaddressed this inevitably leads to a phase of immobilization.

During the immobilization stage, the addicted individual becomes incapable of initiating proactive action. They may be going through the motions of day to day living, but they tend to feel helpless to solve problems and may begin to spiral out of control. Thinking becomes clouded and the individual grows increasingly confused and distressed.

An inability to think rationally characterizes the next phase of confusion and overreaction. The dependent individual naturally becomes frustrated with self and others growing increasingly irritable, over reactive, and easily angered. Ultimately, the individual can sink into a depressive phase without proper help and intervention. During the depression phase, the individual may have difficulty managing simple daily routines. Thoughts of suicide, drinking, or drug use begin to arise as a means to cope with the depression. It becomes more and more difficult to ignore or hide the severity of the depression at this point. The dependent person progressively loses the ability to control behavior and regulate emotion.

Once the individual has reached the behavioral loss of control phase, he or she is unable to control behavior and continues to lack awareness of being out of control. Life becomes increasingly chaotic as problems pile up. The individual may stop attending 12 step or treatment meetings or completely reject help altogether at this stage.

Ultimately by the time the individual reaches this stage in the relapse process, their denial erodes and he or she begins to recognize the severity of the problem, how unmanageable life has become, and how little control he or she has at this point. This awareness can be incredibly painful and frightening. By this time, the individual has typically become isolated from his or her support network and may feel as though there is no one to turn to. Self-pity, thoughts of drinking and/or using, dishonesty and manipulation, and a loss of self-confidence characterize this relapse phase.

During the option reduction phase, the person tends to feel trapped and completely incapable of managing his or her life. Drug and alcohol use often seem to be the only options to manage feelings of pain and loneliness. The individual may believe that nothing can help him or her and has typically lost all behavioral control. At this point they have discontinued participation in all treatment and 12 step involvement and may be overwhelmed by resentment, loneliness, and frustration.

Ultimately, these progressive relapse phases result in a relapse episode if left unaddressed. This is when the individual begins to use alcohol or drugs again, usually struggling to regain abstinence. Feelings of shame and guilt characterize this phase when attempts to stop or control use fail. Eventually all control is lost and problems rapidly progress. 

This relapse progression can be summarized in the following way: 

THE RELAPSE SYNDROME

 INTERNAL
--Thought Impairment
--High Stress
--Emotional Impairment
--Sleep Problems
--Memory Problems
--Coordination Problems

EXTERNAL
--Denial Returns
--Crisis Building
--Avoidance and Defensiveness
--Immobilization
--Confusion and Overreaction

 LOSS OF CONTROL
--Depression
--Loss of Behavioral Control
--Recognition of Loss of Control
--Option Reduction

It is important for the dependent individual and loved ones to recognize signs and symptoms of relapse early on so that appropriate interventions can be applied. Some common warning signs and behaviors to look out for might include negative thinking, poor self-care, increased conflict, feelings of fear and anxiety, neglecting spirituality, internalizing emotion, not asking for help or listening to suggestions, isolation, complacency, and self-destructive behaviors and attitudes.

Healthy responses and interventions for these warning signs include having an established routine, engaging in positive affirmations and thought stopping techniques, utilizing conflict resolution skills and assertive communication, recognizing irrational fears, applying anxiety management techniques, having a daily spiritual routine, practicing healthy expression of wants and needs, reflecting on behaviors, taking suggestions, attending meetings and remaining involved in treatment, raising awareness of motives, and having positive rewards for successes throughout the recovery process. 

Most addicts and alcoholics in recovery will find themselves somewhere in the relapse phase process at some point in their recovery. It is important to be aware of the phases, warning signs, and common symptoms of relapse so that the individual can intervene before relapse occurs. Intervention and redirection are possible with support, awareness, and skills training. Relapse prevention planning and related therapies can help the dependent individual to recognize his or her unique relapse warning signs so that he or she can create a comprehensive plan to address each phase and related behavior. Having this knowledge and proper coping skills can empower addicts, alcoholics, and loved ones as they continue on their path toward recovery.


Marie Tueller, MEd, LPC

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Successful Recovering Addict

Success addiction recovery
Long-term sobriety is an extremely challenging thing to accomplish and maintain. Many addicts can maintain initial recovery and even stay abstinent for several months or years but ultimately relapse into old behaviors and drug use. For an addict, returning to the use of drugs is a maladaptive form of emotional coping. For a long time drugs were this individual’s solution to the pain and stress of life. It takes time and consistency to create new habits and ways of approaching the world around us. For addicts developing community and being rigorously honest in relationships is also crucial to maintaining these new rituals. A foundation in 12-step programs along with creating a new and exciting life are also factors that impact ones capability of maintaining long term sustainable recovery.

For many people taking the first step into recovery can feel like an impossible challenge. Vulnerability and open communication are not things that come naturally to someone who has been lying, and manipulating in order to get their needs met, because of this people often feel alone and lost. A helpful tool in taking that first step is attending drug and alcohol treatment. In rehabilitation facilities there is structured support and community to help the individual comfortably re-integrate into interpersonal relationships. Emotional pain and past trauma is often presents a high risk for relapse when not dealt with, in rehabilitation centers clients are offered therapy and support from licensed professionals to help them attain emotional regulation and healthy coping skills. Research shows that long-term treatment and after care have the highest success rates for maintaining sobriety. 

Creating a strong foundation in 12-step based programs is also integral to continuous and fulfilling recovery. Developing deep and committed relationships with other recovering addicts allows individuals to create community and support for themselves, which is crucial in moments of self-doubt and weakness. Addiction is a disease of silence and shame, so when people allow themselves to be vulnerable and continue to work on healthy honest communication their chances of remaining abstinent are vastly greater than when isolating. Lastly one of the most impactful ways to effect meaningful and consistent change, is for the addicts to create a new life for themselves, that they fill with creativity, relationships, hobbies and passion. A life that they love living.

Rebecca Kaplan-Rahimzadeh

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Enabling: Helping or Hurting?

Recognizing addiction in a loved one is often a painful experience frequently leaving the loved one and/or family members feeling lost and helpless. Many will turn to denial and attempt to rationalize the addict’s behavior while others will try to control and change the behavior. While these attempts to cope and “help” the addict typically stem from a genuine desire to support him or her and relieve distress, they often create more chaos and harm within relationships and the family system.

This is a common scenario in family systems and in relationships where one or more person suffers from a substance use disorder. Loved ones believe that they are helping when in fact they are enabling the addiction and ultimately causing the problem to become worse. How loved ones respond to the addict or alcoholic’s behavior is crucial in supporting their path to recovery.

Enabling can be defined as:

• Standing between a person and his or her consequences.
• Doing for someone something he or she should be doing for him or herself.
• Engaging in actions that ultimately perpetuate someone’s problematic behavior.

Families and loved ones often enable the addicts and alcoholics in their lives by:

• Getting stuck in the defenses
• Denying there is a problem
• Minimizing the problem
• Avoiding discussions about the problem
• Blaming others or lashing out with anger
• Joining in the rationalizations/justifications that their children create
• Taking over their responsibilities
• Continuing to provide financial support
• Helping to resolve legal problems
• Promising rewards for abstinence
• Suggesting a physical fitness program or a job change
• Threatening to kick them out
• Provoking arguments/nagging
• Avoiding getting help for themselves

In order to stop the cycle of enabling, it is important for not only the addict to receive help, but for families and loved ones to get their own support. Learning how to say no and set boundaries with someone who is active in an addiction is challenging and can often be frightening. Loved ones can benefit greatly from counseling, support groups, and coaching on how to practice self-care and set healthy boundaries with the addict in their lives.

Healthy functional boundaries create a system of limit setting that protects a person from being a victim and contains a person so that he/she is not offensive to others. They help to protect a person’s reality in relationships. They also allow for meaningful exchanges, healthy self-expression, and vulnerability. Addiction violates our boundary systems and requires loved ones to reestablish healthy boundaries in order to stop enabling behaviors that contribute to the chaos and harm that occurs within addicted family systems.

A healthy family with functional boundaries:

• Communicates honestly, directly and thoughtfully
• Supports and affirms one another
• Maintains trust through reliability and consistency
• Practices respect for each other and for others
• Shares a sense of order and responsibilities
• Shares leisure time and a positive sense of humor.
• Teaches traditions, values and right from wrong
• Shares attention among members in a balanced way
• Respects appropriate boundaries among each other
• Values service to others
• Is flexible under stress
• Resolves disagreements without damaging words
• As a system that is open to other people and new ideas
• Admits problems and seeks help from others
• Has a sense of optimism for the future

When working on establishing healthy functional boundaries in order to stop enabling behaviors within an alcoholic or addicted family system, it is almost always recommended that the entire family receive support and help while doing this work. Furthermore, it is important for family members to remember the “3 C’s” of addiction when breaking dysfunctional old patterns: “I didn't Cause it, I can't Cure it, and I can't Control it.” Family members and loved ones of alcoholics and addicts can practice these principles with support, coaching, and guidance. With help, it is possible to break the cycle of enabling and thereby create a foundation in recovery for the entire family unit.

Marie Tueller, MEd, LPC

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spring Cleaning: Letting Go of the Old & Bringing in the New

spring cleaning recoverySo you are not using drugs or alcohol anymore, now what? Maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol is a huge transition for addicts, however, just like addiction is much more than the drug itself, abstinence alone won’t support sobriety. The entire foundation of the diseased system must be rebuilt and the addict must under-go a social and emotional Spring Cleaning.

In active addiction, an addict’s foundation consists of people, places, and things that enable the addict to continue their use without disruption—friend’s or intimate partners they use with, dealers, places they go to pick up, places they go to get/be high, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the way they talk, the people they associate with. The addict’s foundation is also formed by the way they are in relationship to their family and loved ones—mom becomes the one they lie to, dad the one they have to avoid, sister the one who will cover for them, etc.; lying, manipulation, and lack of boundaries become second nature. All these components make up a way of living for the addict that becomes synonymous with using drugs.

In sobriety, although abstinence is the first and arguably the most important building block, all the other components of a “high” life must change in order to support a sober one. That means that new habits must be formed in all aspects of the addict’s life—social, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, physical, and emotional.

Shifts in these behaviors are embedded in most treatment programs and in the 12-step approach as well. Sober supports and A-teams are put in place to surround the addict with people who value and understand the importance of abstinence and sobriety and who can engage with the addict in engaging in sober recreational activities. The recovering addict cultivates a new relationship with their Higher Power, for some for the first time, inviting a trust in something greater than themselves into their everyday life. Environmentally, addicts are encouraged to develop relapse prevention plans which help them avoid place and things that remind them of using or, if unavoidable, develop a plan to stay safe while exposed to those triggers. Intellectually, recovering addicts radically learn how to think differently—how to challenge their negative beliefs, reality test their thoughts and implement new, strength-based ways of thinking. Addicts in early recovery also benefit from re-engaging their minds which have been sorely under stimulated during active addiction. Physically, it is important for addicts to learn how to tend to their bodies which they have caused harm to. This means learning to nourish themselves with food and finding an exercise routine that keeps their bodies engaged. And, lastly, emotionally. In order to support new recovery, addicts must learn to feel in a new way. In addiction, addict’s had a negative feeling and simply got high. In early recovery, addicts must learn how to care and soothe themselves and ask for help from those around them. Addicts do not have the luxury of “being emotionally checked out,” they must implement self-care and time to connect with their emotional internal world on a daily basis.

In early sobriety, there are a couple reminders that will help an addict make sure their foundation will be a supportive one. First one, Opposite Action. If you notice that you are about to engage in a behavior you did while in active addiction, do the opposite. If you want to isolate, call a friend. If you want to procrastinate an assignment, make an action plan. If you want to cover up a lie with another one, get honest. Chances are your addict brain has turned on and is trying to convince you your old way of doing things will be just fine. Fight it. Do the opposite.

The second thing to remember is it is a lot harder to stop doing something, than it is to start doing something new. If you find yourself stressing out about not talking to an old using friend or struggling with not eating candy—replace it with the thing you want to be doing. Call you new friend or sponsor instead. Get excited about something you want to eat that you love. The more I say “I want to stop smoking,” the more I am thinking about smoking. If I instead say to myself “I want to take care of my body. I’m going to chew this nicotine gum instead,” I allow my brain to shift toward the goal rather than the undesired behavior.

Last trick—before you make a decision in early recovery find three people you trust to tell you the truth and whose recovery or life you admire and ask them their opinion. If they are support you, move forward. If one person doesn’t, use it as a signal to stop and rethink.

The tools will help an addict as they begin to rebuild their recovery foundation from the ground up and bring in a whole new set of habits to support a new and improved life.


Carmen Cartterfield, MA