Tag: Recovery

If you are asking this question, you are probably not alone. In fact, 18 million Americans struggle with misusing alcohol or with the symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD). If you feel as though your relationship with alcohol is a problem or could become a problem, it is important to know that you are not alone. There are resources that can provide help and guide you through a recovery journey. Arming yourself with information is a good first step.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (alcohol addiction)?

There are hereditary and environmental factors to addiction, but many times the cause is not known. The following are some of the symptoms that characterize AUD.

The individual:

  • drinks more or longer than they initially intended to
  • has tried to moderate or stop drinking in the past, but has been unable to
  • spends a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking
  • experiences cravings, or strong desires to drink
  • drinks even though it interferes with home, family, work, or school responsibilities
  • drinks even though it causes trouble in their personal life
  • gives up activities or obligations that were once important, in order to drink
  • gets into situations while drinking that may be risky or cause harm
  • continues to drink even if it causes depression, anxiety, or other health problems
  • has to drink more to produce the desired effects
  • has withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

NOTE: According to the DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, showing two-three of these symptoms in the last year may indicate a mild alcohol use disorder, while showing four-five symptoms indicates a moderate AUD. Displaying six or more symptoms signifies a severe alcohol use disorder.

Who is at risk for alcohol use disorders?

Drinking alcohol in moderation can be okay for some people. This means that while they may feel the effects of alcohol consumption, they do not feel compelled to keep drinking. Moderate drinking is classified as no more than one or two drinks per day for men and women.

Using alcohol when bored, stressed, lonely, depressed, or if there is a genetic predisposition to addiction (family members with AUD), can lead to further serious problems. If you or someone you care about is drinking to get through the day, it may be time to reach out for help.

How does alcohol affect physical health?

Like any substance consumed in excess, there will likely be side effects. Alcohol may also interact negatively with prescription medications and make it difficult to diagnose other health concerns.

When drinking to excess there can be problems with:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Reduced inhibitions or risky behaviors
  • Inability to focus, impaired memory
  • Affected vision, reflexes, and coordination

Long-term effects of active addiction:

  • Impaired learning and/or brain development
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Major organ damage; increased risk for heart disease
  • Cirrhosis (chronic liver disease)
  • Cancer

How does alcohol affect mental health?

Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore, it slows down your brain and alters its chemistry. There are many effects including changes to mood, energy levels, memory, concentration, and sleep patterns.

Alcohol may also impact decision making. While drinking, a person may “do things without thinking” or say or do things they would not do or say while sober such as pushing away or hurting the people who care most about them. It can give a person courage to engage in risky situations like unsafe sexual encounters, trouble with law enforcement or getting into fights. Alcohol can contribute to life falling apart, causing withdrawal from important relationships and social situations, and even self-harm. A combination of factors along with intoxication has led to many dying by suicide.

Where do I go for help with AUD?

Talk with your primary care practitioner. There are multiple treatment options ranging from hospitalization for detox if needed, to outpatient therapy with a counselor or group, to rehabilitation or participation in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). There is also residential treatment. There are even medications that can provide support for building a sober life.

Lastly, there are many recovery communities like AA, Smart Recovery, and Women for Sobriety that provide support and assistance in learning how to live a healthy, sober life.

sources: healthline.com, headspace.org, recoverycentersofamerica.com, cdc.org, apibhs.com

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I do this work because I wish I had had someone who helped me when my child was young. It is hard to parent a child who struggles, it can be isolating. To have had someone who understood the types of things that I was going through would have been invaluable. As a parent of a child with special needs, I did not have a lot of natural supports, and I want to be able to fill this need for others.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to you?
A: I can bring a different level of empathy because I have been there before. It’s one thing to give advice and connect someone with resources, but it’s another thing altogether to be able to connect based on shared experience. I can also give a behind the scenes look at services and options because I have accessed many of them myself.

“I can bring a different level of empathy because I have been there before.” – Julie P.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: My role is unique. I can do more to support and educate parents from a perspective of someone who has faced similar challenges. As a parent, the struggle continues even though my daughter is now over 18 years old.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: I am lucky to be able to do a wide variety of things in this role. For example, I spend a lot of time helping families prepare for meetings like IEPs or Family Team Meetings. I help families learn what to expect when interacting with the different systems like the courts, Child Protective Services, schools, and evaluations.

I role model parenting skills and can help talk parents through difficult situations. I also work with families to explore and encourage self-care. As caregivers, we are always thinking about what is best for those in our care and sometimes we forget to care for ourselves. I even practice self-care with clients by having a cup of tea and just talking.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: By far my favorite part is seeing those lightbulb moments. Those moments of growth when a person makes a new connection or sees a new truth. I love when a caregiver is able to see the impact of their behaviors and can successfully use their own behaviors and reactions to change the child’s behavior.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: I am a bit of a sci-fi geek so I would love to be able to travel to other dimensions. It would be interesting to see and learn to understand a world in a different way.

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I like that there is more of an overall wellness focus in this role and that treatment is focused on the whole person. I like that this program specifically looks at mental and physical health as intertwined because, as a nurse, I know that those two parts of us influence one another. Behind that is my passion for supporting those working through mental health needs. I enjoy teaching people and speaking to people in down-to-earth terms. Sometimes medical jargon gets overwhelming, and I like being the bridge that can help someone understand their medical needs.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to your role?
A: We all have different life experiences and I can bring mine to the table. I have worked in medical and mental health settings, so I am able to work within both. I can help clients navigate the healthcare system in a way that supports their mental health growth.

“I feel like I’ve done my best work when a client can hang up the phone feeling
rejuvenated and ready to tackle their goals.”
– Deb M.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: I am here to support them. I can be a resource at any stage of someone’s wellness journey. I can be an educator, a helper, or a sounding board. I follow the client’s lead and help them make wellness goals that make sense for them.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: There are many things that I can do to help. For example, I often talk with clients about their wellness goals and provide them with education to help them reach those goals. This might be talking about strategies for accessing activities to be more active or discussing small changes they can make to their daily routine to live a healthier lifestyle.

I can also help them understand what their doctors are saying. If a client is told they have a new diagnosis or need a procedure and they don’t know what it means, they can call me, and I can help explain it to them. I can’t diagnose or treat the client, but I can help them understand. I can also provide emotional support. For example, if someone is trying to quit smoking and is having a hard day, I want them to give me a call so we can talk through the craving.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: I love to communicate and interact with clients. I enjoy being a motivator and helping clients figure out how to meet their goals. I feel like I’ve done my best work when a client can hang up the phone feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle their goals.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: I would have a magic wand that could take away all of people’s worries and could fix everything. In this field, we always want to be able to help and a magic wand would come in handy. It would also be great to be able to do the dishes with one quick swish of a wand!

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I like doing peer support and I’m good at it. I like that you can just connect with people as people and you don’t have to worry about a lot of paperwork or be constantly assessing the person.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to you?
A: I can help clients by coming at them from the perspective of someone who has had my own personal experience as a client receiving services. I can connect with a person because I know a little bit about what it’s like to be in their shoes and can share my own experiences with them.

“I am non-judgmental. To me, we are just two people getting to know and support each other.”– Carly M.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about you?
A: I am non-judgmental. I look at every new person as a clean slate. I don’t know anything about them, and they don’t know anything about me. To me, we are just two people getting to know and support each other.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: I am not a clinical provider. I can connect with you as you are and have no clinical agenda. I can meet you where you are and walk you through the work you will do in services.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: What I do with a client varies based on what the client and I decide we want to do. Sometimes I will meet with a client somewhere like a park or coffee shop and we just talk. Other times I might do an activity with them in the community that we both enjoy like a walk or visiting a new place.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: I like being able to meet people where they are and help them feel supported. I like making clients feel like they are not alone. I like meeting new people and getting to know them and their stories.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: The power to fix problems at the source. Figuring out what is happening and why can be hard and life would be so much easier if we could just know where it comes from.

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This fact could not have been made clearer than in a conversation with Theresa Russell*, who agreed to talk about how heroin has touched her life.

Theresa began by handing over a list of six people’s names, their ages, and the dates of their overdoses and deaths.  She reports she is very angry right now, as the most recent death was one of her very best friends from high school.  He was 32 years old and overdosed on Nov. 1, 2015.

She explains that her anger and disbelief stem from the very first overdose in 2002.  This was the father of a high school friend.  Theresa, along with a close circle of friends, attended the funeral in 2002, and in her mind, this was the moment she knew she would never pick up opiates and heroin.  She believed her peers all felt the same.  Sadly, this was not the case.

Until society finds a way to manage the heroin issue, friends and family will continue to ask themselves, “What more could I have done?” or “Why didn’t I see that?”

The list of six people who died of drug overdoses are all connected, in some way.  Her very best female friend from high school “Jane”, has struggled with opiate addiction.  Jane’s husband was the third one on the list to die in the fall 2008.  Jane also attended the funeral in 2002.  Theresa is puzzled that after attending a funeral of someone who overdosed and died of drugs, why anyone would ever choose to use drugs?  She also wonders what makes a person walk into a room and decide that they will jab a needle into their body to get high.  What is going through their minds the first time they try heroin?  It is no secret that after the first time, people can get hooked.  

Theresa had another friend that died in the spring of 2008 from a drug overdose, who was also at the funeral in 2002…they were all there to support their friend whose father lied in the casket. 

Theresa is angry and sad about what this drug is doing to our society.  She is also angry that her dearest friend from middle school and high school years have succumbed to the lure of heavy drugs. Theresa tried to intervene early on in her friend’s addiction, but the family and her friend were in denial.  Eventually, the family saw that Theresa was correct, and that their daughter needed help. Yet this friend still struggles today with relapses. 

When we hear about people dying from drug overdoses, it is important to also remember the friends and family left suffering.  Trying to make sense of death by heroin and of the addiction itself, is often terribly difficult.  Until society finds a way to manage the heroin issue, friends and family will continue to ask themselves, “What more could I have done?” or “Why didn’t I see that?”

Like Theresa’s loved ones, addiction can take hold of anyone and everyone. Addiction does not discriminate; whether wealthy, successful, or have a family, it can disrupt the lives of anyone. If you have someone in your life who is suffering from addiction, overdose is a real possibility. Here are some steps for dealing with a loved one you believe has overdosed:

Action Plan  **

  1. Call for help. The sooner emergency medical help arrives, the sooner professional treatment for the overdose can begin.
  2. Provide first aid. Becoming familiar with first aid techniques, such as CPR, can be helpful should the situation arise.
  3. Collect important information from the scene. Are there empty pill bottles or drug paraphernalia lying around? Take them with you to the hospital or provide them to first responders so the medical staff will know exactly what they are dealing with. This will help them render the proper treatment more quickly – a process that can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
  4. Don’t judge. An overdose crisis is not the time to make judgments or accusations concerning your loved one’s addiction. While you should attempt to gain information concerning what drugs were taken and in what quantity, save your emotional commentary until after the crisis has passed.
  5. Be cautious and aware. Some drugs, especially in larger doses that can cause an overdose, can cause violence and anger. Some drugs can increase the user’s strength and tolerance for pain so drastically that they become almost super-human. Do not place yourself in physical danger to treat an overdose.

Author:  Lorrie Roberts, LADC, CCS

* Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
**Action plan courtesy of Alta Mira Recovery Programs

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In Maine, over the last 10-15 years, the rising tide of prescription painkillers abuse and other opiates based drugs (legal and illegal) has reached epidemic proportions. The abuse of alcohol and other addictive drugs like marijuana/synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine/crack, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamine also remain widespread.

As our families come together over the holiday season and we transition into the new year, it is important for us to all be aware that the devasting disease of addiction can impact all areas of an individual’s life, causing problems with family, friendships, work, school, finances, legal issues, along with physical and psychological health.

Addiction and its ripples effect cause destruction not only in the individual who abuses substances but in the lives of loved ones as well. These loved ones often experience unhealthy stress, anxiety, depression, physical sickness, and an overall diminished ability to do their best work or enjoy activities.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse/Addiction:

  • Intense cravings or urges for the drug (mental and physical)
  • Compulsion to use the drug frequently (several times a day to several times a week)
  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Irresponsible spending of money
  • Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities, and/or cutting back on social/recreational activities
  • Violating historic morals and values to hide use or by doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do (stealing, cheating, manipulating)
  • Increased risk taking behaviors
  • Continuing to use despite wanting and trying to stop
  • Experiencing psychological and/or physical withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognizing drug Abuse/Addiction in family members, friends, and co-workers:

  • Problems at work or home – frequently missing work, increased isolation, increased irritability
  • Physical health issues – lack of energy and motivation
  • Neglected appearance – lack of interest in clothing, grooming
  • Changes in behavior – exaggerated/argumentative efforts to hide or minimize use from family members, being secretive, distancing from family and friends
  • Changes in relationship with money – irresponsible spending of money, requests for money without a reasonable explanation, stealing money and valuables from others.

Help is Available:

If you or someone you know, needs assistance with addiction:

 

Author: Brian Dineen, LCPC, LADC, CCS, Outpatient Therapy Program Supervisor, Health Affiliates Maine

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For those in early recovery, it is probably not a good idea to go to a New Year’s party where there is going to be alcohol. Even those who are well established in their sobriety can find such events a challenge. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to avoid such events, and there may be a situation where you might feel as though you cannot get out of going.

For example, it may be expected as part of a job commitment. If you feel that you are at high risk of relapse then you should avoid this party no matter what the consequences.

Here are a few ideas for creating a plan to survive a New Year’s party with your sobriety intact:

Practice saying NO.

It may sound a bit odd but it can actually help to practice saying no to alcoholic drinks before the party. This can be better done with the help of somebody else in the form of role play. Some partygoers can be particularly persistent when it comes to getting other people to drink, often because they have their own alcohol demons pulling the strings. It is best to be prepared for such doggedness. In most instances, a firm no will be enough to end such questioning. Giving a longwinded answer can just lead to further questioning.

Bring a friend.

One of the best ways to survive these gatherings is to bring along another friend who is not going to be drinking alcohol. If this individual is also in recovery, then it is vital that their sobriety is well-established. Otherwise, both of these attendees could be at risk of relapse.

Take along some additional support.

It can also be helpful to take along some addiction recovery material. These days this can be discreetly done using Smartphone such as the iPhone. There are many apps available that are designed for people recovering from addiction. These include written, audio and video material.

Check ahead for drink alternatives. 

It is crucial to check ahead to make sure that there will be suitable non-alcoholic drinks available. If they are not then you will want to bring along your own favorite soft drink.

Don’t leave your drink alone. 

It is not a good idea for people in recovery to ever leave their drink unattended. There are some individuals who enjoy spiking the drinks of other people by adding alcohol to them. The person who engages in such behavior may think that they are livening up the party, but it can be devastating for people in recovery to find out that their drink has been spiked.

It’s ok to leave.

If you feel overwhelmed by the occasion, you should leave right away. You should then seek assistance and support from a sober friend or recovery group. It is best to plan an escape route before you attend.

 

Content courtesy of alcoholrehab.com

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