Breaking The Stigma: Disease of Addiction

Addiction for a long time was stigmatized as a moral failing. Addicts and alcoholics were thought to just be bad people. Today though, we know the opposite is true. While many addict and alcoholic’s choice seem to make them bad people what they are is suffering from a disease not a lack of morals. The stigmas of addicts and alcoholics being bad people still follows them around regardless of this knowledge but it is slowly being broken.

Addiction is a Disease

In the days before addiction was considered a disease, our society was very prejudiced towards people with addictions. Addicts were seen as different and less than “normal” people. Addicts were thought to have low discipline and morals. Addicts were seen as self-centered and uncaring. They also were seen as people who were out for themselves without any regard for anyone else.

When the idea that addiction was a disease cam about, people started to realize that addicts weren’t bad people, they were actually sick people. This changed everything moving forward. Of course it wasn’t totally a good thing to hear certain people were suffering from another type of disease but it was better than being morally judged and deemed self-centered.

The Science Behind Addiction as a Disease

Drug addiction shares many features with other chronic illnesses including a tendency to run in families (genetic), an onset and course that can be influenced by environment and behavior, and the ability to respond to appropriate treatment which may or may not include long-term lifestyle changes.

You can think of addiction much like other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that addictive behaviors are influence by a person’s environment and their genetics as well as the combination of the two. While genetics plays a huge role, the environment can be just as influential.

Why Treatment is Important

Because addiction is a disease that is not only chronic but also progressive and potentially fatal is absolutely essential that those suffering with it get the help they need. Also because addiction is a disease it needs lifelong treatment which means that while a 30 day rehab is great for creating a foundation and learning tools to keep the disease at bay, something must be at work all the time in an addict’s life in order to help them stay in recovery.

Unfortunately because addiction is a disease it is also characterized by relapse. This means an addict can move backwards back into sickness or in this case using drugs or drinking. But addicts don’t have to relapse just because they have the disease. If they take the right action every day they cannot only find lifelong recovery but they can also never end up relapsing. It is a lot like a diabetic who stay really good on their diet and exercise for the rest of their life. Addiction is not a death sentence. There is hope and addicts can recover. While they may never be cured there is a better way of life out there.

Three Sobering Facts About Opiate Withdrawal

Unfortunately many people find out too late that opiate drug abuse leads to a physical dependence. And once this physical dependence from opiate drug abuse happens there is no way around experiencing the withdrawal if you want to stop. If you want to stop abusing painkillers, oxys or heroin, but are afraid of withdrawal – don’t worry. Every single one of us who is sober today has experienced that same fear.  It is okay to be afraid and it is also totally normal. You are not alone. Here are some things that may set your mind at ease about drug opiate withdrawal:

1. Opiate Withdrawal (for the most part) Won’t Kill You

Often times it may feel like you are going to die from the drug withdrawal you are experiencing when you quit using opiates. In fact, this feeling is what you are probably afraid of. No one wants to feel as crappy as they do when they stop taking drugs and alcohol. But working through these negative symptoms is absolutely essential to you taking the next step towards never feeling this way again. Any kind of drug withdrawal aside from alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal is not fatal. This means that while you may “feel” like dying, you won’t. Many people have been through this before you and many people will go through it after you. Hang on tight and surround yourself with people who will support you during this time and you have no reason to be afraid of withdrawal. If you are really terrified of withdrawal you may want to seek help from a detox center that is designed specifically for what you are going through. They will offer everything including medications to help ease the painful symptoms opiate withdrawal. If this sounds good to you, utilize it!

2. Opiate Withdrawal Doesn’t Last Very Long

When you are in the midst of detoxing from opiate drugs, it may feel like time has slowed down. You may even think that time has slowed just so you have to sit in pain even longer. This isn’t true. While the length of time it takes to withdrawal of a substance varies from person to person it usually never lasts longer than 7 days. The length of a withdrawal is really determined by what drugs, how long you were taking drugs, what method you were taking them in and your own body.

3. The light at the end of the tunnel

If you are afraid of withdrawal just think of the positives. Once you make it through this week you are going to feel better and think better. You will be able to achieve future goals, continue on with inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment, and slowly gain your life back. After withdrawal you won’t ever have to be chained to a substance again if you take the action necessary to staying sober.

 

Don’t let your fear hold you back from attaining the life you want. Being afraid of withdrawal when you are addicted to opiate drugs is a way for your drug abuse to keep you chained to the substances. Break free! Find a detox center; go to inpatient treatment; go to sober living; go to outpatient drug counseling. Give yourself the chance you deserve and finally be rid of the monkey on your back. You have the courage to do it, now it is just a matter of when!

A Complete Guide To Alcohol, Opiate and Benzo Withdrawal

So listen, withdrawal symptoms, they aren’t pleasant. I think we all already knew that. If withdrawal symptoms were manageable there wouldn’t be the innumerable amount of detoxes all over the country specifically built for dealing with them. But that isn’t what we are here to talk about; we are here to talk about the details of withdrawal symptoms. So you know you get sick when you stop taking your prescription medication, your alcohol or your painkillers–do you know why? Do you know how?

There are multiple substances that can cause withdrawal symptoms; they are basically every drug on the face on the planet, yes-even alcohol. In fact, alcohol produces some of the worst withdrawal symptoms ever–so bad in fact that they can be potentially fatal depending on their severity. So what is going on in your body to cause this reaction? It isn’t a coincidence that you get super sick when you stop using substances; your body is reacting, sometimes violently.

Here is a breakdown of the withdrawal symptoms for the major substances and why they happen:

Alcohol Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms

What does it do?

  • Slows down thoughts, reflexes and actions
  • Altered perception
  • Mood-altering
  • Disinhibiting

Effects On Your Body:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Inflammatory to the GI tract
  • Neuropathy
  • Psychological disorders

The Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Hallucinations, delirium
  • Tremors
  • Heart attacks, strokes
  • Can be life-threatening

How and Why?

Heavy, prolonged drinking — especially excessive daily drinking — disrupts the brain’s neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that transmit messages. When heavy drinkers suddenly stop or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, the neurotransmitters previously suppressed by alcohol are no longer suppressed. They rebound, resulting in a phenomenon known as brain hyper-excitability. So, the effects associated with alcohol withdrawal — anxiety, irritability, agitation, tremors, seizures, and DTs — are the opposite of those associated with alcohol consumption.

Benzodiaepine: Xanax, Librium, Klonopin Etc. Effects and Withdrawal

What do they do?

  • No interest in doing normal things
  • Confusion, dizziness, poor short term memory
  • Mood swings
  • Poor judgment
  • Altered perception
  • Visual changes
  • Danger operating machinery due to drowsiness

Effects to Your Body:

  • OD (overdose) signs may include nervous system changes, decreased vital signs, cold/clammy skin, bluish lips
  • Crankiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Bad dreams
  • Loss of libido; sexual dysfunction
  • Skin rashes
  • Weight gain
  • Menstrual problems
  • Depression

The Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Feeling nervous/tense
  • Confusion/depression
  • Fear, paranoia
  • Anxiety, panic
  • Changed senses
  • Shaking
  • Pain, stiffness, muscle aches, spasms
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleep difficulties

How and Why?

Benzodiazepines make you feel relaxed by chemically inducing a reaction in your brain that makes you feel calm and relaxed. The medication makes it so your brain doesn’t need its own relaxing chemicals, essentially shutting down the GABA transmitters in your brain that make you feel relaxed and calm–your brain uses the meds instead. When people take any kind of benzodiazepine the body essentially shuts down its own GABA production and then the body has very limited ability to feel calm or relaxed. If the person stops taking their benzodiazepine, or even starts weaning off, they will feel severe anxiety and restlessness until their body can start producing its own chemicals again.

Opiates (Opium, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Heroin, Morphine, Oxycodone, Codeine, Methadone, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Percodan) – Effects and Withdrawal

What do they do?

  • Damage to internal organs after long-term use
  • Depression of body processes and central nervous system
  • Cognitive decline

Effects on the body:

  • Strong psychic dependence; high risk of cross-addiction
  • Intense cravings
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Drowsiness, tiredness
  • Decreased libido
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness, coma
  • Confusion, clouding of mental function
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Reduced vision

The Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Extremely uncomfortable/frightening
  • Recurring symptoms over a longer period of time than other detox because removal is more gradual
  • Sweats, chills, tremors, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, kicks, insomnia

How and why?

Opiates are created to resemble natural chemicals in the brain that have binding sites called “opiate receptors.”

There are three major areas that are affected by opiates:

  • The brainstem, which controls functions like breathing and heartbeat. Opiates may affect this part of the body by slowing breathing or reducing coughing.
  • The limbic system, which controls emotions. Opiates may act on this part of the body to create feelings of pleasure or relaxation.
  • The spinal cord, which sends messages from the brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. In this part of the body, opiates work to reduce pain.

Prolonged use of these drugs changes the way nerve receptors work in the brain, and these receptors become dependent upon the drug to function.  Once the drug is stopped all these parts of the brain and receptors begin to freak out essentially.

So there you have it. We just went over the top three for now.

The Truth About Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol. It’s socially acceptable. It is something most of the world has done well before the legal drinking age here in the United States. Commercials of the stuff are on TV and they promise so much. They promise clubs, beautiful women, glitter, and gold.

But the truth looks nothing like that.

The truth is alcohol can be ugly. Alcohol is the snake in the grass. It is the one substance that creeps up on you. Alcoholics probably, after a certain point, can see it coming, but they can’t picture the way that alcohol will become a part of them. Physically (penetrating every cell), emotionally, and spiritually. Their liquid courage, their social lubricant, their comfort after a long day suddenly becomes the thing that is killing them quicker than anything else.

Drinking? Eventually it turns against you. It’s so captivating and so imprisoning, that for some, without the help of a hospital or a medical detox facility they are safer continuing to do the one thing that is killing them rather than stopping. What is that? Drinking.

If you are physically addicted to alcohol chances are your better off if you continue drinking rather than trying to stop on your own. Why? Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms, they can kill you.

Alcohol is a subtle foe. It is a deadly one. It is the one that asks you every morning to continue to poison yourself or risk the shakes, the sweats, the seizures and hallucinations.

This is alcohol withdrawal. And for the alcoholic, it isn’t a choice to go cold turkey–it is dangerous to go cold turkey. Get outside help.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The reality.

  • Headache – general, pulsating

You have had a hangover at some point in your life right? You know that headache? Yeah, well, imagine that times ten and it doesn’t go away no matter how much water you drink. In fact, in a cruel twist of fate, the only way that it might go away is if you start drinking again. It is your heartbeat in your head. It is your head on fire. It is a world where you wish no noise and no light exists because it just hurts.

  • Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face

It is like all of a sudden you just finished running a 5k–but all the time. You are that clammy and sweaty 16 year old holding hands with their crush. And you feel sick. And it won’t go away. You’re clammy, you’re moist, you’re sweating.

  • Nausea and Vomiting/Loss of Appetite

Oh yes nausea and vomiting. The severity varies but chances are you won’t want to eat. You can’t. Nothing sounds good anymore not even your life.

  • Insomnia, sleeping difficulty

All that stuff you did while drinking? All the texts, all the arguments, all the people you slept with, all the times you drove, every time you risked your life and your own. It comes flooding back. There is no comfort, there is no sleep. There is no escape. Tossing and turning, sweating through your sheets, too hot and too cold, mind is racing. Sleep is nearly impossible.

  • Abnormal movements

You know the string marionettes? Puppets? That’s what your limbs feel like. Your movements are twitchy and off. It is like the smooth movement or rhythm of your body has been totally thrown off.

  • Tremor of the hands

Your hands shake. Have you developed Parkinson’s? No. It is just alcohol withdrawal. You sometimes will shake so bad that you can’t even write a check.

Severe symptoms:

  • A state of confusion, hallucinations and instability of the autonomic nervous system – known as delirium tremens

This is what puts most people in the hospital. You will feel like you have gone insane and maybe you have for the time being. This is extremely dangerous and should warrant an ER visit at the least.

  • Convulsions

Seizures. These can happen at any time. One minute you can be sitting there and the next you will black out. You wake up on the ground, your head may hurt. That’s because you probably hit it real hard going into your seizure. If you haven’t seen what a seizure looks like–that is fortunate–they are scary. The whole body tenses up and just shakes. This can be fatal if it goes on for too long. Get hospitalization.

Thoughts

It is going to seem like you can’t go on. Your thoughts are going to be unclear, foggy, hazy. You wonder how something as simple as drinking managed to get you to this point. You might beat yourself up wondering how you let it get this far. Not understanding why you couldn’t just stop drinking–it hasn’t been fun in a long time so why do you keep doing it? The entire world drinks. You’ll know in your heart you are an alcoholic but you won’t want to say it out loud. Alcohol is your comfort. What will you do without it? All of these thoughts about your life and how you can’t go on without drinking will creep up.

You will know that if you keep on the way you are you will die like this, but you can’t figure out how you are supposed to live life sober. Both alternatives seem hopeless and also terrible. You are in a rock and a hard place. You don’t know which way is up or which way is down anymore. Life has become so unmanageable, how did this happen? You will hurt inside of your soul. You may feel beaten. You may feel like you have no way out, that you may have to live and die like this.

But that isn’t true.

Alcohol withdrawal is no joke. It is one of the most severe and dangerous withdrawals there is. Luckily with outside help it doesn’t have to be dangerous nor does it have to be as painful. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary in severity and they also vary in length. Chances are you won’t feel right for quite awhile if you have been drinking heavily for quite some time. But you can get through it. And you can come out on the other side sober and happy at the same time. Withdrawal is just the beginning not the end. Get help!

The Five Most Commonly Abused OTC Drugs

Is your medicine cabinet full of drugs that teenagers can abuse?  Over the counter medications, or OTC drugs, can be just as dangerous as prescriptions medications, and they are much easier to obtain.  They also tend to be less expensive which makes them more accessible to teenagers.  Abuse of OTC drugs is most common in teens between 13 and 16 years of age.  Teens are old enough to know what they are doing and old enough to understand the dangers of any kind of drug addiction.  Teens who are rifling through the medicine cabinet for options are also likely to pair over the counter medications with alcohol or illegal drugs which makes them even more dangerous.

medicine cabinet with commonly abused otc drugs

Take a look through your medicine cabinet for some of the most commonly abused OTC drugs of addiction that include:

Pain Relievers

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, more commonly known as big brands Advil and Tylenol, are very common in most medicine cabinets.  Large doses of either can cause symptoms like liver damage, kidney failure, and stomach bleeding.  When taken in large doses over a longer period of time, they can cause a heightened risk of cardiac arrest.  Teens will take a higher dose of a pain reliever trying to relieve pain faster or trying to get rid of a little bit of pain with a lot of medication.

Diet Pills

The abuse of diet pills usually starts with a teen who simply wants to lose some weight.  While this is not the greatest way for a teenager to go about losing weight, it still happens.  Over the counter diet pills can be highly addictive.  Over the years, the US Food and Drug Administration has banned some of the very dangerous stimulants that were once commonplace in diet pills such as ephedra and phenylpropanolamine.  While these ingredients are no longer included, there are other stimulants present in most diet pills including bitter orange.  Bitter orange can cause irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, insomnia, dehydration, paranoia, nervousness, and digestive problems.  Taken over a long period of time, diet pills can cause stroke, heart failure, and death.

Motion Sickness Pills

Taken in large doses, motion sickness medications can cause hallucinations and highs similar to illegal drugs purchased on the street.  Dramamine is a common motion sickness medication that can be used in this way.  The dose that would need to be taken in order to achieve a high varies because of difference in body weight and how the body will process the medication.  Extremely high doses of motion sickness pills like Dramamine can cause irregular heartbeats, liver damage, kidney damage, memory loss, abdominal pain, coma, heart attack, and death.

Pseudoephedrine

Many states have taken this effective and popular nasal decongestant off their over the counter shelves because of its use in the making of methamphetamine.  Pseudoephedrine does not have quite the abuse record that some other over the counter medications have because of the federal regulations that require is to be kept behind the pharmacy counter, purchased in limited quantities, and purchased only if the purchaser has valid ID.  However, if these requirements are met, pseudoephedrine can be purchased over the counter in most places.  Because of its stimulant properties, it has been used for reasons other than nasal decongestion such as weight loss and hyperawareness.  However, it causes irregular heartbeats, palpitations, and heart attacks.  When taken over a longer period of time, it can cause episodes of paranoid psychosis.

Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in most over the counter cough and cold medications such as NyQuil and Robitussin.  Because of the alcohol content in many of the liquid versions of these medications, many teens have abused them.  Also, dextromethorphan taken in higher than recommended doses gives the user hallucinations and euphoria.  Since this active ingredient is usually combined within the medication with other active ingredients, these cough and cold medications are some of the most dangerous on the market.  Some of the most dangerous side effects include shallow breathing, blurred vision, vomiting, seizures, muscle weakness, increased heat rate, and impaired decision making.  They can cause bone marrow damage, nerve cell damage, high blood pressure, heart damage, brain damage, and death.

One of the biggest difficulties with preventing over the counter medication abuse is getting teens to understand that there are consequences to their actions.  Talk to your teenager about abusing OTC drugs and he or she will be half as likely to indulge.

Three Things to Do Before Drug Detox

Making the decision to get into drug detox can be very scary.  Heading into the unknown always is.  You do not know quite what you are going to go through, so how do you prepare before drug detox? You do not know what withdrawal is going to be like or what you are going to have to deal with in the therapy that follows.  Your whole life is going to be different than it was before. 

Committing to drug detox is one of the best decisions that you can make regardless of your fears about it.  If you are suffering from an addiction, a big change in your life may be just what you need.  When you are prepping to take on this rehab journey, there are a few things that you should keep in mind – things to do or not do – so that you can be in the best possible state for getting your addiction under control.

1. Take Care of Yourself

Your body is going to be under quite a lot of stress in the first bit of your detox treatment.  Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult.  Some common withdrawal symptoms include excessive sweating, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, headache, shaking, and difficulty concentrating.  To get your body prepared for these kinds of difficulties, get some more rest than you have been getting.  Go to bed early and sleep until you wake up naturally.  Get some exercise.  A little bit of exercise will get your blood moving and make it easier for you to get better rest.  And eat healthier foods.  In rehab, you will be encouraged to eat appropriately – with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.  It could not hurt to get started down that road before you go.  All of these suggestions will help your body be prepared for the next step.

2.  Do Not Make Changes to Your Drug Usage

You might be tempted to binge as you get closer and closer to your enrollment date.  When you binge, you significantly increase the chances of overdosing.  You also increase the chances of being involved in an accident that could affect not only you but also those who love you and tend to be around you.  Binging before you go is really only going to make your detox harder and likely longer than it would be otherwise.  You should also keep in mind that if you stop taking your drug of choice too soon, you will begin to detox without supervision.  It is important to detox under the care of medical personnel because they are trained to know what to look for.  While most withdrawal symptoms are not life threatening, there can always be complications.  You are unlikely to know what you should be expecting or what is out of the ordinary. 

3.  Get Your Stuff Ready

If you are going to a residential detox or rehab center, you were likely given a packet of information including what you can and cannot bring with you.  It is very important that you pack with this list in mind.  Beyond that, you should bring comfortable clothes and shoes.  Bring flip flops if you want to wear shoes in the shower.  Bring clothes to layer in case you get hot and cold.  Bring something to workout in and something to sleep in.  And do not forget socks and underwear.  If you are participating in outpatient detox or rehab, there is nothing that you need to pack, but you may want to get some of your things in order anyway.  It may be easiest to have a few things at the ready should you need them while you are in the withdrawal period of your recovery.  Pull out your most comfortable clothes so that you do not need to go digging for them.  Get some convenience foods that are on the healthier side so that you can eat when you want to, but you do not need to do much work for it.  Have your list of people to call if you should have a problem next to the phone.  A little bit of prep can go a long way when you are in withdrawal.

These three things will help you be in your best place before you enroll in drug detox or rehab.  You will want to be the best you that you can be in order to get to the life that you know you can have.  You know you can have the life you want, because you are taking this chance and getting help.

Seven Ways to Help Yourself Get Through Heroin Withdrawal

Ask most people what they know about heroin withdrawal, and they will tell you that it is terrifying and terrible.  There are lots of stories out there about how terrible withdrawal is and how painful the whole things is.  Fear of withdrawal is one of the biggest things that keeps people who need to get help for addiction from getting the help that they need.  The first thing to remember is that withdrawal is going to be different for everyone.  Your symptoms are not going to be the same as anyone else you talk to.  There are some typical symptoms such as excessive sweating, general aches and pains, a bit of nausea, and insomnia that most people in withdrawal experience, but there are some things that you can do to help yourself make it through without too much difficulty.

1.  Find Ways to Distract Yourself

Distraction can be very important when you are going through active withdrawal from a heroin addiction.  Focusing on your symptoms can really intensify them so finding something else to think about can be useful.  Read a book about something other than addiction, watch a movie that will make you laugh, or talk to a friend about something other than your recovery. 

2.  Remember that Withdrawal Does Not Last Forever

Withdrawal symptoms will not last indefinitely.  They will usually ease in less than two weeks.  You may experience some cravings as you move further from your last heroin dose, but the bulk of your withdrawal symptoms will go away fairly quickly.  Keeping in mind that this part will not last forever can be a big mood boost for you as you progress through active withdrawal.

3.  When You Expect the Worst, You May Get It

If you go into your detox expecting it to be the worst experience you have ever had in your life, you may just be setting yourself up for failure.  Think positive.  You might be able to overcome more than you thought you could if you keep your sights on the reasons you are there rather than how terrible your symptoms are or will be.

4.  Keep a Journal

This may seem like options that counselors tell 13 year old girls to do, but keeping a journal can actually help you remember why you are doing what you are doing.  You do not have to write anything specific about how you are feeling or what you have done each day, but it might be a good idea of write about the reasons you are giving up on heroin addiction.  You could also write about the positive things that you accomplish each day.  Even if the only positive things that you accomplish in a day is getting out of bed, it is good to remember that getting out of bed is still important.

5.  Make Healthy Food Choices

One of the last things that you are going to want to be thinking about during detox and withdrawal is food.  Chances are good that the withdrawal symptoms have messed up your stomach a bit and food may not be one of the things that you are prepared to deal with.  But making some healthy food choices now, even when you do not want to, can make a difference later.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lots of protein can help your body be better prepared to fight off any kind of infections and begin to heal itself faster.

6.  Make Some Friends

Many of the people in your detox and rehab program have had similar experiences to yours.  You are probably not going to be feeling very chatty, but some of the other people around you may be able to help you or you may be able to help them.  Be polite and courteous to the people around you even if you not feeling so great.  These people might be your biggest allies as you all continue through your detox and rehab program.

7.  Have the Right Attitude

When you stay positive, your withdrawal symptoms might not seem all that bad.  Maintaining your positivity and keeping in sight the reasons that you are there may be your saving grace.  A positive attitude can go a long way toward keeping yourself mentally ready to go through detox and withdrawal.

Seven Tips to Prevent Relapse

About 570,000 people die annually from drug use.  Many of these people have had substance abuse problems for a long time.  Many have even gone through addiction recovery programs.  Substance abusers and addicts learn in rehab that addiction is something that they will work on dealing with for a good portion of their lives.  The battle to prevent relapse begins immediately after you leave the safety of an addiction treatment program.  Having a strong relapse prevention plan can really help you in your battle to stay clean and sober after rehab.

1. Watch for Triggers

Your triggers are the things that make you want to take drugs or drink alcohol.  They can be people or places or things that make you want to go back to your actively addicted life.  You will need to be watchful of triggers. You can make a plan for what to do when you encounter your triggers.  Having a plan about what to do when you encounter a trigger situation can take away the fear and the anxiety surrounding the situation. 

2. Create a Support Network

There are many different kinds of support for people after they are finished with rehab.  Many of these organizations are based around living a sober life.  One of the most common ways for people in recovery to get support is to go to a recovery meeting.  There are a number of different kinds of recovery meetings such as 12-step meetings, religion based meetings, family groups, or secular community meetings.  Some groups are for specific demographics such as women, gay men, teens, or specific professions.  All of these meetings will create a firm basis for your continued recovery.

3. Be Reasonable with Your Expectations

Addiction and recovery is a long road.  You will need to be realistic about your expectations with yourself.  Set small goals so that you can feel like you are making headway and getting things accomplished.  Break larger tasks into smaller tasks to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed.  Small successes contribute to the bigger picture and to your ultimate bigger successes.

4. Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal may feel overwhelming at first, but it does not need to be difficult.  You do not need to make entries about everything that you have done that day.  You do not need to write about everything you think and everything you say.  You should write about things that are important to you.  You can write about your struggles and your successes.  You can write down your prevention plans and triggers you encounter.  You can write daily affirmations and you can write about gratitudes.

5. Keep a Gratitude List

In your journal or separate from your journal, make a list of several things each day or a few times a week of the things you are thankful for or the things that are positive about sober living.  Keep this list close at hand and update it often.  You can bring it up whenever you need a little boost.  It will remind you of how hard you have worked and how far you have come.  This list can be a very strong relapse prevention tool.

6. Get and Stay Healthy

Your body has been through a lot when you were in active addiction.  Now, you should be taking care of it.  Taking care of your body involves eating right, exercising enough, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep.  To eat right, you should be eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, omega-3 rich foods, and whole grains.  Any kind of exercise is going to be good exercise.  Take a walk about the block, do some yoga, or ride a bicycle.  Moving around is good for your whole body and your mind.

7. Meet Some New, Positive Friends

Since you have left behind your addiction life, you may be looking for some people who can be supportive of you.  It is important to find a social group where you can be yourself and still receive the support that comes with having friends.  Finding people who have similar backgrounds to yourself can be useful so making friends at your recovery meetings can be very useful.  You will also be able to help your friends by being supportive as well since you understand where they are coming from.

Five Specific Reasons to Get Help For Substance Abuse

So you have a substance abuse problem.  You have probably had it for a while.  And you keep thinking about doing something about it.  You may have thought about how much money drug and alcohol are costing you, or how much your substance abuse is effecting your personal life.  And then you may have thought about how hard it is going to be to quit and all of the stories you hear about people suffering.  If you have a substance abuse problem and you sometimes think about giving it all up to go to rehab, you will probably be able to come up with many, many reasons why you do not want to quit.  There are, however, many, many more reasons why you should get help for substance abuse, quit doing drugs and drinking – and take back control of your life. 

1.  Your Memory Will Improve

When your brain is not being fed foreign chemicals and toxins, it will be better able to process the situations at hand.  Once you are better able to process, your brain will be more apt to remember things that are important.  Once you are better able to remember, you will be better equipped to be responsible and let people count on you.  When you are high much of the time, it is difficult to commit anything to long term memory which can mean that whole parts of your life are going to be missing when you look back.  When you make the commitment to get help for substance abuse, you will have a whole new life of memories to build.

2.  Your Health Will Improve Tremendously

If your substance of choice has been one that is smoked, your lungs will clear.  Your throat will be less raw and you will be able to breathe better once you stop using.  Once you have completed detox, your drug use will expose any underlying illnesses or conditions so that then may be treated.  It is very possible that any illness that is being covered up by your substance abuse is wreaking havoc on your body and you have no idea.  Getting treatment for hidden illnesses is essential.  And you will need to stop abusing your chosen substance to get that kind of help.

3.  Your Communications/Social Skills Will Improve

There are going to be some relationships that need mending after you give up your substance abuse.  You will need your improved communication skills to help with this kind of healing.  You brain will be clear, and you will be able to take responsibility for your actions and behaviors while you had a substance abuse problem.  By using your communication skills, you will have the opportunity to talk it out and work on starting over with your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, and anyone else who care about you.

4.  Work and School Performance Will Improve

If you have continued on with work or school during your substance abuse problem, your performance is likely to have slipped.  Your co-workers have likely noticed that you are not dependable and not able to be responsible in the ways that you once were.  The teachers and other students may have noticed your grades being lower or your attendance being spotty.  Once you give up substance abuse, you will be able to go back to meeting deadlines, writing papers, keeping promises, being dedicated, and doing what is required to get through the day while doing what is expected of you.  Your performance will improve and others will take notice.  If you remain dedicated, you may even start to move up the ladder to a higher position or to a more advanced class.

5.  You Will Have More Money

At the start of your detox, put away any of the money you had been spending on drugs that you do not need to live.  Keep doing that for a few years.  It can be incentive to keep going with your chosen programs.  Eventually, you will have built up quite a savings for yourself.  You may eventually be able to use that money for something that will improve your future like a house or an education.  Or you can save it to take a dream vacation with your family or buy a few things that you have always wanted.  

Is Alcohol Detox Right For You? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Have you found that recently alcohol has become a bigger part of your life than it has been in the past?  You may be finding that most of your social gatherings revolve around alcohol.  It is possible that your personal time is revolving around alcohol as well.  It might be time to start thinking about alcohol detox.  There are many reasons to seek alcohol detox from a detox program.  There are also many reasons why you may think that seeking professional help is not the answer for you right now.  Either way, if you are thinking about alcohol detox at all, you may have a bigger problem than you realize. 

Ask yourself the following questions if you are thinking about getting help for what could be an alcohol addiction.

Do you cope with stress by indulging in alcohol?

Everyone has a bad day now and again.  And many will have a drink when they come home from a hard day.  But there is a difference between drinking after a difficult day or drinking at a social event and drinking enough that professional alcohol detox is needed.  It is normal to have a glass of wine with dinner, a beer after work, or a cocktail with some friends at happy hour.  Even to have a few drinks sometimes is fine.  It is when it becomes a habit to deal with any kind of stress at all by turning to alcohol first that it becomes a problem.

Do you lie about how much alcohol in which you indulge in a day?

So you’ve had a drink or two or three in a day.  And then maybe you have some more.  When your husband asks you how much you’ve had, do you tell the truth?  If you do tell the truth, what is his response?  Do your loved ones think that you might have a problem?  Do you lie?  If you do lie, why do you lie? 

Are you spending more money on alcohol than you are on anything else?

Everyone has expenses – rent, utilities, car payments, grocery expenses, doctor bills.  Is the money you are spending on alcohol eating into the funds you have kept aside for all of your other bills?  Are you hiding where those funds are going?  This may be part of the lying mentioned above.  If you are spending money on alcohol purchases that was meant to be for something else that is essential, it is time to seek professional help.

Does it take more alcohol than it used to take to get the same effect?

Last year, two drinks was enough to get a buzz.  Six months ago, four drinks was just enough to keep your buzz on.  And now, it’s six drinks at the very least.  Does this sound familiar? Your body will build up a tolerance to alcohol with more and more use.  You will drink more to be able to numb yourself and your body will respond by needing more and more to feel the same effects. 

Has your alcohol use affected your work, your health, or your family?

Have you been missing more work than you should because of your drinking the night before?  Have you been given warnings by your boss to shape up or ship out?  Has your family noticed changes in your behavior?  Are you there for your children when they need you?  When alcohol starts to negatively affect your work and your home life, it is time to seek help.  If you are starting to feel the effects of alcohol on your health such as frequent memory lapses, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, and gastritis it is time to get yourself some help.

If answered yes to more than one of these questions, or you find that you are regularly using alcohol to cope with life or that your alcohol usage is interfering with your life and your family, then professional rehabilitation could be the right decision for you.