Can Pets Make A Difference In Addiction Recovery?

Can Pets Make A Difference In Addiction Recovery - Transcend Texas

Animal-based support has been used for physical therapy for quite some time, and it is becoming a popular technique for treating a range of mental health symptoms, as well. Emotional support animals (ESA’s) are currently being used to support those suffering under a range of diagnoses, including depression; anxiety; PTSD; and schizophrenia. They have been made available to assist traumatized witnesses in court trials; to assist those with a criminal background in readjusting to society; and to provide reassurance for children who have suffered abuse.

Including these furry companions in addiction recovery is a natural extension of their range of usefulness. The experience of adjusting to a life without the influence substances can be strenuous on the body, mind, and emotions.

Recovery from addiction requires that the body relearn how to function. It requires that thoughts be adjusted toward focusing on more positive behaviors and outcomes. It requires that we learn to manage our emotions in a more productive way. Pets can assist us with each of these dynamics.


Pet Lovers Get More Physical Exercise

Adequate physical exercise is known to produce benefits such as reduced weight; decreased risk for stroke and heart attack; and increased flexibility. The habit of engaging in regular exercise is a popular choice for those seeking to replace the destructive habits of getting drunk or high, and those who have pets are known to engage in more physical exercise than those without. While providing your non-human animal friend with necessary exercise, you will be reaping the benefits, yourself.

If you are looking for a companion animal to assist you the most toward getting up and moving around, dogs are the clear choice. Studies have shown that dog owners are more likely to stay on track with their fitness routines, and are prone to gain the benefits of walking more steps per day. Interacting with a canine companion while exercising can take any drudgery out of the task.

While not as convenient to own, another animal which naturally contributes to an increase in physical exercise is a horse. Riding a horse results in cardiovascular activity; better lower back, core, and thigh strength; and better balance. If owning your own horse is out of the question, there are often local stables which will provide riding lessons and other opportunities for interaction with these majestic animals.


Pet Lovers Experience Better Mood

In addition to exercise with your pet contributing to improved physical health, simply sitting with –  or petting – a companion animal releases chemicals in our brains which help us to experience positive emotions. The experience of a better mood is welcome during any type of life transition, and can provide a person in addiction recovery with some added emotional fuel toward sustaining it.

Those who have a bonded pet around them are shown to have reduced levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is associated with stress. Cortisol is an implicator in sustaining the flight-or-fight response, which can manifest as anxiety, irritation, and anger. Reducing it can result in more feelings of peace and amicability.

Simply petting our animals also releases oxytocin into our bloodstream, which is a feel-good chemical which contributes to our feeling bonded with another entity. This hormone is the same one which is released as a parent is bonding with a new baby, or when we are cuddling up with our significant other.

With our pet interactions resulting in both a reduction in stress, and an increase in bonding hormones, pets are helping us to set the stage for improving our human interactions, as well.


Pet Lovers Have More Opportunities to Socialize

Often times, choosing a life of sobriety and recover can mean leaving the social circle that we had previously been a part of. The process of forming a new, more positive, social network can take some time, and those in addiction recovery can experience a gap in companionship which can result in loneliness.

Here, again, animal companions can come to the rescue. While it is not supported that companion animals, alone, are enough to fulfill a person’s social needs, it has been found that those with pets are more prone to find reasons to socialize.

The type of pet that you choose can open the door to interactions with like-minded individuals. Dog lovers need only to walk their pal down to the local park, and they are likely to encounter others who stop to share in some related conversation. Cat lovers also abound, and taking a glance around the office work space can often reveal a kindred soul through noticing the mugs, bumper stickers, and mouse pads which hail the benefits of cat ownership.

Those with specialty pets can often find a host of supportive groups on the internet, which can sometimes even result in local get-togethers. And, as a starting point, simply examining the different sections at a local pet store can result in striking up an interesting conversation surrounding your pet of choice.


Options for Pet Therapy During Addiction Recovery

Within the realm of addiction treatment, these pets are incorporated into treatment under the heading of Animal Assisted Therapy, or ATT. Some drug treatment programs may already include pet interaction as part of their overall therapy regimen. Other options to directly owning a pet during your process of recovery can include volunteering at a local shelter, or participating in a nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the cause of helping others through animal interaction.

When considering the addition of your own therapy pet to your recovery process, be mindful that the official laws surrounding their inclusion in public spaces are currently evolving. Be prepared with documents from your licensed therapist or physician which validate your pet as an ESA, and be likewise prepared to educate the public in regard to their function.

One should also be wary of agencies which are offering false documentation toward establishing your pet as a companion animal. These crooked agencies charge a hefty fee for what would otherwise be offered, by a therapist, with no additional charges associated.

How To Live Sober In Texas

How To Live Sober In Texas

You have taken the enormous steps toward getting sober. You are ready to start on your journey toward living a full, rich, and meaningful life. You are not sure what comes next, but you know that you don’t want drugs or alcohol to play any role in it.

 Knowing that we don’t want substances in our lives is a great starting point, but it is usually not enough.  As humans, we have the tendency to want to do exactly thing that we are telling ourselves to refrain from.  Constantly thinking about not using drugs or alcohol means that we are still thinking about the drugs and alcohol.

A more useful tactic toward changing behaviors is to make sure that the unwanted behaviors are replaced with healthier ones. Telling ourselves “yes!” to something good works better than constantly thinking about avoiding something bad. The following are some ways to be proactive – rather than prohibitive – as you build your new life of sobriety.


Attend Support Groups

Chances are that there were several factors in your life which existed before the drugs or alcohol became the focus, and chances are that some of those factors are with you, still. Some individuals have struggled due to growing up with domestic violence. Others have experienced extreme trauma or grief. Still others struggle with diagnosed mental health problems, or have difficulty working with family members who are disabled in some way.

Support groups exist for nearly every situation imaginable. Whatever your situation, finding an applicable support group of others who have experienced what you have experienced can provide you with a sense of normalcy, and sharing sorrows and triumphs with them can provide you with a boost of confidence in your abilities to overcome anything that life has thrown your way.

When discussing support groups for former substance users, the two big ones usually come up: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA.) While some people swear by these organizations, others find that these groups are just not their cup of tea. When considering the benefits of support groups, make sure to do some research into the myriad of options that are available in your town, and find what is a good fit, for you.

A sober living community is often a better alternative to your typical support group. Sober living communities provide a more nurturing environment to constantly live in and you may find that you are more comfortable working on your recovery in that kind of setting.


Find a Therapist

If group participation isn’t your thing – or if you aren’t able to find a group which provides the support you are looking for – visiting a good therapist may provide the support you are looking for. Like with support groups, there are individual therapists who specialize in all manners of issues, from relationship dysfunction; to dealing with trauma; to helping clients to find practical solutions for life’s problems. Feel free to shop around, and find a therapist whom you believe is a good fit for your situation and personality preferences. If money is a prohibiting factor in seeking therapy, check with your local colleges and human services department. These organizations often provide free and low-cost resources.


Focus On Your Health

With all of the ravaging on the body that drugs and alcohol do, this new period of sober living is the perfect time to mitigate some of that damage. As a society, we have steadily gained insight into what it takes to keep this body machine running, and options abound for health education and participation. The time you once spent on destroying your health can now be used to optimize it.

Texas is not behind the times when it comes to healthy choices. In addition to health-conscious grocery stores, there is also a large selection of health-conscious restaurants. After filling your body with good fuel, there are many health clubs and fitness programs available for turning that fuel into muscle. Many who embark on a quest toward physical wellness find that they experience improved mood, as well, which is a win-win scenario.

For those reluctant to leave the house after a long day at work, there are more convenient options available. Companies like Blue Apron will deliver healthy, ready-to-cook, meals to your doorstep, and entire fitness programs are available, online, through companies like Les Mills. These two companies are only two examples of the types of convenient services which are available, so be sure to do your own research into the best options.


Take Some Classes

Education is not only a path to self actualization, it is also often the surest route toward improving our financial situation and work satisfaction. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? In many cases, that dream is still an option. Even if you aren’t able to fully embark on a new career, there is nothing to prevent you from exploring these original interests and passions through taking a few classes.

Local community colleges offer a wide range of subjects, and many of them offer convenient ways of completing the courses. With so much of the attendance population now consisting of adults over the age of 25, colleges have adapted to meet the needs of working students. Many courses are offered online, or during evening hours. Other convenient options include signing up with a national, online-only, college.


Knock Some Things Off Of Your Bucket List

There is a phenomenon which exists, in which we tend to not go to visit the wondrous sights that are in our own backyard. People will fly in, from miles around, to visit our state attractions, but we don’t ever seem to get around to doing it. As part of your new life, consider making a list of things that you have always wanted to do in your home state…and then do those things!

For those of the means and desire, taking a trip to a foreign country is a life changing experience. For those without such lofty ambitions, there are plenty of areas to explore close to home. Texas is a treasure trove of both natural wonders, and national history. From state preserves; to amusement parks; to historical sites, there are plenty of options for enriching your life with local experiences.

The Benefits Of Gender-Specific Sober Living

Gender Specific Sober Living

We live in a time when the concept of assigning people to tasks based on sex – creating boys and girls teams – is considered divisive, antiquated, and unfair. The advance of feminist equality movements have largely contributed to this mindset, and the movement’s observations of sexism practices being common in previous ages – and still common in some locations – are valid.  Sexist stereotypes have done much to limit people from their full potential, through insisting that our opportunities and abilities are dependent solely upon our chromosomal arrangement.

There are some who have reacted to the extreme nature of systematic, sexist, discrimination with a similar extremity. They will insist that, to abolish sexism, being male or female should play no part in any equation, whatsoever. Those in this group wish to go from assignment of male or female meaning everything, to it meaning nothing.

As noble of an idea as this may sound, erasing barriers and prejudice against one sex, or the other, does not erase the fact that the sexes are inherently different from one another. Males and females mature into adulthood differently; experience socialization differently; play different roles in sexual relationships; and participate in parenthood uniquely. Biology is not a reason to discriminate, but its impacting affect on our experiences is indisputable.

As with so many other things in life, balance of perspective appears to be the best answer to the issue of sex and gender differences. It is possible – and arguably desirable – to craft a society in which individuals are recognized for their unique attributes, rather than being lumped together as all being the same. An appreciation for the unique experiences associated with being female, or male, is the premise behind the construct of gender-specific sober living homes.


Gender-Specific Sober Living Promotes Validation of Experience

Anyone who has tried to explain something important to someone, only to have had that someone just not get it, knows how frustrating lack of understanding can be. If the idea that we are attempting to communicate is of a highly personal nature, we are even more prone to feel a sting of hurt and rejection when no indication of understanding is communicated by those listening. On the other side of the coin, feeling understood – and validated – can produce a cognitive relief, and flood our emotional senses with a warm glow of companionship.

Feeling understood and validated is a key to recovery. Before we are able to properly rid ourselves of the mental and emotional baggage that we carry, it is usually the case that someone else needs to acknowledge that it exists. This validation, in the form of empathy, is what most often frees us from the weight of being entangled and entrenched within our problems. Once some of that weight is lifted by the acknowledgment of another person, we are able to see, more clearly, a way out of or unpleasant situation.

As intelligent, intuitive, and kind as someone may be, there is really no way to know what another person’s journey has been like without walking a mile in those moccasins. When it comes to sex and gender-specific experiences, no amount of cognitive acknowledgment – or book learning – can substitute for actually having been there. If you want to test this theory, simply mention menstruation or childbirth during mixed-sex company at your next social function. It is most likely that you will see the males look awkwardly around the room, while the females emphatically join in with their own accounts of the experiences.


Gender-Specific Sober Living Offers a Safe Space

Many of those who struggle with substance abuse are coming from a background of trauma. Much of this trauma has been experienced with an abuser of the opposite sex. Statistics indicate that one of every six women has been a victim of rape, or of a rape attempt. Other studies find that 95% of the victims of domestic violence are female. There is strong evidence to suggest that there are gender differences in the role that each sex plays within the cycle of violence.

Whether you are a victim of violence; a perpetrator of violence; or neither, your gender assignment within society as it pertains to violence is associated. Males are most often viewed as aggressors, and females are most often viewed as victims. The fairness of these associations is largely irrelevant, as proclaiming them to be inaccurate, in your case, does not erase the statistics.

Domestic violence has roots in fear. When the majority of violence is gender-specific, the treatment for eliminating such fear also benefits from being gender-specific. Within the confines of gender-specific sober living, these fears are able to be safely explored, without threat of intentions being misaligned by the opposite gender. Both males and females are able to safely share their perceptions; concerns; and experiences with their fellow brothers and sisters in recovery, and can expect the relation and validation which can only come from those on a similar side of the playing field.


Gender-Specific Sober Living Keeps the Focus on Self-Improvement

While the specific numbers are not known, estimates indicate that over 95% of the population is sexually attracted to the opposite gender. This means that there is a very high chance, when dividing the sober living housing into male and female groups, participants are not going to be distracted by flirting. Exceptions will always exist, but the odds are good that you will not be looking to score your next partner from among your roommates.

Being free from the distraction of being sexually attracted to those in a group provides an environment for self-focus. There is a psychological concept that we are not able to attract a positive mate until we, ourselves, are in a positive state of being. As long as we are struggling with ridding ourselves of the demon of addiction, we are at risk for attracting others with similar demons. Tending to our mental and emotional needs while within an unromantic, gender-specific, space can prepare us for eventual partnership with someone who is similarly healthy and balanced.

What To Do When Feeling Withdrawal Effects

What to Do When Feeling withdrawl Effects

An inevitable stop along the journey of recovery involves experiencing withdrawal from the substance which has so long dictated your responses to life. The length and severity of the experience of withdrawal will depend on the type of substance has been affecting the body. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, for instance, can start as soon as a few hours after the last drink. These acute symptoms can last for a week or more. Other substances can take longer to make a difference in the body. Depending on the type and amount of dosage, detoxing effects from opioids can take up to a week to hit, and can last for nearly a month.

Regardless of the type of drug, few would say that detoxing after developing a dependency on a substance is entirely easy. When anticipating the need to weather the storm of withdrawal, it is helpful to be armed with information about the process. Planning ahead for any discomfort can make all of the difference in how smoothly we navigate the transition to our new life of sobriety.


Be Aware of the Source of Discomfort

It is all too easy to panic when we experience the severe mood swings which accompany substance withdrawal. We may believe we are failing in our ability to remain positive and focused. We may fear that the negative experiences are an indication that we don’t have what it takes to make it without the numbing effects of the drug. We may feel a combination of mental, emotional, and physical discomfort that robs of us the will to keep fighting.

In those moments, it is helpful to remind ourselves that all of this is a normal part of the process toward recovery. These temporary experiences are an indispensable part of the journey, and their root cause is the normal, biological, reaction to removing the influence of the substance. The mind, the emotions, and the physical body are all initially opposed to adjusting to your new life of recovery. The body tends to complain about the changes, just like a cranky toddler will insist that she doesn’t want to go to sleep. Your task is to stand your ground until that defiant child – or the rebelling state of your body – concedes in going to bed.


Give Yourself Time and Space

Your addiction wasn’t developed in a day, and getting rid of the influence of the substance won’t happen overnight.  Thankfully, though, the getting past acute withdrawal tends to take much less time than getting into ourselves into the depths of addiction took. All influencing substances have a half life, after which point the body begins to return to its non-influenced state. Educate yourself on the amount of time that the specific substance in your situation is expected to hang around, and mark your calendar with that future date of its departure.

The physical influence of the substance isn’t the only factor, however. Those who have relied on addictive substances for a significant period of time will have more hurdles than simply detoxing. Emotional and mental withdrawal symptoms can include mood dysregulation and cognitive distortions,

and can persist for much longer than the effects on biology. You may need time to relearn how to think, and feel, once the substance is no longer in control.

Rather than stressing about the presence of self-defeating thoughts or negative emotions, you can allow yourself the space to experience them. Mindfulness techniques are excellent to utilize for this purpose. With mindfulness, each personal experience is considered from an observational viewpoint. As opposed to allowing the mental and emotional experiences to dictate our actions, we simply acknowledge their existence. The experiences are validated – rather than frantically rejected –  through being acknowledged, and can then be allowed to pass on without action. The information gained from noting the experiences can be gathered toward educating ourselves on what tactics need to be put in place, in order for our continued progress to be solidly assured.


Seek Social Support

Remember that the temptations to return to our former life of addiction tend to be most strong when we are not in the company of positive people. When we are alone – or, worse, spending time with those using substances – our withdrawal responses can try to take the wheel and steer us toward relapse. A positive support system can provide us with inspiration; accountability; and resources to stay on course.

Professional substance abuse counselors are the ideal candidates for providing this type of support. They are trained in understanding the phases of recovery, and can supply you with evidence-based treatment methods. Many substance abuse counselors have gone through a similar journey, with their own addictions, and can attest to the joy that is to be found after succeeding in your recovery. They have added years of education and internship during their recovery, and have obtained a credential as a counselor as a capstone of their success.

The friends that are made during your participation in a substance abuse recovery program are also wonderful sources for support. You are questing companions, who are making this trek, together, toward wellness. Having the type of friend that you can call up at any time – and who will get exactly where you are coming from – can provide a huge relief during times of temptation and despair. You will not need to spend your energy explaining the details of your circumstances, as your recovery partners will already know all about it.

As yet another option for finding social support, there are individual therapists available in most every area of the nation. For those on a budget, you can check with your local colleges about sliding-scale therapy sessions. Many universities provide a training clinic, where those who are still pursuing their certifications and licensure are able to apply their therapeutic learning. While not as sustainable as gathering a good group of positive, like-minded, friends around you, popping in for a counseling session during tough periods may be enough to get you through the hardest points of withdrawal.

“Rules” to Keep In Mind After Recovery

4 "Rules" to Follow Post-Addiction Recovery - Transcend Texas

Considering recovery with a list of rules may not sound like much fun.

The concept of rules tends to imply that there are constraints, some of which may not align with our personal desires for freedom. If we approach our life journey as a sort of adventure – as Joseph Campbell alludes to – it can become much more palatable to accept the idea that there are rules that we are wise to follow.

The idea Campbell presents is that our human journey is a quest toward heroism. Our life journey is that of discovery. We battle demons and ogres; find powerful weapons; and return triumphantly with the holy grail of our choosing.

From this perspective, life can be considered as a game to win. And, as with any game, there are rules which guide us toward victory.

On the playing board of recovery, the following are some rules that can serve to keep you out of the dangerous swamps of fear, temptation, and relapse.


Rule #1: Be Kind To Yourself

People on the outside often mistake those in addiction as being selfish, hateful, people.

To the contrary, many of those who find themselves lost in addiction are some of the most loving, kind, people on the planet. Without the slavery of addiction, they are the kind of people who will give the shirt off of their own back to help another person.

The downside of being such a kind and loving person is that we can often give too much to others. When we fail to take good care of our own self, we eventually end up drained of energy. When we are drained, we are prime targets for the demons of addiction to launch an attack. Their only goal is too drag us off, and to stick us back into that mire of hopelessness.

The rule for not getting to this weakened point of vulnerability is to be kind to yourself.

While it may seem counterintuitive, we need to set boundaries around how much we are willing to give of ourselves. If we don’t keep back enough energy to meet our own needs, we will eventually end up being of no use to others.

It is the same concept which is applied during airline flights. Secure your own mask before assisting others to do the same.

When having those mental conversations that we all have, pay attention to how you are speaking to yourself. Are the things that you are telling yourself the same things which you would tell a friend or loved one in your situation?

If not, there is a chance you are being too harsh.

The golden rule is to “do unto others as you would have done to you.” It isn’t, “do unto others better than you would have done to you.” Love yourself, first.


Rule #2: Hold On To Your Vision of the Future

There is an ancient scripture which reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Having a vision of what our desired future looks like is imperative to maintaining hope and purpose. As you have made it this far in your journey of recovery, it is likely that you have already envisioned this joyful future. Your task is to not let that vision fade.

The mundanity of life can have a way of creeping in on us.

As we journey out of addiction, our practical responsibilities toward daily living tend to increase. We become more engaged in our work; our home life; and our contributions to society. While all of these aspects are the most rewarding part of staying sober, they can also become overwhelming.

Feeling overwhelmed with the short-term responsibilities that we face is yet another danger zone for relapse.

As part of your self-care and maintenance, take some daily time to refocus on the bigger picture. Utilizing imaginative or meditation techniques can work for this purpose. In your mind, or even on paper, sketch for yourself the details of your own, personal, promised land.

This is the place where your hopes and dreams which led you to recovery are manifested. This is the place that you are heading.


Rule #3: Plan For Success

Having the image of your desired future in front of you is very important, but it also needs some substance in order for it to be maintained.

The old adage of, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” rings true. Sketching out some solid, attainable, goals to reach along your ultimate journey toward peace and prosperity can serve to keep you on track.

A popular mnemonic device for setting goals is the SMART method. When using this technique, you will want to set goals for yourself that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Based

The experience of achieving smaller goals creates a positive feedback, which works to encourage us toward obtaining even loftier goals as we go along.


Rule #4: Confer With Successful People

Sticking with the theme of ancient wisdom, there is the proverbial idea that, “water seeks its own level.” While this is certainly true in physics, the saying is most often applied in a social context.

As life is an upward climb, it is all too easy to let ourselves slide back downward into a puddle of despair. When we are in a low place, we will naturally be drawn toward others who are not doing well in life. Once surrounded by others in a lower state, it is all too easy to get comfortable there.

A secret for staying our course toward success is to find pools of people who are at a higher level on this mountain climb. After making a short journey up your mountain, using your SMART goals, camp for awhile with the folks you find there. Utilize their knowledge and experiences as a stepping stone for your continued quest.

If these fellow travelers are worth their salt, they will joyfully provide you with the encouragement and information that you need to carry on. “Onward and upward!” is the mantra of this hero journey.

The First Step Toward Sobriety Is The Hardest

First Steps Toward Sobriety

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “Giving up smoking is easy. I’ve done it a hundred times.” Most people take this quote to mean that this clever author was making reference to just how difficult it is to give up an addiction. We may make up our minds to quit, night after night, only to wake up the next day and pick the habit up again.

That isn’t to say, though, that simply having the thought of quitting isn’t a good thing. Entertaining ideas of life without the influence of an addictive substance is actually the necessary precursor to making the plans to quit. After these plans are made, we can begin to take our first, solid, steps toward sobriety. It is taking these steps that Twain apparently struggled with.


Stages Of Change

In order to perform a self-check our progress toward recovery, it is useful to understand the process that occurs while removing ourselves from a life of addiction. While there are some variations to this formula, most substance abuse treatment programs recognize five basic stages of recovery. If you are struggling with addiction, the fact that you are reading this article indicates that you are already – at the least – in the second stage.



Those who are in the precontemplation stage of recovery are recognizable due to their having no real desire or intention to get out of their addictions. They are apparently unaware of the damage that their habits are causing, both toward themselves, and toward their loved ones. Consequences of the substance abuse are dismissed and minimized, and the only real plans made are those surrounding how to continue to use, and continue to get away with it.



In the contemplation stage, we begin to take note of the destruction that our substance use and abuse is causing. We may start to feel sadness and guilt over our lack of sobriety, and may start thinking twice before indulging in a substance. We may begin to confess our inability to stop using to those closest to us, and may begin to talk about our desires to quit using.



During the planning stage, our contemplations have grown loud enough to spur us toward making a change.  Making resolutions is a hallmark of this stage, such as with our deciding that this time of using the substance will be our last. We may begin to engage in research toward into how we can gain the tools necessary to quit our addictive behaviors, and begin to daydream about how much better our life will be without being under the control of the drug or alcohol. The viability of the plans that we make during this phase can mean the difference between success, and failure, in our recovery.



Up until this point, all of the stages of change have taken place in our own minds and hearts. The action phase is where our first, concrete, steps are taken toward sobriety. The action phase consists of putting our plans into place, and making the life changes that are necessary for removing ourselves from the addiction. We may let our partying friends and acquaintances know that we won’t be coming around, anymore. We may begin attending support groups, or finally enroll in a substance abuse treatment program that we have been considering.



The maintenance phase of recovery is the gold star, and a culmination of all of the hard work that you have put into crafting your new life without the substances. The maintenance phase is the time where only small tweaks in behaviors, and easier decisions toward avoidance, are utilized to keep you on your positive life course. The maintenance phase allows you to use the tools, successes, and triumphs experienced during the action phase as a means to keep the temptations at bay.



Taking Action Steps

Taking those first, concrete, steps toward sobriety is often the most difficult stage of recovery. It is much easier to think about doing a thing than it is to actually do a thing. As previously mentioned, making solid plans – which include utilizing the support of those who are knowledgeable and skilled in the process of recovery – can make your action phase a much more productive, and successful, venture. Once your plans are in place, your main task will be to muster up the courage to take action toward fulfilling them.

For some, the first action step is to enroll in a treatment program. This step takes a fair amount of courage, as there are many vulnerable factors involved. First, there is the fact that we must be willing to be vulnerable in admitting that we need help to remove ourselves from our addictions. Secondly, there is the fear of change that can arise, as we agree to upend our entire life structure in our pursuit of making things better. Thirdly, there is the anxiety that can accompany entering a new, unfamiliar, environment. Deciding to enter a treatment program can feel as though we are putting our lives into the hands of others, which can be a scary experience.

For those who are not quite willing, or able, to immerse themselves into the full experience of an inpatient treatment program, outpatient options are available. In addition to local meetings, county and local nonprofit organizations offer substance abuse disorder treatments as well. The important thing is that steps forward are made, in whatever form you are able to make them. Whichever road you take, you can end up in a sober living home to help facility recovery as well.

If you have previously made plans to get help, and then backed down from taking the concrete steps, there is no need to fret. The stages of change are often not linear, and a person who is destined for recovery can experience several attempts toward the maintenance goal before finally succeeding.  If you are ready to put your plan into action – for the first time, or again – it may be helpful to seek the assistance of a qualified intervention specialist. Having this concrete support can help you to stay the course.


Dealing With a Relapse

Dealing With A Relapse

When we set out to rid ourselves of our addictions, we are usually full of hope and resolve. We have a clear picture of where we are heading, and we are determined to reach our goals. We are not often equipped with the reality of the length of the journey, or with insight into the multitude of hazards, pitfalls, and temptations which will surface as we make our way toward our recovery. These setbacks can take us by surprise, and can set the stage for a relapse.

Relapse is so often a part of recovery that it is included as a topic in the bulk of recovery-based literature. While it is wonderful if you are one of the few who manages to avoid this experience entirely, know that you are in the blessed minority. If you do find yourself experiencing a relapse, it is helpful to know that you are far from being alone in it. The following are some tips to consider if you do find yourself in the relapse stage of recovery.


Consider Life As A Spiral

Addiction doesn’t usually happen overnight. It is most often a journey. There is a reason this journey is sometimes referred to as the “downward spiral,” rather than being called a straight plunge. A spiral winds slowly toward the center, with many instances of passing through territory which is similar to what was experienced, before. We may notice, through our addiction, that we have several opportunities to jump off of this crazy train. Those of us who end up at the very center of that downward spiral – or hit our rock bottom – do so because we don’t see – or don’t take – those multiple opportunities to end the ride before we crash into that hard surface.

The journey out of addiction is also often a spiral. This time, though, the journey is upwards. Just as you didn’t get into your addiction in one, fell, swoop, it is unreasonable to think that your journey out of it will be linear. There will be many opportunities for both successes, and failures, along the way. With each success, you get further and further away from your life of addiction. Each step backwards that you take will mean that you are playing with the idea of sinking back down to the black hole.

This spiral metaphor for the journey shows us that we don’t need to despair if we make a wrong decision along the way. The good news about the spiral process is that one step backwards doesn’t mean that all is lost. If you have already taken several steps forward, one backwards step doesn’t erase your progress. If you have been actively working toward your recovery –  and then make the bad decision to use a substance again – the key is to detox, dust yourself off, and then make sure that your steps upward continue to outnumber your steps back downward.


Avoid Shaming Yourself

One of the worst things that we can do during a relapse is to pile on the self-depreciation. Many who end up in addiction do so as a response to experiences an overwhelming amount of negative thoughts and emotions. The substances are often used as a means to escape these unpleasant perceptions. Adding more of the negative vibes to your plate won’t help you to avoid the temptation to numb or silence them. Ruminating on guilt or shame over an instance of relapse is a self-defeating practice, and can result in a strong temptation to give up. For those in recovery, it not relapse which is the enemy. It is giving up which needs to be diligently avoided.

When processing the fact that you have experienced a relapse instance, be kind to yourself. It may be useful to consider how you would treat someone else, if that other person were in your situation. Any encouragement, understanding, or support that you would provide for someone else who is working on recovery belongs to you, as well. You are just as deserving of that positive regard as anyone else. Rather than being bogged down by focusing on the failure, take this time to focus on all that you have accomplished, and to make plans for your next steps forward.


Surround Yourself With Insightful People

Often times, those in addiction have dragged family members and loved ones along for the ride. These people in our lives may be tired and hopeless, and may even feel angry and resentful toward us. They may have been hounding us, for years, about our need to get out of the addiction. When we finally make steps toward sobriety, they may feel as though all of their prayers and wishes have finally come to pass. When we experience a relapse, it can appear to them as though their hopes have been ripped away, once again. Their responses can be quite vicious in this scenario, and can consist of anything but continued support.

When we are working toward our recovery, it is sometimes best to temporarily separate ourselves from those closest to us. By removing ourselves from the familiarity of our loved ones, we have the opportunity to experience growing pains, without worry of their responses to our stumbling. Just as being unkind to ourselves after a relapse is counterproductive, experiencing the angry, blaming, disappointed responses of others can also result in temptation to give up.

Those who have insight into the process of recovery – which often includes trained professionals and former addicts – know that the process is often more complex than simply deciding not to use anymore. They understand that there is a large portion of ourselves which has no desire to use, even while we are actually doing it. Supporters with insight are able to nurture that positive part of our psyche, and will avoid emphasizing the smaller part of us which tempts us toward returning to the addiction. Through utilization of psycho education and a focus on the positive aspects of our journey, these folks can come alongside us and help us successfully navigate through the rough patches.

Understanding the Recovery Process

Understanding The Recovery Process

Drug recovery, or drug addiction treatment, is the process of helping addicts take the steps necessary to move from struggling with their addiction to be comfortable and confident in their sobriety. Even then, recovery doesn’t end, and continues until life’s end. More than just a treatment, recovery is a commitment to living a drug-free life after experiencing the detrimental and deleterious effects of addiction.

To understand the recovery process, it’s important to break it down into individual parts, starting with the onset of addiction and the difficulties that one typically encounters when trying to overcome it. More than anything, the most important first lesson for any recovering addict is to understand that addiction is a disease and requires treatment.


It Begins in the Brain

When a drug is first taken, the brain reacts to it on an individual level, with some people appearing more sensitive to certain drugs than others. When it comes to illicit or addictive drugs, this rule plays a role in dictating how long it takes for drug use to turn into dependence. But regardless of individual resistance, most people’s first time with an addictive drug is highlighted by a chemical high, produced by a release of dopamine and other brain chemicals in response to the drug.

That release is often so far beyond anything else in life that it incentivizes repeated use, often pushing the boundaries of what we consider pleasure. It’s along the way that the body and brain begin to fight back against this influx of brain chemicals by numbing the effect of the drug and speeding up its metabolism, trying to ‘normalize’ its use. This is where tolerance kicks in, requiring higher and higher doses to achieve the same high.

Independent from this phenomenon, addictive drugs also kickstart a process known as dependence. How long it takes for a person to become dependent differs according to genetics, mental health, and various other factors, but when dependence does start, the brain begins to accept the drug as normal and struggles to function without it. Quitting, for any reason, causes someone who is dependent on drugs to experience uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal symptoms, ranging from extreme cravings and nausea to headaches, shivers, fevers, and more.

Separate from physical dependence is the phenomenon of emotional dependence. This is when a person begins to rely on a feel-good drug as a way to deal with sadness, trauma, and other feelings of pain or sorrow. Because drug use is a maladaptive coping mechanism, it doesn’t help the person address the issues that are causing them said pain, amplifying the pain whenever the high wears off. For people with emotional dependence issues, an addiction may not necessarily be physical, but they often still need help to wean themselves off drugs and find ways to deal with the emotional problems that led them to self-medicate in the first place.

Overcoming both emotional and physical withdrawal often requires outside intervention. Because of the nature of addiction, an addict’s own attempts at getting better alone are often futile. With the help and support of their loved ones, however, an addict can seek out professional help and start the recovery process. This starts with overcoming the first of many hurdles to come: withdrawal.


Overcoming Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms start hours after the last high and last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the drug, the constitution of the user, the intensity of the addiction, the dose taken, and so on. Most withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable but easily manageable, but some drugs present with dangerous withdrawal issues, particularly depressants such as alcohol, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and (less frequently) benzodiazepines. Depressant withdrawal issues may rarely cause death.

Because of this and a variety of other potential dangers (passing out, electrolyte loss and dehydration), it’s highly recommended to start withdrawal in a professional medical setting, either in a hospital or a drug recovery clinic. Once withdrawal starts, recovering addicts are typically kept under observation and medical care until the symptoms begin to fade. After withdrawal, when patients become lucid and start to feel normal again, other issues begin to emerge.


Healing the Mind

The early days of recovery are known for rollercoaster mood swings and the infamous ‘pink cloud’, wherein a recovering addict feels extremely hopeful and optimistic about the future, only for these emotions to vanish or crash into feelings of sorrow or anger. As the mind tries to adjust to sobriety, cravings grow in intensity, and many addicts struggle to sit still or be calm. Anxious feelings, excited feelings, depressed feelings, and other forms of hyperbole complicate the first few days of recovery, until things begin to settle down.

From there, the task of any therapist or psychiatrist in addiction treatment is to help an addict identify why they started using drugs, what emotions and situations push them to want to use drugs again, and what exactly they find most difficult about being sober. This part of treatment takes the longest, because it ideally continues throughout the first year of recovery, until a patient grows comfortable with their sobriety and finds their place in a sober world, while learning to completely abstain from drug-related temptations and illegal indulgences.

Most of the healing doesn’t take place in the therapist’s office, however, but takes place within the patient’s skull, over months, years, and decades. While addiction changes the way the brain works and responds to certain stimuli and chemicals, much of its effects can be reversed given enough time away from drugs. This can be sped up with a healthier lifestyle, particularly with a balanced and conscious diet, and regular exercise.


Getting Past Relapses

Relapses occur in most addiction treatment cases within the first year and become increasingly rare the longer a patient remains sober. While this shows that it becomes easier with time to resist temptation and not go on a bender, it also signifies that despite treatment, most recovering addicts continue to struggle with addiction. This is because rather than being an acute illness with a straightforward cure, addiction is best described as a chronic, progressive disease, requiring continuous treatment to avoid relapses and maintain remission.

But when relapses do occur, they can become opportunities for recovering addicts to consider their weaknesses and address them accordingly. Most relapses are triggered and figuring out when the process of relapsing began can help those who relapsed prevent it from happening again, growing stronger in the process.


The Long-Term Journey

Because recovery is a lifelong process, it’s important to be mindful of the long-term. While the first few weeks, months, and years of recovery are the most stressful and crucial, addiction’s chronic nature means a recovering addict must remain motivated to stay sober, incentivizing themselves by setting and achieving goals only made possible through recovery and sobriety.

Focusing on Yourself Is OK

Addiction Recovery

One of the primary messages behind a lot of the self-help industry’s most successful publications and productions is the message of self-care. Besides simple things like better managing stress, taking days off, regularly engaging in simple rituals and giving yourself the time to exercise or sleep in, the spirit of self-care is recognizing that you matter.

More and more studies imply that a multimodal approach is effective not only in treating addiction, but in treating patients struggling with any number of mental health issues. How you think of yourself and your mindset when going into treatment matter, not only because of the positive effects of placebo, but because the only way to ensure that you’re wholeheartedly committed to any give treatment is when you believe in it and in your own chances.

When it comes to addiction recovery, focusing on yourself is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. You need time to recovery both physically and emotionally from your days as an addict, and your psyche needs to cement a reason to keep away from drugs for the foreseeable future. Sobriety is impossible unless you have a great reason to be sober, and a person can only be a ‘dry drunk’ or so long. By investing in your own interests, practicing the basics of self-care, and building your sense of self-esteem, you set yourself up for long-term success rather than dooming your recovery to failure by way of a lack of faith. But how does one go about going from the emotional rollercoaster of early recovery to developing a rocksteady sense of self for the latter portion of their sobriety?


Finding the Motivator

The first real example of how important it is to focus on yourself during recovery is the act of recovery itself. Drug recovery can be a grueling journey, and without the unshakeable belief that you deserve treatment and have the hope of getting better, it’s unlikely to succeed in the long-term. Addiction is a disease, and it’s important not to forget that treating an addiction is about more than matters of willpower and motivation. But the mindset with which a patient enters treatment does have an effect upon the outcome.

Addiction treatments are not guaranteed to work the first time, but long-term treatment is effective so long as a recovering addict does not quit going into recovery, working on their sobriety, exploring different means to stay clean. For some, it can be a hellish road involving long struggles and hardships. It’s important to seek some sort of motivation in the midst of it all, a reminder why you’re going through this to begin with.

Your primary motivator might be family, or it might be a future goal. Some people are at least partially motivated by shame, fear of prison, fear of death, or financial loss, but these negative reinforcements are hardly effective at helping someone stay sober for the long-term. It’s important to find a motivator beyond fear and anxiety, something to look forward to as a result of getting better. By focusing on what you want, and as an extension, focusing on yourself, you’re giving yourself better chances at long-term recovery.


Be Kind to Yourself

Shame and guilt are normal emotions during the recovery process, especially when the haze fades and after withdrawal symptoms begin to go away. Many recovering addicts are angry with themselves for the choices they made and the mistakes they suffered through, and they blame themselves for how things turned out. While it’s true that part of recovering from addiction is accepting responsibility for the way things turned out to be, it’s also important to realize that no one is beyond making better choices.

All it takes is one major commitment to start doing better, and you’re well on your way to turning things around. Rather than going around looking for second chances as a way of redeeming yourself in your own eyes, give yourself that second chance. Be kinder to yourself. Move past the paralyzing guilt and find ways to utilize sobriety to pay back to those who helped you get clean, those who decided to support you throughout the rehab process.

It might seem like very little, but simply deciding that you have the potential to right your own wrongs and move past the emotions of guilt and shame that have been weighing you down can be very powerful.


Explore and Build Relationships

Many people in recovery fear commitments to others out of reasons of trust. Some are scared they will hurt the people who decide to trust them, while others fear that the people they connect with will betray their trust, due to prior experiences.

While no one is saying you should dive head-first into a committed relationship early on in sobriety – in fact, many suggest waiting a year after going sober before pursuing anyone romantically – it is a good idea to open up to people and learn to make friends again, for your own benefit. Being with others in sobriety can help you gain perspective, learn how other people go about their sobriety, and reap the benefits of a healthier social life.


Connect Who You Are with Who You Want to Be

Addiction can lead people to lose sight of their dreams. But you don’t have to give up who you want to be because of an addiction. Learning to value yourself also means recognizing the potential within yourself to still do great things, whether for your family, the community, other struggling addicts, or society at large.

Having purpose can be another powerful motivator to help someone stay sober, and finding that purpose is half the battle – which is why it’s important to give yourself the time to explore hobbies and activities that interest you, and find out how you might be able to do your own part to change the lives of others in some way, whether by supporting other recovering addicts, investing physically and financially in local recovery communities and groups, or doing your part to write and speak about your experiences and how they might help others.

Addiction is a terrible disease, but you are not your disease. The addiction may always be a part of who you are, but do not let it primarily define you. Define yourself however you choose to, through your actions in recovery.


Where to Look for Support During Recovery

Where to Get Support During Recovery

Recovery is not a journey meant to be walked alone, even if it might seem that way at first. While it’s up to each individual to commit themselves to their recovery and dig their heels in when the going gets rough, it’s often only through the support of professionals, loved ones, and friends that many recovering addicts make it through years of hardship and eventually become comfortable in their long-term sobriety.

Staying clean for years is not easy for a recovering addict, especially with countless moments of temptation, powerful cravings, and the often-overwhelming challenges of early and ongoing recovery, from taking on old and new responsibilities to mending broken relationships and facing the consequences of countless regrettable decisions.

For almost all recovering addicts, having a proper support system is crucial. But where do you go to look for support during recovery? The answer is going to be a little different for everyone.



The first community we are all introduced to is our family. For most people, family represents something special. Whether these are your biological parents, your foster parents, your stepparents, your grandparents, or other people who have spent years by your side, family is meant to be the foundation we can rely on when we need someone to rely on.

However, if you and your family have had a major falling out, finding the chance – or the strength – to reconnect can be quite difficult. Being estranged from one’s family can be an unbelievably painful experience, especially if you feel at least partially at fault. With any luck, some clear communication, and potentially some counseling, you may still have another shot at being part of a family again.

However, if the separation occurred due to especially vicious or toxic behavior, it’s worth considering whether you truly want your family to help you in the process of beating an addiction. Our families are meant to be our staunchest supporters, and those we are loyal to the most. But some people struggle to communicate with their relatives due to irreconcilable differences. Toxic relationships need to be removed, not rekindled, and sometimes that goes for the people we formed our earliest bonds with. Instead, consider relying on a different kind of family – the kind you have the chance to choose.


To some, bonds made between friends are even thicker than bonds of blood. And that makes sense – we don’t always mesh well with our relatives, but it’s through years of experience that we eventually find others with similar interests and different perspectives, with enough in common to form a great dynamic. But a fun vibe isn’t enough when you’re looking for a friend to help rely on during some of the hardest years of your life. Many recovering addicts wouldn’t want to do put that burden on their friends, understandably. However, you will need the help – and it’s much easier if you’ve got more than just one person to rely on.

A friend can help talk to you when you need someone to speak with, they can help encourage sobriety by assisting you in finding and trying out new hobbies, they can help organize your transition out of rehab and back into the regular world, they can help encourage healthier habits – from better eating to regular exercise – and much more.


Local Groups

Sobriety groups exist both online and centered around specific locations as places for people to meet up and share stories of struggling with addiction, working through recovery, facing the various challenges of long-term sobriety, and succeeding over time. They are places to meet other recovering addicts on similar paths and hear about their perspectives on the difficulties of addiction.

They also offer a place for you to weigh in on your own journey and speak about what has helped motivate you to keep moving forward. When a recovering addict feels that speaking about addiction and recovery is simply impossible in a crowd of non-addicts, then the best option is to speak with others who have gone through similar experiences, and can provide a varied insight into issues you might feel you’ve struggled with in relative solace.

Local recovery groups also represent a way to continue to invest emotionally and psychologically in your own recovery without continuing to make use of addiction clinics and rehab facilities, by staying in touch with others going through the recovery process.



A specialist in addiction can provide you some completely different and fresh insight into how your addiction might continue to affect your life, and how you can better handle the aftermath of your drug use in a way that allows you to be happier and more fulfilled.

Addiction hits some harder than others, and it isn’t uncommon for individuals with a history of drug use to continue to struggle with anxious thoughts, as well as feelings of self-loathing or depression. Being honest about these emotions and tackling them in a professional setting can be an effective way to prevent potential relapses in the future. For recovering addicts struggling with the aftermath of a relapse, a therapist can provide support to help them get back on their feet and continue the recovery process.


Sober Living Communities

Sober living homes and communities provide an excellent form of long-term support to individuals fresh out of recovery looking for a way to maintain their sobriety for years to come, as well as seeking ways to ease the transition between their past as a drug user, and their challenges in the future. Rather than being just more of the same, sober living facilities often differentiate themselves from rehab facilities and outpatient programs by doing away with much of the ‘program’ aspect of recovery, and instead focusing on helping recovering addicts deal with their day-to-day challenges in early sobriety.

Other aspects of sobriety that are focused on in a sober living community include a focus on community, earnest discussions on the challenges of recovery, and group activities that encourage tenants to spend time together and learn to better know each other.

Establishing your own ways to find support when struggling with any aspects of recovery is an important part of the process. While it’s ultimately up to each recovering addict to walk their own path, it’s also important to know that you need all the help you can get.