How Does Alcoholics Anonymous Really Work?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of people in recovery from addiction that has helped millions of people in the United States and across the globe. A recent scientific review of numerous studies found that AA helps people maintain abstinence in the long term more than other addiction treatment methods. 

Alcoholics Anonymous provides a setting where you can learn from shared experiences, develop strong support networks and interpersonal skills, and experience the healing power of helping one another. AA meetings are free, accessible to everyone, and can offer support throughout your entire recovery journey.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an informal society that encourages people in recovery to meet together in support groups and share their experiences of addiction. It has a community of over two million members worldwide and aims to facilitate the sharing of strength, hope, and mutual support between members as they move forward in a sober lifestyle.

AA membership is free - the only requirement is the initial will to stop drinking. AA is non-political and is not aligned with any other institution. Meetings are self-organized, and there is no central authority directing the operation of each group. Members are free to design their meetings in the way that best suits their members.

What Is the 12-Step Method and How Does It Help Addiction Recovery?

When Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook founded Alcoholics Anonymous almost one hundred years ago, they collectively wrote ‘The Big Book’, which lays out the 12-step method for addiction recovery. 

While not all AA programs now follow the 12-steps, most members find them to be a powerful tool for overcoming addiction and maintaining abstinence. Many other self-help groups, including Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous, have also adopted the 12-step philosopy. 

The steps can be split into three main stages:

Acceptance

The first steps involve accepting that you are powerless over your addiction and giving yourself over to a higher power. Accepting your addiction helps you overcome feelings of shame and re-instills a sense of self-worth. You learn to love yourself so you can love the world around you and commit to a life of sobriety.

Personal Growth

The next steps focus on spiritual development and personal growth. They involve recognizing harmful thought patterns and behaviors and replacing them with healthier habits and decisions. They also require making amends to others for the harm you have caused them. This helps you avoid destructive feelings of guilt and lets you find self-worth in the humility and compassion you have shown.

Helping Others

The final step is to share the 12-steps with other people in alcohol recovery. Teaching the 12-steps to others helps you reinforce the steps in yourself and strengthens your commitment to your recovery goals.

What Are the Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous Over Other Treatment Options?

  • AA’s most powerful asset is its ubiquity and accessibility. Addiction is a chronic illness, and recovery is a lifelong process. You can attend AA meetings free for the rest of your life, providing you with a constant source of invaluable support and guidance.
  • AA meetings also give you the chance to support others in recovery. Helping another recovering alcoholic helps you to heal and remain committed to your own recovery journey.
  • When you join a local AA program, you become part of a local community. You’ll meet other people who share your goals and form strong friendships. You may also spend time with these friends outside of AA sessions, which can help you stay away from alcohol and triggers.

At Enlightened Solutions, our entire treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy. We integrate the 12-steps into our treatment approaches and connect you to local AA groups to support you once you have left the center.

Enlighted Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment facility- we focus on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. Our individualized recovery plans combine a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. Our location near the southern shore of New Jersey allows us to provide optimal healing and relaxation.

If you seek relief from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information.


The Inner Workings of Rehab

Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction isn’t easy. Overcoming addictive behaviors and staying sober requires motivation, support, and expertise. Rehab centers offer just this. They offer evidence-based treatment approaches under the guidance of professional staff and provide compassionate care to help you develop the skills to overcome your addiction and remain committed to sober living.

What Is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab?

There are two types of rehab centers - inpatient and outpatient. Outpatient centers offer part-time programs that fit in around your daily life. Programs may offer 10-20 hours of treatment each week so you can continue to work and fulfill other obligations.

Inpatient programs are intensive, residential rehab programs where you stay in the treatment facility. Programs vary in length but most last at least thirty days. Inpatient programs offer a safe and controlled environment with twenty-four-hour medical support. They tend to be more effective than outpatient programs for more severe cases of addiction. 

What Treatment Options Do Rehab Centers Offer?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most effective treatment programs offer a combination of different treatment options tailored to match each individual’s needs. Everyone’s experience of addiction is different, and no single treatment approach suits everyone. Rehabilitation programs tend to offer a variety of different therapies and holistic healing approaches to provide a treatment experience that works for you.

These treatment options may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • 12-step program
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical-behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy and support groups
  • Experiential therapies such as music therapy, art therapy, and equine therapy
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Family therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Medically assisted detox

Addiction treatment programs help you identify the causes of your addiction and develop the skills to overcome them. This may involve learning what your triggers are and how to avoid them or developing coping skills to deal with triggers in healthy ways. 

Rehabilitation also aims to improve your mental and spiritual well-being. It is a chance to find joy and inspiration in sober life and commit to your recovery journey.

What Is Dual Diagnosis and How Does It Help Treat Addiction?

Almost 50% of people with a substance use disorder also suffer from another mental health condition. Co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression can be the driving force behind addiction. If ignored, they can cause addictive behaviors to resurface, even after years of sobriety.

Dual diagnosis programs treat co-occurring disorders alongside addiction. They offer a holistic healing approach that aims to treat the entire person. Dual diagnosis helps you overcome the underlying causes of your addiction so you can maintain sobriety in the long term.

What Are The Different Stages of a Rehab Experience?

A recovery program usually begins with an in-depth assessment of the nature of your addiction and your circumstances. This allows therapists, medics, psychologists, and other staff to design a treatment plan to suit you.

For most people, the next stage in the recovery process is detox, to remove all traces of the substance and its toxins from your body. Rehab centers typically offer medically assisted detox to ensure that withdrawal is as safe and comfortable as possible. 

After detox, the main part of the treatment program begins. You participate in therapy sessions, support groups, and other treatment modalities over several weeks or months. During this time, you learn and develop the skills you need to overcome addiction.

The final stage of rehabilitation is aftercare. Recovery is a lifelong process that requires continued support and commitment. Rehab programs may connect you with support groups in your local area, provide you with a sober companion, or offer guidance to family members. 

Aftercare programs help you to stay supported and motivated once you have left a rehab center and guide you to lifelong recovery.

If you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse, recovery can seem scary or even impossible. However, with the proper support, anyone can recover from addiction. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients a variety of evidence-based tools to assist them with moving forward in their sober journey. We focus on healing the whole person and not just treating their addiction. Our world-class treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy and offers each client an individualized recovery plan.

We offer a range of advanced treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care, and equine-assisted therapy. Our location near the southern shore of New Jersey offers unparalleled healing and relaxation.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information.

 

 


Bed

“Make Your Bed”: The Importance of Routine in Addiction Recovery

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day….Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven first gave that advice in 2014 as part of his commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin. His speech evidently touched a nerve, because it went viral and became a basis for his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World. Making sure that you have time for, and take care of, the little things ensures that the big things will happen too.

Sobriety: A Huge Change

Your decision to say goodbye to addiction and embrace sobriety is a huge change. When you went through a treatment program, you made many positive changes in your life. Embracing sobriety isn’t just about overcoming addiction; it’s also about creating a new, healthy lifestyle.

In treatment, your schedule was provided for you. You knew when to get up when to eat, when to workout, when to go to therapy, when to go to your support group, and when to go to bed. The routine was established to make sure that everything you needed for your recovery happened and to establish healthy habits. Now that you have finished treatment, you need to create a routine to ensure that you continue with those healthy habits.

Routine Provides Structure and Stability

When you were struggling with your addiction, your life was out of your control and your substance of choice was in charge. Through treatment, you regained control of your life. Having a stable routine will help you remain in control.

Routine provides us with structure. Knowing what we are going to do and when we are going to do it gives us control of our lives and a sense of self-efficacy. We know what to expect and we can prepare. A routine can even give us a sense of accomplishment because if we have a plan for our day, we will know that we have completed what we set out to do.

How to Create a Routine

When you start creating your routine, begin with what could be called your anchor points. Another way to think of it is to begin creating your routine by starting with the non-negotiable items. While those will vary from person to person, for many of us they will revolve around our work schedule and when our children (if we have children) need to be in school. Remember to include the time that it takes to get to and from the places that you go routinely. Time spent in transit may not be as important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people are working from home and some children are attending school online, but it is still something to consider.

Another set of vital anchor points to pin down is the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. When you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, it improves the quality of your sleep. And a good night’s sleep makes the next day so much better.

When you have established a few key anchors, you can begin linking other important activities to these points. For example, you may decide that after you wake up, you will meditate or go for a run. You might set out your clothes for the next day as part of getting ready for bed.

When you are creating your routine, remember that not every day will look the same and that’s okay. On some days you may be ferrying children to practice or rehearsal (although not so much during the pandemic) and on other days you may be attending your support group. What’s important is that you have a plan and you know what to expect.

What to Include in Your Routine

As you establish your routine, you will want to make sure you have time for activities that nourish your body and your soul and support your sobriety. You will want to make time to attend your support group. Many people in early sobriety go to several meetings a week. You will want to make time for appointments with your therapist. Exercise is important to your physical and mental well-being, so you will want to be sure that you include time for exercise several times a week. Include time to plan and prepare nutritious meals and be sure to include some time for self-care and household maintenance.

Having a routine does not mean that everything will be within your control, but it does mean that more of your day will go as planned. In addition to reducing feelings of anxiety, this will give you a sense of efficacy and accomplishment, and that feels really good.

Establishing a routine to follow in recovery may sound trivial, but it helps ensure that you attend to all the little details that require attention. When you succeed at the little things, you are set up to meet your big goals as well, like remaining sober. A routine provides your life with structure and ensures that you have time for the activities that nourish your body and soul. Learning to create routines is one of the life skills you will gain at Enlightened Solutions. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can help with the mental health issues that frequently go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating an addiction. In addition, to talk therapy and group support, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and acupuncture. If you have been struggling with an addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We are here to help you.


Kind

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day--and week-- is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day--and Week--celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Valentine's Day

Single and Sober on Valentine’s Day: Now What?

For many people, Valentine’s Day brings to mind images of happy couples out on the town, enjoying dinner by candlelight and a bottle of champagne. Roses and a box of chocolates fit in that image somewhere too.

If you are sober, Valentine’s Day can be a little problematic because of the association of romance with wine, especially champagne, that is prevalent in our society. If you aren’t in a romantic relationship, Valentine’s Day can feel like a slap in the face. It may seem as if everyone is married or has a significant other except you. If you are committed to a sober lifestyle and single, Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can celebrate Valentine’s Day in your own way.

Alcohol-Free Alternatives

If you choose not to drink alcohol for whatever reason, more and more flavorful options are cropping up all the time. A tried-and-true alternative to sparkling wine is sparkling cider, which comes in many different flavors. If you are a little more adventurous, a quick Google search will give you more mocktail recipes than you can drink. Try sipping on a mock sangria loaded with fresh fruit; a Mexican chocolate mocktail, a sophisticated hot chocolate drink livened up with cinnamon; or a rose lemon spritzer, complete with rose petals.

It doesn’t matter what you drink; what matters is that you recognize that holidays like Valentine’s Day can be triggers for some people. If you know that the day can be a trigger and you have a plan, you will be fine.

Reach Out to Other People

Although it may feel like you are the only person alone on Valentine’s Day, that is not the case. Valentine’s Day can be a great time to show some kindness to others. You might want to plan a party for other sober single friends, although, in light of COVID-19, you may choose to make it a virtual gathering. You might fix dinner for your favorite couple or offer to babysit for parents with young children so they can spend some time together without their kids. You could put together a basket filled with Valentine’s Day treats and take it to someone you know who is older and alone. Create small treat bags to give to neighbors. Take flowers to someone.

Showing kindness to someone else is as good for you as it is for them and being kind to others can improve your physical and mental health. Showing kindness to others increases the level of oxytocin in your system, which lowers your blood pressure and improves your cardiovascular health. Being kind also raises your serotonin level, which improves your sleep. In addition, performing acts of kindness lowers your cortisol level, the hormone connected with stress.

Focus on Yourself

Valentine’s Day as a single person can give you a good excuse to show some kindness to yourself. Part of what can be hard about being single on Valentine’s Day is gift-giving, so buy yourself a present. The present can be as simple or as extravagant as your wishes and financial circumstances allow. It might be an item of clothing or a piece of jewelry that you’ve had your eye on. Perhaps you want to purchase supplies or tools to support a hobby--a new lens if you love photography, golf lessons if most weekends find you on a golf course, or a subscription to a finance magazine if personal investing is your passion. Buy yourself some candy and flowers; binge-watch your favorite show; immerse yourself in a book; or plan a spa day at home.

You might choose to spend Valentine’s Day alone. Sometimes with all the business of contemporary life, the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of time. You might decide to take a weekend trip by yourself. Traveling alone might seem daunting if it’s something you’ve never done, but you may find that you enjoy it. You can go where you want when you want. You can spend the entire trip doing exactly as you please.

You might decide that Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to learn something new. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit. Maybe you want to learn to roller skate. Perhaps you used to make collages; gather up the supplies you need and start creating.

You may also decide to spend some time contemplating the sober lifestyle you have chosen. It can be beneficial to think about why you wanted to embrace a sober lifestyle and all the benefits that come with it. Think about the positive changes you’ve made in your life and the changes still to come.

Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want it to be. With a little planning, you can avoid the triggers and have a great day, either alone or with friends.

If you are single, Valentine’s Day can be a trigger. Happy couples are everywhere and many of them are celebrating with alcohol. With a little planning, though, you can avoid the triggers and celebrate the day in a way that makes you happy. At Enlightened Solutions, we will help you develop the life skills you need to avoid triggers and prevent relapse. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. We offer a range of treatment options tailored to the needs of each client. Our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. Our services include talk therapy, both one-on-one and in a group setting, rooted in the 12-Step traditions. We offer a variety of holistic treatment modalities, including art and music therapy, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care, sound therapy, Family Constellation Therapy, and equine therapy. If you or someone close to you is ready to seek treatment for an addiction, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Friends

Why Living Life “One Day at a Time” Can Be Good for Us

Many of the sayings used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have moved from nondescript meeting rooms into our mainstream consciousness. These sayings include: “What other people think of you is none of your business,” “If you want what you’ve never had you must do what you’ve never done,” and “The healthy person finds happiness in helping others; thus, for him, unselfishness is selfish.” Possibly the best-known phrase to come from AA, however, is the phrase “one day at a time.” 

In terms of sobriety, “one day at a time” means that all you have to do is be sober today. That’s it. No long-range plans. In terms of changing a long-held habit, like drinking or using drugs, the thought of committing to being sober for the rest of your life can seem overwhelming. So break it down to one day, today. Just remain sober today. One day at a time.

Don’t Regret the Past

All people look back at episodes from their past with regret from time to time. If you have had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you may have a tendency to ruminate and beat yourself up over events that happened in the past, or perhaps actions that you didn’t take in the past. Your actions may have caused pain to the people who loved you. Dwelling on the past may be one of the reasons that you became addicted to drugs or alcohol in the first place, as many people drink or use to keep painful memories at bay. Dwelling on past mistakes can also be a trigger that could cause you to relapse. 

While it is impossible to forget the past, we can choose to not dwell on it. In fact, we can choose to be grateful for the past, even for the painful parts. What we have gone through has strengthened us and shaped us into who we are. When we find ourselves dwelling too much on the past, the phrase “one day at a time” can help to bring us back into the present, into today. We have no control over the past, but we can control our actions today. One day at a time.

Don’t Fear the Future

Thinking about the future can fill us with dread. If we have struggled with addiction or mental health issues, we can become afraid of the future. We might fear that we will start drinking or using again, or that our depression might return. We might be afraid that we will cause emotional distress to someone we love. We start to think about the future in terms of worst-case scenarios. We fear the future because we don’t know what will happen and we cannot control it. Excessive worry about unknowable future events can be a trigger that causes us to drink or use again. Although planning for the future is healthy and can be motivating, we never really know what will happen. As the saying goes, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” so bring your attention back to today. You cannot control everything that happens today, but you can control the actions you take and your reactions to situations. Focus on today. One day at a time.

Additional Benefits of Taking Life One Day at a Time

Making the decision to focus on today instead of the past or the future can be very good for us beyond coping with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. As we learn to take one day at a time, we can also learn to cope with one challenge or problem at a time. At any given moment, most of us have a number of problems staring us in the face. It can seem overwhelming if we try to solve them all at once. Taking on one problem at a time is much easier, and much more effective.

In addition, when we focus on the present, we may find that we enjoy life more. We may notice the sights and sounds that we wouldn’t notice if we were obsessively focused on the past and the future. When we pay attention to the present, we can find more enjoyment in everyday activities, like eating a bowl of strawberries, taking your dog for a walk, or reading a book with a child.

Learning to Live Life One Day at a Time

So how do we learn to live life one day at a time? Part of how we do that is by making a conscious decision to focus on the present. When you notice that you are dwelling on the past or becoming anxious about the future, stop, take a breath, and bring your mind back to the present. You can use the phrase “one day at a time” as a reminder to bring your focus back to the here and now. Bring your attention back to what you are doing and what is happening right now.

Another way you can focus on the present is to shift your attention from your thoughts to your senses. Focus on something that you can see, something that you can hear, something you can touch, something you can taste, and something you can smell. Focusing on your senses will bring you into the present. It is a cliche to say that you need to stop and smell the roses, but sometimes you literally have to stop and smell the roses!

Learning to live in the present is a life skill that will help you in your recovery from drug or alcohol addiction and it is one of the skills that we will teach you at Enlightened Solutions. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can treat mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that often accompany addiction. We individualize a treatment plan for each client that comes through our doors and we focus on meeting the needs of the whole person. In addition to traditional psychotherapy and support groups, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us at Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483 today.


Healing

The Role of Brainspotting for Trauma and Addiction

Addiction does not develop in a vacuum. Many therapists think that unresolved trauma is at the root of many substance use disorders (SUD). Unprocessed trauma also puts individuals at higher risk of developing mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), conditions that frequently accompany addiction. One of the newer treatments for these issues is brainspotting.

What Is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting (BSP) is a therapeutic modality developed in 2003 by Dr. David Grand. It grew out of his experiences with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapies. According to an article that was published on the website goodtherapy.org, in brainspotting, a therapist with specialized training in the technique guides the eyes of the client “across their field of vision to find appropriate ‘brainspots’...an eye position that activates a traumatic memory or painful emotion.” Frequently, the visual stimulation is accompanied by biolateral, also called bilateral, sound or music, which alternates between the right and left sides of the client’s head. As the therapist directs the client’s eye movements with a pointer, he or she will ask the client what sensations they are having in their body when their eyes are focusing on various points. According to Grand, a brainspot is a point in visual space that evokes a strong reaction in the client.

Part of what makes this therapy effective is what is referred to as “dual attunement,” alluding to the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist and the connection between the brain and the body of the client. Therapists who are trained in brainspotting have said that they believe the technique allows the client to access their emotions on a deeper level and also address the physical aspects of the trauma.

What Trauma Does to the Brain

Here at Enlightened Solutions, a SUD treatment facility in New Jersey, when a person experiences trauma, “the processing capacity of the brain is overwhelmed. This results in aspects of the experience (feelings, beliefs, sensations) becoming stuck, encapsulated, and unprocessed in the subcortex of [the] brain. This is the area of the brain responsible for our emotions, our survival responses, and our physical sensations. In this part of the brain, there is no language and sense of time. This helps to explain why trauma survivors have difficulty processing and resolving the impact through talk therapy and continue to experiencing distressing effects long after the trauma has occurred.” 

According to a report published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), people who have experienced trauma are at an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder. For example, 75% of the people in the study who had experienced abuse or violence indicated that they abuse alcohol, while 33% who had experienced trauma as the result of an accident, illness, or natural disaster said that they have issues with alcohol abuse. The Vietnam War veterans participating in the study who were treated for PTSD also have alcohol use disorder.

In considering trauma, it is important to note that each individual has a unique experience with life events and that what may seem like a traumatizing experience to one person may seem like not that big of a deal to another. Or, if two people experience the same event (like a car accident), one person may develop PTSD while the other recovers emotionally more quickly.

Benefits of Brainspotting

According to the staff at Enlightened Solutions, brainspotting can enable a person to process a traumatic experience without talking about it. “This therapy is able to circumvent the conscious and ‘thinking’ parts of our brain that can normally interfere with access to the emotional parts...we learn to bring awareness to our inner experience.” Brainspotting can help us to regulate our emotions, to retrain our emotional reactions, and to release experiences that are not accessible to the conscious mind. In addition, brainspotting can work much more quickly than talk therapy.

Who Can Benefit From Brainspotting?

While brainspotting has been used most often to treat patients with PTSD and those suffering from trauma who don’t meet all the diagnostic criteria of PTSD, the technique has been used to treat other conditions as well. Brainspotting has been shown to be an effective therapeutic modality for people with anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anger management issues, phobias, substance abuse, chronic fatigue and chronic pain, and impulse control issues. Brainspotting has also been used to enhance athletic performance and to boost creativity.

If you have substance abuse issues and also have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or have experienced trauma, brainspotting is one of the therapeutic modalities that could prove beneficial to you. Brainspotting is one of the many kinds of treatment that we offer at Enlightened Solutions. We offer many alternative therapies as well as more traditional talk therapy as part of the substance abuse treatment programs that we individualize for each client. We address the needs of the whole client, not just the addiction. The holistic treatment modalities that we offer, in addition to brainspotting, include yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. Our treatment is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy and we are located in southern New Jersey, near the shore. If you are struggling with the effects of unresolved trauma and addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We’re here to help.


Drinking Coffee

January: A Time for New Beginnings

It’s January, the first month of the year. The longest night of the year is behind us and the days are very gradually beginning to get longer. Many people think about making new beginnings or changes in January. It’s a great time to make changes because so many people are making resolutions that would be beneficial to them or to stop doing something harmful. If you have thoughts about not drinking anymore, January is a great time to quit. If you have been sober but have relapsed, January is the perfect time to recommit to sobriety.

A Great Time to Quit

If you decide to quit drinking for good during January, you will have lots of company. January is traditionally a time for new beginnings, for people to evaluate what’s working in their lives and what isn’t working. For many people, what isn’t working is drinking alcohol, so they decide to quit permanently. Other people take a month-long break from alcohol, participating in what’s known as “Dry January.” Dry January began in 2013 in the United Kingdom as part of a campaign to raise money for alcohol abuse and treatment and has since blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon. While participating in Dry January is not in and of itself a treatment for alcohol use disorder, it can be easier to give up drinking because lots of other people won’t be drinking either. Alcohol consumption is very prevalent in our society and Dry January has helped normalize sobriety and remove some of the stigma associated with not drinking.

A Great Time to Quit Again

For some people who have previously given up alcohol and then begun to drink again, January can serve as an impetus for them to recommit to sobriety and either seek treatment again or start attending a support group. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people who have stopped drinking alcohol or using drugs end up relapsing. Relapsing after an attempt to stop drinking or using drugs is not a failure, but because of the “chronic nature of addiction…[that] can be part of the process...Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed.” What relapse does mean is that it is time to consider treatment again and going back to a support group if you have stopped.

Tips to Make Your Decision to Quit Drinking Stick

Deciding to quit drinking is a huge first step on your path. Here are a few tips to help you stick to your decision. 

  • You don’t have to go it alone. Let friends and family members who will be supportive know what you have decided. You may be surprised by how much encouragement you receive. You may want to seek more structured support like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery. Both have meetings around the world that are free and you will find yourself surrounded by other people who have made or are making the same decision you are.
  • Spend some time thinking about why you drink. Are you bored? Lonely? Did you recently suffer a loss and you are drinking to dull the pain? Many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism, but there are healthier coping alternatives available to you. You may want to start therapy.
  • Think about what you will say in social situations when someone offers you a drink. You could say that you have an early flight to catch, an important meeting that you need to be ready for, or a heavy-duty workout scheduled for the next morning. Or you could just smile and say, “No, thank you.” You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  • Find something else that you like to drink. You may find that you love sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime twist or that fixing a cup of tea when you get home from work can replace your former evening cocktail.
  • Find something else to do during the time that you used to drink. Maybe you have decided to attend AA meetings and you find that there is a great meeting that happens at happy hour. Or you may find that you love to go for a nice long run right after work.
  • You may want to make giving up alcohol part of a larger commitment to your health. Make it a priority to eat healthy, nutritious food. Cook more of your meals at home. You can control the nutrition and calories and you will save a lot of money. Make sure that you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Also, this is a perfect time to start an exercise program.

You have decided to quit drinking--congratulations! The benefits of not drinking are numerous, lots of people will join you on your journey, and January is a wonderful time to start something new that will benefit you. January is a great time to quit drinking, but the best time to stop drinking is whenever you realize that there is a problem.

If you have decided that it is time to give up alcohol--whether it’s January or July-- we at Enlightened Solutions would be honored to help you on your journey of recovery. Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of your unique situation, enabling us to design an individualized plan for you. The program we offer is for the whole person, not just his or her addiction. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders that often accompany addiction, including major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder. Our program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy and combines traditional talk therapy with a variety of holistic treatment modalities. Alternative therapies that we offer include family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, yoga, meditation, sound healing, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We are located in New Jersey, near the southern shore. For help in overcoming your addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


Bubble Bath

The Role That Bubble Baths (and Other Forms of Self-Care) Play in Recovery

Did you have a bad day at work? Was traffic a nightmare on your way home? Did you argue with your spouse or significant other? Are you tempted to forget about your recovery and pour yourself a drink? Or maybe you had a fabulous day and are looking for a recovery friendly celebration. Either way, run yourself a bubble bath!  Enjoying a bubble bath may sound trivial in the face of addiction recovery, but a nice warm bath can be helpful in maintaining your chosen sober lifestyle. Why? A soak in the tub is an example of self-care.

January 8 is officially National Bubble Bath Day. The bubbles on top of the bathwater act as insulation and keep the water warmer for a longer period of time. If you have a cold or the flu a nice, steamy bath can help relieve nasal and chest congestion. If you’ve had a strenuous workout a soak in the tub can relieve sore muscles. A nice bath also helps to relieve stress and can make falling asleep at bedtime easier.

Why Is Self-Care Important in Recovery?

Self-care plays an important role in recovery because an active addiction can lead to self-neglect- lack of exercise, poor diet, increased stress, etc. Many people who are struggling with addiction turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with stress, boredom, or strong negative emotions. It’s a maladaptive coping mechanism, in that the drugs or alcohol helped- until they didn’t. An important part of recovery is finding healthy ways to cope with negative emotions, as well as healthier ways to celebrate. Making time to take care of yourself isn’t selfish; it is akin to putting on your own oxygen mask first when the cabin pressure drops in the aircraft before you help other people with their oxygen masks. Taking care of yourself helps you in your recovery and in maintaining sobriety.

Many people begin their journey of recovery because they want to start living to their fullest potential. Part of that involves taking care of your body and paying attention to your diet, your sleep, and exercise.

Foods to Avoid- and to Eat

Eat nutritious food. Most people who are struggling with a serious addiction either make poor food choices from a nutritional standpoint or lose interest in eating and fail to consume enough calories. Avoid or reduce your intake of processed food, refined grains, sugary beverages, and artificial sweeteners. Instead, nutritionists recommend that whenever possible you eat whole foods, which is defined as foods that are “not processed or modified from its original form” (U.S. News and World Report, “You’re In Recovery, What Should You Eat,” December 3, 2018), organic food, or locally grown foods.

“Sleep That Knits up the Ravell’d Sleeve of Care”

Playwright William Shakespeare was right when he wrote about the importance of sleep in Macbeth, calling sleep “sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds.”  Drug and alcohol abuse interferes with good sleep which is problematic because sleep restores your brain and your body. Adequate rest (seven or eight hours for most adults) helps with learning and recalling new information, solving problems, focusing on tasks, making decisions, and creating. While you are asleep, your heart and blood vessels are repaired. Sleep problems have been connected with heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Enlightened Solutions’ blog on Beating Insomnia During Addiction Recovery offers helpful tips to improve sleep. Avoid blue light (light emitted from television and computer screens) an hour before bedtime. If you have trouble sleeping, reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. Keep your bedroom tidy. Set the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. According to the National Sleep Foundation, that temperature range is the most conducive to sleep. Consider wearing an eye mask and earplugs to eliminate distractions. Reduce stress at night by writing in a journal, practicing mindful breathing, or meditating. If you need additional help to get to sleep, try natural sleep aids like melatonin, tryptophan, or GABA.

Exercise: Good for Your Body and Your Mind

Regular exercise is good for everyone (assuming there are no medical issues that would preclude exercise) and especially for those in recovery. Regular exercise can reduce the incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and other health problems. In terms of the mental and emotional benefits, spending 30 minutes engaged in aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing) will improve sleep, reduce stress, increase mental alertness, and improve mood overall. Exercise also leads to greater self-confidence and more social interaction.

For people in recovery, participating in a fitness program of some sort is very important for a number of reasons. A regular exercise program can provide structure for the day and fills some of the time that used to be spent drinking or using drugs. Exercise can distract you from cravings and can alleviate boredom. For these reasons and others, many treatment centers include exercise and fitness as part of their programs.

Proper nutrition, restful sleep, and exercise (and bubble baths) are all examples of self-care and are important to you in your journey of recovery.

At Enlightened Solutions, we do far more than help our clients reach sobriety--we equip them with the life skills and self-care techniques they need to maintain sobriety as part of the healthy lifestyle they have embraced. Our clients have the opportunity to learn to prepare organic meals from produce that they have helped to grow on our farm. Here at Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients a variety of fitness options and teach relaxation techniques that will lead to more restful sleep. We are located on the New Jersey shore and we offer alternative therapies to complement the one-on-one and group counseling that we provide. The therapies that we offer include art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and family constellation therapy. Every client has a treatment program developed specifically for them. If you or a family member are tired of addiction and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


volunteer

The Power of Volunteering in Recovery

Action precedes motivation. Fake it till you make it. Just do it.

These sayings all point to the power of action--of doing something--whether you feel like it or not. Have you ever had a project looming on the horizon that seemed insurmountable? Did you build it up into a huge thing in your head? Were you afraid to start? Once you did start, did you wonder why you had waited so long to do it?

Are you waiting for the motivation to start an exercise routine? Most fitness experts will tell you that if you wait until you are motivated to work out, you will wait a long, long time. Once you do begin working out, you may wonder why it took you so long to start.

How does this apply to recovering from addiction or coping with depression? Simple. Treatment plans for both issues encourage volunteering or doing service work, whether you feel ready or not.

Depression and Volunteering

An article published in Psychology Today in 2016 discussed the value of volunteering when you are depressed and described the benefits to you. When you are depressed, the last thing you want to do is get up and volunteer. Just getting out of bed can seem like an enormous effort. But if you get up, take a shower, dress in something presentable, and show up, you may very well feel better.

When you are volunteering, you are committing to be at a certain place at a certain time and perform a task, whether it is picking up trash on the beach, walking dogs at a shelter, or leading tours through a museum. You are accountable to the organization and they are depending on you.

When you volunteer, you will gain a sense of purpose and accomplishment. You will feel needed and appreciated, you can learn new skills, and develop new relationships with people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to think about something other than your situation and someone other than yourself and can make your own problems seem more manageable. 

Being with people is also important when dealing with depression. When you are depressed, you may have a tendency to isolate yourself, which can make your depression worse. Being with other people can make you feel better.

Volunteering or Service Work and Addiction Recovery

Volunteering and being of service to others is a part of most recovery programs, including 12-Step programs. Being of service in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)--or any of the other groups patterned after these--can be something as simple as coming 15 minutes early to set up chairs, serving as a facilitator for your meeting, or serving in the larger organization. SMART Recovery also relies on volunteers to serve as meeting hosts and facilitators both in-person and online and uses volunteers to manage message boards and chat rooms.

There are many benefits to service work during your recovery. Performing acts of service for your AA group gives you a way to make amends. You may have hurt some people while you were drinking or using, and helping with your meeting gives you a practical way to be of service--not necessarily to the people you hurt, but to other people. It’s a way of “paying it forward.” Doing volunteer work forges bonds with other people in the group you are working for. If you are volunteering in your 12-Step or SMART Recovery meeting, serving as a volunteer means that you have made a commitment beyond just attending the meeting and can keep you going to meetings even when you don’t feel like it. In addition, volunteering can keep you in the right mindset and keeps you busy in a meaningful way.

The Science of Doing Good

We know that volunteer work helps the organization, but doing service work can also improve the physical and mental health of the volunteer. When you do something for someone else, you have an increased level of oxytocin in your system. This has been shown to increase self-esteem and optimism. Also, higher levels of oxytocin are connected to lower blood pressure and overall improved cardiovascular health. Levels of serotonin are also increased by volunteering, which improves sleep and reduces depression and anxiety. Endorphin levels are boosted, which reduces the sensations of pain and decreases anxiety. Finally, cortisol levels are lowered which results in less stress, which in turn leads to better overall health and is thought to slow the aging process.

Tips to Get Started

If you are in recovery or struggling with depression, finding a volunteer outlet will do you a lot of good. Start out slowly: volunteer to spend two hours a week stuffing envelopes for a non-profit organization in your area or make coffee for your AA meeting. Gradually increase the time that you spend volunteering or take on a different volunteer role. 

The opportunities for volunteering are endless. Find an organization that uses volunteer help and get involved. You’ll be glad you did.

The physical and mental health benefits of performing volunteer or service work are numerous and well-documented. Because of this, many opportunities to be of service are incorporated into the treatment offered at Enlightened Solutions, a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. Patients there work together to maintain the facility and have the opportunity to work on the center’s organic farm, which provides much of the food that they then use to prepare meals. Enlightened Solutions focuses on treating the whole person, not just the addiction, and develops a unique treatment program for each patient based on their needs and their goals for recovery. In addition to psychotherapy, the center offers many holistic treatment modalities including music and art therapy, yoga and meditation, sound therapy, equine therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and family constellation therapy. If you are ready to be free from addiction, call (833) 801-5483.