guitar

The Positive Aspects of Stopping Drinking

Whether you give up drinking for a week, a month, or forever, you will notice tremendous benefits in many areas of your life.

Many people “dry out” in January, and some people decide to make it a permanent choice based on how much better they feel sober. If you have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, going “cold turkey” can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Consult with your doctor, who may recommend that you quit drinking with medical supervision.

While giving up alcohol can be challenging, many people who do stop drinking find that what they gain in time, money, and health make it very worthwhile. 

Your Wallet and Calendar Will Thank You

It’s no secret that alcohol is expensive, especially if you drink in bars and restaurants. Alcohol has a high mark-up; when you order a $9 glass of wine at a bar or restaurant, you could probably buy the entire bottle at a store for $12. If you are in the habit of stopping in for a drink on your way home from work for two glasses of wine, at $9 per glass, you would spend $90 a week on your wine, not including tax and tip. Add to that you may want to have an appetizer with that wine, which adds to your bill. If you are drinking, you may wisely decide to leave your car in the parking lot and take a Lyft or Uber home, which is an additional cost. And if you were to shop after your two glasses of wine, you may find that your judgment is slightly impaired and that you make purchases that you shouldn’t.

If you stop drinking for a month, for example, you may find that you have more time. If you cut out your Happy Hour habit, you will gain back an hour or two every day that you can use to do something else, quite possibly something that you enjoy more or that is better for you. You will also gain back the time that you spend feeling a little bit under the influence and perhaps tired. If you used to overindulge occasionally, you will now not spend that time recovering from drinking too much the night before.

Your Body Will Thank You

The physical benefits of giving up alcohol are numerous. If you stop drinking, you may find that you lose weight for several reasons. Alcohol is often referred to as “empty” calories, meaning that alcoholic beverages have calories but provide very little nutrition. A twelve-ounce serving of beer has approximately 150 calories and a glass of wine has 120 calories on average. Drinks made with fruit juice or soda typically have more calories. Some people enjoy eating when they are drinking, which adds additional calories, and the food choices that people make when drinking aren’t always the best. Additionally, your body can’t store the calories from alcohol for later. This means that the alcohol calories get used first, so your body might not get around to using the calories from the nachos you ate, never mind the excess that your body has stored as fat.

If you stop drinking you may find that you sleep better. When you are drinking, you may fall asleep easily but find that you wake up during the night. This can interrupt your REM sleep, which leaves your brain sleep deprived. REM cycles of sleep restore your brain. Alcohol can also increase your risk of having sleep apnea, which is more frequent-than-normal pauses in breathing while asleep, or shallow breathing. Sleep apnea can leave you feeling tired during the day and can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease.

Other physical benefits of not drinking include being less accident-prone, improving your digestion, strengthening your immune system, feeling more energetic, staying more hydrated, and having better-looking skin.

Your Brain Will Thank You

The mental benefits of not drinking are numerous. After you stop drinking you may find that you are thinking more clearly, that it’s easier to concentrate and focus, and that your memory improves. If you have issues with anxiety or depression you may find that those conditions improve when you give up drinking. You may also find that your relationships are better and that you feel much more “present” in your life. It may become easier for you to make genuine connections with people. 

If you are ready to embrace a life free of drugs or alcohol and the many benefits associated with a sober lifestyle, the staff at Enlightened Solutions is ready to help you. Enlightened Solutions is located on the south New Jersey shore and is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that in addition to addiction they can treat the mental health issues that often occur with substance abuse. The staff at Enlightened Solutions develops an individual treatment plan for each patient based on their needs and their goals for recovery. The programs are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy and include traditional talk therapy as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities, including family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment, massage, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. If you are looking for treatment for drug or alcohol abuse call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483 today.


Trauma and Addiction

Exploring the Relationship Between Addiction and Trauma

When we hear the word “trauma,” many of us think of a soldier returning from combat duty and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But trauma doesn’t only come from experiences in military service. Trauma can come from myriad events, including being the victim of, or witness to, violent crime; experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; developing a serious illness or chronic health condition; sustaining a serious injury; being in a car accident, or losing a loved one. In addition, a person doesn’t have to meet all the clinical criteria of PTSD to be suffering from trauma.

In thinking about trauma, it’s important to understand that everyone has a unique experience with trauma--what causes PTSD in one person may barely cause a reaction in another. For example, two women are in car accidents. Both sustain non-life-threatening injuries, and the cars are totaled. The first woman recovers from her injuries, gets another car, and goes on with her life. The second woman recovers from her physical injuries, gets another car, but develops PTSD. Every time she gets behind the wheel of a car, she experiences debilitating panic attacks. It is three years before she can confidently drive. This example serves as a reminder that every person is unique and experiences life’s events differently. Trauma is trauma, no matter how big or small the originating event may seem to others. If people are made to feel like they are “overreacting,” or that they need to “just get over it,” they may feel ashamed and may not seek out the psychological help that they need.

What Are The Symptoms of PTSD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), outlines the types of symptoms that a person suffering from PTSD may exhibit. As explained by staff at Enlightened Solutions, these symptoms are grouped into four categories:

  • Intrusive symptoms--including flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, bodily sensations;
  • Avoidance symptoms--attempts to avoid thoughts, conversations, people, places, sounds, situations, or images that remind the person with PTSD of the trauma;
  • Negative cognition or mood symptoms--depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, shame, blame, anger, horror, negative thoughts, dissociative symptoms, fuzzy memory of the events, lack of positive emotions; and
  • Altered reactions--irritability, hypervigilance (always feeling “on edge”), aggressive behavior, self-destructive behavior, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, poor concentration, poor sleep.

Addiction--A Symptom of Trauma?

Trauma frequently leads to alcohol or drug addiction. Many mental health care professionals have indicated that trauma can be an indicator of addiction. In a report published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), 75% of people who have experienced abuse or violence report that they have issues with alcohol abuse. Thirty-three percent of people studied who reported symptoms associated with trauma as a result of an accident, illness, or disaster indicate that they have problems with alcohol. Nearly 80% of veterans who served in the Vietnam War who are treated for PTSD also have alcohol use disorder. Women who have experienced trauma-inducing life events have a greater chance of developing alcohol use disorder than women who have not experienced traumatic events. Adolescents who have been sexually assaulted are four times more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers, more than four times more likely to abuse marijuana, and nine times more likely to abuse other drugs.

Treatments for Trauma

If a person is in treatment for substance use disorder, any underlying trauma must be considered and addressed in order for the person to fully recover. If trauma is not addressed, the person is particularly vulnerable to relapse. According to information published on the Mayo Clinic’s website, part of the treatment for trauma is psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy and can include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Cognitive therapy is used to help patients recognize the ways of thinking, or cognitive patterns, that are keeping them rooted in the trauma. In exposure therapy, patients are exposed to the situations or memories that they find frightening in a safe manner, sometimes using virtual reality programs. EMDR combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements to help patients process traumatic events.

Alternative or complementary therapies can be especially helpful in treatment for people who have experienced trauma, particularly modalities that involve the body as well as the mind. It is said that the body can store memories much like the brain does, but without the context that the brain provides. Treatment that uses the body in some way, like equine therapy, acupuncture, or yoga and meditation, can help to access memories that may be deeply buried and can help people to integrate their minds and bodies.

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that unprocessed trauma may be at the root of substance use disorder for our patients and we work with them to address trauma, as well as mental health issues that may underlie their addictive behaviors. Enlightened Solutions offers healing for the whole patient, not just their addiction. We develop a treatment program for each patient based on their needs as well as their goals for therapy. Our program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy and combines traditional talk therapy with a range of holistic treatment modalities. Alternative therapies that we offer include family constellation therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment, yoga and meditation, sound healing, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We are located on the southern shore of New Jersey. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and seeking compassionate healing in a soothing environment, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Yoga

The Role of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Treating Substance Abuse

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a disorder that affects the entire person--body, mind, and spirit. Because of this, the needs of the whole person must be considered for a treatment to be effective. It isn’t enough to treat the addiction and ignore the underlying depression or other mental health disorders.

Drug and alcohol treatment centers all offer therapy. Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy, can be offered individually, in a group setting, or both. The therapy frequently focuses on providing the patient with coping strategies that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol, tools to maintain their sobriety, and education about drugs and alcohol. In the past, therapy was frequently limited to behavioral issues.

Many treatment facilities now go further and work to address mental health issues or unresolved trauma that may be underneath the addiction. Many treatment centers also offer complementary and alternative therapies that complement talk therapy.

What Is Alternative or Complementary Treatment?

Merriam-Webster defines alternative medicine as “systems of healing or treating disease...that is not included in the traditional medical curricula of the U.S. and Britain.” When talking about mental health issues and recovery from substance abuse, alternative therapies include treatments ranging from yoga to equine therapy to diet and nutrition. Using alternative therapies gives clinicians more ways to help people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues--another way to get to the root of the problem.

Alternative therapies are particularly helpful for people who have suffered from a trauma of one sort or another. The body is said to store memories just like the brain does, but the body cannot provide context for a memory. Alternative therapies, particularly those that make use of activities, like art and music therapy, or yoga and meditation, help people recovering from addiction to integrate their minds and bodies.

Alternative or Complementary Modalities That Rely on Touch

Facilities now use many different alternative modalities in treatment programs for patients. Massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are three treatment modalities that rely on touch and support the recovery process.

Massage therapists are trained to use touch to reduce pain and stress. As tension in our bodies is released, our minds relax and we are better able to cope with the stress of everyday life. 

Acupuncture is an example of traditional alternative medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Acupuncture is used in recovery treatment to reduce stress and cravings, help with relaxation and sleep issues, lessen mood swings, promote energy, and calm emotional trauma. Chiropractic practitioners work to align the spine. This helps to restore balance in the body that has been harmed by addiction. As the range of motion is increased in the spine and adjacent muscles, tension and stress are reduced. Chiropractic care alleviates pain in many areas of the body and like massage therapy and acupuncture, supports recovery.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga are frequently discussed together, perhaps because yoga classes frequently end with a guided meditation. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” and the goal of yoga is to yoke your mind and your body. Yoga lowers stress, reduces pain, reduces anxiety and depression, all of which can lessen a person’s impulse to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Yoga lowers the level of two hormones associated with stress, cortisol and adrenaline, and increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with overall feelings of wellness and tends to be found at lower levels in people suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. 

There are many techniques for meditation and many articles have been written about the physical and mental benefits of meditation. Bear in mind, however, that meditation is not a replacement for therapy when coping with addiction or mental health issues, but it is a powerful addition to conventional treatment. Meditation is a way of becoming more aware of the present. Its benefits include stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and an improved ability to focus.

The Role of Diet in Recovery

Several treatment modalities focus on the role of diet and nutrition in recovery, including the use of dietary supplements, herbal medicine, and overall good nutrition. At Enlightened Solutions, all patients receive education in nutrition and wellness, and many patients elect to learn healthy cooking techniques using fresh, organic ingredients, many of them grown on Enlightened Solution’s farm.

Healing Through Energy Work

Many people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol have found help through energy work, in which energy from outside the patient is used to aid in healing. Reiki is one type of energy work that has been used successfully to treat patients recovering from addiction. Reiki as it is known today was developed in Japan in the 1920s by a Buddhist monk and brought to the West in the 1980s. In addition to addiction, Reiki has been used to treat cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and infertility.

Experiential Therapies

In experiential therapies, the client focuses on doing certain activities, and through the experience begins to explore their feelings, including anger, hurt, and shame. These therapies include art, music, and equine therapy, all of which are used successfully in drug and alcohol recovery. In art therapy, the patient will work on a piece of art--a painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, or any other medium. Afterward, the therapist encourages the patient to think about the psychological and emotional aspects of their piece. Art therapy is a tool to help patients access and process their feelings.

Music therapy is very similar but uses music instead of visual arts. According to an article on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, four major types of musical intervention are employed: lyric analysis, improvisational music playing, active music listening, and songwriting. Music therapy is a way for patients to reach emotions that have been buried under drug or alcohol abuse. Music therapy also decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves sleep.

Because of the strong bond between horses and humans, equine therapy is also offered at some treatment facilities. Depending on the facility, equine therapy can include different activities. Some activities focus on caring for the animals, others focus on riding, and sometimes the activities focus on both caring and riding. Because horses sense the emotions of the people around them, horses can help people identify their feelings which is helpful because people recovering from addictions have often suppressed their feelings. Working with horses can also give people in recovery a sense of purpose.

Alternative treatment modalities aid in treating the whole patient, not just their addiction. These treatments can have powerful mental and physical benefits and enable the patient to heal on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

An addiction recovery treatment plan must address the needs of the whole person--mind, body, and spirit--not just their addictive behavior. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, alternative treatment modalities can play a powerful role in treating the whole person. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person and use a multidisciplinary approach to develop a custom treatment program for each patient. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. Our life skills component includes thorough education in nutrition and wellness. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. If you or someone you love is ready to break free from substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Holiday Stress

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year--Or Is It?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much mistletoeing

And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This upbeat holiday song, first performed by Andy Williams in 1963, conjures up images of happy couples and families gathered together to celebrate. But for some people and for many reasons, the holidays can be a very difficult time. If you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious during the holidays, you aren’t alone.

The Trappings of the Holidays

The holidays are filled with activity. We shop for presents, we wrap them, and we ship them, hoping that we have found the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We send cards and letters to friends and family near and far.  We decorate our homes, we bake, we go to parties and concerts, and we travel to be with our families. We cook elaborate holiday meals. All of this activity can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. This activity gets dropped on top of our normal lives and can cause stress and anxiety. All of this activity costs money as well. If you have already been struggling with money issues, the added costs associated with the holidays can add to your stress level. The prospect of the holidays may fill you with anxiety as you try to stretch your budget to include gifts for loved ones. If you have children you may feel guilty and sad at the prospect of not being able to get your children everything on their list to Santa.

Changes this Year Because of COVID-19

COVID-19 will bring changes to the holidays this year. Most of the usual holiday performances have been canceled or reconfigured to be presented virtually. Due to health considerations, you may not be able to travel to be with family this holiday season, or it might not be safe to see your grandparents. Your family may decide to hold a smaller event this year, perhaps limited to people in the local area, and connect with other family and friends virtually. Whatever your family decides, it is important to realize that the holiday may look and feel different this year and to acknowledge and process the emotions that you may have surrounding the changes to holiday traditions.

Relationships and Family Issues

During the holidays, we are encouraged to spend time with loved ones--friends, partners, and family. If you are not in a relationship, the holidays can feel especially lonely as the media bombards us with images of happy couples at festive gatherings. If you are divorced with children, holidays can be logistically complicated as children are shuttled from gathering to gathering. Any issues you may have with your family can bubble up to the surface. If you are not able to be with your family, you may feel a sense of loss and loneliness. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you may feel the loss acutely during the holidays. “Firsts” are difficult--the first Christmas, New Year’s, birthday--after the death of a loved one. Even if the death occurred a number of years ago, you may find that you remember the loss more at a time when there is so much emphasis on family and relationships.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

If you struggle with depression or other mental health issues or have issues with substance abuse, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. The additional demands placed on our time and resources lead to stress, which in turn can cause feelings of anxiety and sadness which can exacerbate mental health issues. Also, if you are a person who tends to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions, you may find yourself drinking or using more. If you have chosen a sober lifestyle, the stress of the holidays, and the prevalence of alcohol at holiday events may make it more challenging to remain sober.

Tips to Cope With the Holidays

Although the holidays can be difficult, here are some tips and techniques that can make the holidays more manageable.

  • Say no to some invitations. You don’t have to go to every event you are invited to.
  • Make time for self-care.
  • Make sure that you are eating well and exercising regularly.
  • Set a budget. If you are part of a large extended family, suggest that gift-giving be limited to children or draw names for a gift exchange. Or follow the example of the British royal family and exchange gag gifts!
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer with an organization, help a neighbor or do something kind for a stranger. You will feel better.
  • Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings. Talk to someone who will listen without judgment or write in a journal. Find a safe outlet for your emotions, rather than bottling them up inside.

If at any time during the holiday season your feelings seem unmanageable, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that the holidays can be a difficult time for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. We have programs that can help those who are struggling with mental health challenges and addiction to drugs or alcohol. We are a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that we offer treatment for the mental health issues that very often are at the root of addictive behaviors. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore, rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, and offer many alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy. Alternative therapies we offer include sound healing, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, reiki, art, and music therapy, horticultural therapy, and equine therapy. We offer each client a customized treatment plan based on their needs, drawing from these therapeutic treatment modalities. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to begin your recovery journey, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Cleaning

Is It Safe to Go to Rehab During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

If you or someone you know is contemplating treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, you may be wondering if it’s safe to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer is yes, treatment facilities are taking numerous precautions to ensure the safety of their patients and staff members. In fact, it may be a really good time to seek treatment.

A Booming Business

According to experts, more people are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses brought about by COVID-19. People are planning quarantine cocktail parties and Zoom Happy  Hours. Friends have raised a glass to each other via FaceTime. According to a piece that ran on Morning Edition on National Public Radio (NPR) on September 11, 2020, alcohol sales have been an economic bright spot during the pandemic. Alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants are up 24 percent over this time last year, and restaurants have been allowed to sell alcohol with take-out food orders. Drizly, an app-based alcohol home delivery service, raised $50 million in August to expand its operations, and a company spokesperson said that sales are up 350 percent over this time last year.

This boom in alcohol sales worries Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, who is a researcher with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Leggio says that because alcohol is more socially acceptable than other drugs, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol seems less risky to people than street drugs (although the use of opioids, meth, and cocaine has also increased). Another point of concern is that, according to Leggio, alcohol-related illnesses kill 88,000 Americans per year, which is more than all drug overdoses combined for the same time period. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol have an increased risk of respiratory infections and an increased risk of complications from those infections. Additionally, there is concern that after the pandemic ends, that pattern of excess drinking may continue.

What Precautions Are Treatment Facilities Taking?

Drug and alcohol treatment centers are considered essential services and so have not been required to shut down during the pandemic. In fact, as more people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, treatment centers are more needed than ever as people struggle with addiction and other mental health issues.

At many treatment facilities, health precautions begin before a patient is even admitted. Perspective clients are screened for risk factors, frequently through a questionnaire that asks if they have traveled outside the United States recently; if they have passed through an airport; if they have had a cough, fever, or shortness of breath in the past seven days; if they have experienced a loss of taste or smell; and if they have been in contact with anyone who is or may be COVID-19 positive. Many treatment centers check the temperature with a forehead thermometer of anyone entering the facility. If their temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees, they will not be allowed to enter. 

Disinfectant wipes, masks, and gloves are available for everyone in the facilities, staff, and patients alike. Cleaning and disinfecting routines have been heightened, with high-touch surfaces being disinfected frequently throughout the day. Masks must be worn when in common areas. Social distancing is enforced, and handshakes, hugs, and the like are not allowed. Many facilities are prohibiting visitors and visits off-site have been scaled back.

Treatment facilities have also developed protocols to follow if a patient should become ill with COVID-19 while in treatment. Clients in an out-patient program would need to return home and participate in their various therapies via Telehealth services or a Zoom meeting or some other remote access modality. They would be required to contact their primary care physician or go to urgent care. They would need to be free of a fever for 72 hours and be cleared by their doctor before returning to the program. Clients in a residential program who become ill with COVID-19 may be quarantined in their residence, sent home and offered Telehealth services, or taken to a local hospital if their medical situation warrants that level of care.

As in many other organizations, many staff members at treatment centers can work remotely and are doing so. Whenever possible, group and individual therapy sessions are being conducted through telemedicine. If groups meet in person, social distancing guidelines are being observed. Some treatment centers that offer residential care are limiting off-site visits for clients to medical appointments.

Treatment Facilities May Offer More Precautions from COVID-19 than “Civilian” Life

Some experts feel that, for a person addicted to drugs or alcohol, a treatment facility may provide more protection from COVID-19 than they would have in their day-to-day life because they will be in a controlled environment. People struggling with addiction won’t be abusing drugs or alcohol and engaging in risky behaviors that frequently coincide with substance abuse. If you are or someone you love is considering entering a treatment program, don’t let COVID-19 deter you.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress as the world grapples with this illness. Alcohol sales, excluding bars and restaurants, are up 24% when compared with the same time period in the previous year. Some experts worry that people are drinking to excess to ease the stress and boredom from the pandemic. While not all of this excess will result in addiction, some will. There is concern that when the pandemic ends, the excessive alcohol consumption will continue. At the same time, there is concern about whether or not it is safe to enter a treatment program during the pandemic. Rest assured that treatment facilities like Enlightened Solutions, located on the New Jersey shore, are monitoring the pandemic closely and taking precautions to safeguard the health of clients, staff members, families, and the greater community. If you or a loved one is concerned about drug or alcohol use, call (833) 801-5483.

 


Animal Therapy

Can Animals Be Therapists?

It is said that man’s best friend is a dog. Can a dog also be man’s best therapist?

Anyone who loves animals knows how nice it is to come home to a dog who’s glad to see you, particularly after a bad day: to stroke a cat’s fur and listen to the kitty purr; to cuddle a nice, soft bunny; to saddle up a horse and go for a ride, or even to watch fish swimming placidly in their aquarium. All of these actions contribute to a sense of calm and well-being.

While a beloved pet will never take the place of a trained therapist, spending time with an animal provides both physical and mental health benefits that can aid in recovery.

Benefits of Having a Pet or Spending Time With Animals

According to an article that was published on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, owning a pet can decrease stress, improve a person’s overall cardiovascular health, and can decrease the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) circulating in a person’s system and increase the levels of oxytocin. Decreasing the levels of cortisol can lower blood pressure, prevent weight gain, boost energy levels, improve brain function, and strengthen the immune system. Increased levels of oxytocin contribute to the ability to form connections. A study conducted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale suggests that children who have pets in their homes develop stronger immune systems than do children in homes without pets.

An article in Psychology Today says that spending time with animals can be beneficial to people diagnosed with major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and substance use disorder. Spending time with animals can contribute to feelings of calmness, comfort, and safety, and forming a bond with an animal can help people develop better self-esteem, improve their ability to trust and form connections, and improve socialization and communication skills. A study of adolescents with type 1 diabetes demonstrated that taking care of fish correlated to the teens better managing their diabetes.

Having a pet also lowers your cholesterol level, decreases triglycerides (fats carried in the blood), decreases feelings of loneliness, increases your opportunities to get exercise and spend time outdoors, and makes it easier to form connections with other people. If you have a tendency to isolate because of depression or feelings of shame surrounding addiction, having a dog can be a great way to get out of your head, get out of the house, and meet some other people.

If pet ownership isn’t a possibility, perhaps because you rent in a place that doesn’t allow animals, you are in college and live in a dorm, or you or someone in your household is allergic to animals, you can still have some of the benefits of being around animals. Go to a pet store and spend some time watching the animals there. If your area has an aquarium, zoo, or living museum, pay them a visit. Volunteer at an animal shelter or an animal rescue society. Find work as a dog walker or take care of people’s pets when they travel. 

Animals in Medical and Other Settings

Because of the mental and health benefits that spending time with animals brings to people, animals are used in more formal settings as well. This idea is not new. An article on animal-assisted therapy (AAT) published on the Alliance of Therapy Dogs website says that the ancient Greeks used companion animals to help people with physical and mental illnesses. Hippocrates, the Greek doctor considered to be the founder of medicine, thought that there was great therapeutic value in horseback riding. In the 1960s, child psychologist Boris Levinson is considered to be the father of AAT. Levinson began bringing his dog, Jingles, to work with him and found that when he did so that the children’s therapy sessions were more productive. Children were more at ease and communicative when Jingles was in the session. 

Now therapy dogs (typically well-trained pets) make the rounds at some selected hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, addiction treatment centers, and prisons. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, the use of therapy dogs can “significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.” These health problems include children undergoing dental procedures, cancer patients receiving treatment, patients with dementia, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Prisons use therapy dogs to “reduce violence and anti-social behaviors, cases of suicide, and drug addiction.”

Some airports now use therapy dogs as well, which was implemented after 9/11. According to Vane Airport Media, Inc., as of 2018, 58 airports in the United States had some sort of therapy dog program. For example, the Wag Brigade has been a tail-wagging presence at the San Francisco International Airport since 2013. The Wag Brigade now has 22 therapy dogs and one Juliana -breed pig, who enjoys playing her toy piano. The therapy animals all wear vests that say “Pet Me.” The Wag Brigade is a partnership between the airport and the San Francisco SPCA.

Animal-Assisted Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Because of the mental and physical health benefits associated with being around animals, many treatment facilities incorporate some type of animal-assisted therapy into their programs. Activities will vary depending on the facility and the client, but can include grooming and feeding the horses, taking care of the tack, and cleaning out stables. Many programs also incorporate riding. Equine therapy lends itself well to recovery programs because working around horses can help people to identify and process their feelings. 

The ancient Greeks were right: animals are good for people. Don’t fire your therapist, but do find a friendly animal to be part of your life.

Spending time with animals is good for your physical and mental health. Because of this, Enlightened Solutions includes equine therapy as part of the holistic treatment modalities that they offer to patients working to overcome addiction or mental health issues. Equine therapy has demonstrated success in helping people to identify their feelings, which is part of the healing process. Located on the New Jersey shore, Enlightened Solutions offers alternative therapies to complement the one-on-one and group counseling that they provide. Other alternative therapies that they offer include art and music therapy, Family Constellation Therapy, horticultural therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and chiropractic work. Every patient has a treatment program custom-tailored for him or her based on their individual needs. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder or a mental health issue, consider Enlightened Solutions. The facility offers treatment in a compassionate and supportive environment. For more information call (833) 801-5483.

 


Group Therapy

What Is Family Constellation Therapy?

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

The opening lines of English metaphysical poet John Donne’s (1572-1673) Meditation XVII suggest the interconnectedness of humanity. The lines could also be applied to Family Constellation Therapy, an alternative therapy that explores the relationships between family members.

According to Vern Morin, who is the facilitator for Family Constellation Therapy at Enlightened Solutions, this therapeutic approach is a little different from traditional family therapy. In a video description of the topic on the recovery center’s website, he says that in Family Constellation Therapy we “turn the brain off, and we feel.” Family Constellation Therapy is concerned with the “issues that we think about but don’t deal with, that we aren’t taught to deal with.”

What Is Family Constellation Therapy?

Developed by German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, Family Constellation Therapy is a type of group therapy led by a therapist or facilitator with special training in the technique. In Family Constellation Therapy, the person participating or receiving the therapy selects other members of the group to serve as stand-ins for his or her actual family members. These people are arranged in a circle, called the family constellation. The surrogates or stand-ins hear about the family history or the issue of concern to the person receiving the therapy. Then the stand-ins are asked to describe how they feel or anything they think regarding the connection between the family members they are portraying and the person getting the therapy. This process frequently leads to a greater sense of understanding and empathy.

What Types of Issues Are Addressed Through Family Constellation Therapy?

Family Constellation Therapy looks at the family as a system and the individual’s role in that system. This can lead to exploring family relationships from generations back and how those impact the present. Family systems frequently have unspoken rules or laws, and problems often occur when someone fails to follow these laws. These are the roots of the beliefs we have that may not work for us anymore, may not be healthy, and may not even be accurate. 

This type of therapy can be particularly helpful when dealing with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. For these issues, people frequently talk about a genetic predisposition to these conditions or learned behaviors, that can carry on down through multiple generations. In Family Constellation Therapy, you may find that your current issues and behaviors have roots from previous generations that you hadn’t realized.

Benefits of Family Constellation Therapy

Family Constellation Therapy benefits the person receiving the therapy and the group members participating as stand-ins for the actual family members. The person receiving the therapy stands outside the circle and is able to observe dynamics and connections that he or she may not have considered before. The stand-ins are new to the particular situation--they don’t know the person’s family history and or the particular situation being addressed, so they can bring fresh insights and give the person different perspectives to consider. The actual family members being portrayed aren’t there, so the person seeking the therapy is free from worrying about the possibility of hurting their feelings or suffering repercussions for sharing a family secret. The people serving as stand-ins benefit in a couple of key ways. They may recognize aspects of themselves and their family generational dynamics and may gain a greater understanding of their own situation or trauma. In addition, being a surrogate in Family Constellation Therapy is a powerful way for them to be of service, which is an important aspect of the 12-Step philosophy.

The Role of Family Constellation Therapy in Addiction Recovery 

Because Family Constellation Therapy is useful in addressing and healing trauma, it is a very appropriate treatment modality for addictive behaviors because many therapists believe that trauma and attachment issues are at the root of the addiction. The trauma that leads to addiction can be multi-generational and historical or it can be a significant loss, such as the death of a parent in childhood, or violence. Moreover, addiction is viewed as part of the family system, rather than strictly an issue for the person dealing with addictive behaviors.

Future of Family Constellation Therapy

Hellinger originally developed Family Constellation Therapy in response to the trauma caused by World War II. The technique is widely used in Europe, Russia, Asia, and Latin America and is gaining ground in the United States. According to the Enlightened Solutions website (https://www.enlightenedsolutions.com/about/our-staff/), Hellinger has “revolutionized the heart and soul of family therapy by illuminating the unconscious, and often destructive, loyalties within families. Family Constellation work is an effective therapeutic process that helps break destructive family patterns of unhappiness, illness, failure, and addiction. The Family Constellation approach is becoming one of the most rapidly expanding forms of therapy in the world and is practiced in more than 35 countries.”

Enlightened Solutions offers life-affirming therapies for those struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that the center offers treatment for the mental health issues that very often are the underlying reasons for addictive behaviors. The center, located on New Jersey’s southern shore, offers a variety of alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy that they offer. One of the holistic treatment modalities offered is Family Constellation Therapy, which explores the family relationships that play a role in addictive behavior. Other holistic treatment modalities offered include sound healing, yoga, horticultural therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic work, massage, art and music therapy, reiki, and equine therapy. At Enlightened Solutions, each client receives a customized treatment plan drawing from these therapeutic options based on his or her individual needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call (833) 801-5483 today.

 


World Kindness Day

“Random Acts of Kindness”: It’s Good for Others And for You

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” A recent article on the benefits of kindness defined kindness as doing something nice for someone without being asked and without expecting anything in return. Examples of kindness include holding the door for the person behind you, inviting a new colleague to join you for lunch, or taking a meal to someone who is sick or has had a death in the family.

Kindness is also an international affair. World Kindness Day has been celebrated on November 13 each year since 1998, promoted by the World Kindness Movement (WKM). The WKM is a non-governmental organization with no religious or political affiliation whose mission statement is to “inspire individuals and connect nations to create a kinder world.” 

Health Benefits of Kindness

Besides benefitting the recipient of the kind act, kindness can actually improve the physical and mental health of the person performing the kindness. When you do something kind for someone, you have an increased level of oxytocin in your system. Known as the “love hormone,” increased levels of oxytocin are associated with bonding: the bond between a mother and her infant, the romantic love between two people, and the bond between people and their pets. Physically, studies have shown that increased levels of oxytocin help to lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. Oxytocin is also connected to feelings of greater self-esteem and optimism. 

The act of being kind also elevates levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel-good” hormone and allows brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate. According to the Hormone Health Network website, serotonin aids in sleep reduces depression and anxiety and helps with bone health. Serotonin levels are also increased by performing acts of kindness for others. Increased levels of endorphins help to reduce sensations of pain and decrease anxiety. In addition, numerous studies show that people who are routinely kind to others produce 23% less cortisol (a stress hormone) than people who don’t. This results in less stress, which results in better overall health and slows the aging process.

The Role of Kindness in Substance Abuse Recovery

As shown above, performing acts of kindness clearly provides physical and mental health benefits: increased oxytocin promotes greater self-esteem and a more optimistic outlook on life; serotonin reduces anxiety and depression and aids sleep; increased endorphin levels (similar to the boost you get from exercise) reduce sensations of pain and reduces stress levels and anxiety; and a lower level of cortisol results in less stress and may lead to greater longevity. In fact, people who are suffering from depression are frequently told to exercise and to do volunteer work for the mental health benefits of those activities.

Kindness also helps with substance abuse recovery. When we are abusing drugs or alcohol or another addictive behavior, our focus is on ourselves and our next drink or whatever substance or behavior we crave. Performing an act of kindness or service for someone helps to turn our focus from ourselves to others. In fact, performing acts of service is an important aspect of the 12-Step philosophy. 

Performing acts of kindness also aid us in building connections with other people. We may feel a greater sense of connection to the people we are serving, but if our service is as part of a group (like a church group serving lunch at a homeless shelter or a high-school club participating in a local effort to clean up a local area), we may also feel a greater sense of connection to the people we are serving with. Performing acts of kindness can open us up to new possibilities, and we may begin to focus more on what we have in common with other people, rather than the differences that divide us. By serving others, we start to emerge from the self-imposed isolation that is common with addiction.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you are in recovery, it’s important to direct some of those acts of kindness toward yourself as well. People suffering from addictions tend to criticize themselves harshly, which does not aid in recovery. We need to learn to like and love ourselves in order to fully recover. It can be helpful to write a list of the qualities about yourself that you like--a love letter to yourself if you will. If meditation is part of your spiritual practice, consider doing a loving-kindness meditation, where you direct kind intentions toward yourself and others. Scripts and more specific directions are widely available online.

An act of kindness doesn’t need to be elaborate or time-consuming to benefit both you and others. Smile at a stranger. Give a coworker a compliment. Run an errand for a neighbor. The benefit to you will be just as great to you as it will to them, and the world will be a kinder place.

Because of the physical and mental health benefits of performing acts of kindness, many opportunities to be of service are incorporated into many of the treatment options offered at Enlightened Solutions, a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. One of the modalities offered is horticultural therapy. Clients have the opportunity to work on the center’s farm and grow much of the food that is used to prepare their meals. In addition, produce is provided for the Enlightened Cafe. Profits from the cafe are used to provide scholarships for those who cannot afford treatment. The holistic treatment modalities offered include group and individual counseling, yoga, meditation, sound therapy, and music and art therapies. Enlightened Solutions offers its many treatment options within a framework of the 12-Step philosophy. If you are interested in a recovery facility that tailors a treatment plan for each client, call (833) 801-5483 today.

 


Suicide Survivor Awareness Month

Suicide Survivor Day: Increasing Awareness of Suicide’s Impact on Those Left Behind

Suicide Survivor Day: Increasing Awareness of Suicide’s Impact on Those Left Behind

Losing a loved one to suicide is one of the hardest losses to bear. In addition to missing someone you loved, many survivors are left with intense feelings of guilt and may wonder, “How did I miss the signs? I should have known. I should have been able to prevent this.” On top of that, misinformed people may tell you that your loved one’s act of taking his or her own life was selfish, weak, or a misguided bid for attention. While none of that is true, unfeeling comments like that can add a huge weight of guilt to the psychological burden you are already carrying.

History of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

In 1999, Senator Harry Reid (now retired) introduced a resolution on the Senate Floor which led to the creation of the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, held each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Reid’s father shot himself in 1972 when Reid himself was 32. Reid didn’t speak much about his father’s suicide and its impact on him. When he did, he received an abundance of correspondence. He realized that suicide happens to many people, and devoted part of his career to raising awareness of suicide and improving prevention through legislation.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, also called Survivor Day, is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). According to the AFSP’s website, survivors of suicide loss “come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience.” The organization sponsors events and provides resources to those who have experienced a suicide loss. In 2019, the AFSP sponsored 417 events in more than 20 countries. The timing of the day, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, is intentional. Holidays can be especially difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, particularly to suicide.

Magnitude of Suicide

According to the AFSP, in 2018, 132 people died by suicide each day in America or 48,344 in that year. In addition, 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide that year but survived, which means that over 4 million people each year experience the loss of a loved one or an attempt.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 through 34. Suicide also has a ripple effect; one of the risk factors for suicide is having someone close to you die by suicide or make an attempt.

How to Support a Suicide Survivor

Don’t let “not knowing what to say” stop you from reaching out to a friend who has lost a loved one to suicide. The truth is, no one knows what to say, and there really is nothing that anyone can say to make it better. It’s perfectly fine to tell the person that you don’t know what to say but that you are there for them. There are, however, there are some dos and don’ts when talking to someone who has lost somebody to suicide. 

Do not tell your friend that you know what they are going through--you probably don’t. Don’t ask detailed questions about the person’s death, but do listen to what your friend has to say. Take your cues from him or her. And don’t feel like you have to avoid talking about death. Your friend will need people willing to listen.

Refrain from offering advice or platitudes. Don’t tell the survivor that the loved one “is in a better place,” that “everything happens for a reason,” or that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” While these sentiments may be honest expressions of your beliefs or the survivor’s beliefs, they may not want to hear them. Just listen.

Do not make judgments about suicide. Do not tell the survivor that their loved one was weak, cowardly, or looking for attention. Do not blame anyone else for suicide. Ultimately, the person who took the action is responsible for his or her death. The reasons behind the action may never be fully known or understood.

Do offer help specifically. Offer to bring dinner on a certain evening, or to go to the grocery store for them or take the kids to school. If you say, “let me know if you need anything,” you are putting the burden to reach out on them. The survivor may have trouble reaching out, not wanting to be a burden, or they may honestly not know what they need.

Do be willing to talk about the person who died. You will not be reminding the survivor of what happened--the suicide and loss of their loved ones are likely all that they can think about, and they will need to talk about it. The survivor may appreciate hearing your memories of the person who died. Take your conversational cues from them.

Respect the survivor’s healing process, which will take time. It is not helpful to tell them that they need to “get over it,” or that it’s “time to move on.” There is no schedule for grief, and the survivor will never completely “get over” the loss. With time, however, the grief will lessen.

Be a support system for the long haul. The suicide survivor will need support for a long, long time. The days following a death are very busy making arrangements. Many people will call, come by, or send flowers or food. Then after the memorial service, it can get very, very quiet, and lonely. Immediately after the death, the survivor may be in shock, or emotionally numb. In a few months following the death, the full impact of the loss will begin to be felt.

 

If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, help is available:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-(800) 273-TALK (8255)

TTY 1-(800) 799-4889

911 (emergency response)

Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741

 

Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center located on the coast in the southern part of New Jersey. We are also licensed to treat the co-occurring mental health disorders that frequently accompany substance abuse disorders. Mental health disorders, like depression, often accompanies or leads to substance abuse and can lead to suicide. We offer a range of treatment options, which are tailored to the needs of each individual client. These services range from traditional talk therapy, both one-on-one and in a group setting, within the framework of the 12-Step philosophy. We also offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, yoga, and chiropractic treatment. We focus on treating the whole person. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please call one of the numbers listed above. If you or a loved one is struggling with addictive behaviors, please call (833) 801-5483.

 


Guilt and shame

The Role of Guilt and Shame in Addiction

It happened again. You said you wouldn’t drink too much at the family gathering, but you did. As you start to sober up, you see the hurt and disappointment in your spouse’s eyes. You hate hurting people you love, but you can’t seem to stop your behavior. You feel guilty about your behavior and ashamed of who you are. The feelings of guilt and shame are so painful that you drink again to stop the emotional pain, which causes you to feel guilt and shame. The cycle starts again.

What are Guilt and Shame? Where Do They Come From?

Although many people use the terms “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably, they are not quite the same emotion. According to Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc….” Guilt relates to others. Shame, on the other hand, relates to the self and how we feel about ourselves. Shame is the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with us, that we are damaged or flawed.

According to information published by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), feelings of guilt develop in children between the ages of three and six years of age. Feelings of shame can develop in children as young as 15 months. Guilt stems from the knowledge that we have done something objectively wrong. Shame stems from the feeling that we are inherently damaged. Shame may arise in early childhood when our negative emotions are denied. Some caregivers don’t allow children to have negative emotions, perhaps because the caregivers were never taught how to handle negative emotions themselves. At any rate, when we are children we learn that these negative feelings are unacceptable. So we suppress these feelings and may begin to use addictive behaviors to cover up the emotional pain.

Results of Guilt and Shame

Shame can cause us to fear rejection, which in turn can cause us to avoid people. Shame can also lead to mental health problems, including depression and substance abuse. Many people who struggle with an addiction, be it to drugs, alcohol, gambling, turn to addictive behavior because of their fundamental shame, and then develop shame because of the addiction and guilt over the behaviors caused by the addiction. Shame has also been linked to violence, aggression, bullying, depression, and eating disorders. Shame can also lead to relapse in recovery, which leads to more shame over the relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people will relapse in the first year following treatment.

Guilt, however, can lead to positive change. Guilt can lead us to make an effort to atone for the hurt that we have caused other people or to fix the problem that we have created. We can learn to change the destructive behavior that caused the problem and can reconnect us to people in our lives.

How To Conquer Shame 

Shame is a very self-destructive and soul-destroying emotion and can keep us trapped in our addictions. Fortunately, shame can be overcome. A recent article in Psychology Today had several techniques to help overcome shame. When you are experiencing strong, negative emotions, spend some time to sort out what you are feeling. Is it guilt? Shame? Remember, shame is a way you feel about yourself, the feeling that you are inherently flawed. Guilt is feeling bad because your behavior had a negative impact on someone or a situation. Make sure that what you are feeling isn’t unhealthy guilt, which has been described as feeling guilty because you failed to live up to an unrealistic ideal. When you have sorted out what you are feeling, then you can choose an appropriate response.

1. Separate yourself from what you do

 You have value as a human being on this planet apart from your work or your economic status. Learn to recognize what triggers your feelings of shame, which are usually centered around your emotional vulnerabilities. For example, if you have children, you may feel shame when your parenting abilities are called into question.

2. Connect with people

When you are feeling ashamed, don’t go it alone. Seek help from a sponsor, therapist, support group, family members, friends, or the idea of a higher power. Although it may seem like it, you are not alone in this struggle.

3. Think of your road to recovery like that of an athlete in training

 If a champion athlete loses a game, they are likely to be very disappointed but will be back in practice the next day. Likewise, if you have a relapse, view it as a setback rather than a failure, and get right back into your program.

4. Treat yourself with compassion

As you would to a friend who was suffering. Lastly and perhaps most important, forgive yourself.

Shame is a powerful force that can trap people in addictive behaviors. For an addiction treatment program to be successful, a recovery plan needs to be developed to meet the needs of the whole person, not just the addictive behavior. The underlying guilt and shame and other underlying issues need to be addressed as well. At Enlightened Solutions, located near New Jersey’s southern shore, we offer a wide range of healing options and a custom treatment plan for each client. We offer group and individual talk therapy within the framework of the 12-Step philosophy. In addition, we offer a variety of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction and looking for a treatment facility that will address the needs of the whole person, call (833) 801-5483.