Why You Should Volunteer During Treatment and Recovery

Why You Should Volunteer During Treatment and Recovery

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and help others. It's especially rewarding when you're in recovery from addiction, as it helps increase feelings of gratitude and happiness that help prevent relapse. There are many ways to volunteer, depending on what you're passionate about – from packing food at food banks, to serving homeless shelters, to helping other people achieve recovery in your community.

At Enlightened Solutions, we firmly believe that volunteering is integral to the recovery process. You help yourself in significant ways when you spend time helping others.

The Many Benefits of Volunteering

It's a given that volunteering helps others, but did you know there are other benefits as well? Here are just a few of them to consider.

Form Healthier Connections

Substance abuse and addiction thrive in isolation. They draw people away from their families and friends, which is required to keep drug or alcohol use a secret. Isolation also occurs as a result of the deep shame that is associated with addiction.

Volunteering is a great way to draw you out of that isolation and form a healthy support network. You can meet new people and learn from those whose lives and circumstances differ from yours. This exposure is part of being a more open-minded, well-rounded individual. It may require leaving your comfort zone, especially if you have an introverted personality, but that kind of discomfort is occasionally good and healthy for us.

Improve Your Self-Esteem

The cycle of shame from addiction can understandably impact self-image and self-esteem. You may think that addiction makes you weak-willed, even though it's a disease that requires treatment like any other. When you serve others through volunteering, you can start to see yourself in a more positive light – as someone who cares and wants to give back. These feelings can help rebuild a brain that has been damaged by prolonged substance use, in which the only way to feel good about anything was to get drunk or high.

Volunteering can teach your mind to feel good with natural feel-good hormones, and you can access these by helping other people. As you start to rebuild your confidence, you'll find that you don't need substances anymore.

Manage Your Recovery Time Better

What will you do with your time now that you're no longer getting drunk or high? Perhaps you're looking for positive, healthier ways to keep busy and avoid relapse. Volunteering can help you with developing healthier time management skills. Whether serving on a local school board, attending community support meetings, or assisting with local blood drives, there are endless ways to fill your time. The less idle time you have, the better your chances of staying sober.

Improve Your Mental Health

Many people with substance use disorder (SUD) struggle with co-occurring disorders. This is when substance abuse occurs alongside a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Often, these conditions fuel each other, or one causes the other (the scientific consensus is unclear).

However it happens, one way to manage the symptoms is to look beyond yourself and focus on others. Volunteering helps accomplish that task. In addition to helping others, which floods the brain's pleasure center with dopamine, you are building healthy, long-lasting connections with others.

Help Others in Need

While there are many personal gains in volunteering, the main point is to help others. It's about giving back to the community that helped you get sober. It's also about providing access to resources for others who may be struggling in the same way you once struggled. If someone helped you at some point during your recovery, at no benefit to themselves, paying it forward is the best way to pay them back.

Develop a Sense of Purpose

The world can feel like a big, aimless place when you are newly sober and struggling to find your place within it once again. Perhaps you struggle to fill your time productively now that you're no longer using substances or hanging out with people who do. Filling that time with volunteering can help you feel needed and useful. Taking the focus off yourself and directing it toward others will also help you stay sober. When people are counting on you to show up and fulfill certain responsibilities, there is an additional layer of accountability that can keep you grounded and resist the temptation to use.

Learn New Skills and Gain Experience

Many people have trouble getting their lives back on track after struggling with addiction. Perhaps they lost their job and need help getting back on their feet. If that's you, volunteering is a great way to help you develop the skills and experience necessary to one day get a job in that field.

Volunteering is a two-fold process that helps the people being served as much as the people serving them. When you volunteer for a cause you're passionate about, you can network with like-minded people and be able to ask for references from people you volunteer with.

The skills learned in substance abuse treatment can serve you well in the world of volunteering. Not sure where to get started? Think about the causes you're passionate about, and see what opportunities are available in your community. The right opportunities are out there, waiting to be discovered.

At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that giving back to the community is a vital part of the addiction recovery process. There are many ways we recommend our clients do this. Whether it's making coffee or setting up chairs for 12-Step group meetings or serving as mentors for other people in need of accountability, we can help you find volunteer work in a setting you're passionate about. Not only will volunteering help take the focus away from yourself and allow you to help others, but it can also lead to opportunities for rebuilding a life that has been negatively impacted by drug or alcohol use. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (833) 801-LIVE.

How to Cope with Occupational Stress in a Healthy Way

How to Cope With Occupational Stress in a Healthy Way

Work is often stressful. Whether you have tension with a coworker, a boss that always seems to be breathing down your neck, or endless deadlines that have you on edge, there will always be stressors when it comes to work. Of course, some jobs are more stressful than others. Some days or seasons may be more stressful than others as well. Because stress is inevitable, it is important to know how to cope with stress at work in a healthy way.

Stress can be a major trigger for substance use and abuse. It is well known that work can be one of the main stressors for many, so coping well with work-related stress is critical. You might be tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol after a long day or week at work. While this may start in moderation, often, as the stress increases, so does the amount or frequency of substance use.

There are many healthy ways of coping with work-related stress that do not involve drugs or alcohol. A few healthy ways to cope with stress at work can include:

  • Exercise and eat healthy foods
  • Take breaks and time off
  • Try therapy or counseling
  • Consider a job or role change

Exercise and Eat Well

One tip for stress management is making sure you are living a healthy lifestyle. While this may sound cliché, it is true. If you are living a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals and incorporating some physical activity into your weekly or daily routine, you are more likely to handle stress better. This is because these things promote better sleep, better mood, more energy, and better focus.

With all of these advantages comes better functioning. When you function better at work, you are more efficient. Often, when you are more efficient, you have less work-related stress. You are better able to meet your deadlines, can focus better on your specific job tasks and duties, and have a better mood for interacting with your coworkers and supervisors.

Take a Break

By law, you are legally entitled to breaks throughout your workday. Of course, the number of breaks and duration of each break can vary depending on the length of your shift. It is advisable to take advantage of these breaks.

It can be easy to get so focused on a project or task that you forget to take breaks during the workday. You may be so busy that you forget to even take a lunch break. This is not healthy. It is so important to take breaks when appropriate at work. This gives your mind and body time to refresh and re-energize and focus on something other than work just for a moment.

Taking a break can also mean taking a day off. If you work full time, you are often allotted some paid time off throughout the year. Giving yourself time to decompress and relax, even just for a few minutes, can be very beneficial to your stress levels.

Go to Therapy

Therapy can be very beneficial when it comes to managing stress. Sometimes, just talking about problems and issues that stress you out can be helpful. Therapists can also provide some ideas for coping with your specific situation and challenges.

Therapy can also help you process your thoughts and feelings about your job and help you discover areas in which you may need to make changes. This could involve changes to your daily routine, changes to any extracurricular activities that may be causing stress, or appropriate changes to your job or role.

Make a Change

Sometimes, a change of job or career is what is most appropriate. Burnout is absolutely a real experience and often results in built-up and unresolved stress and tension. Sometimes, a job that is generating a lot of stress and anxiety may just not be a good fit. If this is the case, it is okay.

You might try several different career paths before settling into something you feel is a really good fit for you. Being self-aware and acknowledging when a change is needed is important. Many services and resources are available to help you discover career options that could be a good fit.

Again, it can be common for work-related stress to be a trigger for substance use, which can eventually lead to addiction. At Enlightened Solutions, we can help you develop strategies for coping with stress in healthy ways. We can teach you how to incorporate healthy habits and routines into your lifestyle to help you respond well when you feel stressed.

Work is sometimes stressful. For some, work can be stressful often. Sometimes, the lack of work or a job can be a stressor. Stress can lead to substance use, which can eventually lead to addiction. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is crucial. At Enlightened Solutions, we teach clients how to handle stressful situations throughout their recovery without using drugs or alcohol. You will learn strategies for reducing stress independently such as deep breathing techniques and meditation. You will also learn to identify when it might be time to get help or seek guidance. We incorporate holistic activities to benefit your overall health, which reduces stress and improves overall mood and mental health. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, we would love to help. Give Enlightened Solutions a call today at (833) 801-LIVE.

Stigma of Addiction

How You Can Help Reduce the Stigma of Addiction

Although we’ve come a long way in our views about addiction, there is still a serious stigma attached to it. A 2018 poll by AP-NORC found that while 53 percent of Americans view addiction as a disease that needs treatment, negative views of addiction remain common. For example, 44 percent said they thought addiction showed a lack of discipline or willpower and 33 percent said it was a character flaw. This stigma has real-life consequences, since it compounds the shame people with substance use disorders already feel, prevents them from seeking help, and makes the public prefer punishment to treatment. Although no individual can significantly reduce the stigma of addiction, we can each do our part. The following are some ways you can help reduce the stigma of substance use disorders.

Learn as much as you can about addiction.

First, it’s important to learn as much as you can about addiction. You may feel that since you, or someone close to you, have struggled with substance use yourself, then you know all you need to know. While that certainly gives you valuable insight, many people who have been personally affected by addiction aren’t aware of the complex causes of addiction. In fact, addiction science is still relatively new and researchers are discovering more all the time.

If you don’t want to spread misleading information, you have to do your own research. You might want to start with oververviews of addiction by reliable sources, such as information available on the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These typically share research-based information, about which there is broad—but not total—consensus. You can learn basic things like the role of genetics, mental health, childhood environment, and trauma play in addiction, as well as which treatment methods are backed by scientific evidence.

Beyond that, there are many good books about addiction written for a general audience. Some good ones include Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz, In the Land of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, and High Price, by Carl Hart. There are also a lot of great addiction and recovery memoirs out right now. These can be especially valuable for people who have never personally experienced addiction.

Examine your own attitudes.

In the course of researching addiction, you will inevitably change some of your attitudes, but it’s also important to make sure that new attitudes inform your behavior. For example, you might understand, rationally, that addiction is caused by genes, mental health issues, and so on, and still feel judgmental toward someone with a substance use disorder. Additionally, even if you have struggled with addiction yourself, you may not necessarily have a compassionate attitude toward other people who are also struggling with addiction. In fact, sometimes people in recovery are even more judgmental, especially if they feel a lot of shame about their own substance use. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you need to talk to a therapist to work on your own issues around shame and self-criticism. This will help you feel better about yourself, and it will help you feel more connected to others in recovery.

Use compassionate language.

How you talk and write about addiction and people with substance use disorders signals your beliefs and feelings about addiction. Avoid using language that’s judgmental, dismissive, or dehumanizing. Certainly never use derogatory terms like “junkie” or “crackhead,” but also be careful about other labels like “addict” or “alcoholic,” since they tend to reduce a person to their worst quality. Instead, remember that a substance use disorder is a disease and use “person-first language.” So, instead of calling someone an opioid addict, it’s better to say “person with an opioid use disorder.”

Since language is fluid and can be implicitly negative as well as explicitly negative, it may help to adjust your mental model of what someone with a substance use disorder looks like. We all carry some stereotype of addiction and these may not bear much resemblance to reality. Keep in mind that addiction is largely invisible, since many people go to great lengths to hide their substance use issues. When you talk about someone struggling with substance use, you may be talking about a friend or loved one; perhaps someone who is in the room. Always remember that you might be talking about your best friend, your sibling, your child, or your parent.

Call out wrong or misleading information.

In addition to watching your own language around addiction, don’t be afraid to say something when you hear others use stigmatizing language or when you hear or read misleading information. Most people who repeat inaccurate information or use stigmatizing language just don’t know any better and are simply repeating what they’ve heard. Let them know—respectfully—that what they’ve said could be construed as offensive and damaging. Correct any misinformation so they can at least not plead ignorance in the future. Even if you don’t change the person’s mind, you might change the minds of some other people in the room or at least expose them to new information. This doesn’t only apply to casual conversation, either. If you happen to see stigmatizing language or wrong information elsewhere, such as the news media or social media, reach out—again, respectfully—and let someone know. Most of the time, content creators want to be objective and avoid giving offense, so you may be doing them a favor.

Share your own experiences with addiction and recovery when appropriate.

As noted above, part of the reason the stigma of addiction persists is that addiction is largely invisible, so the the most visible examples of people with substance use issues are the homeless, the unemployed, and the incarcerated. If appropriate, sharing your own experiences with addiction and recovery can put a real human face on addiction. People are typically persuaded by positive examples: both by people who have obvious positive qualities despite their substance use issues and by people who have recovered from addiction. You might be the example that disrupts someone’s negative stereotype. You may also be the example that gives someone with a substance use problem the courage to ask for help.

The stigma of addiction is real and it stands in the way of more people getting help. While you can’t get rid of the stigma on your own, you can certainly do your part. Educate yourself, monitor your own beliefs and language, and correct misinformation when you hear it. At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that people are complex and addiction is just one aspect of a person’s life. Our holistic approach to treatment aims to heal the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483 or explore our website.