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.


Signs of Teen Drug Use

It can be frightening to think that your teen has been misusing drugs or alcohol. Teenagers are at a crucial stage of development, and drug or alcohol misuse at this stage of their brain development can have dire consequences on their overall health and well-being. 

Peer pressure, self-exploration, and mistakes are natural parts of growing up and, as much as we would like them not to, many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, there is a difference between one-time drug use and chronic use. 

If your teen has been misusing substances, it is essential to seek professional help. An adolescent mental health specialist can guide you on the steps you can take to prevent the onset of dependence and drug addiction. If your teen is already addicted, evidence-based teen-friendly treatment programs are highly effective.

How Do I Know If My Teen Has Been Using Drugs? 

You may notice some worrying behaviors in your teen and jump to the conclusion that they have misused drugs or alcohol. It is likely that your teen's mood swings, withdrawal, rebelliousness, and unusual behavior stems from their racing hormones and developing sense of the world around them, however, there is a chance it could be from substance misuse. 
It is essential to recognize the early warning signs of teen drug misuse so that you can take effective action to help them. 
According to Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, early warning signs of teen drug use include(1):

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities
  • Secrecy about whereabouts
  • Health problems 
  • Sudden change to social group
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Increased irritability, aggression
  • Drastic weight loss or gain
  • Missing prescription drugs
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (rolling papers, needles, bongs, empty spirit bottles, burned spoons)

What Are the Behavioral Signs of Teen Drug Use?

Behavioral signs are usually the first signs of teen drug use that parents and loved ones notice. Common behavioral signs of drug or alcohol misuse to look out for include:

  • Coming home late
  • Frequently asking for money
  • Withdrawing from the family
  • Absence from school or work

What Are the Physical Signs of Teen Drug Use?

Physical indicators of drug or alcohol misuse in teens include:

  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Sores on mouth
  • Large dilated pupils
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Sudden weight loss or gain

What Are the Risk Factors for Teen Drug Use?

FACTS is an acronym you can use to understand the risk factors for teen drug use. 

F - Family History

Suppose there is a history of substance misuse in the family. In this case, a child or teen is more likely to use drugs and develop an addiction(2). SAMHSA reports that children with first-degree relatives who have Substance Use Disorder are eight times more likely to misuse substances than those without(3).

A - Age of First Use

The younger a person is when they first use drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction(4). Teen brains are at a crucial stage of development, and drug or alcohol misuse at this time can shape how the brain continues to grow and develop. 

C - Craving

Drug or alcohol misuse can lead to dependence. When dependence occurs, the teen experiences intense cravings for the substance when it is not available. Teens may not yet have developed the ability to tolerate the distress associated with these cravings, making them more vulnerable than adults to addiction.

T - Tolerance

Tolerance to a substance's effects builds up the more it is used. If your teen needs to use more of a drug in greater frequency to achieve the desired effects, they are at high risk of dependence and addiction. 

S - Surroundings

Exposure to drug or alcohol misuse in the home or in one's peer groups increases the likelihood of drug or alcohol use, and prolonged exposure normalizes the behavior. A teen may notice that family members or friends use drugs or alcohol in stressful times and learn to do the same. 

Should I Talk to My Teen About Drugs?

It’s essential to talk to your teen and listen to their opinions and perceptions about drugs and alcohol. By speaking with them about the reality of substance misuse, you create a trusting, supportive relationship in which they feel comfortable talking about their experiences. 

Talking goes a long way in reducing the risk of substance misuse. Make sure that when you talk to your teen, you do so with compassion and understanding. Hostility and confrontation will not help. 

If you have discovered that your teen has been misusing drugs or alcohol, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Effective interventions and treatments are available and can help your teen curb their drug use before addiction takes over. 

You’re never too young for recovery. There are treatment centers and support groups across the United States dedicated to helping teens find recovery.

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients numerous tools to move forward in their sober lifestyle.  We focus on healing the whole person and not merely treating the addiction. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center; we can treat both substance use disorders and the mental health issues that frequently accompany addiction.  Our treatment program rooted in the 12-Step philosophy provides each client an individualized recovery plan. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of 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 picturesque southern shore of New Jersey allows us to provide optimal healing and relaxation. If you want to be free from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.

 

(1) Ali, Shahid et al. “Early detection of illicit drug use in teenagers.” Innovations in clinical neuroscience vol. 8,12 (2011): 24-8.

(2) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2004. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39.) Chapter 2 Impact of Substance Abuse on Families. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64258/

(3) Lipari, R.N. and Van Horn, S.L. Children living with parents who have a substance use disorder. The CBHSQ Report: August 24, 2017. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

(4) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016 Nov. CHAPTER 2, THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF SUBSTANCE USE, MISUSE, AND ADDICTION. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424849


Recovery and the Hierarchy of Needs

Recovery and the Hierarchy of Needs

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
-Abraham Maslow, Humanistic Psychologist and Creator of the Hierarchy of Needs

American psychologist Abraham Maslow created what he called the Hierarchy of Needs to describe the motivational steps required for growth and human achievement. Maslow placed these needs in a hierarchy on a pyramid, meaning that some of our needs build the base of the pyramid and each need fulfillment brings us closer to “self-actualization.” “Self-actualization” refers to the apex of what we are capable of achieving and becoming.

While addicted to alcohol or substances, we may have forgotten about our life’s purpose and neglected to fulfill our own needs. We may need to begin our recovery at the base of the pyramid or at another step along the way toward our self-fulfillment.

According to Maslow, we need to fulfill our needs in the most basic areas before advancing toward fulfilling needs that are considered to be of a higher order. The hierarchy of needs is as follows, beginning at the most basic of needs to the highest need of self-actualization:

1. Physiological Needs: Food, Shelter, Clothing--the Basics

The first set of needs on Maslow’s pyramid is the basic, physiological needs all people require for survival. Most of us in recovery have these needs fulfilled, however, we may need help maintaining these basic needs. We may also neglect the importance or value of these needs and how they can be vital to recovery. For example, eating food that is nutritious and healthy will fulfill our needs better than eating junk food. Once we have our basic needs met we move on to safety and security needs.

2. Safety and Security: Routines and Predictability

Many of us in recovery may be at this level. We may have been surviving, but our lives have become chaotic and unpredictable. We may have lost our means for financial support or support from our families to supply necessities, which helped us to feel safe and secure.

Safety and security needs help us feel stable in our lives. Without stability, we may be surviving at only the most basic of levels. Once we have our safety and security needs met, we move on to seeking love and belongingness needs.

3. Love and Belongingness: Support Networks

We are social creatures and thrive when we feel a sense of love and belonging. When others accept us, we feel that we belong to something greater than ourselves. In recovery, we may need to build support networks for ourselves to lean on when things are tough.

Recovery is challenging, but we are not alone in this journey! Peer support and group sessions can help us fulfill our needs of belonging and give us a sense of community. Once we feel that we are loved and belong, we begin to work on our esteem needs.

4. Esteem Needs: Dignity and Reputation

Our support networks can help us feel stronger and we can begin to feel better about ourselves. Then, we can work on esteem needs. Esteem needs relate to how we feel about ourselves and how much we feel others value us. In recovery, we may need to learn how to love ourselves.

We may feel that we let others down with our addictions and seek to rebuild our reputations. Having dignity and self-respect will help us achieve our goals for our self-fulfillment. Being respected by others may help us feel better about ourselves if we feel that we have hurt others in the past with our addictions.

Once we build our self-esteem and self-confidence and build up our reputation, we can look towards the apex of the pyramid: self-actualization.

5. Self-Actualization: Our Best Self

The top of Maslow’s pyramid is the highest need of all. Self-actualization is our need to become the best that we can be. When we have all our other needs fulfilled, we can be our best selves. While we may have a vision of what the best version of ourselves is, without the other needs being fulfilled, we may find accomplishing our highest goals to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

In recovery, we remember that we are on a journey and the destination is our best self. However, we cannot climb a mountain without drinking any water! We will have a difficult time facing challenges without emotional support and encouragement from others.

When we begin our journey in recovery, we must look forward while recognizing that climbing the pyramid of self-improvement takes time. Step-by-step, fulfilling our needs along the way, we can make it to the top!

While engaging in addictive behaviors, we may have neglected some of our most basic needs while surviving day by day. We may not have been looking forward and have only been fulfilling our basic needs without addressing all of our needs to achieve all that we are capable of. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can guide you in your recovery by understanding what you may need to work on to begin working towards becoming your best self. What are you capable of? What is the best that you can be? Self-discovery can be difficult, but even if you are lost, you are not alone! Many others are also seeking care and treatment for their addictive behaviors that have been holding them back from living their best lives. Enlightened Solutions has been helping others like you achieve their goals with an emphasis on finding your fulfillment. Call us at (833) 801-5483 today to begin your journey toward self-actualization!


How Do Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Your Addiction Risk?

How Do Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Your Addiction Risk?

It may seem obvious to anyone who has experience with substance use disorders that childhood adversity and addiction are related somehow. Certain patterns tend to emerge whenever people with substance use disorders start talking: having a parent who struggled with addiction, being abused physically or sexually, having a parent who was always in jail or who just wasn’t there at all, and so on.

However, you may not be aware that this phenomenon has been studied fairly extensively and that experts are now seeing a picture emerge of how these experiences affect not only your addiction risk, but also your mental health, your physical health, and even how much money you make. The following is a brief look at how adverse childhood experiences are related to addiction.

What Are ACEs?

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are a measure of how often you felt frightened, threatened, hurt, insecure, or neglected as a child. ACEs fall broadly into three categories: abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Neglect can be physical—such as not having enough food or not having clean, adequate clothing—or it can be emotional, such as feeling unloved.

Household dysfunction includes having a parent with a mental health issue or substance use issue, having a parent who is incarcerated, witnessing domestic violence, or having your parents get divorced. It can be helpful to explore NPR’s interactive questionnaire and learn more about specific ACEs.

How Common Are They?

One of the largest studies on ACEs was conducted by Kaiser Permanente between 1995 and 1997. The study looked at data from more than 17,000 people and asked questions about adverse childhood experiences. It also collected answers regarding adult substance use and mental and physical health. As you might expect, most people had at least one adverse childhood experience. About two-thirds of respondents said they had at least one, and one-fifth of respondents had at least two.

How Many Are Too Many?

Your next question might be: how many ACEs can you have before you’re in serious trouble? Ideally, the fewer the better. ACEs tend to be the kinds of challenges that stunt rather than stimulate growth. However, the magic number appears to be four. Each ACE increases your risk a little bit, but the risk jumps when you get to four.

At that point, experts have seen a jump in a variety of negative outcomes, including addiction, teenage pregnancy, and suicide. An ACE score of 4 nearly doubles your risk of heart disease and cancer—most likely from increased drinking and smoking—and increases your risk of developing alcohol use disorder by seven times, compared to someone with no ACEs.

Do ACEs Cause Addiction?

Looking at the data, it may seem obvious that ACEs lead to addiction and other negative outcomes but if you look a bit closer, the picture gets complicated. For example, addiction has a strong genetic component, and even adopted children who are raised from birth by parents without substance use issues are more likely to develop an addiction if one of their biological parents had a substance use disorder.

Additionally, when a parent has a substance use disorder, there are more likely to be other problems, such as neglect, abuse, incarceration, and so on. It’s very hard to untangle the effects of genetics and a child’s environment but they both play a role. The same is true of mental health issues. There is a strong genetic component and it undermines the stability of the household. Mental illness is another route to addiction as well.

Conversely, there is a bit of good news: not everyone with a high ACE count will develop every problem associated with ACEs. It depends a lot on the individual as well as any mitigating factors, such as having community support and being connected with other responsible adults. While ACEs certainly contribute to addiction risk, other factors matter too.

What Do ACEs Mean for Treatment?

ACEs have several important implications for the treatment of addiction. First and foremost, the strong connection between childhood experiences and addiction underscores the fact that addiction is not a choice. Children have basically no influence over their circumstances and yet those circumstances have an enormous influence over their health and happiness as adults. Therefore, we all need to recognize that shaming or punishing people with substance use disorders is pointless and counterproductive. Compassion and support are far more effective.

Second, it’s important to recognize that addressing trauma will often be a central component of addiction treatment. Research shows that anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of people seeking help for a substance use disorder have a lifetime diagnosis of PTSD. The earlier the trauma, the more challenging it is to overcome. However, people can get better with the right help.

Can You Prevent ACEs?

As noted above, not everyone who has a high ACE count suffers the same consequences. One reason is that we’re all different and we all respond to adversity differently. Another reason is that there are often factors, such as positive childhood experiences, that offset the damage caused by ACEs.

These include things like having positive relationships with other adults—perhaps relatives, teachers, or coaches—as well as peers, learning healthy coping skills, having good educational opportunities, having access to food and healthcare, and having good available role models.

These may be available through community programs, public systems, education and public health programs, or extended family. However, as an adult, you may need therapy to address the harm caused by ACEs.

Like genes, ACEs do not determine your destiny, but they can have a significant influence on the rest of your life. We can’t control what happens to us as children, especially when we’re very young. However, we can understand the role that ACEs play in later problems such as addiction and we can respond with compassion, especially toward ourselves.

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that the roots of addiction are complex. That’s why we treat the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. We address childhood trauma while also helping clients develop healthy coping skills and close connections to their support network. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (833) 801-5483.


What Should You Do After a Relapse?

What Should You Do After a Relapse?

Relapse is unfortunately common when you’re trying to overcome a substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people will relapse within a year of treatment. Although relapse can be dangerous and discouraging and should be avoided if possible, it’s also nothing to be ashamed of. The nature of addiction is that it’s hard to quit. The good news is that people do sustain recovery even after several relapses. Here are some tips for getting back on track after a relapse.

Reach Out for Support

First, reach out to someone you trust. Your reflex will probably be to isolate. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed. You may feel like you can get it together and no one has to know. Fight that impulse and ask for help. There are two primary reasons for this. First, shame, deception, and isolation are habits of addiction. Cutting yourself off from your support system, whether from shame or a misplaced determination to be self-reliant only takes you further in the wrong direction. Owning your mistake, being open about it, and asking for help can be hard but it’s a firm step in the right direction.

The other reason is that you actually do need help. No one recovers alone and this is especially true following relapse when your situation may feel even more hopeless than it did the first time you got sober. Reach out to your therapist, your sponsor, your 12-Step group, or a friend or relative you trust. It’s easier to get back on track if you have someone on your side and it also gives you a greater sense of accountability.

Limit the Damage

After a relapse, a lot of people take the view of, “Well, I’ve ruined my recovery already, so I might as well go all the way.” This is a classic case of all-or-nothing thinking, one of the common cognitive distortions identified in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. It is frustrating to feel like you have to start over and some aspects of 12-Step programs, such as starting over on your sober days, make it feel like nothing you accomplished before relapse matters.

However, it’s important to ask yourself, “How can I improve my situation now?” Although you may have slipped and had a few drinks with dinner or maybe gone on a week-long bender or whatever, continuing in that behavior will only make your situation worse. The sooner you are able to get sober again and assess your situation, the better position you will be in to resume your recovery.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

One of the biggest challenges of bouncing back after a relapse is dealing with the challenging emotions and self-criticism. You may be thinking something like, “How could I be so stupid?” or “I’ll never be able to stay sober,” or “What’s the point of even trying?” It’s normal to feel discouraged but it doesn’t help. On the other hand, “chin up” sort of thinking doesn’t really help either. Trying to stay positive sometimes only adds to your frustration. Instead, try acknowledging the facts: About half of people relapse after treatment and many of those people are able to stay sober on subsequent attempts.

Next, try extending yourself a bit of compassion. Compassion is not about pretending everything is fine, but rather about acknowledging that you can make mistakes and still be worthy of love and happiness. Instead of beating yourself up over a relapse, imagine how you would treat your best friend who had just relapsed and felt awful about it. Try extending some of that compassion to yourself too.

Analyze What Went Wrong

Perhaps the most crucial part of bouncing back after relapse is not losing the lesson. There are many potential hazards in recovery from addiction. Some of them are foreseeable and others aren’t. Analyzing what went wrong can provide valuable information for your next attempt. It might help to write about what happened. Where were you? Who were you with? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about? What was going on in your life more generally? Had you been sticking to your recovery plan? If not, why not?

You may discover that it was something simple like you got too busy at work and started skipping meetings. Or it could be something you had little or no control over, such as the unexpected death of a loved one. Sometimes you’re just not ready for what life throws at you. The more you can learn, the better you can adapt your recovery plan to account for those possibilities.

Look for the Silver Lining

It’s frustrating to feel like you have to start all over. A lot of people feel like they don’t have it in them. However, it may help to think about what you have going for you that you didn’t have last time you got sober. For example, you probably have some sober friends, you know what to expect at 12-Step meetings, you may have a therapist already, you may have resources at your disposal from the treatment program you attended, you may be aware of a mental health issue that needs attention, and so on. In short, it’s not your first rodeo. Thinking about everything you have going for you will give you more confidence going forward.

Try Again

Finally, when you’ve assessed your situation and figured out how you might do better in the future, try again. Exactly what you do will depend on your individual situation. If you had a minor slip, you can probably just go back to your recovery plan--with the proper modifications--go back to attending meetings, and so on. If you had a more extensive relapse, you may need to consider going back into treatment at some level.

Relapse is always a setback in recovery from addiction but it doesn’t have to be a failure. Plenty of people have to try several times to get sober but eventually succeed. Whether or not you ultimately have a long recovery depends on how you respond to a relapse. If you learn from your mistakes and try again, your long-term chances are good.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovery is a process that never ends. We do everything we can to help our clients learn the skills they need to stay sober and help them transition back to normal life. We offer partial care, intensive outpatient services, relapse prevention, and sober living services to help make recovery last. To learn more, call us at 833-801-5483.


Intervention

How to Write a Compelling Intervention Letter

If you’ve tried reasoning with your loved one, encouraging them to get help, and yet their substance use only seems to be getting worse, it’s possible that the only thing left is to stage an intervention. Most people are familiar with interventions; they’re when you get some family members and possibly some close friends together, confront the person about the obvious damage their substance use is causing, and ask them to accept help.

A lot goes into a successful intervention and you should always enlist the help of an experienced interventionist to guide the process. However, one part of the intervention that you may be deeply involved with is writing an intervention letter. There are two main reasons for writing a letter beforehand. The first is that you want to have something to say and you want to say it without rambling. In other words, you don’t want to find yourself drawing a blank when it’s your turn to speak—after all, it is a form of public speaking—and you don’t want to go off on tangents that eat up everyone else’s time. The second reason is that interventions are often emotionally intense and you don’t want to get drawn into any arguments that might derail the process. With those two things in mind, let’s look at some considerations for writing a powerful intervention letter.

Start with love and support.

First, it’s critical to open your letter with a sincere statement of love and support. When someone walks into an intervention, they instantly become defensive. It’s important to remember—and to remind them—why any of you bothered to engage in such an unpleasant task. You wouldn't do it unless you were genuinely concerned for the person and wanted them to be happy. It’s often a good idea to share a happy memory or express sincere gratitude for something the person did for you.

Emphasize that addiction is a disease that needs treatment.

When you’ve expressed your love and support, it’s typically a good idea to follow it with a statement about how their behavior when using drugs and alcohol is at odds with the decent, kind person you know they really are. What’s more, you understand that they have been behaving in this uncharacteristic way because addiction is a disease; one that needs treatment.

Give specific examples of how substance use has hurt your loved one.

After you’ve expressed your love and support and stated your belief that addiction is a disease, it’s time to move on to the meat of the letter: the real harm that drugs and alcohol have caused your loved one, and by extension, their friends and family. There are a few important points to keep in mind about this. The first is that you want to keep your examples as concrete as possible. Value judgments and generalizations open you up to arguments, so stick to facts. Instead of something like, “You’re always getting drunk and starting arguments for no reason,” go with something like, “Last Wednesday, when you were drunk, you were yelling at me so loudly that the neighbors called the police.” You can say that you felt scared, angry, hurt, and so on, but try to refrain from attributing feelings, thoughts, and motivations to the other person.

Next, stick to incidents you’ve experienced firsthand. For one thing, this gives you more credibility since you’re not relying on hearsay and rumors. Another reason is that there is a room full of people who are going to share their own stories and there’s no point relating a secondhand version of their stories.

Finally, resist the urge to embellish or labor your points. The incidents you choose should speak for themselves.

Ask them to accept help.

After you’ve shared a few examples of how substance use is hurting your loved one, reiterate that addiction is a disease and ask them to accept treatment. Say that treatment can be effective and life can get better. If they won’t do it for themselves, ask them to please do it for you.

State the consequences of not accepting help, when appropriate.

Sometimes it’s necessary to spell out the consequences of not accepting help. This is only done in a small percentage of cases and your intervention specialist will make a judgment on whether an ultimatum is appropriate in your case. If you do give your loved one an ultimatum, you have to be prepared to follow through. If you say that you’ll take the kids and leave unless your spouse accepts help, then you have to do it. Otherwise, they’ll know they can just continue to do whatever they want because your threats are meaningless.

Ask for feedback before the intervention.

With so much at stake, writing an intervention letter can feel like a huge task, especially if you don’t write very often. To make it manageable, start by breaking it down into the smaller tasks described above. Do a little brainstorming. For example, when you are writing the part describing the effects substance use has had on your loved one’s life, see if you can come up with 20 examples—from those, pick the most striking three to five to detail in the letter.

After you have a first draft of the letter, the real work begins. Put it away for as long as you can, to get a little space. That might not be long under the circumstances. When you look at it again, read it to yourself aloud. When you do that, a lot of awkward phrases will jump out at you. Since you have to read it aloud anyway, you might as well do it early. Make sure to have someone else look at it, so you can get some perspective from outside of your own head. Finally, you will probably have an opportunity to read the letter during a rehearsal or at least to show it to the interventionist. Take their feedback seriously; they have a lot more experience with interventions than you do.

An intervention is typically the last resort, but they often succeed in getting people into treatment. The important points of an intervention letter include opening with love, emphasizing that addiction is a disease, spelling out as concretely as possible the consequences of your loved one’s substance use, and asking them to accept help. At Enlightened Solutions, interventions are one of the many services we provide. To learn more, explore our website or call us today at 833-801-5483.


Why Transitional Care Matters for Addiction Recovery

Why Transitional Care Matters for Addiction Recovery

Completing a quality addiction treatment program is a great start to recovery. You get away from the stress and bad influences of your regular life, you work with a therapist, you get a chance to recover your health, and you establish new habits in a supportive environment.

You can accomplish quite a bit in a relatively short time during an intensive program. However, it’s also important to have a smooth transition back to regular life.

The protective, supportive environment of inpatient treatment is great for healing but it doesn’t much resemble real life. Too often, people who do well during treatment have trouble once they leave.

An estimated 40 to 60 percent of people who get treatment for a substance use disorder relapse within the first year of completing treatment. Transitional care can help you get back to your normal life with less risk of relapse. Here are some common ways people get tripped up and how to get past them.

 

Support 

 

Perhaps the biggest difference between being in treatment and being home is the lack of support. When you’re in inpatient treatment, everyone around you is either trying to help you stay sober or trying to stay sober themselves.

The staff works hard to make sure there are no drugs or alcohol in the facility, that you’re relatively comfortable, that you have the emotional support you need, and that you’re living a relatively healthy lifestyle. 

 

When you get home, things may be much different. The people around you may not know how to support you. Unlike treatment staff and other people in recovery, they may not really understand what addiction and recovery are like.

Since people in recovery are often encouraged to distance themselves from friends who drink and use drugs, they often feel lonely at first. You may not feel like you have someone you can talk to when things get hard. 

 

For most people, the best way to cope with this lower level of support will be to attend mutual aid meetings, such as a 12-Step group. It’s fairly common for people to attend meetings every day—at least for a while—after leaving treatment.

Another good option, especially for people who have had difficulty transitioning in the past, is to step down to a lower level of care. So, for example, if you have just completed a month of inpatient treatment, you might enter an intensive outpatient program so you can start getting back to normal life while retaining much of the continuity and support of treatment.

 

Structure

 

One thing you can’t help but notice in inpatient treatment is that everything happens on schedule. There’s a time you get up, times for meals, times for therapy, times for activities, and so on.

While this certainly makes it easier to coordinate everyone’s activity, it also serves a therapeutic purpose. When you have a healthy routine, it’s easier to make healthy choices. You are more likely to get enough quality sleep, eat at regular times, exercise, and do other things that promote recovery. 

 

Unfortunately, a month in treatment is typically not long enough to make this routine stick. Research indicates that it takes an average of two months—and often much longer—to make a new behavior automatic.

By the end of the month, you may be pretty used to your regular schedule and so you may suddenly feel pretty adrift when you go home and no one cares what time you get up or do anything else.

 

One thing you can do is to preserve your treatment routine as much as possible. Although it may not be automatic yet, it should be relatively easy if you make a deliberate effort.

Having some firm commitments, such as daily 12-Step meetings or intensive outpatient sessions will also help give some structure to your days. If you’re worried about being at loose ends after leaving inpatient treatment, one option is to enter a sober-living environment.

You will live with other sober people and have less structure than inpatient treatment but more structure than living at home. Typically, residents have a curfew, are required to work or look for work, are assigned chores, and participate in 12-Step meetings.

 

Applying Skills to Real Life

 

Finally, it’s important to remember that there is a huge difference between applying cognitive and behavioral strategies in a safe, controlled environment like inpatient treatment and applying them out in the world when there are real stakes. The hypotheticals and past situations you deal with in treatment aren’t always the same as the challenges you face in real life.

Real life is endlessly inventive when it comes to creating problems and you will inevitably have to face some challenges you didn’t prepare for. 

 

Some of the solutions already mentioned will certainly help with this. Attending 12-Step meetings, participating in intensive outpatient treatment, and living in a sober residence all give you opportunities to discuss new problems with people who have been there.

Many treatment programs also offer follow-up counseling for just this purpose. 

 

Another good idea is to get a therapist who you can see regularly. Most people with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health issues, such as major depression, anxiety disorders, and others that typically require ongoing, or at least intermittent, support.

A therapist with experience treating addiction and co-occurring disorders can help you manage any mental health issues while also applying your recovery skills to whatever challenges you’re currently facing. 

 

Going from the structured, supportive environment of inpatient treatment to the chaotic indifference of real life is too often overwhelming for people new to recovery. Recovering from addiction is a long process that entails mastering new skills, thinking in different ways, and making healthy lifestyle changes, all of which takes time and support. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that treatment is just the beginning of recovery and we support our clients with follow-up care, including sober living options. For more information, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.


7 Tips for Handling Peer Pressure in Addiction Recovery

7 Tips for Handling Peer Pressure in Addiction Recovery

We tend to think of peer pressure as something that mainly affects adolescents. The phrase conjures tedious lectures from teachers, school counselors, and DARE officers.

While peer pressure is certainly strongest for adolescents, as social creatures, most of us are vulnerable to peer pressure to some degree throughout our lives. Peer pressure is still fairly strong even in young adulthood, between 18 and 25.

We all look around to see what other people are doing, especially if we’re in an unfamiliar situation. When you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, you’re not only fighting your own cravings but possibly the expectations of your family and friends as well.

In a perfect world, everyone around you would respect your wish not to use drugs or alcohol, but in reality, you’re likely to face peer pressure at some point. Here are some tips on how to handle it.

Think Ahead and Avoid Potentially Problematic Situations

The best advice, especially for someone new to recovery, is to think ahead and avoid putting yourself in a position where you’ll have to resist peer pressure. Whenever you’re getting ready to go somewhere, it's a good idea to deliberately ask yourself, “Who might I encounter there and will they pressure me to use drugs or alcohol?” It may sound a bit silly, but making deliberate predictions about possible difficulties trains your brain to anticipate problems.

Prepare an Excuse in Advance

We can’t always avoid situations where we might be tempted by drugs and alcohol. If you’re going into a situation where, say, someone might offer you a drink, it’s a good idea to have an excuse prepared in advance and visualize yourself in some possible situations.

For example, if you’re going to an office party where there’s alcohol, typically you won’t need to say anything more than “No thanks.” You might feel obliged to offer some further comments such as,”I’m driving,” or “I have an early morning.”

You might want to have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand to deter offers. The important thing is that you imagine some likely scenarios beforehand so you’re better prepared to deal with them.

Bring backup.

When going into a situation where you might feel peer pressure to drink or use drugs, it’s a good idea to have sober backup. Bring a friend. The best backup would be a sober friend, perhaps one from your 12-Step group, who can remind you of your intention to stay sober and provide some accountability.

Even if your friend is not in recovery, if they’re willing to stay sober, you’ll feel less on the spot when you refuse. Don’t underestimate the value of moral support. You don’t want to feel like you’re alone against the world.

Learn to Say No, Politely

Saying no is often harder than it seems. You may have to resist pressure from someone you’re not used to saying no to, perhaps even a parent or spouse. In those cases, it can take a bit of courage.

It’s also important to remember that when some people hear “no,” they infer judgment, like maybe since you quit drinking and using drugs, you feel like you’re better than they are. Since people with substance use issues have feelings of shame and self-criticism already, you don’t want to imply judgment of the other person. Sometimes it’s important to make clear that you’re refusing for personal reasons.

Be Prepared to Set Boundaries

In any case, your goal should be to set healthy boundaries with the people around you. The point is not necessarily to cut anyone out of your life—although that will sometimes be a good idea—but rather to let people know what behaviors are and aren’t ok.

Setting boundaries is about learning to say no—politely—but it’s also about listening and respecting other people. You can’t control other people though. All you can do is let them know how you expect to be treated and if they can’t accept that, then you should probably stay away from them.

Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage

You’ve probably heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. We all unconsciously pick up habits from our friends and family. We set our baseline expectations on their behavior and we adopt each other’s basic assumptions.

This is a big problem if you’re trying to stay sober and hanging around the same old crowd. However, it can work to your advantage if you’re spending most of your time around other sober people, especially if some of those people have been sober for a while.

Gradually, you adopt the behaviors and habits of sober people and the idea of using drugs and alcohol will begin to feel a bit foreign. This is one major reason a strong sober network is such a major part of a successful recovery.

It Gets Easier

The first few times you refuse a drink from someone you would typically drink with, it can feel uncomfortable, even jarring. You might feel like you’re throwing a wrench in the works or perhaps even jeopardizing the relationship.

However, it soon gets easier. After two or three times, your not drinking or using drugs becomes the new normal. People stop offering and you don’t even have to think about it.

The hard part comes at the beginning when you’re afraid of being judged or offending someone. And, of course, everything gets easier with practice, so the more you say no, the easier it will be in other situations.

Peer pressure is just one of the many situations that you have to learn to deal with in addiction recovery. A big part of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is learning to anticipate and deal with these peer pressure situations.
At Enlightened Solutions, we use a variety of proven methods to help our clients build the skills for a long recovery. For more information about our programs, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.


What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving

What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving

One of the most common things we are told by guests during a funeral is “I am sorry for your loss.” While you may be genuine in your response, coming up with different responses that come from your heart can make a big difference in how that person goes forward in their grief. Speaking from your heart and empathizing with what your loved one is going through can be a big help to their sadness and guide them back to happiness.

I Am Here For You To Lean On

You may not know what to say to someone who has lost someone if you have never been in that situation before. That person probably feels lost in the world and is questioning how life works like losing a spouse that they pictured spending their whole lives with or outliving your child. It can seem awkward and scary because you do not want to make anything worse for that person. But, doing nothing about a friend’s grief will make that person think you do not care enough to reach out. Just letting someone know that you will be there for them will provide them with a great source of comfort and warmth. It just needs to be told in the simplest way so that a person should never have to wonder if you will be there for them. Do not force being there for that person if your loved one is not ready to let anyone in yet. Just give them the option that if you are looking for a lending hand, you will be there to hold it and help feel better. 

I Can See You Tomorrow If You Would Like

Telling someone to let you know if they need anything is a very general request. Your loved one is too absorbed in their sadness to think of a helpful task for you. You should instead pick a task and commit to doing so. You can tell things that person things like you will bring a cake or a casserole to their house tomorrow or that you can just come for a visit to talk. You can also offer to help them do any chores that can lighten their load like any laundry, cooking, or picking up groceries. You can also help out your loved one’s children like picking them up from school or making lunches for them. Letting that person know about the task you are willing to accomplish for them will show that you are serious.

It Is Okay to Feel This Way

We tend to feel bad about feeling bad or crying in front of others. It may be common to tell someone not to cry because we want them to feel better. The truth is that your loved one will not feel better because you tell them to. You need to let them know that it is okay to feel sad. That they can try for the person they are grieving for and to let it out. Just let that person be how they are naturally instead of trying to change them. And again, let them know that no matter how bad they are feeling, they can always turn to you.

Ask About That Person

Remember that when someone is grieving, no one should forget about the person who passed away. You can ask that person if they have any favorite memories they should like to share or moments that made them laugh with them. Maybe you have never met the deceased person before and you would like your loved one to educate you on them. It will show them that you care enough to get to know someone that you never had the chance to meet. Or if you have met that person, you can share with your loved one your favorite memories of that person to make them smile again. 

Say Nothing

Sometimes, words do not need to be said because that person may be too distraught to respond or listen to anything you say. If you do not know what to say or you are worried that what you may say may make your loved one even more upset. When this happens, give your loved one a hug to provide them with the comfort they are seeking. Sometimes, listening to your loved one vent about their feelings is enough without having to provide commentary. Do not judge or give advice to your loved one unless that is something they are seeking from you. 

Expression in Other Ways

If you do not know what to say, show your sympathy for that person in other ways. You can help that person out with funeral expenses or send gift cards for food delivery services if they are too distraught to cook or leave the house. If your loved one does not want money from you, you can also offer to donate to a charity in that deceased person’s name whether it is related to the cause of death or a charity that person appreciated. It may feel strange being in situations where you are comforting someone who has lost someone as what you say cannot change the circumstances of that person’s death. But, being there for someone who has lost someone can make a big difference in that person’s mental health showing that there are people out there who are still there for them and are loved.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Addiction is a Family Disease

Addiction is a Family Disease

While in the disease of addiction, one may feel that there is no way out. Denial can be so strong it might seem like tunnel vision. Friends and family members may begin to feel that there is no hope for recovery in their loved one- which is extremely depleting and frustrating. Those who have been enabling addictive behavior, must learn about the harms of enabling and why it must be immediately stopped. However, there should be no shame put forth onto the friends and family members of someone struggling with addiction. If there is to be any progress in getting a loved one struggling with addiction the help they need, it’s time for an intervention.

Interventions give those who truly care about their family member or friend struggling with addiction a safe place to have a necessary confrontation. There should be no judgment or prejudice. In no circumstances, should there be screaming and/or violence. Intervening in someone’s life must come from a loving place. There should be a plan put in place, such as detox and treatment. This is the first step in getting the person in the disease away from the substance’s tight hold. Loved ones may have a hard time standing firm, but they too need to accept the powerlessness of the disease. Things have to change and there’s no better time than the present.

There is always the chance that people will not accept help. If this happens there must be consequences. The enabling must stop and there will have to be new found means of survival or life without certain luxuries. The person with the additive behavior needs to hear from loved ones the harm they had caused and the pleas for action. Communication is key for an intervention to take place, which is why it is encouraged to utilize an intervention specialist. This way, family members can learn where they can go for help as well. If there is more than one family member in the addiction, arrangements will be made. It’s a solution for families as a whole because, in the end, it is a family disease.

 

Enlightened Solutions offers help with addiction, alcoholism and/or mental health. All whose affected will benefit from the healing process. Come to New Jersey and start fighting for a better life today. For more information call: 833-801-LIVE.