How to Get Clean & Sober for Good

Have you recently stopped drinking, or given up your addictive behavior? Are you serious about remaining sober this time? Do you want to find a way to avoid having a relapse? The fact is, up to 90 percent of people who achieve sobriety for the long term experienced a relapse along the way. As a result, you may need some tips for recovery. After all, being informed, knowing what to expect and how to conduct yourself is the best way to continue living your new, sober lifestyle. Make Smart Changes If you want to maintain your sobriety, then it is absolutely essential you abandon your old hangouts, habits, and routines. In some cases, you may need to make other changes, too. It doesn’t matter what type of changes you make – the goal is to participate in behavior that’s different than what you did in the past. If you want to develop and keep a drug- and addiction-free lifestyle, you will know the immediate changes that need to be made. These include things like not hanging around people you got drugs from or drank with. If you want to remain sober, you can’t hang around the people you used to drink with. There are some people who have discovered it’s best to make new friends if they really want to remain sober. If you find this challenging, then consider joining a support group, or even participating in a fellowship. Another option is to try to spend more time with your family. Plan activities that everyone will enjoy and that will help your entire family live a healthier life. This can also help you avoid situations where you would be tempted to drink or do drugs. Find a Sense of Balance in Your Life A common mistake for many people who have recently become sober is substituting a brand-new compulsion or addiction for the ones they had in the past. After all, someone who has become an alcoholic or addict is typically compulsive, which can be quite dangerous and lead to a relapse. If you are new to recovery, you may find that you are compulsive when it comes to a new diet, exercise routine, or even a support group. If this is the case, you are simply substituting one addiction for a new one. Even if your new activity is productive and healthy, it can be a stumbling block that prevents you from ever fully recovering. The goal is for you to find some level of balance and to take control of everything in your life, as well as all of the choices that you make. You need to figure out that you have options and that you can maintain control of your life. If there is any part of your life that is considered out of control, then this is going to hinder your ability to continue living your new, sober life. Deal with the Mistakes You Made in the Past If you have made it to recovery, chances are you have also left quite a bit of suffering and pain behind you. There are probably many things in your past that cause feelings of guilt and shame. If you want to maintain your sobriety, there is no question that the guilt and shame may become toxic. This can result in you relapsing if you don’t properly deal with it. Shame is when you have negative believes about yourself, as well as your self-worth. Guilt is if you have any type of negative or bad feelings about your past behavior. If you are in recovery you may have shame for getting addicted to being with. The best way to deal with these feelings is by facing your past. You have to apologize to those you hurt and try to make amends. This is going to help you maintain your new-found sobriety. Living a Sober Life: It’s Possible Remaining drug and addiction free for life is your ultimate goal. If you want to achieve this goal, then you have to take control and stop living in the past. The only way to ensure you don’t repeat the behaviors of the past is to move forward and live each day in your new sober life. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do NOT be afraid to reach out. Contact us today to talk to an addiction treatment professional.

Coping with Stress

You’re running late, you have an overwhelming workload, you’re suffering under unrealistic expectations, feeling burnt out, exhausted, and on top of all of this, you are HANGRY. What does all of this lead to? Headaches, tension, restlessness, and a low sex drive, all of which are caused by stress. We’ve all been there. In fact, most of us are probably enduring some amount or form of stress this very moment. It is not uncommon. But how can we overcome this stress rather than letting it occupy every fiber of our being? It seems simple, but let’s face it, with only 24 hours in a day, life can sometimes have the upper hand on how you spend your time. The challenging part in all of this is taking time to prioritize and eliminate even the smallest of things that do not serve you in order to make time for yourself. Let’s look at a few of the ways that we can have power over the stress that can so easily tie us down to unwelcomed discomfort. Relax. Close your eyes and breathe. Find a way to pull yourself out of whatever environment is causing you to stress or causing you to think about the weighing pressures in your life. Perhaps turning down the lights and taking a bubble bath or hot shower with candles and essential oils sound relaxing to you. Or you may find a sunny day on a secluded beach listening to the repetitious calming sounds of the waves and feeling the warm breeze tingle on your skin. Maybe a float in a swimming pool. A walk in nature. A walk around the block. Simply shutting your eyes and breathing. Yes, this all requires time, which we all know there is never enough of. However, managing and organizing your time will allow you to phase out the things that are otherwise avoidable causes of stress. Put down the phone, pick up a book. Disconnecting from the world wide web and social media platforms will eliminate any distractions and unnecessary clutter in your head. In today’s culture, it feels obligatory to be plugged in at all times to some sort of technology. We scroll through other’s feeds, watch shows, download movies, check emails, etc. Somehow, we are almost always faced to screen in some way or another. Just for a while, put it away. Open a book to read, or a notebook to a journal, color or draw in. Engage your mind in activities that do not require you to focus on a screen. It may be unrealistic to say that this can be done over an extended period given that most of our work and social lives depend on technology, however, boundaries can be set to help limit the usage of your devices. At the end of the day, rather than staying connected and checking your emails after hours of mindlessly scrolling, put your phone away and immerse yourself into a good book or puzzle. Invest in you. It is so easy to resort to binge eating, drinking alcohol, or participating in other self-destructive behaviors when we feel stressed out. In fact, it is what a large majority turn to. But is this a long term beneficial resort? Absolutely not. These decisions will only increase and intensify the level of stress we feel once the temporary comfort of these substances or behaviors fade. Rather than turning to unhealthy habits, consciously decide to take time for self- care. This could include yoga, walking, running, swimming or any other form of exercise in addition to engaging in a healthy diet. You do not need to be a health nut in order to take interest in your body and mind. You simply have to set a little bit of time aside to look after yourself. The simple act of moving in whatever way you choose is scientifically proven to reduce the level of stress hormones in your brain. Who wants to argue with science? The bottom line is, stress is unavoidable. There is very little that we can do to prevent stress in our lives, otherwise there would never be any. What we can do is take measures to avoid letting stress get the best of us. Recognize your limitations. Accept what is in your control. Find the positive rather than the negatives in situations that you have no control over. Give yourself a break. Take the time to appreciate how much you do achieve and persevere. And lastly, don’t forget to prioritize your time in order to make room for habits that will actually benefit and serve you.

5 Great Books on Addiction

The quality of life you enjoy now has a lot to do with the books you read in the past. The information you got through such books put you on the path to the career you have and helped shape your beliefs on life. The same can be said of great addiction books. They can not only help you overcome addiction but also give you insights to help family members faced with the disease. Even fiction novels based on dependence can give you new ideas and a better understanding of substance abuse. Here are some of the best books on addiction.

1.The Shining by Stephen King

What better way to get into the mind and experiences of someone fighting alcoholism than to read a book written by someone who had his battles with alcohol. In The Shining, Stephen King brings out the struggles of an ex-alcoholic, which is perhaps made all the more captivating by the author’s personal experiences. In the book, Jack Torrance, an ex-alcoholic is employed as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. It’s winter in Colorado, and he hopes to enjoy the warmth of his family – his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny – away from his latent alcoholism. But it’s not long before he’s pulled back in by a ghostly bartender serving him gin, depicting the struggles many recovering alcoholics face in kicking the habit. And soon Jack goes insane to the extent of attacking his family.

2.Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

One of the most startling revelations you get from Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, is that drug addiction is far more dependent on your childhood and quality of life than the actual drugs or your genes. This, among other incredible insights, puts a stark contrast between the United States’ war on drugs and how drug addiction could be handled better. The book takes you through a heart-wrenching journey of the moving human stories in the disastrous war on drugs. The reporter himself took a two-year, 20,000-mile journey to discover the real-life stories of people affected by the poorly implemented war on drugs. Even the author shares the personal experience of witnessing a close relative and ex-boyfriend bottoming out on heroin and cocaine.

3.Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis & Larry Sloman

This book delivers such an authentic narration of heroin addiction experience that it’s not recommended to someone in early recovery or treatment. For the general public, it gives illuminating insights on the downright heart-wrenching experience of heroin addiction, a far cry from the glamorous hype. The fact that it’s a memoir about Anthony Kiedis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman, makes it deeply touching. The author doesn’t spare readers of the raw sadness and deep despair accompanying heroin addiction. He shows just how strong the hold of addiction is such that Anthony Keidi couldn’t kick off the habit even after the loss of Hillel Slovak, his best friend, and bandmate, to overdose. The real-life experiences show the extremely depressing state that an addict falls into.

4.Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

This is one of the best books for families of drug addicts and alcoholics. Many families end up bearing the burden of caring for drug addicts/ alcoholics. This goes to the extent of such family members losing sight of their own lives while tending to the drug addict/ alcoholic. Such codependency is dangerous and hinders good addiction therapy. No wonder this book is incredibly valuable. It gives you deep insights to understand codependency and helps you unlock the hold it has on your life. It’s not merely instructive lessons, but also illuminating life stories with personal reflections, self-tests, and exercises to help you take practical steps towards a life of freedom. It helps you realize that you deserve happiness, healing, and hope, especially when faced with the challenge of a family member addicted to drugs/ alcohol. And it helps you achieve that.

5.Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery by Erica Spiegelman

What better person to understand your struggles than an addiction counselor who has had her struggles with addiction and alcoholism. That person is Erica Spiegelman, a respected addiction counselor. She wrote this addiction recovery book to present a different way of thinking about embracing recovery and living clean. In the book, she goes beyond drug and alcohol abstinence and ventures into a holistic approach in the recovery process. She tackles the attitudes and beliefs accompanying and fueling the disease. The insights in this book are aimed at changing your focus, so your mind, body, and spirit will follow. Best of all, it gives you practical action-oriented positive affirmation and intentions to achieve this.

Conclusion

Reading such books can inspire you to consider addiction therapy seriously so you can take back control of your life. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do NOT be afraid to reach out. Contact us today to get more information and to speak to an addiction professional.

The Dangers of Replacement Addictions

When recovering from an addiction, it is an all-too-common phenomenon for one to replace their primary reported problematic behaviors (usually compulsatory dependence on illicit substances) with other destructive, perhaps thought to be less severe, problem behaviors. Whether only temporary or permanent, a shift towards these replacement addictions are a sign that the person is still caught up in their addictive tendencies. An addicted person may believe that while in recovery, switching to legal substances, such as alcohol or nicotine, or taking up new behavioral patterns, termed “process addictions”, is a step in the right direction. These behaviors may include vigorous exercise, new eating habits, or even spending newly acquired free time online shopping, etc. however all of these options pose potential problems to the recovering addict. While many who struggle with addiction will make justifications for these new behaviors, the key is in understanding the function and role that they may play in the addicted person’s life, as this is the primary way to know when a seemingly innocuous or even healthy new habit may be the cause for concern. Dangerous Habits A good understanding of the definition of addiction is imperative in considering the effects of this phenomenon and remains useful to shed some light as to why an individual might employ the use of a substitute addiction. The three common characteristics of addiction can be understood as:
  1. The disruption of the reward center of the brain that finds pleasure in everyday activities.
  2. Minimal distress tolerance that leads to a compulsion to use or engage in problem behavior (cravings)
  3. Impairment in brain structures meant to facilitate decision making, impulse control, and self-regulation, placing the individual at greater risk for relapse
When engaging in a substitute or replacement addiction, it is clear to see how one or all of these characteristics are present, indicating that true or complete recovery has yet to take place. Common Replacement Behaviors Substitute addictions refer to a variety of behaviors that, when repeated compulsively and in excess, activate the same reward circuits of the brain once triggered by the former drug of choice. Whether legal drugs, or others thought to be “less severe” (i.e. cannabis) or process addictions, one’s relationship with food, exercise, gambling, shopping, love, sex, and even religion can become problematic.  Although the resulting problems vary, is clear that drug substitution is no less dangerous than addiction to a single main substance. Alcohol: Although the study is still required on the subject, a review of the relevant research supports the hypothesis that the use of alcohol post-treatment leaves the individual vulnerable for a relapse of their primary drug. This understanding is founded on two principles: first, that alcohol is used by these individuals as an attempt to manage cravings, and second, that alcohol has a negative effect on the decision-making capabilities and impulse control of individuals. Nicotine: Often times, in the same way that one’s primary drug is triggered by experiencing uncomfortable or negative emotions through repeated use of the drug to cope with the feelings, legal addictions such as cigarette smoking (or alcohol use) become equally paired with the experience and typically increase cravings or can be thought of as a “slippery slope”. Whether smoking cigarettes does eventually lead back to the primary addiction or not, it is still a problem when it functions as a means for the individual to deal with their stress. Excessive Behaviors: With the category of behaviors labelled as “excessive”, problems occur when, as mentioned previously, the behaviors do not increase an individual’s distress tolerance, or ability to deal with uncomfortable negative emotions, and operate only as a means of distraction. These behaviors include: Work or Exercise Shopping Overeating or Controlled Eating Gambling Sex or Love Addiction Some of these behaviors present their own unique health concerns (i.e. increased risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as with sex addiction), and the ability to evaluate these behaviors openly and honestly is the beginning to understanding how they might be working against you in recovery. Lasting Recovery Recovery is absolutely possible for you or your loved one, as is maintaining long-term sobriety long after treatment has finished. At Riviera Recovery, we believe the key is to begin your journey with some accountability, and with trusted professionals who have the knowledge to help, and to set you up for success. Contact us today to find out more.  

Is Addiction a Disease?

A Brief History Although it is now widely accepted by the American Medical Association and the American Society of Medicine that addiction is in fact a disease, this understanding has not always been the case. At one time (and still today to some extent) a stigma around addiction exists, and there are those who believe that addiction signifies nothing but poor choices and a lack of character. However advances in technology have rapidly shaped our present view of addiction, and point towards an educated understanding of addiction as a disease of the brain, just as there are diseases of the heart and kidney. This framework of viewing addictive behaviors considers both genetic and environmental factors in the role that they play in their contribution and perpetuation of addictive cycles in families and in society as a whole. Defining Addiction Due to its vast reaches and complexities, it can be difficult to settle upon a common definition for addiction that spans all levels of impairment and contexts. However in 2016, Volkow, Koob, and McLellan suggested three primary characteristics of addiction:
  1. Desensitization of the reward circuits of the brain that allow us to feel pleasure and motivation which eventually leads to needing the drug/ behavior to feel “well”
  2. Increased conditioned responses to turn to the vice when experiencing stress in our environment or a range of other emotions, which leads to increased experiences of cravings
  3. Declining functions of brain regions that facilitate decision making, impulse control, and self regulation that leads to repeated relapse
When taken into consideration, it is not difficult to see the cards stacking up against an addict who does truly want to get better, and the ways that their brain is actively working against them. Changes in the Brain Scientists have long studied the effects of Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for flooding the system with a pleasurable response when someone is in the midst of their “high” from engaging with their desired drug. However, this is the same neurotransmitter to blame for the consequence defined in the first characteristic listed above. Slowly, an erosion of the individual’s ability to feel pleasure while completing any other task occurs, as the body comes to rely on the drug to provide the dopamine“fix”. Specific dopamine receptors have additionally been linked with the task of creating motivation to deny instant gratification from a stimulus, and to work towards a rigorous, but more rewarding end. These too, are subject to the laws of supply and demand, and once the outside supply stops, the body has already adapted to no longer produce its own dopamine, and these crucial functions remain lacking. But Isn’t it their Choice? It may seem easy to point the finger all the way back to someone’s first experience with their addictive habit and argue that their initial choice to solve their problems in that particular way was the first in a string of dominoes that led them to today. However, many biological, genetic, and environmental factors are at play in determining one’s unique susceptibility towards addictive patterns. Factors making someone more at-risk for falling prey to addiction initially, continuing in their use, and their resulting brain chemistry consists of things largely out of their control, including family history, early exposure to drug use, exposure to high-risk environments, and co-occurring mental disorders. Under this logic, where you grew up (high socially stressful environments, or where there is easy access to drugs) and how you grew up (unsupportive parenting practices, permissive attitudes towards substance use) have much greater influence on one’s vulnerability. Culminating in the decision to turn to addictive substances or behaviors is much less a one-time judgement, and more like a series of generational choices leading to the moment of decision. Overcoming Addiction At Riviera Recovery, we understand that addiction is a disease like any other, and requires specialized and informed approaches to treating it. We have the knowledge and expertise to help if you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction. Call us at today 1-866-478-8799 to get connected to the support you need.

The Power of Sleep

Have you ever known what it’s like to start a full day on empty? You know that you needed that sleep, but you either voluntarily or involuntarily got little to none. So, here you are packing up your things for a long day ahead and you find yourself feeling empty inside. Your brain feels foggy, you’re cranky and can’t focus. That cup – or pot – of coffee is the only thing you’ve got going for you in order to make it through the day. In this scenario, you represent one-third of American adults who are not getting the sleep they need on a regular basis, which the CDC estimates to be 7 hours a night. Why is sleep so important to our mental health?         With good sleep, you can think more clearly, stay focused and make informed decisions, which plays a large part of your daily successes in schooling, family responsibilities or at work. Well- rested, your productivity and problem-solving skills are greatly increased, which in turn makes for greater ease in avoiding relapse. However, sleep deprivation has quite the adverse effect: cue “brain fog”. This term finds its origin in describing the disconnect between neurons (cells of the brain) and their inability to communicate properly with one another, usually resulting in temporary mental lapses and slowed response times . Having a consistent sleep routine is one way to ensure that your brain is functioning on all levels properly. Life is stressful, so let’s get less sleep?         The first aspect of the above sentiment is true: life is stressful.  However, the answer to a hectic day should be anything but reducing Z’s. After a restless night, you may find yourself more likely to be irritable and more emotionally reactive to situations. However, sleep is in itself a powerful and restorative stress reducer.  A good night’s sleep can assist with your cognitive skills and alertness. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, sleep tends to be one of the first things to go when we feel under pressure. Lack of sleep will reduce your mental clarity, which, when combined with traffic jams, a demanding workload, or any attempt to remain in control of a chaotic life, will likely lead to stress. This becomes a vicious cycle when that stress then becomes the cause of the next restless night, further preventing you from the experiencing the restorative effects of sleep. Cycles such as this delay someone from entering the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle. REM is the sleep stage responsible for restoring mental function, and how the brain processes emotions and memories.  Conversely, too much time in REM sleep can also cause daytime fatigue, which can further disrupt normal sleep cycles and mood. Sleep is Important for Mental Health and Recovery         Good sleep also helps prevent depression and anxiety. While these, in addition to one’s current stressors, make it difficult to fall asleep, quality sleep is what helps to decrease the amount of anxiety you experience by allowing you the mental clarity to see and work through the root cause of the anxiety. For those in recovery, sleep is vital, as it leads to less impulsive behaviors, and reduces one’s risk for relapse. While the experience of disturbed sleep is common for those in early recovery, failing to establish a sleep routine lends way to destructive habits like reaching for caffeine, nicotine, or sugary or processed foods just to make it through the day, furthering the cycle of and not addressing its root cause. Your Future Self Will Thank You Our bodies work best when they are on a set schedule, waking up and falling asleep at the same time every day. Try to relax your mind before getting into bed by avoiding blue light (phones, TVs, etc.) for at least an hour before crawling into bed, as this is known to disrupt the circadian rhythm. Listen to calming music, read a book, count backward from 500, or write in a journal. But once you are lying down, try to turn your mind off so you can receive the restorative sleep you so desperately need. When you prioritize getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night, your body and mind will thank you, your friends and family will thank you, and quite possibly so will your boss, your bank account, and those who share your commute. Good sleep is a vital aspect of everyday life. It influences your health, feelings, and ability to effectively work your recovery. We at Riviera Recovery know the importance of sleep and value it’s healing powers, especially for those in recovery. Learn a little bit more about our mission, and what is important to us, or contact us with any specific questions you may have.