man holding ghb pills

The Dangerous Rise of GHB

Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid, most commonly known as GHB, is a controlled substance in the state of California, but that doesn’t stop people from abusing it. Sometimes it’s called “liquid ecstasy” when it’s sold in small dosages on the street. GHB is well-known as a “date rape” drug due to coverage in the media in the past few years. It has been used to commit sex crimes because it’s hard to detect when it’s dissolved. When the dosage is a large one, the drug can make a person pass out for many hours and lose their memory. Doctors can prescribe GHB, in its basic form, for specific rare medical purposes. The GHB that people tend to abuse, however, does not typically come from any doctor.

Why Do People Use GHB?

While some people have a valid prescription for GHB, it’s a medication that doctors rarely prescribe. When it is legitimate, a doctor prescribes it to people with narcolepsy, a disorder where a person falls asleep minute to minute. In small doses, GHB acts as a stimulant. Some bodybuilders also use GHB for performance-enhancement. They usually buy it illicitly and often from an internet supplier. They believe that it’s a relatively safe and easy way to bulk up by increasing their growth hormone, therefore increasing their muscle mass and decreasing their fat mass. Many people don’t realize is that GHB is also used recreationally. Sometimes it’s called “liquid ecstasy.” Like all narcotics, the drug is addictive and dangerous. Most of the people who abuse the drug get it through illicit means. Usually, GHB is snorted, smoked, or dissolved in a drink. Higher doses of the drug that have a reputation as a date rape drug – it can knock a person out cold. Most of the people who abuse the drug are taking it in small doses for the euphoric and “hypnotic” feeling they say it gives them. GHB is commonly abused by people who are in drug treatment, on probation or parole and need to pass a urine test. That’s because it doesn’t stay in the body as long as other addictive drugs. GHB sticks in a user’s body for only four to twelve hours after they ingest it.

Dangers of GHB

GHB is classified as a narcotic for a reason – it’s dangerous, and side effects could be deadly. Many people like to take methamphetamine/crystal meth with GHB, believing it counteracts some of the depressive effects GHB. This combination is a terrible idea – it can cause a severe reaction such as heart attack, seizures, or stroke. Some people have a bad reaction to the drug on its own and have similar health emergencies. Overdoses are common with the drug. People tend to underestimate its effects and like to mix it with other substances as they continue to party. Symptoms of GHB Use Include:
  • Drowsiness or nodding off.
  • Blackouts where the user doesn’t remember what happened.
  • Balance and speech difficulties, similar to being drunk.
  • Agitation or anxiety.
Symptoms of an overdose include:
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Lack of response.
  • Slowed breathing or trouble with breathing.
  • Blackout or short-term memory issues.
  • Trouble speaking or focusing.
If a person has overdosed on GHB or another drug, medical help is necessary. There are many dangers from the damage caused by overdose, including a heart attack or coma. People who use other drugs alongside GHB, especially other stimulants like methamphetamine/crystal meth, are highly likely to experience an overdose that leads to seizures, coma, or death.

Is GHB Addictive?

Many people start out using GHB for its euphoric effects but soon find that they’re addicted to it. It’s a drug that quickly changes your brain to depend on it. An addicted person will quickly build a tolerance to the drug and need more of it to get the feeling they crave. The feeling of euphoria is a powerful thing, and many users chase this high. People who are addicted may start to depend on the drug to have fun. When they stop using, they also experience physical and mental withdrawal effects. These include feelings of anxiety or irritation, shaking, sweating, and changes in a person’s sleeping patterns. Other withdrawal symptoms a person can have from GHB include high blood pressure, diarrhea or stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting. Withdrawal from GHB can be dangerous, but it’s not impossible. Within five days of initially detoxing from GHB, a person can end up having severe mental health symptoms or psychosis. They may have complicated delusions, hallucinations, and seem confused. Some people become violent in this state, but when a person detoxes in a clinical environment where symptoms can be treated and monitored by a nurse and doctor. All of these symptoms should resolve within a few weeks, although some people have these symptoms for months or even permanent brain damage from long-term use. GHB is a dangerous and addictive drug, and if you or somebody you know is secretly using this drug, they’re doing damage to themselves. You don’t have to go it alone; there is plenty of help available. No matter what path you’ve been on, recovery is available to you. Give yourself a chance! Learn more about the options available to you to reclaim your life.

Join Our Community at Riviera Recovery

Are you looking for a community that is safe and sober? We want to help you achieve lasting, meaningful long-term sobriety in the comfort of a “home” away from home. Are you ready to commit to yourself and your recovery? Learn more about what we offer by calling us at 1-855-207-9708.
support group comforting friend

Fentanyl Use and Addiction Has Become More Common

The addiction epidemic is still being fought across America. More awareness seems to have helped states get a few more resources to battle the epidemic, but thousands of people are overdosing more everyday. An influx in fentanyl, a drug that’s nearly 50 to 100 times the strength of morphine, has caused overdoses in every state that has a drug problem. Many of these overdoses are by people who aren’t even aware that they’re taking fentanyl.

Why is Fentanyl Causing So Many OD’s and Deaths?

Fentanyl is becoming a common factor in drug overdoses and deaths. According to data from the Department of Health in California, fentanyl deaths skyrocketed by 614% to 743 in 2018. Many of the deaths are attributed to the rise of counterfeit pills. Drug users who buy the pills believe that they’re getting a different drug. Most of the people who overdose on fentanyl are addicted to other opioids, such as heroin or Oxycontin. The pills are cut to look like Oxycontin or other less potent drugs. Sometimes the fentanyl is mixed with a the drug. The drug buyers usually don’t know what they’re getting. This means that they may be used to taking two or more of the Oxy pills at a time due to a tolerance. But taking two pills of fentanyl can be deadly to most users of less strong drugs.

Tainting the Drug Market

Drug dealers have also been substituting fentanyl for heroin or adding fentanyl to the heroin they’re selling. Because fentanyl is so much stronger than heroin, it’s likely the dealers believe that adding fentanyl will addict more users. Sometimes the supply is tainted before it gets to America and the drug dealers don’t know about it. Usually, the drug dealer is just being callous and trying to addict a user more efficiently. In California, there are a lot of tainted pills. Fentanyl has been found in crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, MDMA. Some people become addicted to drugs because of the fentanyl content, while other simply overdose. When a person addicted to a less potent drug ingests a large amount of fentanyl, they’re not used to it. It is usually hundreds of times stronger than the drug they normally use. This causes overdoses that are often fatal. Even first responders have trouble reviving people who overdose on fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a Becoming a Big Problem in California

Unlike Oxycontin, many people use fentanyl buy it from a drug dealer on the street. But where does this drug, which is only supposed to be used for things like cancer and surgery, come from? How does it get into the hands of addicted people? While taking heat for trying to flood the world with Oxycontin, drug companies are not likely to  supply the drug en masse. Instead, the government has had to find and shut down dirty doctors who have operated what are described as “pill mills”. California has been cracking down on opioid distribution for years. Unfortunately, when it comes to the war on opioids, it’s often like playing whack-a-mole to keep up with dealers and distributors.

Southern California’s Fentanyl Problem

In 2018, state prosecutors busted a doctor in Southern California operating a “pill mill” that prescribed thousands of Oxycontin pills to dead and incarcerated people. Pill mills are doctor offices breaking the law and overprescribing purposefully. The offices become a place where addicted people and drug dealers alike go to get hundreds of pills. These pills then, in turn, flood the streets. Today, there are fewer suspected pill mills in California and drugs are often trafficked from other states. Doctors breaking the law or overprescribing are often flagged under computer monitoring programs. It takes law enforcement a long time to build a case. Much of the fentanyl that is distributed in the United States comes from outside the United States, especially China or Mexico, which of course makes California a likely market. In October, 2019, another bust in Southern California netted enough of the drug to make kill four million people. “It has become increasingly common for us to see drug dealers peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals made with fentanyl,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna told the media as he answered questions about fentanyl deaths in California earlier this year. “As a consequence, fentanyl is now the number one cause of overdose deaths in the United States.”

Get Addiction Recovery Help

No matter who you are or what you’ve used, there is help available for you to overcome it. You don’t have to face it alone. Recovery is possible! Let us help you reclaim your life. For more information on how Riviera Recovery’s Admissions Team can help you or a loved one embrace a new life through lasting sobriety, or for a tour of our center, please call (855) 207-9708 or click here to send a confidential message.

LA Sober Living Lifestyle

Many people new to recovery wonder what life will be like now that they are living a clean and sober lifestyle. Sober living is often a next step for people who have completed a treatment program. What will a sober living lifestyle be like for you?

Building a Recovery Foundation

Lasting sobriety is the top goal for everyone new to recovery. Building a foundation, of course, is what strengthens your sobriety on the way. One of the first steps to building this foundation is creating a healthy, safe support system. Going to 12-step meetings in the LA area, attending any therapy and work, family, and friendship-related commitments are also important. You’ll learn a lot about time management while you’re in sober living in Los Angeles, among others in recovery. You’ll also be able to meet some great people at meetings and build out your support network. A sponsor, sober friendships, and new hobbies and interests can help you create a healthy support system to fall back on. You’re never alone in recovery. A sober living arrangement can help you develop lasting friendships and live in a structured, safe environment where everyone is working towards the same goals. You’ll also learn more about how to maintain healthy relationships, taking responsibility for your behavior and obligations. Living with others who are in sobriety can help you build strong bonds and build confidence. A recent study on sober living programs revealed that long-term outcomes of recovering alcoholics/addicts who participate in these programs are more likely to achieve lasting sobriety/clean time. Transitioning to a reside in a local LA sober living environment is a powerful way to commit to your long-term sobriety and forge new bonds as you build confidence and a foundation for your life after treatment.

Building a Life in Recovery While in LA Sober Living

Stay sober will always be your top priority, no matter what is going on in life. As you begin living a life substance-free, you’re going to grow and change. Preoccupation with getting and using your substance of choice often got in the way with living a fulfilling life. Once you have been sober for a while, you’ll find that there’s a lot of time for fun, relaxation, and reflection in your life. Living in the Los Angeles area provides a lot of opportunities for these things during your “me” time. Some outings will be done with others in the program and the companionship of a chaperone. You’ll bond with your fellow house-mates and make new friends. You might even discover that you find new, healthy activities that you join and interests to pursue. You’re in a perfect location to explore your surroundings and find new passions and return to a safe and supportive home aftwewards. Some of the activities that clients enjoy in Riviera Recovery’s Los Angeles location include:
  • Swimming
  • Meditating
  • Spending time with pets (live-in pets allowed)
  • Running
  • Jogging
  • Gyms
  • Cooking
  • Playing an Organized Sport (such as baseball or soccer)
  • Surfing
  • Running
  • Hiking
  • Meditation
  • Attending Local University Classes (Santa Monica College and UCLA)
Our Western LA Sober Living home is a great place to build your foundation in recovery.  You’ll be in a living situation where everyone is working towards a goal. You’ll have the guidance from a trained staff that wants to help you move forward. Transportation is provided for most outings. Your aftercare treatment will be coordinated with other professionals you see. For example, we may keep in touch with your doctors, therapist, or psychiatrist. If your family is part of your treatment plan, we may talk to them sometimes as well. While you’re working your program, you’ll still have rules and structure in your life. But you’ll also learn to be comfortable in your own skin and learn to enjoy the freedom that a life in recovery provides for you. You can explore your hobbies and passions.

Building a Strong, Sober Life

Living in a sober home can help you build a fulfilling, inspired lifestyle. At both our Malibu and West LA sober living homes, there are amenities and opportunities to learn more about yourself. Transportation is available to 12-step meetings, scheduled activities and appointments. Sober living allows you to build a lifestyle in a home that has structure but also helps move you towards freedom. You’ll have responsibilities, but you’ll also be in a place that’s comforting. You’re in a home away from home and with awesome weather with beautiful places to explore, hike. There is also a vibrant, artistic vibe Life after drugs is a different type of life. A life of purpose and fulfillment awaits if you’re ready to put the work in. Getting sober and working a recovery program can help you approach life differently. Early recovery is a great time to begin confronting your issues. It’s also a great time learn how to work, play, and live a lifestyle that brings you inspiration.

Want to Learn More?

If you or somebody you love, a client or a friend, are looking for sober living options, we’re here to help. Find a peaceful place to live and grow. Get in touch at 1-855-207-2798 to learn more about sober homes in Western Los Angeles, Malibu/Palisades.  

An Important Tool: The Recovery Compass Workbook

In recovery, you are always working on improving yourself and your life. Sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s still worth it. Research shows that it takes about 20 to 30 days to establish a new physical or emotional habit. In recovery, you’re learning all the time. It can feel overwhelming at first to get your bearings as a newly sober person. That’s why we provide you with a Recovery Compass as a tool to help you along the way. The Recovery Compass workbook was created as a guide to help you navigate your way through early recovery. The book enables you to schedule your time, create and achieve goals, and learn more about living a healthy, satisfying life without the use of alcohol or drugs.

How the Recovery Compass Workbook Works

The Recovery Compass is a guidebook that helps you learn more about what to expect as you acclimate yourself to living in recovery and sober living. Your time at Riviera Recovery can help you grow, heal, and begin the work that will help you stay substance-free for life. How you spend that time is essential. You’ll have structure, meetings, and support throughout the journey. The Recovery Compass workbook is a tool that’s unique to our sober living program. A staff mentor will be your partner in this journey as you make your way through the exercises in your workbook. If you have questions, need motivation, or need to talk to somebody about your recovery, your staff mentor can help you. The workbook can help you focus, learn new life skills, and learn about what makes you happy and what you want to do with your life when you’ve graduated. You’re never “alone” when you’re in recovery, and you’re not limited to what you learn while using the book.

Living With Purpose

Living with purpose means finding inspiration, direction and working toward new goals. Goals can be short-term or long-term. Having these goals is a great thing! However, when you’re new to recovery, living life one day at a time is crucial. Short-term goals help you concentrate on what you want to get done every day. Longer-term goals help you look forward to the future and truly work toward what you want most in life. Your first goal should always be to maintain your recovery. Don’t drink or use drugs! Many of your daily tasks will revolve around this goal. Attending 12-step meetings, connecting with your sponsor, and meeting other commitments will help you build on your recovery. Other goals you create may be new or goals that got interrupted. Many people take time to pursue new career goals,  continue their education, and learn other new skills once they feel secure in their recovery.

Becoming a Better You in Recovery!

The workbook that you receive will also take you through some exploratory exercises. It’s hard to think of the future if you’re sitting around feeling inadequate. Recovery can lift you out of the guilt, shame, and pain of addiction. You’re taking action by staying sober and working on becoming a better person – a better YOU! – every day. You’ll learn how to plan your finances, work on relationships with family or friends, and become responsible for your actions in recovery. Doing groundwork like the exercises in the Compass Workbook will help you learn more about yourself and set a trajectory for your life after drugs and alcohol. Every day you stay sober is another day that you can take time to work on yourself. There’s no way that you can “fix” everything about yourself overnight. It’s okay to take some parts of your recovery in “baby steps.” Know what those steps are, and approaching them with the right attitude and a spirit of acceptance can help you achieve new things in your life. Not sure what your next step is? Ask your staff mentor or your sponsor for help.

Finding Happiness and Passions

Recovery is in no way limited to hard work, therapy, and meetings. When you’re feeling more stable in your recovery, you may find yourself antsy. Even with your scheduled recovery program, you’ll probably find you have a lot of time on your hands. How you use your time at Riviera Recovery is essential. There are some goals you must meet to continue to the next phase of the program and earn new privileges. Getting out and about, learning self-care and taking time to exercise are all ways you can enjoy your downtime. Clients of Riviera Recovery love to go to the gym, get some surfing time, and to participate in relaxation like yoga and meditation.  Exploring what makes you happy, learning new hobbies, and pursuing new interests along with your goals are hallmarks of living a healthy, substance-free life.

Structure and Time Management

  Time management is one new way to maintain focus in your life. When you were using substances, you probably had trouble sticking to a schedule. After all, cravings seem to have a plan of their own. There were perhaps days, weeks, or months lost to using your drug of choice. Addiction does this to people. You’re not alone in this. As a disease, addiction is powerful and insidious. It captures and hijacks your goals, causing you to deprioritize things that once were important. It generally makes it impossible to stick to things you’d promised yourself you’d get done. And there are few goals that you can achieve while you’re feeling trapped in a vicious cycle. Now that you’re sober, there’s a lot of time on your hands. But that doesn’t mean you’re left to your own devices. Recovery requires structure. Sticking to your recovery goals, meetings, and appointments is vital to setting a foundation that can help you throughout life. Knowing what time you plan on doing things can also give you something to look forward to every day. You don’t have to deal with fear of the unknown. Being able to plan, prepare, and show up for things when you say you will can help you build character and self-esteem.

Interested in Sober Living?

Riviera Recovery presents a great opportunity for people in early recovery to continue to build their foundation, learn to live a fulfilling life, and begin living responsibly in the “regular world”. Are you looking for a place to land after treatment? Or simply want to explore your sober living options? We have homes in West LA and Palisades/Malibu that offer time and space to grow. Give us a call at 1-855-207-2798 to learn more about your options.  

Can I Have Fun in Recovery?

A large barrier towards individuals beginning to undertake the recovery journey is that they may feel as though they will never again have fun, or be able to experience a night “just like old times” again. Just as it’s true that recovery from addiction will require some drastic life changes, it is equally true that remaining in recovery requires vigilance in all areas of life, socializing notwithstanding. This, however, does not mean that you will never again be able to have a night out or nurture new social connections.  Social behavior is a natural part of life, and finding ways to remain connected with important others is vital to recovery. But can you trust yourself to go out like you used to and remain sober? Will you be able to meet up with old friends, or go back to the places where you were once a regular?  Depending on your recovery journey, the answers may differ, however, there is no sugar-coating the fact that the familiar people and places when you were entrenched in your old lifestyle carry with them the possibility of being detrimental to your current progress. Navigating these waters should be done with extreme caution and intention.

Prepare Yourself with a Plan

Before deciding that you want to risk a night out, it is best practice to prepare for every possibility of how the night may go. Start at the beginning of the night, and identify potential triggers: What if the waitress offers you a sample of wine or someone buys you a drink? What if you feel pressured by your friends, or you realize that you’ve never danced sober before? If you prepare yourself for every possible scenario, you will be more likely to stick to your plan and avoid quick in-the-moment decision making that has not been your friend in the past. Don’t underestimate the power of your triggers, especially the nostalgic ones.  An important part of this plan is making sure that you have a sober support system available to you at all times. Whether this means bringing a sober friend along with you, setting up a system of check-ins with a sponsor or supportive other, or seeking the wisdom of someone experienced in their recovery to go over the plan for the outing, this is vital to the plan. 

Start Small & Resist Peer Pressure

Making the choice to remain sober while the rest of your social circle continues to drink or abuse drugs can be the most difficult experience for those recovering from addictive tendencies. It may be difficult to even fathom walking away from friendships that have a great deal of history behind them, but how can you expect to pursue a recovery lifestyle when these individuals remain unsupportive? Not everyone will try to pressure you into “just having one drink”, but in friend groups where that is the case, consider whether these people are your true friends at all, or if they see their ability to wreck your recovery as justification to avoid trying themselves. Make sure you enlist a friend who has your best interests at heart to help keep you in line, and better yet, avoid all instances of social pressure, keeping your social circle small and supportive. 

A Night Out While Staying In Recovery

Before you were in recovery, you had a reliable and easy access to fun: whether nights out with friends, intoxicating adventures, and an external substance regulating your body’s consistent release of dopamine. Now your body needs to learn new ways to regulate itself, and so too do you need to learn new ways to access a fun time. Of course, things will be different.  Going out and having a social life is always going to be one of those things. It may be that thinking through the challenges involved in planning a night out may sway your decision making towards a night in instead. But this does not mean that you have to stop living. By taking the time to prepare yourself ahead of time, enlisting support, and starting with a small group of trusted friends, you can maintain an active social life without sacrificing your sobriety.  Give us a call today to learn more about the accountability and support we provide at Riviera Recovery!  

Does Drinking Affect My Child?

When parents drink, children learn

It’s well-known that parenting is perhaps one of the most difficult jobs. It is a 24-7, around-the-clock, life-changing responsibility that requires adjustments on all fronts. For those who have a complicated relationship with alcohol, the stakes are even greater. When that “complicated relationship” becomes a pattern of drinking and avoidance, the necessities of parenting can begin to take a backseat to that next drink, and missed opportunities for connection become engrained ways of relating with one another. Remember what it’s like to be a small child, to look up to the adults of the world, especially your parents, to learn from them, and to expect them to have all of the answers. Your child’s identity and sense of security is deeply entwined with yours: with the way that you live your life day-by-day, and how you carry yourself. However, getting drunk around them, spending the next day hungover, or glorifying that lifestyle passes along several important messages to your children throughout their formative years, like the lessons outlined below:

Lesson 1. They’re Second

It is a basic aspect of healthy development for children to learn that they can rely on their caregivers for all of their basic needs: food, water, shelter, touch. However the list does not stop there, children require constant engagement in their world, including the provision of experiences that create the foundation for healthy relationships and formulate a sound perspective.  If you’re not spending adequate time with your child, they will learn that they are not worthy of your care and attention and that they will always be second to the drink in your hand. Developing a healthy sense of confidence and self-worth won’t come quite as easily, as the most important person in their life did not treat them as a priority.

Lesson 2. Their Feelings Are A Burden

Childhood is a time fraught with many new experiences and difficult challenges, each an opportunity in learning how to self- regulate. From the time they begin sleep training, to when they need to learn that tantrums are not the way to get what they want, it is the role of the parent to teach them how to identify their feelings and work through them. They rely on you to learn emotional regulation, to be able to cope with the difficulties that life throws their way. If you’re drinking to excess, there is a good chance that you never learned these lessons yourself, and not to mention, your patience with them is likely to be thin.  Learning these skills is an important part of recovery from addiction, if not only for yourself but also for your children. 

Lesson 3. Alcohol is the Answer

As your children look up to you and learn from the world around them, it would be difficult to imagine them forgoing incorporating your favorite coping mechanism into their repertoire. They likely see your reaction to a stressful day, the “I need a drink”, and believe it quite literally is the answer to life’s difficulties.   Remember that your children are soaking up life lessons by watching you: when you are upset, happy, angry, or drunk, they learn that this is how adults move through the world. Make sure not to normalize the need of an external substance to regulate internal states, or this is exactly what the children will learn, and lend way to a lifetime of their own complicated relationship with alcohol. 

Lesson 4. They Can’t Count on Anyone

With little evidence to the contrary, children may generalize their experiences of turning to their parents for support, help or counsel and finding rejection to all others in their lives. They learn easily enough that people aren’t reliable, can’t be trusted, and will just let them down. 

Show them a different way.

The truth is quite simple, facing life’s difficulties with healthy coping strategies isn’t an option for children who aren’t being taught them. As adolescents, these lessons become paramount to how your child constructs their reality, cementing patterns that they may carry for the rest of their lives. Remember, if your child thinks that avoiding responsibility is easier than avoiding it, they will likely take that option.  Make the hard choice now, so your children can learn that they too can do the hard thing. Give us a call today to learn where to begin your recovery journey, and how we can help you to do what you need to do to be the best parent possible.

Smart and Sober Living

One’s discharge date from residential or inpatient treatment is likely a day that has been highly anticipated and fought for with blood, sweat, and tears. It represents the end of one key phase of treatment. However, for many individuals, that much sought-after date also represents one of fear and uncertainty related to what they may face once they return home, and how they will be able to put their learning into practice. Individuals may be concerned about their ability to stay sober once they’re back in their old environment, or once they face those old triggers. While facing them is inevitable, there are some smart ways to go about this transition and some key benefits to enlisting supportive housing to facilitate the process. 

Adjustment to Daily Life

Many individuals choose to seek supportive housing as the step in-between residential treatment and coming home, due to an awareness of the stark contrast between the level of support available to them at home and anticipation that they may require more than is currently available. This solution offers them the opportunity to slowly adjust to life outside of a residential center, to the unplanned and unstructured. In this adjustment, individuals can live in the middle ground, still actively working their recovery, while also experiencing aspects of the real world that they may have been sheltered from while in active treatment. 

Accountability in Daily Practices

Living in a sober house offers an opportunity to live in a community of individuals who are pursuing similar goals. Finding others at a similar stage in recovery once back home is absolutely still possible, however, takes commitment and follow-through in order to do so. For those transitioning home right away after treatment, this may not rank as high on the list once all of those real-world concerns come flooding back, despite its importance in sustaining recovery. Seeing others you respect successfully manage the transition to sober living in the real world can offer inspiration to work with equal vigor, to create a sense of structure for yourself, with daily routines and practices, and the accountability of others who believe in your ability to follow through. Once you learn that you can be successful in a less structured environment, you will likely be more inclined to believe in your abilities to do so once you return home. 

Opportunity for Daily Compliance

With those daily routines and practices, you have the opportunity to develop confidence and establish a greater sense of self-esteem regarding your own ability to handle your affairs and sustain recovery. Each day that you follow through with a self-directed routine or accomplish a goal (no matter how small) and you allow yourself to feel proud of your behavior, you are one step closer to being ready to face the triggers that will present themselves once you return home. Again, once you are able to feel confident in your ability to thrive in the less-structured but supportive environment of a sober living house, your likelihood of putting those very same skills into practice once you return home is much greater. 

Transitional Periods

Sober living is a perfect fit for transitional periods of all kinds, but especially when leaving inpatient or residential treatment. Namely, by offering an adjustment period back to reality, and a place for an individual to focus on creating community and establishing daily practices of their own, sober living is truly the smart way to ensure a lasting recovery. Tour our sober living home online now, and see for yourself why Riviera Recovery is right for you!

What is Contingency Management?

You may have heard the term, “contingency management” as it refers to aspects of a treatment center or program, or perhaps even as it relates to effective parenting. The term itself refers to a set of behavioral principles that are based upon the idea that behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to recur, or even increase in frequency, and seeks to capitalize on this truth to shape desired behaviors.  Think back to your understanding of how we learn and recall that there are four basic principles of shaping behavior: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on positive reinforcement, as this is well-known to be the most effective long-term motivator of behavior that carries with it less relational risks of increasing avoidance, escape or revenge-seeking behaviors.  To a child, this means receiving praise, a sticker, or a small token for a job well done: cleaning up after themselves, learning to use the toilet, or playing nicely with siblings. This strategy works to the extent that the child finds the prize rewarding, thus when applying the principles to adults in treatment for substance abuse, it tends to be monetary-based rewards that inspire behavioral change.  Research confirms the effectiveness of these techniques in the treatment and recovery community in providing incentives for sobriety and other desired behaviors. Most often the rewards given are vouchers that can be traded in for goods and services or the opportunity to win prizes. Such tangible reinforcements can be highly effective to reward positive behaviors such as negative drug screens, encouraging timely attendance and participation, and adherence to medications throughout the treatment program.  Studies in both methadone programs and psychosocial counseling treatment programs indicate the effectiveness of this model also in increasing treatment retention. This includes findings from one particular study, where the likelihood that individuals in psychosocial rehabilitation completed all 12 weeks of treatment was 14% greater when offered contingency management, and abstinence was obtained at a greater rate of 18.7% compared to 4.9% of the standard care group. Similar findings were found with individuals offered contingency management while engaged in methadone maintenance treatment.  There are two main methods of reinforcement that have been studied in these treatment environments that are known to show positive effects, voucher-based reinforcement, and prize incentives. 

Voucher-Based Reinforcement  

As described above, voucher-based reinforcement is built on the foundational agreement that positive, abstinence-reinforcing behaviors will be rewarded, and works well for individuals who are seeking treatment for the abuse of opioids, stimulants, or both. Those in treatment will receive a voucher for every negative drug screen that can be exchanged for food, items, movie passes or other goods, activities or freedoms that are representative of a lifestyle in pursuit of sobriety. The value associated with the vouchers begin with a nominal amount and gradually increase as the length of time with negative results accrue, and resets upon a positive result. 

Prize Incentives 

Similar to the provision of vouchers is the use of prize incentives of cash rather than vouchers. Under this model, negative drug screens earn participants the ability to draw from a pool for the chance to win a cash prize between $1 and $100. As with the vouchers, additional positive behaviors will be rewarded with a chance to draw, including community involvement, completing homework assignments, timely attendance, and significant contributions to the recovery community. Opportunities to draw increases with each consecutive negative drug screen, and as with the vouchers, is reset when the participant deviates from their recovery goals.  As contingency management is a strategy that we use at Riviera Recovery, we think it’s important to explain the theory and rationale for our clients, their families, and anyone considering a sober housing environment that is set upon helping you succeed. Give us a call today to learn more about how we support our residents!

The Importance of Keeping Busy

The idea of ‘keeping busy’ may seem exhausting to an already overworked generation of individuals out there in the workforce. They can’t bear the thought of adding one more thing to their packed schedule and may wonder about the sustainability of their ventures. In theory, these individuals know the merits of relaxation, however, the messaging may seem at odds at first to find that a healthy existence values both.  Keeping busy involves one’s ability to separate the important from the trivial. It is dependent upon prioritizing what actions are meaningful and pursuing them while refraining from getting caught up with those that waste precious time. A person who keeps themselves busy embraces change and hard work and acts accordingly to achieve their goals in life.

Staying busy for your mental health

However, for those who are anxious or depressed, their life likely reflects a diminished capacity to go on with ‘life as usual’ or to do things that they would otherwise enjoy were they not experiencing such mood disorders. They have likely lost sight of all values for their life, of pursuing health, security, personal growth or development, of taking time to build positive relationships or make time for social activities.  Truly, it can become a vicious cycle, as inactivity can be a source of depression, of boredom and unhappiness, and it is these individuals that most benefit from creating more structure and activity in their daily lives. To be clear, however, the advice is not simply to fill your days with more Netflix, or more “chill”. It is getting your butt out of bed, out of the house, even if it is just a walk to the end of the block to start. 

Behavioral Activation Strategies

Behavioral Activation is a specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy technique that focuses on the ability of our actions to influence how we feel and is the process for assisting individuals in creating routines to fill their life with positive practices.  Think of your mind as a car’s battery, that has gone cold from not being used in a long time. It will likely have a hard time getting started, or building any sort of momentum. This is what it’s like to be depressed– You become more detached from people, places and things that once brought you joy. Behavioral activation, in this case, is like the jumper cables, that presents a strategy to activate the proverbial “stalled engine” by helping you regain your focus by closely examining yourself and daily routine. Researchers have found behavioral activation to be slightly superior to medication because it shifts away from cognitions and feelings to focus on an individual’s behavior and environment and works to identify and observe patterns of behavior. Negative life events such as grief, trauma, life stressors, or even just having a genetic tendency toward depression can lead someone turn to unhealthy behaviors like alcohol and drug use, or even social withdrawal in an attempt to avoid the uncomfortable emotions associated with certain activities. Behavioral activation will not only help in replacing negative avoidance behaviors with new ones but it also increases the amount of positive reinforcement a person experiences in real life. One main symptom of depression is loss of interest in things that were enjoyable. In this case, this therapy can help an individual engage more enjoyable activities and experience the rewards of feeling accomplished and even leading to having a sense of meaning.    Working with a therapist and implementing behavioral activation strategies will also encourage people to schedule enjoyable experiences and taking actions that steer them toward a positive solution and goal. Consequently, it moves them past the paralyzing inaction that once locked them in the clasps of depression.

The Importance of Relaxation

When we picture ‘relaxation’, we may allow our minds to drift to a scene complete with some exotic island, a beautiful view, and our toes in the sand, where the stresses of our daily to-do list are far from our awareness. In this place, we are calm, we are centered, and uninhibited by the prisons of our minds.  For many of us, relaxation feels like it can only exist in this other world, as the reality of our everyday life is demanding: dishes piling up in the sink as one reminder of all of the housework that needs attention, countless emails to respond to and errands to run to stay on top of your job, workouts to complete to stay healthy, and in the midst of it all, remembering to feed yourself, and select good options at that. We all know that in order to stay healthy, we must have well-exercised, well-rested, and well-fed body, therefore, we work extra hard to achieve this, but we neglect our mental health. Or you may even find yourself desperate to find ways to unwind, but incapable of doing so. Some studies even suggest that when you are working too hard at relaxing or stress too much about it, you simply cannot let go enough to induce the feeling.

The Mind-Body Connection

Keep in mind that our bodies affect our minds and emotional wellbeing and vice versa, therefore psychological issues ranging from traumatic stress, depression, anxiety or even a lack of sleep all create a physical response. These and other forms of mental disorders often heighten the “fight or flight” mechanism of the nervous system, leaving the body on high alert. Consequently, this makes it virtually impossible to induce relaxation even in the best of circumstances or environment.  Between the round-the-clock demands of family responsibilities, commitments to work, and all the indeterminable stressors that add up to leave you too exhausted to be bothered with practicing self-care until your body is tense, your neck is full of knots, and your brain is fried. Our bodies often intuitively know what we need, and all but demand that we remember to tune into our internal states. 

How do I find relaxation?

To make it worse, most of us can rarely find the time, let alone the money to afford time away from work to create the sort of imagined scene we think is necessary to relax. Fortunately, just making small lifestyle changes can help you achieve relaxation here and now, and ultimately find a bit more serenity in your life. When it comes to relaxation, one of the most significant barriers that most people face is overcoming a negative mindset about what ‘relaxation’ really is all about. For example, you may sit down to relax, but you may sense that you can’t let go simply because your mind will be spinning thinking about everything that needs to be done. Remember: the world won’t end if you do press-pause once in a while, and there is a reason that most guided imagery tapes begin with something along the lines of, “become aware that there is nothing that you need to do, and no one that you need to respond to for a while”. The key is allowing yourself the time to become present at the moment, trusting that the future will work itself out, and making an investment in one form of relaxation for your physical and mental well-being. Something as small as sitting in a relaxed but uplifted posture or a 5 to 10-minute yoga session while breathing through some poses for a few seconds will not only relax your mind and body, but it can alleviate issues ranging from problems with digestion, stress, and even aid in addiction recovery. Practicing a few minutes of relaxation techniques can have profound benefits, such as:
  • Lowering mental fatigue, improving concentration, mood, and sleep quality
  • Reducing the activity of stress hormones
  • Alleviating frustration and anger
  • Improving digestion 
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Aiding in slowing down your heart rate and consequently lowering blood pressure
   In moments of turmoil or uncertainty, just going outside for a few minutes observing nature and focusing in the stillness of your surroundings can center you and induce relaxation. Whether you’re listening to a guided visualization or meditation script, or even just decided to leave your phone at home for a neighborhood walk or while you sit in a sauna, true opportunities for relaxation are present, if only we’ll value them enough to seek them out and commit.