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!

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.

Is A Recovery Coach Right For You?

Rehab can be rough, but what happens when you leave? Your return to everyday life can be filled with familiar triggers and stressors that might be overwhelming. The first ninety days out of treatment have proven to be the most challenging for recovering addicts. So why not hire some extra help to keep you on track? Recovery coaches provide support for those trying to overcome destructive behaviors. They help clients navigate the tricky path of early sobriety and provide a bridge between the safe world of treatment to the real world. Similar to a “life coach,” a recovery coach helps clients make smart decisions to better their life and avoid engaging in addiction. Recovery coaches provide accountability and support on a daily basis to help clients establish healthy habits to reinforce a recovered lifestyle. They’ll also help you reconnect with your local community, find resources to bolster sobriety, encourage ways to get active, and build a strong support system. Just like a personal trainer, a recovery coach will help you develop an individual program of recovery that is uniquely suited to you. Your coach will help you figure out what steps you need to take to achieve the future you want, incorporating the tools you’ve learned in treatment into your daily life. They help with non-clinical issues like housing, finances, employment, hobbies, and relationships.  Recovery coaches teach you how to create healthy boundaries, how to improve communications, and how to take care of your own needs.. Your recovery coach is there to offer encouragement, guidance, and support as you navigate sobriety. Think of your coach as your own personal cheerleader! They’ll help you carve out your own niche in the recovery world and encourage you to find fulfilling activities and relationships that are healing.  They won’t do the work for you, but they’re there to make sure you do the work for yourself. A recovery coach can be your biggest advocate and greatest asset in early recovery. They’ll do more than just help you stay sober – they’ll help you learn to thrive! A recovery coach is an adjunct to traditional treatment, not instead of. Remember, recovery coaches are not therapists – they don’t provide clinical help. It’s important to keep seeing a therapist to address the underlying issues of your addiction while working with a coach on practical ways to avoid relapse. Unlike a therapist, your coach is available to you 24/7. If you feel like you might use at 2 o’clock in the morning, your coach will be there to help you cope. A recovery coach is also not an AA sponsor. Sponsors are volunteers in recovery who support you through the 12 step program. Their work with you is mutually beneficial, as helping you out helps reinforces the lessons they’ve learned on their own recovery journey. A recovery coach is a trained professional who works for you. Their first and only priority is helping you adjust to your new life. How can you find a recovery coach? Ask your treatment center. Chances are, they can recommend a good coach with whom they have previous experience. There are also numerous online resources for finding a coach, including professional services that specialize in coaching. Compatibility is of the utmost importance when selecting a recovery coach. Look for someone who “gets” you. Your recovery coach is going to be intimately involved in your life and it’s important to pick someone you click with. Recovery coaches aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They’ll work with you on a daily basis to address problems as they arise and help you to make strong choices moving forward. They’ll help you change addictive behaviors, develop strategies to continue abstinence, and make practical changes to your life. Your coach will help you develop crucial life skills like managing finances, coping with stress, improving communication with friends and family, and holding down a job. They’ll help you uncover what your passions in life are and help you find ways to pursue meaningful goals. A recovery coach may be the best insurance you can have in avoiding relapse and creating long-lasting abstinence.

Food And Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you know just how paralyzing it can be. You may be accustomed to treating it with therapy and medications, but did you know that what you eat could have an impact as well?  Managing your diet can help manage your anxiety – what you eat (or choose not to eat) can help reduce symptoms and promote positive effects to help you feel better. Does changing your diet seem daunting? It doesn’t have to be!  Making modifications to your diet is as simple as swapping out foods that spike your anxiety for foods that calm you down. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that influence our mood by either revving us up or calming us down; nutritional deficiencies from an incomplete diet can alter the formulation of these chemicals, thus impacting how we experience anxiety.  Putting thought into what you’re eating is a positive lifestyle change for both your body and your brain and taking care of yourself in this way can inspire you to make even more healthy decisions. Looking at how nutrients affect the brain can help you understand how what you eat changes how you feel. So, what should you eat? Salmon! Salmon may be very beneficial for reducing anxiety, as it contains Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that are vital for promoting brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation and prevent brain cell dysfunction that can lead to anxiety disorders.  Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Complex carbs (think brown rice, whole grain bread and whole grain pasta) promote balanced serotonin levels that keep you calm and happy.  They also supply magnesium, a deficiency in which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Berries contain antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients that calm your brain and vegetables strengthen your immune system. Be sure to drink water! Water circulates anxiety-reducing hormones throughout your body, keeping it clean and anxiety-free. Other anti-anxiety agents found in food is are digestive probiotics, which are found in things like yogurt, pickles, and cottage cheese. They serve as fodder for the bacteria in your gut that produce serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, neurotransmitters that play a role in mood. Probiotic foods also inhibit the free radicals and neurotoxins that can lead to anxiety. This direct link to the brain means that restoring balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can directly influence how you feel! You can take a probiotic supplement or eat fermented foods to encourage the growth of good bacteria, which will ultimately help regulate your anxiety. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone linked to anxiety) and also to decrease heart rate. This hardworking amino acid also increases dopamine and serotonin in the brain, improving your mood and promoting brain health. Got a sweet tooth? Introducing dark chocolate into your diet may also be key in reducing anxiety! It contains stress-reducing antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain, helping you adapt to stressful situations. Regular consumption of dark chocolate can also increase levels of serotonin. What foods should you watch out for? Avoid simple carbs, which are high in sugar and provide a burst of energy followed by an inevitable crash that produces anxiety. Also steer clear of processed food or fast food, which have a high salt content that makes your body more acidic and prone to anxiety than unprocessed, natural foods. Do you drink a lot of caffeine? It might be time to quit. Caffeine (found in drinks like coffee, tea, and soda) is a stimulant that makes many people jittery, nervous, and irritable. It raises your heartbeat, stimulates your “fight or flight response,” and makes preexisting anxiety even worse.  Some people develop heart palpitations with too much caffeine, leading them to fear an impending heart attack. Tweaking what you eat is an important way for you to fight your anxiety and regain control of your life. Science has demonstrated that there is a direct connection between the brain and the gut; when essential nutrients are not available to your body, there is a direct effect on your brain chemistry, which can increase your anxiety-related symptoms. There is no one diet that will cure your anxiety, but by eating healthily you can help control your symptoms and lower your stress.

How To Help A Loved One Who Drinks Too Much

Alcoholism is more than just drinking too much on occasion. It’s drinking so much that the body becomes dependent, physically and psychologically, on alcohol until it becomes the most important thing in life. Watching a loved one battle with alcohol use disorder can be difficult. You’re probably feeling helpless and hopeless, unsure of what steps you can take to support them. What should you do? How can you help? Does your loved one even want your help? It’s a tricky situation to navigate, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Set aside a private time to talk. Pick a moment to sit down and state your concerns in a calm, gentle manner. Make sure they’re not intoxicated for the conversation – they may not remember it or may even become hostile! Prepare what you want to say. Try not to come across as angry, as that may make your loved one defensive. Make sure you express affection for them (I care a lot about you), describe what behavior you’re witnessing (you’ve been drinking excessively), and state your desired outcome (I want you to get help). Use “I” statements that are positive and supportive; this will reduce any sense of accusation and help your loved one realize you are on their side. Make sure they know you’re committed to helping them and aren’t going to abandon them. Together, you can then develop a plan of action for how to address the illness that is alcoholism. Acknowledge your own limitations and encourage them to seek help from a professional. Be careful not to come across as telling your loved one what to do. This may encourage them to do the opposite, a tendency known as psychological reactance. Remember that you can’t make them do what you want – you’re going to need their cooperation. Avoid using the terms “alcoholic” or an “addict,” in your discussions with them as these carry negative connotations and may cause them to feel shame. Alcoholism is a complex issue that often goes hand-in-hand with other mental problems, like depression, so be careful of negative talk that may alienate them. Focusing on how much you care for your loved one will get you farther than highlighting their failures. Communicate your concerns. State why you are worried and how their behavior is having a negative impact on your relationship. Don’t take it personally if your loved one reacts angrily to your efforts – they may be in denial about the severity of their alcohol use. If your loved one decides to seek help, there are many options available. Take time to research what level of care they might need, be it detox, residential treatment, outpatient, or sober living, and discuss it with them. Include them in all decision-making as this empowers them in their own recovery. Remember, this is not an intervention. An intervention is a last-ditch effort for an alcoholic in denial. If your loved one is resistant, you may want to consider hiring an interventionist to help you. During this process, you, friends, and family will get together to confront your loved one and urge them into treatment. Remember that their recovery is not on you. While you can encourage your loved one to get help, you cannot save them. Know what boundaries you have to set to protect yourself and your own mental health. Set clear consequences for their behavior and stick to them – this may even help their motivation to get better! It’s exhausting trying to pull someone out of an addiction and it’s not your responsibility. They have to desire change for it to actually happen. One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself on alcoholism. Consider attending Al-Anon meetings, which are designed to support family and friends who are dealing with a loved one’s alcoholism. And don’t lose sight of your own self-care and well-being.  Take care of yourself, first and foremost.  Helping your loved one recover from alcoholism can be mentally stressful and physically exhausting.  Consider seeking help from a therapist as you navigate trying to help your loved one. Self-care is of the utmost importance! Talking to an addict about their substance abuse is tough. Be prepared for a hard conversation that will bring up a lot of emotion. If your loved one decides to seek treatment, they will need your support throughout the entire process. It will be a difficult road, but with love, motivation, and compassion, you can help them through this challenging time.

Warning Signs of Relapse

Recovery is a long road. Whether you’ve beaten your addiction or it’s still a work in progress, it’s important to recognize the possibility of relapse. Relapse is a process, not a singular event. It can start weeks before a physical relapse occurs and can be traced through changes in your emotional and mental state. Emotional relapse is the first stage of relapse in which you experience consistent negative feelings of anger, guilt, or shame. Increased feelings of depression may also pave the way towards relapse. Often, people turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms of depression, so it may be tempting to return to old patterns. Look out for low energy, appetite fluctuations, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, change in sleeping patterns, and lack of interest in activities. Stress can also trigger a relapse. Returning to the “real world” means exposing yourself to old triggers, responsibilities, and situations. Monitor yourself closely for mood swings, increased feelings of anxiety or frustration, and an inability to complete tasks. The unhappier you feel in recovery, the more likely you are to slide backward. Flood your brain with dopamine and serotonin from healthy activities like exercise or connection with friends and family. You may also have begun to have erratic sleeping and/or eating patterns and your self-care may have started to decline. If you’re not attending to your needs – be it sleep, food, or self-care – you’re creating an emotionally draining situation that may make you want to resort back to using. Are you pushing people away or making excuses not to socialize? Isolating yourself from your support means you are withdrawing from accountability and connection. This social breakdown can be a precursor to relapse and may cause you to seek out old, unhealthy relationships. Sober friends, sponsors, friends, and family are key supports that hold you accountable – don’t push them away!  If you’ve started abandoning the routine you established in early sobriety, including set wake-up times, activities, and meal-times, you are setting yourself up for failure. Missing appointments and meetings is a major red flag. Loss of structure means your day is filled with opportunity to slide into old habits. Mental relapse is the second stage and is a time of internal struggle as you battle between desires to remain sober and to return to using. Much of your mental energy is devoted to thoughts about using. You might find yourself idealizing your past, hanging out with old friends, fantasizing about using, or even planning your relapse. Steer clear of triggers that you could use to justify sliding backwards. Avoid unhealthy friends, locations, and physical proximity to the substance and set yourself up for success. The pull of addiction is strong and it’s important to remind yourself of the negative consequences of using – what progress will you lose, who will you let down? Nostalgia for the past can be a slippery slope, as you may be idealizing days of using. Looking back at perceived “good times” can plant the idea of using your mind. If you think you are able to use casually without falling back into addiction, this is a red flag. Using even once can cause cravings to return in full force and make it hard to continue on a path of recovery. Talk about your urges with someone you trust. Share your feelings and watch the urges begin to dissipate – having support will decrease feelings of isolation and diminish the attraction of substance use. Try physically distracting yourself when thoughts about using arise – go to a meeting, exercise, change the scenery, engage in a favorite hobby or pastime. Occupying your mind with another activity stops the thoughts in their tracks and reduces their power over you. Distract yourself for thirty minutes and odds are, the craving will pass. In relapse prevention, a strong offense is needed just as much as a strong defense. Attend meetings, stay in touch with your sponsor, and pursue healthy friendships with others in sobriety. Fill your time with healthy habits. Recognize that maintaining sobriety is a daily struggle. No matter how long you have abstained, relapse can still happen. It’s important for you to be aware of the warning signs of relapse. Relapse can be traumatic, not just for you but for your loved ones as well. Keep in mind the negative consequences of returning to your addiction – your job, your loved ones, relationships, and health will suffer. Remember, take your recovery one day at a time. Don’t let yourself become paralyzed by the thought of abstinence forever. Offer yourself support when you struggle and seek out camaraderie from others. Relapse does happen, and it’s not the end of the world. Reorient yourself on a path of recovery, seek help, and try again.

Caffeine

Is your morning cup of joe a drug? Technically, yes! Caffeine is the most widely-used psychoactive drug in the world. It’s also highly addictive — once you start using it, it’s hard to stop. Because of this, it’s important to look at how caffeine can impact your recovery from an addiction. Detoxification is a necessary stage in which your body learns to adjust to life without substances. It can be challenging, both physically and emotionally, and you may find yourself drawn to other behaviors to cope. Many addicts turn to caffeine as an alternative substance in their recovery process, but because of its addictive qualities, caffeine can be a risky option. The body quickly becomes dependent on lattes and sodas to get through the day. While not an illicit drug, caffeine does take a toll on the body. Caffeine can impact the cardiovascular system and central nervous system, causing rapid heartbeat, irritability, increased blood pressure, confusion, and muscle aches. Caffeine has some similarities to prescription stimulant medications like those used to treat ADHD. Both work by increasing the level of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, the chemicals responsible for positive feelings and mental focus. In addition to impacting the brain and helping you to feel more alert, caffeine affects the rest of your body. Its broad systemic activity leads to the “jitters,” or that shakiness you get after downing too much coffee. In excess amounts, it also causes anxiety, heart palpitations, sleep disorders, and restlessness – which is not what you need during a time of recovery! Be aware that you’re not avoiding addiction by replacing drugs and alcohol with caffeine. If you truly want to gain control over your addiction, you might want to consider removing caffeine from the mix as well. There are many benefits to nixing caffeine. For starters, too much caffeine can increase stress and anxiety. By messing with your brain chemistry, caffeine can induce tiredness, difficulty concentrating, low mood, and difficulty falling asleep. It also increases levels of adrenalin, a stress hormone, which can trigger the fight-or-flight response in your body. Too much stress and you lose the ability to make clear decisions, control impulses, or access newly learned skills, which make you more susceptible to slips in judgement. Former drug users who drink too much caffeine are more likely to relapse than those that don’t. Caffeine also causes hypoglycemia, which is unstable sugar levels that make it hard to control hunger and fight cravings. Hypoglycemia can also cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it wakes up your brain and makes it harder to fall asleep. Too much can cause a disruption in sleep patterns, altering the quality and duration of sleep or even inducing insomnia. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and making poor choices. It’s important for your recovery to get adequate sleep each night as your body needs rest to heal! Caffeine changes your brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine get activated in ways similar to when you were using drugs. Because caffeine doesn’t provide the same “high” that illicit drugs do, you’ll be left wanting, which means you may open the door to more intense cravings for drugs that will derail your recovery. If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or depression separate from your addiction, it may make sense to quit caffeine altogether, as it has been proven to exacerbate symptoms. Caffeine reduces the ability of your body to absorb important vitamins. The absorption of iron, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, and calcium are inhibited by too much caffeine, and this lack of basic nutrients can trigger hunger, which in turn produces stress hormones and drug cravings. If you decide to quit caffeine, be prepared for symptoms of withdrawal. While not as intense as detoxification from illicit drugs, caffeine withdrawal may cause headaches, nausea, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or irritability. Here are some tips to help you quit for good!
  • To wean yourself off of caffeine, try replacing your highly-caffeinated drinks with less-powerful ones. Try grinding your own coffee from whole beans, and use 50% caffeinated beans and 50% decaffeinated beans. Same great taste, less caffeine! Or, try tea instead of coffee!
  • If visiting the coffee shop was part of your routine that you looked forward to, keep it alive! Just change what you order. Or if drinking out of your favorite mug brought you joy, make adjustments to what you drink. See if your barista can concoct a half-caf cup of coffee for you, or try diluting your beverage with water.
  • Get active. Exercise boosts your body’s production of feel-good chemicals that can help you withstand withdrawals. You may find that you feel good enough from physical activity that you don’t need caffeine in the first place!
  • Eat right. Caffeine withdrawal can be hard and it’s important to continue to take care of your body. Get plenty of rest, too.
Dependency on caffeine can open the door to new problems in your recovery. Consider nixing it from your diet and see how the quality of your mental and physical health improves. It could be the step needed to keep you on track with your sobriety!