Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving: Having Fun and Staying Sober

Thursday marks the beginning of the holiday season with Thanksgiving: A time for families to come together to spend quality time over a plethora of food, football and in most cases alcohol. The holidays can be a tricky time for people in recovery, especially those who are new to the program. The typical experience for people during Thanksgiving may not be the same for those in recovery, whose addiction in many cases has driven a wedge between them and their families.

It can take years to heal the wounds created by one’s addiction, but it is possible with time and the motivation to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. It is important for those in recovery to stay positive over the holidays, to not become discouraged by what you don’t have and be grateful for that which you do. Sadly, the holidays can be a catalyst for some to relapse, but relapse can be avoided if you stick to your program - remembering to live life one day at a time.

Thanksgiving, just like every other day of the year for people in recovery, requires eternal vigilance when it comes to sobriety. 12-step meetings will be held all throughout the day and it is recommended that people in recovery attend as many meetings as they need to refrain from picking up a drink or drug. It is impossible to attend too many meetings during times that are rife with emotions, the kind of feelings that typically arise during the holiday season.

It is important for people in recovery to keep in close contact with their support network. Your sponsor and friends in recovery are ever important during the holidays, keep your phone charged and by your side all throughout the day. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, pick up the phone and call for help. It is a lot easier to call for help before a relapse, than after one; there is no shame in needing to rely on one’s recovery peers during a holiday.

Having fun in recovery is highly encouraged, and in most places recovery events are held during the major holidays. Recovery dinners and dances can be a lot of fun, and a unique opportunity to meet others in recovery who may not be members of your home group. Staying active over a holiday will help keep you out of your head, which is often an unsafe place for those in recovery. Being idle can be a slippery slope, so it should be avoided as much as possible.

If you plan to attend family gatherings where alcohol will be present, here are a several tips to help you navigate through it without picking up:
  • Have a Plan - Attend the dinner, but make plans for afterward. As the day progresses more and more alcohol is consumed, which can be difficult for those in recovery to be around.
  • Create New Holiday Rituals - Spend time creating new holiday traditions that don't involve drugs or alcohol. Spend time with your recovery friends, making new holiday memories.
  • Limit Family Time - Spending too much time around the family can become stressful. Being overexposed to family drama can lead to a relapse. Be cognizant of your limits, if you find yourself becoming stressed out - excuse yourself.
  • Keep to Your Routine - Take care of your recovery before all else. Keeping to your routine is crucial. Call your sponsor, attend your home group. If you exercise or do yoga, remember to keep to the routine over the holiday. Addicts don’t do well with change, keep the holiday schedule as close to your normal schedule for any other day of the year.
We at Cottonwood Tucson would like to wish everyone a safe and sober Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reconnecting To Life

Parents missing the signs of disconnecting...

We often talked about the fact that parenting is a journey and a process. It can start out with a bang...the excitement of childbirth and then we proceed slowly crossing off the list each milestone and moving on to the next event. Our lives become consumed with providing a safe environment, arranging for good schooling, teaching our children ways to adapt through sports, hobbies and friendships. With each passing year our coping skills include "keeping an eye" on both good signs and negative signs as our children mature. But there are times when we inadvertently overlook the obvious signs of trouble.

Signs of trouble can include:
  • A pattern of missing school
  • Grades falling
  • Different friends
  • Isolating from other family members and friends
  • Dropping out of extracurricular activities like sports 
  • A change in appearance
  • Excessive spending 
These are all signs of disconnecting and each can serve to disguise other behavioral health issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse or even video game addiction.

Treating video game addiction

In today's society it is not uncommon for each family member to have access to personal computers in both our homes, work places and classrooms. Additionally, by a certain age, it seems a given that each child will be outfitted with some kind of smartphone. We stay in touch, but really have no idea how each family member is using their devices. It becomes a full time job to monitor programs, apps, social media platforms and it is not uncommon for parents to assume everything is stable.

As recently as 2013 the American Psychiatric Association (APA)decided that enough evidence exists to propose the potential disorder of video game addiction as a "condition requiring further study" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as Internet Gaming Disorder (DSM-5).

Four years ago the Cottonwood Tucson treatment team determined that a number of patients, both adolescents and young adults, were presenting with symptoms of video game addiction and it was then that we added video game addiction treatment to our program.
"We know that video game addiction treatment must begin with thorough psychiatric and bio-psycho-social assessments designed to identify possible medical, psychological, developmental and social co-factors that may have a bearing on the addicted person’s gaming. In Cottonwood’s safe and structured setting, gamers, isolated and entrenched in excessive hours of play can normalize social anxiety and regain the emotional support in group activities. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be useful in helping the addicted gamer find more adaptive ways of managing moods, feelings and thoughts that may trigger impulses to game. On campus On-Line Gamers Anonymous, a recovery fellowship based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous provides our gaming patients with the experience, strength and hope necessary for their recovery from gaming addiction." 

NBC's KVOA interviews Cottonwood's Clinical Director

Kathleen Parrish
This past week NBC KVOA's Anchor Angelique Lizarde visited with Cottonwood Tucson's Clinical Director Kathleen Parrish to learn more about video game addiction. Lizarde's report was a 4 Your Health feature.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some closing thoughts... 

Make some down time for yourself and reach out to your teenagers and your young adult children who may be coming home for the holidays. If you see signs that concern you which appear to involve video game addiction or any other behavioral health issue, then start a conversation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alcohol Merger Raises Health Concerns

Alcohol is used more than any other mind altering substance in the world and consumption can lead to a number of preventable illnesses; yet alcohol use does not carry same stigma as cigarettes and drugs. Every year, around 88,000 Americans lose their life to alcohol-related causes, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). When you consider that 16.6 million adults had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2013, it is hard to believe that the alcohol industry continues riding roughshod.

The global alcohol industry is massive and generates billions of dollars from people’s suffering, while taxpayers end up covering the bill. The economic burden of alcohol in the United States is upwards of $200 billion every year. Naturally, the United States is just one market that has been fully tapped; there are a number of other markets that “big alcohol” would like to target. This goal will be more easily achieved by the merger of the world’s two largest beer manufacturers, a union that has many health experts concerned, BMJ reports.

The impending merger of Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev and London-based SAB Miller will create a company that is estimated to produce one-third of all beer sold worldwide. The two companies hope to supply markets in developing nations, especially in Africa; the researchers point out that Africa is “a critical driver of growth for the combined company,” according to the article.

“The health implications of this forecast are disturbing: market growth on this scale is predicated on exploiting Africa’s low per capita consumption of beer, targeting low-income consumers to drive increased sales,” Professor Jeff Collin and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh wrote. The African target “echoes that of transnational tobacco companies, with which the alcohol industry shares strategic similarities and has close corporate links as well as comparable health effects,” the researchers added. 

Exploiting developing nations will lead to serious alcohol related health problems. Such nations lack the infrastructure that western nations have, making it extremely difficult to handle a surge in addiction rates and alcohol related illnesses - creating an economic burden.

What makes the alcohol industry’s move into developing nations unique when compared to the tobacco industry efforts to do the same, is the fact that alcohol companies are not underpinned by regulations. The authors point out that the global alcohol industry “continues to occupy an ambiguous space in which an indirect acknowledgement of serious health effects coexists with the prospect of partnerships and shared objectives.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nurses Using Drugs and Alcohol

When someone struggles with substance abuse they tend to keep it a secret for as long as possible, an inclination that can be life threatening. While the public’s perception regarding substance use disorders has come a long way in recent years, there is still a notable amount of stigma surrounding the disease. Those struggling with addiction are often hesitant to reach out for help, for the fear that doing so will impact their social and professional relationships.

People who work in the field of medicine are usually held to higher standard when it comes to substance abuse, for the fact that doctors and nurses are charged with administering prescription narcotics on a regular basis - a job which requires a license. Naturally, the fear of losing one’s license to work in a particular field is a large obstacle in the way of people’s desire to seek help for a substance use disorder.

New research indicates that a significant number of nurses who admitted to using drugs and/or alcohol at work said they were unwilling to seek help because of concerns about confidentiality and the fear of losing one’s license, MedicalXpress reports. The findings come from a survey of 302 nurses.

The study found that 48 percent of respondents had used a mind altering substance while on the job, according to the article. 40 percent reported that their ability to perform was affected, 27 percent acknowledged that their patients were put at risk, and 25 percent indicated having acquired narcotics at work.

“We hope that our findings can be used to help improve awareness and understanding of substance use and mental illness among nurses and their professional peers, inform education and training efforts in nursing schools, encourage further research to explore the prevention and early identification of co-occurring disorders in healthcare settings where nurses work, and ultimately enhance public safety,” wrote the researchers. 

The findings were published in the journal Substance Abuse.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Step Into Life: A Foot Journey Across America

People living a life of recovery traveled a rocky road to get where they are today. Both addiction and recovery are journeys, while the former a road to the depths of solitude and despair - the latter is one of hope and renewal. Many addicts spend many years alone, struggling to make ends meet and find their next fix. Addiction is a full time job that often calls upon people to do unspeakable things in the name of their disease, but fortunately those who have lived with addiction can and do recover.

Recovering from a substance use disorder is a remarkable experience, one of transformation and new beginnings. While every addict's story is different in many ways, the reality is that there is an underlying shared experience, recognizable by anyone who has walked the road of addiction. In sharing one’s story addicts can find many similarities, addicts can find comfort in the fact that they are not alone and their heartache is not unique. Through sharing one’s story day in and day out, addicts help other addicts find and stay in recovery.

We would like to take a moment to share with you a remarkable story of recovery, a story that highlights the fact that successful recovery on an individual level is only possible through a communal experience. Those who have worked a program of recovery, achieving sustained sobriety, do not rest on their laurels; instead, they go back and spread the message to those who are new to recovery, helping them find what they were blessed to have found.

Fourteen months ago, a man by the name of Chris Bailey was destitute and struggling with addiction. After hitting rock bottom, his twin brother helped him detox from drugs and alcohol and get him into a month long treatment program. After which, he lived in a sober living home for seven months in Los Angeles. During that time Bailey would sometimes walk 10 miles to attend 12-step meetings. While on those walks, Bailey found the inspiration to walk across the United States sharing his story of addiction and recovery along the way, New Jersey On-Line reports. A project he calls "Step Into Life."

After more than seven months on the road, he has walked over 3,500 miles. Over the course of Bailey’s travels, he stopped to speak at treatment facilities and high schools.

"For so long, I needed to do something to connect with people, God, and get rid of all the built up stuff I had inside," Bailey said. "Being alone and honest with myself was hard. I reached a breaking point when I just broke down and was able to play witness to being myself."

Bailey and his brother started an organization called Hold Space, according to the article. The organization has campaigns aimed at a number of different things, including addiction. Hold Space, says Bailey, is a symbol for the hope and love Bailey's brother held for him while he was still active in his addiction.

Bailey has plans to continue his journey by touring the country by train, but for the moment he says he “will live for the day.”
CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation FacilitiesNATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and ProgramsNBCCNAADAC