The holidays can be especially challenging for individuals struggling with alcoholism and substance use disorders. During this unique, traditionally focused season of celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers, people with addictions can feel more vulnerable and alone than ever.
An awareness of the specific challenges faced by people newly on the road to recovery — as well as those who have navigated the twists and turns in the road for many years — is critical to avoiding relapse at this time of year. Education about the risks and preparation for unexpected challenges are both crucial to a successful outcome. Reminding oneself of exactly what’s at stake may also help the individual stay strong in the face of challenges such as family encounters and stressful travel experiences that may accompany the ever-present physical, emotional and holiday financial fatigue.
Facing long-standing emotional triggers involving family members can get pretty complicated during November and December.
For the individual in recovery who may be estranged from immediate family, the grief and sorrow can be debilitating. Likewise, if family members have passed on due to death or illness these losses can be especially hard to bear during the season of light and love.
Journeying cross-country to visit loved ones may cause the person struggling with alcohol and drug addiction to be physically separated from the personal support of his or her trusted therapist, sponsor or alumni recovery partner.
Dealing with time changes, living out of a suitcase, renting a car, struggling with directions and even sleeping in a childhood room with all the memories associated with the familiarity that place – both good and bad — can also throw recovering people off their regular routines. Expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly.
The pressures of gift giving at a time of year when money may already be tight due to year-end taxes, donations, and work obligations can also be very stressful. If you are someone who struggles with compulsive shopping addiction or gambling, the perception that money is tight could lead to overspending and risky behaviors.
Following are a few suggestions to help make the holidays less stressful:
- Skip any social function you feel especially nervous about. It’s OK not to go.
- When stress arises, take a moment to stop and inhale three deep, slow breaths.
- If you are traveling to visit family or friends research the city you are going to find out when and where meetings are, then go.
- If away from your support network have lots of phone numbers, your sponsor, your sober friend’s, people you can call on day or night if anything arises, remember you are not alone.
- If you are going to be alone for the holidays, make plans not to be. Reach out to supportive friends and plan to attend meetings.
- Be of service. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, reach out to a new comer, visit older neighbor who has no one.
- Maintain your spirituality, even if you are really busy and hectic take a few minutes every day for relaxation, reflection, and meditation.
If you or someone you know needs help contact us 24/7 877.843.7262.
The tragic news of music icon Prince’s death on April 21 at the age of 57 has captivated more than just his devoted fans. According to a number of media outlets, Prince struggled with debilitating hip pain throughout his career and had surgery during the mid 2000s. On June 2, Minnesota officials released the news that Prince died from an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl, a type of synthetic opiate. The New York Times reports that the official confirmation of Prince’s death by opioid overdose may now expedite actions taken by Washington lawmakers including: taking steps to improve drug treatment; better controlling prescription drug distribution; and enhancing the overdose training of emergency responders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The CDC reports that the most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl, which is often created with heroin and/or cocaine to increase its euphoric effects. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased by 80 percent from 2013 to 2014. Roughly 5,500 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone in 2014.
The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) Special Report: Opiates and Related Drugs Reported in NFLIS, 2009–2014 examined deaths associated with opiates and related drugs, noting that 202,157 deaths were the result of a drug poisoning or overdose between 2009 and 2013. Of these, 57 percent involved heroin and natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opiates. Notably, reports of fentanyl increased by 259 percent from the second half of 2013 to the first half of 2014 especially in the South, Northeast, and Midwest sections of the United States.
The New York Times reported that a concerned friend of Prince had reached out to a California-based doctor who specializes in treating opioid addictions, in hopes of getting him into treatment just a couple of days before he died. If you or someone you know is dealing with similar concerns, it is critical to seek immediate help.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) says if you can’t stop taking a drug even if you want to, or if the urge to use drugs is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm, you might be addicted. People from all backgrounds and at any age can have an addition. Here are some questions to help identify risk:
- Do you think about drugs a lot?
- Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn’t?
- Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without the use of drugs?
- Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry with other people?
- Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
- Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another?
- Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs?
- Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you?
- Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?
- Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use?
- Have you ever overdosed on drugs?
- Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people?
If the answer to some or all of these questions is yes, the NIDA says that you might have an addiction.
The good news is there is Hope. There are tons of people who were in the same situation addicted to pain killers but made it through. We Do Recover. If you or someone you know is suffering do something. Do something now, before it’s too late. Call someone and get some advice, get into treatment or go to a meeting.
Call us at 877.843.7262 anytime, 24/7. We’re here to help.
A Brief Look at “Spice” (Synthetic Marijuana)
Not long ago, authorities reported more than 30 overdoses in Austin, Texas, believed to be related to a batch of synthetic cannabis known as K2 or ‘Spice’ that had been purchased in Dallas. Such overdoses generally wind up in the ER for treatment of symptoms that include high blood pressure, panic and agitation, nausea and vomiting, and hallucination. Often there’s an initial period where the user is unable to move, followed by another period of aggression and in some cases psychotic behavior. It’s scary for both the user and those around him, and unfortunately, accidental ODs are common.
Synthetic marijuana isn’t actually what it claims to be. Instead, it’s a blend of dried medicinal herbs and an assortment of other substances designed in the lab to imitate the effects of cannabis (technical term: cannabimimetics). These fakes can be quite different chemically from the real thing, and since there’s been no formal testing, the user is largely in the dark as to the risks.
Much of the early popularity of synthetic grass has been among college students, usually males. Synthetics allegedly played a role in the suspension of football star Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu by LSU a few years back, and also in the arrest for possession of Buffalo Bills Pro-Bowl tackle Marcel Dareus.
Why do users turn to synthetics instead of ordinary pot? First, because they believe it is more potent, with a high that is both more intense and longer-lasting. Second, pot users are reassured by the appearance of a leafy green or brown product purposely designed to resemble their drug of choice. Ironically, analysis of labels on some commercially produced brands has shown them to be quite inaccurate as to the real ingredients. Some of the adverse effects reported by K2 and Spice users are no doubt related to unidentified substances used to adulterate the product.
Which brings us to another issue: the principal ingredients in these preparations have been designated as controlled substances by the DEA and are therefore illegal. Drug producers have responded by changing the composition in ways that we can only guess. This sort of cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and drug developers has in the past led to increased risk. The user ends up smoking something quite different than he intended.
Cases of Spice abuse are showing up routinely in treatment centers, usually as part of a larger pattern with other drugs and/or alcohol rather than alone. Some of the experiences described by users are quite frightening, along the lines of what we heard when PCP first appeared on the streets.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about Spice addiction, but unfortunately, it appears we’re about to get a chance to learn.
Treatment is always striving to change for the better. New methods and approaches seem to appear every year. That’s especially true in an era of emphasis on Evidence-Based Practice, or EBP.
Put simply, an EBP is any approach to treatment that has been shown to be effective through well-designed, well-conducted research by qualified scientists. For addictions, examples of EBPs include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and Twelve Step Facilitation (TSF), among others. There are important differences between them, but all three have one thing in common: studies have shown they are effective.
At the Ranch, we hold that treatment works best when it integrates evidence-based practices with the expertise and judgment of an experienced counselor. Our goal is to provide our clients with the tools for successful recovery and the information they need to make their own decisions about how best to use them. Of course, your decisions will be unique to you as a person, and reflect your individual goals, interests, values, and needs. That’s called person-centered planning, and the client is indeed at the center of it.
Because counselors need to continue learning and developing new skills, we place considerable emphasis on professional development. The idea is that as counselors build new skills to use in their work, our clients and their families will benefit through better outcomes.
One way to foster growth is through a professional development plan (PDP). Once a year, counselor and supervisor sit down together to review the counselor’s progress during the preceding 12 months, and set goals and objectives for the future.
For instance, a counselor might decide to target improvement in his or her ability to work productively with couples who are experiencing problems in their relationships. The counselor identifies two workshops he or she will attend during the year, as well as specific skills or competencies that require development, and objective measures of improvement in clinical practice. The supervisor reviews the counselor’s objectives and may add further recommendations. They set up a schedule of meetings going forward to review progress. That can include opportunities for the supervisor to sit in on live sessions and observe the counselor at work.
It’s all part of a larger process known as clinical supervision that we at Clear Springs believe will make us better helpers. And we can’t think of anything more important than that.