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Let Others Help You Untie / Lose the Addiction

Does it feel like every day there is a bulletin on the latest celebrity who has admitted himself or herself into rehab? The unfortunate passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman was due to a heroin addiction. The death of Glee celebrity, Cory Monteith, was also from a drug overdose.

Some may perceive these celebrities as having amazing lives; they make a lot of money; they own multiple cars and homes. It appears that they have all the opportunities to have amazing lives and relationships.

If celebrities, people who seem to have so much, struggle to overcome addiction, how can the common-folk do it? On the radio, one doctor commented that there is no cure to an addiction. That’s all that was on the broadcast. There were no other comments to possibly instill a grain of hope in the listener’s mind.

So what about the so-called “addicts” who are not celebrities?  What about the people who mortgage homes to pay for rehabilitation programs. What about those who have such a hard time believing they are worth the effort?  What about those courageous people who, admittedly with help, have overcome addictive patterns of behaviour,  persevere,  improve their relationships and have been able to co-create happier lives? These are the stories and truths we need to hear more about.

Technically, many might agree with the doctor’s negative, “to-the-point” comment… “There is no cure to addiction”. It is absolutely possible,  however, to have suffered from an addiction, overcome it with hard and consistent effort and to develop a happier life. YES!

If, as the doctor says “there is no cure”… then maybe it is not an illness. Perhaps it may, at least in some instances, be better viewed as an inappropriate coping strategy or poor stress response. In still other situations, it may be seen as learned behaviour that can be unlearned?  With an accurate assessment, it is possible to determine the factors contributing, the level of risk as well as the strengths and resources available to effectively overcome addiction. This is the kind of news we should hear about. The opportunities and success stories are not heard enough.

If you’d like to tell your success story… please submit it to our email (jeff@jeffpacker.com) with your clearly stated permission to post it anonymously on this blog.

Thanks


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From Blame to Ownership

“I started working at sixteen. Wanting to make my own money and buy my own things. The only lessons on saving (if you’d like to call it that), came from my mom saying that I should put a little away and give some to the church. My young ignorant mind knew nothing about credit, debt, fees, or expenses. And that little bit that I was supposed to be putting away was rarely done. I’ll always be making money….right?

Well, after university with four credit cards and my line of credit maxed out, I was forced to wake up. My financial instability felt like walking with a heavy weighted ball chained to my leg. When pay day arrived, I felt a glimmer of sunshine beam down on my face, through this cloud of debt, only to have to contribute 90% of it to a credit card or bank debt.


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Many young adults can relate to this scenario. We ask ourselves if we will ever get out of this cycle of debt. Will we ever be able to make more than minimal payments? When we experience days of frustration, we sometimes place or want to place the blame on others. We might blame parents for not teaching enough financial lessons or we may place blame on creditors for making it impossible to make larger payments due to interest fees.

The trouble with placing blame on others is that it does not provide a solution for financial strain. What can provide a ray of sunshine and power is to look within. Taking ownership for the decisions we have made helps increase optimism and opens up opportunities. We actually get energy from taking responsibility for our situation. We can even become more open to assistance from others, professionals and family. Counselling helps many individuals achieve their goals of financial freedom.

Financial counselling helps by assessing behaviour trends in our spending. For example, many of us may use the phrase, “I need this,” rather than “I want this.” We have grown accustomed to using the word ‘need’ to refer to a ‘want.’ When we look into how and why we are spending, great changes in our spending behaviours can be altered.

Counselling also helps us create a plan. A counsellor may hold us accountable to our plan, in a non-judgmental way, helping us chip away at debt with a consistent and calculated approach. Creating a plan to better manage our income, savings, and our debts is an approach to get us out of being in a stressful financial cycle. The plan shows us what we are moving towards. Money troubles??? … get help!


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Some may read the title of this blog appalled by the assumption that everyone is an addict. So let’s consider this statement from Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of “What Addicts Know.”

As a culture we’ve become addicted not only to gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex, and other suspects, but also technology and the acquisition of material possessions and every conceivable promise of instant gratification: More is better has become society’s mantra. We eat more, spend more, take more risks, abuse more substances…only to feel more depressed, unsatisfied, discontented, and unhappy. You may know these symptoms firsthand, or recognize them in the lives of people you care about,” (www.Today.com, January 16, 2014).

Given the statement above, we may all be able to identify that we have, or have had at some point, some addictive behaviours. Merriam-Webster’s definition states: Addiction: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). The key word is harmful. In this light, one could even postulate (and we have) people can be addicted to arguing and fighting, thus, also to the chemicals released from the adrenal gland?

Did you know the actual term “addiction” was originally used in the slave trade? (see Drugs, Morality and the Law). When a slave was sold to the “owner”, they were said to be addicted to their master which meant “tied to”. Well, if you and I can be tied to something… yes… we can also be untied! 

When asked in counselling; What is an addiction?, we often respond anything (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) that significantly interrupts or gets in the way of an important area of your life. Harmful may mean persistent thoughts and behaviours “threatening” to healthy functioning in our vocational (work/school), social, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, family, marital spheres. Of course, we may all have a different definition of what “threatening” is as well and the threat may not be immediately evident, recognized or acknowledged.


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Admitting our personal areas that are unhealthy can be difficult enough to do and others generally see the problem before we do.  Owning hurtful behaviour exposes the “dark side” of being human, something few of us are comfortable letting out about ourselves. Many who do admit openly and acknowledge their addictive behaviour, report feeling liberated, relieved and energized with a renewed sense of hope and joy.

This is most evident for those with addictions who go through the recovery process (a clearly defined step-by-step program with accountability measures built in). Those who were once showing characteristics those around them would call deviant, deceptive, manipulative, self-absorbed, and disrespectful can come out of recovery having rediscovered long lost gifts of self-awareness, honesty, integrity, grace and forgiveness. In addition, when we overcome a particular challenge, we gain greater understanding into human behaviour and change processes, also gaining an acquired skill set to become the greatest role models and teachers.

So do we all need to be in recovery?

Consider these questions, also suggested from Lawford:

  • Am I generally content with the way things are?
  • Are my emotions mostly on an even keel?
  • Are my personal relationships strong and supportive?
  • Is there enough joy in my life?

Careful before you answer: Those in self-absorbed, manipulative and deceptive modes of functioning even “swindle” themselves to believe they are content and happy with their lives. So another question may also be considered when this is the case:

  • If there is content and joy in your life, why do you have feelings of being depressed, unsatisfied, and empty? (What is fueling this is not always “biochemistry”)

Instant gratification, the main ingredient and greatest influence of our addictive behaviours refuses to remind us of the fact that the satisfaction we experience is only temporary. Short-term gain, long-term pain! If we can consider those questions on a grand scheme of our lives, we may come to realize that we are not truly happy. We have lost sincere human connections with others through a series of poor thoughts and choices. We have been selfish and have neglected the true meaning of love, trust and support for others and for ourselves. We do need help.


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Changing ourselves without input from others doesn’t work. This is the profession of counselling: assisting others to bring out their inherent skills and qualities and develop new ones to effectively improve their quality of life, overcome challenges faced and, thus, develop satisfying and caring relationships with others. We can also get good coaching advice from books and web resources to be used in concert with evidence-based therapeutic counselling.

We can all benefit from quality counselling to improve our lives. Contact us today.

 


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How can one decide between a treatment plan that is strict on abstinent behaviours and one that offers stages of reducing addictive behaviours (“harm-reduction”). Some may prefer the latter because, to them, complete abstinence seems unrealistic, overwhelming, and destined for failure. Families may encourage abstinence programs because of the impact that addictive behaviour has made on family members’ lives. Nonetheless, the difficulty in choosing the right treatment program is not made any easier from simple internet research.

Studies have shown that regardless of the method employed to become sober/clean, the number one factor for sobriety success is a permanent commitment to discontinue use permanently; a commitment to abstinence. It actually is much easier to just give it up entirely than punish yourself trying to moderate or control your addictive behaviour (SMART Recovery).  That said, the more times you work on quitting an addiction, the better your chances of reaching the goal of quitting permanently.

Data from several countries shows that treatment policies that insist on abstinence lead to a greater number of deaths than those that allow some kind of substitution therapy, with safer opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine (Subutrex) for heroin use. Although less well studied, the same is likely to be true for alcohol, where substitution therapies such as oxybate and baclofen exist but are less widely used (The Guardian).

Many recovery program staff and professionals espouse that abstinence is the only viable approach, and they reject any program that does not demand abstinence. This is such an obvious truth for these disciples that further thought is pointless. (Canadian Harm Reduction Network)

Despite their popularity, abstinence programs have come increasingly under pressure from research. Scholarly studies based on motivation theory, pharmacotherapy, and cognitive-behavioural therapy have shown that abstinence is not the sole route to recovery from addiction. Although proponents of the abstinence approach have argued that drug use is the defining feature between recovery and addiction, most experts believe that recovery is more accurately represented as a process in which clients move through a series of distinct stages, including relapse (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1995).

The different forms of information out there are not providing much ease in choosing the right treatment program. The choice should not be made according to majority votes or majority statistics. The choice should be made based on the addicted individual’s (1) willingness to recover, (2) individual goals, and (3) understanding of the impact the addictive behaviour has on his/her life and the life of others. When these are established, treatment programs can effectively address the person’s specific needs as well as those in their family.

Contact us today for more information and to start an individual assessment and to explore your addiction treatment program options.


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Many families will come to counselling as a sign of support to help a loved one through a difficult time (e.g. addiction, cooperative parenting, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Sometimes families will provide financial support for a treatment program while others may attend sessions to improve overall teamwork. Still, other family members will change habits in the household to reduce the chance of addictive behaviours reoccurring.

How much family support is too much or not enough? This question is difficult to answer. As parents, we want to help our children (even if they are adults) to the best of our ability. However, sometimes this means we may be doing too much for them. Doing too much can often prevent individual growth and development. Parents may also want to take responsibility for the child/adult’s behaviour.

This is where family therapy helps, drawing upon family systems research and practice. It helps families clarify when to take responsibility or ownership and when not to, how to set clear boundaries and opportunities for change. Families can also establish new roles and expectations along with accountability measures for noncompliance and strategies for encouraging and increasing the behaviours desired.

Insufficient family support can be very debilitating for a person with mental health concerns and, thus, for the family as a whole. Strained and inconsistent communication is very common when there have been hurt feelings and years of promises broken.  As the support of loved ones grows thin, the person with mental health concerns can become even more distant and make even more harmful decisions. Balancing relationships within the family and keeping supportive connections while in treatment is a very important topic to discuss with a professional counsellor.

There are many ways in which a family can support one another through the difficult times. Start with this LISTEN acronym:

L: Learn to hear each other out more, increasing understanding and Love for one another.

I:  Inspire one another by having Integrity with your word and authenticity in your actions.

S: Solution-oriented state of mind helps focus on positive steps forward, finding solutions.

T: Treat others with respect, Teach caringly, Talk calmly and with Teamwork language.

E: Establish family goals together, Empower action and Encourage achievement.

N: Never give up on each other.


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“My brother stays home Sunday to Wednesday, and parties the remaining days of the week. Sounds like fun, right? Sometimes he’s attending multiple parties per night. He stumbles into the house. On occasions, I find him passed out in the car in our driveway. He came to me once, the morning after a night out, shaking his head saying, ‘My tolerance has gone waaay down.’ ‘Really, bro? How much did you drink last night?’ Six shots, four beers, and five cocktails later, he doesn’t come to the realization that that amount is not normal drinking behavior. ‘Face it brother, you’re a binge drinker!’”

Like this person’s brother, many of us may justify the alcohol intake because it evens out the days that we don’t drink. Nonetheless, binge drinking is a serious problem and has become a socially obsessed phenomenon. The death toll in the UK has been rising due to a growing culture of self-filming binge-drinking activities (Misstear, 2014, walesonline.co.uk). Several deaths have been linked to drinkers binging on large quantities of alcohol while filming themselves and daring others to do the same. This social media game “encourages people to accept dares from friends to drink alcohol before nominating someone else to follow suit,” (Misstear, 2014). The term peer pressure has now gone to new heights via social media. As well, a strong culture of alcohol over-use has developed. People may now feel a huge sense of urgency to play out these activities because their name has gone viral or perhaps they would like it to. The repercussions of not abiding to the dare are unknown.

According to Statistics Canada:

  • Males were about 2.5 times more likely than females to report having engaged in heavy drinking (5 or more drinks on one occasion).

  • Including both sexes, people aged 18 to 34 were more likely to engage in heavy drinking.

Dealing with the pressure from friends, family, and social media can cause stress and difficulty to cope. The risks and costs involved with heavy drinking may seem obvious, yet rarely appear to deter habitual substance misuse. Financial, interpersonal, social, cognitive and physical impact my develop quite slowly, over time, initially being denied as “not a big deal”. At first this is probably true, however, as the body requires more and more alcohol, and becomes addicted, the costs rise. Social connections begin to decline, bills pile up, family becomes increasingly concerned and the person’s ability to change themselves deteriorates. Defensiveness toward those who request change is common. Resources with local hospitals, Alcoholics Anonymous groups and addictions counselors are essential components, along with family, to support recovery. Our professional counsellors in Durham Region are trained to assist family and loved ones find and utilize effective resources to support the person struggling with binge-drinking and other types of substance misuse. In addition, the person can discover ways to effectively change and regain control and efficacy in their lives. To have an objective assessment of current substance misuse levels and to determine next steps toward health Call us today .

Addiction Recovery: Hope May Be A Bit Blurry At First

Entering an inpatient addiction recovery program can be seen as the most difficult step and a very challenging experience in the life of those struggling with addictive behaviour. The full exposure of the person’s history is to be revealed and, depending on the specific program, exposure can be up to fifteen hours daily (most programs average 20 to 45 days). One requires an acknowledgment of and a “breaking down” of the old negative patterns in order to make room for new strengths and healthier behaviours.

Once deconstruction of the old ways occurs, the person recovering now has room to develop a new perspective, receive new tools for coping and to develop realistic and achievable goals. As the more positive outlook develops and an optimistic narrative unfolds, people in rehabilitation can begin the process of rebuilding relationship patterns with loved ones. Life changes need to be made, both during and after recovery, with the person in treatment co-writing the “how to” and positive choices ahead.

Following the short-term treatment program, however, it is a whole new ball game. While residential rehab may be quite intense, “aftercare” can prove to be even more taxing than the relatively brief inpatient process. One explanation is the significant decrease in support outside of the treatment facility. Twenty-four hour support is not possible like it was in recovery. In times of need and temptation, it is easier to feel alone and uncertain. It is very important to put an aftercare support system in place, prior to exiting, with many programs encouraging this to be developed from the very day of admission.

Here are some tips that can help people successfully transition back into the community:

  • Get a sponsor / accountability person
  • Seek a professional, experienced addictions counsellor.
  • Reach out to support groups (AA or SA have meetings every day of the week).
  • Take care of yourself and attend to your feelings and practical needs (food, sleep, work etc.)
  • Rediscover your inner child. You’ll be surprised by the peace and joy that can be experienced by simple, basic playful activities.
  • Work on your relationships.
  • Include  one or two loved ones in your recovery process
  • Have personal conversations about your addiction (e.g. mutually share each other’s thoughts, feelings, the impact of your addiction and hopes and goals)

Life after recovery programs can be quite challenging; Prepare for it in advance. Seek out and rely on the resources available to bolster the effectiveness of your success. Call us today so we can help you with this life transition.