How to Help a Loved One Who is Battling Addiction

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest blogger Bethany Hatton. Bethany, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created PreventAddiction.info after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids. Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

Millions of Americans suffer with addiction to substances, and unfortunately, it can be an extremely difficult behavior to break free of. Some individuals rely on substances to help them get through tough emotional times, while others have undiagnosed mental health disorders that can seem minimized by drug abuse, although in reality, substances only make things worse.

It can be disheartening and even scary to watch someone you care about descend into substance abuse, in part because it’s so hard to know how to help without pushing them away. However, it’s imperative to reach out if you believe a loved one is engaging in harmful abuse of a substance. ADrugRehab.org points out, “Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends.”

Here are a few of the best tips on how to help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Do some research

It’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms, causes, and warning signs of substance abuse before anything else. Knowing these things will help you keep an open mind when it comes to helping your loved one. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything right away; addiction is a very complex disorder that has many different causes, and no one treatment is right for everyone. For reference, some of the warning signs of substance abuse include:

  • Refraining from engaging in social activities
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden decline in performance at school or work
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

These symptoms can also be indicative of a mental health disorder, however, so look for telltale signs that your loved one is engaging in unhealthy activities, such as a powerful scent of alcohol around them, dilated pupils, confusion, or cognitive issues.

Give them love and support

Every individual who is battling addiction is different; some people don’t even realize it’s become a problem until a loved one speaks up. Some suffer from depression and feel they are alone. Others feel guilty or sad about a past occurrence and use substances to numb the pain. Let your loved one know that you are here for them and that you love them, and the earlier the better. Don’t wait until they’ve had legal trouble or have lost a job to show your support.

Hold back the guilt

Many people who are battling addiction know that what they’re doing is harmful to their own health and to their families, but can’t physically break the addiction. They may already be feeling guilty, so it’s a good idea to refrain from bringing up topics that will add to it. Instead, be supportive and use phrases like, “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.” Not using words of blame and focusing instead on how they must be feeling will show them that you’re genuinely concerned and want to help.

Many people who are engaged in substance abuse become defensive when confronted about it; others are simply in denial. Be prepared for either reaction, and encourage your loved one to seek help. Let them know that they can move at their own pace and that you will be by their side to help them through even the hardest times. Assist your loved one in looking for a counselor or therapist, or in finding an online therapy group if they are unsure about how to get started.

Beauty From Ashes: Turning Grief into Gratitude

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Tricia Moceo. 28. Single mom. 2 years Sober. Tricia works for Recovery Local, a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. The company was founded by and staffed with recovering addicts cultivating recovery resources through sharing their own experience, strength, and hope. Find Tricia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trici a.moceo

flowers_newGrief has a funny way of creeping in and demolishing everything in its path. January 10, 2013 life, as I knew it, was completely uprooted. My mother had a massive heart attack and unexpectedly passed away. I vividly remember the chaotic events that followed. Instantly I sought out oblivion through any mind/mood altering substance. My remedy of choice was one I danced with for years: opiates. Chasing the dragon, in hopes of avoiding any feelings of grief, I progressively withdrew from the reality that my mom was no longer here. I took on the responsibilities of running our family business, maintaining the household, and taking over the motherly duties left behind by mom. I was incapable of fulfilling my self-induced pressures without the aid of my analgesic. Eventually, I was drowning in full-blown addiction, running from the pain of my mother’s absence.  

Divide. Destroy. Rebuild. From mom’s passing to my newly adapted vices, the dynamics of our family had changed. Grief and trauma became our reprieve. Eventually, my consequences warranted change and I sought help. I left for treatment with the preconceived notion that I was only addressing my substance abuse issues. I convinced myself it was the drugs that led me astray not my inability to process emotions. My father was smart enough to send me to a dual diagnosis facility and it saved my life. I entered treatment broken and rebelling against the vulnerability. Unbeknownst to me, I was surrounded by professionals that refused to allow me to avoid the grief that overcame me. Left with no escapable option, I acted as if until I gratefully accepted change.

I remember sitting in a caseload group and being asked if I ever dealt with the loss of my mother and why I blamed myself. Immediately I was engulfed with anger. The group facilitator intervened and challenged me to write a “goodbye letter” to my mother. I wanted to puke. I trembled at the idea of hashing out ancient resentments and regrets. Most of all, I was most fearful of accepting the permanence of her fate. I journaled every painful and joyous memory I shared with my mother. After writing the letter, addressing past regrets and letting emotions flow from pen to paper, gratitude rushed over me like sweet summer rain. I felt immediate relief and I was given a whole new perspective.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Upon saying my goodbyes and relieving myself of the bondage of my unsettled resentments, I acquired the ability to put myself in my mother’s shoes. This warranted compassion, understanding, and most importantly grace. I was grateful for the memories I shared with my mother. Even though I couldn’t make peace face to face with my mom, I was able to process my grief through the vulnerable and intimate exercise. I felt like I was finally free, no longer enslaved to the pain that became my identity. As time passes, I miss my mom more every day but my love for her grows stronger. Today, I get the privilege of sharing my anguish and heartache with other women going through similar adversity. My goal is to spread hope and encourage other women to walk through the pain of grief without the aid of any mood/mind altering substance. I value every moment exactly as it is and I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for every person in my life.

If you are struggling with grief, be mindful that there is no cookie cutter way to deal with the overwhelming feelings that follow. Allow yourself to feel every emotion as it ebbs and flows, without judgment. Avoid isolation and reach out for support from people you trust. Grief is all-encompassing but there is hope found in the most unexpected places. Support groups and tapping into family and friends saved my life. If you need advice or just someone to listen, feel free to reach out to me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tricia.moceo

Stop the Pain: How to Avoid Self Medicating in Times of Grief

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Alice Munday. Alice is a freelance writer from Virginia Beach, Virginia. In recovery herself, she is dedicated to helping those who struggle with addiction.

stop-sign-with-blue-sky

How To Avoid Self-Medicating In Times Of Grief

Of all the emotions we feel as humans, grief is among the most powerful and complex. The death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, and any number of other unexpected negative experiences can lead to times of sorrow during which feeling better seems like a downright impossibility. At low points like this, it is important to be conscious of behaviors that will be constructive and those that will actively undermine the healing process.  Self-medicating is undoubtedly one of the most potentially devastating behaviors for getting through periods of anguish. Using alcohol, drugs, or other means to self-medicate during harrowing times lures people in by offering relief with the cruel twist of it only being temporary and actually counteractive to coming to peace with traumatic events. To avoid going down this path, it is helpful to keep these things in mind.

Let Yourself Experience All Your Feelings

The pain of loss is a difficult thing to experience, but not going through the entire cycle of mourning makes you more likely to turn to unsafe coping mechanisms later on. It is vital to experience and express the emotions you feel and deal with grief adequately. Quickly replacing the loss with a substitute or even refusing to attribute your despair to its true source are telltale signs that you may be trying to accelerate the cycle.

Be Aware Of Grief Triggers 

As you work through your feelings, you can make the process easier for yourself if you identify and avoid things that you know will cause you to feel more extreme distress. There are several common factors that can elicit these feelings. When dealing with the loss of a loved one, for example, anniversaries of their passing or missing them during the holidays can easily bring on a wave of emotion. Similarly, being the same age as someone when they passed or certain places, smells, and rituals with strong connections to that person can all be challenging to face. Acknowledging what specific things trigger you can help you explore productive and healthy ways to deal with them.

Reach Out For Social Support

Friends and family can often show up in droves when a traumatic event first happens but then gradually fade back into the woodwork when you would still benefit from their presence. Identify the people who you can turn to at any time and who will help you whenever you need it. It can also be worth it to find a support group with other people going through a similar, specific grieving process so you can help each other along the way with an underlying empathy and understanding that you may not be able to find elsewhere.  Honor The Loss With Something Productive 

One of the hardest parts of going through periods of suffering is toeing the line between honoring a significant loss while also moving on with your own life without feeling guilty. Figuring out a way to pay homage with an activity that is productive for you can help you strike that balance.

Postpone Major Lifestyle Changes

Making big decisions in the wake of a traumatic event can lead to additional stress and anxiety that can prove to be too much to handle. If possible, delay making any major changes like moves, job changes, and other similar things until you know that you are ready to handle the added burden.

Seek Professional Help If Needed

If you have already found yourself turning to self-medicating measures, it helps to find a professional solution to help you as soon as you can. Integrated treatments for grief and substance abuse take a two-pronged approach and treat you both medically and therapeutically with detoxing and therapy. Achieving sobriety is the priority, and then a therapist can help you move through the underlying causes of your grief to avoid a relapse.  Grief can feel so overwhelming and unique to you that it can be difficult to find ways through it without turning to self-medicating, but there are always ways you can find respite without endangering your health. You are never alone, and people and places to help are never too far away.

 

 

 

6 Ways to Survive Being Alone on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are please to welcome guest blogger Michelle Peterson to HopeXchange, with an important topic for this time of year. What if you are alone, or feel alone, on a day set aside for love and romance? Michelle has the answer!

Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.

Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you can see heart-shaped candies, heart balloons, Valentine’s cards, and other trinkets everywhere you go. If you are not dating anyone special or have just recently broken up, these things will serve as a reminder that you are all by your lonesome on the most romantic day of the year. Technically, you are not actually alone – 44 percent of adult American population is single. Almost half the population of the country is sailing in the same boat as you – take heart!

Instead of hiding away on Valentine’s Day, why not celebrate your singlehood this year. Here are six amazing ways to survive being single on V-Day.

  1. Put Yourself FIrst – Be Your Own Valentine

Often, you get carried away with the entire idea of romantic love and forget to love the most important person in your life – you. Especially if you’ve had a particularly tough year or are celebrating a milestone–such as a certain number of days, weeks, months, or years’ sobriety this Valentine’s Day, why not become your own Valentine and indulge in self-love. Go for a massage, treat yourself to a movie, or just curl up with a good book. Whatever you choose, do something you enjoy that will help lift your spirits!

  1. All the Single Ladies and Gentlemen – Celebrate Friendship

Valentine’s Day is the day we celebrate love – no one specified that it has to be romantic love. Get together with all your single friends and raise a toast to your relationship status. If you are not feeling like throwing a party, spend your day with your best friend. You can spend the day playing video games, watching movies, enjoying your favorite drink, or even going out for lunch or dinner. As Kelly Wheeler rightly said, “Love is temporary… but friends are forever.”

  1. Spend Some Quality Time with Your Pooch

What better day than Valentine’s Day to recognize the furry friend who’s been giving you unconditional love all year. Take your dog to the local dog park for some play time or do some Valentine’s-inspired, dog-friendly crafting. Whatever you choose to do, they’re sure to enjoy the extra attention and the quality time with your four-legged loved one will give you a boost as well.

  1. Plan an Anti-Valentine’s Movie Night

Instead of watching the sappy romantic movies on Valentine’s Day, plan a movie marathon that is totally Anti-Valentine’s. Include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in your list as this movie is set in a world where it is possible to use a memory wipe procedure to erase painful memories of your past relationships. The best movies to watch are horror flicks – if you are scared out of your mind, you will have not time or inclination to think about anyone’s single status!

  1. Pay a Visit to Your Gym

Exercising is perhaps one of the best ways to get rid of your bad mood on Valentine’s Day. When you exercise, you release endorphins that not only reduce anxiety, but also make you feel good. Check to see if there are any classes scheduled for the V-Day. Choose the one that you have always wanted to try, but didn’t think you could manage it. When you finally come out of the class, you will be a whole lot more confident and happy.

  1. Do Absolutely Nothing – Just Chill

There is no way you can avoid all the Valentine’s Day trinkets and lovey dovey couples, when you get out of home on this day. It is not necessary that you have to make any plans, you can just sit back and relax at home. Approximately 45 percent of US households subscribe to Netflix, and if you are one of them, it is time to binge-watch all the series that you’ve been missing out on.

The best and the most simple way to survive being alone on Valentine’s Day is to make yourself feel good – so go buy flowers for yourself or get yourself a nice gift. Make it a day about you!

Why Grief Can Lead To Substance Abuse, And What You Can Do About It

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Jeff Ferris. Jeff is the founder of RehabCentersInNJ.com, New Jersey’s premiere recovery service. He is partner with a network that has helped thousands of people get back to the road of substance abuse and mental health recovery.

Over the counter pain relievers

Grief is hard for anyone to deal with, but for a mother, it can be crippling or even deadly. There is no feeling that is as devastating as losing a child.

Many people know that it’s not the way God intended it. Children outlive their parents, but few know the real pain of a mother who’s in it.

It’s sad when other people pass away, but it’s just not the same as when a woman loses the baby that she carried in her womb and loved from day one.

I write this to let you know, as a WARNING, a mother can be susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination, I know. But I wanted to bring comfort and let you know the alternatives, so that when you have better days it won’t be drowned out with artificial stimuli. Instead, the better day will be a step in the right direction to make the best of your time here on Earth.

It’s logical to think you just want to turn the pain off

When you lose a child, all the dreams and plans that you had for the child are shattered within seconds.

The reality of lost dreams cuts to the core of your soul. It is so sharp and piercing that your mind fills with thoughts such as, “What can I do to just make this pain stop?”

Substances Can Work Like an on/off Emotion Switch

It’s actually quite easy for someone to turn to substances at that time, especially if they don’t have any support from others. They may not intend to abuse such substances. The initial ingestion may just be an honest attempt to dull the excruciating pain.

Unfortunately, both alcohol and drugs, even prescription drugs, can grab hold of a person quickly in terms of physical dependence. Narcotic painkillers, for example, often hook legitimate patients before they even finish their first prescription.

Imagine the temptation of a woman who loses a child in a horrific surgical process and then realizes that the very pills that the doctor prescribed her could eliminate her emotional pain. Wouldn’t she be tempted to just keep taking those pills forever?

That’s just one real-life example. That particular woman didn’t develop a substance abuse habit, but it would have been easy for her to do just that- and it wouldn’t have been her fault in the least. Grieving women who do fall into these traps deserve some understanding.

If you are someone who is suffering from this issue right now, then you deserve some love. There are supportive people in the world who understand your pain precisely, and there is a way for you to get your life back on track

Alternative: What You Really Need as a Grieving Mother

The devastation that you’re going through needs a specific kind of attention. You have to enter into two battles: one that will help you with the loss of your child, and one that will help you with the substance abuse.

Many times, people try to offer condolences, and they don’t help because they end up saying the wrong things. What you need is a group of people around you who have grieved in a similar fashion and have come through it in good spirits. I’m glad sites like this exist to help you relate and let you feel like you’re not alone. However, a page on a site can’t fulfill our need for companionship, especially in devastating times.

You need people who understand how heartbreaking it is to have a life inside of you and have it ripped away from you at any stage. For your recovery, you can use a variety of resources. A full-blown rehabilitation center will give you the highest recovery percentage, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go that route.

You could sign up for outpatient rehabilitation, 12-step programs or counseling services that address your specific needs. If you’re a private type of person, you could perhaps get one good friend who will hold you accountable for your actions, encourage you, pray for you and do beneficial activities with you while you go through the difficult stages of recovery.

Self-help is not out of the question or ineffective by any means. You can fight the battle alone, but it is always better to have at least one other person in your corner.

Other in-home things you can do to help cope is:

  1. Drink Caffeine – it’s better than narcotics
  2. Try Art Therapy – any hobby will do, something to help build creativity
  3. Prayer – Giving yourself to a higher power can bring comfort and tie you into a community of good people

You’re a unique individual with unique circumstances, so your resolution may not be the same as someone else’s. You may want to contact a referral service or an anonymous hotline so that you can get someone who can refer you to the best resource for you. No matter what you do, remember that time and faith heal all things.

If you are not on narcotics then you are ahead. Sometimes we don’t care for much psychological babble about “grieving processes.” However, counselors and strong friends and family are the best thing for anyone grieving.

Please consider getting help. Professional or not, reach out, this is your time of need and good people are there to help.

I hope all goes well with you.

 

Being “Whole”: Holistic Help for Fighting Addiction

HopeXchange is proud to welcome back Constance Ray with another distinguished guest post! Constance co-created RecoveryWell to provide a safe place for people to share their addiction stories so that others can learn from them and benefit in their own lives. In this article, you’ll find excellent advice on conquering addiction in non-traditional ways. Great information for anyone looking to overcome unhealthy habits.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Kristopher Allison

Congratulations on your decision to invest in your self care and your future by getting clean. This is an exciting and important decision, even if it feels scary, confusing or overwhelming at first. In fact, today is literally the first day of the rest of your life. Coming clean from drugs and/or alcohol won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

If you don’t have a sponsor or aren’t in recovery yet, you may not be certain where to begin. You’ll probably experience a broad range of emotions, from anger to depression to fear. Know that all of this is normal, and that you don’t have to go through it alone. This article will discuss holistic treatment options that are a perfect complement to (rather than substitute for) more traditional addiction recovery methods.

There are some alternative or “holistic” healing practices that have been shown to help aid the addiction recovery process. Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, tapping and many more holistic methodologies are helpful at reducing the body’s stress response, which can of course help reduce the urge to drink or use drugs during stressful situations.

Science is just starting to understand why and how ancient, holistic and alternative healing methods are able to assist with addiction recovery. However, early indications are that it has to do with our stress hormones. When we are stressed, our brains release cortisol and adrenaline, which have been linked to a wide variety of conditions ranging from PTSD to depression to anxiety to – you guessed it – substance abuse.

A recent study showed the effects of yoga for changing the brain. This specific study, which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2007 (and not to mention, funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) showed promising results. According to the study, yoga actually changes levels of neurotransmitters in the brain which are associated with anxiety and depression. Because anxiety, depression and stress drive a lot of people to abuse drugs and alcohol (or relapse during recovery), these results are promising for those seeking treatment for their addictions. Yoga has been so powerful in helping people recover from addiction that a documentary has even been made about it. Indeed, many of the world’s leading “celebrity” yoga teachers are themselves former addicts who found recovery thanks to their daily yoga practice.

Like yoga, which is a deeply spiritual practice for many people, there are also several alternative programs out there that focus on spirituality and connection with God or a Higher Power as a key to addiction recovery. Indeed, even the twelve step programs themselves focus on the importance of surrendering to recovery by “letting go and letting God.” However, some people prefer a spiritual approach to addiction recovery without having to go through an actual twelve-step program. If you’ve tried a traditional twelve-step program but haven’t had much luck, you may want to consider reaching out to groups like Celebrate Recovery or LifeRing Secular Recovery for additional help.

While the field of addiction recovery is still relatively new, and there is still such research to be done, recent studies have had very promising results. Those in recovery are currently more empowered than ever to take their lives into their own hands. With so many complementary tools to choose from, you can create a custom- tailored addiction recovery plan that is suited to your individual needs. Good luck on your journey. You’ve already taken the first step!