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The Fabulous Four (areas of life) And How Addiction/Recovery Effects Them All (part 9 of 9, How Recovery Effects Us Spiritually):

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Welcome to the 8th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have (for the recovery part) on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of 2014 so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who are following from October(we took a few month break to focus on holidays and the new year in recovery)article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that recovery affect the spiritual part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.

How does recovery effect the spiritual part of our lives? Since we hit on the way we are going to define spirituality here, last time, we will quickly move on to focusing on our final solution. When a person who has been in self-defeat or self-caused pain, such as addiction, they are totally cut off from the solution and disconnected from themselves. Once somebody gets and stays clean for any period of time, they are able to reconnect and find peace and harmony within themselves. This feeling and connection is what recovery is all about. Most programs use or align themselves with the 12 step philosophy and approach. This approach directly links recovery and happiness to one’s spiritual connection. The 12 step program and any treatment center that uses that approach, is quick to point out that a spiritual experience is defined by the individual and is not limited to particularly religious folks. The approach of one finding and choosing their own individual definition of a higher power is the cornerstone of 12 step recover While never striving to define anyone’s spirituality, 12 step recovery is based on everyone’s any type of belief or spirituality. We often describe spirituality as the mind, body, spirit connection or a relationship with yourself, with others and with whatever source of strength outside of yourself that you choose to believe in.

When an individual decides to accept or comes to believe in a higher power, the doors of many possibilities open at once for them. Many people (not everybody, and this is certainly not necessary) turn either back to a religious upbringing or find a new one to be a part of. Others add things like yoga, hiking, or walks to their daily spiritual practice. All forms of recovery, and many other walks of life, promote meditation as a great way to center one’s mind and spirit. Their are many books, cd’s, and teachers who are happy to help people meditate. At the River Source, for instance, meditation groups occur almost every day. It has become a wide spread belief that mediation is one of the best and healthiest ways to practice any new found spirituality. One of the things that recovery stresses, is that there is no one way to meditate. For some it means sitting in peace and quiet, focusing on breathing and visualization. For others, it can be a bike ride or watching a baseball game, with no interruptions. The action doesn’t matter as much as the fact that one is in peace with the logical part of their brain in rest, while the open part of their brain is connecting with whatever power they believe in. Treatment is key in this area because often people who enter treatment have no recent history with spiritual matters. It is part of the job of the treatment team to help guide people on their journey of reconnecting and getting back on track!

The Fabulous Four (areas of life) And How Addiction/Recovery Effects Them All (part 8 of 9, How Addiction Effects Us Spiritually):

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Welcome to the 8th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have (for the recovery part) on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of 2014 so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who are following from October(we took a few month break to focus on holidays and the new year in recovery)article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that recovery affect the spiritual part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.

How does recovery effect the spiritual part of our lives? This is an interesting focus area, mainly because the definition of spirituality varies so much from person to person. Rather than spend months or years trying to cover every potential definition and belief system out there, let’s pick a rather vanilla, or basic interpretation of spirituality and then go from there. Before we do that, let’s agree that spirituality is an area of life for everybody. Just because some people may choose to not have anything in that area (which is perfectly ok), doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That being said, let’s look at a basic definition. Spirituality is simply the belief in what we know is real, but cannot see or touch. For instance, love is very real, but you cannot see love. You can see the results of love. If two people hug, that’s a result of love. You cannot point to some love floating around and identify it as love. Make sense? Using that definition, anger is also spiritual. People label things as good or bad, spiritual just is. Another way to look at it, is simply the belief in a mind, body, and internal or spirit connection. Whatever you choose to believe is absolutely fine. What we need to agree on is that their does exist a spiritual part of our life, that is generally fostered by our connection with ourselves and how we treat other people. Here is where we get disconnected due to drug use.

Clearly someone who practices and beliefs in an organized religion or spiritual path is going to experience disconnect and maybe even resentment when their addiction takes off. It is not possible to feel good about one’s self and their spirituality if they are engaging in a path of self-destruction and loathing via chemical. But what may not be so easy to see is that most other people, those who do not have a chosen or strict path, also suffer from the same disconnect, it’s just a bit more difficult for them to see. When a person enters the realm of addiction, they are separated from their true selves via chemicals. In a very true sense, the drugs and alcohol become a person’s “higher power”, in the sense that the drugs and alcohol do for the user what they cannot do for themselves. Once that is established, it becomes very difficult or impossible for the individual to get back to their true selves or to love themselves with undergoing major changes. Not to mention, the way an addict or alcoholic treats others is usually very harsh or at the least manipulative and dishonest. Once this is in play, a person is removed even further from what makes them happy and whole. Alcoholics Anonymous literature refers to this as going “spiritually bankrupt”. This is one of the ways that addiction and alcoholism most damages people. Without help in this area, whatever that means for the individual, it is usually impossible to get recovery.

Enjoy the spring! We’ll see you next month when we finish up this series with a positive look at how recovery gets us back in touch with our spirituality. See you then.

The Fabulous Four (areas of life) And How Addiction/Recovery Effects Them All (part 7 of 9, How Recovery Effects Us Emotionally):

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Welcome to the 7th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have (for the recovery part) on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of 2014 so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who are following from October(we took a few month break to focus on holidays and the new year in recovery)article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that recovery affect the emotional part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.

How does recovery effect the emotional part of our lives? The emotional part of addiction, the area we last focused on, is well documented. Almost everyone in or around recovery, understands that when a person begins to abuse drugs or alcohol, their emotional growth stops. This occurs when a person is no longer able to emotionally connect to their consequences or rewards. They use (without knowing this) drugs or alcohol to replace or circumvent those emotions. This is a problem for many reasons. Firstly, emotional consequences are what cause us to change as people and secondly, our accomplishments as people would mean little if took no emotional or internal satisfactions from them. In a sense, our emotions dictate the quality of our life and the depth of the connections we have to ourselves, our peers, our family, and our spiritual relationship (whatever that may be to you). So, we are aware of the how’s and why’s of the emotional arresting that occurs in chemical abusers. The question becomes, what can be done about it? Thankfully, there is an answer and it lies in a recovery experience.

Going back to our example from October, let’s look at someone who starting using drugs regularly at the age of 14. The time has come for them to get and stay sober, and they are willing and accepting of help. When their journey begins, they are 14 emotionally. What, exactly, does this mean? It simply means that in emotionally stressful or even joyful times, they are more likely to react like a teenager than a fully emotionally mature adult. For example, let’s say our newly sober 35 your old (emotionally 14), is in traffic and they get cut off. An emotionally mature adult would feel frustration or anger but would either honk the horn, or more likely just vent to themselves and move over. What does our newly sober friend do? Generally, either yell at the other driver, threaten them, launch into a profanity laced tirade or rage to the other people in the car, scaring them. Basically, he or she would act like a scared kid, which emotionally, they are. The process of emotional sobriety doesn’t mean that someone’s emotions change, it’s the emphasis on “respond not react” that occurs. In treatment and in early recovery an emphasis is made on people learning to step back and think out their responses before launching into action. Think of it like this. How many times have you heard someone say “You know, I really wish I would have reacted more emotionally”? Almost never. What you hear a lot of is “I really wish I would have calmed down before I________________________”. This simple example highlights the change we in treatment teach people in early recovery. Now, does everyone who yells at another person in traffic or wishes they had shown more restraint in an uptight situation an addict? Of course not! But people who have been emotionally blocked are much more likely to react poorly then they are to calm down and respond. Teaching people to process emotions through communication with their support system and to learn how to respond with thought vs react with feeling is a key cornerstone in emotional recovery.

Once our emotions are blocked, we lack the ability to connect to positive things and to enjoy life the way people normally do. Once we experience true recovery, and this changes, we can embrace and love life in the same manner that anyone who is functioning well in the world does. This is the crux of the statement about recovering addicts or alcoholics that goes like this, “we may not be normal but we can live normally”. This is the primary purpose of recovery and one of the main goals of treatment.

Addicts and Alcoholics and the Holidays – Part 2

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**please note that our series on how the 4 areas of life are effected by both addiction and recovery will resume in early 2015.**

We take a break from our normal subject matter to discuss a very important time of the year for people in early recovery. THE HOLIDAYS!!! There is documented proof that the relapse rate of people with under two years of sobriety(the industry standard definition of early recovery)increases significantly during this time period. Since that is the case, we decided that this month’s article will contain some of the reasons why this occurs and some helpful tips for both the addict/alcoholic and the family members of that person. You will find several River Source pieces in both the blog and newsletter as well as the website, which shows how important we feel this time of year is for newly recovering persons and their families.

If you are a family member of someone who is in recovery from a drug or alcohol problem or if you are a “normie”(a term affectionately used in the recovery community to describe someone who can drink normally)and you close your eyes and picture the holidays, what do you see? The answer for many is, family, Turkey, Christmas trees, lights, hot cocoa, football, fireplaces, etc, etc. For the addict/alcoholic in your family the answer may just be…..guilt, shame, another year of what have I done with my life, that time I drank all of uncle Roger’s whiskey when he wasn’t looking, and so forth. The perspectives may in fact be completely different. The reasons a person in early recovery may struggle with the holidays can be found in the above example. For many people the holidays means a time when everybody can be together. Most families have shared this time together for many years. So when the whole family gets together there are a few ways this can play out in an addicts mind as negative. Here is a look at some of the reasons the holidays can be so tough on a person in early recovery(in no particular order).

Guilt — The memories of past holidays when the addict/alcoholic may have ruined(actually or in their mind)the festivities in the past. Plus, maybe seeing grandma and grandpa for the first time since entering treatment can have a negative effect on the self-esteem of the recovering person.

Shame/Regret — The realization that for the past 15 years(or whatever the time spent using or drinking was. That detail doesn’t matter. You can accrue much shame in a small period of time)he or she has been intoxicated at these events and most other times does not dawn on a person in early recovery without emotional consequences. It can be hard to feel comfortable or even look family members in the eye. Plus, when cousin Billy is talking about how he graduated from Yale this year and the person in recovery gets to tell the tale of how they were in detox for a week and then treatment for 60 days, it can be a bit embarrassing. In addition, the holidays come at the end of the year. It is very easy for an person in early recovery to use this time to reflect on what they have not done or who in the family they have not stayed in touch with.

Resentment — This is a time of year that the addict/alcoholic and family members may all be in resentment at each other for various issues over the year. For many families, there can be a history of age old problems that have never been dealt with that rear their ugly heads this time of year. Resentment and anger, towards family or otherwise, can have very negative consequences for those in recovery.

Show and Tell — This is what happens when a well meaning family member(usually mom or dad)boasts about how well 6 month sober Johnny is doing since he went into treatment. This can be very nerve racking and put much undo pressure on the recovering person. In what could be considered the opposite of how most “normal” people would respond, that type of pressure can actually help drive an addict or alcoholic to use.

Holiday Parties — I don’t know how many dozens of times I have heard from people in early recovery who have slipped while at a holiday party at a family members house. Remember, most drinking at events like this have no immediate consequences making it very falsely attractive to people in early recovery.

The Weather — Laugh all you want and here in sunny AZ this is not as big of a deal but for people in cold and gray climates in the winter this can be a big issue due to boredom caused by sitting around all day because it is to cold to do anything and because gloomy outside can help lead to gloomy inside.

Justified Escapism — This occurs when an early recovering addict or alcoholic attends family gathering and sees and hears other members of the family justify their own drinking or drugging. The end of the year “reward” for another year of hard work(really just an excuse to get intoxicated).

Opiates — I highlight this particular group of drugs because of there increase in popularity and there ill advised promise to “take the edge off” this false slogan can give people the notion that it is okay to deal with holiday stress buy taking the easy way out.

I am sure there are some other candidates for this list but these are some of the most common. Now, before you accuse me of being all Scrooge and the Grinch on you, let me point out that by taking just a few steps to be helpful and mindful, a person in early recovery and their family members can enjoy a wonderful holiday season. Some of sober people’s greatest first sober moments happen during the holiday season. Here is a way you can help make this happen no matter what side of the ledger you are on.

For the Addict/Alcoholic:

— Keep your sponsors number handy at all times. Communicate with your sponsor prior to the holidays to make sure they will be at least somewhat available to talk for a minute. If not, have someone in recovery that you can call.

— Have a “go to” person in your family. Everybody has at least one person in their family that they can confide in when they need to talk at a holiday function. Ideally, this person would have the clout in the family to “allow” you to leave a family event if you need to get to a meeting

— Have a list of nearby meetings handy. All groups have some type of holiday meeting schedule, normally this includes meetings 24hrs a day during the holidays. Check with your home group or get the number of a group in the town you will be in.

— Talk with your support group prior to the holidays about any past issues that may block you from having a good holiday season.

— Be honest with your family. Remember, good ole’ mom and dad may not understand the disease concept. They may think that it is no problem for them to throw their annual eggnog with whiskey holiday drink off with you and your 3 months sober at their house. It is OK for you to tell them this makes you uncomfortable

— Pray/talk to your higher power, share what is going on with you with another, and help someone. The holidays provide plenty of service opportunities.

— Put your recovery first! Remember, your addiction does not keep a calender. It does not care about holidays, weekends, Bar Mitzvahs, softball games, or fishing derby days. Do not change your recovery routine just because the calender says so

— Enjoy the season. On the flip side, people who work programs report that the holidays are their favorite time of the year because of all the joys they get to actually experience.

Family Members:

— Be okay with your loved one skipping out on events if they need to hit a meeting. Who cares what your Aunt Maude thinks about newly sober Billy or Suzy missing the wreath hanging? It is much more important for your loved one to feel safe and to know that you have their back. You can deal with your own relatives later.

— Do not perform show and tell with your loved one. See above. Do however, give your loved one support and let them know you are proud of them. This can be done in private where it will have more meaning anyway.

— Provide your loved one in recovery with access to a car or be willing to provide a ride to a meeting if necessary, and yes, even if it is during the football games.

— Why not make your event a sober one this year? Not telling anyone what to do, but again, what is the priority?

— Get to some Al-anon or PAL group meetings in your area if available or hold a one time meeting with an addiction professional to discuss your holiday plans.

— Allow and ask for honesty from your recovering loved one while making holiday plans.

— Focus on gratitude and the importance of the gifts of recovery and life

— Enjoy the season. How cool that you get to spend this holiday season with your loved one clean and sober!

The holidays are a great and memorable time of year and by following some of the tips above, you and your sober family member are sure to have a great season. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Fabulous Four (areas of life) And How Addiction/Recovery Effects Them All (part 6 of 9, How Recovery Effects Us Emotionally)

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Welcome to the 6th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have(for the recovery part)on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of this year so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who read last month’s article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that addiction affects the emotional part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.

How does addiction effect the emotional part of our lives? The emotional part of addiction may very well be the most talked about part of the addiction, human effect cycle. Almost anyone who is themselves an addict or alcoholic, or has a family member who is an addict or alcoholic has heard that when your using or drinking heavily, your emotional growth stops. But just how and why does this happen? I aim to answer that as simply as possible in this piece.

Think about it like this. There are many entities that tell us when we become adults. The government says 18, the vice industry(drinking, gambling)says 21, rent a car companies say 25. Psychiatrists and psychologists say somewhere between 26-28. This is when we reach full emotional maturity as evidenced by growth in our self worth and internal acceptance of things not going your way. This is a major part of our development and generally signifies the beginning of the prime of our lives. From the time we hit emotional independence, meaning we are totally responsible for our own emotions, usually around 12 or 13, up until 26-28 we are in our biggest emotional growth spurt. This is where we do most of our growing as people. As any growing is subject to, we experience growing pains. As a result most people do not have fond memories of those years. It is akward and emotionally painful at times. But, we need this time period to learn how to deal with things and to set ourselves up to be happy adults. When we use drugs or drink with any regulartiy, we compromise the whole process because we don’t have to deal with any of those emotions. We get to feel good, without having earned it. We call this an “unearned” high. Our self worth is based on the amount of “earned”(working, school achievements, family, etc.)that we achieve. When we are using the “unearned” highs, we don’t feel as good ultimately and we don’t grow. This is why many parents will complain that their 30 yr old addict acts like he is 14. Emotionally he is 14! If this is not addressed, it can cause a life of misery for that person and his family.

Once our emotions are blocked, we lack the ability to connect to positive things and to enjoy life the way people normally do. It is a very sad way to live indeed. Unfortunately, this article may be the most negative one because of the subject matter. Thankfully, as we will see next month, there is a lot of positives from getting clean and learning how to unblock your emotions and to enjoy life. This is the primary purpose of recovery and one of the main goals of treatment.

Enjoy the fall! We’ll see you next month!

The Fabulous Four (Areas of Life) And How Addiction/Recovery Effects Them All (part 5 of 9, How Recovery Effects Us Mentally)

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Welcome to the 5th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have(for the recovery part)on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of this year so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who read last month’s article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that recovery affect the mental part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.

How does recovery affect the mental part of our lives? In many ways, thankfully. A common phrase you hear in treatment and recovery is “a new way of thinking”, or “she/he has to develop a new way of thinking”. Well, most everyone would agree that an addict or alcoholic definitely could use a tune up in how they think, but defining that is a little trickier. Research shows that the brain of an addict or an alcoholic,once sober, actually repairs and fixes itself back to almost 100% of what it used to be(provided the unfortunate, imaginary line has been crossed and the person has caused themselves irreparable brain damage). As the brain heals, and there are many 3D images available via the internet that can show you the damage and then the healing of the brain, the cognitive part of the brain is able to function again at a high level.

Over time, and it has been estimated that it takes roughly 2 years for an addict or alcoholic brain to regain total, optimal functioning, the thought patterns began to evolve and are soon on par with someone who has never had the issue. Certain thoughts may still be present that require attention, though. For instance, an alcoholic may at times, find the thought of drinking cross his mind. It is important to note that although sober, and healthier, the brain never fully rids itself of the disease of alcoholism or addiction(please reference earlier articles or look up addiction as a disease if you need some clarity on this)and because of that disease, an addict or alcoholic will always need to be mindful of some sabotaging thoughts that may pop up, but a new way of thinking is formed over time and can lead to a productive and happy life style.

Treatment plays a big role in this dynamic, because developing a new way of thinking for one’s self, ultimately requires many other people. You can’t tell, on your own accord, at least not initially that you are experiencing change. You need feedback from professionals and experienced people. On of the great thing about the brain, is it learns through hearing and seeing others. This is simply put, how school works. The professionals in treatment serve as the “teachers” of recovery and can help facilitate the change in thinking that you need.

Enjoy the beginning of fall! We’ll see you next month!