Category Archives: Mental Health

Recovering from Depression and Substance Abuse

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Dealing with depression while recovering from substance abuse throws a wrench into the mix. Some addicts may have untreated depression that preceded the drug addiction. Others may have developed depression as a symptom of the abuse. Regardless of which order the depression came in, it’s vital that effective treatment is given to both conditions.

Is it Depression…or Just the Blues?

Depression is more than feeling down. It is a serious medical condition that has both physical and emotional symptoms. Depression can impact all aspects of a person’s life, making it difficult to function normally. Some days are harder than others, as the severity of symptoms vary. Still, many people dealing with depression find it hard to get through their days.

Clinical depression requires a medical diagnosis from a qualified medical professional. But, there are a few things you can take note of.

  • Negative thinking. With depression, people do not think positively toward the future. They may be pessimistic and have difficulty concentrating.

  • Negative feelings. Struggling with depression makes it hard for people to enjoy life. Even things that were once enjoyable are found to be burdensome.

  • Negative behavior. Depressed individuals usually isolate themselves from others and doesn’t have much energy to be active. When a person has negative thoughts and feelings, their behavior follows suit.

  • Health Problems. It’s common for depressed individuals to have physical problems such as a decreased immune system and a lack of personal hygiene.

Treating Depression and Addiction

There is a connection between addiction and depression. Even Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, struggled with depression before he became sober. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to treat depression and substance abuse. However, just because a person stops using drugs and alcohol does not mean the depression goes away.

The reason why it’s so important to treat depression as well as substance abuse is twofold. First, if the depression isn’t treated, the risk of relapse is much higher. A person might complete a treatment program and be ready to commit to a life of sobriety. Unfortunately, if they combat feelings of depression, it will be hard for them to resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol.

Second, untreated depression can make the recovery process less rewarding. Recovery is hard enough on its own, and it’s important that addicts feel the positives along the way. If a person doesn’t get any enjoyment from recovery, they will be more likely to relapse.

Depression? Addiction? Call The River Source

The best time to get diagnosed and treated for depression is when entering an inpatient treatment facility. You or your loved one will be properly assessed, and an individualized treatment plan will be provided based on your needs and goals. To learn more about getting help for a dual diagnosis, call The River Source.

Why Shaming Addicts Doesn’t Work

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It’s incredibly frustrating when a loved one refuses to get help for their problem. In fact, you’ve probably taken their decision not to seek treatment personally. Maybe you became so frustrated that you tried shaming your loved one into rehab. Unfortunately – and understandably – you cannot shame someone into treatment. Not only is it not effective, but also you can do more harm than good.

Let’s look at why shaming addicts does not work and how to resist doing this to your loved one.

Shame and Addiction Don’t Mix. Here’s Why.  

Addiction is not a character flaw. It is a disease of the brain. Still, the stigma surrounding addiction remains prevalent in our society. In other words, people tend to think that the addict has control over their choices. If they can make their loved one feel bad enough, the person will stop. However, an addict does not have control over their addiction.

In fact, research shows that the more shameful an addict feels, the more likely they are to relapse. If you treat someone like they “are bad,” they will think they are bad. We know how much you love and care for your loved one, so refrain from placing shame on them. It can make things worse.

Tips to Prevent Shaming 

It’s normal to feel angry, resentful and frustrated. Still, it’s crucial that you remain in control of your emotions. Sometimes family members don’t realize they are shaming their loved one. Here are some tips to prevent shaming an addict.

  • Educate yourself. Learn about addiction and how it affects the brain. You can gain more compassion for your loved one by understanding how the disease presents itself.

  • Avoid blaming language. Blaming language involves phrases that sound like this: “You wanted to hurt me” or “You threw all your hard work away.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I felt sad when I learned you had used again.”

  • Practice empathy. Addicts need empathy. Take time to learn some of the ways you can show more empathy, such as by being a good listener or understanding why the person reacted in a certain way.

  • Enlist professional help. If your loved one doesn’t respond well to you, enlist help from a professional counselor or addiction specialist. Having a mediator to help guide the dialogue can be helpful early on. As you learn how to better connect with your loved one, the conversation will come more natural.

Communicating with an addict is not easy. However, the last thing you want to do is shame them into getting treatment. It doesn’t work, and it can make things worse. If you would like to talk more about the situation you are dealing with, call The River Source. We may have suggestions to help you manage your relationship with an addict more effectively.

Coping with the Loss of an Addict

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Coping with the death of a loved one is a profound and devastating life experience. We all go through it at some point or another, but dealing with the loss of an addict has unique challenges. Families often feel that they don’t get the support or understanding that they should – almost like their loved one “chose” this path or “asked” for this to happen. Society is more compassionate to cancer or illness than they are an addiction.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one to addiction, you will go through the same stages as anyone dealing with grief. However, there may be other feelings to work through, such as guilt and shame. Talking with your therapist and attending support groups can help you manage these emotions so that you can move forward in your healing.

Stages of Grief

When a loved one dies, it’s normal to go through stages of grief. There’s no right way to grieve. Some people move through the stages slower than others, and some stages take longer to get through. What we now call the five stages of grief – first developed in 1969 by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – are:

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • Acceptance

Other Symptoms of Grief

Because your loved one succumbed to addiction, you may have other feelings outside the five stages of grief.

  • Guilt. If your loved one passed away from an overdose, you might be feeling guilty that you didn’t intervene to save them. You may also be feeling guilty because you have a sense of relief, which is common in families that have been struggling with addiction for a long time.

  • Shame. Shame sometimes looks like guilt, but it’s different. Guilt is how we perceive ourselves, while shame has to do with how others perceive us. For example, you may be ashamed that your family has been affected by addiction.

  • Fear. If one person in your family has died from addiction, it’s normal to worry about others. Could you lose another child to this disease? What about those who are in recovery – could they relapse?

Where to Find Support

The most important thing right now is that you don’t isolate yourself. Develop a support system that offers the comfort and encouragement you need. Your support system will be unique to you and include people such as friends, family, neighbors, club members, doctors, counselors and clergy members.

Having a support system is necessary, but you also need people who understand what you’re going through. This is where your support groups have a place. In fact, you may feel more comfortable opening up to these members rather than your friends and family. That’s okay. You will appreciate the supportive, non-judgemental environment and also learn from others which strategies are effective for dealing with your emotions.

Call The River Source if you are concerned about a loved one. We have been successful with severe cases of addiction thanks to our holistic approach and naturopathic therapies. We also have support for families.

How to Prevent Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is common in helping professions, but the condition can also affect people who are caring for a loved one with a substance abuse problem. The condition is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a significant decrease in the ability to empathize.

It may come as no surprise that people with the most empathy are most at risk for emotional fatigue. A mother who loves her son more than life can easily suffer from compassion fatigue as he battles a heroin addiction. A husband who is fighting to get his wife off prescription painkillers may consume himself in sorrow.

Compassion fatigue is not the same as burnout, and it’s actually more treatable. However, the symptoms can come on suddenly. Knowing how to prevent emotional fatigue can allow you to be a more effective influence. Let’s discuss some of the ways that you can prevent compassion fatigue.

Get Educated

If you are currently caring for someone with an addiction, you may be at risk for compassion fatigue. Learn the signs and symptoms of the condition so that you can seek treatment if they do arise. Common symptoms include:

  • Chronic exhaustion

  • Reduced feelings of empathy

  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability or anger

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Poor work-life balance

  • Problems in relationships

  • Resentment toward the addict

Practice Self-Care

You can’t help your loved one with their recovery if you’re not taking care of yourself. Practicing good self-care puts you at a lower risk for stress and compassion fatigue, so don’t exhaust everything into the needs of someone else. A good regimen includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, routine sleep, a balance of work-life and tending to your emotional needs.

Set Emotional Boundaries

It’s highly important that you set emotional boundaries to protect yourself. You can remain sympathetic and supportive without becoming over involved. You are a separate person with separate needs, and you can’t take on your loved one’s hurt and pain. If you do, you will find yourself overwhelmed and unable to help them through their addiction.

Maintain a Work-Life Balance

When all of your time goes to one thing, it’s easy to get burnt out. Have a good balance in your life that includes healthy friendships, your favorite activities and relaxation techniques. This will reduce stress and improve overall satisfaction in life. Having healthy relationships and outlets for stress also provides relief from the stress of living or dealing with an addict.

Seek Personal Counseling

Consider talking to a therapist if you feel you are at risk or are struggling with compassion fatigue. Family members of addicts benefit from therapy. Not only is it nice to speak with someone about your feelings, but also you can implement strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety. Support groups in the form of Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are also helpful.

The River Source is a holistic treatment center that treats substance abuse in patients over 18. We have a strong family component that allows family members to be involved in their loved one’s recoveries. To learn more about our family-centered treatment programs, call us today.

Will Substance Abuse Be Covered in 2020?

Under the Affordable Care Act, mental health and substance abuse services are covered as essential health benefits. All plans must cover behavioral health treatment (counseling, psychotherapy), mental and behavioral health inpatient services and substance use disorder treatment. Your specific health benefits depend on the state you live in and the health plan you choose. However, this could all change in 2020 if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is replaced with a different type of coverage.

What is Being Proposed for 2020?

Starting in 2020, a new plan being proposed would eliminate an Affordable Care Act requirement. This requirement makes it mandatory for Medicaid to cover mental health and substance abuse services in the states that have expanded it. With the new plan, however, states would have the choice to include the benefits in the Medicaid plans. Thirty one states and the District of Columbia have all chosen to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Under the Medicaid expansion, over 1.3 million people have received treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. This is care that is highly needed in our country, as a record number of people have been overdosing on opiates. In 2015, 33,000 people died from opiate overdoses, a number that surpasses car accidents and gun-related homicides.

Which States Will Be Most Affected?

While states from coast to coast have felt the effects of opiate abuse, the 15 counties with the highest death rates from heroin are in Kentucky and West Virginia. Both states chose to expand Medicaid coverage, and taking this away would affect tens of thousands of rural Americans. Furthermore, cutting out these programs during an epidemic could lead to an increase in diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

At this time, there’s already a shortage of addiction treatment programs to serve the needs of Americans. To think that these programs could be reduced in the next few years is unsettling. Some communities could be left crushed, especially in lower income populations. Only time will tell, as many things are being proposed at this time. If there is a full repeal of ACA, nearly 2.8 million people would be without coverage – 222,000 with an opioid disorder.

Getting Help Today is Crucial

What does all of this mean right now?

If you or someone close to you is struggling with a mental health condition, addiction or both, do not delay in getting professional treatment. Knowing that you may have better coverage available to you today should give you motivation to take advantage of your treatment options. It’s very possible that in a few years, it will be more difficult to get rehabilitation.

If you would like to learn more about your options for treatment and what your insurance will cover, call The River Source and speak with our admissions department. We’ll be happy to help!

3 Ways to Manage Anxiety Without Medication

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If you or a loved one is prone to anxiety and in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction, knowing how to manage symptoms can be concerning. The anxiety might have been the reason why you or a loved one began using drugs or alcohol in the first place.

Unfortunately, self-medication is never effective. As a matter of fact, it can make the anxiety worse by causing paranoia, confusion and a rapid heartbeat. Also, the thought of having to face anxiety without the drug can bring on more panic.

Now that you have reached a point where help is being received, your care team might recommend managing the anxiety without pharmaceutical intervention. There are plenty of ways that you can manage anxiety or help your loved one manage theirs, so it’s important to keep an open mind.

If you find that these exercises are not effective, talk to your doctor about what you can do. Some cases of anxiety require medication. Always talk to your doctor before stopping or starting any treatment regimen.

1. Try Deep Breathing Exercises

Shallow breathing is one of the symptoms of an anxiety attack. It makes sense, considering that the way you breathe depends on the environment you’re in. If you’re scared, you might breathe fast and heavy. If you’re stressed, you might try to hold your breath in.

Controlling your breathing is an excellent way to manage your anxiety. When you begin to feel symptoms, take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but practicing this can stop your body from going into a fight-or-flight response and help your heart rate return to normal.

2. Exercise Every Day

During rehab, you learn the importance of a physically active lifestyle. You don’t have to do anything fancy to reap the benefits, either. Walking, riding bikes, lifting weights or swimming all offer the same emotional and physical benefits.

Exercise is also wonderful for controlling anxiety. Physical activity increases circulation, bringing more oxygen to the brain. It also stimulates feel-good chemicals and promotes positive feelings. All of this helps prevent and manage the feelings associated with anxiety.

3. Practice Meditation or Yoga

Meditation is an effective way to reduce anxiety and distance yourself from the stresses in your life. Meditation does take practice, so be patient if it doesn’t work right away. Over time, you’ll see that regular meditation eliminates negative thought patterns.

Yoga is another practice that can be highly effective at managing anxiety attacks. In fact, the proper yoga routine can deliver the benefits of both exercise and meditation. The stretching tones your body, improves circulation and releases feel-good chemicals in the brain. The deep breathing and long poses aid in meditative thinking.

These are just a few of the ways that you can combat anxiety without the use of medication. Many people manage their anxiety without the use of drugs, and you can, too!