Category Archives: Recovery

5 Ways the Brain Heals after Heroin Addiction

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nerve cell

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that takes the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. Quitting heroin requires your full focus and attention, but it is possible. Each day, there are people working toward their recoveries and putting their addiction to heroin further behind them. Recovery is ongoing, but progress is always being made.

Whether you or a loved one is going through recovery, pay attention to the subtle but promising signs that recovery from heroin addiction is taking place. Let’s examine five ways that the brain heals after heroin addiction.

1. Mood is Regulated

Mood changes are common symptoms of addiction. When using opioids like heroin, pathways in the brain are altered and the neurotransmitters are damaged. This is what has an effect on the personality and also triggers erratic moods and behaviors. When the heroin is stopped, the brain’s level of endorphins and dopamine eventually balance out. This reduces stress and promotes a better sense of well-being.

2. Cravings are Less Often

Temptation and relapse are major concerns in early recovery. This is why having a well-organized aftercare plan is so important. By following this plan (which includes your support groups, counseling and self-care), you will be more successful in avoiding temptation and managing drug cravings. As the recovery process progresses, the urge to use heroin will get weaker.

3. Sleep is Improved

It’s difficult to have a consistent sleep-wake cycle when your body is going through withdrawal. But, after this process, you can develop healthy sleep habits. It’s best to use diet, exercise and relaxation techniques to encourage better sleep, though your doctor may recommend a sleep aid to combat insomnia. As you settle into this new schedule, your body will have more time for self-repair.

4. Hormones are Balanced

Heroin affects the way the body operates, and this includes the hormones. Hormones are responsible for so many things, including sleep, hunger, sex drive, weight management and energy. When they are out of whack, so is everything else. Quitting heroin balances out hormone levels, leading to improved sexual and endocrine function.

5. More Control over Emotions

Stopping heroin use allows your psychological health to improve. Finally, you can free yourself from the restraints of heroin. This is motivating and can help grow your self-confidence. Of course, quitting on its own is not enough. You need counseling with a trusted addiction specialist to work through underlying personal struggles.

Is heroin ruining your life or the life of someone you love? Call The River Source to learn more about our heroin addiction treatment programs. Once you stop using heroin, you can begin healing your brain and working toward a new and better life.

Can Acupuncture Help with Addiction Recovery?


One of the aspects that we at The River Source appreciate about integrative therapy is that it leaves room for alternative therapies. During their stay in inpatient treatment, our patients get to explore various treatments. Through this exploration, they can see which therapies are most effective at reducing cravings, easing withdrawal symptoms and delivering joy. One of these remedies is acupuncture.

How Acupuncture is Used in Addiction Treatment

The belief behind acupuncture is that there are meridians all over the human body. By pressing on certain parts of the body, these meridians are stimulated. Energy is able to flow freely through these points, improving circulation, organ function and so much more.

Acupuncture is being used more often in addiction treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Ear acupuncture is the most popular type of acupuncture used to manage symptoms of addiction. A thin needle targets various parts on the ear that are believed to have an effect on the body. Here are the five areas.

  • Liver point. By pressing on this point, toxins are pushed out of the body. Some acupuncturists also see an improvement in aggression levels.

  • Kidney point. This point facilitates organ repair. It can also reduce fear, helping addicts to focus more on the positives of their recovery.

  • Lung point. The lung point delivers a boost to lung function and can lessen feelings of sadness and grief.

  • Shen men. The shen men is also called “the spirit gate.” It’s known to decrease anxiety and open up the doors to greater spirituality.

  • Autonomic point. When pressing on this point, the nervous system relaxes and the body feels at ease.

Benefits of Adding Acupuncture to Your Recovery Regimen

There are many benefits to adding alternative medicine to your recovery plan. Even if you’re not sure it will work for you, it’s always worth trying. Many of our patients are surprised to see the therapies they enjoy when they keep their minds open.

Here are the key benefits of acupuncture in substance abuse treatment.

  • Safe and cost-effective  

  • Complements counseling

  • Drug free

  • Reduce cravings

  • Decrease stress and anxiety

  • Lessen withdrawal symptoms

  • Increase patient satisfaction

  • Regulate sleep

  • Encourage spirituality

Acupuncture can be used at any stage of the recovery process. If you think this treatment may be beneficial to you, rest assured that it is available at The River Source and included with our standard treatment program.

Finding and Keeping Your Motivation

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Staying motivated in recovery can be difficult. This can come as a surprise to those who felt restored when first leaving treatment. Being newly sober is rejuvenating for some individuals. However, as you settle into everyday life, your motivation can decrease. It could be for any number of reasons such as work, fatigue, family troubles or the worry of relapse. So, how do you keep the motivation strong as you go through the first year of recovery?

Connect with Your Community

Thanks to technology, you have endless options to connect with people from all over the world. If you can’t make an AA meeting or are in need of immediate reassurement, you can find support online. As you grow stronger in your recovery, give back to others as well. People in your community will benefit from your kindness.  

Participate in a 12 Step Program

The 12 step program moves addicts through the recovery process. As you work through each step, you will learn more about yourself and how to build a meaningful, substance-free lifestyle. Also, attending your meetings, working with your sponsor and meeting other people prevents negative thinking and behaviors that can set you back.

Set Measurable Goals

As you grow further in your recovery, create attainable goals for yourself. Name the main goal and write down smaller goals, or “checkpoints”. As you make progress, check off the smaller goals to feel accomplished. For example, if your main goal is to find a new job, a checkpoint could be to send your resume to three companies each week.

Practice Gratitude

Life is not perfect all of the time, and neither is recovery. Even when the days are hard, you must push yourself to be grateful. One way to do this is by creating gratitude lists. Each day, spend a few minutes writing down the things you are grateful for. This simple but profound practice can also strengthen your spirituality.

Document Your Progress

Writing in a journal or blog allows you to share your deepest feelings, even when you can’t make sense of them. This is an effective form of therapy that can lead to self-discovery. As you look back, you will see how much progress you’ve made, which is inspiring in itself.

Motivation is something that you have to work at. As you move through these initial days, be sure to practice good self-care and continue following your aftercare plan. Over time, the ‘bad’ days will be less and the ‘good’ days will be more!

5 Things You Can Learn from AA

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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings can be part of a healthy recovery program. Typically, recovering addicts attend these meetings once they have completed an inpatient treatment program or once they begin an outpatient program. The benefits of AA are enhanced when receiving counseling and therapy sessions.

Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of being in AA. Maybe they’ve heard stories of AA not working, or perhaps the only interactions they’ve had is through movies and TV. If you’re one of these people, we’d like to take a few minutes to dispel the stereotypes and share five things that you can learn from attending AA meetings. Let’s dig in!

1. AA is Everywhere

It’s not difficult to find an AA meeting regardless of where you live. Start by searching online for “AA meetings near me.” Depending on your settings, the search engine will return localized results. You can also visit to find meetings near you. And, if you cannot attend a meeting in person for whatever reason, AA offers online support groups. Find yours at

If you live near a large city, you can potentially have a dozen or more meetings you can attend. Each one is independently run, too, so you can find a group that works for you. For people who are serious about quitting drinking, it’s reassuring to know that AA groups are literally everywhere.

2. You are Not Alone

AA is a humbling reminder that you are not alone. Addiction is an isolating disease, so it’s easy to feel abandoned. But, there are others out there who are fighting the same battles. You might feel like an outsider in your family or group of friends, but you will not feel that way at AA. Your group members will be supportive, compassionate and proud of your accomplishments.

3. You Can Choose a Different Group

Each AA meeting is independently run, which means each one is unique. If you don’t like the current meeting that you attended, try a different one! You might find that you enjoy another group more because of the people in it, the person leading it or the way the meeting is run. Sometimes, it does take a few weeks to settle in with a particular group, so be patient.  

4. Past Mistakes Don’t Define You

Your past experiences shape who you are as a person, but they don’t have to define you. This is something that you will learn about in AA as other members share their stories. Some of these people will have their acts together to the point where you wouldn’t know they struggled with addiction! Just as they’ve moved past their mistakes, so can you.

5. Giving Back Feels Great

One of the great features about AA is that it forces you to take a look at yourself, the mistakes you’ve made and the people you’ve hurt while removing the guilt associated with it. By working through the steps, you can forgive yourself, make amends with others and move forward in your life.

Not every relationship will be repaired, but there are ways to ease the hurt. One of them is by giving back, something you can do once you are stronger. You might choose to volunteer at a local shelter or donate time to helping seniors. You may even end up sponsoring someone else one day! The key is to serve others and find your purpose in life now that alcohol is not in it.

AA can be a beneficial part of recovery. By going through the steps, you discover more about yourself and how to lead a life of purpose. To start your inpatient or outpatient recovery program, call The River Source today.


Managing Family Stress This Holiday Season

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Holiday gift box

The holidays are promoted as a time for family and togetherness, but things are rarely as joyful as they look on TV. If your family gatherings are stressful, you are not alone. Although there isn’t hard data to fall back on, most experts agree that people experience a lot of stress over the holidays. A new recovery only adds to this complexity!

Let’s examine some of the reasons why you might be feeling stressed as the holidays approach and how you can manage your emotions.

Why Do People Stress About Their Families?

It’s helpful to understand why you are feeling stress toward a particular situation. If you know what’s bothering you, it’s easier to come up with solutions.

Issue: Having unrealistic expectations

Many families strive for perfection over the holidays. They want their homes to be clean, their children to be well-behaved and the food to turn out delicious. When reality doesn’t match these expectations, frustration sets in.

What to work on: Be practical about what you can handle  

No one is perfect. Try not to set your expectations so high that you can’t meet them. Be honest with yourself and set boundaries that you are comfortable with. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help.  

Issue: Family conflict

Every family has some type of conflict, and this tension can be worse over the holidays when everyone is together in a confined space. In some cases, there is more than conflict. Relationships may be strained, marriages may be ending in divorce and so on. This is hard on everyone.

What to work on: Focus on those who have stood by your recovery   

No family is perfect. Examine the situation you are dealing with and how to best cope. Spend time with those who have supported your recovery and decline invitations to where you are not comfortable. Also, remember to be grateful that you have this holiday to celebrate.

Issue: Financial limitations

The holidays are an overwhelming time when it comes to money. Between holiday gifts, grab bags, traveling or hosting gatherings, extra money is going out of your account all month long.

What to work on: Your recovery is the greatest gift of all

Be honest about what you can afford. Create a budget and stick to it. It’s helpful to shop online because you can track your spending and avoid distractions from store displays. The best gifts, however, are those that money can’t buy.

As the holidays inch closer, the stress can build. Take things one day at a time, just as you have done all year. The fact that you are here means you have loved ones supporting your progress. These are the people to take comfort in during the holidays – we can be certain they are proud of you!


Managing Temptation on Thanksgiving Eve

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Thanksgiving Eve is one of the biggest days of the year for drinking. Alcohol is consumed in excess, which is why the night is often referred to as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving.”

Some of the reasons why people drink heavily on the night before Thanksgiving are:

  • Most people have the following day off

  • It’s a four-day weekend, giving people time to recover

  • College students return home for break

  • It’s the official start to the holiday season

  • People are anticipating Black Friday

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Thanksgiving Eve rivals New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July for drunk driving incidents. The CDC reports that there will be approximately 730 people injured or killed each day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in drunk driving accidents. Even bars agree that Blackout Wednesday is their busiest day of the year.

Tips for Managing Temptation on Thanksgiving Eve

If you are a recovering alcoholic, it’s important to protect yourself this holiday season. A lot of the attention is given toward Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when really, it’s holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving Eve that can be most concerning. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy a safe, sober Thanksgiving that keeps you on track with your goals.

  • Practice self-care. Knowing that there will be more temptation, increase your self-care. Get adequate rest each night, avoid eating high-sugar foods and let people know if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Aside from eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated, also make time for daily meditation.

  • Have an exit strategy. Ideally, you want to spend the holiday with the people who care about you and your recovery. But, this is the time of the year when extended family and friends visit. You can’t predict every situation, but you can have an exit plan in place in case you do feel uncomfortable.

  • Start a new tradition. If you used to go out with friends and get drunk on Blackout Wednesday, it’s time to ditch that tradition and start something new. Re-focus your energy on a new tradition such as baking cookies/pies, cutting down a Christmas tree or seeing a holiday movie.

  • Practice gratitude. Look forward to making a difference this holiday season. There are many people who are spending their Thanksgiving in shelters or on the streets. Find a way to volunteer your time to help others. This will put a new perspective on what you’re going through. As hard as it is to be in recovery, you have a new beginning.

One of the biggest drinking nights of the year is here. Rather than letting it fill your head with resentment, find ways to create new traditions that will bring you happiness and fulfillment. Best of all, you won’t wake up with a hangover on Thanksgiving. You can enjoy spending time with friends and family and celebrating a sober holiday season!