Category Archives: Recovery

How Exercise Affects the Brain (and Why it’s Good for Recovery!)

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Exercise is physically and emotionally beneficial for recovering addicts. It increases blood flow to the brain, boosts oxygen to the cells and prompts the body to heal itself. Physical activity also reduces stress, anxiety, depression and drug cravings. Incorporating exercise into your daily activities is something you can do right away. Start with simple exercises such as a walk through your neighborhood, a 20-minute jog around the track or a bike ride to your favorite park.

Let’s learn more about why exercise is good for the brain and how it helps with recovery.

Exercise and the Addicted Brain

When a person repeatedly uses drugs and alcohol, the brain undergoes structural changes. A biochemical imbalance takes place, which can result in insomnia, stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings and more. Also, some parts of the brain shrink with substance abuse, and endorphins take a dip. In order to get the brain back to normal, it needs to heal. One of the best ways for this healing to occur is through diet and exercise.

Here are specific ways that physical activity restores the brain.

  • Stimulation of new cells. The brain may shrink with drug and alcohol use, but exercise can help it grow new cells. For example, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for memory and cognition) can grow new white and gray matter.
  • Increase in neurotransmitters. Exercise increases certain neurotransmitters that are responsible for reducing physical and emotional pain. Also, exercise creates a rush of dopamine that gives people a sense of euphoria, also known as “runner’s high.” 
  • Release of GABA. The release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is good for recovering addicts. It has a calming effect on emotions and muscle tissue. This helps people manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Aside from all the great benefits for the brain, exercise is also beneficial for the body. Exercise reverses damage to the body by lowering blood pressure, increasing smooth muscles, sending more blood flow to the organs and flushing toxins out of the liver and kidneys. All in all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from exercise.

Advantages of Physical Activity in Recovery

The wonderful thing about working out is having no rules. Choose something you enjoy – a sport, running, swimming, dancing – and a time that is convenient for you. Ask a friend or use this time to be alone. Go outdoors, stay in the privacy of your home or join a class at the health club. Try something for 20 minutes one day and 30 minutes the next. This is something that YOU can take control of.

The benefits to exercise in recovery are:

  • Reduced drug cravings
  • Stress reduction
  • Increased blood flow
  • Increased white and gray matter
  • Sleep cycle regulation
  • Stabilized neuron network
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Increased muscle strength

At The River Source, treatment includes a variety of exercises such as swimming, tai chi and yoga. We feel that physical activity plays an important role in the healing process. To learn more about our holistic therapy programs, call us today.

What Role Does a Sponsor Have in Your Recovery?

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One of the most rewarding parts of joining Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is having a sponsor. It’s recommended that every member in AA or NA has a sponsor to guide them through the 12 steps and help them stay sober.

If you are starting a 12 step program, you may be curious as to what the role of the sponsor is. Below, we share all the important information you need to know!

What is a Sponsor and What Do they Do?

A sponsor is someone who offers guidance to a member in a 12 step program. They offer encouragement, understanding and compassion while providing a firm and sober foundation. The relationship between a sponsor and sponsee is unique as there is no judgement. Newly recovering addicts are able to share all doubts, questions or problems without feeling embarrassed.

Sponsors are recovering addicts, too, so they understand the challenges that come with sobriety. To be a sponsor, the person must have at least one year of sobriety, a positive attitude and the time to be a mentor.

Meeting these qualifications is only half the picture, however. Because sponsorship is informal, each sponsor is unique. It’s important to choose someone who can help you meet your personal recovery goals.

Tips for Selecting a Sponsor

The road to recovery is long and complex, and you need all the positive help you can get. The right sponsor can make all the difference in your journey and the progress you make through the 12 steps. Here are the key qualities to look for.

  • Gender. It’s best to choose a same-sex sponsor. Romantic relationships are not recommend in the first year of recovery, as you need this time to focus on yourself. A same-sex sponsor avoids attractions from forming and interfering with recovery.

  • Experience. The more experience a sponsor has, the more reliable they usually are. They’ve been through recovery themselves and have worked with others, making them more qualified.

  • Positive attitude. The best sponsors have good attitudes toward their recoveries. They should be confident and positive, with at least one year of sobriety.

  • Availability. A sponsor should be readily available. If you’re having a bad day or a stressful moment, the words of encouragement from your sponsor can make all the difference.

  • Sponsees. Many sponsors mentor multiple people at one time. However, it’s possible to have too many. You want the sponsor to have time for you, so balance is important.

The 12 steps help move you through the recovery process while addressing your personal life. By having the right sponsor, you will enjoy a more rewarding, successful recovery.

5 Tips for Dealing with Unsupportive Family Members


In a perfect world, a recovering addict would have a loving, supportive family to fall back on after completing treatment. Unfortunately, not everyone has this arrangement. Some people do lack a nurturing, loving family, but it’s more common for relationships to be damaged. Spouses may have been hurt, siblings may have been lied to and parents may have been stolen from.

Most addiction treatment programs are 30 to 60 days long. Typically, this isn’t enough time for loved ones to deal with the trauma from the addiction. Just as addicts need time to heal, so do family members. If you are currently dealing with a situation similar to this, there are ways to cope.

Always put your recovery first. Here are five ways to deal with unsupportive family and refocus your energy toward your recovery.

  1. Be Understanding

Now that you’ve had some time to understand yourself, try to understand where your loved ones are coming from. They are hurt and may not be ready to trust you. The best thing you can do is stick to your recovery goals and show loved ones that you are fully committed. Over time, they may learn to forgive you and move on with the relationship. It’s possible they may not. Try to be empathetic.

  1. Avoid Fighting

Arguing isn’t going to solve anything. In fact, it can put you in a dark place and increase your risk for relapse. Anyway, no one ever feels good after fighting. It only leads to shame, embarrassment and guilt, especially if you say something you regret. If you have confrontational people in your family, step away when things get heated. Keep cool – you’ll be glad you did.

  1. Keep Your Distance

Sometimes, the best thing to do is distance yourself. Your recovery must come first. If someone is not being supportive, give them space. How do you know when this is the best approach to take? When a person is making you feel frustrated, unhappy or worse about the situation.

  1. Make Peace

Addiction causes a lot of hurt. Part of the 12 steps is making amends with yourself and others. Apologize for the harm you’ve caused (when you’ve reached this point in your recovery) but understand that the person may not be ready to accept your apology. By making peace within yourself, you can continue progressing through your recovery.

  1. Form Positive Relationships

Surround yourself with positive people. You can find fast friends in group therapy or by volunteering your time. If you have loved ones who have supported your recovery, make an effort to spend more time with them. Even if you don’t seem to have a lot in common, there is always something special to share with others. The more relationships you establish, the more purpose you will find in life.

Are you ready to start your recovery? Call The River Source to learn more about our highly successful and affordable treatment programs.

Spring Forward: Why Now is a Great Time to Start Your Recovery

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Spring flowers

Spring has sprung and we can see it from the smiles on everyone’s faces! As soon as the temperatures warm up and the days get longer, people are naturally happier and more upbeat. It’s amazing what some fresh air and Vitamin D can do for the soul!

If you are currently dealing with a drug or alcohol problem, now is a great time to start your recovery. The River Source has open beds available as well as transportation resources for out-of-state patients. Call us today if you’re ready to spring forward in your life.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Get Sober

Feel Motivated to Change

It wasn’t long ago that you were celebrating the New Year. Some of this motivation is still there, though it can get weaker as the year goes on. If your resolution was to get clean and sober, start taking the appropriate steps. Ask a family member to help you research treatment options. Call your insurance to see what is covered. If you work, talk to the HR department about taking leave. The more information you have, the more informed decisions you can make.

Be Sober for Summer

Drinking tends to be more prevalent in the summer months, which can exacerbate your problem and make it harder to get clean and sober. Rather than letting things get potentially worse, make the decision to get help today. By starting an inpatient or outpatient program, you can be sober in time for summer. Imagine all of the wonderful things you can do, such as finally take that dream vacation!

Avoid Further Consequences

With more parties and drinking over the summer, the risks for getting into an accident are greater. Making the decision to quit using drugs and alcohol today avoids further consequences in the future. Depending on your background, one more mistake could mean jail time. Don’t spend your summer sitting in a prison cell or being on probation. Get your life back today.

Spend More Time Outdoors

One of the most important benefits of starting treatment now is that you can be outdoors, which greatly enhances the recovery process. You can practice meditation and yoga plus find plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking, kayaking, playing sports and more. It feels great to be outdoors in the sun, and you can find your “happy place” whether it’s a river, forest preserve or beach.

Enjoy Better Weather

When the sun is out and the temperatures are warm, it’s easier to get things done. This is why people tend to clean out their homes and work toward other personal goals in the springtime. Getting to and from AA/NA and therapy sessions is easier because there is less inclement weather. The days are longer as well, so you won’t have to drive in the dark. In fact, if you find the right meetings, you might be able to walk or ride a bike to them!

Are you ready to start your recovery? Call The River Source and discover the treatment programs we have available. We have high success rates, affordable pricing and a recovery guarantee.

5 Ways to Become a More Spiritual Person

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Yoga pose

No one becomes a spiritual person overnight. This process takes time, but there are ways to help you along the path. As you grow in your spirituality, you can expect an inner awakening that leads to a stronger, happier and more confident life. You will be able to better accept the circumstances around you without letting them impact your mood.

One thing that is great about spirituality is that there is no right or wrong way to be. You can use your religion to grow your spiritual side or establish a connection with a Higher Power through yoga or meditation. Below are a few ideas on how to become one with the Universe.

1. Find a Mentor to Guide You

Just as there are mentors for other journeys in life, there are spirituality leaders as well. Choose someone to fill this role, as they can guide you through the process. Also, be sure to surround yourself with people who practice yoga and meditation. Ask questions and discuss your goals. This provides a foundation for a spiritual life.

2. Read Spiritual Books

Books about faith and spirituality can open you up to a new way of thinking. Select books that will help you reach your goals. They can be written on religion, yoga or leading a harmonious life. You can even choose books written by specific authors. To make the most of what you read, take notes or write reflections in a journal.

3. Meditate Daily

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to be more spiritual. By meditating, you set your mind free from the distractions of modern life. It also helps manage negative emotions like fear and anxiety that can increase your chances for relapse. Find a calm, quiet and peaceful space to reflect in each day and connect with a higher power. For tips, try a guided meditation CD or mobile app. 

4. Let Go and Trust the Universe

It’s an unsettling feeling to know that we have little control over our lives, but it’s something we must all accept. The sooner you can do this, the happier and more connected to the Universe you will be. By being spiritual, you learn to let go of negative tendencies and put your trust in the Universe or a Higher Power.

5. Practice Gratitude

Thank a Higher Power or the Universe for what you have been given rather than thinking that things are owed to you. Gratitude will help transform you into a happy, confident person who doesn’t get angry when things don’t go your away. Instead, you’re able to put your full trust in a Higher Power and be grateful for the blessings you receive.

Becoming a spiritual person requires time and patience. As you grow further in your spirituality, you will learn a lot about yourself and your purpose in life. Having a sense of meaning can make all the difference in maintaining a sober life.

Why Giving Back is Important in Addiction Recovery

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holding hands

One of the greatest gifts in addiction recovery is free: giving back to others. This may seem like a tall order for someone who is going through the process of getting sober. Yet through selflessness and acts of kindness, a recovering addict can find the hope and motivation they need to turn their lives around for the better.

Let’s discuss the benefits to giving back in addiction recovery and examples of what to do.

Why Giving Back Makes a Difference

Gratitude is important because it reduces negative thoughts and behaviors. If you take time out each day to be grateful for the things you have, it puts you in a more positive frame of mind. One of the first ways to practice gratitude is by thanking the people who helped you get clean and sober. Your family. Your friends. Your counselors. These individuals believed in you, so now it’s your turn to pay it forward.  

When you help someone else, you are essentially saying “thank you” to the people who helped you. As you help more people, you can make a difference in their lives, which will bring you a sense of happiness that is greater than any high.

Here are the key reasons why it’s important to give back in addiction recovery:

  • Improve self-esteem

  • Feel empowered

  • Boost resilience

  • Make your community a better place

  • Discover meaning and purpose in life

  • Develop new skills

  • Stay connected to others

  • Gain new perspectives

Ways to Give Back in Addiction Recovery

No one expects you to move mountains in the first weeks and months of recovery. Start small and grow more comfortable in your new skin. Here are some of the ways you can give back in early recovery.

  • Focus on self-care. This may sound contradictory to what we’ve been discussing, but it’s not. Your friends and family have rallied around you, so show them that you are taking your recovery seriously. Eat healthy, exercise daily and get adequate rest. This way, you will have the physical, emotional and spiritual strength to help others.

  • Become a sponsor. As you grow in your 12 Step journey, you can reach an opportunity to become someone’s sponsor. Consider this role, as you can help someone move through their recovery process. If you’re not ready to be a sponsor, consider a service committment in your group (i.e., getting coffee, setting up chairs) or leading a meeting. 

  • Volunteer your time. Find ways that you can give back to your local community, whether it’s helping out in a soup kitchen or bringing homeless people breakfast. There are always ways to make a difference.

  • Donate to a charity. Not everyone is in a financial position to donate, and that’s OK. Even a few dollars can help an organization reach their goal, and it will feel good to see your name on the list of donors.

Are you ready to start your journey to sobriety? Call The River Source and discover the rewarding, affordable options we have for men and women 18 years and older.