Staying In Recovery

Recovery gives us the ability and skills to deal with the “normal” issues we face in life: loss of loved ones, loss of relationships, empty nesting, career changes, physical impairment, and grieving. Recovery is a process not an event. Life is a continuum of ever-deepening circles. Put those two ideas together and we begin to understand what growing old sober might look like.

In life, discovery often precedes recovery. You wake up one morning and realize, “Oh, that’s what that’s all about. We live life forward and understand it backwards. Recovery goes through stages, even as life does. In the beginning, we have an early awareness and acknowledgment about what life might be like clean and sober. We go through periods of incubation, consideration, where we have to ponder “what does that mean?” This leads to activity and action where we begin to make changes in our life.

Rehabilitation happens where we see changes in our attitudes, values and life style. Active recovery occurs somewhere down the road, over time. It’s said we spend the first five years of recovery trying to find our marbles and then the rest of our life trying to figure out what to do with them. As we gain sobriety and age as well, we face profound life changes which can become triggers to relapse if not addressed.

Often we climb the ladder of success only to find out the ladder was against the wrong building. We ask ourselves “Is that all there is?” What we sought in our younger years may no longer provide us the same sense of meaning and purpose. The power, possession, prestige, privileges, and perks we sought in our early years can become meaningless now as we age.

As we age, we face profound questions about dealing with aging parents, raising a family, facing retirement, asking ourselves “will there be enough” to sustain us through life. Our fears can overwhelm us. These questions, if left answered, can lead to relapse. Life is a journey of transformation, from success to significance. If you do not transform your pain, you transmit it. You take it out on yourself through abuse. Being in the presence of changed people changes us. And love will always transform us.

In recovery, we say, ‘stick with winners’, transformed people. Recovery is always about letting go. Success has virtually nothing to teach you in life’s second half. We learn more about life from what we’ve had to let go of vs. what we retain. Addicts do not let go of things easily. They want to hold on to them as long as possible, which causes them suffering and pain.

Recovery is about ‘who am I?’ ‘What’s life about?’ ‘What else is there?’ He who has a “why” in life can live with any “how.” You cannot do all of your homework at the end. The journey of transformation begins early in sobriety. Recovery means actively addressing these profound existential issues in life.

The road of life is rarely a straight journey. It is filled with many unexpected twists and turns in the road. The road to recovery is also filled with many changes. Combine life’s changes with the changes that happen in recovery, we face important and interesting challenges. The good news: recovery happens. Sobriety is possible.

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Getting The Best Results From Treatment

An outcome-based, holistic approach to substance abuse recovery treatment begins with the entire person. The focus is a balance of the spirit, mind, and body in order to achieve a healthy state of being. Oceanside Malibu offers various treatment approaches to help guide individuals or couples towards tailoring a unique treatment plan designed for healthier, more balanced outcomes in their lives.

During the course of recovery, an addict or alcoholic may encounter challenges beyond just dependency on a particular substance. An outcome-based approach may guide a person towards better coping skills, accelerated healing, and a healthier outlook. This approach may also help to improve sleeping patterns, elevate mood, boost physical immunity, and reduce stress or anxiety.

The effects of physical exercise in addiction recovery cannot be overstated. Exercise can release endorphins in the body. This can produce a ‘natural high’ which helps promote good feelings and may enhance self-esteem. Exercise helps reduce stress and may also decrease stress related cravings. Physical exercise can also function as a healthy distraction. If you’re jogging, swimming in the ocean, surfing, playing volleyball, or riding a bicycle (in other words, staying active), you may be more likely to focus on the task at hand then on your cravings for a particular substance.

Yoga, reflexology, massage, stretching breath work, aromatherapy, and relaxation exercises may all fit into the category of spiritual exercise. These various techniques have been shown in some instances to improve heart function and even lower cholesterol. As the mind and body are connected, the staff at Oceanside Malibu focus on both to help as an aid towards achieving sustainable recovery.

Meditation has long been known to be highly useful in recovery from addiction because it is helpful in slowing down or clearing an alcoholic or addict’s racing thought process. The practice of meditation can also improve impulse control and low frustration tolerance. This is extremely useful for addicts in fighting cravings and dealing with stressful situations in earlier recovery.

Oceanside Malibu offers an ideal environment for the practice of the preceding techniques. Located directly on the beach in Malibu, our clients are afforded the luxury of sunrise or sunset oceanside meditation, surfing, swimming, walking, volleyball, with the Pacific Ocean, the cliffs and hills of Malibu as your backdrop. Please feel free to contact us today with absolutely any questions you may have.

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Achieving Long-Term Recovery

Addiction Treatment Malibu Long Term Recovery

Once abstinent from drugs and alcohol, a recovering person will still have problems and struggles. We still continue to learn about ourselves with each year.  A changed life brings changed issues.  However, the good news is that we are also able to see the things that happen to us with just a tiny bit more perspective.  By the time we reach double-digit recovery most of us have had at least one or two experiences of something we were sure wasn’t supposed to happen.  Nonetheless, we have the experience of finding that these events often turn out to be spiritual lessons, or stepping-stones, to something really wonderful happening in our lives.

Most people with long-term sobriety discover that the 12 steps and a program of recovery are part of a good life but that even these do not protect us from illness, job troubles, problems with kids or family, all manner of loss, and ‘outside issues’.  Real life happens to us.  In fact life can hit harder, simply because we are older, we do keep aging as our recovery continues.  That’s something many of us had not anticipated.  That is a kind of denial common to most people in and out of the rooms.  We also know that ceasing to numb ourselves with the regular practice of many of our character defects, leaves us a bit more raw so we have to use recovery tools more diligently.

What people in long term recovery do have, however, is a set of skills, a richness of sober experience, to fall back on.  We are able to recognize patterns in our lives; we are able to cut through our defenses sooner; and we learn not to fight the inevitable.  In some ways life gets easier but in other ways it gets harder.  If we have learned in recovery to face reality and accept what life brings sooner, we are then able to surrender when we see the wall coming – instead of waiting, as we did in the past – to slam into it. Long term recovery provides us a good set of tools and we keep on building.

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Selecting The Right Treatment Center

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Nоt аll treatment centers аrе created еԛuаl.  When уоu’rе selecting ѕоmеthіng аѕ important as thе rіght trеаtmеnt сеntеr tо battle alcohol оr drug dереndеnсіеѕ, іt’ѕ crucial that you do your hоmеwоrk ѕо thаt уоu choose a fасіlіtу with the bеѕt рrоgrаm for уоur nееdѕ tо hеlр уоu dеtоx and thеn start lіfе in rесоvеrу.  Nоt everyone seeking treatment for drug abuse or аlсоhоl addiction vаluеѕ the ѕаmе thіngѕ.

Anyone аttеndіng a drug оr аlсоhоl аbuѕе trеаtmеnt рrоgrаm muѕt be аblе to fосuѕ оn rесоvеrу so thаt the іndіvіduаl can learn how tо maintain sobriety whеn once in a real world setting.  In order fоr раtіеntѕ tо ѕtау focused, thе сеntеr nееdѕ tо оffеr thе serenity thаt раtіеntѕ dеѕеrvе. Pаtіеntѕ nееd to bе еngаgеd іn еvеrу ѕtер of the rесоvеrу process so as tо ensure thаt thеу ѕuссееd in lоng-tеrm rесоvеrу.  In оrdеr tо kеер іndіvіduаlѕ wіth addiction problems еngаgеd аѕ thеу experience withdrawal, a vаrіеtу оf programs аnd асtіvіtіеѕ will need tо be оffеrеd.

Sоmе may find thаt outpatient оr short-stay options are most suitable for thеm.  Othеrѕ mау nееd more іntеnѕіvе inpatient or rеѕіdеntіаl орtіоnѕ whеrе they’ll receive mоrе mеdісаl саrе.  Studіеѕ ѕhоw that раtіеntѕ are mоѕt ѕuссеѕѕful in rесоvеrу when thеу саn сhооѕе а рrоgrаm that mееtѕ thеіr іndіvіduаl needs.

Rесоvеrу dоеѕn’t еnd when you lеаvе thе treatment сеntеr.  Thе most сhаllеngіng раrt оf recovering is learning how tо lіvе dаіlу lіfе and аvоіd temptations thаt аrе рrеѕеnt аrоund уоu.  Aѕk іf thе сеntеr has a support system ѕо that you one can іntеgrаtе the skills learned at treatment іn daily life.  Sоmе addiction treatment centers аlѕо hаvе follow-up рrоgrаmѕ that enable one tо аttеnd mееtіngѕ and dіѕсuѕѕ their рrоgrеѕѕ.

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The Trauma-Addiction Bond

Trauma_Malibu Addiction Treatment

Our experiences as children may consciously and subconsciously affect how we go through life.  Those of whom are in the addiction spectrum are different to others because we feel a greater amount of sensitivity, especially to trauma, when compared with the norm.  Addicts are sensitive people for the most part.  We may just be born this way and this is possibly at the root of all addiction and co-dependency.

If you ask any addict the following question, the response is usually predictable:  “Were you more sensitive as a child than siblings and peers?”  The common answer is:  “Of course I was.”  So how does this work?  It starts at the level of the brain.  We essentially have two different parts of the brain that are involved with addiction.

The first part is the cortex, the crinkly grey bit that most people identify as ‘The Brain’.  This part has only been around in its present form for some 70,000 years or so.  It has developed as our need to process and think logically has increased in order to use tools, communicate and to process complex information.  On the other hand, we have another part of our brain that is much older.

Perhaps the first recognizable human was Homo Erectus and this early human possessed a ‘mid-brain,’ or ‘limbic system’ that we still also have today.  It exists in the center of our skull and is connected to our senses.  This part of the brain has the ability to completely override our cognitive brain because it has a ‘Fight, Flight, or Freeze’ response as part of its action. So when we are in mortal danger (or it perceives we are) the limbic system takes over and gets us to a point of safety.

If you are a very small child and you are frightened (say, by a dog biting you), your limbic brain takes over and acts.  In the case of a child, that usually means the reaction is to freeze. What’s more, having acted like this, the limbic system stores the information to be used again if the threat reoccurs.  So if you see a dog another day, you will automatically freeze because the response is locked into your limbic memory.

Adding into the mix the extra sensitivity we spoke about, you can see that many things have the potential to cause us trauma — and for that trauma to be repeatedly triggered.  Picture then a child, who is more sensitive, and he or she sees, hears and feels things that cause them distress.  What can they do to feel ok?  The child will look for comfort primarily from its caregivers (mum and dad etc.).  But if this comfort is not forthcoming (or if parents or caregivers are the source of distress) the child will try to find coping mechanisms to fix the distress.

One of the most common source of childhood distress, which is nearly always present in addiction, is a feeling of shame.  If a child is made to feel shame because of how it looks, feels or acts, this is captured by the limbic system and stored.  The ‘thinking’ cortex is quite often not yet on line in early childhood, so we are unable to rationalize and resolve this emotional trauma.

I am sure that most addicts or people with addiction know about shame.  What we may not know however is that there are two distinct types.  There is shame that is healthy or normal (resulting from doing something socially embarrassing for instance), but there is also what theorists have called ‘carried shame.’  This is shame that usually belongs to a parent or caregiver but is pickedup by the child as if it were responsible.

For example, if one parent is having an affair and asks the child to keep a secret then the child may become traumatized in a sense. Consequently, he or she will feel their parent’s shame.  While it is easy to see how extreme abuse (physical, sexual, verbal) would traumatize a child, it is also often the case that due to the sensitivity felt by those of us in the addiction spectrum, even relatively trivial stimuli can cause distress.  We cope with this distress by altering ourselves to a state that we think is ‘o.k.’  So early on we often try to be a perfect child’, or we try to get good grades, or be good at sports.  By doing this, we can constantly look for attention or affirmation. On the other hand being very bad also gets us the attention we need, or we can go on to find a role in the family as a ‘hero’, or a ‘lost child’ or a ‘scapegoat.’

When eventually we find a process or a substance (starting with sugar, caffeine or nicotine), that helps us cope with the distress, then the stage is set for a full-blown addiction.  If we are lucky, we eventually get to a point when we realize that our lives are a mess and we ask for some help to get us back to a place of recovery and contentment.  In the view of many people in recovery this is ‘nirvana’.

It matters not which recovery path that people take – the point is that it’s much better than anything they’ve experienced so far and they can start to get a real life.  However, this can be a dangerous place. It’s true that life might now seem manageable, relationships might reestablish and blossom, jobs can materialize and the rollercoaster can get to a level track — yet, despite all this we may still remain vulnerable.  This is because all of the shame and guilt locked into our limbic system is still sitting there just waiting to be triggered.

It may not matter how many times the program or the steps are worked through — the minefield of unresolved trauma it still waiting to be triggered.  It may never happen, but if it does (sometimes after many years of recovery) the result can be that we resume doing what we always did when it was triggered before…we relapse into addiction.  If you have good recovery, but there is a nagging feeling of not being ‘quite right’, don’t ignore it, get help.  It can get fixed and it just might save your life.

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Drug Detox

Drug detox & withdrawal is very common in substance abusers. Symptoms can present themselves in several ways including but not limited to stress sensitivity, sleep disturbances, memory problems, impaired concentration, emotional overreaction or numbness and cravings. Substance abusers in early recovery often struggle with situations which bring about stress. It is important to remember that addicts while in active addiction participated in addictive behaviors as a means to cope or get away from the stressful events. Many times addicts describe themselves as raw. Treatment needs to include coping skills to replace the abusive behaviors.

Sleep disturbances will subside as time passes & non-addictive medications may be prescribed by a medical provider. Non-medication interventions such as creating a regular routine and sleep schedule can be helpful. In addition, exercise is a great way to burn energy and assist in reducing drug detox withdrawal symptoms. Forgetfulness is also common in drug withdrawal and can be stress provoking. It may be useful to write down a daily schedule or list of activities each day.

Attention-deficit disorder is not uncommon with substance abusers particularly during drug detox. These individuals struggle with focusing and may be easily distracted. Addicts commonly describe feeling either no emotions or flooded. This can be particularly distressing during detox, however in time it will pass. Those in early recovery are encouraged to verbalize either their lack of emotions or risk being overwhelmed by them. Utilizing mood journals can be beneficial. A mood journal is sometimes used by a therapist in working with a client to help track thoughts and break thoughts down as rational versus irrational.

Cravings during drug detox may arise from a triggers (physical, sensory or emotional). Often times anxiety during drug withdrawl refer to triggers as people, places and things. The cravings often bring about anxiety and depression symptoms. Some people in treatment think they won’t experience any cravings due to being in treatment. Of course, this is usually not the case & use of the drug suboxone may be necessary.

Talking about triggers in and out of treatment can be helpful. While in a treatment program, it is important to communicate triggers to family members. This is important as family members can be helpful in noticing body cues in the substance abuser when they are experiencing a craving. Utilizing thought stopping techniques such as rubber band therapy which may involve placing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping yourself when experiencing a craving can be a helpful technique as well.

Interestingly, drug detox does not always show itself consistantly. The symptoms do seem to come about at times of increased stress. It is important to remember that emotional sobriety is equally as important as physical. If the emotional aspect of addiction is ignored, relapse may be more likely. Drug withdrawal & detox should never be attempted alone as it can be deadly.

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