recovery

Addiction Recovery and Paying It Forward

addictionThose who find addiction recovery have a fantastic opportunity to transform their lives literally. While active drug and alcohol dependence closes doors, seeking treatment and working a daily program gives people the ability to do just about anything with their existence. Naturally, to make one’s dreams come true, one has to maintain a program of recovery, day-in-and-day-out; one must strive for selflessness and always be on the lookout for ways they can give back and affect change in the lives of others.

In the rooms of recovery, people often say, “if you want to keep what you have you have to give it away.” The idea is relatively straightforward and is a concept that people set on long-term progress come to understand early on. After all, when someone enters treatment or begins working a program they find help from perfect strangers; men and women go out of their way to guide newcomers down a path toward healing. Why do such people offer their assistance? They are of service to others because they know it will help them stay clean and sober.

The above formula is primarily a means of paying forward that which one is freely given. Emerging from the spiritually void cave of addiction is one thing; however, if people want to remain in the sunlight of the spirit they must carry the message of recovery to those who still don’t know that there is a different way. For ultramarathon runner Charlie Engle, the need for encouraging others to seek help and embrace recovery is a significant priority. He runs himself ragged for addiction recovery.

Running Man for Recovery

Last Sunday, Charlie Engle ran continuously for 26 hours to raise awareness about addiction recovery, ABC 11 reports. Why 26 hours? Because running, Engle says was a lifesaver, the number 26 is how many years it’s been since he had a drink or drug. He hopes that his long journey will encourage others and, “show those people that are still out there struggling that there is another way.”

Engle ran one three-mile loop after another around Dix Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, not by accident; he chose the ultramarathon location due to its proximity to an addiction treatment center that Charlie supports, according to the article. Engle has two words of wisdom for people in the grips of addiction, “Get Moving!” What’s more, when it comes to raising awareness last weekend’s run may be a drop in the bucket; especially when you consider what he plans for his next event.

“I’m gonna go from the lowest place on the planet, which is the Dead Sea in Jordan, all the way to the top of Mount Everest! As a metaphor for addiction recovery, it literally is going from the lowest place to the highest! That’s my next big project.”

Addiction Treatment Works

At Synergy Group Services, we offer clients a holistic approach to addiction treatment. Unlike many rehabs around the country, our family and physician-owned residential addiction treatment center treats only five clients at a time. As a result, we can give each client the attention they require in our effort to make long-term sobriety a reality. Please contact us to learn more about Synergy’s therapeutic process.

PTSD: A Common Dual Diagnosis

PTSDJune is an important month regarding mental illness; this is a time to play an essential role in the effort to encourage people to seek assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At Synergy Group Services, we treat a significant number of people each year who meet the criteria for both addiction and PTSD. More than half of individuals living with an alcohol or substance use disorder also struggle with the symptoms of co-occurring mental illnesses; PTSD is one the more common “dual diagnosis” that people contend with each year.

The primary sponsor of PTSD Awareness Month is the National Center for PTSD, a division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Makes sense, right? After all, the condition we speak of effects a good many service men and women. In fact, researchers estimate that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. More recently, about 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year; and, about 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year.

The division, which leads the nation in trauma and PTSD research, is right to point out that the disorder can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. About 6 of every ten men (or 60%) and 5 of every ten women (or 50%) experience at least one traumatic event in their lives.

PTSD: A Common Condition Requiring Treatment

Raising awareness about post-traumatic stress and available treatments is vital. Those unable or unwilling to seek help are at terrible risk of experiencing myriad problems. One of the reasons people with PTSD often struggle with addiction is due to the common practice of self-medication: the act of drinking alcohol or taking drugs (illicit or nonmedical pharmaceuticals) to cope with the symptoms of the disease. The Division recognizes four primary symptoms, including:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms): Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings: The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal): You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable, i.e., hyperarousal.

If any of the above symptoms occur right after the trauma, it is normal. However, you should seek assistance if any of the above markers present for longer than three months, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life. The following statistics focus on Veterans, but the trend holds true for citizens who struggle with PTSD; more than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD and almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD. 1 in 10 OEF and OIF soldiers seen at the VA have alcohol or substance use problems.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It doesn’t matter if addiction manifests before PTSD, or the other way around, simultaneous treatment is critical for lasting recovery. If you are struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and PTSD, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Relapse Prevention Via Smartphone

relapseIn the smartphone-dependent world, we find ourselves; there is an app for just about everything. While it’s fair to say that most applications have little real-life value, some programmers are designing apps that help people who are struggling with mental illness. In fact, there are significant swaths of people in recovery from mental health disorders, including addiction, which use smartphone apps to connect with other individuals for support. Given that a statistically significant percentage of Americans live in rural parts of the country having the ability to communicate with a broader community of people in recovery is invaluable, possibly preventing a relapse.

There are several applications that men and women turn to for guidance and support; Talkspace for instance, connects users with licensed therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ginger.io offers emotional support coaching, therapy, and psychiatry for individuals living with mental illness; the app connects such people with therapists 24/7.

One aspect that makes Ginger standout is that it utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest treatments, The Daily Beast reports. It turns out that AI is likely going to be the future of mental health support applications; the tech can go further than merely offering sound advice, AI can predict a relapse before it happens. The implications of AI in the field of recovery, where the stakes are often life and death, is enormous.

Sober Community

Working a program of addiction recovery requires steadfast dedication; the potential for slipping up and returning to active use is high, especially early in the journey. Community, and being a part of one, actually serves to safeguard one’s recovery. Those who stick close to their support network are more likely to make progress. However, there are often scenarios when people in recovery relapse and it comes as a surprise to the group. An individual appears to be doing the work, attending meetings, and so-on-and-so-forth. Then one day, a meeting commences, and such-and-such is not in the room.

Addiction is a severe form of mental illness; those living with mental health disorders like an addiction sometimes refer to it as being cunning, baffling, and powerful. While an individual is taking steps to maintain sobriety, the disease is in the next room devising a plan to get back into the spotlight. Although, there are often signs, cues that are somewhat ubiquitous regarding the nature of relapse. Those who’ve been sober for a while can often spot someone on the edge of relapse; meanwhile, the person about to slip up hasn’t an idea of what the future holds. In some cases, an “old timer” might approach a recovery novice and suggest some changes to avert a problem; but, it is impossible to prevent every such scenario.

Relapse Prevention

One support app that is for people in addiction recovery is Sober Grid, the company’s website calls it, “a free peer support network right in your pocket to aid you in your recovery.” Sober Grid is similar to Facebook, and it connects people in all stages of recovery. The application came about in 2015 and is now part of more than 120,000 people’s lives. As with any app, there is a multitude of user data; developers could determine if a user had had an incident, i.e., relapse. Which led to a significant question, could those on the brink of decline be identified, and if so, could the app help prevent such an occurrence? According to Dr. Brenda Curtis at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, absolutely; relapses could be predicted using AI and potentially thwarted.

“The words people use reflect who they are (e.g., their personality) and how they feel (e.g., happy, depressed, stressed, relaxed). People using Sober Grid post messages and indicate the number of days they have been sober. We then build statistical models to predict sobriety or relapse from the frequencies with which words are used,” offered Lyle Unger, a professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-investigator on the project.

When the algorithm spots signs of relapse on the horizon, Chris Pesce, COO of Sober Grid, says providing extra support to the user could spare them of such an event, according to the article. He says the app can digitally deliver the tools that addiction therapists know help people on the verge of returning to active substance use. If users opt-in to the program, Sober Grid would instantly connect them with coaches; time is not a luxury when it comes to preventing a relapse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and co-occurring mental illness, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Opioids On College Campuses

opioidsTowards the end of 2017, The New York Times published an article which reveals some alarming opioid statistics. While most people understand that painkillers and heroin affect people from several walks of life and practically every age group, it’s likely that a significant number of individuals are unaware that opioids are also affecting young adults in college. Just because people can get into prestigious schools, doesn’t mean that they are going to make wise decisions. Prescription opioid misuse falls under such a category.

In fact, between 2001 to 2014, data indicates a six-fold increase in opioid use disorder among people under age 25. In roughly the same timeframe, opioid overdose deaths pretty much doubled for the age group. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey of college students reveals that 7% misused opioids and the number of Blue Cross Blue Shield opioid-related claims has nearly increased twofold in almost a decade.

The author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education (2015), Ryan Craig wrote an op-ed recently appearing in Forbes which displays some interesting observations about opioid use disorder and college students. After speaking with experts, like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis and others working in the field of addiction, he lays out a pretty concerning picture of prescription drugs use at universities across the country.

Schools Must Confront Opioids

Craig points out that while most colleges have naloxone on campus for use in the event of an overdose, he says that schools are falling short in addressing the underlying issues. He presents “four fundamental elements of college campuses make them suboptimal environments for those struggling with opioids:”

  1. An anything-goes approach to alcohol and drugs;
  2. high pressure;
  3. lack of structure;
  4. they’re in this environment for at least four years.

Despite the fact that a number of 4-year schools offer students the option of living in sober dorms and some even provide counseling services, Craig believes that such programs don’t go far enough. The author says college programs for people in recovery don’t treat addiction and students spend the majority of their time outside the specialty dorms; he has concluded that if universities are serious about assisting people living with addiction, they must expand their sober programs to include:

  • Medical treatment under medical supervision.
  • Separation from other students and much more structure – tapering off as students demonstrate success.
  • Offer off-ramps leading to good jobs, so students don’t need to spend four years in order to get a win. Most parents of young adults struggling with opioids would trade anything for a clean, employed child; a degree is the least of their concerns. Then provide on-ramps back to degree programs for students who are prepared for the next challenge.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are a college student misusing prescription opioids or heroin, Synergy Group Services can assist you in finding recovery. Please contact Synergy today to discuss making recovery a part of your life. We understand that education is of vital importance to you and your family, treatment will provide you with the skills for completing higher education unhindered by drugs and alcohol.

Recovery Plan for the Holiday Weekend

recoveryAnother holiday weekend is upon us, and for those working a program of recovery, it is vital that steps are taken to avoid complications. While Passover and Easter may not be super important to everyone, for many people this is an essential time for observance. Just because you do not associate a holiday with heavy alcohol use, it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. After all, any holiday that involves spending time with family, both being around loved ones, and not, can result in several emotions rising from within you. Coping with your feelings in constructive ways can make all the difference, especially if long-term recovery is your goal.

It is vital that you do not discount the power of emotions. A considerable number of people in early recovery have not yet regained the trust and confidence of their friends and family; which means that some of you may not spend time with loved ones this weekend. Disliking your current reality is OK, natural even, but it should not be cause for behaving in ways that will not benefit your recovery. Remember, the program gives us tools for managing uncomfortable feelings; instead of dwelling on deficiencies in your life, double your efforts in recovery. You are not alone, your program, support network, and the fellowship are always available to assist you with any obstacle. Significant holidays easily qualify as a potential barrier to progress.

Hopefully, you have already begun planning your drug and alcohol-free weekend. If not, take some time today to start planning how you will navigate the coming days without doing anything that could jeopardize all your hard work.

Utilizing Your Support Network in Recovery

Those of you who have plans to spend time with close friends and family this weekend must also make time for your program. No matter what, recovery comes before anything else for the simple reason that without your program nothing beneficial is possible. Getting to a meeting before and after family gatherings is a surefire way to avoid the trappings of alcohol and substance use. The “meeting before” grounds you, allowing you to proceed with your plans with focus; the “meeting after” can act as a decompression chamber sparing you of the familial “bends.” Feelings can quickly arise without you knowing it when in the company of family, left unchecked, “stinking thinking” ensues. Processing your feeling with your support network protects against relapse.

Anyone who doesn’t have a holiday agenda this weekend would be wise to stay close to your “recovery family;” the people who you sit next to you every week in meetings. It doesn’t matter how you refer to such people—friends, peers, or acquaintances—they have a vested interest in your wellbeing. What’s more, some of the individuals in your inner-recovery circle might need your assistance over the weekend; being there for them, and vice versa can significantly strengthen your program. Never downplay the vital role you play in other people’s lives, recovery is inextricably linked with being of service to others. Call the people in your support network and lock down plans for safely traversing the holiday weekend.

Making a schedule of meetings, you plan to attend is crucial. Keep to your plan as best you can and it far less likely you will encounter problems. If you get into a risky situation, make a phone call or get to a meeting ASAP. The dedicated staff of Synergy Group Services would like to wish everyone a safe and sober holiday.

Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder, please contact Synergy today to discuss your treatment options. Lasting recovery is possible, and the healing process starts with reaching out for help.

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