Holidays in Recovery

The holidays should be a time for gathering, celebrating, expressing gratitude, and reflecting. Still, they often bring stress and worry, especially to those struggling with underlying issues such as substance abuse. The first year of sobriety, especially during the holiday season, can be a sea of ups and downs. Emotions can range from gratefulness and happiness to confusion and agony. It is common to reflect on past holiday seasons where alcohol or drugs were used as a crutch to numb the pain or avoid stressful family gatherings and office holiday parties. The holidays may hold some triggers, meaning that specific memories, people, and places can bring up urges and cravings. Being nervous about your first holiday season in recovery is entirely normal. Below are a few tips that can help you survive your first sober holiday season:

 

Be prepared to answer the question, “why are you not drinking.”

For many, the holidays are a time to celebrate, which often coincides with having one too many eggnogs or glasses of champagne. If you were a social drinker and now you are not, people may notice and ask you about it, especially if they are unaware that you quit drinking. It will most likely be a common question, especially if you attend holiday parties or gatherings. This question may make you feel flustered or stressed or may even take you off guard, so it is essential to prepare an answer beforehand. Ultimately, it is your decision whether you want to tell others about your recovery. If you are not yet comfortable sharing this journey with strangers, tell them that you are driving or trying to take better care of your health. 

 

Take pride in your recovery

Holidays in recovery can be challenging. You may get asked a few questions from family and friends during holiday gatherings about your recovery. Most people are unaware of the recovery journey unless they know someone who had this experience. As a result, you may be asked a handful of questions. This is your chance to educate others and break down the stigma associated with substance abuse and treatment. Try to view this as an opportunity to take pride in sharing your successful recovery journey instead of feeling like others are being intrusive about your sobriety. By telling your story, you will most likely encourage others to be honest about their struggles and successes. 

 

Establish clear boundaries

Be aware that you are may feel the urge to drink, especially in a social situation where alcohol is being served. It is essential to be picky about which holiday functions you attend and which people you choose to spend time around. Some places and people may be more triggering than others, and as a result, set boundaries with who you spend the holidays with. If this means skipping the annual office holiday party or not attending a family function, then be able to accept that. Additionally, if an individual starts making you uncomfortable about your recovery, then it is crucial to stand up for yourself and quickly exit that situation. You should never allow others to judge you regarding your recovery journey. 

 

Have an emergency plan

Holidays in recovery means having a plan. It is important to keep your friends and therapist in the loop, or on speed dial. You may need a quick exit strategy or an emergency therapy session if you suddenly feel triggered. Have an emergency plan in place, in case you feel the desire to drink or use. This may consist of retreating to a quiet place to journal, calling your therapist, attending a sobriety group meeting, or talking openly to a trusted friend. 

 

Set realistic expectations

You may feel tempted to drink, especially when holiday gatherings with family members become stressful. Be aware that these feelings may come and should pass. You also may miss drinking or may feel lonely without your old drinking buddies. Acknowledge that the holidays are stressful and may even be more so when you are new in recovery. Make sure you take care of yourself by practicing the things you love. Be prepared to have a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions and be ready to handle these emotions healthily.

Veterans Day and PTSD: Mental Health Spotlight

Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, is a day dedicated to honoring the brave men and women who have served in the military to protect our country and our people. This historic, patriotic day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I. These heroic men and women spend time away from their friends and family and often risk their lives and mental health to protect their country and freedom. Upon returning home to U.S. soil, every soldier comes back a changed person. They learn the importance of work ethic, discipline, bravery, hardship, and challenging lessons such as death, poverty, violence, and terrorism. As a result, mental health is often compromised. Unfortunately, veterans and PTSD go hand in hand.

 

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.”

– Barack Obama

Veterans and PTSD

  • Thirty percent of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition requiring treatment – approximately 730,000 men and women, with many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression.
  • Less than 50 percent of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment.
  • The Veterans Administration reports that approximately 22 veterans die by suicide every day.
  • Lengths of deployments are associated with more emotional difficulties among military children and more mental health problems among U.S. Army wives.
  • Most cases of PTSD are caused by combat. Veterans may also develop the disorder after sexual abuse. About 23 percent of female veterans have reported being sexually assaulted during their time in the military.

Signs and symptoms of PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that involves severe anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and negative thoughts after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic, life-threatening event.

  • Persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event via dreams, perceptions, images, hallucinations, or flashbacks.
  • Avoidance of triggers such as people, places, thoughts, and feelings that were associated with the traumatic event.
  • Feelings of detachment, negative self-esteem, negative emotional states, and the inability to remember associated events.
  • Marked changes in arousal and activity such as irritable behavior, hypervigilance, increased arousal, reckless behavior, sleep disturbance, and concentration problems.
  • Children with PTSD may exhibit social withdrawal, parent attachment, excessive clinging, nightmares, and poor academic performance, whereas adolescents generally display the same signs and symptoms as adults.

PTSD and addiction

More than 20 percent of veterans with PTSD also struggle with substance use disorders. Often, for both veterans and civilians alike, alcohol and drugs are used as a crutch to cover up negative emotions or temporarily erase any harmful memories. Any reminders of the past traumatic events often trigger PTSD symptoms, and as a result, many veterans will turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and numb their pain. The stress of training, deployment, and returning home can increase addiction among veterans. Those with multiple deployments, combat exposure, and combat-related injuries are at the most significant risk of developing substance use problems and PTSD. Many health professionals will often prescribe sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax) to help relieve anxiety or any distressing thoughts. These medications can still be highly addictive, especially in populations using them as an emotional crutch. Additionally, it is not uncommon for veterans to have chronic injuries related to war, and as a result, opioid medications are often prescribed to help with any lingering physical pain. Although opioids may be necessary for some serious injuries, they are often overprescribed and are known to have serious addiction potential.

 

Why first veterans are less likely to seek help for PTSD

Veterans generally operate in a culture that seeks to uphold an image of invincibility. They are the unsung heroes of society, and therefore upholding this image is a defense mechanism for dealing with the stressors and traumas they encounter on the battlefield. Admitting that there are cracks in their “invincible” armor can seem counterproductive and can undermine the confidence necessary to do their job effectively and safely. After all, stress and trauma is part of their job. Unfortunately, there is a strong sense of fear that any admission of a veteran struggling with PTSD or addiction symptoms will potentially be seen by others as proof that they are just not up to the job. That can be terrifying to contemplate for veterans, who tend to see their work as not merely an occupation but as their identity.

 

Seeking help for veterans and PTSD

Our veterans deserve the utmost care and compassion upon returning home. They fight for our freedom while putting their lives at risk and spending time away from their loved ones. Treatment for PTSD is a multifactorial approach that combines an array of trauma therapy combined with medication. If there is a substance use disorder, it should also be treated simultaneously with PTSD. Depending on the specific addiction, medications can be used to help wean the soldier off the addictive substance. Quest2Recovery prides itself on its ability to treat veterans and first responders who struggle with mental health and/or substance use disorders. The safest way to beat addiction and trauma-related disorders is to seek professional help that offers medical attention and emotional support on your journey to recovery.

 

At Quest 2 Recovery, our mission is to assist veterans who are struggling with substance abuse and trauma-related disorders by recognizing the disease of addiction and overcoming substance abuse and trauma, emphasizing how it plays a role in their daily living. To achieve this objective, we offer a range of treatment services from detoxification and trauma-focused CBT to residential treatment in a safe, comfortable environment. Our caring and compassionate team of professionals help clients increase their motivation to change while teaching skills and strategies to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety and healthy coping

Red Ribbon Week for Drug-Free America

Red Ribbon Campaign

The Red Ribbon Campaign, founded by the National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, advocates for youth education in communities and encourages youth participation in drug-free activities. The Red Ribbon Campaign is a weeklong campaign in October that began in 1985 and helps parents, teachers, and community leaders to speak to the youth about the dangers of drugs. This year’s Red Ribbon Week takes place October 23-31, and the theme is speaking out about healthy choices. Making good choices and having an active community are two critical factors in staying drug-free, but what happens when individuals engage in unhealthy behaviors and become addicted to drugs? As a society, we can unite to raise awareness to prevent drug abuse, but we also must come together to teach about taking healthy steps in recovery. Eliminating the stigma associated with entering drug detox and rehab is an essential step to raising awareness during Red Ribbon Week. 

Detoxification: The first step in the recovery process

Detoxification, better known as detox, involves eliminating any drugs from the body. Detoxification is the first stage in the treatment process and is usually the most challenging because of the withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the substance of abuse, withdrawal symptoms can be minor or life-threatening but are usually uncomfortable for the individual. Many individuals relapse during this stage because they cannot tolerate the withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Medication can be given to reduce the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. These medications must be given in a supervised treatment setting, and therefore the individual must enter a professional detoxification program rather than detoxing at home. 

How long is detoxification?

Depending on the drug, and the length and severity of the addiction, the detoxification process can take anywhere from three to seven days. Once the individual undergoes detox and is no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms, he/she can enter formal rehab treatment to learn about healthy coping skills, underlying triggers, and engage in multiple types of psychotherapy approaches. 

Physical side effects in drug detoxification

Whether it is alcohol, prescription medications, opioids, or other addictive drugs, ongoing drug use will eventually result in physical dependence. In the absence of these drugs, the body will undergo withdrawal symptoms. The following are typical withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Racing heart
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Headache

 

Are medications given during detoxification?

Medications are often given during detoxification to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Fluids, electrolytes, and vitamins are usually administered because the body is often dehydrated and depleted of nutrients and vitamins. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a type of detoxification and rehabilitation treatment that uses prescription medications to help curb withdrawal symptoms. MAT is most commonly used for alcohol and opioid abuse. The majority of these medications are given in the acute phase to alleviate the physical pain associated with withdrawals. Some of the same medications can be provided in the long-term to curb future cravings to prevent relapse. 

Focusing on your recovery in detox

The primary goal in detox is to withdrawal in a comfortable setting so you can have a clear mind and body when you enter psychotherapy. As a result, cell phones and electronics are safely stored away to maintain your focus on your recovery. It is encouraged that you spend time with your treatment team and other clients in the facility instead of focusing on aspects that are outside of your current environment. You will be provided with well-balanced meals, opportunities to meditate, and time to engage with your treatment team. This process is meant to be welcoming and empowering, rather than isolating. Although you may experience physical and mental challenges during detoxification, this process is necessary to help you reach your recovery goals. 

National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a month dedicated to uniting communities around the world to educate and raise awareness of bullying and preventable measures. According to statistics one in five children admit to being bullied and bullying is not only isolated as a childhood problem but also affects adolescents and adults as well. Bullying comes in many different shapes and sizes from physical attacks and verbal insults to cyberbullying, social manipulation, and inappropriate sexual advances, some forms of bullying can be discrete enough to go unnoticed by many. The intent of the bully is to assert dominance, power, and social control over the victim. Individuals who are bullied often appear anxious, withdrawn, or depressed. They may be too embarrassed to tell others about their torment and as a result, will often turn to drugs, alcohol, or food to cope with their feelings.

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.” ― Dan Pearce

Bullying and mental health

Bullying can take a toll on one’s emotional and mental well-being over time. Bullying breaks down one’s self-esteem and distorts their self-image, which can trigger a host of negative and dangerous feelings. Individuals who do not have a strong support system or who have an underlying mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety are more at risk of damaging their mental health. Victims of bullying are at an increased risk of isolation and loneliness, which can often drive them to fight back and act out, potentially resulting in violent outbursts or illegal activity. Bullies are also at extreme risk of engaging in illegal activity and developing mental health disorders including anti-social personality disorder. Bully-victims—those who both bully and are bullied—suffer the most serious effects. They are at greater risk for mental and behavioral problems than those who are victims or bullies alone. Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation and behaviors are greatest in this group.

 

Duke University recently conducted research that shows the rates for agoraphobia and panic disorders greatly increases with bullying. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low esteem haunt many adults who were once bullied in childhood. Additionally, a new study out of King’s College London in the United Kingdom suggests that that bullying may cause physical changes in the brain and increase the chance of mental illness. The results showed that severe bullying was linked to changes in brain volume and levels of anxiety at age 19. Bullying may decrease the volume of parts of the brain called the caudate and putamen. The caudate plays a crucial role in how the brain learns, specifically how it process memories. This part of the brain uses information from past experiences to influence future actions and decisions. The putamen regulates movements and affects learning.

Long-term risks associated with bullying

With immediate and proper mental health treatment and support systems in place, the prevention of long term consequences associated with bullying can be minimized. Without intervention, however, kids are at risk for the following:

  • Chronic depression
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Poor general health
  • Self-destructive behavior, including self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Difficulty establishing trusting, reciprocal friendships and relationships

Bullying and substance abuse

If an individual is experiencing constant teasing, social exclusion, or any other form of bullying, he or she may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape from feelings of worthlessness and loneliness. Being a victim of bullying takes a toll and can lead to a great deal of emotional turmoil and trauma creating the need for an “escape”. Drugs and alcohol can have temporary mind-altering qualities that can allow the individual to escape from reality, which can allow them to forget about their bully and have temporary relief from emotional pain. Mind-altering chemicals such as drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief but they also result in a dangerous slippery slope that can lead to addiction. The more the individual holds onto drugs and alcohol as an emotional crutch, the more the individual will feel they constantly need a fix. Soon enough, drugs and alcohol are at the forefront of their life and their bully does not only torment them but they are also tormented by their addiction.

Bullying in treatment

Many individuals who enter substance abuse treatment are often uncomfortable sharing about their addiction and experience with others out of fear they may be shamed or ridiculed. Stigma and shame both go hand in hand with bullying and unfortunately bullying in treatment is a silent pandemic. Family members, friends, co-workers, and strangers may spew hurtful comments, pass judgment, and portray passive-aggressive behaviors towards their loved one who is in treatment. Although they may do this subconsciously, out of anger, or because they are hurt; this is a form of bullying that can hinder their loved one’s treatment and recovery.

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder or are currently in treatment or recovery, it is imperative that you step away from anyone who is causing you emotional, mental, or physical harm. Often times, we are so focused on our recovery that we don’t recognize that these individuals are bullies and as a result, we allow them to continue to wreak havoc on our emotional states.

Seeking help at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.

The Difference Between Recovery and Sobriety

In light of National Recovery Month, we will focus on two crucial topics that are not commonly discussed about recovery: forgiveness and the difference between sobriety and recovery.

National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery”.

Our team at Quest2Recovery believes in celebrating recovery daily as addiction recovery is based on progress, not perfection. Each new day is one step forward in the right direction.

The terms “sobriety” and “recovery” are often used interchangeably however these two terms have very distinct meanings when it comes time to addiction. 

“Sobriety is a state whereas recovery is a process” 

The meaning of “sober”

Any individual who does not engage in drugs or alcohol is deemed “sober,” and although sobriety is part of recovery, sobriety often refers to a temporary state and fragile state. This state can change at any point in time with a sip of alcohol or the use of drugs to alter your mental state. You can go from sober, to inebriated to addicted in a matter of weeks. Individuals who identify as “sober” may be straying away from drugs and alcohol. Still, because they do not identify as being in recovery, they do not seek treatment for the underlying issues that initially lead them to drink or use. Sobriety can often be viewed as a day without using. Entering into sobriety without undergoing treatment and recovery can potentially have negative risks. Individuals who abstain from alcohol and drugs to become “sober” are more likely to relapse because they neglected to address the underlying issues driving their addiction. Additionally, entering into sobriety without any professional help can potentially lead to painful and even dangerous withdrawal side effects, especially when withdrawing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. 

Many “sober” individuals who are not in “recovery” will experience a swap in addictions, formally known as cross-addiction. This occurs when someone trades alcohol or drugs for another addiction, such as shopping, sex, or food. By doing this, they are trying to fill a void that their old addiction once satisfied. They may be “sober,” but they are more likely still struggling with unhealthy emotions or mental health disorders. This new vice is another unhealthy coping mechanism. 

The true meaning of “recovery”

When an individual enters a treatment program and starts their recovery journey, they are not only making a choice to become “sober” but are also acknowledging the underlying issues that caused them to become addicted in the first place. Recovery is a lifelong commitment that works to treat the mental, spiritual and emotional aspects associated with the addiction. Individuals learn to fill “the empty void” with positive coping strategies, a healthy community, and behavioral solutions that they have learned through treatment. You gain sobriety and the tools and emotional stability to defend yourself against a potential relapse. This phase is the ultimate key to conquering your addiction and moving into a healthier, more balanced life and involves the following complex processes: 

  • Changing behaviors that contribute to addiction and relapse instead of merely changing drinking and using habits alone.
  • Realizing that drugs and alcohol were not the only issues in their life and that these are symptoms of an underlying problem.
  • Understanding that alcohol and drugs often act as a solution to a larger problem in their life.
  • Working through the problems that led to the development of the addiction and developing healthy coping mechanisms and solutions to deal with these issues.

Can individuals relapse even if they are in recovery? Yes. 

Relapse is a realistic part of the treatment journey. Although it does not happen for everyone, the goal of relapse is to recognize the urges, cravings, and triggers and use the tools and coping mechanisms you learned in recovery to prevent the relapse from spiraling out of control. This may mean that you re-enter a treatment program or increase your frequency and duration of therapy. Relapse looks different for everyone. 

Seeking recovery at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.

National Recovery Month: Forgiveness in Recovery

In light of National Recovery Month, we will focus on two important topics that are not commonly discussed in relation to recovery: forgiveness and the difference between sobriety and recovery.

National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery”.

Our team at Quest2Recovery believes in celebrating recovery daily as addiction recovery is based on progress, not perfection. Each new day is one step forward in the right direction.

 

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

— Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is an important lesson to learn, not only in recovery but also during many stages of life. Forgiveness is an intentional and voluntary process characterized by letting go of any negative energy from our inner selves that was aimed at other individuals and/or aimed towards ourselves. People forgive each other for small and large mistakes all the time. We are taught from a young age to value forgiveness to be successful in our personal and professional relationships. Without forgiveness, we will harvest ill feelings such as resentment, anger, jealousy, and bitterness, negatively affecting our mental health. Letting go and forgiving another individual is not about that individual, but about us. We are letting go and freeing any negativity from our hearts and minds. Forgiveness in recovery can be a bit more complicated as often, we are not only offering forgiveness to others, but we forgive ourselves for our past actions, thoughts, and mistakes.

 

Dangers of harvesting resentment in recovery

Addiction can be fueled by past abuse, trauma, and hurtful actions by others. It can feel threatening to forgive those who have hurt us, and it can also feel scary to forgive ourselves for our bad decisions. However, harvesting resentment in recovery can be very unhealthy and often lead to relapse. Sobriety usually starts with forgiveness as harboring anger and resentment can lead to anxiety, increased stress levels, and a weakened immune system. When you were using drugs or alcohol, you may have been able to cover up any negative feelings with your addictive substance of choice; however, now that you are in recovery, you cannot use these unhealthy vices as a crutch. As a result, you are more prone to feeling every type of emotion during recovery, both positive and negative.

 

Resentment and addiction

Individuals struggling with a substance use disorder can often harbor feelings of resentment, guilt, and anger, which can worsen their already present addiction and even lead to a co-occurring mental health addiction such as depression or anxiety. Without forgiveness, there is resentment, blame, guilt, hurt, and grudges. The most common grievances associated with addiction include the following:

 

  • Unrealistic and high expectations of others while holding low expectations for themselves
  • Resentful towards other people who are trying to help, give advice, or offer encouragement
  • Anger associated with past trauma
  • Jealousy of others
  • Anger associated with being wrong by others in the past

 

Forgiveness: an opportunity to begin anew

Forgiving others is not only about letting go of negative feelings, but it also provides the opportunity for growth within new relationships. It can give you a fresh start, a do-over. Of course, you have the option of giving those you forgive second chances, but you also have space to allow for other people to enter your life. A strong support system is necessary for a successful recovery, and by forgiving others, you create space and compassion for new relationships.

 

The importance of self-forgiveness

Accepting your mistakes, acknowledging your emotions of guilt and shame, learning from your past experiences, sharing your lessons and feelings with others, and making up for your past mistakes through actions are all significant steps in self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself for your addiction and the associated behaviors that go along with it can greatly impact your recovery. Self-forgiveness can boost your self-esteem, which can result in healthier lifestyle choices and self-care routines. Self-forgiveness can allow you new growth opportunities. Self-forgiveness can allow you space for healing and compassion. Self-forgiveness can allow you to hold new relationships. And most importantly, self-forgiveness can allow you to succeed in recovery.

 

Have you taken steps to forgive yourself and others? If not, what is holding you back?

 

Seeking help, forgiveness, and recovery at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.

Addiction, Mental Health and Unemployment

The COVD-19 pandemic has gravely impacted our mental health and addiction due to unemployment in more ways than one. The majority of individuals are anxious about the unknown, and millions of hard-working Americans are experiencing a financial crisis after losing their jobs. We are not only mandated to stay home, but we are mandated to remain home while trying to cope with economic adversity after being laid-off. Unemployment negatively affects our mental and emotional health. Unemployment has the potential to lead to addiction or worsen an already present substance use disorder.

Beyond the negative impact of an economic disaster, COVID-19 presents additional challenges such as fear of the virus itself, collective grief, prolonged physical distancing, and associated social isolation that will all compound the impact on our collective psyche. A job is not just a job for many individuals. Many individuals take pride in how they make a living, and their career becomes a part of whom they are; it becomes their identity. So when this is stripped away, an individual’s identity is also robbed.

The true meaning of work

Our jobs provide a sense of security and offer connection to peers, meaning, purpose, sense of accomplishment, and self-efficacy. When our jobs are stripped away, so are many of these traits.

Nearly 21 million Americans have lost their jobs over the past eight weeks because of COVID-19. The unemployment rate is above 15 percent, well above the unemployment rate during the Great Depression. 

Humans are not robots, we are individuals with needs, feelings, and emotions, and therefore the loss of a job is not just the elimination of a paycheck but also the loss of a routine, security, and connection to others (and not to mention, access to healthcare).

The link between unemployment and suicide

Studies have shown that unemployment is highly linked to suicide, and unemployment during this COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Our country and the world are at an increased risk for suicides, no matter how you see it. Unfortunately, many Americans who are now unemployed are now uninsured and, as a result, are unable to afford mental health treatment. It is a lose-lose situation.

In 2008, the Great Recession ushered in a 13 percent increase in suicides attributable to unemployment, with over 46,000 lives lost due to unemployment and income inequality in that year alone.

Everyone is at risk

This economy crash affects everyone, regardless of his or her job or income. Layoffs have occurred across the board from blue-collar workers and health care professionals to white-collar executives. Budget cuts are being made in nearly every industry because of the doomed economy. Many small businesses have been forced to shut their doors, leaving employees and business owners struggling to pay the bills. Regardless of employment status, bills need to be paid, and mouths need to be fed.

The economic stimulus and unemployment benefits have been a godsend for many, but how long will the government be willing to help those 21 million unemployed and unable to find work?

This pandemic has created a mental health and financial crisis. Many highly educated and highly skilled individuals are unable to find jobs because the economy is closed. Very few sectors are hiring, so the only option is to keep searching and waiting this out…but for how long?

Turning to alcohol as a crutch

Daily drinking, regardless of employment, has made a steady rise during this global pandemic. Those who have lost their jobs often turn to alcohol or drug use to numb their pain, block out their reality, and find a quick escape. Access to alcohol is easier than ever, as almost every business is now offering take-out or delivery. Cocktails “to go” can be ordered via phone and picked up via curbside or delivered to your front door, and liquor stores and dispensaries are delivering alcohol and marijuana at the click of a button.

More people are saying cheers with a drink in hand over virtual happy hours. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through social media without coming across the trendy drink term “quarantini”. Many people have posted phrases such as “days are divided by coffee hours and alcohol hours” or “during a crisis, you know, cocktail hour can be almost any hour”. Many of these phrases and trends are meant to be funny, but when daily drinking becomes a habit, it can suddenly down spiral into an addiction, which is never a laughing matter. Alcohol should never be used as an emotional crutch as drinking can worsen an already underlying depression or suicidal ideation.

Stress, isolation, and boredom increase the need to use

The increase in alcohol and drug use may be related to boredom, isolation, and stress, especially for those who have lost their employment. Job loss can create a sense of boredom, loneliness, and low-self esteem, which can all trigger the need to use. For those in recovery, the combination of financial distress and social distancing can make maintaining sobriety all the more challenging. As a result it relapse rates can be on the steep incline.

It seems that those who are unable to maintain social bonds and a sense of community through virtual interactions are more at risk for drug use and relapse. For individuals who have adopted harm reduction techniques are now using drugs alone instead of with a friend. If an overdose occurs, there is nobody around to administer the life-saving drug naloxone. First responders are finding people alone in their homes, dead due to overdose.

A report released at the beginning of May by the Well Being Trust predicted that up to 75,000 Americans could die due to drug or alcohol misuse and suicide as a result of COVID-19.

Isolation and depression

Mental health experts have argued as far back as the Great Depression that unemployment damages mental health and undermines society’s social fabric. Involuntary joblessness can elicit feelings of helplessness, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

“Who are we if we cannot take care of our families and ourselves?”

“Who are we if we cannot put food on the table?”

Individuals who suffer unintended job loss are less likely to socialize with their friends and family because they feel ashamed or embarrassed, leading to isolation, which leads to depression, and more isolation. It is hard for many to socialize with friends who are gainfully employed when one is struggling to find any job leads, especially during this pandemic.

The economic impact of depression

The World Health Organization has noted that depression and anxiety have an estimated cost to the global economy of $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. A likely surge of people experiencing acute behavioral health problems, both those with new symptoms and those with existing conditions, has the potential to strain the healthcare system further and add cost to an already unprecedented economic downturn.

Staying strong during this time

We must remember that this is not our fault. We cannot blame ourselves for this financial crisis that has occurred because of COVID-19. We cannot blame ourselves for being laid-off. We also must safeguard our mental health in every way possible. Therapy and social connections are imperative for our mental health, but when we are out of work and are mandated to isolate, what other options do we have? For addiction reading about staying strong during this pandemic, read Feelings of Hope During COVID-19

Develop a daily routine: Unemployment can often lead to boredom, feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and depression. We need to develop new daily habits so that we stay active and motivated. This includes the following:

  • Adopt a regular sleep/wake cycle
  • Adopt a daily exercise routine
  • Take time each day to develop a new skill or work on a new project
  • Nourish our bodies with plenty of whole foods and water
  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day outside
  • Spend quality time with loved ones (even if that means virtual happy hours and meetings or practicing social distancing)
  • Spend time to meditate, read, or practicing yoga
  • Spend time to focus on activities that bring you joy
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs
  • Attend community support groups, whether they are virtual or in-person
  • Get in contact with an addiction treatment center

Seven Ways to Support a Loved One with Addiction

Suppose you have a friend or relative who is struggling with a substance use disorder. Whether it is alcohol, recreational drugs, or illicit drugs, it can be one of the most challenging situations to witness. Addiction can be crumbling, and when you are sitting in the backseat, watching it unfold with your loved one, it is a normal reaction to want to help. But how can you help? Many individuals are afraid to help, may not know how to help, or may cause more harm than good when trying to help. While each situation is unique, and everyone is fighting their own battle, below are some general tips on how to support a loved one who is struggling with an addiction.

Establish trust

The relationship between you and your loved one can be severed if trust is not at the foundation. Therefore it is essential to take action to build and strengthen trust in the relationship. Trust requires honesty, compassion, empathy, boundaries, and being able to communicate regardless of having different opinions or perspectives. Avoid negative interactions such as nagging, name-calling, criticizing, and judging, and instead, focus on the positive ways to help your loved one seek treatment.

Do not enable

An enabler is defined as “an individual who encourages negative or self-destructive behaviors.” 

Unfortunately, many family members and friends act as enablers to their loved ones who struggle with a substance use disorder. We often are scared or upset for our loved ones and want to support them, but instead of being honest with them, we try to rescue them from their addictive behaviors. We often will lend them money, bail them out of jail, make excuses, and hold their hand when they are in trouble. Even if we are doing these things out of compassion and empathy, this is more hurtful than helpful and can lead to worsening behaviors. Instead of enabling our loved ones, we should hold them accountable, allow them to experience the consequences associated with their addiction, and try our best to help them seek professional help.

Educate yourself

Mental health and substance use disorders are not simple. They are complicated disorders with painful consequences that can potentially wreak havoc. However, with the right education and treatment, there is hope for a full recovery and a successful future. As a family member or friend, it is essential to educate yourself about the addiction process so you can better understand your loved one’s disorder and journey to recovery.

Practice compassion and empathy

Addiction is difficult. The path to recovery is challenging, and sometimes relapse can be devastating. Nobody is to blame, but we often find ourselves pointing fingers, arguing, and destroying relationships because of the underlying addiction. During these times, it is crucial to take a step back, be kind, offer help, listen, and practice compassion and empathy towards your loved one.

Encourage treatment

Every substance use and mental health disorder will require professional treatment, at some point in the course of the disease. Seeking treatment earlier rather than later can reduce harmful consequences and can potentially lead to faster recovery. It is essential to encourage your loved one to seek treatment and find a treatment center that best fits their needs and personality. The relationship between the treatment team and your loved one is one of the most critical factors associated with recovery.

Set boundaries

In the chaos of addiction, boundaries are essential for your well-being. When individuals are deep in the perils of their addiction, they often portray harmful behaviors. They can cross boundaries that can potentially affect your own mental well-being and personal life. Whether it is prohibiting unethical behaviors such as lying, stealing, and cheating or not allowing them to use alcohol or drugs in your home, setting boundaries is beneficial to both you and your loved one.

Practice self-care

Helping and supporting your loved one during this time can take a toll on your physical and mental health. You may find yourself feeling sad, exhausted, and overwhelmed. As a result, this can affect both your personal and professional life. It is essential to take time for yourself to re-focus and re-center. Remember to spend quality time with your family, practice healthy sleep and dietary habits, and engage in activities that bring you joy. If you want to be a reliable support system for your loved one, you must first take care of yourself.

Someone once told me, ‘I heard you finally got rid of your addiction.’ I smiled and said, ‘No, addiction doesn’t work like that. Once you have it, you will always have it. I just choose not to feed it.”

– Anonymous

Seeking help at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of addiction and mental health disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”. 

Being an Advocate for the Minority Community

Minority mental health matters

“July was first declared as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. Since then, July has been a time to acknowledge and explore issues concerning mental health, substance use disorders, and minority communities, and to destigmatize mental illness and enhance public awareness of mental illness among affected minority groups across the U.S. Studies suggest that racial minority groups and sexual minority groups show higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, society’s deep-rooted prejudice towards such stigmatized minority groups is a major cause of feelings of rejection, estrangement, and harassment. Moreover, immigration status, economic conditions, education levels, and access to public health benefits are just a few differences that can adversely impact the experiences of various ethnic groups in the U.S.”

This year has been one of the most challenging years thus far, especially for people of color. We are only halfway through 2020. It has the potential to be especially traumatic for those in minority communities, with racial inequities at the forefront in our nation, coupled with a pandemic that disproportionally affects people of color. Although we as humans may discriminate against others based on the color of their skin, mental health disorders do not discriminate against race. Anyone can experience the challenges associated with mental health disorders, regardless of their background or identity; however, background and identity are important factors when it comes time to accessing mental health treatment and care. Minorities are faced with less access to care, cultural stigma, and lower quality of care when it comes to addiction and mental health.

If resources are not sufficient for the general population, how do underserved groups address their psychiatric needs?

More than half of uninsured U.S. residents are people of color, and unfortunately, individuals with limited resources also experience logistical barriers to mental healthcare. These individuals may struggle to take time off work, find reliable transportation to appointments, and secure affordable childcare. Linguistic and cultural communications can result in a breakdown in communication and make many minority groups less likely to seek mental health treatment. Minority groups who do choose to seek treatment and who have the means to access mental health and addiction resources often receive inferior care because of the lack of diversity among mental health providers and decreased understanding of the different needs across minority groups. When a Caucasian individual meets with a Caucasian provider, it is easier to relate since ethnic backgrounds and language barriers are not at the forefront of the visit. But when a person of color meets with a Caucasian provider, the client can often feel inadequate and unable to relate. One of the core key components to successful mental health and addiction treatment is the relationship between the provider and the client.

Numbers don’t lie

A new study published in the International Journal of Health Services only further corroborates this fact. Researchers found that black and Hispanic young people were less able to get mental health services than white children and young adults. This happens even though rates of mental illness are generally consistent across all ethnicities, Kaiser Health News reported.

  • African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population
  • Native Americans have the highest rate of young adult suicide of any ethnicity.
  • 60% percent of non-Hispanic black individuals with depression had a major depressive episode in 2012.
  • 25% of African Americans seek treatment for a mental health issue, compared to 40 percent of white individuals. The reasons for this drop off include misdiagnosis by doctors, socioeconomic factors, and a lack of African American mental health professionals.

Understanding the reasons behind limited access to mental health

There are many reasons why minorities aren’t getting proper care. Here are some of them:

  • A lack of availability
  • Transportation issues, difficulty finding childcare/taking time off work
  • The belief that mental health treatment “doesn’t work”
  • The high level of mental health stigma in minority populations
  • A mental health system weighted heavily towards non-minority values and cultural norms
  • Racism, bias, and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Language barriers and an insufficient number of providers who speak languages other than English
  • A lack of adequate health insurance coverage (and even for people with insurance, high deductibles, and co-pays make it difficult to afford)

Making an impact for change

The mental healthcare system is flawed. We all know that, and many of us have experienced it personally. But all mental health advocates should band together in improving the status quo for those who are most vulnerable to the systemic disparities of getting help. Together, we need to raise the bar for better mental health care for everyone, especially minorities. You can get started by doing the following:

Encourage mental health organizations to include minorities on staff or boards of directors.

  • Write, call, or talk to legislators—both local and federal—to support efforts to improve access to and the quality of mental health services in your area.
  • Be a spokesperson when there is an opportunity to speak out on behalf of minority mental health.
  • Share the information you’ve learned about accessing quality care to others.
  • Try to be more open and understanding of what minority communities might be experiencing that you might not.

Whether you have personally experienced the challenges associated with minority mental health or advocating for a better mental health system, anyone can help make a difference. Opening the doors to quality mental health care for minorities is challenging, but we can all do our part in making the right keys for easier access and quality care.

Seeking help

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of PTSD to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.

Addiction: Progress Not a Cure

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goals requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

-Martin Luther King

Addictive behavior is a symptom of deep underlying emotional processes. This destructive symptom often turns into habitual behavior. We don’t plan to become addicted to food, alcohol, or drugs, but when we are unable to work through emotional trauma or toxic stress, we often turn to these vices to cope with our overwhelming feelings and emotions. As a result, we cannot “cure” the addiction since addiction is merely a symptom of an underlying cause. Recovery is focused on treating the underlying cause to make progress on the road to recovery.

There is no magical cure

Recovery from addiction is a life-long process. There is no magical cure, and results do not appear overnight. As a result, recovery treatment is a stepwise approach that involves pattern recognition, adopting new coping skills, understanding the underlying triggers, and learning new behaviors. Even when individuals “successfully” complete their treatment program, meaning that they are not readmitted because of relapse, they are still not “cured”. The term “cure” infers that the addiction is gone, and it cannot reappear. Unfortunately, since addiction is a symptom of an underlying emotional process, it can make a comeback when the underlying triggers become unbearable. Often when individuals are unable to cope with negative emotions or stressors, they relapse, returning to their addictive behaviors as an emotional crutch.

Defining progress

If we look at addiction treatment as a form of progress, we can look at the bigger picture and celebrate the small victories, regardless of whether we have reached the “end goal” of sobriety. For example, progress can be measured by an individual’s mood, attendance at group meetings, the ability to open up in therapy, admitting you struggle with addiction, making strides towards healthier relationships, and adopting healthy habits and hobbies. One of the beautiful things about progress is that it is not black and white, and it cannot be measured in numbers. It is relative, individualized, and every step towards a positive attitude, outcome, or behavior is considered positive progress.

Finding progress after relapse

Relapse in recovery may seem devastating, but relapse should be treated as a learning lesson. No one can advance in life without adversity. When we make bad choices or if a treatment has failed us, we are in a position to ask why.

Why did this go wrong for us? Answering this question allows us to understand ourselves and our addiction better. It will enable us to make progress.

Understanding what has not worked out and why it has not worked is very important for an individual’s progress. Being able to turn failures into something productive signifies that they have a healthy approach to their recovery.

Finding progress in recovery

  • Discovering your purpose: We all have a higher purpose in life, and once we discover that purpose, most of the pieces of our life puzzle start to come together. Whether our mission is being a parent, a writer, a coach, a teacher, or a good friend to others, finding our purpose and following it through can be a monumental positive step towards progress in recovery.
  • Adopting new hobbies: Addiction is a symptom of underlying negative triggers that usually take up a lot of emotion, time, and space. Working towards progress in recovery often means there is more free time that can be utilized to adopt healthy new hobbies that can replace old habits and triggers.
  • Working through the pain: Addiction is closely tied to trauma, which is both tied to pain. Deep wounds may open during recovery, and it is essential to sit with the pain, feel it, and allow it to pass. Overcoming the emotional pain associated with addiction and recovery is one of the most challenging forms of progress.
  • Living in the present: It is so easy to focus on the past or dream about the future, but it is essential to sit with the present. Living fully in the present can allow us to heal from the past and be prepared for what our future holds.
  • Forgiving others: Addiction often comes with broken relationships, which may or may not be repairable. It is essential to make peace with yourself and forgive others. Forgiveness allows you to let go of any hurt that has been tied to the past.
  • Celebrating the small moments: Small victorious moments are progress, and regardless of how small or big these moments are, we must take time to recognize and celebrate them.