Codependent Relationships and Addiction

As we approach Valentine’s Day, a day that is meant to celebrate every aspect of love, friendship, and romance, many of us in addiction recovery often struggle with new romantic relationships secondary to codependent behaviors. 

Successful and healthy relationships take a lot of patience, skill, empathy, and determination. Many factors are needed for positive growth, whether it is a romantic relationship, a sibling relationship, a friendship, or a parent/child relationship. Codependency is a negative factor that is encountered in many relationships that can destroy not only the relationship but also each individual involved. Codependency was first defined nearly 50 years ago to describe unhealthy relationships characterized by excessive control or compliance, often with one partner lacking self-sufficiency and autonomy resulting in sacrificing one’s personal needs to try to meet others’ needs. Codependency is strongly associated with passivity and feelings of shame, low self-worth, or insecurity. Codependent behaviors usually stem from deep-rooted pasts. Many individuals may not even realize they are codependent or deny that they are in a codependent relationship. 

Addiction and codependent behaviors

This concept was originally conceived in the context of addiction. It helped explain “enabling” patterns used to ease relationship tension caused by drug and alcohol abuse. We now understand that enabling behaviors (such as rescuing a partner, bailing them out, making and accepting excuses for their behavior, and continuously trying to fix problems) are common in non-addiction-related codependent relationships. 

 

Common codependency signs

  • You feel that your partner is responsible for solving your problems
  • Your partner has verbally expressed to you that they feel unappreciated and unloved
  • You are continually trying to please your partner
  • You desperately want your partner to “save you”
  • Your happiness stems from your relationship with your partner
  • You continuously are looking for advice and direction from your partner on how to live your life
  • You see yourself as a perpetual victim

 

The origins of codependency

Unlike addiction, codependency is not a disease or a disorder but rather a learned behavior that often begins in childhood. As a result, codependent behaviors are deeply ingrained in our upbringing and personalities and will often re-surface throughout our adolescent years and adulthood. Codependency is mostly born into dysfunctional families with addiction, emotionally unavailable partners, and narcissistic behavior. The codependent parents set the tone for the child, and the child learns from the parents to try harder in every relationship. From a young age, these children learn to “walk on eggshells,” how to keep their needs hidden and put the needs of others before everything else, and how the outward appearance of the relationship is of utmost importance. Children who grow up in this environment do not learn to value or foster their self-worth and do not view themselves as independent or necessary and will consistently look for others to repair their “brokenness”. In adulthood, this creates unhealthy boundaries and can often push the individual to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with these underlying feelings, especially if their romantic partner is not filling their void. 

 

Recognizing your codependent patterns

Often it takes a life-changing decision or milestone for an individual to have that “ah-ha” moment whether they recognize the inequity that comes with codependency. However, just because an individual is aware that they are involved in a codependent relationship does not necessarily mean they will discontinue the behavior. Individuals in a codependent relationship are fearful of rejection and therefore saying “no”, is usually not in their vocabulary. Often it takes enrolling in an addiction treatment center for the individual to develop the coping skills necessary to exit a codependent relationship. However, if an individual struggles with an addiction, they may switch out their addiction for a codependent relationship. As a result, recovery can be a double-edged sword. It can teach us about coping skills and boundaries, but it can also lead us to trade in one addiction for another. 

 

Overcoming codependent relationships

To overcome a codependent relationship, especially if you are in recovery from addiction, it is essential to establish the following:

  • Strict boundaries
  • Self-esteem
  • The ability to say “no”
  • Self-love
  • Honesty
  • A strong support system
  • Strong communication skills

 

Signs of recovery from codependency

 

  • You nurture your wants and desires and develop a connection to your inner world. You see yourself as reliant, smart, and capable.
  • You say goodbye to abusive behavior. Awareness, change, and growth are necessary for you and your partner to overcome unhealthy relationship habits. Caretaking and enabling behavior is acknowledged and stopped.
  • You respond instead of react to your partner and others. Setting clear, firm boundaries means that you don’t automatically react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. You tolerate other people’s opinions and do not become defensive when you disagree. You recognize that your reaction is your responsibility. You adopt a healthy skepticism regarding what others say about you (good or bad), and your self-esteem doesn’t rise and fall as a result. You say no, and you accept hearing no.

Counter dependency: the opposite of codependency

Codependency often goes hand in hand with both addiction and relationships because the individual in recovery has spent a great deal of time codependent on the substance of abuse. They needed this substance to get through their day, they needed it to cope with difficult feelings, and they needed it to feel good. When individuals enter recovery to gain sobriety, this void is often left unfilled, and as a result, many individuals may fill this void with codependent relationships. Instead of the substance of abuse, individuals will substitute romantic relationships to help them get through the day, make them feel worthy, help them overcome difficult feelings, and bring them happiness. In a way, it is substituting one addiction for another. So, how do you know you are maybe entering the waters of a codependent relationship during your recovery journey?

Quest 2 Recovery: Center for Addiction and Mental Health

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to those struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. We want you to be a better role model, spouse, and parent to your loved ones. If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you. We at Quest2Recovery, want to treat you, the individual, and not just your disorder. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

 

The Importance of Self-Care in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery, whether you are recovering from an alcohol use disorder, a drug abuse disorder, or an eating disorder, is challenging and as a result, self-care is necessary. You are asked to be vulnerable in one of the most profound times of your life, and often we can be too hard on ourselves while we navigate the throes of addiction recovery. Whether you are in the early stages of addiction or have been in recovery for many years, we often forget that we are human and deserve compassion, grace, and forgiveness along our journey. Self-care encompasses all of these things, and the more we practice self-care, the more we allow ourselves to embrace both the challenges and victories that come with addiction recovery. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, practicing self-care while in addiction recovery is crucial to developing healthy coping skills and relapse prevention. The more time you spend caring for yourself and paying close attention to your mind and body, the easier it’ll be to detect the early warning signs of an emotional, mental, and physical relapse.

 

 

Defining self-care

Our society and culture have tied self-care to many lavish actions or routines such as going on a shopping spree or making a spa appointment when self-care is different for everyone and does not have to involve spending money engaging in lavish activities. Self-care starts with self-compassion. It is not selfish, but rather it encompasses patience and love for yourself, two of the cornerstones to a successful recovery journey. It is merely impossible to define self-care without acknowledging self-harm. We are often so hard on ourselves, placing judgment and blame on our thoughts and actions and holding ourselves to nearly impossibly high standards. Emotional and mental self-harm can create turmoil within our relationships, affecting our self-esteem and putting up roadblocks to the path of recovery. When we do not prioritize our own needs to live a healthy life and stay on the path to recovery, we engage in self-sabotage. Instead, we should make a conscious effort to engage in self-compassion and practice self-care daily. 

 

Daily self-care routines:

  • Establish healthy boundaries: You will meet many people throughout your recovery journey who will support you, but you will also meet others who will bring you down and potentially compromise your sobriety. To establish and maintain healthy boundaries, it is important to learn how to respectfully and politely say “no” to others, avoid compromising situations that can jeopardize your recovery, and engage only with people who genuinely support your recovery. 
  • Make physical health your priority: It is easy to hit the snooze button on our alarm, skip breakfast, and rush out the door to start the day. It is just as easy to stay up late and eat junk food. Our physical health is essential to maintain our emotional and mental health. When we jeopardize our physical health by not eating a blanched diet, not moving our bodies, or not maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, we are likely to become irritated, exhausted, and engage in self-harm behaviors such as negative self-talk. It is crucial to keep a healthy sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time, and getting at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Drinking three liters of water a day and taking time to prepare balanced nutritious meals are important ways to nourish your body. Regular daily exercise can help you build and maintain physical strength, and it also releases endorphins that can boost your mood and combat stress.   
  • Get outside: We spend the majority of our day indoors, whether it is at home, work, school, or in the car. Taking a few minutes to breathe fresh air and get into the outdoors can help us recharge and have some time to ourselves. Whether you choose to eat a meal outside, go for a walk around the block, take the dog for a run or take a couple of work calls outdoors, the combination and fresh air and sunlight can be beneficial to your daily routine. 
  • Repeat positive thoughts: Create one positive thought about yourself and repeat it each day. Whether you are proud of a work project you completed, reached a milestone in your recovery, or made a new friend, it is important to acknowledge these positive thoughts and little wins along the way. Whatever it may be, take time to appreciate yourself each day. Positive thinking and affirmations can be the best forms of self-care. 
  • Do something every day that brings you pleasure: Whether it is drinking a good cup of coffee, eating your favorite chocolate, spending ten minutes reading a book, going for a run, putting on makeup, or listening to your favorite song; make sure that you are spending time engaging in something that brings you joy. Little moments of joy can happen anywhere, regardless if you are at work, running errands, or cleaning your house, but you may have to create space and time for these moments to happen. 

 

 

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” 

— Maya Angelou

The Dangers of “Mommy Needs Wine”

Frazzled mother in bed with her child and with a glass of wine appearing exhausted

Mothers are constantly bombarded by messages that booze, a more than $252-billion-dollar industry in the U.S., is indispensable to our survival as parents. Mommy needs wine to get through the day.

Or do we?

It’s time to change the narrative around parenthood and alcohol as the “mommy needs wine” culture is growing larger by the second.

The dangers associated with alcohol as a parenting coping tool are more serious than society’s painted pictures. It is nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing memes of “mothers little helper” and an image of a wine bottle. Of course, parenting is challenging, and some days, you may feel defeated, exhausted, and emotionally run down; however, turning to alcohol as a consistent coping tool not only is dangerous to your mental and physical health but it can impair your parenting skills and send the wrong idea to your child. Our children grow up watching our every move. They repeat what we say, mirror our actions, and pick up any subtle behaviors, even when we think they are not watching. Children are sponges, so when we reach for that glass of wine to take the edge off, our children see us. We are subconsciously telling our children that we need alcohol to cope, and we must self-medicate to tolerate them.

 

“A January 2020 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that alcohol-related deaths among women in the U.S. rose 85 percent between 1999 and 2017, with the largest increase among non-Hispanic white women”.

 

Responsible drinking vs. “mommy needs wine”

There is a fine line between responsible social drinking and numbing yourself with booze to deal with being a parent. There is a difference between having a glass of wine at dinner or meeting your girlfriends for an occasional outing and sharing a bottle of wine compared to needing a drink on a daily basis in order to deal with the stress of parenthood. If you are wondering which side of the line you fall on, think about the following questions:

 

  • How often do you drink?
  • Why do you drink?
  • Do you drink as a way to deal with the stress of parenting?
  • Do you drink in front of your children?
  • How often do you drink in front of your children?
  • Do you drive under the influence with children in your car?
  • Do you drink when you become upset with your child?
  • Do you drink with other mom’s while having play dates with your kids?
  • Do you drink to calm your nerves around a screaming baby?

 

Being a mom, especially a new mom can raise feelings of inadequacy, isolation, depression, anxiety, and low-self esteem. You are constantly around children, elbow deep in dirty laundry, diapers, homework, and meal planning. You are trying to maintain your career and juggle parenting at the same time. You rarely have alone time and may feel emotionally and physically exhausted. Motherhood can lead to anxiety and depression, and oftentimes, we use alcohol as a crutch to hide these feelings instead of treating the anxiety and depression.

 

We live in a society where motherhood is portrayed as a beautiful dream full of laughter and love, and although motherhood is a treasured gift, it is hard. We are often not given permission to admit that we are struggling and to talk about our shortcomings and negative feelings associated with motherhood. So many mothers are scared to seek treatment out of fear they will be judged or have their child taken away. Recognizing your feelings and openly talking about them not only is a healthy outlet, but it can open many more conversations among other mothers who are also struggling. But if we hide our feelings and use alcohol as a coping mechanism, we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are potentially hurting our children.

 

Help for mom should not come in the form of mommy juice

Mommy doesn’t need wine. We need healthy outlets and help. Help should come in the form of loved ones and supportive partners, encouragement to develop healthy self-care routines, and affordable access to mental health and addiction services. We should be allowed to recognize and admit that no matter how strong or successful we are, we cannot do it all. We need time for ourselves; we need time away from our children, we need others to help us.

  • Hire a babysitter or find someone to watch your children so you can have alone time, even if you don’t leave the house. You should not feel obligated to be with your child every single day.
  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and challenges with other parents. You may be surprised how many other moms and dads relate to your story
  • Develop a self-care routine. Take a shower every day, exercise, adopt a healthy sleep routine, take a day off, read a book and engage with others. Just because you are a mom doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your individuality.

 

Seek help 

If you are feeling an overwhelming amount of stress, isolation, depression, or anxiety and are using alcohol to numb the pain, it is important that you seek professional mental health treatment. The consequences of alcoholism as a parent can be dangerous not only for your own well-being but for the well-being of your child. You are at risk of endangering your child and passing on the genetic risk of alcoholism to your offspring. Professional treatment can help you recognize your underlying triggers and help identify and adopt ways to overcome the stress associated with parenthood.

 

Quest 2 Recovery: Center for Addiction and Mental Health

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to those who are struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. We want you to be a better role model and parent to your child. If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you. We at Quest2Recovery, want to treat you, the individual, and not just your disorder. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

Celebrating the New Year in Sobriety

Ocean wave washing over 2020 as 2021 appears in the sand

As 2020 comes to an end, and as we gear up to enter 2021, many of us are left feeling confused, empty, stressed, and exhausted as this year has been one of the most challenging years in current history. The global pandemic has taken too many lives and livelihoods to count. Many of us no longer trust our government leaders. Neighbors and friends have pinned themselves against each other because of our opposing views on COVID-19. This pandemic has led to a mental health and addiction crisis. We have consumed more alcohol than normal, we have turned to drugs and the bottle to soothe our pain and we may even have lost our sobriety due to the insurmountable amount of stress and devastation that we, as a society have experienced. But with difficult challenges, devastations and hardships come growth, new beginnings, and strength. For those of us who have slipped out of sobriety or who have given up in our recovery, a new year means that we have a chance to begin again. For those of us who became addicted to drugs or alcohol for the first time, 2021 can be a chance to enter into recovery. We have a chance to celebrate a New Year in sobriety, so let’s take it.

Reflect on your journey

Now that 2020 is nearly in the rearview mirror, we can take time to reflect on this past year by expressing gratitude for our accomplishments and by taking accountability for our mistakes. Maybe we stayed strong in our recovery and if so, we should celebrate. Or maybe we relapsed or were in the deepest throes of our addiction. Whatever we encountered in 2020, whether good or bad, we should take this time to reflect, learn, celebrate, and set new goals. After all, without failure, we cannot have success and without success, we will never have growth. 

Find your tribe

Social gatherings quickly turned into virtual gatherings through this past year and many of us lost loved ones and friends due to this pandemic, due to different political views, and due to the sorrows of addiction. Whether it is remembering old friends, making new friends, and/or strengthening the bonds we already have with our friends, 2021 should be a year of focusing on embracing a strong support group. Without support from others, we cannot be successful in recovery in this upcoming year as successful recovery takes a village and we need to work on rebuilding and strengthening that village. 

Take accountability

Part of having a New Year in sobriety means taking accountability for our actions, whether good or bad. 

  • Find an accountability partner: Most treatment centers emphasize the importance of having an accountability partner; an individual who understands our struggle, supports our efforts, and refuses to be an enabler. It’s not just about having someone to turn to when we are feeling a trigger. Having an accountability partner also helps us tackle the detrimental effects of secrecy and isolation while sticking to our accountability decision.
  • Create a personal accountability statement/journal: Write down why you are choosing to be accountable for your sobriety and what the risks will be if you do not keep that promise to yourself.
  • Learn your triggers and create healthy coping skills to handle them
  • Find assistive technologies that work for you: Online support platforms and smartphone apps have opened many new doors to easy and economical ways to track our sobriety status and stay connected to those who can support our recovery. 
  • Consider entering addiction treatment: Being successful in our sobriety and recovery in 2021 means that we should ask for help if we have not already. Although there is no “cure” for addiction, there are many steps and coping skills we can adopt to stay in recovery. Addiction treatment will give you the necessary steps to enter recovery. After all, we need mental health and addiction professionals to guide us through our journey, and by investing in an addiction treatment center in 2021, we are not only investing in our recovery but we are also investing in ourselves. 
  • Celebrate your successes, even the small ones
  • Share your successes with others 

Set goals for the coming year

Making New Year’s resolutions is a perfect opportunity to make goals for this coming year. Whether it is connecting with more people, taking more time to yourself, learning a new hobby, moving your body more, or joining an addiction recovery support group, setting new goals can help keep you accountable in 2021.

Ring in the New Year in sobriety

New Year’s Eve is often celebrated with friends and alcohol, however, this does not have to be the case, especially for those who are in recovery or who are choosing to stay sober for any other reason. New Year’s Eve can mean game nights, sleeping under the stars in a tent, cooking an elaborate dinner at home with friends, watching a movie, or having a sober party. 

Quest 2 Recovery: Center for Addiction and Mental Health

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to those who are struggling this holiday season and throughout this pandemic. We want to see you succeed in your recovery journey in the New Year. If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you. We at Quest2Recovery, want to treat you, the individual, and not just your disorder. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

Addiction Recovery During the Holidays

Holiday candles to light the room

This holiday season is especially unprecedented as we navigate through a global pandemic. This pandemic has taken lives and livelihoods and has severely damaged the economy while testing everyone’s mental health and sobriety. Addiction recovery during the holidays can be especially challenging as holiday parties and alcohol often surround us and this holiday season is no different. This holiday season, we are told to stay home, avoid family gatherings but now restaurants and stores are delivering alcohol to our doorsteps, making the temptation to drink even greater, especially if we are struggling with loneliness and depression. Staying home for the holidays can be challenging, especially for those who usually spend this time of year gathering and celebrating with loved ones. After all, we as humans are social creatures and we need to be around others for our mental and emotional wellness. This time of year is also difficult for those who are struggling with loss, financial hardships, and strained family relationships as the holiday season can be a reminder of all of these things. So how can we take better care of ourselves during this holiday season while living this pandemic?

Holiday survival guide for addiction

Addiction recovery and the holidays can be a challenging combination, especially if we are struggling with isolation, depression, and recovery. However, with the right mindset, healthy coping tools, and support groups; we can learn to adapt and grow during this time of year. 

Your sobriety is your priority: Your recovery is a lifelong process and is the most important aspect of your life. As a result, you must continue to honor your recovery by working the steps, connecting with strong role models, leaning on your support system, and eliminating any distractions or negativity that can interfere with your sobriety. This also means taking care of your mental health as mental health and addiction often go hand-in-hand. Take notice of your emotions and thoughts as you move through this holiday season. If you find that you are having troubling thoughts and negative emotions, write them down and try to find a pattern of any underlying triggers. It could be stress, negative people in your life, putting yourself in unhealthy situations, or loneliness. 

Stay in treatment: Maybe you finished your detoxification and inpatient treatment and are on the road to recovery or maybe you are still in treatment. Regardless of where you are on your recovery path, it is important to continue treatment whether it is outpatient teletherapy treatment once a week, outpatient group treatment, or residential treatment. Keeping in contact with your addiction or mental health therapist can help you brush up on your coping skills and the tools you need to be successful in recovery, especially around this time of year. The holiday season, especially this year, is not the time to take a break from treatment, regardless of where you are on your recovery journey. 

Get connected: Your support group is extremely important throughout your recovery process and even more so during this holiday season. Lean in on your friends, family, and fellow recovery peers for advice, comfort, and companionship. Engaging with a community recovery group is also helpful to connect with like-minded individuals who are going through a similar journey. During this pandemic, take advantage of virtual technology to engage with your support group and your friends. Programs such as FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and other free video calling platforms are important to be able to connect with individuals face-to-face while you are sheltering at home during this pandemic. 

Get outside: Mother Nature is healing and spending time outdoors can help clear your mind and gain focus. Whether it is taking a walk, having a social distance picnic gathering at a park, camping, skiing, hiking, or going for a bike ride or run; take time each day to get outdoors. If you combine physical fitness with outdoor activity, that is even more beneficial as moving your body is a healthy coping skill that can help you in your recovery. Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and be a form of meditation. 

Quest 2 Recovery: Center for Addiction and Mental Health

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to those who are struggling this holiday season and throughout this pandemic. Addiction recovery during the holidays is important not only for your sobriety but also for your mental health. If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you. We at Quest2Recovery, want to treat you, the individual, and not just your disorder. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

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”.