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.

Men’s Health Month: Masculinity and Mental Health

According to research, men are less likely to seek mental health services compared to their female counterparts. One of the factors that contribute to this underuse of seeking professional help is masculinity norms.

June is Men’s Health Month; a month dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems and encourages early detection and treatment of diseases among men and boys. It is well understood that men are less likely to focus on their physical and mental health due to toxic masculinity that has been ingrained in society for hundreds of years. As a result, men often suffer from depression and anxiety in silence and turn to illicit drugs and alcohol as negative coping mechanisms and ways to numb their pain.

The silent health crisis

  • There is a silent health crisis happening among men in the United States.
  • The Men’s Health Network reports that men die at higher rates than women due to these top 10 causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • Men are less likely than women to see a physician
  • Men are more likely to be uninsured compared to women
  • Approximately 30,0000 men in the United States die from prostate cancer each year
  • Prostate cancer and skin cancers are the most common types of cancer in men.
  • Sexual dysfunction is a common health problem in men that can lead to an array of psychological setbacks such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
  • Sexual dysfunction is usually caused by atherosclerosis, the same process that causes heart attacks and strokes.
  • Men also die at a younger age compared to women.
  • In 1920, women outlived men only by one year. Today, CDC figures show the life expectancy gap has widened: Today, on average, women survive men by over five years.
  • Many men believe that as long as they are working and feel good, there is no need to see a doctor.

Men’s mental health matters

Mental health is a major component of a man’s well-being, and unfortunately, men’s mental health is often silenced in society. There is a catastrophic intersection of low rates of diagnosed depression and high rates of suicide and substance abuse among the U.S. male population. Men are more likely to use substances, at greater quantities, and are two to five times more likely than women to develop a substance use disorder (SAMSHA). Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more prevalent in men (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Men chronically use nonmedical opioids at twice the rate of women (even though women are prescribed them more often), and more men die of prescription drug overdoses than women (CDC). Men are more likely to use external methods to cope with the inward turmoil and pain caused by depression. Men often deal with depression by over-working. They also self-medicate by turning to substances such as drugs and alcohol as a way to avoid dealing with depression and anxiety.

The connection between toxic masculinity and substance abuse

Toxic masculinity refers to actions that discourage displays of emotion, other than anger, in men while also encouraging behavior that will deem the male “dominant” in a given situation. Even as children, young boys who express feelings are compared to girls in a negative context. Common responses to young males who become emotional include:

  • Boys don’t cry!
  • Man up!
  • Don’t be such a baby!
  • Don’t cry like a girl!
  • Be a man, get over it!
  • You throw like a girl!

Displaying traits of toxic masculinity can lead to numerous negative outcomes and adherence to rigid masculine norms may lead to:

  • Problems with dating and interpersonal intimacy
  • Greater depression and anxiety
  • Abuse of substances
  • Problems with interpersonal violence (sexual assault, spousal abuse)
  • Greater health risk (high blood pressure)
  • Greater overall psychological distress

Recovering from toxic masculinity

All recovery is a lifelong process, whether you are recovering from drugs, alcohol, codependency, or toxic masculinity. In fact, beyond these specific issues, every human life is truly one long recovery process. Born into a world that conditions fear and separation, we emerge as adults who are disconnected from our power, from our goodness, from each other. Once we recognize that there is a truer way of being, beneath what we were taught, every day is a chance to restore a bit more of our perspective from fear to love. Every moment is a chance to remember the truth of who we are: Whole, sacred beings who inherently deserve love and care.

Breaking the stigma

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to men who are struggling internally and who are using illicit substances and alcohol to number their pain. Men want to be respected, men want to provide for their family, men want to work hard, men want to stay healthy, and men want to be loyal to their friends. If you are a male and 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.

LGBTQ Pride Month

Stigma, Addiction, and Mental Health within the LGBTQ Community

“Like racism and all forms of prejudice, bigotry against LGBTQ people is a deadly carcinogen. We are pitted against each other in order to keep us from seeing each other as allies. Genuine bonds of solidarity can be forged between people who respect each other’s differences and are willing to fight their enemy together. We are the class that does the work of the world, and can revolutionize it. We can win true liberation.”

-Leslie Feinberg

 

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ are more at risk for substance use and mental health disorders compared to the heterosexual cis community. As we dive deep into LGBTQ Pride Month, it is important to honor this minority community and gain a deeper understanding of why these individuals are at a higher risk for addiction and mental health concerns. We want to eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and mental health in this special community, and we want to break down the barriers to entering treatment.

 

LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated every June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots took place in New York after the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. This raid sparked a six-day violent protest between the community and law enforcement and catalyzed gay rights across the globe. As with many minorities, the LGBTQ community is marginalized and stigmatized and often discriminated against, causing this community stress and anxiety. In recent years, we have made giant steps forward in terms of equal rights for the LGBTQ population, but there is still enormous progress to be made as we move forward and eliminate the stigma.

 

Taking a look at the statistics

  • Among all U.S. adults aged 18 and over, 96.6% identify as straight, 1.6% as gay or lesbian, 0.7% as bisexual, and the remaining 1.1% as “something else.”
  • 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.
  • An estimated 20-30% of LGBT individuals abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population. 25% of LGBT individuals abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.
  • Approximately 8 percent of LGBT individuals and nearly 27 percent of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
  • More than 1 in 5 LGBT individuals reported withholding information about their sexual practices from their doctor or another health care professional.
  • LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm than straight youths.
  • LGBTQ individuals are almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
  • The LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for suicide because they lack peer support and face harassment, mental health conditions, and substance abuse.
  • Compared with heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime full syndrome bulimia, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder.
  • 25% of LGBT people abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.
  • An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population.
  • The LGBT community is at a higher risk of bullying and has even been the center points for violent attacks.

 

Why are substance abuse and mental health disorders so much higher in the LGBTQ population?

 

  • Stress: The LGBTQ community and other minority communities are under constant stress and tension. Our society does not view them as equal, and as a result, they are continuously enduring social prejudice. Whether it is in public, in the workplace, in relationships, in their family, or within the political system, the LGBTQ community struggles with being seen and heard. Often, their family members and close friends will disown them because of their sexual orientation. This community is at risk of loneliness, stress, and discrimination, and as a result, they are more likely to use alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with their feelings. Drowning out rejection, sorrow, and depression with alcohol or heroin can be a temporary unhealthy Band-Aid to relieve their internal pain. With increasing use, this can turn into a habit, which can quickly snowball into an addiction.
  • Stigma: The stigma associated with identifying, as LGBTQ, is unfortunately still very real and powerful. This community is often brutalized, isolated, and harmed simply because of how they choose to identify with their sexuality. The stigma associated with addiction and mental illness is still prominent today. When a member of the LGBTQ community is struggling with depression or an opioid use disorder, the stigma rises exponentially, putting this community at risk of even more rejection, isolation, low self-esteem, and physical threats of violence.
  • Limited access to treatment: Unfortunately, many therapists and treatment centers are not aware of the specific issues that the LGBTQ community faces. Nor can they relate to this community for the following reasons: their cultural norms conflict with this community, they do not recognize this community is a high risk, and fail to look past the client’s gender and sexual orientation. As a result, members of the LGBTQ community are less likely to seek out treatment for their substance use and mental health disorders out of fear that they will experience discrimination, worsening stigma, and lack of being understood by their providers.

 

Resources for the LGBTQ community 

 

Breaking the mold

As treatment providers and mental health specialists, we can do better. We can educate ourselves about the LGBTQ community and try to understand their views, opinions, and internal struggles. We can learn the proper vocabulary and erase the hateful jargon that is often used to stigmatize this population. We can create LGBTQ, specialized treatment programs that are inclusive, empowering, and educational for this population.

 

If you are part of the LGBTQ community and 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.

Feelings of Hope During COVID-19

Feeling of Hope: What We Will Never Take For Granted Again

 

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted: 

A handshake with a stranger

 Full shelves at the store

 Conversations with the neighbors

 A crowded theatre

 Friday night out

 The taste of communion

 A routine checkup

 The school rush each morning

 Coffee with a friend

 The stadium roaring

 Each deep breath

 A boring Tuesday

 Life itself

 

When this ends: 

 May we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be, and may we stay that way, better for each other because of the worst.”

– Laura Kelly Fanucci

 

There is no telling when this global pandemic will come to an end. Millions of us are unemployed, thousands of us are sick, and many of us are fearful of the unknown. We are scared of the virus, terrified of the effects it will have on our economy and our mental health. Many of us are forced to work on the front lines while others have the luxury of staying home. There may never be a return to normal, a new normal is on the horizon, but what is a new normal? Will we always have to wear masks in public? Will we still be bumping elbows instead of shaking hands? Will we always be encouraged to practice social distancing? There are so many unknowns that have driven unwanted fear, hate, anxiety, stress, and sadness. But there is also so much hope that has brought into the world because of this global pandemic. 

 

We have adapted

We have learned to communicate virtually through social media and video conferencing. We have clapped for each other, sang with each other, and cheered for each other on our balconies to communicate, “we are still here.” We have become accustomed to masks in public and keeping our distance, six feet to be exact, as a courtesy to protect others. We have visited our doctors and therapists via computers and phone calls, and we have learned to take advantage of curbside pickup and delivery. Our lives and circumstances have changed drastically, but we have not given up. Instead, we have learned to adapt. 

 

We have come together in community

It is not uncommon to see groceries left on doorsteps, encouraging chalk art on the sidewalks, artwork hanging in windows, people volunteering to run errands for the sick and weak, people donating their time and money to help others. Celebrities have provided free virtual comedy shows, concerts, and entertainment to the public. The rich and famous have donated large sums of money to help develop a vaccine and medications to fight COVID-19. Politicians have fought hard to provide financial cushions, debt forgiveness, and forbearance to those who qualify. Regardless of our gender, social class, or race, we have all been affected either directly or indirectly from this virus. As a result, we have all learned to come together as a community to lend a helping hand and choose hope and happiness

 

We have slowed down

Travel has been postponed, vacations and sporting events canceled, our social calendars have been cleared, and we have been asked to stay home from work and play. We have learned to appreciate the comfort of our homes, the company of our immediate families, and the value of time. We spend more time nourishing our bodies with home-cooked meals and virtual living room workouts. We can now sip our morning coffee with ease, enjoy long conversations with loved ones, take time to read books, listen to music, and watch the seasons change with ease. We are no longer running the rat race, stuck in traffic on the freeway, and trying to “get ahead of the game”. We are slowing down, reflecting, and taking the time we need to rejuvenate our bodies and minds. 

 

We have practiced kindness

Whether its running errands for strangers, dropping off food for our loved one, supporting our front line workers, or donated to those in financial need, so many of us have gone above and beyond to practice kindness during this trying time. Generosity and kindness are beneficial to our happiness and mental health. Kindness is linked inextricably to joy and contentment, at both psychological and spiritual levels. 

 

We have become resilient 

Everyone has been affected by COVID in one-way or another. Whether we have succumbed to physical illness, mental turmoil, or have reaped the financial repercussions from job loss and the economy, COVID-19 has done a number on our society. However, we are still standing. This is not the first time our society has survived a global pandemic, and more than likely, it will not be the last. We have found ways to keep going, even when reality seems grim. We are strong and resilient, and we have shown that through these trying times. We are finding ways to occupy our time, to entertain each other, to connect, and to make ends meet. 

 

We have asked for help

Many of us are stubborn in the sense that we take pride in being independent and strong. Many of us view asking for help as a weakness when, in fact, asking for help is a sign of strength. Asking for help shows humility, reveals the value in teamwork, and shows that we are trying to learn and gain different perspectives. Asking for help, in the long run, makes us smarter, broadens our horizons, and can do wonders for our mental health. Many of us have asked for help during COVID in more ways that one. We have asked for help financially, we have asked strangers, neighbors, and friends for favors and errands, and we have asked for help from our government, family members, frontline workers, and professionals. Sometimes asking for help can be difficult, especially if we are natural leaders, self-sufficient, and strong-willed, but asking for help during COVID has shown the importance of teamwork, humility, and the willingness for change. 

 

 

 

During this trying time, our world has come together to support each other. We have adapted to change, strengthened our communities, offered our helping hands, portrayed kindness, learned to be still, and have become more resilient than ever. It is easy to see the hardships and adverse effects of COVID-19, but even through the darkness, we can still have feelings of hope. Hope for the future, hope for our health, and hope for the next generations to come.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Staying Mentally Healthy During COVID-19

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and self-care, eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health disorders, and educating the public on the importance of routine mental health care. Mental health goes beyond the scope of diagnosing and treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Mental health also includes being aware of our moods, our thought patterns, our social connections, our ability to solve problems, our ability to overcome tricky hurdles, and our ability to comprehend and navigate the world around us.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our mental health can positively or negatively affect many areas of our life including our professional life, our home life, our social life, our sleep and eating patterns, our energy levels, our ability to think clearly, and how we feel about ourselves.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

Our mental health is a fluid state of equilibrium between our innermost workings and the outside environment. 

Taking care of our mental health during a pandemic

For many, COVID-19 has been a trying time. Many of us have struggled with staying home and keeping our distance from our friends and family. Many of us are struggling financially due to the economy shutdown or job loss, and many of us are struggling to find peace amongst this stressful time. We are struggling to find a healthy daily routine, we are struggling to find happiness, and we are struggling to find purpose. There are so many unknowns during this time of uncertainty, which can negatively affect our mental health by leading us to feelings of anxiety, anger, or depression.

We must take care of ourselves both mentally and physically, especially during this trying time.

Ways to practice kindness towards ourselves to take care of our minds, bodies, and souls:

  • Connect with others: Even though we are practicing social distancing and we may feel physically isolated from our friends, family, and neighbors, we can still connect virtually. Staying connected with our friends and family is essential for our well being as healthy social connections are known to improve our mood and boost our self-esteem. There are many great virtual platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and Face Time that can help us connect with our friends, family, and coworkers. Virtual game nights, virtual storytime, virtual birthdays parties, and celebrations are all great ways to stay connected with each other, while still respecting the social distancing orders.
  • Nourish your body: The body and mind are tightly connected, and therefore physical health is a huge component of mental health, especially during stressful times. Learning new recipes, cooking at home, eating nutritious whole foods, daily exercise, drinking plenty of water, and getting eight uninterrupted hours of sleep each night are all crucial ways to nourish our bodies so we can have a healthy mind.
  • Sharpen your mind: While many of us are at home during COVID-19, we may find that we have more free time. We can spend this free time learning a new hobby, reading a book, working on home improvement projects, and completing unfinished tasks. Learning new things, reading, completing puzzles, and working on arts and crafts are all great ways to exercise our brains. Mental stimulation is anything that activates or enriches the mind. Stimulation can be provided internally from thought or externally from the environment. Education, occupation, social and leisure activities are all essential contributors to mental stimulation. Enriching mental activity can help improve our memory and problem-solving skills, which are essential skills to have when we must focus on our mental health.
  •  Continue therapy: Mental health is more than a mental health disorder. It encompasses our thought patterns, our behaviors, our relationships, and our self-esteem. Even if we are not diagnosed with a mental health disorder, many of us can benefit from professional therapy.
  • Maybe we are experiencing a stressful time or a loss in the family. Perhaps we are more sad than usual or are struggling with finding a healthy way to cope. Therapy is an integral part of taking care of our mental health, especially during COVID-19.
  • Adopt a daily routine: Getting into a routine is essential. It helps us focus, helps us stay busy, and helps us be productive. When our habits are thrown off, we can often find ourselves in a rut or feeling bored or depressed. Our daily COVID-19 routine could be much different than before, but it is still important to adopt a regular daily schedule so we can continue to feel good about ourselves.

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”.