PTSD and the Lifelong Road to Recovery

This blog is written by John D. Ivanisin III, a Quest 2 Recovery alumni. On May 17th, 2020 he celebrated one year of sobriety.

Introduction

I grew up in a small town outside of Hartford, Connecticut. My parents raised me, my brother, and sister together until they separated in 1995 when I was 11 years old. From what I can remember, I had a fairly happy childhood. There was no abuse going on in my home, my parents were both sober and in recovery for alcohol and prescription drugs. Things seemed to be normal until they sat us children down and told us they would be separating. Their separation lasted around five years. Within that time frame, I moved homes about 10 times; in the same town, to and from my father’s house. It was also during this time that I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I started smoking marijuana, which eventually led to trying other harder drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine. My drinking always seemed to bother me because my father was a recovering alcoholic and I did not want to go down the same path. I eventually stopped using all drugs and alcohol on my own, so I could get my life together and join the US Marine Corps.

My Life in the Marine Corps

On December 19, 2003 I enlisted into the delayed entry program of the United States Marine Corps. On February 9th the following year, I went to boot camp. After boot camp, I completed combat training, and parachute rigger school. Then, I was sent to my first duty station in Okinawa, Japan. I had just turned 20 years old when I got there. Because we were in a foreign country, there was a curfew for all junior Marines. This left a lot of idle time, which led to boredom, and eventually to starting drinking underage in the military, which is illegal. Luckily, I never got caught drinking before finally turning 21. When I turned of age, it was on. I would drink as much as I could just about everyday for several months, until my lack of attendance at work started to raise some concerns, and my command mandated that I attend classes for alcohol abuse. I had been in the military less than a year at this point. I spent the next nine years of my life in the military deploying twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. After these deployments, which lasted 7 months a piece, my drinking continued to go through cycles of good times and really bad times, though I never really felt like I couldn’t control my drinking. I was a Marine and there was nothing I couldn’t control. I was invincible and the roughest, toughest guy out there. I didn’t need AA or rehab, I just needed everyone to stay out of my business so I could handle my problems the way I knew best, which of course, was to drink. Nobody knew what was best for me except for me. In October of 2012, I was arrested for driving under the influence. I blew a .159 BAC. I got lucky and was never charged by the military, and due to my moving to Florida, the Honolulu Superior court decided not to prosecute, and dropped all charges in 2018.

Life After the Military

In 2013, I was honorably discharged from active duty. My mother and stepfather bought a house in Florida, so I decided to move there with them and start my new life as a civilian. I met my wife in 2014, and in 2015 we moved to California, where we currently reside with our two children. In my early days in California, my drinking started to increase because I was working as a DJ at some of the local bars. As I drank more, I started snorting cocaine to be able to keep drinking. For about a year, I was spending around $1,700 a month on cocaine. All the money I earned from DJing went to drugs and more drugs. I had other sources of income, so nobody really knew how much I was spending, except for me and my dealer. In December of 2017, after being out of the military for four years, I was finally diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression disorder and substance abuse disorder.

Quest 2 Recovery

My last night using drugs and alcohol was May 16th,  2019. I blacked out from drinking and taking Xanax, and drove myself to a bar where I was ultimately carried out of an hour after arriving. I remember waking up soaked in my own urine at about 4 am and immediately started making phone calls to find more cocaine. I left to go get it and did not return home until about 5pm later that day, despite my wifes and friends’ efforts to get me to come home. When I arrived at my house, my wife said that she was going to be moving back to Florida if I did not stop drinking, so I agreed to go to rehab. I just wanted to die at that time and end all the pain, but I got online and started googling rehab facilities near me. Quest 2 Recovery was the closest place to where I lived, so I figured I would call them first. I spoke to Armen Melikyan, the co-founder of Quest, and he gave me some information on the program, and also asked a few questions. He then told me someone would be in contact within the next 15 minutes. Sure enough, the Clinical Director and Therapist for Quest, Amber Carra, called me and talked to me for a while discussing treatment options and whether or not I was serious about getting sober; I was. I arrived at the facility at about 9 pm that same night. The facility was nothing like what I had pictured in my head. I was expecting a big white hospital, with white padded rooms, and security guards in white scrubs, walking around with billy clubs like I’d seen in some movies. I had never been to rehab, so I was shocked when I pulled up to a normal house. The facility was beautiful, the staff were friendly and very supportive. Quest is dedicated to their military and first-responder clients, and they made that very clear at the start. I was treated well upon arrival and made to feel like I mattered to someone.

What Quest Did for Me

During my time at Quest, I was able to focus on myself and getting healthy again. There were no outside distractions that kept me from getting better. The staff and fellow clients at Quest helped  show me that I can have a good life without alcohol or drugs. Through therapy, I was able to address some of the issues that I had been dealing with for a long time. I was able to really take the time to find out who I am, and what I want out of life. I could not have quit drinking and using drugs on my own. I needed a place to feel safe and comfortable in order to get better, and Quest was the miracle that saved me. Some of the important things I gained from my time at Quest are finding my higher power, feeling the sense of relief when I figured out that I am not alone, and that there were many people just like me going through the same things that I struggle with. I also learned that a positive outlook, even in bad situations, can really make all the difference. Having a clear head to make decisions has changed my life entirely for the better.

A Message to Veterans

The hardest thing I had to do in my recovery was make that first phone call to Quest 2 Recovery, and decide that it was time to end the insanity that I called my life. Recovery is not something that you just get, it requires as much effort as getting through boot camp, if not more. But there is peace, serenity, and happiness that can be attained if you are willing to put in the effort. I did not believe it until I began to experience it for myself. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous were truly a cornerstone of my recovery after Quest. I know how difficult it can be to reach out for help, but asking for help essentially saved my life and my marriage. If you are a veteran or a first responder, Quest is the place to go to get better. It was nothing like I imagined, in fact it was the complete opposite. My 30 day stay at Quest was honestly some of the most beautiful days of my life, and it has only gotten better since then. Getting the help you need can mean the difference in life and death. I did not want to live, I didn’t think there was anything worth living for, but I am typing this letter to you now being sober for over one year. It has not been the easiest thing I have ever done, but it has been worth every effort that I put in. If I can make one recommendation to anyone out there struggling with addiction and PTSD, it is to never give up. There is a path to happiness, you just have to walk down that path. Take advantage of all the resources that Quest has to offer and be open minded. If you can make the choice to get clean and sober, Quest will do everything they can to get you there and help keep you sober. All you have to do is pick up that phone and call

A Day in the Life of a First Responder in Addiction Treatment

addiction treatment and first responders

Addiction is one of the most pressing issues facing the public health system today. Some people are at a greater risk of developing addiction and mental health disorders than others, such as individuals who are exposed to traumatic events. This includes first responders; the first people to show up at the scene of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or serious crime. 

Most people cannot fathom what first responders see on a daily basis, therefore it’s common for first responders to not know where to turn for help. As a result, they end up coping in unhealthy ways. This is one of the biggest reasons why first responders end up developing mental health and substance abuse disorders at a higher rate than the average population. For this reason, there are specific addiction treatment centers that focus on the treatment of first responders.

What Does Addiction Treatment Look Like for First Responders?

If someone has been enrolled in addiction treatment for a first responder, the day is going to follow a typical framework. At a residential inpatient facility, the morning will involve a healthy breakfast which can include a mix of meat, grains, and fruit. Then early meetings are going to take place. Meditation, yoga, or other wellness activities are common during this time. After, group meetings are going to take place where first responders can learn from the experiences of others. There will usually be a counselor or therapist leading the group. They help someone learn about the treatment process, addiction, and recovery. 

After lunch, there are usually one on one therapy sessions. These sessions are going to be tailored to meet the needs of the individual. For example, someone will participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, an effective method used in the treatment of addiction. This treatment therapy focuses on identifying people’s individual responses to triggers. This will also help prevent relapses from taking place. 

Others may participate in specialized sessions. These can be tailored to help someone deal with grief or stress management. More group therapy is also offered at this time of the day or family therapy, helping someone rebuild his or her relationships.

During free time, first responders have the option to enroll in alternative types of therapy. Art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, exercise therapies, and equine therapy, are all great options for first responders.

Dealing with Mental Health Issues for First Responders

One of the major issues that accompanies addiction in first responders is the development of mental health disorders. Two of the most common mental health disorders that first responders develop are:

PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is one of the most common mental health disorders that develops among first responders. Symptoms include flashbacks, emotional lability, crying fits, trouble sleeping, and anger issues. People suffering from PTSD encounter triggers that transport them back to the scene of the event. PTSD is best addressed by trained professionals who know how to handle these delicate issues.

Depression: Depression is another mental health disorder that develops among first responders. People with depression often have trouble sleeping, feel guilty about past events, experience changes in appetite, and have issues finding enjoyment in activities that previously put a smile on their faces. Depression can be addressed by a well-rounded treatment approach that involves counseling, therapy, and medication. Of course, it’s up to the discretion of trained professionals about what medicine and therapy should be prescribed. 

How To Find Addiction Treatment for First Responders

It’s critical for anyone who is suffering from mental health or addiction disorders to find treatment. There are a number of ways first responders can find treatment. First, it’s always a good idea to talk to friends and family members. They may know people who have sought out treatment in the past. The internet is also a great tool to research different facilities. The best way to see if a treatment center is right for you is by researching and calling the facility to ask questions.

We Can Help You!

At Quest 2 Recovery, we’re a substance abuse and addiction treatment center that provides specialized treatment for first responders. We are located in the beautiful area of Lancaster, CA. We blend proven therapies with an innovative approach. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, please contact us today. We would be honored to help you with your healthcare needs and we’d like to thank you for your service. 

How Neurotherapy can help with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, which is often shortened to PTSD, is a significant problem that impacts countless people across the country. Individuals can develop PTSD following a car accident, a traumatic experience, childhood trauma, or even experiences related to combat. Those who suffer from PTSD are often subjected to flashbacks that might be triggered at any time. Symptoms of PTSD often include shakes, sleepless nights, emotional lability, depression, anxiety, and changes in appetite. The quality of life issues that are created by PTSD can make it hard for someone to go to school, hold down a job, or even carry out their daily routine. Therefore, it is important for everyone to understand the various treatment options available for PTSD. Individuals who suffer from this disorder are often asked to take prescription medications. Unfortunately, these medications can also have serious side effects. This is where Neurotherapy can be helpful.

An Overview of Neurotherapy and Neurofeedback for PTSD

Neurotherapy has become a popular treatment option for those who suffer from PTSD. In this treatment, an EEG machine is used to monitor brain function. Using this machine, medical professionals are able to track what is going on inside someone’s head. This machine will be used to track the improvement of the various functions of the brain three series of exercises. Even though this technology is incredibly advanced, the treatment of PTSD using this process is straightforward. Furthermore, it is also painless and noninvasive, which is a nice change of pace from other treatment options.

In essence, this treatment option should be viewed as a learning process. Individuals who go through the treatment process for PTSD will be able to learn how to control their brain activity in the same way that any other skill is learned. The same way people learn how to read, write, speak, and eat through practice, individuals will learn how to control the activity of their neurological processes through feedback, patience, practice, and continuous exercise.

Research Studies have Shown Its Effectiveness

This technology has been studied extensively by research professionals. Multiple studies have been completed looking at this treatment option for PTSD and adults. One study even indicated that multiple sessions of Neurotherapy or affective at reducing the symptoms of PTSD in adults. One study was even completed in children. All of the studies have shown that this treatment option takes a promising approach to PTSD. These studies are important because they demonstrate that, even though existing treatments can be quite difficult to tolerate and individuals suffering from PTSD, this treatment option is not invasive, produces minimal side effects, and can still be effective. Sessions of Neurotherapy lasting ten weeks have led to improvements in PTSD symptoms in children and adults on a consistent basis. These treatment sessions have even been performed and individuals on an inpatient basis as well. The versatility of this treatment option only adds to its effectiveness.

The Importance of Controlling Brain Activity

The goal of Neurotherapy is to help someone better control the activity inside their brain. It is this brain activity that often leads to the symptoms of PTSD. Research performed in this field has consistently shown that there are signals that are triggered in the brain that lead to the symptoms of PTSD. EEG studies have been performed that have shown that activity in the cortical regions of the brain is closely related to PTSD; however, not everyone who has PTSD has the same symptoms. Therefore, the brain activity that can lead to PTSD is different from person to person.

This is why neurofeedback must be measured in every patient before any Neurotherapy is started. This will produce a map of someone’s brain so that the individual difficulties can be identified. Then, the treatment program can be tailored to meet the individual needs of that person. This allows the treatment program to be as effective as possible at helping someone control the symptoms of PTSD. By identifying the root of the problem, individuals are provided with a maximized chance of recovering. This is the goal of Neurotherapy and it has the potential to help numerous people.

Rely on Neurotherapy for PTSD

Clearly, Neurotherapy can be helpful for people who suffer from PTSD. Those who suffer from this disorder need to take a well-rounded treatment approach to PTSD. This will provide people with an appropriate chance at reversing the quality-of-life issues that have been created by this worker. Anyone who lives in the Lancaster, California area should rely on Quest 2 Recovery. Quest 2 Recovery offers a wide range of treatment services including inpatient programs and detoxification programs to countless people in the region. Those who would like to learn more about overcoming mental health issues, including PTSD, should check out the latest treatment options from Quest 2 Recovery. Contact us today!