No Plan B

As a millennial man, it's widely understood that when a new episode of The Joe Rogan Experience drops on YouTube, watching it asap is a must. So, when prompted to watch Joe's latest interview with congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), I placed the newest episode of JRE even higher on my priority list. Politics aside, Dan Crenshaw served our country as a Navy SEAL for ten years and completed five tours of duty in the middle east. At one point in the podcast, Joe asked Dan about his training during BUDS, the six-month-long mental and physical test required to become a SEAL. Joe specifically asked Dan to elaborate on the mental aspect of the training and if they taught courses to improve their mindset. Dan responded: "We wouldn't want those courses, frankly. We wouldn't want to do it because the point we try to make is you were a Seal before you got there. We're just making you prove it. But you were already that guy because you never had a choice" You must go through this training with No Plan B. If you ever thought for a second that maybe I could go through buds or maybe I can go through hell week you're never going to make it. You're telling yourself you actually have a choice." Dan continues correlating his No Plan B mental state to other aspects of his life as well. The point the congressman was trying to make is that only you can decide to quit. That's a personal choice, and it means you went into the challenge with other options. As someone in long-term recovery from addiction, the No Plan B state of mind resonates with my first step experience. [...]

Childhood Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

Studies have shown that certain behaviors and environmental factors in childhood can increase the likelihood of substance abuse in adolescence and adulthood.  By understanding the different elements that can culminate in addiction, we can take steps to foster healthy environments for children and prompt early intervention when necessary.   Lack of Parental Supervision One of the most determining influences of the health and wellness of a child is the relationship with their caregivers.  Children need love, attention, and emotional support from the day they are born to develop emotional and mental strength.  This includes having adequate supervision once they become old enough to act independently. Some children are allowed to play and interact with others on their own, in some cases outside the home, from a very young age.  This increases the chance that a child will be exposed to negative influences over which their parents have no control. For example, a child may not witness substance abuse in their own home, but be exposed to these behaviors in the homes of friends and neighbors.  Parents may be unaware of what their child is witnessing or involved in if they don’t take the time to ensure adequate supervision and know everyone their child comes into contact with.  Healthy parental supervision also includes consistent discipline throughout early childhood.  Children crave structure and boundaries and tend to respond best to loving caregivers that expect them to follow rules and understand the difference between right and wrong.  Allowing children to have too much freedom not only increases the probability that they will be exposed to negative influences but can also lead to rebellious behavior as an attempt to seek the attention of a caregiver.  Discipline should start in the [...]

5 Ways to Enjoy Being Sober When Everyone Else is Drinking

For those of us that have struggled with alcohol addiction, many of the real challenges in recovery come after we have completed a treatment program.  While admitting you have a problem and asking for help is a necessary and critical step in your recovery, the situations you will face in the real world during early sobriety will undoubtedly put you to the test and force you to hold yourself accountable.  For many people whose lives once revolved around drinking, it can be difficult to avoid every social, and sometimes professional, event that involves alcohol. While it is important to wait until you are confident in your sobriety before putting yourself in potentially triggering situations, there are some strategies that can make parties and holidays fun and exciting without the alcohol.   Drink Something Delicious Having a drink in your hand is often the first line of defense against pushy friends and colleagues when you are avoiding alcohol.  Try to choose something other than water so that you feel like you are having a treat. A soda or tea works, but a mocktail is even better.  Mocktails can be made to taste like a wide variety of cocktails and served in a fancy glass, only sans alcohol (so they taste even better)! Virgin mojitos are especially tasty and look like the real thing if you are trying to avoid prying questions about your beverage choice.  Of course, always be aware of your triggers and avoid drinking anything that may be too similar to the alcoholic drinks you once favored.  Enjoy Saving Money If you are at a bar or restaurant while the people around you are drinking, try taking a mental note of the cost of each [...]

Mirror Neurons and Addiction

In 1992, researchers discovered uniquely capable cells, which have since been labeled “mirror neurons”, in the brains of monkeys.  These neurons are cells that can be observed responding the same way when a monkey performs an action, as when the monkey observes the action being performed.  For example, mirror neurons will fire when a monkey picks up a banana, and then again when they observe another monkey picking up a banana. More recently, scientists have confirmed that humans have these same neurons, and they may be involved in memory, emotions, and bonding.  There is still much to learn about mirror neurons and how they affect the way we behave and interact with others, but it may be worth considering this scientifically proven tendency to copy and mimic when discussing substance abuse and addiction.  The term “peer pressure” has long been used to describe the situations teenagers often face when it comes to substance abuse.  Adolescence is a difficult time in many ways, and the pressure to fit in can lead to dangerous decisions for many teens. Teens are likely to be confronted with social pressure surrounding drug and alcohol use and may participate to make friends or feel more confident around their peers.  Although less discussed, peer pressure can affect adults just as easily as teenagers, but perhaps in different ways. While adults may be slightly less vulnerable to embarrassment or shaming when deciding whether to do something, spending time in a social group in which everyone else is participating in a particular activity and encouraging you to join in, can have a powerful effect on your behaviors.  Adults are faced with pressure to drink alcohol, for example, at many social and professional functions. Choosing [...]

What Taking it One Day at a Time Really Means

If you or someone you know has participated in a 12-step program for addiction recovery, you have likely heard the common adage about taking sobriety one day at a time.  While this phrase is thrown around frequently in the recovery community, it can be useful to take a step back and determine what these words mean for you and your personal journey.  Often, we hear a familiar phrase or bit of wisdom so many times that the words begin to lose their meaning and we forget the value behind them. In this case, taking your recovery one day at a time continues to be an incredibly powerful tool that carries with it many helpful applications for creating lasting sobriety and a lifetime of wellness. Recommitting Every Day Taking your recovery one day at a time means waking up and recommitting to the process every single day.  This means that despite what stressful circumstances you may be facing in life, and regardless of what happened yesterday, you are making the conscious choice to carry on in your commitment to sobriety.  Sobriety is a choice that you make every day and continue to make for as long as you wish to better yourself and your life after addiction. This includes recommitting to your recovery even when finding hope and motivation is especially difficult, such as after a relapse.  Although relapse can be devastating for you and your loved ones, it is not a reason to beat yourself up or begin to distrust yourself. Instead, relapse can become an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can always pick yourself back up and hold yourself accountable for the creation of a better tomorrow. By always choosing to recommit [...]

Don’t Wait for Rock Bottom

Ask the average person on the street what addiction looks like, and they will most likely give you descriptions of a devastating worst-case scenario.  They might conjure images of a homeless man on a park bench gripping his bottle, or a drug addict passed out with a needle in her arm. While these descriptions are sad realities for a small portion of people struggling with addiction, there are far more cases where addiction is much more subtle, and even invisible.  Unfortunately, there is a commonly perpetuated myth surrounding addiction recovery that a person must “hit rock bottom”, an expression that describes the most devastating consequences of severe addiction, before they can begin the process of recovery. This myth is dangerous and irresponsible, and prevents many people from seeking help when they first begin to question their relationship with drugs or alcohol.  By dismantling this belief, we can begin to stop addiction in its tracks before any irreversible damage is done.  Your Health Can’t Wait People who use drugs recreationally or only drink on the weekends may incorrectly assume that they aren’t going to experience any serious health issues as a result of substance use.  Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately predict what long-term implications drug and alcohol use may have for your physical health. There are many variables that influence when you will begin to see your health decline, and in what ways.  For example, women’s bodies tend to have a harder time metabolizing alcohol, and may be more susceptible to liver damage and heart disease as a result of heavy drinking. Studies have also found a link between common cancers such as breast cancer, and alcohol use.  Alcohol is a carcinogen, and even [...]

5 Tips for Managing Social Anxiety Without Alcohol

One of the most common reasons people begin drinking alcohol is to ease their nerves and give them confidence in social situations.  For people who suffer from social anxiety, events that should be fun and celebratory can induce dread and crippling fear. Unfortunately, because alcohol is so normalized and accessible in our culture, drinking is often the first way sufferers of anxiety learn to self-medicate.  Choosing to drink to manage social anxiety may seem like a temporary fix, but alcohol use worsens symptoms of anxiety over time and can lead to the devastating consequences of addiction. If you commonly use alcohol to relax in social situations, and you are considering becoming sober, you may be wondering how to cope with your anxiety.  Luckily, there are many effective strategies for managing social anxiety that don’t involve an addictive substance. Educate Yourself One of the most empowering strategies for dealing with any form of anxiety, is to learn as much as you can about what anxiety is and how it works.  Many people who experience anxiety don’t immediately recognize symptoms when they first arise. Anxiety can be a very physical experience that can manifest as chest pain, shortness of breath, and numbness or tingling in your extremities.  Many people experiencing an anxiety attack for the first time will even begin to believe they are having a heart attack or a stroke. In social situations, anxiety can make you feel like you have a hard time finding the right words in a conversation or like your nervousness is visible to everyone around you, which is usually not the case.  By understanding what these symptoms mean and gaining the power to recognize anxiety as it presents itself, you can [...]

5 Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Health

While the benefits of group therapy and support groups for addiction recovery are fairly well known due to organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and popularized inpatient treatment programs, there are also some surprising advantages of these group environments for the treatment of mental illnesses.  Many people who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or depression, and for these individuals, recovery requires a great deal of mental health work in addition to the maintenance of sobriety. The misconception that group therapy and support groups are only for the beginning stages of addiction recovery discounts the many long-term mental health benefits of this popular technique.  Dealing with the Loneliness Factor Addiction recovery can feel incredibly lonely and isolating at times, especially after leaving an inpatient treatment program and returning to an environment in which the people around you are less than fully supportive, or perhaps entirely unaware of your struggle with addiction.  Participating in group therapy after the initial experience of detox and treatment can give you a space to feel encouraged and understood. For those suffering from depression, loneliness can be a contributing factor to symptoms. Through group therapy you can find a compassionate base of support while also building friendships with people who have had similar experiences. Putting Things into Perspective One of the greatest aspects of group therapy is the opportunity to see things from someone else’s point of view.  Anxiety and depression often flair up as a result of stressful situations in our lives such as tumultuous relationships or hostile work environments.  When we share these experiences in a group, as well as our emotions surrounding them, we can hear from others how they perceive the situation, as well [...]

5 Reasons Alcohol Does Not Help You Relax

The lie is everywhere.  Every year, advertisers in the alcohol industry spend millions of dollars marketing beer, wine, and liquor as a magic elixir that will help you relax at the end of a long day.  Happy people in commercials are seen celebrating, socializing, and romancing, all with the aid of a glamorized drink in their hand. Many people will even tell you that they use alcohol to calm their nerves and let loose, but does alcohol truly have this effect?  Research tells us that alcohol can actually increase symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may play a larger role in deteriorating mental health than most drinkers are aware of. Here’s why. The Relief is Temporary Many people who drink will tell you that having a drink immediately eases tension and calms their nerves.  This may be true for a brief period after your first drink, but in reality the calming and pleasant effects of alcohol only last about twenty minutes.  After the initial mood-enhancing effect, we spend the next several drinks attempting to chase that temporary high. With each drink the happiness dwindles and the impairment increases.  This is why too many drinks can cause you to become depressed and emotional, rather than happier with each sip, as we tend to believe. The Relaxing Effects are Largely Psychological The addictive nature of alcohol coupled with the cultural association between alcohol and relaxation can have monumental effects on our perception of reality.  Every day we receive messages that alcohol will make us feel more confident, sexy, and sociable. Many people will tell you that as soon as they get a drink in their hand at a party, they feel more relaxed and ready to enjoy [...]

5 Common Relapse Triggers

Early sobriety can be both exhilarating and terrifying. After or during the process of treatment, you may find yourself battling cravings and worrying about the possibility of relapse. While relapse is common, it isn’t necessarily inevitable. By recognizing the most common triggers and keeping your guard up against potential threats to your sobriety, you can stay on track and prevent slip-ups on your path to recovery. Emotional Overload The experience of addiction and addiction recovery can be incredibly emotional. If you are one of the many people who struggle with substance abuse that have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or depression, it can be particularly difficult to regulate your emotions. Depending on your treatment program, you may be lacking adequate mental health care. It is crucial in addiction recovery to delve deeper into your personal history and emotional state in order to address any unresolved trauma and emotional pain that may still be lingering once you become sober. It is also important to realize that feelings of sadness and anger are a normal part of recovery, and instead of avoiding them you must learn how to properly cope with these emotions. Various therapy techniques and counseling strategies can give you the tools you need to manage your emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol. Stress Everyone who is attempting to overcome addiction is going to experience stress. Addiction and fresh sobriety can cause some of the most intense physical and mental stress a person can endure. The key here is eliminating other unnecessary stressors so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Early sobriety is a good time to look at your relationships and determine if the people in your life are supporting your recovery or [...]