International Overdose Awareness Day

August 1st is International Overdose Awareness Day; a day to raise awareness and commemorate loved ones who have died from a drug overdose. According to the CDC, over 70,000 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2019 alone. That number reflects the fact our nation is currently suffering from a serious opioid epidemic.

Losing a loved one to a drug overdose is a terrible burden to carry. The loss changes you forever, and most people simply aren’t equipped to deal with the emotional turmoil that follows. 

After years of counseling people grieving the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose, I have learned they carry a lot of guilt. Guilt because they feel they should have seen the signs; should have done something more; should have somehow known their loved one was in trouble.

My clients also deal with the stigma that surrounds death from an overdose. People often judge others harshly. For instance, people immediately think the parents must have done something wrong or there was something “not right” with the addict in the first place to abuse drugs.

And finally, there is a real sense of isolation that can follow the death of a loved one from a drug overdose. Oftentimes, people have no idea what to say to the grieving, and so they choose to remain silent and keep their distance. As one client told me, “No one brings cake or a casserole when your son dies from a heroin overdose.”

Processing Your Grief

When a loved one suddenly and tragically dies, part of us dies, too. We spend our days going through the motions of life, but we’re not really in the land of the living. A sudden death strips us of our sense of security, and we’re left trying to pick up the pieces while dealing with anxiety and depression.

Sometimes, when things are so dark, you need a guiding hand to show you the way back to the light. While your life will never be the same after such a tragic and sudden loss, but you can heal from what feels like insurmountable grief. Many of my clients found by working with me through their stages of grief, they were able to accept their new reality. Many have told me they believe creating a happy life is the best way to honor their loved ones.

If you are struggling after the loss of your loved one, please know you are not alone. I can help you process and, more importantly perhaps, honor your grief, so that you may find light on the other side of darkness.

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3 Ways Teens Can Benefit from Therapy

Not many of us remember our teenage years as walks in the park. That’s because this time in our life is punctuated by uncertainties, social pressure, and a surge of hormones. Because of this perfect storm, many teens act out, which can cause a lot of chaos and disruption in the home and family.

Here are 3 reasons why teens can benefit from therapy:

Self-Worth Issues

Most teens have a certain level of self-worth issues growing through this awkward phase. But there are those teens that really suffer from low self-esteem. Therapy can help adolescence build their self-esteem.

Stress

Dealing with school, friendships, work, choosing a college… are all major stressors in a young person’s life. And many teens find it hard to speak with their parents. Therapy offers teens a way to communicate and let go of some steam and pressure that is building up.

Grief and Loss

There should be a rule that no young person should suffer the loss of a close friend or family member. Sadly, many teens do experience loss and the grief that accompanies it. This can be incredibly difficult for the teen and their parents to navigate. A therapist has been trained to know exactly how to guide a young person through the stages of grief.

Anxiety Disorders

It’s perfectly normal for teens to feel worried and anxious at times. But some teens experience such severe anxiety, it negatively impacts their life, schoolwork and relationships. Therapy can help teens learn to manage their symptoms.

Substance Abuse Issues

Unfortunately, many teens learn to cope with the intensity of life by using drugs and alcohol. A therapist can assess a teen’s substance use and determine the best course of action.

These are just some of the benefits teens can gain from working with a therapist. If you or a loved one would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me.

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Can Long-Term Isolation Lead to an Addiction?

We are living through some of the most stressful times in recent history. With the global pandemic raging on, many of us are still worried about our own health and the health of our loved ones, especially our older friends and family members.

Many of us have also been hit with financial burdens. Some have lost jobs and others have had to close their businesses. How will the mortgage and bills get paid?

To make an already bad situation worse, a lot of us are still experiencing lockdown and quarantine. Many are working from home for the first time and still, others are unable to travel and be with loved ones.

This has left a majority of people feeling alone and isolated when they are already feeling they are most vulnerable.

The Link between Isolation and Drug Use

During stressful circumstances, it is a natural tendency for people to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping. A study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology found there was a 25% increase in alcohol consumption in the weeks following 9/11.

The stress and isolation of the current pandemic are putting those people who are prone to addiction at great risk. Virtual cocktail hours are now officially a thing. But how many of those cocktail hours end when the computer is shut off?

Human beings are social creatures. When you take our ability to be social away, it can lead to depression and anxiety. Even people who have no history of addiction are at risk of developing a drinking or drug problem during the pandemic as a way of coping with social isolation.

When coping with stress, it can be hard to self-monitor our behaviors, but it is incredibly important for our overall health and well-being. If you suspect you have been drinking or using any drug more than you should at this time, it’s important to be honest about that.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Has cocktail hour started earlier or gone later than usual lately?
  • Does the bottle of wine that used to last 3 days barely last one night?
  • Do you ever feel like you SHOULD cut down on your drinking or other drug use?
  • Have you noticed you’re thinking about drinking or using drugs more and more?
  • Have loved ones commented on the amount you’ve been drinking?

It’s important that you are honest with yourself at this time. And if you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it’s important that you get some help.

Many treatment centers remain open during this time. You may also want to think about speaking with a mental health counselor. If in-person sessions are not available, find a provider who offers telehealth solutions. This means you can receive treatment online.

Times are tough for everyone right now. You are not alone. If you are turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress and isolation, please get the help you need.

 

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Ways that Compassion Can Help You Support a Loved One Suffering from Addiction

It can often be difficult knowing how to navigate a relationship that is tainted by addiction. Often, loved ones are told that helping an addict means creating codependency, and that the best thing to do is show some “tough love,” even if that means walking away.

But is this really true?

Is there a better way to relate to a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction? Is there a form of love besides “tough love” that can help us help our loved ones?

Recent research has found that loved ones can play an important role in an addict’s recovery. While loved ones can’t change their addicted friend or family member, there are things they can change about themselves that will benefit the relationship.

The most significant thing a person can do is to become more compassionate toward their loved one struggling with addiction. Compassion is key to recovery as it allows a person to love a friend or family member without condoning (enabling) their behavior.

Why Compassion is so Powerful in Recovery

When we offer a loved one genuine compassion, we voluntarily join them in their suffering and give them profound gifts that can be catalysts toward real healing and recovery.

Being compassionate means:

We See Them

Compassion allows us to really see our loved one and the suffering they are going through.

We Hear Them

All humans need to be heard, but those with substance abuse issues often feel they go unheard. Compassion allows us to talk less and listen more.

We Validate Them

To see and to hear are not enough, we must also let our loved ones know they have a right to express their pain, anger, sadness, or any other emotion they are feeling. Too often, friends and family members ignore or minimize their loved one’s suffering. Compassionate helps us validate the person.

We Comfort Them

Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional pain, sufferers need to be comforted. Compassion guides us and helps us provide our loved ones with comfort through a loving touch, knowing glance, or a few kinds words.

It is also incredibly important to be compassionate toward yourself during your loved one’s recovery. Self-compassion asks that we treat ourselves kindly; that we see, hear, validate and show ourselves the same comfort we show our loved one. 

If you or a loved one is suffering with addiction and interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

The Signs of Opiate Addiction

Watching your local news or checking your social media feed, you’ve probably heard about the opioid epidemic, the nation’s current public health crisis. As death tolls from the crisis continue to rise dramatically every year, this is not an issue to be taken lightly or ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 42,000 people died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016. Nationwide, 45 states have seen a 30% increase in opioid overdose from July 2016 to September 2017.

What Are Opiates?

Commonly prescribed to alleviate severe pain, opiates include prescription pain killers such as oxycodone, dilaudid, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, among others. The illegal street drug heroin is also classified as an opiate. Opiates are highly addictive, and it’s possible to become addicted to them unintentionally.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

As someone begins to abuse their opioid prescription, they will develop a tolerance to the drug. They will need increasingly larger doses to experience the same benefits. As their tolerance grows, they will become physically dependent on the drug; they will experience the unpleasant feeling of withdrawal when they aren’t taking it. If the opiate abuse continues, they will develop a psychological dependence that will cause cravings for the opiates, at which point they are in the throes of opiate addiction. Below are some signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be abusing their prescription.

– Drowsiness: Nodding off at inappropriate times, or appearing drowsy or sedated is a sign of physical addiction to opiates
– Change in sleep habits: As a person abuses opiates, they may sleep for longer periods of time. If they’re experiencing withdrawal, they may be unable to sleep.
– Weight loss: Opioid addicts tend to lose weight due to metabolic changes brought on by the drug abuse.
– Mood swings: Irritability, dramatic shifts in mood, or emotional outbursts.
– Social withdrawal: An addict may isolate or socially withdraw. They might also start spending less time with family, and more time with people you don’t know.
– Flu-like symptoms: Opiate withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.
– Doctor shopping: An opiate addict will go to several doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions. Multiple prescriptions will result in extra pill bottles; an addict may attempt to hide them in the trash.

Finding Help

If you’re concerned that a loved one may be abusing their prescription, speaking to an addiction specialist or health care professional is an important next step. They can provide you with the referrals and direction necessary to ensure that your friend or family member receives the appropriate help as quickly as possible.

Are you or a loved one struggling with opiate addiction and need help? Call me today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

The Importance of Nutrition in Recovery from Addiction

Completing drug rehab is the first step in beginning a recovery program. Many addicts, while recognizing the toll addiction has taken on their relationships, don’t realize the additional affects it has had on their physical health and wellbeing.

Addiction often leads to malnourishment, which forces the body to work in less than optimal conditions. A poor diet is tough on the digestive system, which is often already experiencing diarrhea, indigestion, and constipation from the drug abuse. Should an addict try and eat well, the drugs and alcohol prevent the body from absorbing vital minerals and nutrients found in healthy foods.

Addiction can also damage your immune system, disrupting the body’s natural ability to keep itself healthy. A compromised immune system leads to not only colds and the flu, but also the risk of developing certain cancers.

And finally, addiction can take a big toll on the liver. The liver is the organ responsible for filtering toxins out of the blood, and individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs make their liver work overtime. This eventually causes the liver to swell and stop working properly.

Nutrition Tips to Help in Recovery

While it may not be possible to reverse all of the damage caused by addiction, good nutrition can go a long way toward becoming healthier and stronger. If you have access to a dietician or nutritionist, he or she can customize a plan to help your body recover and heal.

If you don’t have access to a dietician or nutritionist, the following tips can help you boost and support your immune system and brain chemistry so you can become a healthier, happier version of yourself.

Avoid Sugar

When it comes to foods that alter your mood and make it difficult to make healthy choices, sugar can be one of the worst. Do your best to stay away from refined carbohydrates such as cookies, cakes and white bread.

Load Up on Produce

Your body needs antioxidants to boost your immune system and keep you healthy. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will support your immune system and your journey toward recovery.

Be a Smart Snacker

Snacking throughout the day will help stabilize your sugar levels and keep your mood stable as well, minimalizing cravings. Just be sure to snack healthily, eating fruits, nuts and other quality proteins and whole foods.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Ways to Recognize Addiction Before it Takes Over

Drug and alcohol use in this country is on the rise, with over 23 million Americans addicted. To put that into clearer perspective, that’s one in every ten people in the United States over the age of 12 that are currently struggling with substance abuse.

But what is addiction exactly, and how can we recognize the symptoms?

Drug addiction, or substance use disorder, is the psychological and physiological need to continue using a substance, in spite of the fact that it is negatively impacting your relationships and life. 

While each individual is unique and may not display all of these symptoms, the following are ways you can recognize addiction in loved ones before it takes over.

1. Physical Dependence

Over time, individuals build up a tolerance to the drug and must do more of it to feel the same effects. Changes in physiology (withdrawal) can make them feel bad and, when it comes to functioning “normally,” it can be almost impossible without the drug in their system.

2. Neglecting Responsibilities

Choosing drugs or alcohol over meeting personal obligations and responsibilities is one of the biggest signs of addiction. Being late in picking up a child from school because an individual is buying drugs, or calling in sick to work to stay home and get high all day are classic signs the addiction is taking precedence over adult obligations.

3. Developing Unhealthy Friendships

The phrase “like attracts like” is applicable when it comes to addiction. When individuals begin experimenting with new substances, they often find themselves spending time with others who have similar habits. Soon, that person is spending all of their time with people who may encourage these unhealthy habits.

4. Isolation

There are some individuals who, alternatively, choose to withdraw and isolate themselves in an attempt to hide their drug use from friends and family. Isolation is also a result of depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

5. Poor Judgement

Addiction causes people to partake in risky behavior. Addicts may begin lying, stealing, engaging in unsafe sex, and even selling drugs themselves. These behaviors are unsafe for their physical and mental wellbeing, and may even land them in jail.

Many addicts may not recognize they are exhibiting these telltale signs. In these instances, friends and family may need to encourage them in getting the help they desperately need. If you feel that you or a loved one is currently addicted to drugs or alcohol and interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.