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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Trauma and Addiction

Working Towards Understanding and Empathy

 
 
Addiction is a concept that can be extremely difficult to understand, for both those in it’s grasp and those observing it’s destruction. Understanding and treating addiction can be overwhelming and complex. Oftentimes we don’t know where to begin. In my experience over the last ten years working in the mental health field, I’ve learned about the important role that trauma plays in developing addiction, whether that be to a substance or destructive behavior. As a result, I’m a firm believer that one can’t find themselves addicted without first experiencing some level of trauma.
 
CREATES THE PERFECT STORM”Oftentimes we view trauma as something dramatic and in your face. We conjure up images of war, death and violent assaults. But the reality is that the majority of trauma is much more insidious and understated. Having a parent who sent you the message that nothing you did was ever good enough. Never feeling like you really fit in growing up. The loss of a serious romantic relationship. I’ve heard trauma described as “anything less than nurturing”. If that is true, we have all experienced trauma at some point in our lives. And if this trauma hasn’t been processed, we are walking around with an open wound.
 
 
 
Trauma can be far reaching in its influence on one’s life. Trauma can impact our beliefs about ourselves, the quality of our relationships, even how our brain biology works. It can lead to feelings of low self worth, chronic hypervigilance and can result in self destructive behaviors. Addiction can be understood as an attempt to cope with the discomfort of trauma, to escape and deny the painful reality of what one has experienced, to create a false confidence when inside one is falling apart or questioning their worth. Addiction is utilized as a chemical solution to a soul problem. And trauma creates the perfect storm for desperation to feel better, any way that we can. Thus, the addiction isn’t necessarily the problem, but the attempted solution to the real problem. And if we aren’t treating the real problem, our trauma, we aren’t treating our addiction.
 

 

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Brighton Recovery posted an incredible and true story today of a an inspiring woman who spent over a decade addicted to self harm. She also struggled with codependency and drug addiction. After years of battle, she was able to find recovery and now helps others do the same through recreational therapy. 

Quotes from: "Addicted to Pain and People

"I had never seen or heard of anyone self harming, but it became my first addiction at the age of 13. I remember the first time I made the decision to do it, not knowing where I got the idea from. I had learned at a young age that I shouldn’t cry, yet I had all of this pain built up inside of me. I got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore, but I also didn’t know how to die. Cutting became a way for me to release the pain. I couldn’t control my emotional pain, but I could control the physical pain. The moment I pressed a dull multi-tool blade against my skin, I became instantly addicted to pain.

The self harm was never about attention. I didn’t want anyone to know I was cutting, but because I was doing it on my arms, one of my peers noticed during gym class one afternoon and told the school counselor. As if the rumors from the trip weren’t enough, now I was some crazy attention-seeker cutting herself. I remember coming home from school one day and my mother was sitting in the living room crying. All she said was, “Why would you do this?” She didn’t even ask if I was okay, or try to talk to me about what was going on. Being addicted to pain became a way for me to survive. It was the only tool I had. Releasing the pain" 

The story continues to talk about her childhood but eventually her life turns to sex and drugs as she moves to young adult and adult life. 

"I walked into the treatment center thinking that I’d be out of there in three months because I knew what therapists wanted to hear and how to work the system. I made a good friend name Emily and we worked our way through the program, quickly becoming two of the leaders in the house. This awarded us extra responsibilities and privileges. We’d do all sorts of sneaky things to rebel against the program. We’d huff nail polish remover, one time we tried to smoke incense, we even drank toner. All of these were horrible ideas, of course, but we just wanted to get fucked up by any means. I was still addicted to pain and the self-harming continued, too. About 4 months into the program Emily and I made a plan to run. Of course, we failed in our attempt, which lead me into a deep depression.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Online Addiction Treatment

I was recently introduced to a new and innovative way to combat addiction and that's with telehealth technology. What's so special and innovative about this? Well, there are many reasons, but here are five.

First, some people may not feel they are in need of or fully ready for residential treatment. They may need it, but not be willing and online treatment provides a foot in the door so that such people can begin the process of healing. Online addiction treatment may just give them a glimpse into all the work they need to do and how much professionals can help them. When this is realized, they could step up to a high level of care. 

Second, many people who graduate from a residential facility need additional help. Online addiction treatment can carry on long after residential or IOP treatments. Brighton Recovery Center's online addiction treatment program even provides different levels of treatment withing itself. This means that a recovering addict can determine how much or how little online treatment they need. Of course, this should be planned out with the advice of their therapist. 

Third, convenience. It can be difficult to find quality help in rural areas. Sometimes, even getting to a good meeting could mean an hours drive there and back. And what if you don't have a car or license? With online addiction treatment, you can participate in meetings, groups, and individual therapy without leaving your home. This adds a level of convenience that people need. It also means that you have no excuse for not showing up!

Fourth, doing things online can be more familiar and comfortable to Millennials than having to go to an office and meet in person. Because of this, anxieties that rise from meeting in person are also reduced. 

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

What are Boundaries in Recovery?

Early in the process it can be frustrating to figure out what a boundary is, how to create boundaries that will be effective, and most importantly, how to reinforce our boundaries when they are threatened or violated. Like any new skill, it may take several clumsy but well-meaning attempts before we begin to learn how to apply even the most basic principles. The important thing to remember is, as with any skill, the more we practice, the easier it gets and the more proficient we become.

A common misconception, which often goes unchallenged, relates to the idea that boundaries are meant to somehow teach a lesson to the one with the addiction. We mistakenly believe that the more harsh our consequences and the more strict our expectations, the more they will see how serious we are and “snap out of it.” It doesn’t take long to realize that, sadly, the monster which is controlling them has no interest in learning anything from us at all. Therefore, our efforts must be turned towards protecting ourselves and those in the path of their destruction.

Do not try to go about establishing boundaries in recovery on your own for the first time. Let those who specialize in this deadly disease guide you through the process until you feel comfortable enough to stand on your own.

For more on setting boundaries, check out this great resource https://brightonrecoverycenter.com/boundaries-in-recovery/

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Choosing Recreation Therapy

By Will Lindsay Joseph Campbell, a writer whose work covers many aspects of the human experience, has a famous quote that states, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life, as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” These words have been important in many aspects of my life and are a big reason why I chose Recreation Therapy as a field.

My life from a young age was filled with adventures; I started skiing with my dad at the age of 4, rock climbing at the age of 6, and spent nearly all of my childhood in the woods. These adventures taught me more about life than any other experience, things like learning how to plan ahead, the value of determination, self-reliance, an all of the other psychological skills associated with a full life of experience. I started working in the outdoor sports industry at age 14 and always found ways to teach not only the physical skills of skiing and snowboarding to others, but those same psychological and emotional skills I had learned to appreciate. My students weren’t just learning to ski, they were learning how to live. [dt_quote type="pullquote" layout="left" font_size="h2" animation="none" size="4"]Recovery is a lifestyle, not a life sentence.[/dt_quote]After I moved to college I found myself struggling with the transition into young adulthood. I grappled with the stress of paying for school, working full-time while attending classes full-time, and much more complicated social situations. I found an escape in recreation and leisure, but also found that I could apply the same lessons to my life outside of those activities. It wasn’t until I was much older and working in the mental health field that I found Recreation Therapy. Suddenly I knew what my path was in life and how I could make a difference in the world. When I started working at Brighton Recovery Center, all of my life’s experiences suddenly coalesced into a perfect recipe for the type of Recreation Therapy program I had always wanted to be a part of.

Recreation Therapy is More than Having Fun

I have always seen Recreation Therapy as capable of much more than teaching people how to have fun or simply distract themselves from life. Rather, the aim is to get participants to engage in an activity that shows them how they can face life on their terms and construct the tools to get through the tough times. Recreation Therapy is much more than just showing someone they can have fun sober; it is showing them that they can be present in their life despite the unpleasant times, and that those unpleasant times are important to growing.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Recently, while having a discussion with a colleague, the topic of sex addiction was raised. After a brief explanation of what he considered to be normal sexual activity, he innocently inquired, “I don’t know, is that normal?” Conversations such as these are quite typical in the lives of Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (otherwise known as CSAT’s). As much as many of us would like to consider ourselves experts in the field, a specific assessment utilizing the Sexual Dependency Inventory (SDI) must first be administered before the diagnosis of Sex Addiction can be applied. It is true that sex addiction is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but years ago, neither were many of the disorders which are included today.

It is imperative that we do not diagnose ourselves, partners, or friends, without first consulting a specialist who has been educated in the proper assessment tools and knows how to interpret them. Sexual activity is a very personal and private area of our lives; therefore, those who may actually benefit from tailored interventions are remaining undiagnosed, while those who readily ascribe themselves the label tend to proceed haphazardly of their own volition, or under the direction of an untrained, yet well-meaning clinician. It is true that professionals are free to make claims that they are ‘qualified’ to treat these types of dysfunctions. However, without proper training, the possibility of inflicting more damage is significantly increased. 

Early warning signs that sexual compulsion has advanced to addiction are included within other process and behavior addictions. Here are a few examples of the symptoms of sex addiction:

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

  1. Turning to the sexual behaviors in spite of negative consequences, such as lost relationships, jobs, productivity, or physical injury.
  2. A multitude of failed attempts to stop the sexual behaviors utilizing sheer willpower alone.
  3. A decrease in pleasure due to an increase in previously sexually pleasurable activities.
  4. Requiring more exposure to sexually pleasurable activities in an effort to elicit the same physiological response.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any one or more of the symptoms of sex addiction, please visit the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professional’s website to locate a CSAT near you. This website provides many resources and information for those who are looking to find relief. The assessment, “Am I a Sex Addict,” is available online and can be taken before meeting with your CSAT. The results can then be measured as a preliminary assessment to ascertain if the SDI is, indeed, necessary. As it is with substance addiction, involvement within a twelve-step program (such as Sexaholics Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous) and therapeutic support groups have the potential to relieve the suffering and heal the brain of dysfunctional cycles and patterns. For more information, please visit the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP) at www.iitap.com,  Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S at www.robertweissmsw.com, or www.sa.org 

Kamrin Carver, LMFT, CSAT for Brighton Recovery Center in Utah.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

One thing I have found to be common among recovering addicts is that, when their primary coping source (drugs) is taken away, they turn immediately to physical intimacy for coping. This can lead manifest itself in sex and love addiction along with codependency. Recently I had the chance to film two wonderful podcast/vodcast episodes on both the topic of sex and love addiction and the topic of codependency and addiction. Both are a great source of information, but I wanted to include some of the highlights here for this amazing community at Addiction Land. 

I didn't exactly understand codependency until author, therapist, and recovering addict D.J. Burr put it in these simple words. 

“Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship with yourself that is typically manifested with other people.” – D.J. Burr, LMHC, NCC, S-PSB

He gave an example of being in a conversation with someone you just met, but in the back of your mind you are only thinking of all the negative things this person might be thinking about you. Of course, that person is probably not thinking anything of the sort, but that's a codependent behavior.  D.J. is a great resource for more information on this topic and I highly recommend hearing what he has to say on the podcast. 

On thing that really stood out to me about sex and love addiction was something that John Taylor said in his podcast episode. 

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Surviving the cartel and the addiction!

I recently had the honor of interviewing a brave recovering addict, who was sold to the cartel and only recently escaped. Her story was so amazing and is a testament to what a person can overcome. Now she is in recovery and has made great strides in her individual improvement and self-care. Fighting addiction is no easy matter, but it can be done, and you can win. 

You can read the full story of her capture, escape, rehab treatment, and addiction recovery here

Here are some more memorable quotes from the story:

“I WOKE UP SOMETIME AFTER, TIED UP WITH A REVOLVER TO MY CHEST.”

“THEY ATTEMPTED TO STRANGLE ME TO DEATH AND DROVE 45 MINUTES AWAY TO DUMP MY BODY IN A FIELD.”

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Current hurdles to providing individualized addiction treatment:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 142 Americans die every single day from drug overdose. These people need saved, and it has to happen on an individual basis. As of now, there just is no other way to do it. Some may argue a broader approach by doing things like reducing access to opioids. Though this could help some, the problem is actually more complex. As access is limited, people are increasingly turning to street opioids, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, a mixture of each, or other dangerous and illegal drugs. The real problem is that despite all our efforts, only 10 percent of the almost 21 million Americans addicted to drugs receive any level of treatment. Lack of access to health care and the fear of stigma contribute to this epidemic.

This video explains the need for individualized addiction treatment in more detail:

Also, more information can be found here. https://brightonrecoverycenter.com/individualized-addiction-treatment/

The statistic mentioned above are from the Commission Interim Report

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I started with lines of Meth but quickly wanted to try shooting it. I asked one of my friends who was shooting Meth and he said to me, “This will change your life.” I thought he was being dramatic, but in all honesty, it did change my life, because I got just as addicted to that needle as anything. It was all in the ritual and the process. Getting it, burning it, making it, pulling that cloud of blood, and pushing it back in. You get the taste of it in your mouth before it’s even in your body. I loved the ritual so much that if I had drugs but no needle, I’d hold onto the drugs until I could get one. It’s overwhelming what that needle did to me and how it controlled my life for the next ten years.

My drug addiction overtook my life and I started doing crazy things. I’d go to Las Vegas to score a bunch of dope get loaded for days on end. I’d sell drugs to support my habit, I began ripping off everyone I knew, and started to get into a little bit of trouble with the law.

Because of my hookups, I could get pills for around $5 each, then turn around and sell them for $40. I’d use the money to purchase Meth and Heroine. If I didn’t have the money, I’d steal, manipulate, and hustle to get the drugs. I’d even walk into convenience stores, grab two cases of beer, and walk right out like I owned the place. I wasn’t even stealing the good beer either, I’d take two 30-packs of Stroh’s because that’s as much as I could carry. One time a big Polynesian lady gave chase and, being 130 pounds, I couldn’t outrun her with a case in each hand. I was running as fast as I could but she was catching up to me, so I had to ditch one of the 30s. It must have looked really interesting to the bystanders as I ran down the road, hugging a case of 30s while a big Polynesian lady chased me.

I made it back to the hotel and was out on the front porch smoking a cigarette when I saw a police car pull up to the building. I knew that police car was coming for me, but I just didn’t have it in me to run anymore. That was a moment of clarity and serenity for me. I could have taken off and probably got away, because I would have had a huge head start, but I just sat there and smoked that cigarette. I watched them go to the lobby, come up the stairs, walk towards me, and I just surrendered right there. I wanted to be done using but I didn’t know how. I wanted to be sober, but I didn’t think it was possible for me, because once I got sober, that’s when the true pain would begin. They took me to the Utah county jail where I detoxed over the next few days. Detoxing in jail was terrible but I also think it might be the best way to do it. Nobody is going to come and check on you, see how you’re doing or what they can do for you. You just have to suffer and you can’t act like a little bitch about it because you’re in jail. I appeared before the same judge I had to present to many times before, and this judge had given me every chance in the past, but this time he was finally fed up with me and sentenced me to serve a year in jail.

This is a portion of an incredibly moving story I wrote about my friend. Please check out the rest of it at https://brightonrecoverycenter.com/needles-new-life-matts-story-rehab-recovery/

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