Fit to Recover

When we were children most of us like to play. We would run around for hours on end. We ran because it gave us happiness and excitement. Along the way relationships, responsibilities and other life stuff got in the way and exercising was a happy memory of our childhood.

When we first started drinking and using, most of us liked it and could moderate. We would sing and laugh and think the party would never end. Along the way physical craving took hold, we compromised our values and we found our life spiraling out of control. Moderately drinking and using was a happy but elusive memory we were trying to chase.

Exercising and recovery have many parallels. Think about this: When we first get clean our eyes open to a refreshing world. When we start to exercise/run again we lace up our shoes and get some good vibes. Both exercise and recovery are both intimidating at first because the gym equipment has changed, the people are different and we are not as powerful as most of the people there. Day by day, we show up and increase our reps (steps), we talk to people (fellowship), find commonality and start to feel comfortable. As more time passes, we begin to spot people (sponsorship) and see gains (spiritual growth).

Then, we hit the plateau and the pink cloud has left us. Going to the gym (meetings) is still a daily habit but now instead of doing all the tough work (setting up, talking to newcomers, sponsoring) we instead hang on the gym equipment, flex our muscles (ego) and talk to other lame-o’s who are flexing their muscles (false safety). We have fallen into the trap of settling for the plateau. IF we stay here long enough we will find reasons not to go to the gym (meetings) and start the steady decline of our muscles (the work we put into our recovery). There are now two sad scenarios: hang at the gym and be a flashy, toned individual that is there just for vanity/image or you leave the gym (sober) but wander about the community, talking about the good old days and trying to show off your now deflated muscles (spirituality).

What happened? How do we avoid the trap? The moment of truth is the moments of pain. When we put in the work it is painful but we see the gains (happy, joyous and free). The gains bring us purpose and we accept the pain because we value the price we pay in pain for the purpose we receive. We continue to this trend because it gives us peace. We do get to the plateau and we must make a choice: endure the pain or coast. THIS IS NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT…THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

Spiritual growth is painful. In order to get more (gains and spirituality) we must let go of what is comfortable and not stop pushing ahead. It’s okay to coast to enjoy and repair your gains but if you do it for too long, comfort becomes normal and the pain of change becomes less attractive.

If you have the ability, push ahead. If you have the knowledge, make the change. IF you have recovery, flex your muscles and spot the next guy coming up!



Yoga & Meditation in Recovery

How yoga and meditation can support and enhance recovery from addiction

Yoga:

Yoga adds a physical element to treatment and promotes emotional strength. This is a great way for residents to be able to work on strengthening their bodies and minds. Physically, yoga enhances self-awareness, flexibility, and core muscles.  Emotionally, residents can discipline their minds and bodies to work through uncomfortableness by holding poses. This results in behavioral change which can be utilized in real world situations they may encounter in the future.

Most of the residents have not tried yoga prior to coming to treatment and initially resist the exercise because it is hard work, it is uncomfortable and it pushes limits. After only one or two classes, many residents end up welcoming the sessions stating it teaches them about themselves and makes them feel better.

Meditation:

Meditation and mindfulness bring awareness to the present moment. Instead of spending time thinking about the past or what will happen in the future, meditation teaches one to focus in the moment. This benefits those in recovery by inviting one to observe their tendencies without judgement and improve them. Developing this kind of mindfulness creates a needed space between reaction and response.

Liberty Bay Recovery Center now offers on-site yoga and meditation twice a week as well as individual and small group sessions to residents led by certified yoga instructor Lara Nordensen. Contact Liberty Bay to learn more about the programs we offer and how they might benefit your recovery.



12 Step Work vs. Paid Recovery Employment

I have been in recovery for nearly 12 years and have seen a lot of crazy stuff in AA and in the treatment industry. I was raised in AA that you could be paid for 12 step work in a treatment center setting but you could never take pride/ownership of the results of those people. I have seen a lot of people put their own program to the wayside because they were “seeing the light come on” with people they worked with in treatment. This is a subtle trap and it gets the best of us. We, long term recovery or not, choose the path of least resistance if our “motives” are in the right place. If we do this long enough, we will have warped our minds to think that people’s success or failure depends on me and those results may impact my job as well. So instead of doing these things in an AA setting where you see the light come on and the gift is that you stay sober it turns to you see the light come on and “I love my job/recovery” so much. 12 step programs work so well because it asks addicts and alcohols to “freely give” what was given to them. NO ONE would do this 12 step work freely and on their own time IF their life did not depend on it. We are selfish creatures and by adding the $ sign, we lose track of the TRUE selflessness that is required for a continued psychic change.

So what’s the bright side to all this for a person in recovery looking to work in treatment? Well, I have seen that there are loopholes in the conundrum of recovery vs. work:

  1. Doing the right thing when no one is looking: Goes against our entitled nature to “Freely” give our time and our knowledge to our employer and the people we serve with no recognition.
  2. Social media connections with our peers are a good thing: We have the opportunity to connect with our counterparts on a different level and we show each other how to have healthy boundaries with our clients. Not friending our clients for a long period of time will protect them but also “delay our gratification” for connection to those
  3. We like working in treatment for a hidden reason: Our peers are in recovery and we have a bonding experience by showing up every day. By seeing our recovery and even non-recovery peers go through life and experience the good and the bad, we are connecting to their life and can be a part of it if we choose.
  4. Do not become a “workaholic”: By devoting endless hours to the cause and leaving no time for your life. Substituting work for your life is dangerous although your motives are good.

I am not the guru of this subject but these are just some observations I have had over my time in the two worlds. Please, let us know what you think. What do you do to stay sober? How do you balance home life, work life and recovery? By sharing how “we” do it “we” have the best possible chance to grow.



Life of Purpose

What makes a person use drugs or alcohol to begin with? Is it a lack love? Is it an abusive past? Are we genetically disposed to seeking out things that are harmful? Studies would prove all of these reasons valid as they all stem from the lack of something; purpose. People crave things that will help them identify as something. Whether you join a punk band, have a position at the church or are on track for a college degree, the things we do define us.

Such is addiction. If we start off drinking or using because of lack of love or trauma, we continue to use because of a physical addition to the substance. While addicted, our disease has us take the easy way out to fuel our use. This would include not showing up for events, not making our bed, running from responsibility and not showing ourselves love. Engaging in this behavior long enough will change our purpose in life. We change from wanting love and connections in our life to severing our connections with habits and people that will ultimately give us strength. If the negative lifestyle continues jails, institutions, heartache and early death will eventually occur.

So how do you fix the problem?
The first step is arresting the addiction. No positive change can take place so long as the psychical allergy and the mental obsession take hold. This means entering treatment or getting some serious help to help keep you away from drugs and alcohol for the time being. The second step is to start changing your belief system. This involves taking a look at your past, not being a victim of it and altering your daily habits. Doing this will allow you to discard the garbage and open the door to new and exciting things to come. The last step of this process is to find purpose. This could be anything; having a commitment at a meeting, starting school, mentoring individuals, getting a promotion, meeting someone special or planning for the future. These are just a couple things but they are a great start in your journey to connection to your higher self. We crave purpose. Just like atoms, we float around until we bond with something. Getting clean, we break the old bonds of negative purpose that bring disappear and pain and form new bonds that give us hope and peace. Find purpose in your life that brings you to a higher good but take care of your roots that got you in that position. Purpose is strength. Be sure that you are connecting to a purpose that will give you everlasting strength and will propel you to your higher self.



How to Party Sober

How can I have a fun Halloween without putting my sobriety in jeopardy?

  • Bring a sober friend along to a party for support and have an exit strategy if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Throw your own party, that way you have control over who comes, and what beverages are served.
  • Have a spooky movie marathon with a couple friends. Have each person bring their favorite scary movie!
  • Participate in traditional Halloween traditions like decorating your house and passing out candy to kiddos. Corn mazes and haunted houses are fun events too!

Remember, new traditions can be made at any point in your life.

Is it alright to serve booze at a Halloween party when some guests are in early recovery?

Early recovery can be temping for many people, especially around any Holiday. In the past, any party was an excuse to get intoxicated or get high. Being sober for these events can be incredibly difficult in the beginning, because they are learning to navigate situations with a new state of mind. Although it is ultimately the person in recovery’s responsibility to set healthy boundaries, it’s important for families to know how dangerous temptation can be. For the non-alcoholic, being in the presence of alcohol consumption isn’t a big deal. To the alcoholic and drug addict, the awareness dial has been turned all the way up, and it can be a constant battle in their mind to get through the situation without giving in.

(What if alcohol isn’t my family member’s “drug of choice”?)

If a recovering heroin addict is placed in a situation with alcohol, it may affect them differently than an alcoholic. At first it may not seem as tempting. In many ways, this is detrimental, because it allows a slip to occur much easier. The mentality of “It’s not my issue, therefore I’ll just have a little” can lead to the opening of Pandora’s box. Once they have consumed alcohol their sobriety is shot, and the next move is directly to their drug of choice.

Are there sober events happening in Portland?

The Portland Recovery Community Center will be hosting an NA Dance on October 29th at 7 pm. Get dressed up and boogie down until 11 pm.

Suggested donation is $10; however, no one will be turned away.



“…it only takes one time…”

A 29-year-old Maine man died of a drug overdose recently. He had just celebrated one full year of sobriety.

You hear stories like this every day, but this one particularly resonated with us. The man was known to Greater Portland’s recovery community because his sister is a leader of the Scarborough Police Department’s Operation Hope. HOPE stands for Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort and the project helps Maine residents find treatment for heroin and opiate addiction.

The victim’s sister, in a post on her Facebook page, wrote this:

“My brother, who has been doing amazingly well in his recovery, died alone in his apartment in Portland overnight,” Higgins wrote. “He recently celebrated his one-year sobriety. Believe me when I tell you it only takes ONE TIME relapsing to lose your life. I am devastated. He could have asked for help and I would have done anything for him. Substance use disorder is a lifelong disease, don’t ever take that for granted.”

Such heartfelt words from a grieving sister and a recovery professional. It only takes once.

For the published newspaper story go here.



How Alcoholism Affects Marriage

A University of Michigan study shows that nearly half of active alcoholics or those who were active in the past are divorced. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concurs, saying that marriages in which one spouse drinks heavily end in divorce 50 percent of the time.

It’s easy to see why. Alcoholism, and every other addiction for that matter, wreaks havoc on a marriage. Some alcoholic spouses are verbally or physically abusive, but even non-violent alcoholics can damage their marriages in other ways, often beyond repair. It’s difficult to be a responsible partner in a relationship when you’re obsessed about where and when you’re going to get your next drink. Alcoholics can – and do – lie, cheat, manipulate, blame and steal to maintain their habit. None of those things are on anyone’s list of what they seek in a mate.

Take, for example, a married couple in which the wife is an alcoholic and her husband is not. Maybe she has run up the family’s credit card balance to keep herself in stock. Maybe she loses her job due to too many absences or poor performance. Maybe she forgot about that parent-teacher conference or showed up at it after a few drinks. The non-alcoholic spouse quickly learns that the alcoholic spouse cannot be trusted in myriad ways, from contributing to the family finances to making sure the kids have lunch to locking the doors before bed. Trust erodes quickly and often devastatingly.

Some spouses of alcoholics take on the added responsibilities that come from being married to one out of necessity, maybe out of love but with deep resentment. It’s up to them how long they will shoulder the burden. Others quickly know they don’t want that burden and seek a fast exit.

The threat of divorce is not enough for many alcoholics to seek treatment and get into recovery. Not only does the disease of alcohol, “cunning, baffling and powerful,” tell them they are not sick, it often is nearly impossible for an alcoholic to imagine a life without booze, no matter if it means losing people they love.

Facing alcoholism through a 12-step recovery program like A.A., or Al-Anon for the non-alcoholic spouse, is the first right move toward determining whether the marriage can itself recover.

-Amy Canfield, Liberty Bay Staff



The is What an Epidemic Looks Like

Addiction is all around us.  These days it seems as though every person in your life is somehow affected, or at least knows someone that is affected, by the devastation of substance abuse.  It doesn’t discriminate, and it knows no boundaries.  It creeps in slowly, tears families apart, destroys lives, and ends overwhelmingly in death.  The CDC states that, “Heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade”.  In turn, heroin related deaths have also increased.

heroin addiction, Liberty Bay Recovery, Portland, ME

Many overdoses happen due to relapse after a period of sobriety that lowers tolerance levels.  It can also take place if it’s your very first time.  The mix of specific drugs can trigger a toxic reaction, or the strength of the opiate in general.  Maybe the individual has cardiac issues they may not even be aware of. Whatever the case, it’s real and it’s frightening. These overdoses and death are not limited to heroin use. Other drugs, such a prescription medication can be just as lethal.

The upward trend in opiate addiction in the New England area is perpetuated by several contributing factors.  The most prevalent being its deliverance from New York along the vast highway systems.  New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine are connected and intertwined with 3 highways.  Much distribution takes place in states like Massachusetts due to lower penalties for trafficking compared to more northern states.  Seaports are also use in the trafficking of illegal substances. If the drugs come in to New York, they are distributed to rural areas of Massachusetts, and dealers from Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire make the drive to pick up what they want to distribute in their home states.

Although prescription opiate use has fallen while heroin use on the rise, national studies show that it’s use is a direct gateway to heroin. According to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, “four out of five new heroin users were first addicted to prescription opioids”.  The fact of the matter is heroin in cheaper and easier to obtain then prescription painkillers.

No matter with which opiate it starts, or how it continues, if are addicted to, or abuse opiates you are at risk.  It’s imperative that you seek help, by reaching out, or hold person’s addicted accountable. Ultimately this can mean saving a life.

If you or a loved one is battling addiction and needs help, it’s only a phone call away. 

Please reach out with any questions: (207) 650-0637.  A great resource for navigating the how’s and why’s of drug addiction treatment can be found at:  http://tinyurl.com/jrnvrs8

Chloe Arreola, Liberty Bay Staff



Surrender to Succeed

surrender post

(Photo Credit: sundancehealing.com)

In the past, when I would think of what it means to surrender, I envisioned a white flag waving and an overall feeling of failure.  I pictured battles lost throughout history, weakness, and complete defeat. In the infancy of my journey to get clean from drugs I heard that word a lot: surrender. I wasn’t in a space to connect the dots on my own to give it a positive connotation.  It took time, hard work, guidance from others who knew what I was going through, and most importantly, faith the size of a mustard seed.

Setbacks and pitfalls are part of life, but for the addict it can start to define existence.  Becoming overwhelmed by daily life while in the depths of addiction is typical, and can force one into a tailspin of confusion, depression, and hopelessness.  Consequences pile up one on top of the other, making the addict feel trapped.  One can feel like they have to be superhuman to concur the affliction they face, but they can’t muster the courage, and they surely don’t know how to navigate a path to recovery. Culturally and socially we are trained to never give up and never surrender, in hopes that the fight is what gets us the win, and winning equals success.  If you want to succeed to overcome your addiction, you should fight harder, right? On the contrary, it is in fact an admission of surrender that is the first step into the process of healing.  It goes against everything in us to admit defeat and say “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

My journey in recovery started when I made the decision to surrender to a life of recovery.  What was lacking every other time I attempted recovery? A lack of faith for sure.  I had doubts that letting go and giving up my will would set me free from the grips of my disease.  Why was faith such a complicated word for me to accept?  I gathered it had something to do with my associating it with religion.  I had to set aside all preconceived notions of faith (and religion for that matter) and attempt to view things from a fresh perspective.

I was broken and hopeless, with very little faith in myself and my ability to stay sober.  I met a woman in the halls of AA who I chose to help guide me.  She is a wonderfully caring and transparent woman, who never asked me to do anything she hadn’t done herself.  Her openness and honesty helped me relate to her story, and the healing process started without me being fully aware it was happening.   I like to say I borrowed my faith from her in the beginning.  How did her faith become mine?  I believed she was sober.  I believed she had transformed.  I believed she had been hopeless, just as I had been, and somehow she was now filled with hope.  She believed in me, if for no other reason than she believed the process works, and because I believed in her, faith sprouted.  I put my faith in a person in the beginning and that was a starting point for it to grow.

Through time, and my own personal journey, I find that the meaning of the word surrender has evolved into something positive and admirable.  I had held onto old beliefs and ideas for so long not knowing they were keeping me spiritually sick. Something about letting go scared me because I didn’t know what to expect.  When trapped in a dark place, the thought of emerging into the unknown can be just as terrifying as staying stationary.  Fear of the unknown and the anxiety of change, what that’s going to look like, and doubting if you have it in you to take the first steps can be debilitating.  I’m thankful for the structure of AA and the support system of women who walked me through uncertainty.  When I was afraid, they reassured me I would be alright, no matter what.  When I doubted the process, they reminded me to be patient, and showed me ways to work on growing patience through mediation practice.  I not only learned how to stay clean and sober; I learned how to live.  Every step of the way faith grew- with every fear I walked through, every doubt that was squashed, it allowed a new understanding to be born.  That mustard seed of faith had grown into something much bigger. As long as I continue to surrender to a life of recovery and a new way of living on a daily basis, the faith abounds and rewards me with a life of purpose.  These days when I think of surrender, I picture a girl standing on a mountain, arms stretched out in the air, shouting “victory” with a big smile of contentment on her face.

 

Chloe Arreola ,  Liberty Bay Staff