More and more service animals—specifically dogs— are being spotted everywhere we go.  Service animals are very useful in helping individuals with the various things they struggle with.  Service dogs or service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “dogs (or other animal species) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” The disabilities stated include blindness, deafness, loss of limb and paralysis, as well as physical diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes. Further, service animals called “emotional support animals” can help with emotional illnesses such as anxiety and can comfort those with emotional or mental illnesses.

The ADA National Network defines a service animal as “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.”

“The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:”

  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
  • Pulling a wheelchair.
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure.
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
  • Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Specifically, service animals are trained to do the things in certain aspects of life that a disabled person can’t. For instance, these animals can get clothes, open doors, navigate routes, etc.  Even more amazing is the animals that help individuals deal with seizures, anxiety, diabetes, or even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  These animals are trained to know and sense the beginning of a medical episode and warn individuals so they can take measure to prevent or lessen what is about to happen.  Having a service animal can reduce stress, soothe individuals, and for many individuals-having a service animal can give emotional support.

Service Animals and Recovery

Studies are showing more and more that service animals could positively impact those delaying with addiction recovery.  This good news shows that the soothing impact of an animal companion can stop triggers, can sense oncoming anxiety attacks, and many more things to benefit those in recovery.

Many service animals help addicts make it through recovery one day at a time.  Taking care of someone else needs is also good for those in recovery and feeling unconditionally loved gives them an immense amount of support in return.  The reciprocal relationship of having an animal that is helping to take care of an addict while the addict takes care of the animal is shown to be very beneficial.  Service animals don’t judge based on a person’s past and are more than happy to forge a new future together with those they are helping through recovery.  Many find that having a service animal is the final piece that gives them purpose as well as hope during their addiction recovery.

Helping Others in Recovery While Still Taking Care of Yourself

It’s easy to focus all of our time and attention on helping our loved ones through drug addiction recovery.  In fact, sometimes we forget about taking care of ourselves because we spend so much time and energy supporting our their process.  But taking care of yourself while helping others through recovery is very important.  Too often, those taking care of an individual in recovery allow themselves to fall to the bottom of their list of priorities.

Sometimes, people think they will take care of things regarding themselves once their loved one is done with recovery.  Supporting loved ones in recovery takes a lot of time and effort and emotional energy.  But, thinking that you’ll handle things in your own life once your loved one recovers often causes individuals to be reactive, frustrated, and/or unnecessarily anxious.  If you prioritize your time to include some self care while helping your loved one through recovery, it is likely you will feel less stress, be more positive and encouraging, and be more calm and caring.

A great example of this is the safety announcement on airplanes.  The flight attendant ask us to put our oxygen mask on first and then to place the mask on those who cannot do so for themselves.  This example illustrates just how important it is for us to take care of ourselves when trying to help another individual.  Doing things to uplift and enhance your life can help you cope and deal with the addiction of your loved one.  Often, individuals feel selfish doing things they did before they were involved in helping someone through recovery like attending movies or going shopping.  They seem to think they don’t deserve to have fun since their loved one may be suffering.  Further, parents of children in recovery may feel guilt— feeling they should have done more to prevent the addiction— and cannot allow themselves to live a normal fulfilled life while their child recovers.  These feelings of not allowing oneself to continue normally will only impede your loved one.  Continuing to foster other friendships is also key— not allowing yourself to become completely consumed with your loved ones’s recovery.  Finding joy and self fulfillment can hep you to be more stable as you aid your loved one in navigating through recovery.

Knowing that you are happy and healthy can help your loved one want the same thing for themselves. The path of recovery may be longer than you planned on and taking care of yourself along the way while helping your loved one sets an important example and is essential to your well being too.

Recovery and Spouses

Marriage and relationships can be difficult even in the best of times. But when one spouse is battling addiction, the other may feel completely hopeless, angry, impatient, full of distrust, sad, and an array of other emotions. With the persistent threat of relapse lingering, the emotional roller coaster in marriage during recovery can continue for many years. Recovery is never easy but getting support and giving love and support are two ways to overcome difficulties and keep your marriage intact.

An important key to strengthening your spouse during recovery is to take care of yourself. This may seem crazy because you want so much to help your addicted spouse and then you think your life will improve afterward. But, self-care, or meeting your own needs and wants, is key to being supportive to your spouse. Your spouse’s addiction most likely has had a devastating impact on you personally. Through self-care as well as educational workshops, family therapy sessions and family visits, spouses learn new skills with their loved one and can practice those skills to strengthen themselves and the marriage. Recovery programs often recommend resources in the local community as well, including therapy and Al-Anon, S-Anon, or other meetings which support spouses of addicts.

Loving and supporting your spouse during the first months – during early recovery – can prove to be the most challenging and difficult. Many significant life changes happen in the first year of sobriety. During that time, addicts in recovery need to be somewhat “selfish,” focusing on themselves in order to maintain sobriety and rebuild their lives. This can leave some spouses feeling neglected and resentful. What a recovering spouse needs more than anything is the support, patience, and love from their partner.

When you’re living with a spouse who is addicted to something harmful, you’ve likely grown accustomed to dysfunction in your marriage. You may have alternated between being the spouse who tries to fix all of the addict’s mistakes to the disengaged spouse who just wants some peace. Without intending to, you may have assumed some unhealthy roles, such as an enabler or being codependent. Through therapy and counseling, you can also identify unhealthy patterns and learn more positive ways to get your needs met that will ultimately help your spouse in recovery as well.

You can be there for your spouse by educating yourself, taking care of yourself, keeping communication lines between you open, being patient, avoiding blame, working toward forgiveness, and preparing for setbacks. It’s also important to understand that your relationship may change; in fact, it may end all together. Your spouse’s progress may be slow, or it may be surprisingly quick. Allowing your spouse some freedom to explore who they are without their addiction while in recovery, can bring a positive shift in responsibilities and dynamics to your relationship. Standing by and supporting your spouse through recovery is difficult and draining, but the rewards and benefits are most often worth the effort.

Source: crchealth.com

Relaxation in Recovery

. Many activities and practices of relaxation and meditation are designed to release tension from the body. In recovery, releasing tension can have many desirable outcomes.

Alcoholrehab.com indicates the following benefits of using relaxation techniques:

“* Relief of stress

* Sleeping better at night

* Improved concentration

* Increased ability to learn

* Improved memory

* Increased blood flow to major muscles

* Reduced feelings of anxiety

* Increased confidence in the face of challenges

* Reduced feelings of anger and frustration

* Combats hypertension (high blood pressure)

* Slowed the heart rate

* Slowed respiration

* Relieved muscle tension

* Reduced pain intensity

* Reduced hyperactivity in children

* Improved immune system functioning

* Reduced risk of developing heart problems or suffering a stroke

* Looking healthier and fresher

* Improved mental health

Generally speaking, recovery is stalled or halted when individuals are experiencing excessive amounts of stress. Stress is how the body deals with demand and in addiction, there is a prevalence of excessive demand. Many times, then individuals feel stressed, they turn to their addiction to cope. Deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, listening to relaxing music, meditation, guided imagery, and mindfulness are some of the powerful relaxation activities that can enhance recovery.

National Recovery Month

The month of September is National Recovery Month. This is a time when individuals in recovery and individuals who haven’t experienced recovery are made more aware of the struggles, challenges, and successes of individuals who are in or have been through addiction recovery. The month encourages facilities to highlight the courage and strength of individuals who have worked through addiction recovery and encourages individuals to share their success stories about prevention, treatment, and recovery with those who may be struggling with addiction.

The National Recovery Month was started 28 years ago by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help to normalize the disease of addiction (samhsa.gov). Similar to the way success stories have been celebrated with health conditions like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, each September, tens of thousands of prevention, treatment and recovery programs and facilities from around the country celebrate the strides made in the recovery community. These celebrations may include walks, get-togethers, classes, movie screenings, entertainment, or sponsored runs.

SAMHSA chose the theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities” for 2017. They indicate that the theme was chosen to, “highlight the value of family and community support throughout recovery and invite individuals in recovery and their family members to share their personal stories and successes with their neighbors, friends and colleagues” (samhsa.gov).

Joining in this celebration and awareness month can strengthen those around you in their recovery or can help prevention of addiction in your life. The SAMHSA website, samhsa.gov, has lots of great information and ideas for being a part of National Recovery Month this year.

Managing Stress Aids Recovery

Managing stress during recovery from drug or alcohol abuse is extremely helpful in having a good recovery outcome. Stress can manifest in the forms of finances, family, triggers, and many other factors. Also, research shows that those who struggle with drug addictions are more prone to stress. Although stress cannot ever be entirely eliminated from life, certain measures can be taken to lessen or prevent it. It’s also well known that stress is one of the main causes of relapse, so learning to avoid, prevent, or manage stress better is definitely helpful in making a full and successful recovery. Below are a few ways to manage stress on a regular, if not daily, basis:

1- Exercise: Whether it’s inside a gym or outside on the road or a bike, exercise is a great way to boost those feel-good hormones and keep you calm. Even light exercise, such as a leisurely walk will help

2- Think of a phrase or mantra: Repeating a simple positive affirmation or phrase can help you focus on what’s important, breathe, and relax when stressful things arise in your life.

3- Get enough good sleep: Aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night will help your body be ready for the stress it may encounter the next day.

4- Find activities that calm you: It might be reading, walking, listening to music, yoga, or art –whatever you find that calms your soul, do it often.

5- Write out your thoughts and feelings—good and bad: Sometimes seeing the words on paper helps to put stress in its place. It can also help to release stress from your mind and so you can focus on other things and let go of the stress.

Exercise and Recovery– Even More Reasons!

Adding exercise to a recovery routine is not anything new, but there is recent evidence that shows that exercise and recovery together are more powerful than once believed. Many rehab facilities are equipped with exercise equipment, classes, and instructors. It has been shown that gaining physical strength can lead to stronger mental strength and more emotional stamina. Mental strength and emotional stamina are both key in addiction recovery. Physical strength can also help to rid the body of harmful toxins.

A recent study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, shows that regular physical activity can decrease your chances of relapse.

Further, integrating exercise into addiction recovery has so many benefits. A few of these include:

  • Becoming or remaining active in addiction recovery can help keep the body and mind busy, which can prevent relapse in early recovery.
  • Exercise leads to fewer cravings by increasing the brain’s pleasure neurotransmitters.
  • Hard physical exercise allows for the release of anger, stress, frustration, or other negative emotions which often arise during addiction recovery.
  • Studies show that increase physical exercise leads to better sleep as it can restore circadian rhythms or sleep cycles that are often thrown off from years of addiction. Because of this, falling asleep at night and staying asleep becomes more possible.
  • Exercise improves self-confidence while boosting energy as well. Further, research also shows that individuals who exercise believe they will recover from addictions; they have more hope.

Source: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/mental-health-and-physical-activity/

avoidingholidayrelapseAvoiding Holiday Relapses while in Recovery

The holidays are upon us and going through recovery during this time of the year can be rough. Cocktail parties and holiday celebrations involving other drinks can be difficult to navigate while in recovery. Although the holidays are a fun time of year, many individuals experience stress and turn to their drink or drug of choice to cope. Family time is often a trigger of stress as well and everyone knows that the holidays include more time with family. On the flip side, individuals without much family around may experience loneliness and/or depression and turn to the substances they’re recovering from in order to deal with those hopeless/lonely feelings.

However, individuals in recovery know that they do not need alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to have an enjoyable holiday season. Going into the holidays with confidence that things can still be fun and festive without these substances is key. Also, it is critical to have a plan in place before the holiday festivities begin.

Some ideas to have in mind as the holidays approach include:

  1. Be aware of what triggers you. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically can help ward off the triggers that arise.
  2. Eat before stressful events or get-togethers where drugs or alcohol may be present. Low blood sugar can lead to an increase in anxiety or irritability and can make substances more tempting – interfering with recovery during the holiday
  3. Begin each day with a plan. Take each day one at a time and make a plan for whatever is on the agenda for the day as well as planning for the unexpected. Having a firm plan in place (such as: I’ll leave if this happens”, or “I’m only staying so many minutes/hours”) can help. Practicing what you can say when offered a drink or other substances will help you refrain.
  4. Bring your own drinks. Bringing food and safe drinks that you enjoy will help fend off those temptations.
  5. Bring a friend who supports your recovery. Having someone else with you who agrees to abstain from what you are recovering from is very valuable. Knowing you aren’t the only one holding back can really help those urges.

Awareness is key. Knowing your triggers and having a plan in place – including supportive people- can really help in avoiding holiday relapses while in recovery.

Father Speaks Up about Daughter’s Fatal Heroin Overdose

A recent article posted by Fox13 Salt Lake City discussed how one father’s honest obituary concerning his daughter’s heroin overdose has prompted other parents of addicted children to continue to be “as supportive as possible” in helping recovery happen.

Tom Parks, of Manchester, New Hampshire, candidly wrote on Facebook about his daughter’s fight against her heroin addiction. He said, “I’m not looking for sympathy but I want people to know that our lives are made up of the choices we make and for some death is a matter of choice too. My daughter Molly Parks made many good choices in her too short life and she made some bad choices. She tried to fight addiction in her own way and last night her fight came to an end in a bathroom of a restaurant with a needle of heroin. Her whole family tried to help her win the battle but we couldn’t show her a way that could cure her addiction. We will always love her and miss her. If you have a friend or a relative who is fighting the fight against addiction please do everything you can to be supportive. Maybe for your loved one it’ll help. Sadly for ours it didn’t. I hope my daughter can now find the peace that she looked for here on earth.”

Molly had recently finished drug rehab for the third time and was working as a pizza delivery driver in Manchester at the time of her overdose. He family believed that she was doing well and had improved significantly. Her obituary states, “Molly graduated from Old Orchard Beach High School in 2009 and attended one year at SMCC until her addiction took over. Most recently, she was employed as a delivery driver for Portland Pie Co. in Manchester, NH…Along Molly’s journey through life, she made a lot of bad decisions including experimenting with drugs. She fought her addiction to heroin for at least five years and had experienced a near fatal overdose before. Molly’s family truly loved her and tried to be as supportive as possible as she struggled with the heroin epidemic that has been so destructive to individuals and families in her age bracket…If you have any loved one’s who are fighting addiction, Molly’s family asks that you do everything possible to be supportive, and guide them to rehabilitation before it is too late.”

The obituary highlights this father’s sincere love for his daughter and the touching way in which he pleads for others to understand their loved one’s addictions is very moving. Loving individuals through addiction recovery can be extremely discouraging and challenging. However, as Tom Parks emphasizes, it is so important to continue to support your loved ones through heroin addiction recovery or any other type of addiction recovery and get them the help they need.

Source: fox13now.com

African-American woman and teen laugh in kitchenKids and recovery

Kids have a unique way of sensing when something is not right. Most can feel others emotions and even gear their own emotions around what those nearby them are feeling – especially their parents. Some parents in recovery feel it is best to hide their recovery from their kids. Parents don’t want to cause their children to worry or be anxious about “adult problems.” But, hiding emotions from kids can cause confusion since kids will still pick up on emotions and moods during recovery. It is vital that parents are honest and open with their kids in regards to addiction and recovery in order to allow their kids to know what is going on and why certain emotions are present. Being honest will benefit the individual in recovery as well as the remaining family members

Talking to kids about addiction can be hard. Most kids may not really understand what addiction is. But getting into details isn’t necessary – you don’t have to explain everything. As long as you give kids basic information about addiction and how it can affect their parent or other loved one, then the most important things will be covered. Teenagers will want to know more and should be told more about what is going on and addiction in general. In fact, may studies show that being open and honest with an addiction problem in the family can help prevent addictions in teenagers and other members of the family. When they are taught the dangers and see the consequences first hand, they may be less likely to engage in addictive behaviors themselves. If parents will explain what addiction and recovery are and how they have affected their life, kids and teens may be less likely to engage in any drug or alcohol related activity.

Hiding addiction and recovery discussions from kids causes more damage than good. It is important to discuss addiction and recovery in your family often and allow kids to ask questions instead of covering up or hiding the addiction and/or recovery.

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