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.

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.

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.

Common Street Drugs Part 1: Oxy, Cocaine, Mushrooms

A recent article published by USA today states some quick, hard facts about 6 common street drugs in Wisconsin. But the information discussed is true for most of the US. These drugs make up the more dangerous and prevalent substances that law enforcement have been concerned about recently.   The first 3, discussed here, include Oxycontin, mushrooms, and cocaine. The latter 3 will be discussed in a later blog – part 2.

  1. OxyContin – what is it made of and what does it do? How widespread is the use of this drug?
  • Oxycondone (oxy) is a painkiller made from the Persian poppy and the opium poppy. It it has a medical use, but also a high potential for abuse and dependency. Street names for oxycontin include: ox, roxy, perc, oxy, hillbilly heroin, kicker, and OC. Oxy can be swallowed or crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected. Use of oxy is widespread and the use is increasing drastically across the nation.

2. Psilocybin mushrooms – what are they made of and what do they do? How widespread is the use of this drug?

  • Mushrooms contain psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance and are a schedule I drug but have no approved medical use. Called “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms,” they are usually dried and eaten but can brewed as a tea, mixed with other foods or, coated with chocolate and then eaten to mask their bitter taste. Use of mushrooms is less than it once was in the 1960s and 70s, but many individuals still use this street drug.

3. Cocaine – what is it made of and what does it do? How widespread is the use of this drug?

  • Cocaine is a Schedule II drug – meaning it may have limited medical usage, but it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Cocaine is a stimulant that most often looks like a white powder. It can be cut (mixed) with sugars and can be inhaled or dissolved and then injected. Crack cocaine is smoked and produces a shorter high than snorted/inhaled cocaine. Users often have white powder around their noses from snorting. Street names for cocaine include snow, crack, coke, or flake. Although cocaine use was more widespread in the 1980s, it continues to have a strong street presence currently.


Source: usatoday.com

Take Care of Yourself when Helping Others in Recovery

Sometimes, when helping others in recovery, individuals forget about their own needs too much and suffer themselves. It is really important to take care of yourself when helping others in recovery. Supporting someone else takes vast amounts of time and emotional energy. Most of the time, financial pressure is involved as well. Often, those taking care of the individual in recovery let themselves fall to the bottom of the list of priorities.

Thinking that you will take care of yourself when your loved one is completely done with recovery seems like the right thing to do when they seem to be suffering so much and need so much support. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, it’s easier to be reactive, frustrated or unnecessarily anxious. Instead, if you are meeting your own needs, you can be positive, caring, and calm for your loved one in recovery.

Remember the safety announcement on airplanes about securing your own oxygen mask first before helping others? Doing things to enhance and uplift yourself and your life can benefit the individual in recovery too. Sometimes its ok to go to dinner with friends or go to a movie even though you feel like that seems selfish knowing what your loved one is dealing with. Knowing you are happy and secure and healthy can help your loved one want the same thing for themselves.

Keeping you energy up, your life intact, things running smoothly, and continuing to foster other important relationships in your life can help you navigate the bumpy road that may be ahead with your loved one. The road may be longer than you think and taking care of you sets an important example for your loved one while in recovery.

Teen Drug Use on DeclineTeen Drug Use on Decline

A recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse called the Monitoring the Future study shows that drug use among teens is decreasing. The study, which tracked drug and alcohol use among 45,000 students nation wide in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, indicated that tobacco and alcohol use is definitely on the decrease.

Further, the use of opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin has declined as well as synthetic drug use, like Spice, K-2 and Black Mamba. However, although tobacco use has lessened, the study showed that teens are substituting regular cigarettes with e-cigarettes. In fact, around 20 percent of the student participants reported using e-cigarettes. Other research shows that teens are drawn to e-cigarette devices because of the flavored vapors. It is important to note that the vapors are not regulated so they could have even more hazardous materials in them then regular cigarettes and the increase in use among teens should be addressed.

Other key discoveries from this study by Monitoring the Future include first, that teens no longer see marijuana as dangerous and second, that teens are getting their opioids from a relative or a friend’s prescription. The legalization of marijuana has contributed to these attitudes and behaviors and these outcomes indicate that action must be taken to better educate teens about marijuana drug use and its dangers.

Mark - Recovery from Narcotics


As the child of a narcotics addict, Mark Van Wagoner suffered with opiate addiction since the age of 19. While on the surface living a respectable life, his private life was crumbling and he literally faced death and prison a few times in his journey. His turn- ing point came when on the brink of losing everything—his wife, his children, his

job, and possibly his life—he heard these words in a movie: “You gotta get busy living, or get busy dying.” He chose living and started down the difficult path to recovery.

Mark is a well-known local TV and radio personality, and even though he was warned professionally to “keep quiet” about his struggle with addiction, he and his family determined that if his example could result in just one other person finding recovery, the consequences to his work and status would be justified. He has since been an outspoken advocate for intervention and recovery—living proof that addiction reaches into every stratum of society, and also living proof that people can and do recover.

Mark volunteers freely in the treatment and recovery community, and he and his wife have served a substance abuse recovery mission for their church. He is a frequent public speaker to doctors, pharmacists, legislators, and prison groups, volunteering his considerable talents to wiping out this plague. Because of his association with the media,

he has had many opportunities to speak about his recovery and his life-long challenge on television and ra- dio as well as online. His life has been blessed by recovery as he has been able to keep his family together, send his five children to college, and live a meaningful and productive life.

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