Archive for April, 2014

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It’s frustrating.  No matter how terrible the impact of heroin has been on a user’s life, they keep returning to the same sick relationship.  The dependence is so great that the resolve to stop using can easily crumble.  Why is it so hard to break free from opiate addiction?  Why is it so hard to say goodbye and walk away forever?

Part of the answer lies with the chemistry of the interaction between heroin and the brain.  When someone takes “exogenous” or outside of the body opiates, they release a tsunami of dopamine, creating an intense rush of pleasure that the brain records as a profound experience of reward.  That memory remains strong, and is quickly recalled when a thought, action, or event, stimulates the desire to feel differently, or to feel better.  A person’s deep attachments to the feelings caused by heroin are potent drivers that pull the user back to their opiate drug.

But there is also a thought process at work.  The powerful sensation of an opiate such as heroin provides a reinforcing experience that offers a sense of purpose and meaning.  The drug provides comfort and momentary answers.  For this reason, many addicts run to their drug at the first signs of physical or emotional distress.  This dependence, with an existential bonding, makes breaking free from heroin especially hard.

Because the addictive power of heroin and other opiates is so strong, abstinence is never enough.  More is needed to establish recovery than simply saying “goodbye” to the drug of choice.  Part of the brain feels that it is losing its best friend, and the concept of “never again” is very hard to bear.  The drug-induced programming of the reward system in the brain creates a powerful opponent in the battle against addiction.

Lasting recovery from heroin demands a deep transformation.  The biological and  psychological power of the drug must be understood, and the addict must admit their powerlessness and reach out for help.  But more importantly, the “spiritual” impact of heroin must be appreciated, albeit often unconscious, and the drug must be replaced by a new and deeper source of meaning.

The hard reality is that saying no to heroin is not a one-time event.  Only with constant support, fellowship, and activities that provide emotional rewards, can the powerful bonds be broken.  The addict’s life must have new sources of reward and purpose that provide the resolve to stay drug-free.

In short, a divorce from heroin is never enough.  There must be the creation of new attachments, as are found in 12-Step groups, a church community, or with a sponsor, that take the place of the “meaningfulness” once provided by heroin.  Recovery becomes the creation of a new life that replaces the relationship with heroin that has been left behind.

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I will never forget the little speech that Sara gave at St. Joseph Institute during an evening discussion on relapse prevention.  With strong emotions, she argued that the best people she knew were in recovery.  The group chucked when she concluded by stating that everyone in the world should be required to go to rehab and have an aftercare program.

The point that Sara was making highlights how easy it is to go through life complaining about problems, exhibiting bad behavior, and never striving for self-improvement.  However, a successful recovery from addiction demands that problems be addressed, bad attitudes reconsidered, and that a never-ending struggle to become a better person be passionately embraced.  If the ultimate goal of recovery is to create “a life where it is easier not to use,” then a constant effort to become a different person, and have a richer life, must be a top priority. Sara claims that “lots of folks sleep-walk through life,” while a successful recovery demands an active response.

joy-in-the-journeyIt’s not uncommon to hear the addict or alcoholic in recovery describe a glass that is half empty.  They look at their life in terms of things they can no longer do, people they can no longer see, and places that should be avoided.  It is so important that they begin to see life for what it can now become.  Dreams can be realized, relationships gain richness and stability, physical health be restored and joy rediscovered.  In contrast, addiction encourages people to see what they are giving up rather than what they can now attain.

Science has been telling us that happiness is in large part a state of mind that must be sought.  The thoughts we place at the center of our mind affect our moods and our sense of joy.  The addict that focuses on “gratitude” will have a better day that the one who grumbles about the challenges in life that must be faced in recovery – rather than escaped through addiction.

At the end of the evening, many of the other residents in treatment came to agree with Sara.  Recovery could – no must – lead them to be better people.  They needed to learn to manage stress, practice self-care, stop lying and manipulating others, and see their new life as one filled with opportunity.  The best friends and companions might be found among those people in recovery who were determined to examine and overcome what AA refers to as “defects of character.”

That thought put a smile on many faces.

Reunion weekend is almost here!!

Spring DaisyWe hope you are as excited as we are about the upcoming reunion! We have so many fun things planned and can’t wait to see you all. A copy of the schedule is listed below.If you are not able to make it, please remember we will have another reunion in October. Keep watching for emails with information closer to then!


 

If you haven’t already done so, please fill out the survey to let us know if you are coming!

Weekend Schedule

April 25, 2014

Friday Evening

4:00-5:30 PM        Welcome/Social Time

5:30-6:30 PM        Dinner in Bald Eagle Hospitality House

6:45-8:30 PM        Sharing the Recovery Experience: Residents and graduates will discuss the challenges and triumphs of recovery

April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning

8:30-9:30 AM        Breakfast in Bald Eagle Hospitality House

10:00-11:30 AM     A special program discussion

12:00-1:00 PM       Lunch in Bald Eagle Hospitality House

 

Saturday Afternoon

1:30-3:00 PM        Song and Live Meditation (special music by Jim)- Forest Chapel

3:00-5:30 PM        Recovery Olympics-Staff and graduates have a fun time planned with sports, games, and activities that you won’t want to miss!

 

Saturday Evening

5:30-6:30 PM        Dinner in Bald Eagle Hospitality House

6:45-8:30 PM        God as We Understand Him

 

April 27, 2014

Sunday Morning

8:30-9:30 AM        Breakfast in Bald Eagle Hospitality House

10:00-11:00 AM    Worship Service in the Forest Chapel