Aftercare


Thanksgiving tableIn the early stages of recovery, you’re learning new ways to cope with everyday situations. Developing healthy habits is a big task, especially during the holiday season. If this will be your first sober Thanksgiving, stay on the path to recovery with these 8 helpful tips.

1. Be Grateful.

Thanksgiving is all about counting your blessings and there’s no greater blessing than being in recovery. Writing down your blessings in a journal is an excellent way to remind yourself of your commitment to your sobriety while getting into the spirit of the Thanksgiving celebration. Sending personal notes to those who’ve helped with your recovery is another great way to show your gratitude. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a natural born writer, you can’t go wrong with a heartfelt note of appreciation.

2. Start a New Tradition.

If drinking is normally a big part of your Thanksgiving celebration, consider this year an opportunity to start a new alcohol-free tradition. You could organize a team trivia contest, play a friendly game of flag football, create a silly photo booth complete with assorted costumes and props, or give back to your community by volunteering at a local homeless shelter. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Thanksgiving, as long as you’re making memories with the people who mean the most to you.

3. Make Plans for Self-Care.

If you’re struggling with depression or social anxiety, crowded holiday gatherings can be overwhelming. Even if you’re genuinely excited to see everyone, a packed room might be hard to handle.

Taking the time to meditate or engage in some relaxing yoga poses before the event begins is an excellent way to keep stress levels in check. Bringing items to help you calm down, such as headphones and relaxing music, calming essential oil spray, or a fun mini adult coloring book, can also be helpful.

4. Don’t Throw Good Nutrition Out the Window.

While Thanksgiving is a time to indulge, keep in mind that healthy eating habits help support your recovery. Start your meal with a salad packed with fiber rich veggies, choose moderate portions of your favorite entrees and side dishes, then finish with a special dessert. Make a point to eat slowly and give your full attention to your food so you can savor every last bite.

One common mistake that people make when planning their Thanksgiving holiday is coming to the feast on an empty stomach. If you let yourself get too hungry, you’ll be more likely to eat to excess. Being hungry can also make it harder to regulate your emotions and control your cravings for drugs or alcohol.

5. Bring Your Own Beverage.

Ideally, your host should provide a non-alcoholic beverage choice for guests who don’t drink. Unfortunately, this is a detail that not everyone remembers. Avoid a sticky situation by simply bringing your own non-alcoholic beverage option.

Sparkling cider, herbal tea, flavored water, or a fruity non-alcoholic punch are excellent beverage choices for a Thanksgiving meal. Bring enough to share and you may find yourself surprised by how many guests decide to spend the day sober with you.

6. Stay Busy.

Keeping yourself busy throughout the event will help calm your nerves and reduce the intensity of any cravings you might have. Volunteer to help set the table, put the finishing touches on a few side dishes, or entertain any impatient young children. Your helpfulness will be appreciated and you’ll make new memories in the process.

7. Go to a Meeting.

It’s common for 12 step programs to host multiple meetings throughout the holidays, so there’s probably one near wherever you are traveling. Connecting with others in recovery can help you stay on the right path. If desired, you could use this opportunity to invite a supportive friend or family member to attend an open meeting with you.

8. Plan an Escape Route.

Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but it’s always a good idea to come up with a graceful way to exit a situation that starts to feel like it’s just too much. Consider having a friend on standby who can send a text or call with an “emergency” that lets you leave the party early if needed.

Another easy way to exit a situation is to simply inform everyone ahead of time that you have another appointment later in the day and will need to leave early. This strategy works well for situations where you know that you won’t be feeling up to socializing for the entire event.

By Dana Hinders

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, please call St. Joseph Institute at 888-352-3297.

 

Staying Sober During the Holidays

EmilyBenjamin_1

Meet St. Joseph Institute’s Alumni/Aftercare Coordinator and PRN Counselor, Emily Benjamin. An alumna of St. Joseph Institute (SJI) and a self-professed nerd, Emily brings joy and enthusiasm to her work. Her passion comes in large part from her own experience as a recovering addict and the thrill she finds in being able to live life fully, both at work and at home.

When I asked Emily if I could interview her for the SJI blog, she readily agreed. Read on to discover the LONG list of things Emily does for St. Joseph, her vision for the future of alumni relations at SJI, and what exactly makes her a nerd.

How long have you worked at St. Joseph Institute, and what brought you here?

I have been at SJI as an employee since August 2017. However, my journey takes me back to 2011. In 2011, I came to SJI seeking treatment for my own addiction to heroin and opiate pain killers, via injection. I came here against my will (my parents basically dropped me off and said, “Cya later!”); to say I held on to anger for my first few days of treatment is an understatement. It took me about 3 days until I realized I was grateful to be at SJI. I spent 30 days here and have been clean ever since (May 24, 2011).

At three years clean, I entered my Master’s Program for counseling at Mount Aloysius College.  It was the owner of SJI that advocated on my behalf to get into graduate school even though I had a felony on my record. To my surprise, I was accepted. By my senior year, it was time for an internship. SJI had recently come under new ownership and I did not know if I would be able to obtain an internship there. I tried, anyway. To my surprise, Summit Behavioral Health was happy to take me on for my practicum and internship.

I began on May 26, 2017 (5 years and 2 days to the date of me entering as resident). I interned for 14 months, and then was hired as a PRN counselor. In August, I became the alumni/aftercare coordinator/PRN counselor. Today, I have 6 years and 3 months clean and sober, and have a job at the same facility that gave me my life back! I am beyond grateful.

Give us a brief description of what you do as alumni coordinator.

As the aftercare/alumni coordinator, I set up all aftercare for clients. This includes all counseling services (IOP, PHP), sober living, case management, probation appointments, and all things necessary for a client to leave with a solid aftercare option. I also coordinate events for campus. For example, I recently coordinated a full day of events for National Recovery Month, including the coloring of a banner for overdose victims as well as a balloon release and candlelight vigil; a few days later, we had a campfire featuring the Penn State CRC (Collegiate Recovery Community) alcoholics and addicts, who shared their own addiction stories with our clients while we all enjoyed music and s’mores.

I am also the speaker-seeker and invite speakers, both alumni and outside speakers, to come every Thursday night for our in-house NA/AA meeting. I place phone calls to residents who have discharged, beginning at 7 days post-treatment, followed by 30 days, and then 6 months. I create a database of alumni clients so that I can then invite them to the reunions that we schedule yearly. I also facilitate all orientations for the new residents on campus.

What do you love about your work?

I love working with addicts and alcoholics, because I was in their same shoes. I can speak their language and I can empathize with what they are going through when they get here. Not only that, but I love to help. I just received a phone call yesterday from a mom of a current client, and she said, “My son told me that you give him hope every day.” That’s why I do what I do. To let my clients know there is hope. WE DO RECOVER! 

EmilyBenjamin_2

The fact that I am able to help these clients understand that their disease does not have to stop them from living a life beyond their wildest dreams gives me a feeling that I cannot describe. I was given a second chance at life through SJI. I could not have gotten clean if I had not started in treatment here just as they are doing. What makes SJI unique is that EACH individual staff member cares about the clients. From the counselors to the cleaning ladies, we all take our time to make sure our clients are comfortable, because we love what we do! 

What do you want to see happen for the alumni in the future?

I would like to see the alumni group increase and empower current residents. I would like to bring in more of an alumni presence into our in-house meetings as well as host events on campus, regularly, where clients are able to see that recovery works and that recovery is awesome. I want the alumni to have a network with each other where they can motivate each other and reach out, all having the common bond of SJI. I want a resident from 2010, when SJI first opened as a treatment center, to be able to encourage a resident in 2017, and vice versa. I want to see SJI hosting events that bring in alumni on a monthly basis, at least.

Why are alumni connections important in recovery?

Evidence. Alumni connections show evidence that treatment WORKS. Alumni connections show that someone else has been in one’s seat and is living a life beyond their wildest dreams, in just a few month’s/year’s time. Alumni connections give clients the ability to see that they are not alone or unique, and that addiction does not discriminate—but neither does recovery!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not coordinating alumni?

I am a nerd. If I am not reading up on counseling techniques and finding new fun activities to host at SJI, then I am typically hanging out with the ones I love. I have five nieces, one nephew, and one niece/nephew on the way. I like to spend my time with my family, because I remember a time where they were the last people I wanted to see.

My active addiction took me away from enjoying little things, like a walk in a park, or a drive back the mountain. I enjoy alone time so I can read and even catch up on my favorite reality TV shows! I love attending NA meetings and giving back to my sponsees, guiding them through the 12 steps. I love carrying the message of hope in my free time, because any day is a good day to give back!

If you are seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one and would like to know more about the treatment services at St. Joseph Institute, please contact us today. We find great joy in helping our clients find their path to an exciting, sustainable recovery.

By Cindy Spiegel

massage therapyIf you’re interested in a holistic approach to addressing your substance abuse issues, massage therapy may be an option to consider. Although it’s not a commonly used part of addiction treatment, massage therapy offers several benefits to people in recovery. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Promotes Detoxification

The squeezing and pulling motions we associate with a professional massage do more than just feel good. They help flush lactic acid from the muscles and boost blood flow to the limbs. This improvement in vascular function continues for several days after the massage has ended, which is why professional athletes often rely on massage to keep them in competitive shape.

Since massage helps improve circulation, it can aid in the detoxification process by allowing for a more efficient expulsion of toxic waste products away from the body. The invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid also helps to promote a better utilization of oxygen-rich nutrition into the various organs and tissues.

2. Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevents the release of natural endorphins, which means someone who is newly sober needs a little extra help convincing the body to manufacture these “feel good” chemicals.

Research has shown massage therapy increases the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood. Manufactured in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, beta-endorphins offer a chemical-free way for those in recovery to feel more like themselves. If you’re engaged in a regular exercise program as well as massage therapy, these benefits are further enhanced.

3. Reduces Chronic Pain

For someone who turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with chronic pain, massage can be a way to heal the body. Regular massage can lower pain levels and promote a more restful sleep—leading to improved mood and energy throughout the day.

If you suffer from opioid addiction related to chronic pain, regular massage therapy sessions can be particularly beneficial. Recovering prescription opioid abusers are often reluctant to use any type of pain medication for fear of relapse, but massage can be combined with alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to naturally increase the body’s serotonin levels.

4. Reduces Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and create mood disturbances. Massage therapy helps those in recovery feel more relaxed and in control of their newfound sobriety by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It increases glucose in the bloodstream and increases the availability of hormones to promote tissue repair, helping the body to be primed for a “fight or flight” situation. Although this is helpful when you’re actually under attack, an excess of cortisol can lead to stress-related problems such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

5. Addresses Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, massage therapy can help by triggering the body’s relaxation response. It’s not a substitute for talk therapy, but massage can help you feel more open and comfortable expressing your emotions. This can enhance the effectiveness of your overall treatment plan, reducing the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

6. Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you’ve been physically or sexually abused in the past, touch may be associated with negative feelings. Massage therapy encourages the brain to associate physical contact with more positive sensations.

Psychologists who study trauma have stated that being a victim of abuse undermines five of our most basic human needs: safety, trust, control over one’s life, feeling of value, and experiencing closeness with others. The intimacy of massage therapy provides a safe and therapeutic way to meet these needs, thus offering a foundation for healing.  

7. Enhances Self-Awareness

An essential part of addiction recovery involves learning to manage personal addiction triggers. Understanding how feelings of boredom, anger, frustration, or anxiety trigger the urge to use helps you be proactive in managing your sobriety.

Regular massage helps build an awareness of your own body, including where tension exists and patterns that can lead to an increase in negative emotions. This can make it easier to develop productive strategies for controlling cravings and avoiding relapse.

How to Incorporate Massage Therapy into Your Recovery

Massage therapy can’t cure addiction on its own, but the guidance of a qualified massage therapist can offer numerous benefits as part of a broader evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment program. If you’re interested in incorporating massage therapy into your treatment, this issue can be discussed with your counselor as you’re developing your recovery plan.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website or call us at 888-352-3297.

Related articles:

Next Page »