Entries tagged with “Tips for Recovery”.


quit smokingAccording to the CDC, about 15 percent of adults in the United States are smokers. However, smoking rates are significantly higher among people who are also struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

If you’re considering seeking treatment, you may find yourself wondering if it’s best to quit smoking while you’re in rehab or if you should concentrate on beating one addiction at a time. The answer to this question depends on several different factors, including your own personal recovery preference.

The Link Between Smoking and Recovery

Long term tobacco use can cause a wide range of health problems, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease. However, the health benefits of quitting smoking can be seen almost immediately. For example, your heart rate and blood pressure will be back to normal within two hours. Within two to three weeks, your blood circulation and lung function should improve enough that exercising or engaging in physically strenuous activity will be noticeably easier.

The traditional thinking was that quitting smoking could threaten sobriety by increasing the intensity of a recovering substance abuser’s cravings for drugs and alcohol. Today, we know this is simply not true. Quitting smoking will not threaten your recovery and may even be beneficial if you’re suffering from alcoholism and strongly associate drinking with smoking cigarettes.

Since nicotine is an addictive substance, the process of quitting smoking is much like conquering alcohol or drug addiction. Use of nicotine replacement therapy via patch, gum, inhaler, or nasal spray can help keep your nicotine cravings under control. The same coping techniques you learn in recovery to handle cravings for drugs or alcohol can also be used to manage nicotine withdrawal.

Stress Relief and Addiction Recovery

For many people, smoking cigarettes is seen as a way to cope with stress. While it’s true that the experience of getting sober can be stressful, this doesn’t mean that you can’t quit smoking if you wish to do so. To some extent, stress will always be a part of your life. Even when you’re sober, you’ll be dealing with stress in your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers or supervisors.

Quitting smoking while in rehab may give you a chance to come up with healthier ways to handle stressful feelings, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, listening to music, or writing about your feelings in a journal. This experience will leave you feeling more confident and in control of your sobriety after your time at the treatment center has passed.

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant, which is why fear of gaining weight is common among people who are interested in quitting smoking. However, this fear is misguided. The vast majority of people who quit smoking gain no more than five to 10 pounds.

If you’re currently malnourished due to your drug or alcohol addiction, gaining a small amount of weight may be beneficial. If you are already at the right weight for your frame, making a point to exercise regularly and avoid overindulging in sweets or processed foods can help prevent any weight gain related to quitting smoking. Experts agree that fear of weight gain shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether or not you attempt to quit smoking while in recovery.

Quitting Is a Process

If you’ve tried to quit smoking unsuccessfully in the past, you may think it’s not worth the effort to try again. However, quitting smoking is often a process that requires several attempts to be successful.

A study recently published in BMJ Open suggests that it can take up to 30 attempts for smokers to go for one full year without cigarettes. Often, what works best is when a smoker has a powerful and personal reason to want to quit. Seeking treatment for your alcohol or drug addiction and making the decision to begin a fresh chapter in your life may be the mental “push” you need to kick the habit for good.

Choosing the Approach that Works Best for You

There is no one size fits all treatment approach for addiction. If you desire an opportunity to make a completely fresh start, St. Joseph Institute can help you quit smoking at the same time you address your alcohol or drug addiction. However, if you would prefer to focus on overcoming one addiction at a time, our counselors can help you develop a treatment plan that works for your unique needs.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.


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Leaving rehab is an exciting time. You’re beginning a new chapter in your life, equipped with the tools to maintain your sobriety. However, this does not mean that you won’t be faced with temptation.

The best way to prevent relapse after rehab is to proactively think about what triggers the urge to use and how you’ll handle cravings when they arise. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but this post outlines the most common triggers and offers suggestions you can use to help yourself stay clean.

1. Stress
A major part of the appeal of drugs and alcohol is that they provide a temporary escape from life’s stressful situations. If you’re worried about losing your job, experiencing financial difficulties, or fighting with your significant other, the key to maintaining your sobriety will be finding a constructive outlet for your stress.

Some ideas to consider include:

  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Write about your feelings in a journal.
  • Pray or meditate.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to a friend about what’s bothering you and brainstorm solutions together.

2. Boredom
Boredom is a common trigger among recovering substance abusers who turned to drugs and alcohol as their preliminary method of socializing and having fun. It can be challenging to find ways to entertain yourself after leaving the structured environment of a rehab facility.

The best boredom busters are ones that align with your own interests and passions, but here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Have friends over to binge watch a new show on Netflix while enjoying a bowl of freshly-made popcorn.
  • Take a class to learn about a subject you’ve always been interested in, such as painting, gardening, or mastering a new language.
  • Spend time outdoors hiking or biking. Exercising and spending time in nature helps provide natural endorphins to boost your mood.
  • Get involved with a volunteer organization that lets you meet new people while helping to make the world a better place.
  • Look for opportunities to socialize at your place of worship, such as guided Bible study groups or short service trips.

3. Frustration
Making significant changes to your life isn’t easy, so it’s normal to become frustrated when your recovery doesn’t progress as well as you’d hoped. However, you can’t let this frustration cause you to give up or decide that being sober isn’t worth the effort.

When you’re frustrated, head to a meeting. Friends and family may mean well, but other recovering substance users will have a unique understanding of the challenges you’re facing. They can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal and help you work towards finding a way to move forward with your life.

4. Peer Pressure
In a perfect world, the people closest to you would respect your decision to get clean. Unfortunately, the friends you made while you were still using may feel threatened by your newfound sobriety. They may ignore your requests to engage in drug- and alcohol-free activities, take you to places that trigger memories of past substance abuse, or encourage glamorizing your history of addiction.

The sad truth is that there isn’t thing you can do to control the behavior of others. You are only in control of your own thoughts and actions. If you find yourself surrounded by people who aren’t being supportive of your recovery, it’s time to put some distance between yourself and them. Saying goodbye to old friends is hard, but it’s sometimes necessary to move forward. Give yourself permission to seek a new social circle that understands your worth and encourages your recovery.

5. Failing to Address Co-Occurring Conditions
Many people with substance abuse disorders also struggle with co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. If you’re not taking the time to address these issues, you may find that you’re tempted to start using as a way to self-medicate.

To effectively maintain your sobriety, you must address all mental health concerns with your therapist or counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication may be necessary as part of your addiction treatment plan.

One Mistake Isn’t the End of the World

If you do succumb to the urge to use, it’s not the end of the world. One mistake doesn’t mean that your efforts in recovery are doomed. Think of the recovery process as a journey that requires regularly reevaluating which treatment strategies and coping mechanisms work best for your needs.

St. Joseph Institute offers extensive relapse prevention and aftercare services, including counseling, retreat programs, and alumni gatherings. If you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety, we can help connect you with the resources you need to ensure a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders


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By: Aspen Stoddard/staff writer

After more than a decade of using substances to avoid my “self,” one of the hardest parts of transitioning into sobriety was learning new tactics for dealing with the cycle of anxious thoughts spinning constantly in my mind.

Sure, I understood the idea of living one day at a time, but the fear of having to sustain this thought-battle in my mind permanently taunted me. How would I ever get through? It was right around this time period that my therapist suggested meditation.

“Have you ever tried?” she asked. I had not. I started to get a little angry: I needed real help. Being inside my mind was part of the problem.

“It works for me,” she said. “I find I have more energy afterward.”

I tried not to laugh. I imagined myself sitting cross-legged on some maroon rug trying to keep my eyes shut. I wouldn’t last ten seconds. My thoughts churned inside my head like hurricanes. There was no way I would be able to quiet my mind. In fact, I believed trying to sit still would only make the thoughts worse. I also thought that meditation was a practice that one needed to grow up with in order to efficiently perform. I’m a small-town girl who has experience in self-destruction. What did I know about meditating?

So instead of taking my friend’s advice, I returned to the chaos of my mind and continued struggling within the way I had grown used to.

After a few weeks, and at a point where I was feeling worn out and on the verge of running back toward drugs to ease my mind, the idea of meditation returned to me. I decided to give it a shot. I began with guided meditations, which allowed me to listen to someone tell a story.

If you have ever listened to a guided meditation, then you can probably imagine the soothing voice suggesting: find a place to sit down. You can choose a soft pillow or a cushioned-chair. Just find a place to sit down and be comfortable and then close your eyes. Concentrate on the cool air streaming through your nose. Just stay right there. Breathe. Think only of the flow of oxygen moving in and out. Allow thoughts to enter and exit your mind without attempting to interpret them. In other words, relax. Allow yourself to be.

I sat with my eyes pinched closed, my body taut with tension, and a voice in my head telling me that it was time to relax (not telling—more on the verge of panicking). I could only think about how I didn’t know what I was doing.

But then slowly something strange happened. After about five minutes into the session, I was suddenly only aware of the muscles in my body and the woman’s voice who was guiding me. I felt the circuit of energy moving in waves through me. When I finally opened my eyes, tears streamed down my cheeks. Not so much because I had an out-of-this-world spiritual experience (though, that would come later after more practice) but because of the relief my brain felt. I had, if only for that short moment, escaped from my anxious thoughts.

I escaped without poisoning my body.

One of the common misconceptions about meditation is that you must force your mind to empty. The reality is quite the opposite. Rather than forcing the mind to be silent, meditation asks that you allow thoughts to freely flow without judging them. For the addict in recovery, I think this is one of the most essential terms-—judgement. As addicts in recovery, we are professionals at judging ourselves. We are not so expert at acceptance. Meditation allowed me to begin to forgive myself for hurting myself and others. Through a steady practice of meditation, I could allow those thoughts to enter my mind and let them pass.

It has been a few years now since I started practicing meditation. I find that I am more stable when I am practicing. When I get off track and start skipping sessions, I feel myself spiraling. Meditation forces me to sit with myself, to be aware of my awareness, to allow a maelstrom of thoughts to appear and disappear without trying to over-analyze them.

But don’t just take my word for it; in a recent study by Harvard in 2011, researchers found that an eight-week program of meditative practice changes the gray matter in the brain, the region that controls stress, memory, empathy, and our sense of self.

Again, keep in mind that meditation works best as a daily practice. It’s best to find a way to incorporate meditation as part of your lifestyle than to see it as time-absorbing exercise. You don’t need a lot of time. In fact, I started with just ten minutes a day.

Check out these websites for a variety of specified guided meditations:

 

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website. You can also call us directly at 877-727-4465. 


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