Why Is Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Difficult?

Why Is Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Difficult - Transcend Recovery

It starts with a drink, or one hit, or just a one-time thing. Sometimes it’s under pressure from others, sometimes it’s because you feel like you just need it right now. Other times, it’s because it’s the thing to do and you never thought about doing it differently.

It’s always a slippery slope. Every year, millions of Americans continue to struggle with substance use disorder, and very few understand how or why.

It’s clear that no one chooses to be addicted, for obvious reasons. An addiction is a terrible thing, with a great many terrible symptoms. Yet millions of Americans struggle to quit, trying repeatedly without avail.

Why? Why is it so hard?

Being an addict is not easy. Being an addict is not pleasant. And those who are addicted, and realize it, want to get better. But there’s no overcoming addiction than simply wanting to do so.

That’s because addiction is, for all intents and purposes, a brain disease.


Addiction is a Disease

Addiction is a chronic illness, not a matter of choice. That basically means that even when you want to stop, you’ll find it very difficult to do so without help.

Many Americans quit using drugs despite being heavy users for many years, but that’s because addiction is not guaranteed. It affects some drug users, but not all of them.

For any given history of drug use, there’s a percentage chance that it will lead to substance use disorder – depending on the drug, and the person. For example, an estimated 10 percent of heavy drinkers will struggle or are struggling with alcohol use disorder. The other half are simply drinking too much.

For those who are unaffected by substance use disorders, they can quit when they feel ready. People go through stages in their life where they party and make friends, use drugs, get busy, and stop. They give it up because it’s too expensive, or too time consuming.

But some people get stuck. They can’t just give it up. They can’t just stop.

That’s when addiction has kicked in, and like any disease, addiction requires treatment. Just as how anyone with a cold would like to get better but can’t without giving their body enough time to recover, an addiction takes time to overcome.

The most important element of addiction treatment is quitting. When the body is deprived of drugs, it begins to change and heal. It’s then that therapy becomes useful, as a recovering addict can begin to make quantitative changes in their life and reshape the way they live.

But that first step – quitting – is often the one people get stuck on. This is because of how addiction reshapes the brain.


Addiction Affects Reward 

When you take a drug, addictive or not, it enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. Receptors in the cells of the body – particularly in the brain – pick up the drug molecules. The relationship between a receptor and a drug molecule is that of a keyhole and a key.

Yet drugs aren’t the usual keys we have floating around in our bloodstream – they closely mimic other molecules, using that similarity to hook into our cells and affect change.

Addictive drugs are deemed addictive because they represent a subset of substances that affect a collection of systems in the brain related to reward. This reward system is what essentially reinforces behavior through positive feedback. It’s what makes us feel good when we exercise, taste good food, or have sex.

The reward system is integral to human behavior, and addictive drugs hijack this system by introducing the high – a burst of chemically-induced euphoria that often overpowers us. The brain struggles to adapt to this new experience, and does so by trying to quantify it, and then normalize it.

The result is predictable. The high becomes normal, so we need something stronger. This happens with non-addictive substances as well, as the body can build a resistance to the effects of a certain drug by metabolizing it more quickly.

But with addictive drugs, this simply incentivizes taking even larger doses, further increasing the danger of reaching a ‘tipping point’ where the drug has changed the way we prioritize reward-inducing behavior to the point that a high overshadows everything else.

At some point, in some people, the brain becomes mechanically and behaviorally dependent on a drug, inducing cravings and triggering crippling withdrawal symptoms within hours of being sober. At this point, the drug has hijacked our reward system, and our brain.


Addiction Affects Planning

Drug use is often destructive. While addicted behavior in itself is destructive, as it prioritizes the addiction before most other things, addictive substances are often dangerous in high quantities.

Drugs like methamphetamine are particularly neurotoxic, with drastic long-term consequences such as anhedonia as a result of affecting the way the brain releases and experiences serotonin.

Alcohol, cocaine, and opioids all have long term effects on the grey matter of the brain, diminishing cognitive abilities and decision-making, affecting our capacity to think ahead, think about risk, and stop ourselves from making certain decisions.

These drugs also increase the risk of stroke, and affect working memory, as well as our ability to process new information and learn. Because teens and children have developing brains, they are most at risk for these long-term effects.


Addiction Affects Motivation

Motivation is intrinsically linked to our brain’s reward system, as we are inherently motivated by bursts of endorphins and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals. But motivation is also linked to the more complex systems that trigger both ‘feel-good’ chemicals, as well as feelings of shame and guilt.

As part of a vicious cycle, addiction is often linked to depression and anxiety, and as a person struggles with addiction, they become less and less likely to motivate themselves to commit to meaningful changes (including sobriety).

In other words, the addiction itself makes it harder to get motivated to do anything. Some drugs reinforce motivation, and even improve it (stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines come to mind), but these effects are tied to the high these drugs create and fade right after.


Relearning to Be Sober

So how can someone quit an addiction? It starts with abstinence.

Unless you break the cycle of addiction, you can’t start down the path to getting used to sobriety. Sober living homes and residential rehab centers help with this by placing a recovering addict in a space where they can’t be tempted to use again. But that’s just the first step.

Making lifestyle changes that set your new life apart from the one you led while addicted is important to long-term recovery. As is working on developing new meaningful relationships with other sober people, and mending relationships with sober friends and family members. It’s important to find something to excel at, be it physically, socially, or mentally.

Accomplishing things can be a great source of satisfaction in sobriety, and satisfaction is critical to breaking the link between drug use and reward. To overcome addiction, you have to love being sober. And there’s a long road ahead for many recovering addicts looking to accomplish that.

But with time, support, and the right treatment, it’s all within reach.

Why Has Prescription Drug Abuse Grown So Big?

prescription drug abuse | Transcend Recovery Community

The United States is a great country. But it’s also a country with flaws, and problems. Imperfections and embarrassments. It was built on certain values, values that at the time made way for a novel nation. Yet even then, it was undermined by societal problems, problems that took centuries to fix. Improving our country is a job that no one person can undertake, and it’ll take us generations. It all starts at home, with family. We protect our own, watch out for our neighbors, and strive to create safer, better communities. And part and parcel with that dream is fighting against the things that tear apart our families and destroy our lives.

For decades, this country has been struggling with an invisible problem – over medication and prescription drug abuse. At the root of that problem is a little plant. A pretty little flowering plant, called the poppy. Opium poppy is the world’s source of opiates, a family of drugs that affect the mind by binding to our opioid receptors, numbing pain and creating a sense of euphoria and happiness.

At first, a good thing. But it’s also highly addictive – and that addiction can lead to months and years of suffering, and finally, death. Opioids like heroin, morphine, and illegally-distributed fentanyl have been problems for decades – but it’s the more recent wave of prescription opioids that triggered today’s opioid epidemic, which currently is claiming more lives under the age of 50 than any other known cause of death.

To understand the prescription drug abuse problem, we must know where it came from. And from there, we must find a way to safeguard our families from its influence, and help those around us struggling with addiction begin a new life without drugs.


America’s Fight Against Pain

It all began with pain. Pain is unavoidable. Every now and again, you’re bound to trip and fall. But most of us can learn to fall a little less, and hurt a little less.

Then there are those among us that always hurt, regardless of whether they fell or not. Chronic pain has always existed, but it’s only with our growing life expectancy and that it’s become more and more common. From rare diseases like fibromyalgia, work-related injuries, nerve problems like sciatica, aging pains and pain resulting from obesity and lifestyle-related diseases, chronic pain has been on a rise for a while.

Then, in the 90s, American doctors decided it was time for an official policy to declare a war on pain. It was specifically in the late 90s, when a panel issued guidelines for more prescription painkillers to help sufferers of chronic pain.

From there, “compassionate care” grew. Doctors were prescribing more medication, and state policy for various parts of the country became increasingly positive towards drug-related pain management. Over the course of a decade from ’97 to 2007, the consumption of opioids like methadone and oxycodone grew 13-fold and 9-fold respectively. This meant many were being prescribed far too much, which meant having a lot of unused medication – a problem to this day.

As sales of opioids skyrocketed, so did non-medical use and prescription drug abuse. While it wasn’t overwhelmingly common, those who suffered from chronic pain and took opioids were also most at risk for developing an addiction. And many did.

This lead to a massive jump in accidental overdoses. And ever since, the death toll has grown.


A Big Misunderstanding

Heroin, opium and oxycodone are all essentially the same thing, with varying degrees of potency. We’re talking about a drug that triggers a numbing effect, and makes you feel better – all while carrying an immense risk for addiction.

However, because the latter drug is prescribed by a doctor and not peddled by a drug dealer, it’s more trustworthy – and therein was the misunderstanding. Prescription drugs are still very dangerous, and not to be treated lightly. Drugs like morphine and oxycodone have their role to play in emergency rooms, and for end-of-life care – but overprescribing these medications to chronic pain patients is putting them in harm’s way – especially considering the potential ineffectiveness of opioids in treating chronic pain and potential for prescription drug abuse.


It’s Not Just Prescription Drug Abuse

Major steps have been taken to cut down on prescription drug abuse, particularly by restricting the pace at which doctors can distribute them. However, that has since given way to a new problem. With a dwindling legal supply of prescription opioids and growing grassroots movements and community efforts to reduce the number of pills in American families and households, those who already struggled with painkillers found a new, illegal means to satisfy their urge: heroin.

Heroin is an illegal substance, which means its production isn’t regulated or monitored for quality. This means it’s often cut with other substances to increase bulk, and infused with a more potent, cheaper synthetic drug to maintain street value. The result can often be an accidental overdose, and death – or lifelong disability.

Since heroin has become popular again, it’s been flooding into the United States at an elevated pace. States where drug use has been historically high – such as Vermont – and counties and towns along known drug routes are now seeing an influx of heroin use, as well.

Many first-time opioid addicts today are no longer getting hooked by prescription drug abuse, but heroin itself. Whether this is because of the increased demand for the drug following prescription drug regulations or some other reason hasn’t been conclusively studied – but the fact is that this is an even bigger danger than opioid medication, which has some assurance of safety if prescribed and supplied by a real doctor.

There is no easy factor to blame, or reason to pin. It’s a complicated mess of things, ranging from the slow death of industrial America and our recent financial crisis and depression, new wars with returning veterans struggling with the trauma and physical pain of combat, to the rising cost of living and stagnating wages, and the growing gap between rich and poor.


Dealing with Our Opioid Crisis

As individuals, we can’t fix our country overnight. But we can help each other stay alive, and live a better life: A life without prescription drug abuse. Whether it means showing compassion to a neighbor, helping your spouse stay sober, or signing into a sober living community yourself, there’s always something you can do.


Caffeine Addiction & Recovery – Should Caffeine Be Allowed In Recovery?

Caffeine Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

Coffee and addiction recovery seemingly go hand in hand. Some researchers state that up to 90 percent of recovering alcoholics tend to consume coffee, and there’s been a penchant for other caffeine-filled drinks in recovery circles, including common energy drinks. Why is caffeine such a loved substance and is caffeine addiction something to watch out for?

Our relationship to caffeine traces back quite a while – although no one is exactly sure when we first incorporated it into human culture. Tea and coffee are the most commonly consumed sources of caffeine in the world, with tea predating coffee by a few thousand years. Yet in the United States, coffee consumption is clearly ahead of the old tea trend. The average American alone consumes about 2 cups of coffee a day, a number that gradually increases with age.

Coffee, and most other caffeinated drinks, result in a state of higher alertness and, for the most part, can help you focus on the tasks at hand. Furthermore, caffeine produces a temporary rush – it goes through an entire journey in your body, elevating your heartbeat, your mood, and improving your concentration.

Which leads us to the point that, yes, caffeine is a psychoactive substance – a drug.

Yes, Caffeine is a Drug

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug found in guarana, tea leaves, yerba mate, cacao and the coffee bean primarily. It is a natural stimulant, one that, once ingested, kickstarts a caffeine rush that improves your cognitive abilities and creates a sense of alertness. This is done by blocking the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces a state of relaxation akin to drowsiness. Over the course of the day, adenosine buildup in the brain leads us to become more and more tired, a natural mechanism designed to help us create a solid sleeping schedule. Because of this, caffeine addiction can be a real thing, even if it’s nowhere near as potent as other more serious drugs.

Coffee blocks the drowsiness of this mechanism, and instead keeps us on our feet. This is followed by the side-effects of an increase in adrenaline, and other neurotransmitters including dopamine. It takes about 20 minutes from the moment you ingest caffeine for its effects to kick in – and it only takes a few hours for the effect to wear off.

Because caffeine eliminates sleepiness, once the body has worked it through your system, you may come down hard with the urge to take a nap. However, you may not even have to drink coffee to get some value out of it – researchers have discovered the effects of coffee aroma in the brain, namely as a way to reduce stress without impeding sleep.

Should Caffeine be Banned in Recovery?

This has been up for debate for quite a long time, with some treatment homes completely banning coffee, while others are more lenient and only ban “harmful” substances. Coffee in moderation can be healthy – yet so is nearly everything in moderation, and for people struggling with addiction recovery, coffee may too easily become a new source of addiction.

The argument there is that, regardless of the potential lack of risk, becoming attached to coffee as a source of happiness and focus is contrary to the philosophy of sobriety, and as such, contrary to the philosophy of many treatment centers that focus on creating total spiritual and psychological peace of mind.

There are valid opinions and passionate thoughts on both side of the fence for this, and even among sober living communities, some eschew the use of coffee as another drug to remove from life, while others don’t bat an eye at their neighbor’s 4 cups-a-day habit.

Defining Dangerous: Caffeine Addiction?

For all intents and purposes, caffeine addiction is real. Coffee can create symptoms of mild dependence and mild withdrawal – at most, symptoms will include nausea, headaches and muscle pain. There have been rare cases of an overdose caused by caffeine toxicity, and more commonly, people experience symptoms of insomnia and anxiety due to an elevated caffeine intake.

However, a caffeine addiction lacks the pronounced effect of other, more dangerous addictions. Withdrawal symptoms are minor, and go away after a few days. And even amounts as high as six cups a day fail to consistently show any negative side effects. Nicotine, on the other hand, is another favorite among recovering alcoholics, and is highly addictive and much harder to recover from, while usually being accompanied by the health risks of chain smoking.

Alcohol kills thousands of people a year, from overdoses to car crashes and other accidents. Heroin and other opiates are extremely addictive and highly concerning, especially in the face of the country’s current epidemic.

In short, there are too many other drugs to worry about – and the benefits of coffee may ultimately outweigh its negatives in most cases. Caffeine addiction and abuse is very unhealthy – but also rare.

You and Coffee

At the end of the day, you’re an adult – and it’s your own decision to drink coffee or not to drink coffee. Coffee, unlike Ritalin, Adderall, cocaine or alcohol, is not a dangerously addictive or highly potent drug.

Caffeine can cause mild dependence symptoms, and overuse can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as drowsiness, headaches, and even nausea. However, a caffeine overdose is highly unlikely, and caffeine is in general not a dangerous substance. Like sugary foods and drinks, you need to consume responsibly. Cycle off caffeine when your coffee or energy drinks begin to lose potency, and don’t develop a caffeine addiction by trying to use it as a replacement for sleep.

Brewed coffee is generally the safest way to ingest caffeine, as it doesn’t typically contain as much caffeine as most energy drinks, and lacks the additives that may make energy drinks more potent as a source of addiction (such as sweeteners).

Some might even point to coffee as a fantastic way to deal with stress early on in recovery – when the alternative is heroin, a pot or two of coffee with little chance for any real negative health consequences seems like a fair trade. Coffee may give you the jitters, but it won’t fuel a shopping spree, destroy your social circle, or turn you into a destructive, abusive person. A cup of coffee a day won’t sabotage your attempts at drug recovery, and coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

But an unhealthy habit – such as chugging several pots daily – can be a chemical coping mechanism, one wherein you’re replacing your old addiction with a new source of dopamine. However, the effects of a “caffeine addiction” aren’t typically as dangerous or pronounced as those of other drugs, so in the end, the debate remains open, and only you can figure out what answer best fits your definitions of dependence and addiction.

Keep in mind, if you ever feel like you need help, even if it’s “just” a caffeine addiction, help is available. Checking out a sober housing program might be the way to go.

Recovery, Transformation, and the Search for Meaning

Recovery, Transformation, and the Search for Meaning | Transcend Recovery Community

There’s a phrase in the mental health field that says Addicts are very spiritual people; they’re just knocking on the wrong door. Instead of finding meaning in life through relationships, a fulfilling career, or through their spirituality, you might say that addicts tend to satisfy their search for meaning through drugs and alcohol. They look for some kind of answer through the highs and altered states that the use of substances bring them.

Yet, there are clearly dangers with this way of finding meaning. Addiction, self-harm, poor health, unhealthy relationships, and legal problems are examples of what can result with finding meaning, whether consciously or unconsciously, through the use of drugs and alcohol. So, what might be a better way to find meaning and satisfaction in life?

This is precisely the question that Transcend Recovery Community asks of their residents.  We invite our residents to explore their aspirations, dreams, and desires. In order to help participants of our programs find new meaning in their lives, we encourage the following:

  1. Create meaningful life goals. Transcend encourages residents to set meaningful goals. Having goals to work toward and something to look forward to can be powerful antidotes to drug addiction. It doesn’t matter what the goals are—whether they involve your career, your personal life, or your health—just that they are important to you.
  2. Stay closely connected to others in recovery. Transcend clearly recognizes that everyone in recovery has a wealth of potential. Our residents are wonderful people with incredible gifts and abilities. By creating a community of sober people, we also create the right environment for channeling the beauty within our clients. It is important to stay in the company of those who share the same life goals, who want to stay sober and who have a positive vision for their lives. Having friendships and peers around you is a reminder that you’re not going through this alone and that you have support.
  3. Stay accountable for your recovery. Transcend believes that the goals and aspirations each resident is after won’t come true unless there is someone there to hold them accountable. By assisting clients in creating a daily schedule, we provide accountability and support their dreams. Transcend also has a tier system based upon client’s accomplishment of goals and consistency towards seeking a sober and meaningful life.
  4. Find a hobby. Transcend gives you time to find an activity that challenges you. Perhaps you want to expand your creativity, explore your imagination, or try something you’ve never done but have always wanted to do – such as learning to play the guitar.
  5. Volunteer. You might not have time to volunteer while residing at one of Transcend‘s sober living homes. But any of our after-care programs will give you time to volunteer. Another way to experience meaning in life is to volunteer at organizations that create social change. You might become active in your church or faith community, or join a local book club or neighborhood running group.

These are ideas for creating new meaning in your life as you progress in your recovery. It’s important to find meaning or soon life can lack happiness and satisfaction. As the psychologist Carl Jung once said, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”


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Redefining the Party: Good, Sober Fun This Summer

Good, Sober Fun This Summer | Transcend Recovery Community

What is it about summertime that begs for parties, drinks, and high times? Some love summer because of the great weather, and others embrace more free time and traveling. For many people, summer brings to mind beers on a boat, Bob Marley and a joint on the beach, rolling on Ecstasy in the front row at a music festival show. The truth is, your summer boat party doesn’t require alcohol or drugs anymore than your winter bonfire will.

Summertime has become associated with partying because our culture loves to party in general. This may be alright for those people who can use substances safely, but it is a threat to the livelihood of people like myself who are in recovery from addiction. Why does fun and partying have to imply drugs and alcohol? The essence of a party is fun, friends, and celebration – and that’s just what we can do with our sober summer.

Here are some ways to have fun this summer, that can also help keep you sober:

Get Outside & Get Active

For me, the beach or camping trips or just days by the pool always had to be accompanied with the proper amount of drugs. What I couldn’t see then: all of that intoxication actually robbed me of the beauty of those experiences, and left me with very few memories.

Mother Nature is full of color, wonder, and grandeur – just consider all of the different flowers in a forest, or the enormity of the ocean. Getting high or drunk only numbs us to these experiences and we can’t soak in the beauty of the details. When we connect with nature as sober people, we can appreciate all of its amazing nuances and awaken our senses. There’s a healthy rush that comes with exploring the outdoors, which can take away some of the stress of our daily lives.

On a biological level, there are huge health benefits to soaking in some sun and getting your dose of vitamin D. It can help promote health of your bones and skin, fight off colds and diseases, and even ease the weight of depression. Nature’s beauty can bring us joy, along with the mood-elevation that vitamin D can bring! For many of us in recovery, this boost in our mood can help us maintain sobriety.

Ultimately, getting outside means we are getting active. Maybe you like to run, bike, or hike, and maybe you like to surf, swim, or kayak – however you like to get active, go for it! Exercise can elevate mood as well, because our body releases natural painkillers called endorphins when we are under extreme physical stress. Endorphins activate our opioid receptors, the same receptors activated by opiate and opioid drugs but in healthier amounts. Getting yourself moving and breaking a sweat can actually induce the same kind of euphoria as narcotic painkillers, but without the same risks.

Be a Kid Again

 Kids are masters of fun, no matter the time or place. Every tree is an opportunity for climbing, every blank wall is begging for paint, all of the candy in the store must be eaten. Kids are in touch with their curiosity and the ability to revel in small pleasures – you could say they’re always high on life, no need for drugs or alcohol.

This summer, get your hands dirty and bring arts-and-crafts back to life. Whether it’s a coloring book and crayons, finger paints, or even cooking an awesome meal, engage your brain and get creative. A hobby can be a healthy way to stay busy, and really getting involved in a hands-on task can put our brains into a state of “creative flow”. In this flow state, our brain waves slow down, we lose all sense of time and self, and we let go of our everyday stresses. Much like meditation, creativity can be a way to center ourselves, which helps us stay sober – and it’s just plain fun.

Kids also know the value of a good treat, whether it’s an ice cream cone or their favorite movie. A huge aspect of recovery is self-care, because our mental well-being is essential in maintaining our sobriety. Sobriety isn’t just military discipline, and fun is so much more than the standard kegger party. Every day, you can find small ways to treat yourself to healthy indulgences – like a good cup of coffee or an afternoon nap – without “indulging” in drugs or alcohol.

Lastly, as kids, we never turned down a chance for a good adventure. True adventure can be spontaneous, energetic, and exciting.But, a blurry night of consuming drugs and alcohol with strangers from the bar is such a limited version of adventure. What places do you want to explore? What things have you never seen? Find your nearest nature preserve, zoo, or take a mini road-trip and see what adventure is out there. The best part about thrills and new experiences is that they give our brains a natural high with a hit of dopamine!

Stay Connected

One of the biggest lures of parties is all of our friends who will be there, or the friends we haven’t yet met. Unfortunately, if you partied anything like I did, we rarely remembered who we saw or met those nights and we didn’t act quite like our true selves.

Sober parties are perfectly plausible and can be just as rowdy, but the real thing we crave at parties is the sense of connection we feel with other people. Studies have shown that our brain gets a zing of dopamine when we feel connected to someone just by receiving a text message, and that pleasure is amplified in genuine, face-to-face connections. As sober people, we can truly relish this pleasure by fostering deep connections with people around us.

In sobriety, we are invited to a party with a whole new set of friends, who are often just as wacky and amazing as we are. Whether it be through meetings or events within your local recovery community, stay connected with other people in sobriety who understand your past and share your hopes for the future. My friends in sobriety are some of the liveliest people I’ve ever met and tell some of the craziest stories, yet they can also understand me in my hardest moments and support me while I get through them.

We don’t just have to have friends who are in sobriety, though. It helps to have a solid group of sober pals around you, but another gift of recovery is reconnecting with family and friends that we might’ve hurt during our substance abuse. These connections hold special potential, because we can share a new version of ourselves with these people and gain insight into who we used to be. There is beauty and healing, for both us and our loved ones, in this mutual understanding.

Life of the Party

All of the elements we used to love about the rowdy summer parties – with enough alcohol and drugs to fill a swimming pool – we can still find this summer without the substances. Fun is fun, and it had been liberating in my own recovery to see that I can still be just as fun (sometimes even more fun) when I’m not under the influence. So go out into nature wide-eyed and excited, let your inner child run loose looking for adventure, and connect with people you love and now will remember. Sobriety just means redefining the party.

Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and outreach representative for Sober Nation.

Why Your Sober Living Home Is a Community for Recovery

Sober Living Home Is a Community for Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

The journey of recovery is not going to be understood by everyone. Sure, you might have friends and even family members who have said they understand how hard it has been for you or that they can empathize with the challenges you’ve had. However, anyone who is not on the road to recovery themselves is not going to fully grasp what it means to be in recovery from addiction.

If you’re living at a sober living home, then there’s a good chance that you’re surrounded by men and women who are on the same trek to get sober and stay sober. There’s a good chance that they’re facing similar challenges, feeling the same emotions, and hoping for the same things. There’s a very good chance that you and others at your sober living home have a lot in common.

Thousands of years ago, human beings lived in their own sort of communities – tribes. They traveled, worked, ate, and slept in communities. They stayed together as a unit because it was necessary to do that to survive. Today, we don’t have tribes; we have families. But even those are breaking down. Children move away, parents get divorced, and families separate. Many men and women aren’t a part of a community at all. They have to seek them out in their churches, sport teams, and social clubs. And others simply isolate, pulling away from other people, perhaps believing that it’s emotionally safer to be alone. But even still, communities can be hard to find, and worse, hard to feel like you’re a part of even if you do find one. In fact, feeling lonely and feeling like you don’t belong is one of the primary reasons why people turn to drinking and drug use in the first place.

And now, here you are: in recovery and in a sober living home, a place that is inherently a community. A place where others are walking the same journey you are. And not only that, you are likely seeing each other in the kitchen or living home of your sober living home, at 12-step meetings, and support groups.

Here’s what a sober living community can do for you:

  • Restores hope.
  • Creates confidence.
  • Combats loneliness.
  • Helps improve self acceptance.
  • Strengthens commitment.
  • Boosts empowerment.
  • Creates a feeling of belonging.
  • Encourages open and honest communication.
  • Provides opportunities to help others.
  • Provides opportunities to witness success and effects of relapse in others.

People crave connection. Desiring connection with others is a natural response. Human being s are social creatures. We cannot live in isolation. Even when we are born we need the assistance of our parents to feed, nurture, and tend to all our needs in order to survive. And that doesn’t change as we get older.

If you’re craving connection with others, but not sure how to start, begin with a simple hello. When you see your roommate, ask her how her day is going. When you see someone at a 12-step meeting, compliment them on how they share at each meeting.

Your sober living home is a natural community. It is in the context of community that people heal, grow, and succeed.


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Recovery Can Include All Members of Your Family

Recovery Can Include All Members of Your Family | Transcend Recovery Community

Addiction is an experience that immediately separates you from everyone else. In fact, addiction even creates an inner separation – from who you really are, from what you want in life, and from your hopes and dreams. Because addiction impairs the relationship with yourself and puts a wedge between you and others, part of the healing process of recovery is involving those you love. As you heal from addiction, there’s a greater chance your relationships with others will also heal.

And it’s important to have your family around you! Just as you would want your family around you when healing from a physical illness, such as cancer or pneumonia, it’s important to involve your family when recovering from addiction. Family members can boost hope, courage, strength, and resilience. Having your family along with you as you recover can also help you feel supported and keep feelings of loneliness at bay.

In fact, Transcend feels so strongly about surrounding you with family that we’ve woven the presence of family into the recovery experience. For instance, every two months, we facilitate a family weekend, which is an opportunity to reestablish healthy communication, repair relationships, and feel supported by those you love. Transcend also recognizes that even family members will need to recover from the effects of addiction. By providing an opportunity for everyone to get together, healing can take place.

Truth is, making amends is one of the first steps to healing from a family wound, trauma, or significant life event that might have initially contributed to an addiction. And sometimes, it’s not one particular event, it’s simply a dysfunctional family environment. There might have been codependency, alcoholism, or emotional abuse in your family history. Making amends and accepting your life as it was in the past is a necessary part of recovery. And it can facilitate healing.

And that healing can happen on many levels. When relationships within a family get stronger, so do the people within that family. Here are a few healing benefits that come with a healthy and happy family unit:

  • Better communication
  • Feeling supported
  • Feelings of connection and inclusion
  • Decrease in blaming others
  • Greater appreciation among family members
  • Forgiveness
  • Increased experiences of honesty
  • Ability to heal and let go of the past
  • Ability to move on and focus on the future

To help you rebuild your family relationships, Transcend communicates with your family on a weekly basis. We even have a Family Director who can provide you with a new set of language skills to help facilitate better, more effective communication between you and your family members. Our Family Director can also provide you with support in the challenging journey of making amends and reestablishing family relationships. Later in your recovery, you may want to continue to strengthen your family relationships by inviting family members, friends, or other loved ones on regular outings together. You may want to commit to having dinner together regularly. Spending more time together can help build family relationships. If you need to, you may want to mourn together, celebrate together, or even experience forgiveness together.

Family members, friends, and other loved ones are essential for healing from addiction. Involve them in your recovery whenever you can.


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Recovery Returns To You All That Addiction Took Away

Transcend Recovery Community likes to ask its community members, “What do you want to do with your life?” We believe that anyone who is on the path of recovery has the potential to reach their dreams. Although addiction can steal happiness, honesty, and wholeness, recovery can bring it all back.

Here is a list of what recovery can do for you:

Community – When you’re struggling with addiction, you tend to become more and more isolated. Dishonesty, lying, and hiding tends to put a distance between you and your friends and family. Addiction will also create distance within yourself by consistently denying the fact that there is a problem. While you’re lying to your friends and family, you’re also likely lying to yourself. Yet, in recovery, those separations from yourself and others begin to disappear. You’re given the opportunity to heal your relationships, experience the benefits of community, and feel good about yourself.

Honesty – When you’re in recovery, you might be participating in support groups, therapy, and 12-step meetings. These are all opportunities to be honest with yourself and others. You finally have the chance to say what you’ve already wanted to say but perhaps couldn’t. The supportive experiences that you tend to have in recovery are meant to encourage honesty because it can lead to healing and growth.

Connection – One of the reasons people tend to use alcohol and drugs is because they desperately want connection. Perhaps they want a deeper connection with friends or family but never experienced it. And depression, which can be experienced as a lack of connection with yourself, can also drive someone to use substances. Yet, in recovery there are many opportunities to connect. And it is through connection that people feel seen, heard, and understood. It’s through interpersonal connection that healing takes place.

Support – Another reason behind substance use is feeling alone, lonely, or isolated. And feeling like you need to make it through life alone can be so scary that men and women turn to substances to feel stronger. Or they may want to escape the burden of loneliness through substances. Either way, recovery means support. Even if you have lost the relationships with your family, recovery brings the support of a sober community, professional help, and the assistance of new friends.

Joy – As you continue on your path of sobriety and as you’re having more and more connections with friends and professional staff – as well as with yourself – you might actually experience a moment of joy. You might start out with a small feeling of happiness, contentment, or the experience that life feels a bit easier. Perhaps these moments of the beginning of bringing joy back into your life.

When you’re on the path of recovery, you can start reaching for your dreams. As one Transcend graduate put it:

“After Transcend, I took a job in Boston and did very well there for almost three years. I bought a house, bought a car, and had a very solid, stable job. I design lasers and wrote a textbook for grad students in nonlinear optics. I moved to Denver to join a laser startup company in October 2015 as the CTO. I’m living downtown and enjoying an active, healthy lifestyle, and my workaholism tendencies remain successfully at bay.”

You can read more Transcend testimonials here. To make your dreams a reality, let recovery give back to you what addiction took away.


If you are reading this on any blog other than TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com,
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You can find us on Twitter via @TranscendSL and Facebook via Transcend Recovery Community.
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The Vital Role Accountability Plays in Recovery

When you are held accountable for something, it means there are others who are encouraging your accomplishment of that goal. There might be those who are even pushing you to do your best, reach your dreams, and stretch yourself. Accountability is necessary for anyone who wants to make a change in life. Without accountability, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow” or “My life is fine,” when you know it’s not. Yet, when someone holds you accountable, you might push yourself a little harder. You might stretch yourself in ways you haven’t in the past. Or you might feel like you have the support you need to make new and healthy choices.

In fact, some recovering addicts might even say that without accountability, they might not have been able to recover from addiction. Truth is, in the early stages of recovery, accountability is absolutely necessary. Recovery might feel nearly impossible if you’re still prone to the same thinking patterns, habits, and behaviors. Outside support is necessary in order to have the strength to make the right choices. Without being held accountable, a person in recovery might so easily return to their old habits. Yet, accountability strengthens one’s inner strength, determination, and perseverance.

If you’re looking for accountability, you’ll find it here at Transcend Recovery Community. In fact, our three pronged approach of accountability, clinical collaboration, and community is precisely what creates the environment for change. Our Verve Mar Vista House Program Director, Taylor Weil, believes this to be true and says: “Accountability is an essential part of recovery because it helps clients stay focused on the right things and channel their energy into more creative efforts. A spirit of accountability can also help clients uncover their fears and feel more comfortable allowing others to help with their goals and integrity.”

That being said, here are some of the ways that we hold our clients accountable:

  • We have our clients set meaningful goals.
  • Through good decision-making and choices, our clients work hard to earn the happy and healthy sober life that they’ve accomplished and deserve.
  • Our clients set a daily schedule for which we hold them accountable.
  • We drug test our clients randomly twice per week, using drug tests that screen for over 50 substances.
  • We encourage a sense of community so that clients feel a sense of belonging and that everyone is working toward the same goal.
  • We provide extra levels of professional support to help a person feel confident and strong in making healthy choices.
  • We provide regular opportunities for holistic experiences, giving a client opportunities to heal on many levels, which in turn strengthens their ability to remain accountable.
  • We involve a client’s family so that they feel supported by their loved ones, which can also strengthen their commitment to sobriety.

Accountability is a form of honesty, which directly opposes the denial of addiction. Denial can keep one’s poor choices in hiding. But with accountability a person learns to be honest, transparent, and authentic. And this sets the stage for creating a new life, building healthy relationships, and strengthening one’s self-esteem.

Accountability keeps a person responsible. It can prevent someone in recovery from acting out, engaging in risky behavior, or making irresponsible choices. When you’re being held accountable by a community, such as the one at Transcend, the group holds a higher vision for your life. The group believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. With accountability, you can reach for the life you want even if you don’t yet have the inner resources to do so.  Accountability can help you create the sober life you want.

Our Verve Holmby House Program Director, Ellen Di Resta, said it best: “Accountability is defined by the obligation and willingness to accept responsibility. At Transcend, we encourage clients to take an active role in their recovery. In doing so, they are held accountable for the steps they take towards a peaceful and healthy life.”


If you or someone you know needs help managing the recovery process, contact us today to see how we can help: 800-208-1211


The Power of a Recovery Community, Because the Opposite of Addiction Is Connection

If you’re new to a sober living home or new to a 12-step meeting, you might feel like you don’t fit in. You might feel odd or like you don’t belong. If you’re used to spending time with friends and people you’re familiar with and suddenly you’re spending large amounts of time with strangers, you might even feel intimidated and nervous. You might feel self-conscious about the things you say and what you do, wondering if your new community of people are going to accept you for who you are.

It’s common for addicts to have a low sense of self-esteem. And those patterns of low self-worth can persist into recovery. However, there are ways to feel better, feel a connection with your new community, and even feel supported by them. It’s so easy to feel uncomfortable going into a new environment, especially if the others have already formed a group of their own. Yet, although it feels odd, there are important tips to remember so that you don’t feel like the odd man out but rather the one everyone welcomes with open arms.

Check in with your own feelings and thoughts. When you’re about to go into a new support group or 12-step meeting, and especially if you’re feeling nervous, notice that some of what you’re feeling is a pattern. You probably always feel this way around new people. You might have patterns of feeling uncomfortable until you get to know someone. It’s important to know that these are simply patterns in your mind so that they don’t bring you down or interfere with making new friendships.

Get to know people before making up your mind about them. When you are feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, it’s easy to be judgmental of others as a form of self-protection. For instance, if you have an interaction with someone and the other person feels cold to you, you might think to yourself, “Well, he’s a jerk.” It’s easy to blow someone off and make up your mind about them without really knowing them. You don’t know if he was having a bad day, upset by something that was said in the meeting or just doesn’t know how to socialize very well. When you’re new to a group, give people a few chances before blowing them off.

Treat those you meet with kindness. It might sound obvious but kindness can go a long way. If you’re used to bantering, making fun of, or even arguing with friends, then kindness might feel odd to you. But as you can imagine, most people respond well to kindness, especially at the beginning of a friendship.

Volunteer your time. Whether you’re living at a sober living home or attending regular 12-step meetings, when you volunteer you show that you care. You send the message that sobriety is important to you. But not only that, you also send the message that you want to help others out too. You want to be there for your peers. Others in the group often appreciate and even admire the volunteers for putting in the extra time and effort.

These are tips for feeling more comfortable in your new sober community.


If you are reading this on any blog other than TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com,
it is stolen content without credit.
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