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How Sharing Your Story Can Help Others

Sharing Your Story Can Help Others Through Recovery - TRC

Being in group support is a two-way street.

On one hand, people enter recovery groups to find help and inspiration, or perhaps more motivation to staying sober – or hope, that staying sober in the long-term is possible.

On the other hand, your stories and struggles offer that very same consolation and reassurance to others on the path – and someday, you may find yourself being that one example of sobriety that many others in the group look forward to.  

 

The Power of Sharing 

Even if you’re simply starting out, your fresh tales of what it was like to be an addict – and your early moments of treatment and recovery – can help remind others of what it was like to be stuck in that destructive cycle, a place they never want to revisit.  

Everyone benefits from a story. It can be engaging, interesting, and in a space like a support group, it can create a feeling of relatability that most addicts won’t find when looking for their loved ones for support.

You can motivate others with your tale, just like how hearing someone pass on their former drug of choice in a vulnerable moment can fire you up and make you look forward to the day when you’re no longer controlled by a substance.   

Anyone can overcome their addiction. That’s not a patronizing statement, meant to belittle the fight against addiction – it’s a message of hope. Addiction is powerful and misunderstood, but beatable and treatable.  

Doing so requires an understanding of how addiction hijacks a person’s mental process, and how common and effective treatments can help a person slowly but surely build up a life free from the chains of substance abuse or addictive behavior. It’s also important to realize that addicts aren’t walking stereotypes or people to be judged and vilified – they’re normal people. 

Many people free themselves from addiction alone, even without therapy, but only after realizing how much damage they’ve caused. You don’t have to deal with your addiction alone or let things get too far before you address the issue. 

 

Why Addiction Is So Powerful 

There’s something endlessly difficult about admitting to addiction. That something is guilt. Any addict carries it with them.

In some cases, it’s the very reason their addiction began – in other cases, it manifested as part of becoming an addict.

To most people, there’s this perception that addiction is still a choice. There’s the thought that it’s still something you have control over, so naturally, being an addict is seen as a moral weakness – a lack of virtue, a sign of a rotten soul.  

Therein lies the biggest obstacle to overcoming the oppressive power of an addiction – instead of branching out and seeking help, most people are too scared to admit that they’re addicted, or worse yet, think they deserve their fate. It spins an aggressive cycle, trapping people in the prison of addiction and throwing away the only key due to stigma, and shame.  

The truth is that addiction is physical, in a sense. It’s a brain disease – a neurological affliction.

sharing your story

The Vicious Cycle of Self-Defeat 

It’s not news that the stigma against addiction has been and continues to be a relevant issue – so much so that if circumstances happen to send a person spiraling down the path of addiction, the shame of being so “weak” comes all on its own, without so much as a whimper of judgment from others.  

Many addicts, in other words, unwillingly impose an emotional hell upon themselves, and they do everything to repress those emotions, even going so far as to delve deeper into the rabbit hole.  

 

The Importance of Seeking Help

Getting help is the key to beating addiction.

The idea of admitting an addiction, relinquishing the denial that protects many from the shame of being an addict, and finally coming to terms with addiction in a way that isn’t self-defeating or fatalistic is hard.   

Saying “it’s not your fault” isn’t an exercise in alleviating responsibility – it’s about alleviating undue guilt. From there, every addict has the responsibility to seek help, and use that help to get sober – but it starts by accepting that their very addiction isn’t something they have to be ashamed of and that blaming themselves for it gets them nowhere.

While it’s a bit facetious to claim that there are distinct, common steps in every individual’s own path to recovery, there are a few common goals, including:  

  • Accepting addiction.
  • Seeking help, or rehabilitation. 
  • Building a support network. 
  • Focusing on successes. 

The first step in any path to recovery is always the same: own up to the addiction, and understand its nature. We have to come to terms with what addiction is and how it plays a role in our lives before we can move to excise it.  

From there, it’s important to seek help.

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Understanding Your Options

As a brain disease, addiction impairs your ability to think clearly – therapy, while not essential, is a powerful tool towards recoverySupport groups, both in the form of family and friends and other recovering addicts, have shown to greatly increase the chances of recovery. 

In some cases, rehab is the only option, especially when the dangers of withdrawal are present. But the importance here lies in rehab quality.

And while being in an isolated, safe environment conducive to recovery is a great way to wean off the most powerful effects of physical addiction, the real world is full of triggers and opportunities for relapse – requiring more than acute, immediate treatment, no matter how effective.  

Finally, studies have shown extensively that relapse happens half the time when dealing with addiction. With that information at hand, it’s clear that the correct approach isn’t to reproach relapse – the correct approach lies in picking up where things dropped off, focusing on getting back into treatment, back into recovery, and away from another potential relapse.

That’s where the long-term effect of a strong social circle of supporting recovering addicts really comes in to shine.  

 

Replacing One Cycle for Another 

The vicious cycle of addiction can be hard to break out of – but the cycle of sharing can supplant it. Instead of being overwhelmed by addiction, you can motivate yourself to remain sober and get back into sobriety with the stories others have to tell and tell your own stories to help others stay on track, or get back on track.  

There are some things that are outside our control. In many cases, becoming addicted is something that happens through a perfect storm of extraneous circumstances – factors like emotional trauma, genetics, social status and peer pressure can all play a large role.  

There’s no point in blaming yourself for being unable to quit your drug of choice – and in fact, that blame will only drive you deeper into your destructive habit. But by opening to others and letting others in, you can find a way to be at peace with yourself, and even rise above the addiction. 

Why Family Support Is Important in Recovery

Family Support is Crucial in Addiction Recovery - TRC

If your family member or other loved one is going into recovery for a substance addiction, you might wonder exactly what your role should be. Although this journey is something that your relative has to go through on his or her own, family support is an integral part of the process.

You might not be sure how to act or react to various ways that your recovering loved one, but one thing that is for certain is that you can play a role in supporting your family member as he or she tries to recover from the addiction.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

It’s likely that your relative has gotten pretty close to “hitting bottom” in various aspects of his or her life.

Often, this is the reason why those struggling with an addiction choose to seek help. Whether it’s a brush with the law, the loss of a job or a relationship, or some other major upheaval, a traumatic experience or loss is often the catalyst for change when it comes to addiction.

While going through the recovery process is going to be a huge and positive step for your family member, it’s not going to fix everything. Recovering from an addiction does not make the prior troubles go away. If your loved one is on probation or has lost his or her driver’s license, job, or spouse, going through recovery is not going to make that go away.

Also, the parts of your relative’s personality that might have made an addiction more likely are still going to be there. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on your family member; he or she will still be the same person they were before, and they will need to deal with the same problems they were before.

The main difference will be that they’ll be doing so without the help of the substance or substances that they were addicted to.

Your Loved One’s New Lifestyle Requires Family Support

There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to recovery. When your family member is in the intensive part of treatment, you might not be able to have any contact with him or her.

Accept and support this. In many cases, it’s not your relative’s choice, and even if it is, limited or no contact is something that he or she thinks will help.

Once your loved one is out of that phase of recovery, there will be a lot of things that they won’t want to do or won’t be able to do. For example, it could be an act of caring to not serve alcohol at your Christmas party this year so your family member won’t have to worry about avoiding it.

This won’t go on forever, but it will be important family support for their new lifestyle for some time after he or she returns home.

family support

Show Support for the Process of Recovery (Even If They Don’t)

There will be a lot of things about the recovery process that your relative might not like.

For example, he or she might get angry at the counselors at the rehabilitation center. They might get upset with their parole officer, or they might get sick of attending group therapy or support group meetings. They might even get tired of being sober and might be tempted to relapse (or they might actually relapse).

All of these feelings and thoughts are normal. There will be times when your relative does not agree with one stage or another of the recovery process. And that’s okay!

As his or her loved one, however, the best thing you can do is encourage your family member to stick with it. You know how far he or she has come, even if they can’t see it right now.

It might mean offering to drive your relative to appointments. It also might mean answering a phone call in the middle of the night if your relative is feeling tempted to relapse. And it might mean driving them back to rehab if there is a relapse.

Encourage your family member to stick to the course, if you can. It can really make a big difference, both now and in the future.

Get Support for Yourself

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your family member’s addiction and recovery process, that is a normal way to feel. It is stressful to be close to somebody who is going through a difficult time.

You might also be struggling with anger, guilt, sadness, and a host of other emotions. Don’t hesitate to get help for yourself during this time. You could join a support group for the family members of addicts, or you might prefer to seek individualized counseling.

Keep in mind that you cannot provide family support for a relative if you’re not taking care of your own basic needs. You have undoubtedly heard the oxygen-mask-on-an-airplane analogy. Make sure that you are eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and dealing with your own stress.

Remember that your family member’s problems, while they might affect you, are not your problems to deal with. Take a break when you need to, and ask another friend or relative to step in.

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Remember Who Your Loved One Is

During the most difficult days of the recovery process, it can be hard to remember who your loved one was before the addiction took over. Look back on the times you spent together and the great things that your relative has accomplished.

Also, look ahead to the future and what type of man or woman your family member is likely to be, once he or she has been sober for six months, a year, five years, or five decades. When you are struggling, remind yourself and your loved one about these images and thoughts.

If you are supporting a family member through the recovery process, good for you! You are doing something vital and kind for your loved one. Talk to the other members of your family about the importance of family support, and encourage them to also help out. The more support a person struggling with addiction has, the less likely he or she may be to relapse.

Also, you can all support one another. Don’t be afraid to seek help where you need it as you help your family member through this journey.

The Next Steps After Treatment

The Next Steps After Treatment - Transcend Recovery Community

Treatment programs do not last forever. You have spent a certain amount of time surrounded by like-minded people, learning hard lessons about yourself and tools to help you in the future. Your confidence and strength is at an all time high and you have a plan in place. You can do this.

Then the big day comes – the front doors open and you are finally free to move through life on your own, making wiser choices than you did before. You step out and realize you are all alone, figuratively speaking.

Transitioning from being an addict to being in recovery is scary. And it is a lifelong transition. And the life you previously had known is not going to be life you have today.

This means that your life must change. It is not enough to just abstain from the substance – you must not even want it!

You must make changes in your life that will fill the void that the drug was once attempting to fill. You have been armed with skills and you know how to use them – you just need to keep moving forward to avoid slipping backward.

Old habits die hard, they say, and boy were they not joking.

Find Friends and Build Broken Relationships

Everyone will tell you to find sober friends. Yes, that is extremely important. But finding sober friends isn’t enough.

There are plenty of people in the world who are sober and miserable, looking to bring those around them down, too. Fresh out of treatment, negativity is a big no-no and something to avoid.

Instead, search for positive, sober, and supportive friends. You may already have some or you may have to find new ones. Maybe you left behind when you turned down your path to addiction.

Either way, find them – you need them. Let them show you that there are ways to get through life while feeling fulfilled, without turning to a substance. And make sure you are honest with them so they can be the support you need. They may not fully understand your struggles, but they can still be there for you.

Recognize those individuals who are bad influences or those who are enablers. Look for them and disassociate yourself with them.

While we are on the subject of friends, it is also important to mend broken relationships.

You likely, at some point, have broken trust or wronged a close friend or family member. You may not have meant to, but were caught up in your addiction. Now is your time to correct those mistakes. Reach out to the hurt loved ones and slowly start to seek forgiveness and rebuild trust.

This will take time or it may not even work at all. But, it is worth a try.

Find New Interests

Idle minds and idle hands lead to nothing good. In fact, for someone in recovery, boredom can be extremely dangerous.

After treatment, you are going to want to seek something to keep you focused on your goals. Whether it is a new hobby, a new sport, or any new interest, a positive focus for your time leaves no time for anything else.

Brainstorm with your likes and dislikes and see what you can come up with. Think about the things that you used to like to do or enjoyed before you were gripped with addiction. Find something that will give your life a positive meaning and purpose.

If you are stuck, here are a few ideas to get your mind churning:

  • Exercise: Not only is exercise healthy for your body, it is also healthy for your mind. This is a great habit to pick up after treatment.
  • Writing: Holding feelings and thoughts in is never a good thing. Writing can be an outlet for you, as well as give you a chance to share your story and your struggles with others.
  • Arts: Photography, painting, sculpting, drawing, craft projects, knitting.
  • Volunteering: Helping others can make you feel wonderful. What better way to fill your time? Whether you prefer the elderly, animals, the sick, children, the homeless – many, many people could use your help. You have the power to make a difference.

Secure a Support System

Let’s face it – you need a support system.

You need to make sure that when find yourself at a speed bump or a complete road block that you have someone to turn to. Having a sponsor who knows and understands what you are facing is an excellent idea.

Having that friend who is brutally honest, full of empowerment, and loving support can make the difference between staying clean and relapsing.

Seeking Sober Mentoring? Join Our Community!

Seek Therapy

Once you complete your treatment program, make sure you seek therapy. Even if it is just once per week, every other week, or once each month – it can still make a difference.

Therapists can help you with goal setting and help with ways to attain those goals. They can also help you work through various emotions, feelings and behaviors. With the high percentage of dual diagnosis situations, it also gives therapists a chance to make sure there is no underlying disorder that could hinder recovery attempts.

And, let’s not forget that therapists can also be part of your much-needed support system.

Know the Signs of a Relapse and Have a Plan

A relapse can occur at any time after treatment. In fact, 40-60% of people will relapse at least once after treatment is completed. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, the biggest triggers for a relapse are stress, exposure to drugs, and people, places, things and moods that act as cues or reminders of one’s drug use.

Know what your triggers are and understand your feelings and responses. Have a support group or person on standby at all times in case you feel yourself falling.

Finishing treatment is not the end of the road – contrary to popular belief, the buck does not stop there. You will forever be in recovery and you must, therefore, always be prepared to encounter anything that comes your way.

If you stay busy, surround yourself with positivity and good support, as well as be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can grow and go far. You can do it.

The Most Dangerous Drugs Ranked

Ranking The Most Dangerous Drugs

Addictive drugs each are dangerous in their own way. Yet what makes on worse than the other? The truth is that it’s a really difficult question to answer, with many factors and countless different interpretations. While we do possess the data to quantify how some drugs are more dangerous than others, the bigger picture is important as well – the most dangerous drug is the one you’re hooked on, and it’s the one that’s most likely to kill you.

For anyone worried about addiction when considering drug use, there’s only one appropriate answer: don’t use them. All addictive drugs possess a risk of addiction, and that risk varies tremendously from person to person. As for mortality, a similar issue arises – there’s a clear ranking for what drugs kill the most people, but the most dangerous drugs are also the most limited, so they aren’t at the top of that list.

The one study that comes to mind when discussing the dangers of drug use is a UK study performed in 2010 that had a panel of experts assign a number value to each addictive drug based on a series of factors largely split between factors that contribute to individual harm, and factors that contribute to societal harm. However, there’s little inherent use to a study like that, because it mixes opinion with fact, and because the result is a ranking that is flawed in many ways.

Some drugs are definitely more dangerous than others. But any definitive ranking will change based on how the danger is defined. Rather than try to definitively decide which drug is the worst, we’ve opted for a nuanced approach: below is a crude ranking of the world’s most dangerous and most commonly used addictive substances, in no particular order, with details to help take note of why each substance can be life-threatening in its own way (and why some substances are far more dangerous both to individuals and communities than others).
 

7. Marijuana

As far as addictive and/or illegal drugs go, one particular drug to note is marijuana. This is because marijuana has long been the focal point in a debate about decriminalization, and next to tobacco and alcohol, it is one of the most commonly used drugs in the country – while being statistically less harmful than both.

Experts agree that, if marijuana replaced alcohol as the most common recreational intoxicant in the country, we would all be better off. But that doesn’t make it a ‘good’ drug. Marijuana can still be dangerous, and there’s research that shows that being high still comes with a risk over being sober: driving while high doubles your risk of a car accident versus being sober, for example (in comparison, alcohol raises your risk of a car accident by nearly 14 times).

Other research seems to indicate that long-term heavy use, as well as early use (especially in a person’s formative years) can have negative cognitive effects on a person, enough that experts agree that younger adults should stay away from marijuana.

It’s possible to argue that marijuana is wrongly vilified, or even among the least dangerous in a group of highly dangerous substances. But it shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. And yes, marijuana is addictive, even if it isn’t as addictive as other substances.

 

6. Psychedelics

When discussing psychedelics, the two substances that most commonly spring to mind include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) psilocybin and (magic mushrooms). These drugs are not addictive, but they make the list because they are commonly grouped with other drugs.

In terms of long-term effects, nothing seems to suggest that these substances are in any way dangerous. While they can cause an overdose and potentially death, it would be quite difficult to cause serious harm with a magic mushroom or with LSD. However, the dangers of psychedelics aren’t their direct effect on the human body, but how that body reacts with the rest of the world while ‘tripping’.

Without proper care or supervision, the symptoms of psychedelic use can be dangerous. Users can experience hallucinations, delusions, and panic. Mushroom or LSD use can be very disorienting. Furthermore, when buying off the street or the black market, you can never be too sure of what you get. Psilocybin is a particular kind of mushroom, but there are poisonous Psilocybe lookalikes, and other hallucinogens can be mixed with unwanted substances.

Most pure hallucinogens – particularly the two mentioned above – are not addictive, and not dangerous in a clinical setting. But whether they’re therapeutic is still up for debate. Mushrooms as well as LSD are being studied for their potential in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions, in conjunction with professional guidance and proper therapy. When taken recreationally, hallucinogens can be very dangerous.

 

5. Stimulants

Cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine are all highly dangerous and highly addictive drugs, with methamphetamine ranking as one of the most dangerous drugs in the country both in terms of mortality and availability, while amphetamines (usually prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin) and cocaine have lower mortality, but are still highly potent substances.

Stimulants, or ‘uppers’, can severely damage the heart and liver and raise a person’s risk of stroke. Methamphetamine is also often ‘cooked’ impurely and cut with various other substances to drive up profits, which can lead to accidental overdoses and a variety of different health conditions.

 

4. Benzodiazepine

Taken recreationally in the form of Valium, Xanax, Diazepam, Diastat, Ativan, and a wide range of other ‘benzos’, benzodiazepine is a family of depressant substances designed to drive down the central nervous system and reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety.

However, benzodiazepines affect the brain similarly to alcohol, and can cause addiction, as well as severe withdrawal symptoms. The effects of a benzodiazepine drug are additive when taken with alcohol, meaning that overdoses are possible. Their popularity as a party drug marks them as one of the most dangerous drugs in the country.

 

3. Tobacco

Bar none, tobacco leads to the most deaths of any drug, illegal or legal, as per the CDC. This is due to the rate at which cigarette smoke causes and spreads cancer not only among smokers, but among nearby individuals as well. The risk of heart disease and lung cancer soars with smoking, and nicotine addiction is incredibly common.

Nearly half a million people die from tobacco use every year, because tobacco is directly involved in the development of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic pulmonary illnesses in 16 million Americans.

This is due to tobacco’s widespread availability and popularity, as well as nicotine’s potent addictiveness. While cigarette smoking has declined, vaping has become more popular. However, vaping shares a completely different risk profile, and the real long-term repercussions of vaping are still being researched. Many of the risks of smoking come from burning tobacco – vaping uses a combination of water and glycerin to produce a theoretically harmless vapor. However, common issues in vaping include heavy metal contamination and nicotine addiction.

 

2. Alcohol

Next to tobacco, alcohol is responsible for the second highest death toll among America’s recreational drugs. This is due to alcohol’s ubiquitous nature, as well as the fact that it is deeply ingrained in our culture. Banning alcohol has been historically fruitless, but there’s a big difference between the effects of moderate consumption and heavy use, which has been found responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among adults aged 20-64 years. Alarmingly, alcohol use – particularly binge drinking – is on the rise.

 

1. Opioids

While opioids don’t account for as many deaths as tobacco and alcohol, opioids are also much harder to get, yet still account for the most overdose deaths among all illegal drugs. Heroin and prescription opioid use have led to the nation’s current opioid crisis, fueled by decades of lobbying and reckless advertising from drug companies like the controversial Purdue Pharma, responsible for the meteoric rise of Oxycodone addiction. Among all drugs, opioids are arguably the most dangerous because they are extremely addictive and carry a high mortality rate. Opioid addiction is also very difficult to treat, and often requires the use of medication to help recovering addicts wean off these powerful drugs.

As mentioned previously, it’s important to note that the most dangerous drug is the one you’re addicted to, or the one you’re most exposed to. While drug use doesn’t always imply addiction, the two are most definitely correlated, with heavier drug use leading to a higher risk of drug dependence and substance use disorder.

Regardless of whether you are or aren’t addicted, whether you are or aren’t using, or whether you’re reading this for yourself or for a close loved one, it’s always important to be aware of the difference between how risky something is to the general public, and how risky it is to you.

 

Prescription Drugs Are Still an Issue

Prescription Drugs Are Still An Issue

Some prescription drugs have the potential to be as addictive as ‘hard street drugs’, like heroin or cocaine, as well as more common addictive substances that account for most drug-related deaths, like alcohol and tobacco.

A drug is a drug is a drug, but addictive drugs stand in their own category due to the dangers they present after long-term use, especially among people who are already at risk of addiction due to both internal (genetic) as well as external (stress, abuse, mental health) risk factors.

While opioids – particularly ones mired in recent scandals, like OxyContin – have begun to carry significant infamy in the wake of the growing opioid crisis, it’s important to recognize that other addictive prescription drugs, while therapeutic in certain cases, are still often overprescribed and pose a serious danger.

 

Amphetamines and Other Stimulants

Stimulants are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy and are meant to effectively energize or speed up the central nervous system. While they are often touted as improving memory and focus, that is not necessarily true. Despite this, they have been abused by students and stressed workers aiming to meet deadlines, study and pass difficult tests, or continue to work while struggling with sleep deprivation. Truck workers and shift workers are common users of illegal prescription stimulants.

The most common prescription stimulants that are abused for their euphoric and energizing effects are amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

 

Anti-Anxiety Drugs and Other CNS Depressants

While stimulants invigorate, depressants calm down. They have legitimate uses in the treatment of severe anxiety and seizures, but these drugs are also abused both as sedatives and because of their mild euphoric effect. Their effects on the brain are similar to alcohol, which is also a depressant.

The most common prescription depressants that are abused are alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin). These drugs are known as benzodiazepines. Other depressants that are rarely prescribed but still circulated include barbiturates and tranquilizers.

 

Opioids

Opioids are any kind of drug that affect opioid receptors, and they’re largely composed of drugs derived from the poppy plant, and synthetic drugs that work in a similar fashion. Opioids are used primarily as painkillers, but they interact with depressants, often in a dangerous way. While opioids are inarguably an important part of treating critical pain and terminal pain, the argument can be made that they are still being overprescribed.

Commonly abused prescription opioids include oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and meperidine (Demerol). Fentanyl is a prescription drug involved in over half of opioid overdoses, often by being mixed into a batch of illegal heroin to increase the drug’s potency after it is cut with filler substances.

 

More Than Just a Side-Effect: How Our Healthcare Affects Addiction 

It’s no secret that there are long-standing problems with the country’s current healthcare system, especially in regard to mental healthcare. While the War on Drugs has been a major financial focus for several of the past administrations, the investment into improving mental healthcare and helping addicts recover and stay sober has been subpar.

This matters. Many addicts know that there’s little being done to help them become productive members of society, versus the effort put into ensuring they continue to have problems with the legal system. While it’s been proven several times that a punishing attitude towards addiction and drug use doesn’t work, and a therapeutic one has a better potential of impacting the problem, little has been done to bring about meaningful change.

Addicts often internalize this, and that’s a problem too. The stigma demonstrated by both the system and those who feel that addiction is a choice and a matter of responsibility rather than mental health continue to affect any given addict’s chances at recovery, as the odds seem impossibly stacked against them.

 

Addressing Demand 

An important thing to keep in mind is that despite the fact that drugs in themselves are dangerous, and prescription drugs continue to be a potential danger for people who struggle with the factors that characterize addiction, it’s also important not to put the wagon in front of the horse.

It’s arguably the demand that needs to be addressed the most, rather than the supply. Both the environmental and genetic factors that inform an addiction are difficult to address but are still important to take note of.

These include family life (stress, abuse, feeling distant or removed from family life), bullying, peer pressure, overwhelming pressure and stress at school/work, family history, pressure to perform better mentally or physically, and a personal history of anxiety or prolonged sadness/depression.

Teens are especially at risk as their age makes their brains more prone to developing an addiction through drug use, and their natural curiosity or potential ignorance of a drug’s full effects (especially in regard to prescription drugs) can make them more likely to use early on.

 

What Can You Do?

As a member of a family with an addicted loved one, you can seek to inform yourself and help those around you inform themselves on the topic of addiction, better understand what factors feed drug use and continue to prevent recovery and encourage relapse, and learn more about how to better support your loved one in the difficult struggle against addiction, helping them seek professional help where necessary.

As an addict, you can continue to seek help and seek resources to better improve your toolkit in combatting addiction, and develop a support system to help keep you sane and sober on days when you feel like everything is making you lose control, and nothing is in your power – and take advantage of the good days by progressing in ways that matter to you the most, from doing your best at work, to being helpful at home, or being a better partner for your loved one.

As a citizen, you can continue to inform yourself on when and where to vote, and who to vote for, keeping an eye out for candidates that prioritize a better health care and mental health system, who seek to prevent the opioid crisis from repeating itself or growing even worse by addressing both the demand and the supply of drugs, rather than uselessly punishing drug users for their illness and further salting the wounds that led to their addiction.

Doing your best to fight against addiction requires a multifaceted approach, taking into account what role you play for yourself, your family, your community, and your country, and then making the best choices you can, whenever you can, and learning from the bad ones. No one is perfect, and no single person will fix a problem as big as this – but awareness is an important first step, and it needs to be followed up with more learning, and further action.

 

Faith

Faith in action. I’ve been thinking a lot about what that looks like in real life. When something happens that adds a question mark to all that we know and believe.

Two weeks ago in New York, I saw a play called Accidentally Brave – a one-woman show performed by a truly and incredibly brave, courageous, humble, and vulnerable woman named Maddie Corman.

Maddie took what anyone would call a nightmare and turned her experience into a story of recovery. Maddie’s husband of 20 years was arrested for child pornography. Instead of seeing her husband as a monster and leaving him, she stayed. She chose to see him, as he was, a very sick person. Without condoning or belittling his behavior, Maddie chose to help him through his illness. And she didn’t stop there. She chose to recognize the issues of her own that this horrible experience uncovered. So, along with her husband, Maddie began an effortful road to recovery. She sought out the right supports and fought for the opportunity to heal her and her family.

This is faith in action. When, despite tremendous hurt and fear, we choose to go through our suffering. Not around, over, or under. But bravely through it, growing and learning along the way.

Maddie’s story of bravery pushed me to define faith in more meaningful terms for myself. My immediate reaction to negative circumstances is to wish them away. To fight their existence. Yet, each and every one of the experiences I’ve labeled as “bad” in my life has been an inflection point for the good. They allowed me to learn more about myself, remind me of my values, and, most importantly, help others.

There is a book that was written in 1040 called “Duties of the Heart”. The author states that true faith is not only accepting that all that happens to us is for the best but also, that all that happens is to guide us to our purpose on this earth. So, I will define faith as the acceptance that everything, including the tragic, can help me accomplish my journey, the unique reason I was put on this earth. To guide me towards my gifts.

This week, let’s emulate the kind of faith and strength shown by Maddie. Let’s bring light to the challenges that could very easily imprison us in the dark. Know that no matter the circumstances, you are always deserving of love and community. Rather than painfully dwelling over, “why did this happen to me??”, let’s allow faith and courage to help us learn and grow from whatever life throws at us.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Interviewing Your Feelings

Interviewing Your Feelings - Transcend Recovery Community

We typically react in three ways when our needs aren’t met: we get big, we get small, or we run. Maybe you’re that person yelling at the barista because your morning coffee was two degrees too hot. Or the person who jumps from one commitment to the next, never quite seeing one through.

In either scenario, these responses allow us to avoid the harder questions. The outstanding questions or concerns in our lives that are much more easily treated with anger, drama, or distractions. But your needs will fight you till the death to be heard. To be taken care of.

I despised yelling when I was a child. And the way a harsh tongue only left me feeling fearful and uncertain. Yet, as an adult, my tendency is to “get big”. Though I don’t want to be a harsh person, quite the opposite, I yell when I can’t seem to get the right words out. When I don’t have the emotional vocabulary to speak to my needs, my true feelings. And the guilt and shame follow like clock-work. But the behaviors we learn as children get coded into our psyche whether we like it or not. And the burden of change, of writing over that code, is on us.

Interviewing Your Feelings - Transcend Recovery Community An old teacher of mine taught me how to interview my feelings. Like, go on a walk by myself and literally interview the anger/hurt/anxiety to ask them what they’re trying to tell me! This allows me to separate myself from my feelings for just a bit. Just long enough to steady the rapid-fire thoughts and temper them. By the end of the interview, I’d get a chance to understand what my feelings are telling me. Whether I need to ask for support, work through an insecurity, or get honest with myself or someone around me.

This week, I challenge you to interview your own feelings. In a true courting format, as though you are dating them. Ask them why they’re vying for your attention. If anxiety is a regular visitor of yours, there’s a reason. Allow that feeling to be heard for a moment. In truth, this is an exercise in listening to oneself. And syncing up with your needs. Try and it out and let me know how it goes.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Taking Back the Power

Life is a series of wonderful and messy events. One after the other. We embrace the wonderful, but what about the messy? The hard or the tragic?

I recently spent time with a gentleman who reminded me why we’re better off confronting the difficult stuff with the same willingness as we do the wonderful.

This gentleman had been horribly abused as a child. And these experiences shaped his life choices for many years, choices that self-inflicted further suffering and hardship. He has since embarked on a healing journey that requires him to face his trauma head-on. But, when asked by a confidant what his own part was in his abuse, the man began to get very angry. He exclaimed that he was a mere child and how could anyone say he had a part!? The confidant gently replied that his part was in holding onto the abuse for so long. After a little reflection and great strength, the gentleman said, “Yes. That is true”.

Taking Back the Power - Transcend Recovery Community Healing from our traumas is an incredible exercise in acceptance. We do not need to dismiss an act of injustice or cruelty to accept responsibility for our own well-being. Rather, when we insist that the healing is up to us, we regain any power that the trauma tries to rob us of. Confronting the parts of ourselves that hold our trauma, from poor coping mechanisms to harmful thoughts or belief, grants us decision making power. The abuse of this man’s childhood was out of his control, but the totality of his life is wholly up to him. Health and happiness are choices we make every day. The choices are not always easy, in fact, they rarely are, but at least the choices are ours to make.

I do not minimize the horrible things that happened to this man and many others. Nor do I minimize the horrible things that have happened to me. But I have found that true peace and empowerment comes from working through the messy. And, sometimes, undoing the choices others have made for us. Knowing that we play the primary role in cultivating our own well-being. Not the person or people who wronged us.

This week, let’s really take ownership of our lives and do something that moves us closer to well-being. Even if it’s scary, even it’s hard. Perhaps that’s having a difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding, practicing forgiveness, going to that support group, or simply having the discipline to meditate for 5 minutes every day this week. Freedom from the hard stuff is ultimately up to us. We are the authors of our own story. So decide what story you want to tell.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

 

Accepting Failure

Lately, I’ve been putting myself out there more. Playing outside my comfort zone. I started working on a book, and through the experience, I have found myself facing some deep fears – fear of vulnerability and failure.

I have always been willing to share my story. Energetically expressing my thoughts on life and hopes for the future. And because others tell me that this is me putting myself out there, being honest and raw, I’ve developed, as I see it, a false sense of vulnerability. But I’ve not yet shared all the stories that I believe are important to tell or taken such a risk as publishing them. Rather, I have avoided this goal of mine to avoid the fear that comes with it. Writing a book is a huge unknown. Will anybody read it? What if I share my most intimate secrets and people use them to mock me, to look down on me? These doubts repeat themselves to me over and over.

Brene Brown has shed great light on the feelings of shame and vulnerability. She writes that if we choose to live a life of courage and vulnerability, we will fail. Not we may fail. We will fail.

Accepting Failure - Transcend Recovery Community I think this perspective is quite empowering. When we accept failure as a known outcome, as a certainty in a bold and courageous life, we can start to work with it. Not around it. Success and growth stem from curiosity and allowing ourselves to take risks. Despite the potential for failure. We unearth our greatest potential if, and only when, we grant ourselves the freedom to fail. Not every journey will end in an amazing success. And that’s OK. We’re better positioned to take that next great adventure knowing that we’re capable of daring to try.

I will not lie to you. As I said, I’ve been sitting with my biggest fears while working on this book. But, I have found that when I’m not being courageous or truly vulnerable, I’m not growing or living authentically. I was stuck in a pattern of being comfortable with the discomfort I knew rather than testing my unknown potential. And that’s the fastest route to a life unfulfilled. What a shame it would be for any of us to live a life void of growth and exploration, ignoring our greatest ambitions! We owe ourselves a daring life.

This week, I urge you to peek outside your own comfort zone. Take on a challenging project at work, sign up for that class you’ve always been interested in, reach out to someone you’d like to be friends with, do something new and find out what you’re capable of. The old me would tell you not to be afraid, but I’ll modify that to say – fear is an OK feeling. Acknowledge your fears, maybe sit with them for a bit, and then choose to go for it anyway. You’re capable of taking the risk and these many journeys may just lead you to your greatest life yet.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Living with Integrity

I’m currently in Poland with my son. We’ve been visiting the concentration camps, remembering a very dark part of history.

We just left a camp called Sobibor. Approximately 300,000 Jews were murdered on this solemn ground. And the only remaining mark of the extraordinary atrocities that occurred here is an area of dirt covered with stones. It marks a mass grave of about 175,000 people.

As I scan this land, as I recount the many death camps just like it across Europe, I can not escape the question of evil. How could thousands of people comply with a regime that allowed for such immorality, that inflicted this level of organized torture? Could I have been capable of doing so?

Jordan Peterson, a famous philosophy and psychology professor in Toronto, has spent his career studying evil.

He is known for asking his class if they would have participated in the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, no one raises their hands. To which Jordan reply’s, “80 percent of you are liars!”

Such acts of violence throughout history are atrocious and unimaginable. Yet, they keep happening. Does that simply mean that evil recycles itself with every new generation? Are these just masses of bad actors working together? I don’t think it’s that simple.

Put in a situation where our lives or our families lives are at risk, the majority of us will do whatever it takes to save ourselves and our loved ones. Even if that requires us to participate in evil, to sacrifice another’s well-being, to act outside our moral code. We will at least consider the option.

So, how do we live our lives with the least amount of collateral damage? How do we resist evil, on any scale, and live with true integrity?

We choose persuasions of humanity over persuasions of evil. We choose not to live in fear. Hitler preyed upon fear and insecurity. He convinced masses of people to deem Jews the ultimate threat, as the cause of their imminent demise. Annihilating this enemy group was merely an act of defense.
But evil cannot spread when we are living in love, tolerance, and kindness. There is no need for it. These other things provide us with a sense of security and well-being. They persuade us to live peacefully. And this is ultimately what we’re all after.We must ensure then that we are cultivating such a life. We must actively engage in habits and behaviors that put us into a rhythm of integrity. That can be as simple as regularly showing gratitude to those around you. From the man who delivers your packages to your coworkers, family, and friends. It’s even more powerful when you show love and kindness to someone who you wouldn’t typically. Maybe you volunteer for a day at a homeless shelter, maybe you take the time to explore a different culture or religion than your own with curiosity and acceptance. Additionally, we must never forget that evil exists. That good people are capable of doing bad things. We must get to them with love and kindness, first.

This week, step into the rhythm or step it up. Messages of fear and hate are always out there looking for an ear. Yet, every action we take can have a positive and protective impact. From a smile to a respectful interaction with a stranger. It is our responsibility to drown out hate with messages and acts of love and kindness.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community