By David Anderson, Ph.D., Executive Director at The Meadows
We experienced yet another heart-warming Patient Commencement Celebration last Wednesday morning, as seven soon-to-be-leaving patients expressed their thanks and appreciation to the Meadows staff, the community and their peers for helping them along their journey through life-saving treatment, recovery and transformation.
At the end of the commencement, as we always do, we formed a big circle, observed a few moments of quiet Reflection, and then said The Serenity Prayer. At the end of the prayer, as we always do, each patient and staff member extended his or her right foot and Repeated loudly, “R, R, R!”
As we were walking out I overheard a couple of newer people who were in the audience say “I have no idea what R! R! R! means!”
Well, for those wondering, the letters stand for Reality, Respect, and Responsibility—three crucially important building blocks of true Recovery (and all in keeping with our underlying Meadows Model).
These are three great “R” words.
But we have other “R” words, too:
Rites of passage (like commencements and graduations)
On the coins that we provide to graduating members of our military, in addition to Recovery, we have three more R words: Reveal, Resiliency, and Renew.
And if you spend any time in our Brain Center, you soon come to Realize that a basic component of our Meadows program is nervous system Regulation.
Each of these “R” words comes with a story, a commitment, and a history here at The Meadows; each are worked into the warp and weave of our programming.
And here are even more: as we head into the three major months of summer, many of us will be taking vacations and Recharging and Recreating.
So the next time you need to Refresh or Recommit to Recovery, do the Meadows hokey-pokey, put your right foot out, and say, “R! R! R!”
R! R! R!
By Aleah Johnson, The Meadows Alumni Coordinator
What if I were to tell you that all aspects of your past would be used as an asset? Would you believe it or would you instantly regret and want to change it?
I have a love/hate relationship with the word "acceptance." As a stubborn addict, I am not supposed to agree with everything, right?
Acceptance is defined as "the act of taking or receiving something offered." Sometimes I really have to stop and take inventory of the things in my life, both personally and professionally and ask myself if I am fighting or if I am accepting.
One of the most crucial bits of advice I have learned in recovery is to accept my past as an asset. It is important to accept ourselves where we are on our journey and be able to leverage ourselves for good.
The past is a place or state of being in an earlier period of a one's life, career, etc., that might be thought of as shameful or embarrassing. We have all done things in our past that we may not be proud of— choosing to resist or deny our past only leads to more suffering. Acceptance allows us to live in the present moment and not "future trip" or worry about the past.
Resistance is often about control; the more we try to control our lives, the more out of control they get. Acceptance allows emotional balance and gives us the ability to accept people and things exactly as they are, even when we can't see the WHY or when we're not getting what we want.
Acceptance is a key solution to our problems. When we are disturbed, it is because we find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of life—unacceptable. We can find no serenity until we accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at that moment.
Until we accept ourselves, our situations and our life, on life's terms, we cannot be happy. We need not concentrate so much on what happens in the world as on what needs to be changed in ourselves and in our attitudes. (Page 417, The Big Book)
Early in my recovery, an old-timer in one of my first meetings told me, "You can make this as easy or as hard as you want, little lady, but ultimately the choice is up to you." I fully accepted this not only as a piece of advice but also as a challenge.
Nobody is perfect and everyone has battles and struggles; this is part of this amazing journey that we call life. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It is our job to accept all aspects, to start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can to make the best out of the life we have left.
If you are a graduate from any of The Meadows inpatient programs, The Meadows Intensive Outpatient program, any weeklong intensive workshop at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows, or a family member who attended Family Week, you are welcome to join The Meadows Alumni Association!
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs are benzodiazepines (a.k.a. benzos).
As the number of these prescriptions has grown, so has the abuse. Some types of benzos are more commonly misused recreationally, often in combination with alcohol. Others are more likely to be abused as a result of an unnecessary prescription.
Unfortunately, many people who abuse these drugs assume that since their use is so common, they must also be “safe.” This is far from the truth.
Benzodiazepines can be useful for those with panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and even, in some cases, alcohol withdrawal. They are best prescribed by doctors when they believe that the patient’s need for them outweighs the possible risk of addiction, overdose, or abuse. Xanax is one of most popular and well-known of these types of benzos, but other varieties include Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Librium, ProSom, Halcion and Versed.
Doctors typically recommend that benzos either be used only occasionally, as in the case of patients who take Xanax when facing a panic attack, or for short-term courses, as when easing symptoms from alcohol withdrawal. The longer benzos are used, the greater the risk. Even prescribed doses, when taken for a year or longer can cause serious withdrawal problems.
Unfortunately, many people do end up using these drugs to the point of becoming addicted, either as a result of bad advice from their doctors or by choosing to continue to take the drug longer than necessary.
Doctors often prescribe medications in the benzodiazepine family to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain. So, patients who truly struggle with anxiety and panic disorders may not find the drugs to be especially “fun” or interesting. They serve to bring them to a baseline level of emotion and daily functioning.
But, when people who do not have anxiety or panic disorders take benzos, they often find that the drug can bring them a sense of deep relaxation and feelings of euphoria. Instead of taking them to correct an imbalance, they take them to boost the euphoria.
According to Addiction, people who are addicted to benzos often take 30 to 120 times more than experts recommend. Over time, they often develop a tolerance to the drug and have to find new ways to take the drugs—like snorting or injecting— in order to the get the same high. Taking extremely high doses of benzodiazepines can result in coma or death.
Some studies have shown that the number of annual benzodiazepine-related unintentional deaths have begun to outnumber those related to cocaine and heroin. Several celebrities have died in the past 10 years who had benzos in their systems that may have contributed to their deaths. Heath Ledger died in 2008 from a mix of opioid and benzo prescriptions. Amy Winehouse had Librium in her system when she died in 2011. And, Whitney Houston, when she died in 2012, had a combination of Xanax and alcohol in her system.
Benzodiazepine abuse rarely occurs alone. The majority of people who abuse benzos also use another substance (most commonly heroin, cocaine, methadone, prescription painkillers and alcohol) at the same time. Mixing benzos with any other drug that affects your nervous system—even antihistamines—can be dangerous.
For example, when a person combines Xanax and alcohol, they find themselves feeling unexpectedly sleepy and get into the shower to try to wake themselves up. Since they are so sedated, they can end up losing their ability to stay balanced and stay conscious which can lead to them falling and drowning from inhaling water into their lungs.
It is very common for those who abuse benzos to also struggle with other disorders like depression, anxiety, panic disorders, bipolar disorders, and PTSD. Sometimes they have been prescribed these drugs as a way to manage the symptoms of these disorders. They may eventually end up abusing them, as they build up a tolerance and find themselves needing larger doses to get the same effects as before.
This is why, at The Meadows, we believe it’s important to find and treat the underlying causes of behavioral disorders, and not just the symptoms. Benzos and other substances, when used to mask the symptoms of another addiction or disorder, can contribute to a sense of powerlessness people often have about their disease. By addressing underlying trauma, patients can take back the control of their day-to-day lives from the unhealthy coping mechanisms they’ve developed in the place of real healing.
Once someone has developed a dependency on benzos, avoiding withdrawal symptoms may start to be their biggest daily motivation. Some of the signs that someone you know may be addicted to benzos are…
It is critical that those addicted to benzodiazepines get proper medical and psychological treatment from qualified addiction professionals. A cold-turkey approach to quitting benzos can be deadly due to the likelihood of developing a withdrawal syndrome. Patients need a supervised, structured withdrawal program, where they are safe and can also learn techniques, like mindfulness and meditation, for relieving the increased feeling of anxiety that can come with withdrawal.
Since benzo addiction so often occurs with other mental health issues, they also need a program where they can address their addiction, their disorder, and any underlying emotional issues that are likely fueling both. At The Meadows’ programs, we specialize in providing intensive, highly-individualize treatment for complex and cascading disorders. Although the thought of spending 45 days or more in an inpatient facility, away from the life you’re familiar with, may be scary, it is sometimes the best way to finally free yourself of the dangerous trappings of addiction. If you or someone you know needs help, give us a call today at 800-244-4949 or contact us online.
We are thrilled to announce that The Meadows' Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S, and co-author Tom Bliss will receive the 2016 Clark Vincent Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for the book Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence. The award will be presented at CAMFT's Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Calif. on May 14, 2016.
She will also serve as the opening keynote speaker for the meeting this year.
In 2015, Mirror of Intimacy was the co-recipient of American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) Book of Year award.
In addition to serving as Senior Fellow at The Meadows and Gentle Path at The Meadows, Alexandra Katehakis is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in West Los Angeles, California. She has extensive experience in working with a full spectrum of sexuality from sexual addiction to sex therapy, and problems of sexual desire and sexual dysfunction for individuals and couples. Alex has successfully facilitated the recovery of many sexually addicted individuals and assisted couples in revitalizing their sex lives.
She also appears as a regular guest sex expert every Friday on Dr. Drew Midday Live on KABC Talk Radio to discuss sex, addiction and sexuality. She is the author of Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (Summer 2016,) Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot Healthy Sex after Recovery From Sex Addiction, the co-author of Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence and a contributing author to Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts — all available on Amazon.
We’re nearly halfway through NCAA® March Madness® tournament. The excitement is ramping up as the team in the Sweet Sixteen prepare for the next round. Those whose brackets aren’t already busted are anxiously waiting to see if their picks will help them reign supreme over their friends and co-workers, and maybe even allow them to take home a cash prize.
But some people—an estimated 6 million in fact— might instead be anxiously waiting for the tournament to be over. They are the people who struggle with pathological gambling addictions. For them, this time of year presents an overabundance of challenges and triggers. While many of us are cheering our teams on the road to the Final Four, they are fighting to stay on the road to recovery.
While participating in your friends’ or co-workers’ NCAA bracket pool doesn’t necessarily put you on the path to addiction, many problem gamblers did experience their first gambling-related rush from participating in a March Madness tournament bracket pool or purchasing a Super Bowl square. They are likely to have been introduced to these forms of gambling as teenagers by family members and middle school or high school classmates.
This may partially explain why the rate of gambling addiction is actually higher among young adults and adolescents. According to U.S. News and World Report, the rate of young adults addicted to gambling is up to four times as high as the adult rate, and 4 to 7 percent of college students meet the criteria for pathological gambling. However, it’s important to remember that gambling addiction can affect almost anyone, of any age, at any time—even if they are not entirely new to gambling.
Those who are addicted to gambling feel an uncontrollable urge to place bets, visit casinos, use Internet gambling sites, and/or buy lottery tickets in spite of the negative ways their behavior is affecting their lives and the lives of their loved ones. An untreated gambling disorder can lead to devastating personal debt and bankruptcies, and even prison time if the addicted person turns to stealing or fraud to support their gambling habits.
For those who are prone to addiction, gambling starts out as just another recreational activity but soon triggers strong, uncontrollable biological and psychological responses. Similarly to other forms of addiction, people who develop compulsive gambling behaviors tend to be those who feel disconnected in personal relationships, disconnected from a higher purpose, depressed, isolated and/or anxious. As a matter of fact, most pathological gamblers—68 percent, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology—also have more than one addiction, often to alcohol and drugs. Another study found that people who struggle with both problem gambling and substance abuse were also more likely to have issues with sexual compulsivity and to have attempted suicide.
This suggests that gambling addiction can be a sign of a very complex set of intermingling behavioral health issues. If you or someone you know seems to be struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s important to seek out a high-quality, comprehensive treatment program right away.
The DSM-5 lists nine criteria for determining whether someone has a gambling disorder:
Since gambling addiction so often coincides with one or more additional addictions—drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.—it’s important to seek a treatment program that can address multiple conditions at the same time. Our staff spends time with each patient to develop a highly-individualized treatment program based on a thorough assessment of his or her primary and secondary conditions, and on releasing the hidden trauma at the heart of them all. Call our intake coordinators today at 800-244-4949 or contact us online to find out if one of our Meadows Behavioral Healthcare programs is right for you.