Sober Dating

Sober Dating

Dating while sober can present all kinds of challenges. For some people, social anxiety and fear of rejection are what led to addiction in the first place. Dating is often where these fears are most intense. Sooner or later your date will ask why you don’t drink. Will it be a deal-breaker when you say you’re in recovery? If it isn’t, will you be able to stay sober while dating someone who drinks? These are only some of the difficulties of dating while sober. Here are some suggestions for making it work.

Don’t rush. You go through a lot of changes when you enter treatment and recovery. Don’t be in a hurry to add the stress and anxiety of dating. Prioritize things that will help you in recovery–a healthy routine, regular meetings, steady work, and solid relationships with friends and family. When those things are more or less under control, which may take six months or a year, then you can think about dating.

Be careful who you date. Dating other people in recovery can seem like an ideal solution. Each of you knows what the other is going through and you both know you have to avoid triggers and find ways to have fun sober. There are even dating apps that match up recovering addicts. The problem is that relapse is always a possibility, and if one person relapses, it becomes that much more difficult for the other to stay in recovery.

Even worse is dating someone in active addiction. Some people are unconsciously drawn to this kind of relationship as a way of experiencing relapse vicariously, but it’s so obviously a bad idea that it should be avoided as a matter of policy.

Beware of old patterns. Relationships during active addiction are often characterized by drama and conflict. This seems exciting at the time but is usually destructive. In recovery, a solid relationship with a supportive person may seem lacking in excitement compared to earlier relationships. You may believe, based on your previous experience, and possibly even learned from watching your parents, that relationships are inherently tempestuous. This kind of expectation can make you feel dissatisfied in an otherwise healthy relationship. It may take a while for you to accept a new normal for healthy relationships, so as always, take it slow.

Be upfront about your sobriety. If you do online dating, say in your profile that you don’t drink. If your date asks why you’re sticking to water with dinner, it’s better to be honest and say you’re in recovery. If a relationship is going to work, the other person has to support your sobriety. Every relationship has its complications, and this is just one of those.

Dating is never easy and dating in recovery is no exception. Always prioritize your recovery and take new relationships slowly. If you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can support you during treatment and recovery. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.

How Long Will Cravings Last?

A question people have at every stage of recovery is, “How long with cravings last?” It can be daunting to imagine a future dominated by a perpetual longing to relapse. It’s especially difficult in the early stages of recovery, when you are doing everything right–going to meetings, getting enough sleep, exercising, avoiding triggers, etc.–and you still find yourself thinking about your drug of choice.

If you are doing everything right, or even mostly right, and you still have cravings, don’t worry. Cravings are normal. For a long time, years, decades maybe, this one thing was incredibly important to you. Your brain rewired itself to figure out how to get more of it. That won’t change overnight and it probably won’t go away after a few months of treatment.

The good news is that cravings do fall off sharply after the first week or so. Cravings are most intense during detox, when you feel like you would do anything to make withdrawal stop. For most drugs, withdrawal peaks after a few days, after which the intensity declines quickly. At a certain point, the decline in intensity slows down and you’re on the long road of recovery. The cravings will continue to decrease, but at a frustratingly slow rate.

At this point, you just have to keep doing the things that have been working for you and take it one day at a time. In some ways, recovery is like a breakup with someone who is bad for you. You might miss the person a lot at first and continue to think about him for months or years. After all, that person was a big part of your life. You gradually go from actively resisting getting back together to not having any particular desire to see that person again but you will never forget about him completely.

Remember that a craving is just a feeling. It comes and goes. It may be intense for a few minutes, but if you pay attention, you will notice it never stays intense for long. You probably wait out many temptations every day already. You wait out a craving whenever someone irritates you and you don’t yell in his face, or when you’re running late but resist the urge to drive 100 miles per hour on the interstate. You have an extra challenging craving to manage but it will get easier with practice.

 

Don’t be discouraged by cravings. They are normal and they get easier to deal with. You also don’t have to deal with them alone. Recovery takes teamwork. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.

Meditation Can Help With Pain

Meditation Can Help With Pain

One challenge people face in detox, especially detox from opioids, is pain. In addition to the irritability, nausea, and insomnia common for any kind of withdrawal, opioid withdrawal often includes bone, muscle, and joint pain as well. Your body is so used to feeling no pain at all that even normal sensations are painful. What’s worse, chronic pain is often the reason people get addicted to opioids to begin with. The idea that staying in recovery means living with pain can be an obstacle for people needing treatment.

Fortunately, there are healthier ways to manage pain. Some of them include therapeutic massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, and counselling. One particularly effective way to deal with pain is meditation.

Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, has been well researched. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can aggravate pain. More importantly, it can change your perception of pain.

One study on pain and meditation applied heat to participants’ legs and asked them to rate how much pain they felt. Experienced zen meditators felt less pain than non-meditators for any level of heat. Brain scans during the experiments showed that their brains actually process pain differently from non-meditators. Brain scans of zen meditators showed bright spots in the part of the brain that processes sensory information from the leg, indicating that they were more focused on the actual sensations of the pain. Non-meditators’ brains showed activation in various other parts, indicating they were more preoccupied with interpretations of the pain.

To put it differently, meditators felt pain but non-meditators suffered. The difference is subtle. Most of what we think is pain is actually what we tell ourselves about pain. When you feel pain, try to notice what you’re thinking. Typically, we think things like, “This is unbearable,” or “this will never stop.” Sometimes we imagine the pain is a symptom of something dangerous, or even fatal. These thoughts just make the pain worse. Mindfulness meditation is basically learning to experience pain for what it is–sensory information–and letting go of interpretations that turn pain into suffering.

The bad news is that unlike massage or acupuncture, meditation takes a bit of practice. The good news is that even eight weeks of short daily practice can make a big difference. Once you start to get the hang of it, mindfulness is a resource that’s always available to you when you start to experience pain.

Pain doesn’t have to be an impediment to recovery. At Gardens Wellness Center, we offer a variety of ways to manage pain and support you in recovery. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

What Prevents People from Seeking Treatment for Addiction?

At any given time, there are more than 20 million Americans who need treatment for addiction, but only about 10 percent of those people actually seek treatment. What prevents the rest of them from seeking treatment?

Some of those people try to recover on their own or with the help of family. Sometimes this is a reasonable approach. If an addiction is not long-standing or severe, it is generally safe to try to detox at home, assuming the addiction is not to benzos or barbiturates. Some people can successfully detox at home, usually with family support, and ideally under the supervision of their doctor. For people with more serious, long-standing addictions, this is not a good idea. Severe alcohol withdrawal–DTs–can be dangerous, and opioid withdrawal can be so painful that many people can’t tough it out at home and end up relapsing.

A large percentage of people who don’t seek help–almost half–believe they can’t afford it or that insurance won’t cover treatment. Detox and treatment can be expensive, and relatively few people can pay out of pocket, but insurance frequently covers detox and some degree of inpatient treatment. Treatment centers have people who specialize in working with insurance companies, or finding other avenues of funding, often through state or federal programs. Don’t automatically assume treatment is too expensive.

The next largest group is just not ready to stop using or don’t think they need help. For them, the bad doesn’t yet outweigh the good, or they can’t admit their drinking or drug use has become a problem. If they can’t see they have a problem, their families or friends must help them see it before it’s too late.

Another large group fears the stigma of addiction. They know they need help but are too embarrassed to get it. They don’t want anyone to know about their addiction, so they keep struggling in private. What they don’t realize is that most of the people they care about probably know already. Often, addicts are the last to realize they have a problem. And if they have managed to keep it a secret, it’s only a matter of time before the addiction gets out of control, so it’s better to get help now.

Some people fear it will affect their work. It’s probably true that taking a bit of time for treatment will affect their job, but sooner or later, addiction will affect it much more adversely. Generally, employers want their employees to get treatment if they need it, and they are required by law to grant leave for treatment under the Family Medical Leave Act.

 

The last group of people who don’t get treatment simply don’t know where to get it. The US actually has many treatment centers, but some areas, especially rural areas, are underserved. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

Alcoholism in History

Alcoholism in History

People have consumed alcohol through most of human history, perhaps all of human history, as animals are sometimes observed intentionally eating fermented fruit. Despite this long history, alcoholism seems to be relatively new. While there have probably been alcoholics at least since the beginning of agriculture, alcoholism has only becoming a widespread problem in recent centuries. Broadly speaking, there are several factors that affect a society’s rate of alcoholism, or as it is usually called historically, “drunkenness.”

Wealth

Excess alcohol consumption doesn’t usually appear in a society until at least some of its members have excess money and time. If food is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to turn some of that food into alcohol. Of course, we see examples today of people buying alcohol at the expense of food, but that’s because the alcohol is already available. Someone else has made it and mass production makes it relatively cheap. Societies have to reach a certain level of wealth before widespread alcoholism is even a possibility, like Elizabethan England, for example.

Cultural attitudes

Ancient Greeks usually drank diluted wine after dinner. While they weren’t averse to occasional drunkenness–read Plato’s Symposium, for example–they more often praised moderation. Republican Romans were similar, drinking mostly at meals. Drinking later became more common as Rome became obscenely rich. Sulla drank himself to death in retirement and Mark Antony drank at the expense of duty and common sense. Some emperors are legendary for their parties.

Availability

In our age of worldwide distribution and unprecedented abundance, it’s easy to forget that famine was a constant threat to our ancestors. A plague or drought could ruin a harvest. Even a culture that celebrates drinking can’t make alcohol without wheat, honey, or grapes. This variability would slow addiction, as nature would impose dry periods every so often.

Potency

The more potent a substance is, the more quickly you become addicted. For thousands of years, alcohol was not particularly concentrated and even then it was often diluted. Even children drank alcohol with meals. When alcohol is more potent, it becomes a problem. For example, when the Romans first introduced wine to Gaul, the tribes there, who were accustomed to beer, didn’t know the wine was supposed to be diluted. This led to widespread drunkenness, which made them easier to conquer. Similarly, distillation turbocharged alcohol addiction in many countries, for example Gin in England and Vodka in Russia.

Drinking is sometimes defended as natural, cultural, or even healthy. This may be true in moderation, but like all good things, we’ve managed to turn alcohol up to 11. We didn’t evolve to drink vodka and whisky, and just as we now enjoy an overabundance of food, we also have an overabundance of alcohol, which even our poorest citizens can acquire. It’s no wonder so many people become addicted.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

When it Comes to Drug Abuse, What do Other Countries do Better?

The opioid crisis has frequently been in the news lately. Almost 60,000 Americans died from opioid overdose last year. Overdose deaths in the US account for about a third of fatal overdoses worldwide. The US leads the world in illicit drug use, especially cocaine, which Americans use at four times the rate of second place New Zealand. This is despite relatively severe drug laws. The Bureau of Prisons estimates that about half of prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related crimes. About 16 percent of those were non-violent offenses. If we can’t jail our way out of the opioid crisis, what can we do?

Comparing countries is always difficult and imperfect. Different countries have different cultures, different attitudes toward drugs, different forms of government, and different community structures. Despite the difficulties, it’s worth looking for clues in what they do differently.

A report on the topic by the RAND Corporation notes that many European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain tend to look at drug abuse and addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one, and therefore emphasize treatment over punishment. Some exceptions are Germany and Sweden, where drug abuse is treated as a criminal offense, but not not as aggressively as it is in the US. It is perhaps worth noting that Germany has the second highest fatal overdose rate in Europe, behind Great Britain.

Great Britain is an interesting point of comparison because it is the European cousin or perhaps parent, of the US. Fatal overdoses in Great Britain account for about one third of all fatal overdoses in Europe. Despite this dubious honor, Britons die from overdose at a much lower rate than Americans. Out of every million people, about 121 Britons die of overdose compared to about 187 Americans, about a 50 percent higher rate.

UK laws bear some similarities to other European countries by emphasizing treatment for users and some similarities to the US in harsh sentences for sale and distribution. You might call this a “chips to crisps” comparison because of our cultural similarities, but it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes the difference. Many people would point to the greater availability of healthcare through the NHS and that’s certainly a likely factor. Other factors might include a better social safety net and more centralized communities–meaning fewer populations are underserved.

It doesn’t seem to matter much whether drug laws are permissive or prohibitive. Both Spain and the Netherlands have permissive laws, but the Netherlands has much lower rates of abuse. Similarly, both Norway and the US have prohibitive drug laws but Norway has very low rates of abuse while the US is the highest in the world.

What seems to matter most is whether people have access to treatment and support. In the US, more than half of the people who need help don’t seek it because they believe they can’t afford it or they don’t know where to get it. It would be great if the US made treatment and mental health services more widely available. In the meantime, treatment options do exist and they may be more available than you realize. Gardens Wellness Center can help you with your addiction. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

The Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

The Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious problem that ruins people’s lives and health. Most people understand that certain substances are so addictive that physical dependence can form quickly. Someone can become addicted to opioids in a matter of days, and sometimes sooner. What is less understood is that people can become addicted without an addictive substance.

Non-drug addictions can damage lives just as badly as drugs or alcohol. Like substance addictions, behavioral addictions become compulsive. People with behavioral addictions get the same dopamine boost from their addictive behaviors as other people do from drugs and alcohol. These behaviors consume their attention and derange their priorities. They can’t quit the behaviors and they experience withdrawal if they try. These addictions can cost people their jobs, their money, and their families and must be taken seriously. Here are some of the most common non-drug addictions.

Overeating

This is one of the best-studied behavioral addictions. Eating addiction is insidious because we all need to eat to live. In some people, eating is so strongly rewarded that they just can’t stop. This can lead to weight gain that causes health and mobility problems. Some food addicts eat as much as 10,000 calories per day. It would take the average person four or five days to eat that much. It can be really expensive, especially if the weight gain impairs your ability to work.

Sex

Like food, sex is a deeply rooted biological drive that sometimes becomes too strong to control. The toll sex addiction can have on long-term relationships is perhaps obvious. Like other addictions, sex addiction can crowd out other priorities and lead to risky behavior.

Gambling

Gambling exploits one weird trick in your brain: variable reward. That means the rush you get from winning is extra huge because it’s not guaranteed. Every losing spin of the wheel raises the stakes, and when you finally win, you feel much better than you would have if you consistently won a little at a time. In this regard, gambling has drugs beat. Someone hooked on prescription opioids knows exactly what reward to expect every time. Street drugs have a bit of variable reward built in because of inconsistent quality, but casinos–and now, Silicon Valley–have variable reward down to a science. They know exactly how to take all your money and get you to come back.

Porn

Porn addiction uses mostly the same circuits as sex addiction. Now that porn is ubiquitous online, there is the added factor of novelty, which makes the addiction more intense. A quick Reddit search of “addiction” suggests that everyone on Reddit is either actively addicted to porn or in porn addiction recovery.

Every addiction is serious, whether or not it involves a substance. It takes your money, your relationships and your freedom. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

How Does Drug Addiction in the US Compare to the Rest of the World?

When President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, he said the opioid epidemic was a worldwide problem. Is that true? How does the US compare to the rest of the world when it comes to drug abuse and addiction? This topic is as complex as you want to make it, considering the many differences in cultural attitudes, country sizes, and governmental structures or lack thereof.

There are, however, some broad comparisons we can make. For example, the World Health Organization found in a survey of 17 countries that the US leads the world in illicit drug use, particularly marijuana and cocaine. In fact, Americans were four times more likely to have used cocaine than Kiwis, who came in second. Americans use marijuana at twice the rate of the Netherlands, a country with far more liberal drug policies.

The disparity in opioid use between the US and the rest of the world is even bigger. The US accounts for about five percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers. In most other countries, opioids are only used in hospitals, but in the US they are widely prescribed for home use, which accounts for much of the disparity. One study found that nearly a quarter of physicians prescribe 10 times the recommended amount of opioids. While the Centers for Disease Control recommend a three day limit, these doctors were prescribing a month’s supply, which greatly increases the likelihood of addiction and escalation.

This huge disparity in opioid use contributes to another huge disparity: overdose deaths. Again, the US leads the world by a considerable margin. While the US has five percent of the world’s population, Americans account for about a third of all overdose deaths. Most of these are attributed to opioid overdose, particularly heroin and fentanyl, and most often a combination of opioids and something else, such as alcohol, barbiturates, or benzos.

Compared to the rest of the world, the US has much higher rates of drug abuse and overdose deaths despite having much stricter drug laws. This suggests there are other factors at work. Likely candidates include aggressive marketing by drug companies, perverse incentives in the healthcare system, and lack of treatment options, particularly for mental health issues. Countries with lower rates of abuse and overdose typically treat addiction as a health issue rather than a crime.

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, treatment is available. Don’t let yourself become a statistic in this swelling epidemic. Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.

 

Addiction and Depression

Addiction and Depression

Addiction and depression are highly correlated. Studies variously show that of people struggling with alcohol addiction, between one fifth and one third of them also struggle with depression. People seeking treatment for alcohol abuse are about 40 percent more likely than the general population to have a mood disorder. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, people struggling with mental health issues consume 69 percent of the alcohol and 84 percent of the cocaine in the US. Overall, about half of people seeking treatment for addiction have some other mental health issue as well.

The links between addiction and depression are complex. People typically assume the overlap between the two is caused by people self-medicating their depression. This may be true to some extent. Depression is a kind of pain, and some people will take anything to make the pain stop.

Other mechanisms are more complicated. For example, some people, especially men, drink or do drugs to overcome social anxiety. If the social anxiety is particularly bad, it might lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Or, if someone is depressed and withdrawn, he might lack a strong social support network. A strong social support network is one of the strongest factors protecting against addiction.

Causation can also go in the other direction. Addiction can disrupt relationships and lead to social isolation, which can lead to depression. If the addiction is bad enough to cost you your job, the loss of work puts you at much higher risk of depression. You have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Why not drink?

No one enters treatment when she’s still having a great time. People typically enter treatment when their addiction has had some negative consequences in their lives–enough to justify the expense and inconvenience of taking time to address it. At that point, no one feels especially good and many people feel understandably terrible.

Treating a dual-diagnosis is somewhat more complicated than treating addiction by itself. Treating the depression is absolutely necessary though, because a depressive episode is one of the biggest relapse triggers. Treating depression sometimes requires medication and usually requires long-term support. Depression usually does not just disappear when an addict enters recovery. It’s a separate animal that requires attention.

If you suffer from addiction and depression, it’s important to get treatment for both. Gardens Wellness Center has expert staff who are trained to deal with complex conditions. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.

Can I Recover if I’m Not Religious?

AA and NA famously rely on submission to a higher power. Six of the 12 Steps involve God–deciding “to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God,” being “entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character,” asking “God to remove our shortcomings,” etc. A huge percentage of the Big Book is devoted to faith in a higher power. There is a chapter addressed specifically to agnostics. It can be summarized as, “Get over yourself and believe in God.” Meetings are often held in churches. You might wonder if recovery is only for the righteous.

While AA and NA are effective, they aren’t the only paths to recovery. There are a range of therapeutic approaches that have proven effective, usually combined with group therapy and sometimes combined with medication. Some of these approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management or motivational incentives, community reinforcement, motivational enhancement therapy, matrix model, and family behavior therapy.

Some of these approaches work better than others for specific addictions. For example, motivational enhancement therapy works better for alcohol, and the matrix model works better for stimulants. Cognitive behavior therapy is the broadest approach and helps you manage the stress, anxiety, and depression that can lead to relapse. A good therapist will have a variety of techniques and a lot of experience helping people recover from addiction.

Although the 12 Steps relies on a higher power, it can still work if you aren’t religious. In the Big Book, it quickly becomes clear that when they say you’re free to conceive of the higher power any way you wish, it means you can choose Jehovah, Yahweh, or Allah. In practice, however, people take greater liberty with the idea. For example, Frank M. at the AA Agnostica blog conceives of the higher power simply as reality. That means accepting that you, like everything else in the universe, are subject to the laws of cause and effect. You can’t have one drink–that’s just not how you’re made. Believing you can change the laws of cause and effect is asking for trouble.

It can be frustrating for an atheist or agnostic in recovery to be surrounded by people who have not only found religion, but believe you must find it too if you want to stay in recovery. One way to deal with that frustration is to use it as an opportunity to practice acceptance. Outside of addiction, you aren’t likely to have much in common with many of your group. That’s OK. You’re there to support each other in recovery and contribute whatever you can. NA or AA can still be a useful part of recovery if you can contribute to the atmosphere of mutual support.

Recovery isn’t only available to people with certain religious ideas and there’s no single approach that works for everyone. The best approach is the one that works for you and Gardens Wellness Center can help you figure out what that is. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com.