Given the signs of the times with covid-19, social distancing is the new normal at least for now. While I am supportive of the steps our government is taking to combat this epidemic, it is important to be aware of the consequences of ongoing social distancing.
When we are isolated, the same part of the brain lights up as when we are being stabbed. Isolation easily triggers stress, as does telecommuting (I read the other day that we are working 3 hours more on average by working through zoom and other online options), helping to suddenly homeschool children and frequent blurbs on social media about death tolls, susceptibility and other hardships. Stress works on our fight-flight-freeze neuropathways and, when frequently triggered, can cause problems both physically and mentally.
Frequent living with this part of ourselves dominant leads to depression and anxiety from the duress. Living under frequent duress feels terrible and eventually prompts us to seek numbing or release, which can prompt us to turn to things like alcohol, drugs, pornography, self-injurious behavior or gambling. The more we turn to these things, the more likely we are to turn to them in the future.
There is something about connection, meaningful interaction with other people, that helps take us out of that survival mode and helps prevent us from turning to problematic or addictive behaviors. I encourage all of us, myself included, to get creative in order to interact with people. My wife and I visited with some friends outside, shared pie and socially distanced. Afterwards they texted and said “thanks, we didn’t know how much we needed that.” The other day we were blessed when another married couple rang our doorbell with a present for my wife and we stayed six feet apart and caught up for a while.
Whether its through zoom, visiting outside, texting, snapchat, mailing letters or presents, we need one another. Now, arguably, more so than ever. Self-care is most important when we are most stressed. Make the time and if you need help, give me a call: 978-536-1056.
With rising stress because of the corona virus, children suddenly attempting to school at home, work changes and health risks the threat of addiction significantly increases. How do you tell if someone has an alcohol or drug problem? There are several signs and symptoms.
Disheveled, Unhygienic, Smell of alcohol or other strange smells
Glassy eyes, Pinned or dilated pupils, Red eyes
“Nodding,” Unsteady gait
Slurred speech, Tense or pressured speech
Changes in weight or eating habits , Nausea/vomiting, Constipation
Flat / constricted / blunted affect (especially given subject of conversation)
Over-reactions, overly aggressive, overly passive
Disinhibition, increase in irritability or emotionally unresponsive
Missing regular appointments/responsibilities (school, work, gym, etc)
Isolation, sudden changes in social circle
Physical or emotional symptoms present in social circle
Concerns with “cleansing;” cranberry juice, “fake urine
Changes in depression and/or anxiety
Delusions or hallucinations, abnormal fixations, paranoia
Manic or depressive crashes; high-risk behavior
Changes in spending habits (suddenly without money/borrowing money)
Also, discovering drug paraphernalia can also be a significant indicator: spoons, pill bottles, needles, blunts, bottles/nips, strange powders/packaging.
The important thing is not to freak out. Have a calm, non-accusatory conversation. Also listen to your instincts and be aware of someone minimizing, justifying or otherwise shifting the focus of the conversation. Also check out Alliesinrecovery.net for some help and support on how to talk about these things with a loved one in an effective manner.
Thanks to Samantha Katz and Laura from the Milford Area Chamber of Commerce, I was featured in a brief interview a few weeks ago.
So, feel free to meet me and take a brief look at the office:
I am also offering services to help people with process or behavioral addictions. Sometimes a behavior, such as eating or sex, can become a way to detach from stress, to disconnect from our feelings or to make ourselves feel better after a hard day, week, month or sometimes it feels like a lifetime.
These behaviors, just like substances, can become addictive when they demand more frequent or more intense acting out and start to become more challenging to put a stop to. The negative consequences can be numerous and damaging.
Don't suffer in silence. Together we can find a way out. Schedule your free consult today. Let's talk about finding a way out for you into a life worth living.
For the Loved Ones
Living with someone who is active in their addiction can be like living with someone who is jumping up and down on a raft and then complaining that everyone else is making the raft bounce. You work harder, comply more, throw dozens of treatment options at your addicted loved one all to no avail. They seem half-hearted sometimes.
What to do? Where to begin?
First, stop owning the other person's treatment. If you are taking responsibility for an addicted loved one getting help, then someone else isn't - the addicted person. The harder you try in this regard, the less they likely will.
Second, get some help. Your own traumas, and possibly some new ones, have likely been stirred up. Your boundaries have likely been overthrown. You may even be questioning your sanity and doubting your every decision. Try Learn 2 Cope, alliesinrecovery.net, Al-Anon or CODA. As you start to put your own boundaries right you will prompt your loved one to do the same. Consider seeing a counselor yourself.
You don't have to own their recovery or just watch them die. By putting your own life right you prompt your loved one to do the same. It means letting go, which is scary - someone's life may be on the line. But if they won't own their own life - who will?
Give me a call. Let's help you find your way back to sanity.
For many people, with recent legal changes, marijuana is not something considered to be a problem. After all, when was the last time someone was rushed to the ER for a pot overdose? And when did someone ever steal a car to pay for marijuana?
Is it less dangerous than heroin, cocaine or meth? There can be no doubt. But that does not mean that there is no danger, or that it isn't harmful. After all, alcohol is legal and there are something like 90,000 alcohol-related deaths per year in the USA.
The people I have known in my life who have had problems with marijuana were people who worked jobs they hated, lived in homes they really didn't like and spent most of their time and money getting high. The danger is not as acute, but the danger of a life lived as meaningless, endured rather than enjoyed, is spiritual cancer. Never mind the danger of inhaling things into one's lungs, the ongoing and cumulative effects on brain health and growth and that past clients have educated me that marijuana sometimes contains fentanyl.
A life worth living saves us money and helps us spend it on meaning and significance, not on just getting by. I want more for you than just getting by: I want a life free from anxiety, distraction and pain; an empowered life lived to the full. It doesn't take a needle full of heroin to ruin a life. Like T.S. Elliot said, sometimes the world ends not with a bang - but a whimper.
We use substances to help us deal with pain: emotional, relational, physical, etc. That means sobriety brings pain to the surface - the pain that we have been medicating away. But it is pain that prompts us to change. People don't come to see me when things are going great. People don't go to rehab because they have fifty thousand dollars to spend and eight months to kill.
So if we're newly sober and spending time with the same friends, a few things may become apparent:
How much they drink, smoke or use drugs.
What they are like when they do those things.
Maybe they are more enjoyable to be around when you aren't smoking, drinking or otherwise high - you can actually connect with them.
Maybe you find yourself the brunt of more jokes than you like.
Maybe, without the substances, you just don't have that much in common with them anymore.
Most of these experiences are unpleasant. The temptation can be to go back to drinking or using substances. Or we can let these unpleasant experiences prompt us to change. Change is scary and difficult but, without it, relapse becomes quite likely. We may have to ask ourselves - what kind of people do we really want as friends? Where will I find them? How can I befriend them?
Ultimately, the pursuit of sobriety and recovery becomes a question of identity. Anyone I have worked with who has done well, the conversation eventually turns to a question of identity: which means it is a good, if challenging, place to be.
Let the pain prompt you to change.
Often, to get the best possible care for a loved one, family will spend enormous amounts of money on an expensive, frequently out-of-state rehab center. While there, a client goes through so many wonderful treatments: yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, massage, gourmet meals, swimming, CBT, wolf or adventure therapy (I have seen it!). Then they move back home. And all the wonderful things they were doing are, often, no longer available (or even affordable).
And relapse becomes quite likely.
Realistically, someone who is receiving all this wonderful care seems much less likely to use while they are there - who would when life is suddenly so lovely? It can be a set-up for disappointment: treatment was wonderful but life is suddenly hard again. And the treatment center's support is gone.
Residential rehab can be effective treatment, but before spending tens of thousands of dollars- consider a more local, less expensive place with compassionate staff that works with and allows for a client to make their own decisions and build a support network post-program.
At some point, your loved one will need to make their own decisions anyway. Might as well help them learn how before they leave treatment with 24/7 staff support.
Alcohol and drugs turn us into super-people. Pain pills turn us into workhorses on the job. Alcohol gives us liquid courage. Take those away and we are left with something unpleasant.
Without the alcohol, we may not know how to socialize. Or we may discover we really don't like the people we tend to socialize with. Maybe we discover that we actually hate our job or that it is destroying our bodies or minds. If those things don't change, then the impetus to still use remains. Relapse then becomes, probably, a matter of time.
Take the pain away, and the urge to use becomes easier to manage because triggers are being removed.
In a word, that's what I do when I sit down with someone to help them change their relationship with alcohol or drugs. All substances are pain-killers, however they effect the brain. Sobriety brings pain front-and-center.
The best relapse prevention really is a life worth living.
Let me help you find that life.