Addiction // Category

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12 Jun

“I’m an alcoholic.”

It’s not something you want to hear from a potential partner. Even if you are in recovery yourself, dating an alcoholic can be daunting. After all, people who have struggled with substance use disorder likely have baggage. However, you shouldn’t let that scare you off.

Consider this: people who are in recovery and telling you about their past substance abuse are owning their faults. They’re being upfront about the challenges they have had, and are showing you that they’re willing and able to do the hard work of staying in recovery.

If you are considering dating an alcoholic, it’s good to be honest with yourself and your potential partner about how that will affect your relationship. Here are five questions to ask yourself before diving into a relationship with a recovered alcoholic.

Are they upfront?

Many people are functional drinkers and are able to hide their bad habits until subtle signs tip off the person that they are dating. You don’t want that approach of secrecy and lies. Even if someone is sober, but not forthcoming about their recovery obligations, like 12-step meetings, it can undermine trust in the relationship.

If someone is being secretive, either about their drinking or about their program, that’s a red flag. However, if the person you’re dating is upfront and honest from the start about their experience with substance use disorder and how it affects their life, they’re likely worth a chance.

Is their recovery well-established?

People who are newly in recovery have a zest for life that can be hugely appealing. However, the early days of recovery should be spent focusing on the relationship with self, rather than romantic relationships.

Twelve-step traditions strongly advise against dating during the first year of recovery. If you or the person you are interested in is during that phase of early recovery, consider hitting the brakes until your sober lives are better established.

Will I be able to maintain my own program?

If you’re in recovery yourself, think about how dating an alcoholic will affect your own recovery program. Sharing the bond of living in sobriety can be a beautiful experience; you can talk about your challenges and victories with someone who really understands them.

However, it can also be a challenge. For example, if you’re struggling, you may unintentionally trigger your partner, or vice-versa. Take an honest inventory and be up front with yourself about how living closely with someone else in recovery might affect your own recovery journey.

Will I be able to have healthy boundaries?

If you decide that dating someone else in recovery is right for you, take steps to make sure that you are both maintaining healthy boundaries. For example, going to a meeting together might be great, but you should also both have your own meetings that you can attend without your significant other.

Be cautious of becoming codependent with one another. Addiction and codependency often go hand-in-hand, so making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy dynamic in your new relationship is important.

Am I okay when they put their recovery first?

Many people want to know that they are the most important thing in their partner’s life. However, that won’t always be the case if you’re dating an alcoholic or someone in recovery. After all, if they don’t maintain their recovery they will not have the means to engage in a healthy relationship.

Reflect on how this will make you feel. Will you be frustrated if you’re scheduling dates around recovery meetings? Will you be jealous if your partner needs to take a call from their sponsor or sponsee? Or, will you be able to accept these inconveniences knowing that they help your partner live a healthier life?

If you’re considering dating an alcoholic, you shouldn’t be afraid. However, you should take time to consider whether this is right for you, and how their recovery will affect your life.

AA Dating Service is a website that connects sober people looking to date.

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11 Jun

It’s well-known that teens can be moody, emotional, and withdrawn. While those are sometimes normal teen behaviors, they may also be the symptoms of a mental illness. Like substance use disorder, mental illnesses can be difficult to diagnose in teens because the signs and symptoms can mimic normative teen behaviors.

“It can be hard to identify the signs of mental illness because teens demonstrate some of these symptoms regularly during adolescence,” said Jaymes Murphy, business development assistant at Clearfork Academy, a residential, Christ-centered treatment center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Many of the teenagers who come for treatment at Clearfork Academy are dealing with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder. Murphy said the most common mental illnesses among the teens he works with are:

  • Generalized anxiety: an excessive worry about everyday matters.
  • Social phobias: severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings.
  • Depression: persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/or emptiness.

Sometimes parents think that the symptoms of these illnesses are just their teen’s way of coping with the stresses of adolescence. Parents might think that the behaviors are a phase or something that the teens will outgrow, but if true mental illness is present it’s important that teenagers have access to a proper diagnosis, which can in turn help facilitate effective treatment.

“These symptoms can be very difficult to spot because children’s personalities are not yet fully formed,” Murphy said. “They can become overly shy in many situations or through the awkwardness of their teenage years they can become moody or anxious easily.”

However, parents who are concerned should reach out for professional help. Often times a teen’s primary care provider or pediatrician can give an initial assessment, and refer the family to more specialized mental health care if necessary.

In order to help a teen get an accurate diagnosis, parents should be upfront with the doctor and express all of their concerns and observations.

“To make the process as easy as possible and to determine a diagnosis quicker you should provide your healthcare professional with as much detailed information as you can,” Murphy said.

This includes:

  • Past mental health evaluations and other medical records.
  • Descriptions of symptoms, when they began, and whether they have changed over time.
  • Any medications or other medical treatments that your child is receiving.
  • Anything else that is requested or that you think might be valuable information.

Parents need to remember that they should not be embarrassed about their teen’s mental health.

“Don’t let shame interfere with getting help,” Murphy said. “Think about the idea that you would seek professional medical assistance if your child had a physical impairment. Although unseen, the brain still requires the same kind of care. Do not write off what your child seems to be feeling or discount the way that they act in hopes that it will ‘wear off.’”

Getting proper treatment at a facility like Clearfork Academy that specializes in the treatment of teenagers is important. At Clearfork, the team uses a biopsychosocial assessment, an interdisciplinary model that examines the connection between biology, psychology and socio-environmental factors in a teen’s behavior. From there, the clinical team determines what (if any) medication a teen needs to manage their mental illness, and what behaviors can be changed through therapy and emotional regulation.

“Once that evaluation occurs the real work begins. We can begin to strip away the dependency on illicit drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with what lies beneath the surface,” Murphy said. “We start the journey of standing with our teens and evaluating their life from a different perspective, asking the hard questions like where does my anxiety, depression, hurt and anger stem from? What are some healthy ways to cope with this junk in my life?”

This is difficult for teens, but is also instrumental for ongoing stability.

“This is perhaps one of the biggest most fragile times in a treatment setting because our teens are conducting self-analysis,” Murphy said. “They are putting in blood, sweat, and tears to determine their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. That is a big ask for anyone let alone a teen.”

However, staff members who are professionally trained and who have their own experiences with mental illness and substance use are able to connect with teens and guide them through that difficult work.

“We recognize those hurts because we have been there,” Murphy said. “We can walk beside them because we have walked through it ourselves. By meeting them where they are in those hurting moments and saying, ‘no matter what you do to me, or how much you say you hate me, I’m not leaving your side’ we bring them hope which blossoms into a breakthrough and an understanding of their present circumstances.”

That allows the adolescents to cope with their mental illness and substance abuse in a way that that they can understand.

“They gain perspective on themselves and we introduce coping mechanisms that not only help them manage their illness throughout their lifetime but allow them to thrive,” Muphy said.

Clearfork Academy offers residential treatment for boys ages 13-18 in Fort Worth, Texas. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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10 Jun

When you’re drinking, it’s easy to fall back on tried-and-true date options, like afterwork drinks or catching a live show at your favorite bar. While these date ideas are quick and easy, people who are sober dating have the opportunity to explore more unusual date ideas that are fun, exciting and healthy.

Whether you are looking for a long-term relationship or just want to have more fun in recovery, summer is a great time to give sober dating a try. Although dating without drugs and alcohol can be intimidating, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Connect with someone else who is single and sober, then try out these seven sober dates that are perfect for summer.

  1. Hiking
    The summer is the perfect time to get outside and connect with people in nature. Going on hikes with your sober date allows you to explore new areas and connect, without the pressure of having to have on-going conversation over dinner or coffee.

    You don’t need to be scaling mountains to enjoy summer hikes. Even talking a gentle stroll on a flat path like a rail trail has great health benefits: your blood pressure and heart rate calm while you’re in nature and so does your mind. That makes a hike the perfect healthy way to connect with a new love interest.

  1. Summer Concert Series
    Going to a live show at a bar or nightclub might be triggering, so if you’re sober dating opt instead for an outdoor summer concert series. Many cities and towns have live music throughout the summer, and these events are a great way to see up-and-coming musical talent.

Because these are family-friendly events there is often little emphasis on drinking, which makes them perfect for people who are sober dating. Instead of packing a cooler with alcohol, load up with sparkling water or iced tea and enjoy a much more wholesome night on the town.

  1. Amusement Parks
    If you want a sober date idea that will give you a rush of dopamine in a way that is totally in line with your recovery, why not head to an amusement park? You and your love interest can bond over the thrill of roller coasters and cuddle close on the slower rides. Complete your day with an ice cream or root-beer float to complete this sober date that will have you feeling like a kid again.
  1. Museums
    While it’s nice to get outside during the summer, sometimes the weather is just too hot or too wet to allow you to take advantage of nature. On those days, take your sober date to a museum. Many museums have summer pass programs that allow you to visit at a lower cost, and others are open evenings, making them the perfect after-dark sober date option. For extra fun, check out limited-time exhibitions and installments.
  1. Guided Kayaking
    Most people love to get out on the water during the summer. But instead of baking on the beach or taking a quick dip in a swimming hole, opt for a new perspective by taking a kayak tour. Whether you go out on a lake, river or ocean, your guide will point out architecture and nature that you may not have noticed before.
  1. Baseball Game
    Baseball is a tried and true summer pastime for a reason. Even if you’re not particularly into the game, spending the afternoon or evening at a stadium can be a great sober date, with silly games and favorite ballpark traditions, like hot dogs and a lemonade. Minor-league teams often have extra entertainment and lower ticket prices, making them a great, affordable date option.
  1. Farmer’s Markets
    As the locavore movement has taken off, farmers markets have sprung up in nearly every town and neighborhood throughout the country. Farmers markets are a great opportunity to try local products ranging from baked goods to jams to fruits and vegetables. Gather ingredients with your date and enjoy cooking a meal together, or stay at the farmers market to enjoy live music and great people watching.

Sober Dating Service is a website that connects people who are dating while sober.

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08 Jun

Nobody’s recovery journey is identical so when it comes to seeking help for substance use disorders, treatment plans should be specific to the individual. Through the implementation of a 12-step program and a focus on what it refers to as the “8 Dimensions of Wellness,” Infinite Recovery in Austin, Texas provides a unique and practical approach to holistic treatment. Should an individual or friend/family member of an individual be interested in treatment options in the area, Infinite Recovery is a top-notch Austin drug rehab.

Infinite Recovery designates the “8 Dimensions” as Emotional, Environmental, Social, Spiritual, Physical, Financial, Occupational and Intellectual. We spoke with Robin Lindeman, the Clinical Director overseeing inpatient and detox facilities. Lindeman has been working in various capacities in the recovery field since 2012. When asked about the application of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness in Infinite Recovery’s program, she said, “We utilize these specifically within each level of care, and certain dimensions are focused on more during certain levels of care. For example, inpatient, we are looking at the emotional piece, and the spiritual aspect. We are a 12-step immersion program, and we really want to focus on them finding a spiritual connection, but it doesn’t have to be god or religion.”

For an individual who is willing and ready to seek help, the first step would be detox and/or inpatient treatment. “Detox and residential are housed in a facility 24-7, and everyone is at the same juncture. Detox usually lasts five to seven days, and the residential is approximately between 23 and 25 days,” Lindeman confirmed. After completing the residential portion of treatment, a patient will step down to a lower level of care.

The next phase of treatment is PHP, which goes from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday. PHP includes sober living. This means clients will live together while attending PHP. Clients have the option of staying in sober living beyond PHP.

Because Infinite Recovery aims to provide treatment tailored to the needs of the client, individuals may enroll at any level of care needed. Lindeman reiterates, “Everyone comes into treatment at different times, at different junctures in their lives. Not everybody wants residential treatment.” For example, someone may just need a five to seven day detox, or not need detox/residential at all and just opt for outpatient or sober living.

This is a program that provides a holistic approach to recovery, which is unique and largely missing from many rehabs. Its flexible programming length is also a major asset. While 30 days in treatment may work well for some people, there are many who will find themselves back in the same position they were before they checked in, and without any tools to cope with life. This frequently sets a person up to relapse and ultimately wind up in treatment again. The issue can be particularly true for young people. Imagine beginning to use at 13 and not stopping until you are 23 or 24. You may not have developed tools for living and functioning in the world other than doing whatever it takes to continue using your drug of choice. A holistic approach to treatment works to address this issue by slowly phasing a person back into the real world while placing a cushion of support to address any issues that will inevitably arise as a person finds their way in the world newly sober. Issues such as employment, education, social life, family life, sense of self and spirituality are all addressed.

Infinite Recovery’s approach also stresses community and fellowship. Many in active addiction, and even those who are former addicts, may deny that this is something they need or want. However, a sense of fellowship and community is crucial for someone who struggles with addiction issues. A group of people who are receiving treatment and living together–from the beginning of detox to the final phases of treatment and becoming alumni–develop strong bonds. This sense of community is fostered through the treatment processes utilized by Infinite Recovery and augmented by weekly events such as the alumni block party. Here former residents can interact with those new to treatment and discover a sense of family and unity.

Austin has a vibrant thriving community of young people in recovery. According to Lindeman, “The recovery community in Austin is so strong. There are thousands of young people getting clean and sober in this city.”

If the window of willingness has opened enough to be willing to check into treatment and you are looking for a drug rehab in Austin, check out Infinite Recovery. The sober life is totally worth living.

For more detailed information on the philosophy behind the 8 Dimensions of Wellness you can visit Infinite Recovery’s website. Reach Infinite Recovery by phone at (844) 206-9063.

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07 Jun

In recovery, the journey of self-discovery is ongoing. There is always more to learn about yourself and if you don’t pay attention to the little things, you could be missing the bigger messages.

One of the most powerful actions you can take in recovery is witnessing your own experience. Now more than ever, your senses are heightened and it’s ripe time to look within and make those shifts needed to propel you forward.

This means opening your eyes to everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. Taking time to reflect is a skill in itself and takes practice. It involves tuning into the subtle cues that you receive on a daily basis and focusing on those little nuggets that on the surface may seem arbitrary, but—as you examine them more closely—you discover they carry a ton of important information.

“Journaling is a critical exercise in recovery because self-reflection through writing has such a profound effect on the healing process,” says Noelle Van Vlierbergen, an integrative health and addiction recovery coach and creator of The Day by Daybook (, a guided journal for addiction recovery.

She states that “writing helps us remain grounded in our own experience and that’s what conscious recovery is all about.” Conscious recovery is something Noelle strives for every day. Showing up and being present has been a goal of hers from the moment she started her journey over 7 years ago.

“Journaling literally saved my life. It allowed me to observe my thoughts and the consequences they were creating in my life much more clearly once I started writing. Things were coming up that I didn’t even realize were there.”

When Noelle began her coaching practice several years ago, she realized that a majority of her clients resisted journaling.

“I decided to create a tool to make the exercise more accessible and engaging for them, so they could experience everything this powerful practice has to offer.”

In order to truly heal, you must also be open to understanding which behaviors are no longer serving you. The process involves tracking progress each and every day. It may sound tedious, but by doing so, you begin to see patterns more clearly.

“The ups and downs of recovery can feel daunting and being able to reflect on it in real time is so important,” says Noelle.

The system she created allows you to log mood and daily activity, highlighting self-care and the short- and long-term effects it can have on your emotional and physical wellness over time.

“The ability to connect the dots is huge. We may know that we’re having a bad week, but don’t understand what factors may be contributing to it. It puts you in the driver’s seat with the ability to course correct.”

It takes courage to know that some of the things you unearth will involve self-examination, scrutiny and yes, wait for it… CHANGE. Either in action or perspective or both. It also requires you to pay attention to how you feel every day, even when it’s uncomfortable.

“I think of my Daybook as an accountability partner, always there to keep me in a state of awareness. It helps me track my feelings, capture thoughts, recognize wins and nudge myself to dig a little deeper as I continue down my path of recovery,” Noelle says.

The Daybook was designed to be customizable, a trusted companion that reflects the personality of the writer. It’s a simple tool, but hidden inside is a system that can add a whole new dimension to how you approach your recovery. 

All it takes is an open mind, a pen, and a willingness to jump in. As they say, you can’t change what you don’t see. And the magic is in the details.

Noelle Van Vlierbergen is the founder of Sober Moxie, an online resource for women in recovery and a bestselling author of The Sober Leap – Practical Wisdom for Creating an Amazing Life Beyond Addiction. For more information on the Day by Daybook go to

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07 Jun

As a parent, watching your child hurting or struggling is one of the most painful experiences you can have. It’s even worse when their destruction is self-inflicted through drugs or alcohol. Parents of teenagers struggling with substance use disorder are often hurt, embarrassed, and worried, but they are also a critical part of helping their child succeed in recovery.

“Your support is one of the most vital pieces of your teen’s recovery,” said Jaymes Murphy, business development assistant at Clearfork Academy, a residential, Christ-centered treatment center for boys ages 13-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Murphy often sees parents who want to help their sons get sober, but who don’t know where to start, or are misguided in how they are trying to help. Here are his tips for helping teenagers succeed in recovery:

Be Prepared to Do Your Own Work.

Parents often send their children to Clearfork Academy when they feel fed up or hopeless. While they are excited for their sons to get treatment tailored to teens, they soon realize that as parents they also need to do some recovery work as well. Part of that involves letting go of blame and anger toward their son for the damage that his substance use has inflicted on the family.

“We often tell parents to recognize that their child is still good under all that junk,” Murphy said. “Even if they have gotten to the point of losing hope and frustration, their little monster still has a heart and still desires the things they once did.”

Partaking in individual and family therapies can help parents sort through their feelings and move forward in a more positive mindset.

Know When to Step Back.

While parental involvement is a cornerstone of treatment at Clearfork Academy, it’s also important that parents foster independence in their sons.

“The goal — or even more strongly the responsibility — of parents is to raise a child that no longer needs them,” Murphy said. “It is easy to accept this statement on a cognitive level, however, dealing with that emotionally is deeply dismaying because we want our kids to need us.”

Yet, giving teens the “Helicopter parent” treatment will lead to more strife and arguments. Instead, the staff at Clearfork Academy encourage parents to give their sons autonomy and allow them to deal with the repercussions if they make poor choices.

“If we cannot let them face consequences for some of their actions, how will they deal with things that become overwhelmingly more difficult?” he said.

Let Them Know They Are Loved.

Many times teens in recovery recognize how their substance use has hurt them and their families. This can erode their self-confidence and self-esteem even more than addiction already did.

“Addiction rips apart a lot of things externally, but the internal stuff is just as bad. It shreds apart self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, and many other character attributes, making the teen almost completely unreliable to themselves,” Murphy said.

Parents can help to rebuild that self-belief by engaging with the teens and showing that they believe long-term recovery is possible.

“Encouragement and simply showing a small amount of interest in their hopes, dreams, and goals rebuilds their confidence that was torn apart by the tangled web they have weaved,” Murphy said. “Love and an emotional relationship in the midst of the addiction will always go far to ensure the teen knows that there is someone that cares for them and is fighting on their side.”

Oftentimes, Murphy said, teens are beating themselves up for their actions more than they show. In these cases, their fear and sadness might be expressed as anger. Defusing that rather than engaging can help facilitate healing.

“They are confused and not in control of the situation which is a formula for chaos,” Murphy said. “But if we can maintain a relationship that does not point fingers or say, ‘look what you’ve done’ we can reduce the chaos.”

Prepare for their return home from treatment.

The transition home from treatment is a pivotal time for teenagers in recovery. While they’ve stayed sober in the confines of residential treatment, they now need to test their sobriety in the real world. Parents can help ease this transition by being proactive, including:

  • Remove any drugs or paraphernalia from their space.

    Pay particularly close attention to the teen’s bedroom, car, or other space where they spend lots of time. Check outlets and light switch panels, inside light covers, AC supply and return vents, inside toilet tanks, soles of the shoes, etc.

  • Make a sobriety plan.

    Before a teen leaves treatment, work with their treatment team to make a sobriety plan. That way you know what you’ll do when inevitable hurdles come up. Remember that using substances isn’t the only sign that a teen is struggling, Murphy said.

    “As time passes and confidence rebuilds, they may feel inclined to take shortcuts and even ignore the plan that has been put in place,” he said. “This way of thinking is a definitive path to relapse and if a mental relapse occurs, a physical one is not far behind it.”

Recognizing that teen recovery is a process of progress, not perfection, can help the whole family heal from the effects of substance abuse.

Clearfork Academy offers residential treatment for boys ages 13-18 in Fort Worth, Texas. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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07 Jun

When Dean Grindle arrived at Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers in Draper, Utah in February, he wasn’t sure he wanted to live. But two months after attempting suicide, he wasn’t 100 percent certain that he wanted to die, either.

“I had no idea what I was getting into, what I was doing, or why I was even doing it. Ninety-nine percent of me wanted to die,” Grindle says. “But there was that one percent that kept telling me to do it.”

Today, Grindle, 45, has been sober for six months. He recently started working again, and is staying in a sober living facility run by Deer Hollow. He credits the program with saving his life.

“The thing that made Deer Hollow so unique was the number of skills that I could use on the bad days and the good days. They all dovetail and if one doesn’t work or make sense, I have plenty more to choose from,” Grindle explains. “Deer Hollow gave me options. They saved my life by giving me hope and teaching me self-compassion. Today, I am worthy of being a human being.”

Grindle, who was living in South Carolina before his suicide attempt, found Deer Hollow because he was looking for a treatment program that specifically catered to first responders.

“I wanted to go to a first responder PTSD program because in the past when I would share stories about what I’d seen and done, most people, including therapists, didn’t understand,” he says. “I knew I had some chance of someone understanding if I was around first responders.”

When Grindle first started working in law enforcement in 1995 he was able to stop drinking in order to meet the demands of the job. But he became ill in 2003 with an infection that ultimately led to nerve damage. He was given powerful prescription painkillers, which he soon became addicted to.

“At first, I took it as prescribed. I then realized that this stuff could cover more than just physical pain,” he says.

For seven years Grindle battled addiction, until an overdose in 2010 brought his condition to a head.

“I woke up in ICU four days later, looked around, and thought ‘Well this didn’t turn out like I wanted,’” he recalls.

After the hospitalization Grindle went to inpatient treatment for 60 days. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, so after treatment he left his law enforcement career in order to focus on his health and sobriety.

He was doing well until 2013, when he was in a bad car accident in which the other driver was killed.

“I wasn’t speeding or impaired, I just wasn’t paying attention,” Grindle says. “I stayed sober, but it rocked my world. All the things that I had believed in about myself and who I was were shattered. All those years of protecting the innocent…”

Despite the added trauma from the accident, Grindle maintained a tenuous hold on his sobriety. However, his marriage faltered, and ultimately ended in a “bitter divorce.” Grindle wasn’t going to meetings or doing any work on his recovery, and finally his addiction and mental health challenges caught up with him.

“I began drinking again in 2016, knowing the consequences full well,” he says.

Rock bottom came two years later, when Grindle was desperately trying to regain his grasp on sobriety. In 2018 he went to five detox programs and a 30-day inpatient program, but it wasn’t enough.

“When I returned, things were very messy, and the thoughts I had of not being worthy of recovery overwhelmed me,” Grindle says. On December 28, he attempted suicide.

After surviving the attempt and going through detox, Grindle boarded a plane to Salt Lake City to go through the first responder program at Deer Hollow. Although he was still dealing with a lot of pain and shame, the staff stuck by him.

“At Deer Hollow, there were good days and some very rough ones,” he says. “There was about a week and half, early on, that I went on what Clinical Director Dr. Amy Crawford called ‘my vacation into the volcano of shame.’ I was literally going to walk off and die somewhere.”

Yet, the staff at Deer Hollow guided Grindle and began teaching him coping strategies.

“They didn’t rescue me,” he says. “They continued to support me as I worked my way out of it. I began to use the numerous tools and skills that I had been taught to stick with the program. Then one day during a Psychodrama, it all just clicked. The trauma, the addiction, the feeling of worthlessness, all of it made sense.”

Today, Grindle shares his story in hopes that more people in law enforcement and treatment centers will recognize the importance of treatment specifically for first responders.

“PTSD and related substance abuse in law enforcement is overlooked by agencies and governments,” he says. “It is literally killing my brothers and sisters in the first responder services.”

Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers is a treatment center in Draper, Utah, that guides clients in moving towards physical, spiritual, psychological and social recovery.

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07 Jun

Johnny Tabaie believes that people with substance use disorder can heal completely from their addictions, live their lives and thrive without the stigma of ‘once an addict always an addict.’

“There is a way to get completely healed, and to get your life back,” says Tabaie.

He knows because he has seen it firsthand. Tabaie first started using drugs when he was 13, and for 20 years he lived a life plagued with depression, addiction and trauma.

When he was 33 he finally got sober and healed himself using alternative treatments for addiction, which ultimately allowed him to help more than 1,000 people heal from substance abuse through The Holistic Sanctuary, a healing center that he founded in Baja, California.

At The Holistic Sanctuary, Tabaie offers a variety of alternative treatment methods dubbed The Pouyan Method. The method includes nine hours of one-on-one therapy per day, a diet of organic, raw super foods for nutritional-based healing, massage, reiki, yoga, hyperbaric chamber sessions, powerful five hour IV drips, and sacred and ancient plant medicine treatments that are derived from around the world.

“I want to transform people’s lives and get them off toxic medications and drugs and promote healing,” Tabaie says. “My program is designed for people who are sick and tired of a slew of prescriptions of western medications, endless hours of talk therapy and group therapy.”

When Tabaie was getting sober he was again and again ordered to 12-step programs. While that form of treatment works for many people it never clicked for him. That’s why Tabaie began researching alternative treatments, and learning about holistic medicine, ancient and sacred medicines.

“I found all these noninvasive healing modalities, effective non-addictive treatments, sacraments that reset the brain, removed trauma, and thought this is amazing,” he recalls. “It became an avalanche.”

When he heard about sacred plant healing he was impressed, and felt he had to try it. He had nothing to lose, since he had tried everything else and nothing worked.

Soon, Tabaie was meditating a few hours everyday, and learning about reiki healing, energy work and non-traditional treatments. He realized that these holistic methods for treating addiction are often vastly under utilized.

Today, he aims to help heal anyone wanting to overcome substance use disorder connect with treatments that can heal their soul and help them live without cravings or ongoing maintenance medications. The Pouyan Method focuses on healing the nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system. The plant medicine helps people reconnect to the inner core of their being, which Tabaie called “their soul.”

“I teach my clients take their power back,” Tabaie says. “When people are empowered and inspired they can do anything they put their minds to and follow their dreams; they are able to connect with their true selves; and they no longer need to rely on destructive ways, and hurtful patterns, or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.”

He continued: “I aim to create a safe space and healing place for them to reconnect to their soul. I create the space and the medicine does most of the work. I’ve created a place where it’s common to have a true ‘spiritual awakening.’”

As people engage with the healing modalities at The Holistic Sanctuary and undergo the series of plant ceremonies, they are transformed, Tabaie says. He often sees people arrive who are worn down and close to death, and after a couple of weeks they are able to thrive and flourish when they give themselves time to heal.

Before and After Photos:

“There is a shift in perception, perspective, and a shift in their whole life,” Tabaie says. “Most leave completely transformed, a total opposite person from when they came in.”

The real test comes when people leave The Holistic Sanctuary and return home. Eight out of 10 stay sober for a year or longer, Tabaie says. Here is just one testimonial of a past patient who was transformed:

See more testimonials here and here. 

“They’re living their lives, excelling in their jobs, career and family,” Tabaie says. “They’re being model citizens and living normal lives.”

People who have been through The Holistic Sanctuary are able to live their lives freely when they get home.

“There’s a way to get totally healed,” Tabaie says. “There’s a way to reset the brain.”

Without being tethered to maintenance therapy, people who have been through Tabaie’s program can focus on living the most fulfilling life possible, he says.

“Most of my clients leave and go out and live their life, do what they love, like hiking, biking, yoga, exercise, mindfulness, get new hobbies and start thriving. That’s their new lifestyle, that’s their therapy.”

Today, Tabaie’s life involves helping other people heal, and raising awareness about addiction treatment therapies that fall outside the scope of Western medicine and traditions. He has seen the way that these practices have helped his clients, and also how they have transformed his own life.

The Holistic Sanctuary is a luxury treatment center for substance abuse, addiction and PTSD located in Baja, California. Get more information by emailing [email protected] or calling 310-601-7805.

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07 Jun

Nurses are often referred to as “angels in scrubs.” It certainly fits. 

Who else but an angelic being can provide unconditional comfort in the throes of tragedy, hold your hands through unspeakable heartbreak, and save your loved one’s life all while cleaning up an array of bodily fluids?

Nurses do it with a smile.

Florence Nightingale left her predecessors with big shoes to fill. Nurses must function as caregivers under extraordinary pressure, possess superhuman resilience, scrupulous morals, exceptional coping skills and be immune to afflictions that trouble the general population. Nurses need to be available to care, comfort and to cure. There’s no time to be ill or emotionally fragile. 

By striving to live up to Nightingale’s standards, we’ve earned the #1 spot on Forbes list of trusted professionals, but we’re also the most susceptible to job burnout. We’re brimming with intelligence and compassion, but far from celestial beings. Nurses are 100% human and just as likely, if not more so, to employ unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

A Registered Nurse for over 14 years, I can attest to this. I mismanaged work stress and job burnout in the worst way possible: by turning to drugs and alcohol. 

It’s estimated that around one in 10 nurses struggle with substance use disorder. That’s no small statistic, considering there are around 3 million nurses in the US.

Alcohol, opiates and benzodiazepines are an all-too-accessible source of fuel to get through the work day. They’re also excellent numbing agents to sleep off the stress of a shift. It’s not uncommon to hear a nurse exclaim “This shift calls for wine!” or to joke about the necessity of drugs to wash away the day.

Nurses readily encourage drinking as a coping skill, use of anti-anxiety medicine is socially approved of and sleeping pills are shared between friends. But admitting one has lost control of one or more of these highly addictive substances is absolutely taboo. 

It was eight years into my career at the hospital that I became physically and psychologically dependent on Vicodin. Migraines interfered with my ability to work and be a mother. My doctor prescribed an opiate, and I experienced blissful relief as the migraine melted away and euphoric energy filled the void. 

The progression of my addiction was insidious but certain. Since graduation from nursing school, I could count on one hand how many hangovers I’d woken up with. Recreational drugs, including smoking pot, was out of the question. Yet when all the factors fell into place – a legit prescription, disengaged from my work, overwhelmed at home and sleep deprived working nights – my fate seemed inevitable.

Slowly and steadily I transformed from a Florence Nightingale prodigy – working overtime, volunteering, climbing the ladder to nursing success – into a real-life Nurse Jackie

Eventually I became tolerant and my personal prescription wasn’t enough. I engaged in behavior I’d previously considered appalling and unthinkable. I stole from my employer. Compulsion to use and desperation to avoid withdrawal won over any rational thought process. Opiates had become a cure-all for the physical and emotional exhaustion that consumed me.

Like so many other nurses, when I realized the line had been crossed from medical and occasional recreational use to abuse and dependence, I felt trapped. I couldn’t just tell my manager. I couldn’t even tell a friend. Too much was at stake. Drowning in opiate addiction, (and drinking heavily to boost the effects or stave off withdrawal) I saw no safe shore to swim to. 

Washington State, along with most states in the US, offers an “alternative to discipline” program due to the high incidence of substance abuse in healthcare professionals. But since the problem isn’t talked about, the solution isn’t either. The organizations are spoken of in whispers, as are the nurses who “ended up in the program.”

I wasn’t ignorant to the existence of these resources, but I was completely misguided as to their intention and function. 

I’d heard rumors of nurses who were caught “diverting” – the fancy term we use for stealing the leftover or extra amounts of drugs that are supposed to be “wasted” at work in the proper receptacle.

According to gossip, they were escorted off campus by security or police as the state program was notified. At worst they were forced to relinquish their license. At best, job opportunities were limited to grueling shifts at nursing homes earning half the pay they deserved. 

It was a living nightmare. Imprisoned by addiction, paralyzed by fear. Terrified of being recognized, I refused to attend any type of peer-support group meeting. Finally, out of desperation I contacted a private counselor. She declined to treat me based on duty to report.

“Oh, you’re a nurse? I can’t treat you. Too much liability. But good luck I’m sure you’ll find someone.” 

Fortunately, I found rock bottom. Not in the form of an overdose, which I was dangerously close to many times, but in being caught by my employer. Someone had informed them of my suspicious behavior. I was required to give a urine sample, and when it came back glowing dirty with the truth of my drug use, I was given a choice according to my state’s department of health policy: Enter into treatment or face criminal charges and potential loss of my license.

Both options felt like professional suicide. For the next two weeks as I contemplated the decision, I also contemplated actual suicide. With the support of one family member I felt I could confide in, I made my way to treatment; sick with shame and certain I’d destroyed my reputation, my dignity and life as I knew it. 

Out of work as a nurse, but intentionally working on recovery, my outlook began to change. One month of sobriety turned into multiple, and the chemical fog began to clear. I made connections with nurses who had or were recovering. I began practicing mindfulness, cultivating resilience and digging deep to understand what had transpired. 

As I researched, I discovered my story isn’t unique. Being an excellent nurse and having an addiction are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often go hand-in-hand. The highest functioning, hardest working, most in-depth critical thinkers end up stealing and ingesting drugs from work. Numerous factors play into this, the most basic of which is drugs and alcohol offer instant relief from a mind that won’t shut off, and they are physically addictive. Nurses in particular feel invincible as the caregivers – “it’s others who are sick.”

Our comprehensive knowledge of medications and how to ingest or inject “safely” gives us a false sense of security. And 75-80% of nurses are adult children of alcoholics, including me. We’re essentially predisposed and then enter into a pressure cooker of a career. 

My research also uncovered that sober, recovering and/or “graduated” from an alternative to discipline program nurses still don’t disclose this part of their lives. This is a tragedy in itself. When nurses keep their recovery in their dark, still-suffering nurses keep their active addictions in the dark. 

Healthcare as an occupation does a disservice to professionals who enter into it by neglecting to educate, advocate and adequately treat. 

Nursing schools should provide courses in mindfulness and self-awareness, encouraging nurses to uncover the sometimes-hidden nature of addictive tendencies and teaching strategies to manage them. This should be done long before ever exposing them to the workforce and giving access to a plethora of pills and injectables. 

Educational institutions and employers should offer free education, confidential counseling and allow time off work for treatment. Lunch breaks should be mandatory and enforced; employees should be trained in self-care. 

Instead of shaming nurses who are under suspicion or undergoing treatment by posting names and license numbers on public lists, the department of health should be involved in the development of peer- support groups.

Trauma-informed rehabilitation programs need to be implemented for nurses and first responders who have been repeatedly subject to high stress and high stakes patient care. 

Asking for help shouldn’t be a trauma itself. We need to change the narrative from “being reported” to being “given an opportunity to receive treatment and protect your license.” Treatment providers need to change the verbiage from “You can’t tell me anything, I have a duty to report.” To “This is an opportunity for honesty, to find you the best treatment possible so you can achieve health and well-being again.”

I never wanted to be known as a real-life Nurse Jackie. It would have been easier to quietly complete my time in treatment and live out my career with a well-kept secret. But I know that there are many more angels in scrubs still suffering. Neglecting themselves while striving to meet the needs of their patients, too afraid to ask for help and too sick to overcome addiction on their own. 

Before I ever stole a pill from work, before I was ever a daily drinker and habitual pill-popper, I was just a burned-out nurse, exhausted and in pain. I needed a safe place to admit I was hurting and an outlet to vent the pressure. I needed somewhere to take off my scrubs, shed the angel wings, and become vulnerable without being made to feel inferior. I needed to know I wasn’t alone, and that treatment was not the end of my career; only the end of my addiction. My career would have a chance to flourish.

Stigma must be eradicated for recovery to be possible. Prevention, early intervention, and treatment must be advocated for fiercely in order for nursing to be filled with thriving, healthy individuals. I live sober out loud because I believe this change is possible.

Tiffany Swedeen, RN, BSN, CPC/CPRC is a certified life and recovery coach, She Recovers Designated Coach, and a registered nurse in recovery herself from opioids and alcohol. Tiffany lives “sober out loud,” proudly sharing her story through advocacy and blogging and is passionate about helping others do the same. Her goal is to eradicate shame and empower all to live a life of radical self-love.

You can contact Tiffany through her website Recover and Rise, read her blog and follow her @scrubbedcleanrn. 

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06 Jun

As the therapist at an LGBTQ+ centered treatment center, Jaki Neering often sees people come in with a myriad of mental health diagnoses that just don’t match the person that Neering sees.

“I get this person in front of me and I’m not seeing any of these diagnoses,” said Neering, who works at Inspire Recovery, a treatment center in West Palm Beach, Florida that serves LGBTQ+ folks. “I’m hearing their story and their trauma history, and the diagnosis doesn’t appear to fit.”

People who are LGBTQ+ are diagnosed with mental illnesses at a higher rate than the general population, but Neering and others who work closely with the community believe that members are often misdiagnosed. That’s because the symptoms of the trauma from living a life filled with discrimination, prejudice and rejection can mimic the symptoms of mental illnesses.

“I see them as being normal symptoms to an abnormal experience,” Neering said. “From childhood, we have told this person that they can’t be themselves.”

LGBTQ+ folks are often told that they cannot act in a way that aligns with who they really are. As a survival mechanism, they often adopt a persona that is more socially acceptable. But maintaining that persona can be exhausting, which means people may isolate, withdraw or have other behaviors that are often misinterpreted as the symptoms of a mental illness.

“If the client is coming in and saying ‘I isolate’ or ‘I’m hopeless,’ these symptoms may indicate major depression or bipolar disorder,” Neering said.

When people are able to drop their personas and be accepted as they truly are, the symptoms of the misdiagnosed mental illness are often alleviated. That can have lifesaving implications.

“Suicidal ideation will decrease by 56 percent just by using that person’s correct name and pronoun.”

Inspire Recovery intentionally creates an LGBTQ+ centered treatment facility where people can connect with their true selves, sometimes for the first time. However, for people getting treatment in a more traditional setting, micro-aggressions can further compound the trauma of growing up LGBTQ+. For example, many inpatient units are divided into male and female floors, so a person may be placed based on their sex assignment at birth, rather than their authentic gender identity.

“That’s retraumatizing,” Neering said. “The professionals are trying to help, but they’re using the wrong name, pronoun and room assignments. The client can’t even begin to receive any help because the setting is perpetuating the problem.”

It is often hard for professionals to make a proper diagnosis, because the persona that an individual has adopted is so deeply entrenched.

“It’s like the persona is receiving treatment,” Neering said. “They can’t treat the person because the persona is in front of the professionals.”

In addition, “the current definition of gender dysphoria doesn’t include symptoms like withdrawal, self-harm or isolation. Having an improved diagnosis that reflects the lived experiences of many transgender, non-binary and queer people would help more individuals get an accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment,” Neering said.

At Inspire Recovery, Neering and the rest of the staff focus on allowing people to get comfortable living their true identity. Even simple changes can make a big difference. One client who had a history of chronic self-harm stopped hurting herself when she began wearing nail polish and dresses at Inspire, physical changes that aligned with her gender identity and gender expression.

“I’m able to do therapy with their authentic identification, rather than this persona that they’ve been living in and presenting to the outside world,” Neering said.

Sometimes, however, clients are not ready to let go of a mental health diagnosis that they have been labeled with for years.

“It is a safety net to hold onto the diagnosis,” Neering said. Sometimes, that’s because people are hoping that a medication can help them overcome their issues without doing the hard work of emotional regulation.

“We’re in a society where we want a quick fix,” Neering said. Learning to regulate emotional responses takes time, effort, and therapy, which some people are reluctant to delve into. When they do, however, it can be beautiful.

“It’s empowering,” she said. “They realize, ‘I have control or power over these things. I can choose to do the coping skills, to practice, to show up in group, rather than the powerless feeling of being victim to the diagnosis.”

Inspire Recovery provides treatment for substance use disorder and mental illness for LGBTQIA+ individuals in West Palm Beach, Florida. Learn more on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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