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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Forgiveness, Health and Wholeness

“All of us need the experience of forgiving and being forgiven because we live our lives imperfectly.”



By Allen Nohre, Terros Health

Bryce, Jose, Bitsy and Ed took separate long and hard journeys to experience the freedom and health of forgiveness. They describe how forgiving is an essential part of their path out of addiction. For Bitsy it was learning the difference between forgiveness and enabling her husband’s addiction.

Forgiveness is not only for those in recovery or those who go to church. All of us need the experience of forgiving and being forgiven because we live our lives imperfectly. Like the rain that falls during a hot desert night, forgiveness washes the dirty air and we wake up breathing healthy air and seeing the distant mountains.

Forgiveness Improves Health

A study published by the National Institute of Health found that forgiveness has a positive effect on health. “Forgiveness was associated with lower blood pressure levels, heart rate, and rate pressure product. Forgiveness may produce beneficial effects directly by reducing wear and tear on the body that is associated with betrayal and conflict” (1)

Forgiveness Increases Positive Feelings

Another study evaluated the effects of a 6-week forgiveness intervention program. Participants in the program “reduced negative thoughts and feelings about the target transgression two to three times more effectively than the control group, and it produced significantly greater increases in positive thoughts and feelings toward the transgressor.” (2)

People who use the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are, in effect, putting themselves in a forgiveness intervention program. Five of the Steps deal with forgiveness:

  • Conducting an honest assessment of oneself. 
  • Admitting the exact nature of one’s wrongs.
  • Making a list of all persons harmed. 
  • Making direct amends when possible. 
  • Continuing to monitor oneself and, when wrong, promptly admit it.


Bryce

When Bryce was six years old, growing up on a farm in Iowa, his mother went to treatment for alcoholism. Bryce remembers attending family groups at the treatment center and listening to videotapes of Father Martin describing the dynamics of family alcoholism, and he knew what Father Martin was talking about. His mother became sober, earned a Master Degree, spent many years as a substance abuse counselor, and has lived a life of recovery ever since.



Second Generation Addiction

Despite Bryce’s young boy understanding of alcoholism, he started drinking in his late teens. “By my mid-twenties I was a chronic alcoholic and then I turned to massive amounts of drugs. By the time I was 42 years old, I had been trying to get sober since my early thirties. I had good jobs in banking and mortgages, lost them, and been married and divorced. “Finally,” Bryce continued, “I hit the point of utter desperation. I had lost everything. Then I met Jason at church, a man with eleven years of recovery who went above and beyond to help me. He took me to a psychiatric hospital where I spent two miserable weeks detoxing.”

From the hospital, Bryce was admitted to Terros Health Maverick House residential treatment on May 26, 2015, and he proudly adds, “That is my sobriety date.” Bryce knew he needed more than four weeks of treatment, and he spent the next year with 28 men beginning their recovery at Maverick House Sober Living.

Forgiven by God

About three months into recovery, Bryce focused on step four of the AA twelve-step program, making a searching and fearless moral inventory. He said, “I sat down and got it all out. I’d write for half an hour at a time, look at what I wrote and then cry. I kept going and I made lists of the things I was ashamed of, how I had hurt others, and the harm I had done to myself. When I shared my fifth step with my sponsor, I felt forgiven by God, and I knew I was not going to live that life again.”

Self-Forgiveness

Forgiving oneself is not easy. A study of people in substance abuse treatment, reported in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, examined forgiveness of self, of others and by God. “The scores for forgiveness of self were significantly lower than forgiveness for others and by God.” The authors concluded, “Forgiveness of self may be most difficult to achieve and thus most important to recovery, thereby preventing full recovery and fostering relapses.” (3)

Bryce gradually forgave himself. He said, “During the last years of my addiction, I repeatedly told myself that I hated myself and my failed attempts to stop using. And I hated myself for all of the destructive things I did. But, my self-hate wasn’t helping me.”

Then one day, about seven months into sobriety, Bryce had an enlightening realization. He said, “I was listening to a friend at Sober Living ranting about what an awful person he was. As I listened to him beating himself up, I realized I had stopped saying those negative things about myself and I suddenly realized I didn’t hate myself any more.” Bryce had forgiven himself.

Asking for Forgiveness 

Bryce has followed the direction of AA step eight, and made a list of persons he had harmed and offered to make amends. He spoke to his mom, step-mom and his sister telling each of them he was sorry for hurting them and asking each of them if there was anything he could do to make it right. Bryce said, “Each of them told me to not do it again, and to keep doing what I am doing. They saw that my actions showed repentance.” They also said, “We’re proud of you.”

Building Character over Comfort

“My sponsor said to me, ‘Bryce, you are choosing to build character over comfort,’ and I have committed myself to that goal. I am have spent a rewarding year and a half connecting with my brothers in recovery and being validated by our care for each other. God freed me from my addiction and I choose to thank him by helping addicts who are suffering.”

Bitsy and Ed

I met with Bitsy and Ed and wanted to focus on Bitsy’s experience of living with an addict who has become a recovering addict. Bitsy began with, “I’ve been married to Ed for 19 years and he couldn’t stay sober. Finally, in 2014, I said, ‘I can’t watch you kill yourself and I need to be away from you.’ I still loved him but I couldn’t be around him.’” I asked Ed where he lived after Bitsy said he couldn’t live with her. “Under a tree,” is all he said.

A Medical Emergency

In the spring of 2015, Bitsy got a call from Ed’s sister saying he had called from an unknown hospital and said he was dying. Bitsy, despite getting flack for years from her family that she was too tolerant of Ed’s behavior, nevertheless got on the phone calling hospital emergency rooms. Finally, she located Ed in an ER. He had overdosed on a contaminated drug and was shocked to see her standing next to him. Bitsy said “Ed, I came to help you, if I can.”

Al-Anon

Ed’s sobriety began May 5, 2015 when he was admitted to Terros Health Maverick House. Bitsy wanted to visit him there, but the residential treatment program said that she had to first attend two Al-Anon meetings. She went to a meeting and told the group, “I don’t believe in Al-Anon and I don’t want to be here.” But, at the end of a meeting she told the group, “This was so helpful, I will be back."

Forgiveness Rather than Enabling

Bitsy said, “I have learned I was an enabler by accepting behavior I shouldn’t have accepted. Ed was responsible for his choices, but I was responsible for continuing to allow the damage to our marriage, like Ed stealing my money and pawning my jewelry.” When asked how she has forgiven him, Bitsy said, “It hasn’t been easy. Understanding that Ed’s addiction is a disease and not a moral failing has helped me. He came to my apartment and we sat together on the sofa. Ed asked, ‘Do you think you can ever forgive me?’ We were both crying and I told him, ‘I’ve already forgiven you, or you wouldn’t be sitting here.’ We’ve forgiven each other and we have a new life of sobriety and serenity.”
Bitsy’s advice for a person living with an addict: “Get into Al-Anon for your own sake regardless of whether or not the other person changes.”

Jose

As a young boy Jose thought alcohol had solved his two big problems. He said, “When I was a kid, I had seizures and wondered ‘why me?’ I lived in fear of the next one. In fifth grade I had a big seizure. The paramedics gave me CPR and took me to a hospital. I woke up scared hearing my mom asking why my heart had stopped. They transferred me to Children’s Hospital where I had a roommate who died. Now I wondered when I would die.”
“I had another problem too. I thought God had made me ugly. I was teased because I had big ears and the kids called me ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Bug Eye.’ I compared myself to others and wanted to be someone else.”

A Bigger Problem

“A few months after my big seizure, I got a taste of alcohol and discovered I felt normal and I didn’t feel ugly anymore. I thought alcohol had solved my problem. But my drinking became a big problem by the time I was 16 and able to drive to parties.”
Jose’s twenties and thirties were years of drinking alcohol and using drugs with serious consequences. He got into a car accident seriously injuring his 17-year-old sister. He had jobs but couldn’t keep them and he became a father. He said, “When my baby was born, I showed up drunk. I even attempted suicide.” Eventually he was homeless.

Recovery Begins 

“In November of 2012 my probation officer gave me the choice of jail or rehab. I went to Terros Health Maverick House with my inner voice beating me up and telling me I am a total failure. And, I still had this terrible fear of dying that I’ve had since I was a kid. I was afraid I wouldn’t be with my kids. Diane, one of the counselors said something to me that was so simple and yet so true. She said, ‘If you start sobriety you can add another 40 or 50 years to your life.’ That hit me with a shock. I was assuming I was going to die. At that moment my motivation changed because I had hope and knew I could be with my kids as they grow up. Since that conversation I have lived four years in recovery and with my kids.”

Forgiveness at the Bus Stop

“I was three months sober sitting at a bus stop and thinking about my life. It hadn’t been an easy three months but I knew I was starting over. I thought, ‘Maybe God is real, and maybe He is on my side.’ I felt something happening to me as if from another world and thought to myself, ‘God is real and I am forgiven.’”

Unexpected Forgiveness

Jose was with two of his children in a movie theater about a year into recovery. Something really funny happened in the movie and the kids started laughing and Jose started laughing with them. “I looked at my kids belly-laughing and enjoying themselves and I realized after years of not being a good father, the three of us were enjoying the movie together and enjoying each other. In that moment I was finally okay with myself. I felt forgiven.”

Resenting Someone Who Stiffed Him

When Jose was doing his fourth and fifth step work, there was a man foremost in his mind had stiffed him out of $4,000. He deeply resented the person and didn’t want to let go of his resentment, much less forgive him. The sponsor pointed Jose to an exercise in the Big Book to pray a couple of weeks for the man. Jose said, “I brought the guy up in my prayers every morning but I did the opposite of what I was supposed to do; I prayed our paths would cross and I would get revenge. After a few weeks, something happened during my morning prayer, I surprisingly asked God, ‘Please bless him as I am being blessed.’ I told my sponsor and he asked me, ‘What would you do if you met him?’ I said, ‘I would give him a hug.’ I was released from my revenge.”

Not Ready to Forgive

“After a few months into recovery I went to my older sister who is very important to me and told her I was sorry and wanted to may amends. She wasn’t ready to accept me. I was crushed, but I went back eight months later. This time she said, ‘Sit down.’ Then I heard these wonderful words: ‘I’m glad to have my brother back.’” Jose has a stable job as a journeyman electrician. Three of his kids from his earlier relationship live with him and his wife and their two-month old baby girl.
Thanks to Bryce, Jose, Bitsy and Ed for sharing their journeys from addiction to recovery and into the health and peace of forgiveness. They are using the energy released in forgiveness to live new lives.


Allen Nohre is a writer for Terros Health 

Terros Health is an Arizona, not-for-profit, integrated whole health care organization with specialization in mental health and addiction care for adults, adolescents, children and families. Terros Health provides whole health care through the patient centered medical home – an all-in-one place location dedicated to meeting the needs of a person’s mind and body.
For more information visit www.terros.org

(1)http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/14593849
(2) http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/19538652
(3) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/10.1300/J069v25n03_08?src=recsys






Why My Glass Was Never Half Full

Obviously, the reason in my drinking days was, an alcoholic like me couldn’t leave a drop in the bottom of a glass or bottle, but that’s not what I am talking about here.

From my half empty glass — to my attitude — nothing was very optimistic or positive. I don’t know if it was by chance or choice but I claimed the victim role early on in life. Through my eyes, everyone was against me, my voice wasn’t heard, I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, and list grew as the years went on.

I compared myself to everyone else, always finding fault with my being. Yet, I never challenged myself to do better, study harder or reach a goal. I so desperately wanted to be fixed by someone or something, my solace and comfort was found in behaviors that almost ruined me.

After many years of this tired existence, through the Grace of God and my sister Susan — the cosmic two by four slammed down leading me to sobriety and where I am today. I will celebrate 27 years sober on the 17th day of June to be exact, and that is a miracle.

Getting sober even for a day was never in my plan. A loving Higher Power had a much better option for me, and it is here I want to stay. Always Grateful. Very Blessed and Loved.

Thank you to all who have guided me through the peaks and valleys of this amazing sober life.


Hot Topics

Welcoming Melissa Thornburg

SpringBoard Recovery recently announced Melissa Thornburg has joined their team to head up outreach and marketing efforts as they continue to expand our programs.

Melissa brings a wealth of experience in recovery, education, behavioral health and addiction. Her combination of knowledge, experience and passion empower Melissa to help those seeking addiction treatment in Arizona to utilize our services in a way that is both engaging and highly personal.

Melissa received her undergraduate degree form Northern Arizona University in Journalism in 2001 and is currently enrolled in Adams State University’s Masters in Clinical Mental Health Program. She’s also a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, holds a certification in Trauma Sensitive Yoga from Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s Justice Resource Institute Trauma Center and has completed Level 1 in Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing training.  

When she’s not out talking about SpringBoard or studying for the next exam, you’ll find Melissa on her yoga mat here in Scottsdale, on a hike in the desert or at home with her family.

For more information on services provided by Springboard visit www.springboardrecovery.com 

Take the First Steps towards 11th Step Meditation


By Randy F.

The 12 Steps, 12 Tradition and 11th Step chapter states “prayer and meditation are our principle means of conscious contact with God.” If this is true, then how can we work our 11th Step Meditation practice more fully in our lives and our program?

The 11th Step is an advanced step but we can begin learning and developing our meditation practice at the beginning of our sobriety. Early in sobriety we learn we are powerlessness over alcohol and how our lives are unmanageable.

The meditation aspect of Step 1 from my perspective is,  “We are powerless over our thoughts and our emotions are unmanageable.” We often let them rule our lives. We believe our thoughts are true. We don't know how to turn them off or what to do with them.

Thoughts are things. We communicate our thoughts and emotions chemically, magnetically and with sub-atomic light particles to our bodies, our environment and with the universe. We are what we think. It has been proven we are hardwired early in life with thinking and feeling habits that are unmanageable, and imperfect, and we can change with action. We are addicted to thinking and feeling. The good news is meditation helps us practice right thinking and feeling while remapping our neural pathways to change our habits.

We can actually “work Step 1” each time we relax and let go of unmanageable thoughts and emotions. In meditation we can approach this step as an action step.  The Step One meditation techniques that help us to detach from our unmanageable thoughts and emotions are:

Begin by focusing on your breath, then

Gently bring your attention back to your breath when you get distracted

Detach and watch your thoughts float by – try not to grab and hold on to them

Use intentions such as “I relax and let go” as a mantra to practice concentration and to re-direct our mind

Be gentle with yourself if you stray, it’s ok

Every time I relax and let go of unmanageable thoughts I’m working Step One. I can take this practice into the rest of my day, also. Try this in a guided meditation at www.11thStepMeditation.org/stepone.

The meditation aspect of Step 2 is: “Practice connecting with our Higher Power to restore me to sanity, to discover inner connections to our Higher Power and grow our relationship with Higher Power through meditation”

The last phrase of Step Two is "restore me to sanity." What is the insanity that I am recovering from?  It is not just doing crazy things. The core of my insanity, the root of many of my defective behaviors, is my perspective that I am separate and alone.  I do not feel connected to others or to my higher power.

The next phrase is, "A Power greater than ourselves."  In recovery we learn that we are powerless.  I am no longer able to force things to happen.  I need to connect to some power, some greater source to help my healing journey. We learn how to connect with and tap into our Higher Power as we understand it more effectively with practice through meditation.
In meditation, we can visualize a sacred place in our heart where we are in the presence of our higher power. We restore ourselves to spiritual sanity by practicing being connected to our Higher Power.

And finally – "Came to believe" – The first phrase of Step Two symbolizes the beginning of a journey, a discovery of our relationship with ourselves and the rest of the world.  Our 11th Step Meditation practice helps us to expand our emotional sobriety and spirituality.
We actively work Step Two in meditation each time we practice connecting to and being in the presence of our higher.

Step Three states “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  In meditation we "make a decision to turn our will over" again and again…. as we decide:
to stay in the meditation and not quit
to let go of distracting thoughts, emotions and outside noises
to connect to our higher power in meditation

We continually make a 3rd Step decision, and work the step, over and over again in our meditation.

Our Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book clearly states the importance of meditation. "Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height…..To improve our conscious contact with God, with His grace, wisdom, and love. And let's remember that meditation is in reality intensely practical. One of its first fruits is emotional balance. With it we can broaden and deepen the channel between ourselves and God as we understood Him." (pg. 101-102)

 Bill Wilson in a 1954 letter stated "We are only operating as spiritual kindergarten.” We practice spiritual attitudes, new habits, and connectedness in meditation. Meditation is a wonderful spiritual aerobic exercise to deepen the work of each of the 12 steps internally as we take the outer actions of working the steps with our sponsors.


Randy F. has created the www.11thStepMeditation.org website, and is currently teaching a monthly 11th Step Meditation workshop in Scottsdale. For more info, email randy@spiritstep.com.

B-Extraordinary





Granted, I have not lived in every era, however, from this uppity woman’s perspective this
is indeed a difficult time. Our values have been usurped by our greed. Our virtues have been overcome by our need and we are at a loss about who we can trust.

According to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today (2/16) more than 60% of people today lie, and those on social media lie 85% of the time. Time Magazine says 56% of people lie on their resumes. The Washington Post says 76% of men cheat on their wives and women are cheating at nearly the same rate today. Clearly values are getting worse in America, but...who is America...it’s you and me.

And why do we care? We should care, because values are at the core of every action, thought, motivation and attitude we have about everything. Clearly, we can’t have a society with values unless we are committed to having and living our own.

Living in integrity means knowing what your values are and making decisions that are in line with them. When we stray from our values and are out of alignment with our actions, we grieve our spirits and we begin to feel shame and self-loathing. That self-deprecation very often drives us to making even worse decisions. So, the first step in living a value driven life is to decide what matters to you. Is truth-telling important? Is being fully present and consistent important? Is forgiveness important? Is compassion important? Are these things more important than the accumulation of stuff? What are your time, money and family connection values? Is diligence and commitment a value? How about creativity or having a voice of sanity when the voices of chaos are louder? As you can tell just from this short list, this could be a very revealing and exciting, personal exploration.

Once you have defined your values, rewrite them into simplified statements that relate directly to your life. For instance, I will no longer join any conversations at work that contain prejudice, gender bias, or demeaning remarks about anyone. Or, the next time I hear sexual comments made about my friend, I will speak up and ask that they stop. Or, the next time I want to leave the conversation with my partner because I am afraid of what he/she might say, I will make myself stay present until we work it out.

Here is the Point 

We are currently living in a society with questionable ethics because our own ethics are questionable! We are society. When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself,

Am I living what I say I believe?

It’s time to be extraordinary. And you can expect to feel out of the ordinary if you do it. The norm for most people today is NOT living our values, however, the only way back is for you and I to start living them, unabashed and out loud. I often hear people say, “I don’t know what my purpose is.” Well this is it! At this moment, what is most needed is for each of us to be extraordinary!

Once your list is complete, and it will change as you do, then estimate what percentage of the time you are living those values and what you need to do to get to 100% of the time. Ask yourself what support you need. Make a contract with a friend to do this soul experiment with you. Start a group and support each other. Write about it. Talk about. Step into it. You are powerful beyond belief. Accumulated energy produces accumulative results.

We have to stop blaming other people and life circumstances for what we are creating. It’s time to stop playing small and take responsibility for what we have created, and fix it. You didn’t come here to be the same or ordinary. You came here to find your own power. You came here because you are unique and no one else can take your place. You came to stand, as an example, in your own values and beliefs. You came here to be extraordinary.

We need to wake up and understand that regardless of your political leaning, Trump is a master teacher, reflecting back to us what commercialism over compassion, ego over humility and a lack of values looks like. It looks like us. We can change it. We must change it. We can be extraordinary. Let’s start now.
   

Financial Recovery Tips

By Renee Sieradski, EA

As I sit in the Phoenix airport, I see several people fighting to be first in line to get the best airline seat.

I overhear business men talking about what they do for work. As one businessman brags about his successful business, the man he just met asks him more questions, and then talks about his own business accomplishments.

Why do we want to be first in line and at the top of our game? Is it inborn in us to be the best? Or is it our negative self-esteem overcompensating by focusing our efforts on outward image?

I challenge all of you beautiful readers to be okay with where you are at today. This can be hard when everyone around us is doing the opposite. We would definitely be swimming against the current.

But, self-esteem is the opposite of ego-driven behaviors. Humility and self-love go hand in hand, as do pride and self-loathing.

One way to be okay with where we are today is to budget our money. Whatever we earn today, we only spend that amount. Budgeting can be a dirty word. However, in recovery, we face difficult situations with help from others.

Basic Budgeting Tips with a Recovery Twist:

Figure out exactly what you earn each month. A monthly snap shot is a common way to budget because most of us have fixed expenses that recur only a month, such as housing rent or mortgage. Some of us earn money more frequently than once per month, but we can average the previous 4 weeks and use that same figure for the following month.

List all of your fixed expenses that don’t change every month such as rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, car loans, student loans, and so on. These are usually reported on your credit report if not paid on time — so it is a good idea to pay these on or before the due date.

Subtract your fixed expenses from your monthly income. Hopefully you have some money left over, which would be used for food and medicine. These are essential to your life and well-being. These should be considered the next priority. If you have no money left over, go back to your fixed expenses and consider how to reduce these. For instance, do your car payments, housing payment, and student loans use up all of your money? Then you may have to find lower rent, sell your vehicle and take public transportation, or re-negotiate your student loan debt.

Medicine – Taking our medication can make or break our recovery. Many of us have to take it to stay upright. For me, I have learned that if I skip taking my Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), I will end up losing money because I won’t be able to work.

Subtract your fixed expenses and medication from your monthly income. Divide the remaining money up into four weeks. This is what you can spend per week on food and everything else. As Americans, we are inundated with food commercials, however, spending money on eating out may be the biggest budgeting gap out there. When my husband and I dine out during the course of a month, we spend up to four times as much as buying groceries and cooking. Your budget may allow you to dine out, or it may not. Be honest with yourself. If you have a little bit of money left over, you can stretch it farther by going grocery shopping rather than dining out for most meals.

Extra funds — Now you can budget for things such as new clothing and shoes, household items, entertainment, and savings. Remember that these items are not necessary for life itself. You can live without paying for entertainment. Make sure that you place these in the budget after everything that is life-sustaining.

Credit Cards – A rule of thumb for credit cards is to only use them on two occasions: A. To gain travel rewards points —a way to get free airfare or other travel amenities, which only works out to be cost effective if we are able to pay the credit card off in FULL within the next 30 days. B. The second occasion would be an emergency situation, such as a medical emergency or a major repair on our house or vehicle. These are the only TWO events where credit cards should be used. Otherwise, you are just digging yourself into a hole, which you will not be able to climb out of.

As you start to take care of yourself financially, you will begin to feel a sense of healthy pride.  As you stay out of debt and live within your budget, you will not feel financial chaos. Avoiding chaos will increase your sense of well-being and happiness. It’s not how much we earn that makes us happy, but it is how we manage what we earn and how we feel about ourselves, that makes us happy. Enjoy budgeting, make it fun!

Renee Sieradski, EA, is a Federally Licensed Tax Professional  specializing in providing help for Individuals and Business Owners with any tax problems with the IRS or the State. Call 602-687-9768.

Critical Components of an Effective Addiction Recovery Aftercare Program

This question is top of mind for many addicts coming out of treatment for substance abuse. After spending one to three months in an environment of structured care and support, their release from rehab can be terrifying.

The prospect of re-entering society, facing addiction triggers and tackling the stressors of daily life without clinical support — and without alcohol or the other substances they previously relied on to help them cope — can be daunting.

Addiction specialists and counselors at The Right Step, an alcohol and rehab center just outside Austin, Texas, emphasize the importance of creating a customized aftercare plan for every client who completes one of their treatment programs. In fact, each client is expected to collaborate with their addiction counselor in building a recovery plan that is unique to their personality and tailored to their specific needs.

“People in recovery have to be part of the solution,” says addiction counselor Justin Steen, LCDC, regional director of outpatient services for The Right Step (TRS) and Promises Austin in Texas. “It is critical that we involve clients in the sculpting of their aftercare plan so they will be more motivated to follow it and complete it.”
Steen, discussed the various components that might be included in an aftercare plan co-created by staff and their clients.

An Effective Aftercare Plan

“Each client’s aftercare plan is different, so the ideal components will vary from individual to individual,” Steen says. Depending on a client’s specific needs and medical history, their aftercare plan might include:
Prescribed medication that is safe for recovery — along with regular doctor visits, referrals to counselors for ongoing outpatient therapy, as well as external clinicians for continuing treatment of any co-occurring eating disorders, mental health issues or trauma they may have experienced
A recovery sponsor, usually obtained through a community 12-step program or other recovery peer group
Resources for legal assistance to help resolve any legal issues stemming from their addiction, and letters or other communications to help meet requirements for court dates, appointments with probation officers, or re-entry into the job market, anda health plan that includes exercise and a nutritious diet.
“An important aspect of recovery is taking pride in your life and your body, and good nutrition and exercise are part of that,” Steen explains.

Getting Support and Building Leadership Skills Is Empowering

“Everyone who completes addiction treatment at The Right Step works with us on their aftercare plan and is transitioned into our Aftercare Program,” Steen explains. “The Aftercare Program is open to all our alumni for two years post-treatment at no cost. It includes a support group meeting once a week that is attended by a clinician and facilitated by other alumni — often those who were in the same treatment program — so coming back to the same treatment facility for aftercare support meetings is kind of like coming home.”

Unlike some recovery support groups that require people to have six months or more of sobriety under their belts before they can take on leadership responsibilities, the TRS Aftercare Program allows alumni who are relatively new to recovery — perhaps just three months sober — to take leadership roles at support group sessions. “This can be very empowering for our program graduates and is also a great learning tool as they work through recovery,” Steen said.

Structured Aftercare Can Reinforce Treatment, Strengthen Recovery

Scientific research shows that addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that affects the brain’s reward centers, and addiction to alcohol and other substances changes a person’s brain chemistry over time. Those chemical changes and the destructive behaviors that stem from them take time to undo — often much longer than the 30 to 90 days a client spends in detox and rehab. It is important to provide structured aftercare and intensive support to clients as they begin using newfound strategies for avoiding relapse and maintaining recovery.

“While sober support groups are a necessary part of recovery, they are not the whole story,” Steen said. “We want to make sure each client is also getting good clinical support.   A treatment program is a good foundation for recovery, but it is a very controlled environment. After treatment, our clients are going to go out in the world and encounter stressors. How are they going to handle those stressors now that they are sober? They are going to need continued clinical support to help them handle stress in healthy ways until they learn to make healthier choices on their own.”

More rigorous than TRS’s regular Aftercare Program, Javelin Continuing Care Services at The Right Step are based on a one-year customized aftercare plan that is supervised by a case manager and holds clients accountable to their recovery. Javelin has three components, including:
Weekly recovery coaching via phone to motivate clients to stay on course

Case management to provide clients with referrals to clinicians who can provide outpatient therapy or other continuing care

Staff assistance with finding resources in the community, from legal advice to resume writing, which helps reduce stress and eases their post-treatment reintegration, and

Regular urine testing for substances to hold them accountable to their sobriety.

“We see much lower rates of relapse among our clients who enroll in Javelin,” Steen said. “Plus, providing recovery coaching through the weekly phone calls is rewarding for addiction counselors because we get to touch base with clients as they put their new coping tools into practice. We can help them figure out which strategies are working, which ones aren’t, and make adjustments. Clients get a chance to talk about new issues or challenges that come up during their recovery process, and get one-on-one help with problem-solving.”

Sober Living: A Safe Place to Stay During Aftercare

A sober living option will sometimes be recommended to clients completing treatment if their sobriety might be challenged by their going home. In some cases, a spouse may abuse substances or may be abusive, or there may be other stressors in the home. In other cases, especially for younger clients who still live at home, the parents may have given them an ultimatum that they must be sober for six months before returning home — so going home and continuing aftercare from there is not an option. Alternately, if a client lives alone and is likely to go home and isolate, then that client’s home environment is not conducive to successful aftercare. Isolation is generally considered bad for sobriety.

As an addiction counselor, I must consider if clients will be successful if they go home and continue with their Intensive Outpatient (IOP) care or other aftercare from home, or if their home environment will not support their sobriety,” Steen explained. “If not, we will recommend sober living as their next step after treatment.”

Clients can be referred to a variety of different sober living environments, including halfway houses that offer recovery curriculum, and three-quarter houses that don’t offer a curriculum, but offer a safe place to live with other people in recovery. Sober living arrangements vary as well, where clients may stay for three to six months or, and in some cases, even longer. The important thing is that the sober living environment supports positive progress through a client’s aftercare.