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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.

The Dial to Nowhere

while Dee and I were waiting to be served in a restaurant, I picked up an Etch-a-Sketch-like toy on a rack near our table, a plaything designed to keep little kids entertained while waiting for food. Curious, I began to write on the screen and tinker with the dials. I discovered a large knob that turned like a dial and moved in a slot horizontally back and forth across the entire bottom of the device. “What does that dial do?” Dee asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “It is not connected to anything and does not get anything done. It just gives kids the illusion that they are getting something done.” Dee laughed. “Sound like a lot of the office work I’ve done.”

She was kidding, but serious. A certain amount of business work is productive and meaningful. A lot just feels like busy work. Filling out forms; fixing website issues; jumping through multi-layered security hoops; getting stuck in voicemail loops; fending off hackers; dealing with people who don’t pay attention to instructions. While on some level these activities may be necessary in an increasingly complex world, a lot of them feel boring and a waste of time. At the end of the day, you lay in bed and wonder, “What did I do today, anyway?” Perhaps you, like me, would rather do what is meaningful than busy work. I heard that some doctors spend one-third of their time healing people and two-thirds of their time doing paperwork and administrative tasks. Where are our priorities?
Soon afterward, we watched one of my favorite films, Lost Horizon. The movie contains a poignant scene in which high-ranking statesman Robert Conway finds himself in the remote paradise of Shangri-La, where he falls in love with a delightful woman who invites him to stay there with her forever. He explains that he has important work to do back in society. She tells him, “Come now, you know you are going nowhere—admit it!” Conway thinks for a moment, smiles, and replies, “You are exactly right.” In that moment he realizes that most of the work he is doing is not leading to anything of true value. He is rolling the dial to nowhere.

If you are tired of running on a hamster wheel, be honest about what you would rather be doing. How much of your work and daily activities are life-giving, and how much are is boring and deadening? How much tolerance do you have for the meaningless? Any tolerance at all is too much. If you are bored, either find a way to make what you are doing interesting, or choose something more stimulating. There are no other options, really. French author Jules Renard said, “I am never bored anywhere. Being bored is an affront to oneself.”

Everything you do is either taking you somewhere or it is taking you nowhere. If there is any value in going nowhere, it is to bring you to the realization of the somewhere you would rather be. Our challenge is that nowhere is so highly populated that it seems like somewhere. When billions of people agree that illusions are solid, it is tempting to pitch your tent in on a swamp. But reality is not a democracy, and truth does not depend on the number of people who subscribe to it. Mass agreement does not make emptiness full. It takes an innocent mind to see the emperor isn’t wearing clothes. Such people are branded mavericks and heretics, but eventually, when the masses finally catch up with reality, the heretics are lauded, knighted, or sainted. Paul McCartney, who flipped the bird at the monarchy by smoking pot in Buckingham Palace, was eventually knighted.

One day I stood at the ferry dock in Tiburon, California, and watched commuters exit from their workday in San Francisco. They did not look like happy campers. I thought, “If that is what livelihood is all about, count me out.” Zen philosopher Alan Watts said, “The secret to success it to find a way to get paid for having fun.” Passion is the strongest money magnet I know. When you love what you do, consumers are happy to pay you to do it for them. When you find a good reason to wake up in the morning, you are truly turning the dial to somewhere.

If you are doing something devoid of joy, either find a way to bring greater meaning to it, or stop doing it. This is your life we are talking about. You get just so many trips around the sun before you get returned to inventory. None of us can afford to waste time in irrelevance.

There are three ways you can immediately add meaning and value to your life: (1) Follow your joy voice rather than the fear voice: (2) Connect by focusing on the human element in your work and communication; and (3) Serve. When you take care of people, you remember why we are here. Our deepest purpose is to make each other’s lives easier. Everything else is either a means toward that end, or a detail.

Each day we are presented with numerous dials we can turn. Some of them simply provide the illusion of action, and others actually have an effect. May you sleep well tonight, knowing that your day on earth was well spent.

Alan Cohen is the author the inspirational book, Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. For more information about this program, Alan’s books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.


BOOK REVIEW

Breathing Under Water 
by Richard Rohr

Reviewed by Kyle Rhodes



He who learns must suffer.And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget,Falls drop by drop upon the heart,And in our own despair, against our own will,Comes wisdom to us, by the awful grace of God.


— An Unexpected Postscript, Breathing Under Water, page 128

In Breathing Under Water, author Richard Rohr suggests that the teachings of Jesus and Bill W. are from a “common inspiration from the Holy Spirit and from the same collective unconscious.” Rohr presents evidence that the Gospel message of Jesus and the Twelve Step message of Bill Wilson are largely the same message, “even in some detail.”

Rohr explores the spirituality of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as compared to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. There are twelve chapters dedicated to each step individually and, to begin each section, Rohr presents the corresponding step alongside several scriptures taken from the Holy Bible. The scriptures that are presented with each step reflect related spiritual principles that are present in both the Twelve Steps and the Gospel.
Chapter 1 (Step 1) reads: “Powerlessness. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” The simple language of Step one is juxtaposed against Romans 7:15,18 “I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the very things I want to do, and find myself doing the very things I hate…for although the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not,” as Rohr attempts to bring clarity to the confounding behavior that surrounds addiction.

In addition to his compare and contrast style that explores the written words by both Bill Wilson and Jesus, Rohr explores the human response to each man’s attempt to teach and heal others. Rohr writes about the reaction to Jesus as a teacher, “Jesus was a master of teaching skillful means…But we got so preoccupied with needing to prove and worship Jesus’ divinity that we failed to let him also be a sage, a wise man, a teacher…We just waited for another dogmatic declaration…” (pg. 76). He continues on to speak of Bill W. as a teacher of experience. One whom others trusted based on the man’s actions and experience with, not only alcoholism, but life. Rohr successfully examines that both Jesus and Bill W. were, first and foremost, men. They were also servants of humanity and their ultimate goal was to teach people how to help each other above all else.

One of the truly inspirational portions of Breathing Under Water takes place in Chapter 10 (Step 10). Rohr is an accomplished Catholic and Christian teacher, but he has not struggled with alcoholism as a specific addiction. Rohr himself admits that, coming upon step 10, it was seeming that the Twelve Steps were an “endless examination of conscience”, which he believes is dangerous for some, due to the overdone guilt and shame-based history of religion. Rohr soon comes to realize that this “endless examination of conscience” is the pathway to something larger than oneself. Something beautiful and inspiring that promotes and maintains spiritual growth and understanding. Rohr suggests that the difficulty of explaining consciousness simulates the difficulty of explaining what would be called the human soul. His examination of the possibility of consciousness and soul being one in the same is something to behold.

If you are looking for a little extra insight into spirituality and the Twelve Steps, I highly recommend this book. As well as insight into the spirituality of the Twelve Step program, Richard Rohr provides an extensive comparison between the teaching styles of Christianity and Alcoholics Anonymous. Tentatively, there is a bridge between what Christ was attempting to accomplish as a teacher of humanity, that was distorted and clouded with a desperate search for divinity and the learning through trial and error and sharing personal solution through experience that Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous call “carrying the message to the next struggling alcoholic.”

The truly fascinating realization that Jesus and Bill W. are essentially spreading the same message through different medians is something that shouldn’t be lost on anyone struggling with alcoholism or addiction, themselves or in a loved one. This book is absolutely endearing for any Christian, addict, or person wishing to learn what helping another human being can really be.
______________________________________________________

Breathing Under Water is available at Gifts Anon., Inc. located at 10427 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85253.

Will A Digital Detox Can Improve Your Life?

By Tamara Rahoumi

It’s hardly a secret that the majority of us spend most of our days with our phones in hand, or our eyes glued to a computer screen. But while days without the ability to Google your burning questions or Instagram your lunch seem like an unimaginable thing of the past, the occasional break from any and all things tech can have a pretty positive impact on your mind, body, and overall wellbeing. Whether your digital detox a couple hours long, an entire Sunday, or (for the truly committed) a whole week, the break from your phone, computer, tv, and other devices is sure to offer up some major benefits. Here are just a few of the ways the digital detox is sure to improve your life.

Your relationships will get a lot a stronger.

It makes sense that when you start communicating less with people through text and messaging apps on your phone that you’ll start to communicate with them more in real life. And with that switch to in-person conversation, you’ll find yourself connecting with the people in your life — friends, family, coworkers, etc. — on a way stronger and more personal level than you were before. There are studies to suggest that too much time spent watching TV shows or movies – i.e. too much screen time — can lead to the development of parasocial relationships with fictional onscreen characters, which makes your real-life relationships even less substantial as a result.

How about a better night of sleep?

Research has shown time and time again that too much not-so-quality time with your phone – and the likes of things like social media – tends to lead to spikes in you anxiety levels. And it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that when you’re anxiety levels go up, the ease with with you can doze off tends to go down. You’re also sure to feel more comfortable in bed at night when you start spending less time hunched over a laptop screen or with your neck staring down at your phone during the day.

Live in the moment 

Think about it: how much of your day is spent in a kind of disconnect from what’s happening around you while you scroll through your Instagram feed or peruse Facebook? Chances are, it’s a lot. But taking the time to break away from your phone, your computer, or any other devices that might be distracting you is one of the simplest ways to ensure that you become more in tune with everything, and everyone, around you. You’ll suddenly find yourself struggling less with FOMO – a break from Instagram means no time to compare yourself being stuck at home to your friend’s vacation to Greece — and embracing a bit of the lesser known JOMO, or joy of missing out, which is all about taking things slow and enjoying the present moment to the fullest. And mark our words: the more that you start to embrace living in the moment sans technological distractions, the more you’ll crave that tech-free connection to the world around you from time to time.

You’ll start to appreciate the technology more

Consider this a practice in gratitude, my friends. The reality of how — or rather, how often — we use technology nowadays has taken us to a point where we basically take our phones and computers for granted on a daily basis. But taking even just a day (better yet, even longer, if you can) away from any and all screens will help you develop more of an appreciation for them the next time you hop on your phone or turn on the tv. Not to mention, the break will help you become more appreciative of the things you truly need your phone for — let’s face it, Google Maps and phone calls are modern day essentials – while allowing you to recognize the value in putting the phone down for things that don’t call for screen time (i.e. a coffee date with a friend where staring at Instagram just isn’t that big of a necessity).

You’ll suddenly find it easier to make other big changes in your life

Less time spent mindlessly on the internet or watching TV means you can spend more time thinking about more substantial things that you want to get done. Without the distractions to consume your mind and time, you’ll suddenly find that your mind is able to process and think through things a lot more clearly on a regular basis. Been thinking about a career change? The digital detox may give you the clarity you need to sit down and map out what you need to do and when you need to do it to achieve your professional goals. Have you been frustrated with the direction that your physical health has been going in? Breaking from the internet and from your phone can help you make working out and meal planning a priority. Whatever changes you’ve been hoping to make, the break from technology ultimately helps clear your mind so that you can focus on making those changes a priority.

Questions From Teens About Drugs and Alcohol

How much do you really know about why people become addicted to drugs, whether marijuana can be medicine, and what causes a hangover?

NIDA scientists answered more than 1,600 questions from teens and others about drug and alcohol use. Here are a few of our favorites. 

1. Why do some people become addicted, while others don’t?
Great question, and a hard one. We don’t fully understand yet why this is so. We know that genes play a part, because an inclination for addiction can run in families, and because different strains of mice, rats, and other animals differ in how readily they develop addiction-like behaviors after they’re exposed to drugs. We also know that a person’s environment plays a part in addiction. For example, what are the factors that encourage someone who has tried a drug to keep on taking it to the point where they can’t stop? Many scientists are trying to untangle the answers so that we can find better ways to prevent and treat addiction. See these videos on how anyone can become addicted, and why drugs are so hard to quit.

2. What can cause a hangover?
There are several reasons why people experience hangovers from drinking. One component is dehydration. Alcohol causes the body to get rid of too much fluid, and the dehydration that results can cause headaches, nausea, thirst, and other symptoms of hangovers. While some people think that alcohol helps a person sleep, it actually disrupts sleep, and that can contribute to the grogginess that accompanies hangovers. 

3. What properties in drugs make them addicting?
Different drugs act on the brain in different ways, but they all cause release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s reward area, which is what causes the pleasurable sensation (the high). Once a person uses a drug repeatedly, their brain starts to adjust to these surges of dopamine; the brain cells (neurons) make fewer dopamine receptors, or they simply produce less dopamine. The result is a lower amount of “dopamine signaling” in the reward area—it’s like “turning down the volume” on the reward signal. Then the person may start to find natural “rewards”—like food, relationships, or sex—less pleasurable; that’s one of the signs of addiction. Also, reduced dopamine signaling in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which governs our ability to inhibit (slow down or stop) our impulses, makes it harder to resist the urge to take drugs even if a person would like to quit. Learn more about how drugs affect your brain and body.

4. Does marijuana use lead to the use of other drugs?
The “gateway drug” concept—where using one drug leads a person to use other drugs— generates a lot of controversy. Researchers haven’t found a definite answer yet, but as of today the research does suggest that, while most people who smoke marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, most teens who do use other illegal drugs try marijuana first. For example, the risk of using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. However, this risk is also greater for people who have used alcohol and tobacco. Animal studies suggest that because the teen brain is still developing, using marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco in your teen years (or earlier) may alter your brain’s reward system (see the answer to #3 above), and that may put teens at higher risk of using other drugs. In addition, using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who use and sell other drugs, increasing the risk of additional drug use.

5. Is medical marijuana good for you?
The marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition. A pill form of THC (the main chemical in marijuana that affects the brain) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS. Early research suggests that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), might be able to help treat conditions and diseases like epilepsy, cancer, or addiction. Scientists are studying THC and CBD to try to develop new medications. However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to your lungs.

6. Can drugs affect animals?
Yes. Chemicals can have different effects in different animals—for instance, chocolate is delicious to humans and poisonous to dogs—so even small amounts of a drug could be very harmful for your pet. Alcohol can cause a dog to suffer dangerous drops in blood pressure, blood sugar, and body temperature, to have seizures, and to stop breathing. In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, signs may be seen within 3 hours, such as a lack of energy, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, hyperactivity, seizures, vomiting, and coma. Also, your pet wouldn’t understand that it had been given a drug, and the sensations that might feel like a “high” to a human would be a very scary experience for an animal.

7. How can I help someone if they are on drugs?
One of the best things you can do for a friend with a serious drug problem is let them know you are there to support them. Tell them you’re concerned about their drug use and encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult; maybe a teacher, coach, parent, or counselor can help. You can also help by being a strong positive influence; help them get involved in non-drug-using activities like joining a club, playing music, or playing a sport. However, if your friend is becoming a negative influence in your life, you might have to step away from the friendship for a while. If you feel your friend is a danger to himself or herself, or to others, it is important to tell a trusted adult right away; it could save your friend’s life. See NIDA’s “Step by Step Guide” for teens and young adults.

8. Are video games more addictive than drugs?
No, they aren’t more addictive—for example, they don’t cause painful physical withdrawal when you stop. Technically, video games wouldn’t be considered addictive. But they do act on some of the same systems in the brain as addictive drugs. For instance, they produce bursts of dopamine (described in answer #3 above), and some people think that playing video games a lot might cause problems similar to drug use, such as being unable to get satisfaction from other things in life.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Recovery and the Power of Connection

A Daily Journey of Support and Love


How Sierra Tucson goes beyond residential treatment to
assure long-term support for a healthy recovery

By Sierra Tucson Staff

Transformation doesn’t happen in a day. But it begins with a day. That very important day is the day when a person decides that it is time to embark on the road to recovery. While the road ahead is long and no one can ever anticipate the curves, hills, forks, and other inevitable obstacles along the way, it is a road that begins with a mindset of hope for change and knowing that there is no better time to begin than now. 

Sierra Tucson believes everyone is capable of transformative change. The Sierra Tucson formula for change is a personalized and highly customized integrative approach that begins with the belief that individuals have the power within themselves to initiate and maintain change. Our individualized residential treatment program, which is built on our signature Sierra Tucson Model®, is where change begins. We believe that while change begins with us, it continues with the individual and his or her support team. 

The Sierra Tucson Model:
A Blueprint for Success

Our approach to recovery begins on a foundational belief that the mind, body, and spirit are connected. That’s why the Sierra Tucson Model® was founded to promote healing and wellness in all areas of life – physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. It is a treatment methodology that leverages the body’s own healing abilities. By combining conventional Western medicine with complementary treatments including acupuncture, neuro and biofeedback, yoga, equine-assisted therapy, and stress-reduction techniques, Sierra Tucson treats the whole person. 
Yet, while the programming at Sierra Tucson is what gets individuals to a place where recovery is firmly established, it is the support that Sierra Tucson provides after treatment that is just as valuable. In fact, several studies show lower readmission rates when individuals participate in a continuing care program. One 2004 study comparing the effects of telephone continuing care versus no continuing care indicated significant improvements in better adjustment outcomes and a readmission rate of 9 percent compared to 38 percent for those who didn’t receive continuing care support. Sierra Tucson’s own statistics concur, indicating that 91 percent of those participating in Sierra Tucson's continuing care program report doing better. Residents who complete treatment at Sierra Tucson receive access to our proprietary continuing care platform and a lifetime of alumni services designed to sustain individuals with resources, tools, and support that they can access for the rest of their lives. This is where change continues.

Connect365: Personal Recovery Coaching and Mobile App

After leaving Sierra Tucson, our continuing care platform, Connect365™, is available for alumni for one full year at no additional cost. Designed to bridge the gap between residential treatment and the real world, Connect365 promotes accountability and the importance of following a continuing care plan. It is not a replacement for counseling, nor is it an emergency crisis hotline. It was created with the idea of providing support, resources, and encouragement through personal outreach and interactive technology that help residents transition from treatment to the outside world. As part of the Connect365 service, every resident is provided with a personal recovery coach and an interactive recovery management system that can be accessed via any mobile device. 

While the service is available for residents as soon as they leave Sierra Tucson, they begin learning about Connect365 at the beginning of treatment. The transition to becoming an active participant using Connect365 starts during the first week of their stay at Sierra Tucson. At that time, residents are scheduled for future Connect365 workshops, as well as one-on-one individual coaching sessions. This immediate immersion helps them build a rapport with their recovery coach. 

Upon leaving Sierra Tucson, participants receive a phone call from their recovery coach within 24 hours and commit to calling their recovery coach each week to check in, stating their feelings/mood and reporting how they are doing with their continuing care plan. Coaches kindly offer support and remind them to keep moving forward by applying the skills they learned at Sierra Tucson to their daily life. 

The Connect365 App Enhances Connection and Accountability 

The Connect365 mobile app was designed to continue recovery by supporting individuals with healthy choices in a holistic manner. It helps former residents, now alumni, stay accountable to themselves and their recovery coach. 

The app also provides resources for:
  • 12-Step meetings
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise

The cognitive restructuring that began at Sierra Tucson continues as important changes like creating daily intentions and expressing gratitude in the evening are reinforced. The app provides a recovery diary that allows participants to track goals (i.e., meeting attendance, recovery-related activities and accomplishments, etc.) and keep appointments. It also asks if the participant is medication-compliant and sober for the day.

Coaches will assign tasks to each participant that coincides with his or her continuing care plan. Each time a task is completed, the participant logs into the system from a mobile device and records it, which then syncs with the recovery coach’s desktop. The task bars change from red to green once a participant has completed an assignment or attends an appointment/meeting on his or her itinerary, allowing the recovery coach to check on compliance.
Sierra Tucson strongly encourages residents to build a healthy support network immediately upon their return home; consequently, Connect365 was created to accommodate the participant’s support team, too. The Connect365 mobile app has secure messaging capabilities and allows members of the participant’s support team to communicate with him or her, as well as the assigned recovery coach. 

Participants are encouraged to add as many people as they wish to their support team, including family members, friends, sponsors, mental health professionals, attorneys, health care providers, and any other stakeholder in the person’s recovery. Support members can also access sleep, exercise, and nutritional information from the app just like participants. At their fingertips are links to additional resources for mood disorders, eating disorders, chronic pain, trauma, and addictions. Plus, information about Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations is available as an added bonus. 

By offering an app that is easily accessible, Sierra Tucson support is seamlessly integrated with one’s everyday life without any out-of-the-ordinary effort required. Without a doubt, Sierra Tucson’s Connect365 has helped change many lives since its inception in November 2015. In fact, nearly 90 percent of residents are participating in the service. 

Sierra Tucson encourages regular connection with other alumni. Alumni events provide a safe place where individuals can reconnect, while also promoting healthy boundaries and necessary structure. A large part of this success can be credited to the alliances and networking amongst residents who stay connected and attend alumni groups and events. They witness firsthand the support that Connect365 provides their peers, often providing the impetus and encouragement for them to turn to Connect365 for support.

The Role of the Recovery Coach

Sierra Tucson believes the first year of recovery sets the stage for long-term success. In addition to monitoring activity on the Connect365 portal, the recovery coach communicates with the individual on a weekly basis via phone and/or secure web chat. Detailed information, such as online posts and other confidential information as indicated by the participant, is shared only with the recovery coach. For 365 days post treatment, the recovery coach delivers individualized support and relapse prevention assistance.

A recovery coach may be called on to help with discharge planning if a previously created continuing care plan requires adjustment. To that end, the recovery coach can provide the participant with the name and contact information of the Acadia Healthcare Treatment Placement Specialist (TPS) in his or her local community, in order to gather additional resources and compose an updated plan. This carefully designed safety net between recovery coach, TPS, and participant can prevent unnecessary panic or isolation that often leads to relapse. The participant finds security in knowing that he or she can always turn to the recovery coach in times of distress.

Recovery coaches are able to monitor and report whether or not the participant is following his or her continuing care plan. If non-compliance is identified, the recovery coach can explore the reasons why and provide alternatives when necessary. Currently, Connect365 is tracking if the participant is experiencing an improved quality of life since leaving Sierra Tucson and if he or she is following one or more items from the personalized continuing care plan. The Connect365 team will also be measuring: sobriety, medication compliance and coping skills.

Secure messaging plays a key role in the relationship between participant and recovery coach. If a recovery coach receives a message that reads, “I’m not doing well. Can we talk?” or an SOS such as, “I quit my IOP today,” it is often a red flag that an immediate phone call from the recovery coach is in order. If participants are unable to call, they can check in with their recovery coach by sending a secure message uniquely built into the mobile app. Recovery coaches have the ability to message them back immediately for reassurance. This provides an additional and effective means of communication.

There’s no doubt that residents benefit by staying connected through Connect365. Yet, the benefits abound for all in the person’s recovery circle. Referents benefit by knowing that Sierra Tucson is in constant contact with their clients after discharge and can alert them to any potential difficulties or challenges. Family members also benefit by not having to supervise or monitor their loved one; they can remain focused on their own recovery. Additionally, the Connect365 app helps participants locate alumni resources and events in their area.

Improvements and Advancements

Inherent to all technological innovations, advancements to Connect365 are on the horizon. Gamification and incentive components of the app will be enhanced with the goal of encouraging participation and reinforcing positive and healthy choices. Connect365 outcome data will also be expanded; monthly coping strategy updates for participants will be added; and a comprehensive psychological profile at six months after Connect365 has ended will be implemented. These outcomes will be important in building solid relationships with participants’ health insurance providers, allowing Sierra Tucson to effectively help those in need of hope and healing.

Participating in Connect365 is an empowering decision. In fact, it is the first decision that a person makes outside of residential treatment that supports a new, healthy life. It is affirming to know that Connect365 is moving people in the right direction every day on their recovery journey. The personal stories that recovery coaches continually hear further affirm the success of the service. Many recovery coaches have received calls in which participants find themselves in paralyzing situations that might otherwise lead to relapse. Whatever the triggers are that trouble someone in recovery, the participant is only a phone call away from his or her recovery coach. 

On a more positive note, messages like “Thank you for everything, you help me a lot” or “I want to thank you for all your support; it makes me feel like someone cares” are also received by recovery coaches, further reiterating the significance of this service. One client said, “I feel safer just hearing your voice, and now I know I can get through this because you are with me.” Whether they call once a day or several times in a 24-hour period, the support is unwavering.

While the participant’s support team usually includes his or her therapist and family and friends, Sierra Tucson also encourages residents to get involved in groups where they live, including 12-Step meetings, continuing care groups and alumni support groups. Often, staff members recommend additional therapy at an intensive outpatient program (IOP). All of these activities are crucial and, when combined with the Connect365 service, participants can stay connected as soon as they leave treatment. 

Once a participant completes a year in Connect365, the recovery coach gently transitions the client to the Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations team, and the individual is received with open arms and a welcoming phone call of acknowledgement. He or she can rest assured knowing that a lifetime of alumni services awaits.


Alumni Support for Life

Alumni. The word holds special meaning at Sierra Tucson. Well-earned for the work they have done in treatment, residents of Sierra Tucson receive this esteemed title upon completion. But most important, they enjoy the benefits that accompany the title. After they leave, many residents – now alumni – refer to Sierra Tucson as a safe place without judgment, where they are free to explore all aspects of who they are as they continue on the path of recovery. 

Being an involved alumnus means knowing one has a lifetime connection to his or her safe place, an important component in knowing that he or she is never alone in recovery. The most enduring and solid connection to a person’s experience at Sierra Tucson is the variety of alumni services facilitated by the dedicated Alumni Relations team. 

With a passion for recovery, the Alumni Relations team traverses the country to host workshops and retreats, organize support groups, and provide an opportunity for alumni to connect. Similar to the Connect365 recovery coaches, they hear powerful stories about the impact that Alumni Relations has had on their recovery. Perhaps it is the call they made to an individual that was exactly what the person needed that day, or maybe it was the simple appearance of the alumni e-newsletter, “Beyond the Miracle,” that showed up in their inbox with the right encouragement at just the right moment. 

The value of alumni outreach builds relationships based on trust, which is crucial for creating and maintaining a loving and supportive alumni community. 

The Alumni Relations team recognizes that connection and outreach are vital pieces to the recovery puzzle. In fact, two years ago, an Alumni Advisory Council was created with the goal of innovating even more ways to connect with alumni who are active participants, as well as those who have not been active in the past. Alumni Relations’ tagline, “Connecting a World of Miracles®,” serves as the foundation upon which the community was built.

Alumni often share words of thanks, poems, artwork, and letters detailing their gratitude for the care they received at Sierra Tucson and afterward, through Connect365 and Alumni Relations. During the holiday season last year, one participant wrote, “Thank you for everything. The gift I got from Sierra Tucson is something that will always be cherished. Sobriety is priceless. Recovery and moving from an unmanageable life to leading a meaningful life is something for which I will always be grateful.”

 For more information about Sierra Tucson’s comprehensive residential treatment, please call (844) 209-3372 or visit SierraTucson.com.

Events and Calendar

Professional Events

May 10, 1:00 p.m. ET—Sierra Tucson Webinar: The Gut, Brain, and Pain Connection, Addiction Professional Webinar. Register: http://addictionpro-2.hs-sites.com/gut-brain-pain-connection. Presenter: Maureen Schwehr, NMD. This presentation will explore the science and research behind the complex gut brain relationship.

May 12—Tucson Behavioral Health Professionals Networking Breakfast— Marijuana and Young Adult Addiction Treatment. Presenters Patrick J. Barrasso, MSW, LCSW and Daniel Barrasso, MSW of  In Balance treatment programs. 8:30 -10:30. Westward Look Resort, 245 E. Ina, Tucson.  www.desertstararc.com.

MAY 16—FREE — Psychological Counseling Services (PCS) 12:15-1:45 p.m. Mark your calendars. If you are new send an email request to pcs@pcsearle.com or call Ellen Hamilton for details 480-947-5739. Specifically targeted to licensed professionals.

May 24— Sierra Tucson presents, Phoenix Be Informed, Arizona Biltmore, Valley Room. Enabling, Rescuing & Codependency: Understanding how the media has impacted our boundaries, behaviors, and attitudes. By Mike Gaziano, MSW, LCSW. $35 per person with pre-registration one week prior to the event (no refund after the due date).  For event questions, contact: Ryan Young at: Ryan.Young@acadiahealthcare.com. 1.5 Education credits.

JUNE 2- Meadows Behavioral Healthcare presents, Tian Dayton, MA, PhD, TEP, Senior Fellow of The Meadows, Relationship Trauma Repair: An Experiential Model for Treating Childhood Trauma. 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM. Talking Stick Resort, Salt River Ballroom, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale. Contact Shannon Spollen: sspollen@themeadows.com or 928-684-4048

Mondays– Scottsdale – FAMILY  RECOVERY GROUP—The Meadows Outpatient Center. Brough Stewart, LPC. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Designed to help begin/continue family recovery. No charge. The Meadows Outpatient Center, 19120 N. Pima Rd., Ste. 125, Scottsdale. Contact: Jim Corrington LCSW, 602-740-8403.

SIERRA TUCSON— Alumni Groups. Scottsdale, Tues., 6:00- 7:00 p.m.Valley Presbyterian Church. 6947 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley. 480-991-4267. Alumni meet in the Counseling Center (Parlor Room). Contact: Rob L. 602-339-4244 or stscottsdalealumni@gmail.com.

SIERRA TUCSON— Continuing Care Groups in Phoenix. Wed. — for Family Member Alumni (18 and over). (PCS) Psychological Counseling Services, 7530 E. Angus Drive, Scottsdale. 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Thursdays — for Patient Alumni, PCS, 3302 N. Miller Rd., Scottsdale, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Facilitated by the clinical staff of PCS. No charge for Patient and Family Member Alumni.

Open Support Groups & Events
MAY 14 —11th Step Meditation Workshop 5th Step in Meditation: We allow the Sunlight of the Spirit to shine within to begin to heal our spiritual wounds in meditation. FREE. All welcome. 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. A Mindfulness Life Center, 10339 N. Scottsdale Rd. 480-207-6016. Randy Fahrbach, 805-895-2007. www.11thstepmeditation.org.

MAY 24— Mental Health America of Arizona SEEDS Conference. 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. Glendale Community College, Glendale. Join with individuals and family members living with mental illness, health care providers and other mental health partners in public safety, education and faith communities, in discussing the early detection and prevention of mental illness. Former NFL great, Mark McMillian , keynote speaker. Visit Mental Health America of Arizona www.mhaarizona.org/

Celebrate Recovery —Chandler Christian Church. Fridays 7 p.m. Room B-200. For men and women dealing with chemical or sexual addictions, co-dependency and other hurts, Hang-ups and Habits. 1825 S. Alma School Rd. Chandler. 480-963-3997. Pastor Larry Daily, E: larrydaily@chandlercc.org.

Valley Hospital— IOP Group for Chemical Dependency/Co-Occuring. Mon.,Tues., Thurs. 6:00-9:00 p.m. 602-952-3939. 3550 E. Pinchot Avenue, Phoenix. valleyhospital-phoenix.com

Open Hearts Counseling Services — Women’s Therapeutic Group for Partners of Sex Addicts. Comfort, strength and hope while exploring intimacy issues. Cynthia A. Criss, LPC, CSAT 602-677-3557.

Families Anonymous—12 step program for family members of addicts. Phoenix -Mon. 7:00 p.m., First Methodist Church, 5510 N. Central Ave. 602-647-5800. Scottsdale Sun. 4:00 p.m., 10427 N. Scottsdale Rd., N. Scottsdale Fellowship 480-225-1555 or 602-647-5800

NICOTINE ANONYMOUS (NicA) Fellowship for those with a desire to stop using nicotine. Phoenix Sat., 5-6:00 p.m. at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1212 E. Glendale Ave., Glendale, Sun., 9:15-10:15 a.m. Fellowship Hall, 8910 N. 43rd Ave. 480-990-3860 or www.nicotine-anonymous.org

Chronic Pain Sufferers “Harvesting Support for Chronic Pain,” 3rd Saturday of month, 12-1:00 p.m. Harvest of Tempe, 710 W. Elliot Rd., Suite 103, Tempe. 480-246-7029.

Jewish Alcoholics, Addicts, Families and Friends (JACS) 1st / 3rd Wed., 7:30 p.m. Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus, 2nd floor. 12701 N. Scottsdale Rd. 602-971-1234 ext. 280 or at JACSarizona@gmail.com
 
COSA (12-step recovery program for those whose lives have been affected by another person’s compulsive sexual behavior) Thurs. 11:00 a.m.-Noon. 2210 W. Southern Ave. Mesa. 602-793-4120.

Women for Sobriety www.womenforsobriety.org. Sat. 10-11:30 a.m. All Saints of the Desert Episcopal Church-9502 W. Hutton Drive. Sun City. Christy 602-316-5136.

Co-Anon Family Support— Message of hope and personal recovery to family and friends of someone who is addicted to cocaine or other substances. “Off the Roller Coaster” Thurs., 6:30-7:45 p.m., 2121 S. Rural Rd., Tempe. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Donna 602-697-9550 /Maggie 480-567-8002.

Cottonwood Tucson  Alumni—First Wednesday of month 6:00-7:30 p.m. 4110 W. Sweetwater Drive. Tucson. 5:00 p.m. dinner. 800-877-4520 x2141. www.cottonwoodtucson.com 

ACOA Thurs., 7:00 p.m., North Scottsdale United Methodist Church, 11735 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale.www.aca.arizona.org

ACA. Tucson. Wed. 5:30-7:00 p.m Streams In the Desert Church 5360 E. Pima Street. West of Craycroft, Tucson. Room A. Michael 520-419-6723. 

OA—12 Step program for addictions to food, food behaviors. 520-733-0880 or www.oasouthernaz.org.

Pills Anonymous—Glendale, Tues. 7-8:00 pm. HealthSouth Rehab 13460 N. 67th Ave. Rosalie 602-540-2540. Mesa Tues. 7-8:00 pm, St. Matthew United Methodist Church. 2540 W. Baseline. B-14. Jim, 480-813-3406. Meggan 480-603-8892. Scottsdale, Wed. 5:30-6:30 pm, N. Scottsdale Fellowship, 10427 N. Scottsdale Rd., Rm 3. Tom N. 602-290-0998. Phoenix, Thurs. 7-8:00 pm. First Mennonite Church 1612 W. Northern. Marc 623-217-9495, Pam 602-944-0834, Janice 602-909-8937.

GA—Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 8801 N. 43rd Ave. Sunday, Spanish 7:00-9:00 p.m. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 3040 N 7th Ave. Sunday, English 6:00-8:00 p.m. 5010 E. Shea Blvd., Ste. D-202, Contact Sue F. 602-349-0372

SAA — www.saa-phoenix.org 602-735-1681 or 520-745-0775.

Valley Hope Alumni Support. Thursdays 6-7:00 p.m., 2115 E. Southern Ave. Phoenix. Tues. 8-9:00 p.m., 3233 W. Peoria Ave. Ste. 203, Open. 

Special Needs — AA Meetings. Cynthia SN/AC Coordinator 480-946-1384, email Mike at mphaes@mac.com

SLAA—Sex and Love Addict Anonymous 602-337-7117. slaa-arizona.org

GAM-ANON: Sun. 7:30 p.m. Desert Cross Lutheran Church, 8600 S. McClintock, Tempe. Mon. 7:30 p.m., Cross in the Desert Church, 12835 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, Tues. 7:00 p.m., First Christian Church, 6750 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, Tues. 7:15 p.m. Desert Cross Lutheran Church, Education Building, 8600 S. McClintock, Tempe, Thurs. 7:30 p.m. 

Debtors Anonymous—Mon., 7-8:00 p.m., St. Phillip’s Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave., Palo Verde Room. Thurs. 6-7:00 p.m., University Medical Center, 1501 N. Campbell. 520-570-7990, www.arizonada.org.

Eating Disorder Support Groups— PHX— Monday @ 7:00 p.m. (N,D/SP,O).  2927 E. Campbell Dr. Ste. 104, (Mt. View Christian Church). Contact Jen at (602) 316-7799 or edaphoenix@gmail.com for directions/info. Wed. 7:00 p.m.  Liberation Center, 650 N. 6th Ave, Phoenix. (cross street McKinley).  Jennifer at (602) 316-7799.Tempe—Thursday@ 6:30 p.m.  Big Book/Step Study meeting.  Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders, 950 W. Elliot Road, Suite #201, Tempe.  Contact info@eatingdisordersanonymous.com. Tucson— Tues.  5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Steps to the Solution Meeting. Mountain View Retirement Village, 2nd floor, 7900 N. La Canada Drive, Tucson.  Holly (203) 592-7742 or leeverholly@gmail.com. Thurs. 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. EDA Big Book Step Study. Mountain View Retirement Village, 2nd floor, 7900 N. La Canada Drive, Tucson.  Holly, (203) 592-7742 / leeverholly@gmail.com. Wickenburg—Wed. 7:15 p.m. and Sunday 7:45 p.m. (N,D/SP,O,) Capri PHP program. Contact (928) 684-9594 or (800) 845-2211.Yuma—Wed. @ 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. 3970 W. 24th St. Ste. 206 Yuma. Alyssa at (928) 920-0008 or email 2014yumae.d.a@gmail.com.

GODDESSESS & KACHINAS A philosophical, spiritual, religious 12 step, 12 Tradtition, 12 Promises support group. Details call 480-203-6518. Working with Native American and Hindu community worldwide and Southwest. 

Crystal Meth Anonymous www.cmaaz.org or 602-235-0955. Tues. and Thurs.Stepping Stone Place, 1311 N 14th St. Phoenix

Political Change Starts with INNER CHANGE

By Cary Bayer


Spend a few minutes on Facebook these days, or listen to cable TV news shows, and you’ll likely hear the profound discouragement of so many people.  In these politically polarized times, millions of people in these Divided States of America voted for the person who won the popular vote, but feel disenfranchised and alienated by the new President and his Administration. This is evidenced in massive demonstrations, overflowing town hall meetings held by Congressmen and Senators, and flooded phone banks at their offices, as well.  

This ennui inspired me to create a workshop, inspired by the spiritually-sourced political movements of Mahatma Gandhi in India and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on our shores. These two visionary giants created enormous political breakthroughs: the removal of England as colonial masters from India and the establishment of civil rights and equality for African Americans in our land.

For those on the Left left out of the current political process, I say turn your outrage into constructive action. That’s what Gandhi did for his Indian countrymen and Rev. King did for his brothers and sisters.

Gandhi and King both knew that you can, as the proverb goes, catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. So I tell people in my workshop, “Love Trumps Hate: Tools for Spiritual & Political Empowerment,” that it’s highly valuable to awaken a higher consciousness to maintain inner peace while creating political change.  Mother Theresa refused to participate in anti-war demonstrations, when invited to do so by activists and organizers, but said she’d be more than happy to lend her efforts to events that were pro-peace. The distinction is an important one, one that is wise for those in the Democratic Party to heed today.

People are surprised that I created this spiritual/political class when, a life coach who teaches breakthroughs in purpose and personal power, prosperity, and relationships and communication, and a meditation teacher who presents a meditation technique to develop inner peace, I’ve never taught anything political before. I reply that I’ve never seen such division in our country before, and I’ve never seen such discouragement since the ‘60s when a whole generation was opposing an unjust war in Vietnam. The level of discourse in our country has sunk so low that people have “unfriended” friends on Facebook and from their personal lives because of differences in political philosophy, so we have to cool down our rhetoric and realize that we are united as Americans, even if we are divided by beliefs. As Gandhi said, “I believe that it is impossible to end hatred with hatred.”

I tell folks that my class is twofold in purpose: to empower the disenfranchised spiritually so that they stay inspired and resist falling into despair, and to arm them politically with constructive actions that they can take so that their representatives truly and persistently hear their messages. To do so with peace in your heart makes a big difference. As Dr. King put it, “Nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force, which makes for social transformation.” He added, “The method of nonviolence seeks not to humiliate and not to defeat the oppressor, but it seeks to win his friendship and his understanding.”

The class, I tell them, concludes with the learning of a technique to help attendees come to peace with the President, even while resisting his agenda. Forgiveness, after all, is essential when you want to change something: first accept it, then you can change it more effectively. This goes for political change as much as it does for weight loss, and any other habit of yours that you’d like to let go of. As Gandhi said of forgiveness, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught me how to teach meditation, said that a democratic country gets the political leader they deserve based on their level of consciousness.

So, if you don’t like the leader you have, raise your consciousness, forgive the leader, and work to create change in this beautiful system of democracy that we so cherish.