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Helping your child with addiction.

Helping your child with addiction, some important tips.

Being a parent can be very demanding already without having to deal with a teenager struggling with addiction. With everything that is happening in the world today, the last thing you’d want for your child is to have to deal with problems related to substance abuse. There’s a variety of reasons why your child might find him/herself addicted and the problem only becomes worse the more time that goes by without the issue being noticed. Keep an eye open for signs, they are there. If you don’t know them, read about it or seek help from those around you.

Keep in mind that if your teenager uses drugs or alcohol once in a while that wouldn’t make them an addict. Just like the occasional glass of wine for dinner doesn’t make you an alcoholic. But if you believe that they can’t go days without using, then there’s a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Don’t play the blame game.

It is highly suggested that you don’t start a conversation built on reproaches, it will only make your child close up and it will be even more difficult to get crucial information about the dependence. Take a step back, breathe and talk calmly while asking questions in a kind manner. Your child will feel threatened and attacked because they know they have done something wrong. Experts advise talking to someone outside of the family, who is not emotionally invested and can be a neutral party.

Additionally a counsellor will help you to feel that you aren’t alone in facing this type of situation, other parents deal with the same problems as you and can help with past and current experiences.

Establish communication through trust.

It can be difficult to find the right time to be heard, but approach the situation with affection and attention. Your child needs to know that you are only trying to help them out of love and concern for their health. Don’t hesitate to read about the subject or seek professional help before getting into a strong debate you may not have the answers for.

If you have a family doctor who has regular follow-ups with your child, you can ask them if they have seen any changes, the urgency of the situation and perhaps what kind of drugs they’ve been using. If your child doesn’t have a family doctor, you can seek help from a psychologist, or a therapist outside of the family and friend circle that will be able to provide moral support.

Educate yourself about the signs of a child with addiction.

Make sure any unusual behaviour in your child doesn’t go unnoticed. You know your child better than anyone, not the school, not your neighbours or the school counsellor. If you aren’t sure whether something is a sign of addiction, do a drug test. Of course your child won’t like the lack of trust, after all if they are using, they will lie to you about doing so. But it can be one of the easiest ways to know if there is a potential problem.

Beware of potential abuse signs from their surroundings.

One of the common signs of a child with addiction is the circle around them or their being abused. You should know who your child is surrounded by and make sure that they want to be there. Someone who’s abusing or bullying your child will often be threatening them with harm if they talk about it. It is your role as a parent to know if your child is safe. Negative surroundings can be one of the strongest influencers towards substances. After all, everyone wants to fit in somehow and if it seems that the only way to do that, or be “cool”, is to use drugs and alcohol then they are much more likely to make that choice.

Engage in a conversation, stay firm.

You need to be able to say NO without being scared to show your authority, it is simply an essential educational attitude that a parent has to adopt.  Categorically refuse to give your child money until you absolutely know where that money is going. Also knowing what your child is doing in their spare time can really help to understand if the problem is as big as you imagined.

Often, your child will try drugs or alcohol as a way to defy your authority, but through repeated use they end up becoming an addict and that’s when a solution needs to be implemented. Talk to them, ask why this happened, what motivated their decisions, perhaps the problem goes deeper than you are aware. It isn’t always just because some friend said it was cool. Communication is key, as well as knowing how you will approach the situation. As mentioned before, seek professional help if you believe that you don’t have the knowledge to constructively have these conversations. They are trained to help guide you through them.

Remember what you’re doing this for, get the best help you can to make sure your child is in good hands.

Staying Sober On Halloween – How to deal with triggers.

Staying Sober On Halloween – How to deal with triggers.

As Halloween approaches, it would be a good thing to keep recovery in mind. For some it will not be a first holiday sober, but for those who are still new to this, it can be hard to go through one without drinking or using substances.

Staying Sober Through Triggers

What are triggers?

Triggers are defined as anything that could make an addict use, make bad decisions and make the process of recovery more difficult. Often it is the people you hang with, the situations you’ll put yourself through and of course the setting. Halloween is a fun holiday where people tend to get intoxicated, being around such triggers might not be a good choice for a person in early recovery.

Drug use memories and relapse research have shown that a number of things can help a person to seek the use of drugs and alcohol long after they’ve stopped using. Known factors like stress and triggers (setting, music that reminds the user a time where he/she was intoxicated, friends who use) are all very capable of doing this, even after months of sobriety and quite possibly after years.

Simple solutions to a complicated problem

Here’s a few simple ways to help maintain the integrity of your recovery and staying sober on Halloween:

 

Then again, all of these options are strictly in the case that you’ll want to head out. There’s plenty of other things you can do that won’t involve being around said triggers. You can stay home and give out candy to those cute kids running around. It also goes without saying that you could attend a support group meeting. There’s obviously a lot of people in the same situation who would love to avoid triggers and be in supportful company.

The important thing is to keep your head on the prize. Recovery is the most important step to a better self, relapsing will only delay it and make the process even more difficult. Stay strong and remember that being sober is the best feeling.

 

If you, a friend or a family member has issues that needs to be resolved or talked about, do not hesitate to contact us via our various channels available. We are just a quick phone call, email, instant message away.

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Intensive Outpatient Programs: A Flexible Option for Addiction Treatment Could be the Solution

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Substance use disorders are pervasive and can affect everyone. Research has demonstrated that about one in ten Canadians reports having a substance use issue, and these individuals include professionals, those who are employed or self-employed and those who have other daily responsibilities and commitments such as homemakers and caregivers. At times, substance use disorders are problematic to the point that the individual needs to seek help from addiction counsellors and mental health professionals. Traditionally, when substance use is problematic, residential programming has been the conventional option for addiction treatment. However, taking an extended amount of time off could be a barrier in getting the help that is needed, especially for those who are employed or have daily commitments. It is for this reason that treatment providers also offer Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs). For those in need of addiction treatment, IOPs allow people to work and honour their daily commitments while also attending regular, outpatient treatment sessions in order to address their problems and to learn the tools that can help them maintain sobriety.

Outpatient programming is not for everyone but when appropriate, it can be a meaningful and effective treatment option to address a serious health issue such as a substance use disorder. As with any other treatment programs, recommending an IOP must be part of the individual’s treatment plan. This means taking into consideration any physical, emotional or behavioral problems relevant to the person’s care. The treatment plan must consider the needs of the client and begins with a comprehensive assessment of the individual. Once the assessment is complete, a professional can decide on the best level of care that will meet the client’s needs.

There are multiple factors that must be considered when determining whether or not someone is a good match for an IOP. For example, one of the primary considerations is the level of medical need such as a history of withdrawal symptoms, as well as existence of medical conditions that require monitoring. Professionals will also consider whether or not the individual has other emotional/cognitive/behavioral problems that may require closer attention by a mental health professional. In order to meaningfully participate and keep up with the program, the person must also have a sufficient level of motivation to be able to maintain sobriety while attending scheduled meetings. This often means that the client must have a stable and supportive home environment that will be able to foster a successful recovery.

family-supporthands

IOPs typically take a group approach, providing clients with opportunities to learn from and support one another while developing communication skills and socialization experiences that do not involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Such programs that cultivate a supportive environment, also establish a safe and trusting relationship between group members, as well as the counsellor. Those that are further along their path of recovery can provide guidance and support for newer members, helping them refine the new skills and tools they are learning.

Clients typically participate in a variety of groups that make up an IOP program. Such groups can include psychoeducational sessions or lectures, where individuals can begin to understand the nature of addiction and how it has been impacting their mind, body and social life. These sessions are often also accompanied by relapse prevention and skills training, as well as a selection of videos that may help clients with their understanding of the material. Other groups may consist of teaching some very concrete skills such as assertiveness training, refusal techniques and stress management strategies.
As with any other treatment program, intensity and client retention are vitally important for outpatient programs. Research shows that successful outcomes are closely related with the length of program and how often clients are able to attend. It is also important that once the client completes the intensive component, they attend regular aftercare meetings and create a close network of supports that will help them maintain a successful recovery going forward. Such meetings can also serve as a safety net in case the person begins to struggle and may require more intensive support in order to prevent a full on relapse.
Successful outcomes also depend on client’s individual characteristics. For example, research has found associations between severity of substance use and treatment success. There is also something to be said about how long someone has been struggling with an addiction, the severity if their cravings and how many previous attempts at treatment may have had. Finally, symptoms of co-occurring mental health problems such as depression or anxiety can also impact an individual’s recovery. Overall, it is best to leave the decision of selecting an appropriate treatment modality to a professional who is able to consider a variety of factors that may be contributing to the maintenance of the addiction. However, when appropriate, participation in an IOP can be a realistic, meaningful and effective means of addressing alcohol and substance use disorders.

Are Online Treatment Programs Effective?

Are online treatment programs effective? The answer is – it depends.

For some people struggling with an addiction, they recognize that they have a problem and seek help. But for others, there are barriers preventing them from reaching out. Barriers such as lack of motivation and stigmatization are common issues that prevent substance users from seeking treatment. Living in a remote geographic location and not having adequate treatment resources in their area, and no means to pursue treatment elsewhere, are also barriers for seeking treatment.

alcohol-addiction-treatment-gapThe reality is that due to various barriers most people struggling with an addiction go through it alone and do not seek any form of treatment. In this case, online treatment can be a safe and private alternative for those who are not ready or are unable to join a formal addiction rehab program. Online services can be helpful in diminishing the treatment gap, which is the gap between people in need of treatment and those actually receiving it. It is estimated 78.1% of people suffering from alcohol abuse and dependence remain untreated (Blankers et al., 2011).

When looking at online treatment, there is a very wide spectrum of internet-based addiction services. Most of which fall into 3 categories:

  1. Self-assessment and feedback tools
  2. Online self-help therapy tools
  3. Individual therapy

 

1. Self-assessment and feedback tools

The Internet can be a great way for people to gain insight into how their drinking behaviour is impacting their lives. There are many websites, which contain personalized self-assessment tools that provide immediate feedback. For instance, someone completing an online questionnaire can find out how their consumption of alcohol compares to the rest of the population. This can be a great tool helping people recognize that they have a problem and may need help.

2. Online self-help therapy tools

Another useful online service is internet-based self-help tools. These usually include fully automated treatment modules that are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or motivational interviewing principles. These modules include consumption diaries, examination of pros and cons of drinking, exploring strategies for dealing with cravings, etc. However, one downfall of such programs is that they are not tailored to a person’s individual needs and usually have low adherence rates (Blankers et al., 2001).

3. Individual therapy

Individual internet-based therapy is a great way to receive personalized feedback from a professional online. Such therapy can be obtained in real-time or it can be email/chat-based. An advantage of this form of treatment is that it is convenient and can be done from home. It is also anonymous, which can be a bonus for some individuals who are not yet ready to see a counsellor face to face. On the other hand, studies investigating the effectiveness of online treatment have yielded mixed results and this area of treatment is in need of further study (Blankers et al., 2011).

Other disadvantages/concerns of online treatment

It is important to consider that when a person is receiving therapy online or even over the phone, some key verbal and visual cues can be lost. This makes it harder for the therapist to notice subtle emotional changes in their client and vice versa.

Another issue that has been found to affect the online treatment community in one study is the issue of therapist credentials. It is difficult to know whether online treatment providers are members of professional associations and adhere to ethical guidelines and best practices endorsed by reputable regulatory bodies. For example, only 32% of practitioners asked their clients to sign an informed consent form, and 42% did not use an encryption method to protect their client’s confidentiality (Blankers et al., 2011). When receiving online treatment it is important to verify counsellor credentials and ensure that they are following ethical guidelines.

Questions to ask when selecting online treatment

Here are some questions you should ask when arranging to work with a counsellor online:

  1. What are their credentials?
  2. How will they protect your identity?
  3. What encryption methods are being used to protect the security of communications?
  4. Will they help you get in touch with local crisis support in case of emergency?
  5. Are they aware of any potential risks and benefits of not receiving the same services in person?

Overall, online treatment for substance use can be a great tool for someone looking to protect his or her confidentiality and receive easy access to counselling. They can also be an excellent addition to formal treatment. However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that online treatment is not for everyone. Individuals with more serious alcohol or drug dependence should receive formal support. This is especially the case for those who require medical supervision, detoxification or monitoring (Strofle, 2004). Online treatment may also not be suitable for people who have concurrent mental health concerns in addition to substance use.

What Are the Signs of a Binge Eating Disorder or Compulsive Overeating?

What is the difference between overeating and binge eating?

How is this different from normal eating? Are these serious issues? Is change possible? Some post-holiday thoughts.

If you are asking yourself:

  1. Do I have a ‘real’ problem or do I just lack the willpower to stop?
  2. Should I just ‘try harder’ to stop?
  3. Will a different diet do the trick?
  4. Does my eating problem qualify as an eating disorder?
  5. What’s the difference between binge eating and overeating?

This blog post may help you sort out some of those questions and help you understand better what type of treatment you need.

It is very common and normal, in fact, to sometimes overeat. Everyone with easy access to food does this at times. We overeat at holiday time, parties, good restaurants, and even occasionally for emotional reasons. It is also common and normal to gain a small amount of weight over time. This may be due to overeating and/or slower metabolism associated with aging and decreased energy expenditure. Simple overeating and weight gain can be dealt with in a healthy way by making modest adjustments to your eating habits and/or increasing your activity level. In addition, self- acceptance of having a less than perfect body weight or less than perfect eating habits can prevent these issues from escalating and interfering with your overall happiness, well-being or self-esteem. The personal philosophy that “no body is perfect” and food and weight while important, are only a part of what makes a healthy, happy, and meaningful life, help to put perspective on weight and eating issues.

For some people, however, these issues can become overwhelming. Eating can feel out of control. Attempts to lose weight may feel desperate.

The following are some signs that you may have an overeating problem:

In this context overeating is not normal. Problematic overeating is overeating that occurs regularly, from once a week to many times each day. Problematic overeating involves eating food and feeling guilty. It is often associated with feelings of being out of control.

Binge eating disorder is a specific type of overeating. The following are signs that you may have a binge eating problem:

Sometimes people experience both overeating and binge eating, while others do one or the other. If you try but cannot seem to stop these behaviors and feel that weight and body image issues are negatively affecting your self-esteem or other important aspects of your life, such as relationships or social life, it is clear that your problems are worth addressing.

You don’t need a formal diagnosis of eating disorder to warrant help. In this situation, just “trying harder” is seldom the answer. A new diet is seldom a long- term answer. On the other hand, understanding yourself emotionally, feeling supported, and learning specific tools to address behaviours can be extremely helpful.

Treatment, whether in individual or group therapy, or in residential treatment, can help you re-learn or sometimes learn for the first time, how to become a normal eater and address the underlying issues that are at the core of the eating problem. An assessment at Bellwood could help identify which type of help would be most effective.

Written By: Lauren Goldhamer, M.Ed, has been on staff at Bellwood as an Eating Disorder Therapist since 2001 and has been working with clients with eating disorders and related issues since 1995. She has a M.Ed. in Counselling Psychology, and training in both Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Emotion-Focused Family Therapy for eating disorders. Her involvement with Bellwood’s Eating Disorders Treatment Program includes clinical assessments, group and individual therapy, outpatient therapy and meal supervision.

Her previous work with eating disorders includes: facilitating groups at Sheena’s Place; Eating Disorders of York Region, and a collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Health Services where she initiated their first body image groups supporting students at risk of developing an eating disorders. In addition to her work at Bellwood, Lauren maintains a private practice.

Carbohydrates: The Simple and Complex Truth

Written by: Natalie Tilluckdharry

According to Health Canada, ‘carbohydrates are the body’s most important source of energy’. However, it is one of the most widely criticized nutrients in food. Following the influx of popularized ‘low carb’ diets in the 1990’s, carbohydrates have taken the blame for obesity and have since held a negative connotation in the minds of many. In addiction and recovery, carbohydrates play a role in energy levels, anxiety, fatigue and cravings. Certain carbohydrates can help to improve these symptoms in those recovering from drugs, alcohol and food addiction.

The Basics of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients our body relies on to produce energy. It is our body’s primary source of energy, as carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Our body runs on glucose, which is converted in the mitochondria to usable energy called ATP.

However, not all carbohydrates are created equally. They are comprised of two groups: simple and complex carbohydrates.

Simple Carbohydrates

 

Simple carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed quickly. Most of these products are refined, and limited in vitamins, minerals or fibre. The enzymes in our body easily digest them, and can trigger a spike in insulin, creating a ‘sugar crash’. Simple carbohydrates begin to break down into smaller components as they enter our mouth, with the help of enzymes in our saliva. Some of the glucose from these simple carbohydrates is absorbed sublingually (beneath the tongue) and our blood glucose levels begin to rise. The body further breaks down the simple carbohydrates in the stomach, and the remaining glucose is absorbed within the small intestines into the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels. This creates a burst in energy levels, which is short lived. The body reacts to this sudden rise in blood glucose by signalling the pancreas to secrete insulin – a hormone that regulates the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. As insulin is released, it initiates glucose uptake, creating a sudden drop in blood glucose. This ‘sugar crash’ has a major effect on our physical and mental state.

Effects of Simple Carbohydrates

The swift changes in blood glucose cause feelings of highs and lows from jitteriness and excitability to anxiety, fatigue and mood swings. This is a concern for those in recovery from drugs and alcohol. In early recovery, when symptoms of low mood and anxiety are prevalent, foods rich in simple carbohydrates can amplify these feelings. Also, many people afflicted with addiction also suffer with concurrent mental health disorders including depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. While foods high in simple carbohydrates are often sought out for comfort or to satisfy sugar cravings, too much can create negative consequences in ones’ recovery by altering mood and emotions. So should addicts avoid simple carbohydrates altogether? Not at all. Indulging in these foods is part of healthy eating when used in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Complex Carbohydrates

 

Complex carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fibre, which is not digested or absorbed by our body, slows down the rate of absorption of glucose and does not create the highs and lows as mentioned above. As glucose is slowly absorbed in the small intestines, the demand on the pancreas to secrete large amounts of insulin is less significant. This creates a slow and steady rise in blood glucose without the ‘crash’, and provides long lasting energy. Fibre also helps reduce risk of heart disease, elevated cholesterol, and improves gastrointestinal health, which is often compromised in many addicts. Grain products that are refined during the manufacturing process such as white rice and pasta lose the outer layer of the grain, which contains much of its nutritional value. However most products are now fortified, meaning foods are enriched with extra micronutrients. Although there is a difference in quality of white versus whole grain products, they both offer various health benefits and importance in our diet. Health Canada recommends making half of daily grain products as ‘whole grain’.

Effects of Complex Carbohydrates

Various vitamins and minerals are found in complex carbohydrates. For example, B vitamins are found in grain products, fruits and vegetables. B vitamins function in the production of energy, the central nervous system and synthesis of neurotransmitters. We require certain amounts of these vitamins in order for our body to carry out these essential roles. During the addiction, when drugs and alcohol are abused, healthy eating is often not practised. Many addicts consume a diet low in complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, creating inadequate levels of these vitamins – also known as insufficiencies. This affects the numerous roles that these vitamins perform, causing serious damage affecting the nervous system and cognition. In recovery from addiction, complex carbohydrates help to stabilize energy levels, restore vitamin and mineral functions within the body and reverse the damage incurred from the effects of the addictive substance.

Carbohydrates, like all foods have a place in healthy eating. The simple negative association that has been developed with this entire group of food means we deprive ourselves of the many health benefits they offer. Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating recommends that adults consume 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, in addition to 6-8 servings of grains a day. These amounts help us meet our needs for vitamins, minerals and nutrients and contribute to your overall health and vitality (Health Canada, 2011). In recovery, choosing the right foods can help our bodies heal and continue to live a sober life.

For more information on recommendations for grains, fruits and vegetables, go to Health Canada’s Healthy Food Guide for Eating:
https://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php

In the next article, we will explore how carbohydrates influence emotional eating and why food can become an addiction.

Living with an active addict

Living with an active addict can be full of pain, disappointment, anger, regrets and sadness. The alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex have control over the addict. For the active addict and their family, chaos reigns. Family and friends get anxious, fearful and stressed out just anticipating the next crisis or episode.

Addiction is like an octopus that sends out its tentacles, grabs the people around the addict, and pulls them down toward despair. It is called a family disease. However, family members do not have to wait until the addict decides to get help before they do something. Spouses, partners, children and friends can get help for themselves. Call a treatment centre in your area. Ask if they have a family program. Ask for names of counselors or doctors who help families. Call the counsellor and make an appointment. Do it now! There is great relief when you have someone to talk to who understands what you are coping with. You can learn how to reduce the stress in your own body rather than worrying about the addict. Children can learn that it is not their fault. Since children of addicts are at a higher risk for developing an addiction themselves, teaching them early is the best prevention. Children learn from their parents. You can teach them that in times of trouble, it is okay to reach out for help. Or, you can let them continue to observe how you and the addict cope with life’s problems. Family members can take action that breaks the cycle of addiction and reduces the stress and the chaos. If you do not change the way you are handling your life, and the stress continues and continues, you can expect to develop your own physical and mental health problems.

Al-Anon is a free, self-help program for family and friends of alcoholics. It is the sister program to Alcoholics Anonymous and there are meetings everywhere. Nar-Anon is for families of drug addicts and the sister organization of Narcotics Anonymous. Gam-Anon is the sister program for Gamblers Anonymous. Check the yellow pages. The Internet also has many resources and there are actually meetings on-line.

On occasions, the addict may be remorseful about their actions. However, they may also appear to be angry and be pushing their loved ones further away. Addicts have an uncanny ability to leave others thinking that all the problems are their fault. In spite of all the outward bravado, the addict experiences anxiety, fear and stress as well. They know they are trapped and cannot find a way out. In their remorse, there may be a desire to stop. For families, they have heard this promise before.

It is important to remember that in their addiction, the addict is not making rational decisions. The baffling part of an addiction is that the addict minimizes all the consequences that are falling out around them. They constantly deny them. They are so good at it that they actually convince themselves that what they are saying is the truth. It is like having a short circuit in the brain. Therefore, why would we expect the addict to make a rational decision about getting help? They need help to make the decision.

The time for action could be today, for you, your families and friends to take action, to learn about, and to implement an “intervention”.

The vast majority of addicts do not come into treatment because they have seen the light. They come because there is a crisis in their life. An intervention may be just the crisis that is needed. A trained counsellor can help coach you on the intervention process. Take time to learn and. If you need help, find help and make the call. You are not alone. Strive for balance and taking care of yourself.

Be well everyone!

Tips for problem gamblers during the holiday season

In my previous post, I talked about general tips on coping during the holidays. But if you are recovering from a gambling problem, there are additional challenges. This is the shopping season and the time of big sales. There are a lot of deals and it is tempting to over-spend. A big debt can be a trigger for relapse. It’s dangerous because it can easily lead to thinking of ways to make quick money.

Stay focused on your budget. Keep your receipts and be accountable. Controlling finances and making restitution payments are a major part of recovery from a gambling problem. If you need help staying on track, get your partner or a family member involved.

When spending time with family and friends, be careful about having a few drinks. Remember, drinking lowers inhibitions. What do you do when you get together? Do you play cards? Make sure you have a safety plan around entertainment.

Control your car so that you are not dependent on someone else for transportation. Have enough money for a taxi. Be prepared to leave some functions in order to protect yourself.

Hopefully, families and friends will be sensitive to your recovery and not give you lottery tickets. However, if you receive one, plan what you will do with it.

If you successfully navigated through all the activities, look back at how you did it? What went well, what would you do differently next time? Be cautious about being complacent. Some people survive the holidays only to relapse in January.

Be well everyone!

M. Linda Bell
Chief Executive Officer – Bellwood Health Services

What’s on Your List for the Holidays?

Tips on coping during the holidays:

As the holiday season approaches, getting together with friends and family may be something we look forward to. We often think of the holidays as a time for children – a magical time.

But the holidays can conjure up bad memories. Even when personal experiences have changed, the anxiety associated with the past can flood into the present and taint it. Being prepared, knowing your limitations, and planning can keep things manageable.

For the addict in recovery, the holidays can be difficult and a time when there is a risk for relapse. If you are not with your family, this is a time of year when you may miss them more. You may feel lonely even when you are with others. Going back to the basics in recovery is a good way to cope.

Attend extra 12-step or support meetings. Stay involved with recovery activities. Host an event for friends who are also in recovery. Stay in touch with your sponsor and your counsellor if you have one. If you do not have one, get one. Take a few minutes every day for reflection. Use one of those little books that have a daily inspiration. Write a few lines in a diary and work on developing “an attitude of gratitude”.

One of the options for someone recovering from an alcohol problem is to speak to your doctor about using the protective drug, Antabuse. It is not addicting; it only reacts when you drink alcohol. It will make you physically sick. Why would anyone take this stuff, you might ask? When your mind is preoccupied with the idea of drinking all day and night, it is difficult to focus on anything else. Instead of having to make hundreds of decisions during the day not to drink, you make one decision – I am taking Antabuse today. Most people are not interested in testing the reaction. It is like having an insurance policy. It protects you against the impulsive first drink that can lead to disaster. It buys you time to consider your options. It buys you time to let the problem, the stress, or the anxiety to pass. It’s a good tool early in recovery and for times when you are feeling stressed or vulnerable.

If alcohol is not a problem for you, you still need to be cautious. For many drug addicts, the risk of relapse to their main drug is through beer or alcohol.

There are also new medications available that help reduce cravings. Ask your doctor if there is something suitable for you. However, medications do not change your lifestyle, so be vigilante in your recovery.

Parties and events will continue into January and pop up during the year. Plan for the event. Will there be alcohol or drugs? Is the venue a safe place; a place where you will not be triggered? Who will you go with? Try not to go alone. You can plan to arrive late and to leave early. Have a secret signal that lets the other person know that you are feeling uncomfortable and would like to leave.

Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening snack helps your blood sugar level not to drop. Mood swings and cravings are reduced when you eat regularly and include protein, carbohydrates and a little fat in your diet.

A good brisk walk is a simple way to get some exercise and also help you to cope better with stress. Watch your coffee intake. Coffee is a stimulant. It can make some people agitated and interfere with sleep. Speaking of sleep, make sure you get enough. When you are over-tired, you do not cope as well with stress. Remember ‘HALT – don’t get Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired!

Be well everyone!

M. Linda Bell
Chief Executive Officer  – Bellwood Health Services