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What's Your New Year's Resolution?

There’s something about the feeling of accomplishing your New Year’s Resolution that warms the heart. Often, people make a resolution on New Year’s with no intention of following through, but we at Bellwood know that a real commitment starts with a true intention for change. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey, and reaffirming your commitment to it at the start of each new year is an opportunity for celebration everyone can share in.

As the turn over to 2014 approaches and we look back on 2013, let’s consider how we can support each other through the process of recovery. Whether you or someone you know are in rehab or long-term recovery, New Year’s Eve will be a chance to come together in continued support.

Did you achieve your resolution from last year? Did you think to include sobriety in that resolution?

Share your stories with us in the comments, and let us know– what will be your resolution for 2014?

Happy New Years from the team at Bellwood Health Services

Why Not Make Addiction Recovery Your Family’s New Year’s Resolution?

Living with someone who has an addiction is not fun. Broken promises, lies, disappointments and fear tend to be the norm. Putting on a good face, covering up the problem and not talking about it are also the norm.

Trying to have “normal” family celebrations is a challenge.

A friend of mine, a physician in addiction medicine, told me this story about a patient of his. It is about a man, a father, a husband who had a serious drinking problem. Vacations, birthdays and holidays had been ruined over and over again because he always got drunk. His family was sick and tired of it. He refused to stop drinking, refused to get help and carried on in spite of their pleas.

Since the father never really participated in celebrations the family decided to exclude him and carried on without him.

One Christmas day, a neighbour noticed that the blinds in one of the bedroom windows were flickering open and then would close, then open and close and it repeated over and over. The neighbour got concerned and walked across the street and knocked on the door. The family was having a great time and was just about to sit down to a lovely Christmas dinner. The neighbour reported his concern and asked if he could check the bedroom. The family had no objections.

When the neighbour opened the door he was astonished. There on the floor was his friend, the father of the household, gagged, trussed up and lying on the floor near the window. Between his tied up hands was the cord for the blinds.

The neighbour went back out to the dining room and asked the family what was going on. They very casually reported that on special occasions they would wait until dad was drunk, then tie him up and put him in the bedroom to sleep it off. This ensured that dear old dad was quiet and safe and also guarantee that the family could enjoy the festivities in peace; without any trouble. It worked well every time they said. The neighbour was dumbfounded.

When he returned home, he called the police who came and rescued dad.

If your Christmas was another nightmare this year, why not try something new in 2014. If you are a family member call Bellwood and find out about the education and counseling services we have for adults and kids living with someone with an alcohol or drug problem or any other kind of dependency problem.

If you identify with the dad in this story, call Bellwood. Ask about our treatment and rehab programs. You have nothing to lose by making a call and coming in for a chat.

Help us help you. Call 416-495-0926 or 1-800-387-6198
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Don’t wait, call now. We are here to help you.

5 Tips to Help You Survive the Holidays in Early Recovery

The holidays can be a stressful season for many of us, especially when old family traditions still exist and you have started to develop new and healthier ones.  It can be difficult for family members or friends to understand that you can’t join the family for Christmas dinner this year because it raises bad memories or that being near alcohol is just too triggering for you at this point in your recovery.

Early recovery from alcohol or drug addiction can be very challenging.  Yet, with the right tools and support, you can stay sober and prevent relapse from overriding all the great progress you made during rehab.

So whether you are or are not attending a Christmas celebration(s), here are Bellwood’s 5 tips to help you survive the holidays in early recovery:

  1. Stay connected.  It can get busy around the holidays with all the shopping, Christmas potlucks and holiday parties.  Yet, it’s still important to continue practicing the recovery skills you learned in treatment to ensure you continue on your road to a healthier and happier lifestyle.  Whether it means going through Bellwood’s Aftercare Program or attending your 12-step meetings- make sure you don’t miss a meeting!  Plan ahead!  If you know you are going to be out-of-town, do some research and jot down the addresses of local 12-step meetings in your vacation destination.  Crises happen- even during the holidays and it’s important to have the support and reassurance of your fellow brothers and sisters.
  2. Avoid situations where the dangers of abusing drugs or alcohol may occur.  If you know that a company Christmas celebration will have alcohol and it is too triggering to be around- than do not attend or go with someone who is supportive of your recovery.  Avoid and steer clear of places and old “friends” that made you use.
  3. Eat and snack on time to avoid those mood swings because they can be triggers for relapse.  Pay attention to your basic needs such as your hunger.  As Margaret Fieldhouse, our nutritionist, at Bellwood Health Services, would say, “Eat your 3 snacks and 3 meals a day.  Make sure you eat your protein and be mindful of your sugar intake!”  Bring healthy snacks with you on long trips and plan your meals ahead.
  4. Get proper rest and exercise.  Ensure you are getting enough sleep so that you have the energy and right attitude to get you through the day. Plus, exercising on a regular basis can help you sleep better and feel better too when you are experiencing anxiety or stress.
  5. Acknowledge when you need help.  Reach out to your sponsor or give Bellwood a call to help you get through the challenge that you are facing.  Early recovery from addiction is not the same for everyone.  Listen to the red flags and get the support that you need.

Remember: Don’t get

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

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