Recovery During Thanksgiving: Maintaining Your Sobriety

recovery

You don't need to have alcohol for a good Thanksgiving. If you are in addiction recovery, alcohol will not only complicate your day, but it will derail your program. With the significant holiday quickly approaching, there are many things you can do to prepare yourself for keeping your sobriety intact and have an excellent time as well.

Men in the first 365 days of recovery are entering the holiday season for the first time. Such people may not fully know what to expect, but it's safe to say that many have some concerns. Some will be around family members this Thursday, which means there may be questions about why they are not drinking.

While your recovery is nobody's business but your own, you may want to think about having something to say for any off-putting questions. Your closest family members may know you are working a program, but others may not. As such, the latter may encourage you to drink or inquire as to why you are teetotaling your way through the celebration.

It is reasonable if you do not feel comfortable divulging information about the path you are on. Having a script in the back of your mind can save you from having to answer uncomfortable questions. It may feel as though you're dishonest when, in fact, you are merely guarding your personal health information.

You can say that you are taking a medication that doesn't mix with alcohol. It's also okay to say that you are working on being healthier and that you are more committed to exercise and diet than drinking. There is a myriad of acceptable responses to explain away your alcohol intake. Talk to your sponsor to discover how they handle unsolicited questions about sobriety.

Recovery Comes First Every Day

Thanksgiving shouldn't be treated differently than any other day of the year. Those who work a program and are committed to a new path understand that recovery must always be priority number one. As the saying goes, 'put your sobriety first to make it last.'

It's challenging to prioritize recovery day in and day out, 365 days a year. However, the task can be even more arduous during the holiday seasons. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a time of added stress and unwanted emotions. Not everyone looks forward to the holidays, even if they are time for togetherness.

Many people in early recovery associate the holidays with unpleasurable memories. What's more, not everyone in early recovery has their family back in their lives. The thought of not being welcome at the family table can be hard to stomach. Fortunately, you have your support network to spend time with this coming Thursday.

Whenever a holiday comes around, you can rest assured that a member of your support group (homegroup) will be hosting a get-together. If you have not heard anything yet, ask your sponsor or share at your next meeting that you are wondering how others are planning for Thanksgiving. Your support network will be able to guide you on safe and sober ways to occupy your time.

On Thursday, please resist the temptation to isolate and ensure that you make it to at least one meeting. It never hurts to go to multiple meetings during a holiday, either. Do your best to start your day how you would any other day of the year, i.e., prayer/meditation, exercise, a healthy breakfast, reading, or step work. Know what meetings you plan to attend ahead of time!

Protect Your Sobriety

While it's best to spend your holidays in sobriety with other sober people, you may feel obligated to make an appearance at Thanksgiving dinner. People who plan to attend an event that involves alcohol should see if that can bring a friend for support, preferably someone else in the program. If that is not possible, and you still plan to attend, then keep your phone charged so that you can always reach out for help.

It's a helpful practice to show up a little late and leave early from holiday gatherings. Doing so can spare you from being cornered into answering unwanted questions and prevent you from being around drunk people.

You do not owe anyone an explanation for why you are leaving early. It also helps if you can be responsible for your transportation. Those who do not drive can benefit from making preparations to be dropped off and picked up by a friend in the program; this practice is an extra level of accountability.

Once you leave a holiday event, get yourself to meeting to decompress. There may be things that you saw, heard, or felt that need to be processed. At the very least, make plans with friends from your support network to close out the day.

A Safe and Sober Thanksgiving

The Gentlemen of PACE Recovery Center would like to wish everyone a safe and sober Thanksgiving. Never hesitate to reach out for support; always call before your fall. If you experience challenges, such a relapse, get to a meeting ASAP to recommit yourself to the program.

We invite men to contact PACE to discuss your options if you may feel like you need more significant assistance. We are available at any time to answer your questions and help you get back on the road to lasting recovery.

Alcohol Use and Depression Among Young People: Study

alcohol

Adolescence or one’s teenage years are a time of significant change in a person’s life. Young men and women undergo biological, physiological, and neurological alterations that can be challenging. Those who are exposed to drugs and alcohol as teenagers are at a significant risk of experiencing problems in young adulthood.

Young people in high school are no strangers to parties and underage drinking. They also have few inhibitions and are apt to make reckless decisions, especially when under the influence. Some youths may not even know yet that they meet the criteria for mental illness; and, when drugs and alcohol become part of the picture, it can exacerbate their conditions.

Research has long associated alcohol use with depressive symptoms; alcohol is a central nervous system depressant after all. Many people who struggle with depression – both teens and adults – will turn to alcohol as a means of coping. It’s a practice that can lead to comorbidity; a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis is when a patient meets the criteria for both alcohol use disorder and a mental illness like depression.

When alcohol is introduced to a developing brain, there is no way to predict the outcome. Some youths will use the substance sparingly, at parties, for instance, whereas others may make a regular practice of drinking. The latter may also engage in hazardous ways of consuming alcohol, such as binge drinking.

Binge drinking occurs when a female consumes four alcoholic beverages or more in two hours. For men, binge drinking occurs at five drinks during the same length of time. Those who binge drink are at risk of “blackouts” and alcohol poisoning. Generalized impairment of neurocognitive function accompanies heavy alcohol use; young people under the influence are at a significant risk of injury.

Binge Drinking and Depression Amongst Young People

While scientists have correlated binge drinking and depressive symptoms in young people for some time, new research paints a different picture. Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health published a study that upends traditional thinking on the above subject.

A team of researchers analyzed data from 1991 to 2018 and found that binge drinking alcohol among U.S. adolescents significantly declined, according to Public Health Now. However, the findings indicate that since 2012, depressive symptoms among U.S. adolescents have dramatically risen.

The former is good news, and the latter is cause for concern. Still, perhaps the salient finding is that the researchers could no longer associate binge drinking and depressive symptoms among adolescents.

Comorbidity of depression and drinking is among the bedrocks of psychiatric epidemiology findings—until now. Our results suggest that we need to be re-thinking the connections between mental health and alcohol among young people,” said Katherine M. Keyes, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman.

Like many studies of this type, Dr. Keyes and colleagues utilized Monitoring the Future surveys. They look at responses from 58,444 school-attending 12th-grade adolescents to reach their conclusions.

The connection between depressive symptoms (i.e., agreeing with the statement “life is meaningless” or “life is hopeless”) and binge drinking decreased by 16 percent from 1991 to 2018 and 24 percent among girls and 25 percent among boys, the article reports. The findings suggest the relationship between binge drinking and depressive symptoms is decoupling. Dr. Keyes found that:

The declining correlation between binge drinking and mental health is occurring during a time of unprecedented decreases in alcohol consumption among U.S. adolescents and increases in mental health problems. Therefore, the relationship between substance use and mental health may need to be reconceptualized for ongoing and future research.”

Alcohol Use and Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment for Young Men

If you are a young man who is struggling with alcohol use disorder, depression, or both, then please contact PACE Recovery Center. We specialize in gender-specific addiction and mental health treatment for men.

Our team of masters and doctorate-level clinicians can help you or a loved one break the disease cycle and begin a life-changing journey of recovery. We utilize evidence-based therapies to treat each presenting behavioral and mental health disorder simultaneously.

Cannabis Use Disorder on the Rise

cannabis

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis with voter approval of Proposition 215. Thus began a tidal wave of more liberal views regarding the most popular illicit drug in the country. Today, medical marijuana programs exist in 33 states, D.C. and almost all U.S. territories.

Medical cannabis effectively opened the door for recreational marijuana use campaigns to gain traction. Many states have decided to go against federal guidelines and legalize adult-use without people requiring a recommendation from a physician. Currently, 11 states and D.C. have passed laws permitting nonmedical cannabis use; California voters approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016.

If the trend continues, more states will pass legislation for both medical and recreational “pot” use. In the next decade, we may even see the drug be decriminalized federally. While ending prohibition is probably the best possible route for the country to take, it’s still important to remember that marijuana is not benign.

In recent years, legalization and decriminalization led to more research on the short and long-term effects of cannabis use. However, there is still much that scientists do not know. What is known is that the drug can wreak havoc on developing brains and carries the potential for addiction. Research appearing in The Lancet estimates that 22.1 million people suffer from cannabis dependence worldwide.

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 1.8 million Americans 18-25 met the criteria for cannabis use disorder; the survey showed that 1.7 million Americans 26 or older have a marijuana use disorder. Nearly 4 million people had a marijuana use disorder in 2016.

Cannabis Use Disorder Rates are Concerning

Over the past two decades, the United States government has been fixated on reining in the opioid epidemic. The death toll from overdoses, millions of people actively caught in the cycle of an opioid use disorder, generations children removed from their parents; as well as, the fallout out and societal impact of the epidemic is a significant cause for concern.

While efforts to address opioid misuse and addiction must continue, we must not lose sight of the fact that millions of Americans are struggling with cannabis use. Preventing marijuana use initiation is no simple task in light of the fact that many Americans harbor misconceptions about the drug. Young people, especially those residing in permissive states, need to understand that legal doesn’t mean safe.

New research presents some startling figures about the rise of cannabis use disorder in the U.S. A study recently published in JAMA Psychiatry looked into the effect of legalization on marijuana addiction rates. Researchers analyzed survey data from 505,796 respondents; they compared use before and after the legalization of recreational marijuana. The study shows that between 2008 and 2016:

  • Cannabis use rose from 2.18% to 2.72% among Americans aged 12 to 17.
  • Frequent marijuana use increased from 2.13% to 2.62% among those 26 and older.
  • Cannabis use disorder rose from 0.90% to 1.23% among those 26 and older.

Cannabis use prevention efforts are a must. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that those who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a cannabis use disorder than adults.

Cannabis Effects Men and Women Differently

NIDA reports that women who use marijuana frequently develop a use disorder more quickly and are more prone to anxiety disorders. Men, on the other hand, are found to develop more severe cannabis use disorders and are prone to more antisocial personality disorders.

Cannabis use is so ubiquitous in the U.S. that many people are not even aware that they are dealing with addiction. Cannabis use disorder is marked by an inability to stop even though the drug interferes with aspects of his or her life (i.e., problems at work, school, and home).

Those who meet the criteria and attempt to stop on their own experience withdrawal symptoms. The signs of withdrawal usually begin within 24 to 48 hours of not using. The American Psychiatric Association lists the most common symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Anger, irritability, and aggressiveness
  • Heightened nervousness or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness

If you are struggling with marijuana use, and have found cessation challenging, then please reach out for professional assistance. You are not alone; more than 100,000 Americans seek treatment for cannabis use disorder each year.

California Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment for Men

At PACE Recovery Center, we specialize in developing individualized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of our clients. If you are an adult male whose life is negatively impacted by marijuana use, then we invite you to reach out to learn more about our gender-specific addiction treatment programs.

Please take the first step by calling or emailing to an admissions counselor. 800-526-1851.

Trauma, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorder

trauma

Trauma can dramatically impact the course of one’s life; if it is left unaddressed, adverse experiences can lead to premature death. A new report on mortality from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that childhood trauma is a public health issue that we must address. The report shows that one in six people across the United States has experienced four or more kinds of adverse childhood experiences or ACEs.

Trauma can take many different shapes: neglect, abuse, familial separation (i.e., adoption), and exposure to mental health or substance abuse problems. Each person is different; an event may be more traumatic for one person than it is for another. There is no way to predict how an experience will influence a young person.

Author Junot Díaz, writing for The New Yorker in a piece titled: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, said, “Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before.” His writing lays out how an adverse childhood experience influenced everything, from relationships to employment.

In the field of addiction medicine, professionals are acutely aware of the correlation between childhood trauma and substance use and abuse. Paradoxically, many will use drugs and alcohol to cope with untreated trauma, but the practice has the unintended effect of placing such people at risk of being re-traumatized. It’s a vicious cycle, an ouroboros: a snake eating its tail.

Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Traumatic events, at any point in life, can have disastrous consequences like the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, when traumas or ACEs occur during one’s formative years, the risk of experiencing more significant problems is much higher. A previous study from the CDC on adverse childhood experiences found:

  • For each ACE, the risk for early initiation of substance abuse increases two to four times.
  • Individuals with three or more ACEs have higher rates of depression, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and heart disease.
  • Men and women with five or more ACEs are seven to 10 times more likely to become substance abusers.
  • Almost two-thirds of intravenous drug users report ACEs in their history.

Trauma, whether it occurs as a child or in adulthood, must be addressed by professionals. Too often, the lingering effects of trauma are left untreated; PTSD becomes a person’s reality, and self-medication ensues. Drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief, but the practice places people at risk of developing alcohol and substance-related issues. PTSD and addiction are common co-occurring disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that about one-third of people exposed to trauma develop PTSD. Moreover, 75 percent of people in substance abuse treatment report having experienced abuse and trauma. While men are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events, women are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

With Veterans Day around the corner, we must discuss rampant PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD) in the military. As we pointed out, exposure to adverse events can lead people down a precarious path. If an individual doesn’t receive care and support for their condition, then they are likely to resort to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than 2 of 10 veterans with PTSD also have SUD. What’s more, almost 1 out of every 3 veterans seeking treatment for SUD has PTSD as well.

Fortunately, effective treatments exist to address both PTSD and SUD simultaneously. Those who experience trauma as a child or in adulthood, who develop use disorders can and do recover.

We have found that both posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use can be treated concurrently [meaning, at the same time].” — Ronald E. Acierno, Ph.D., Vice-Chair For Veteran Affairs and Executive Director Of The UTHealth Trauma And Resilience Center

Orange County Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

If you are struggling with PTSD, SUD, or both, then please contact PACE Recovery Center at your earliest convenience. We specialize in the treatment of men who face challenges related to addiction and mental health disorders. We offer several different types of programs to serve the unique needs of each client best.

Recovery begins with a phone call or email to an admissions counselor. Please take the first step: 800-526-1851.

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