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Quick Definitions and Facts on Addiction and Treatment in Texas

Below you will find some quick definitions and facts on addiction and treatment in Texas. I hope this helps to make things a little clearer. I’ve also included some personal opinions on what I believe good treatment should be in hopes of making it a little easier for you find the best option for you or your loved one.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Addiction, in the past, has incorrectly been thought to be a question of will power or choice. “If you really wanted to stop drinking, you would.” – we now know just how wrong and even damaging this belief was. 

Alcoholism, like all addictions, is a disease. (A disease is an illness or affliction of a primary organ and in the case of addiction it’s the brain.) Alcoholism is genetically oriented, progressive in its destruction and path, chronic and requires a lot more than just “willpower” to overcome. (*you can find some quick statistics on Alcoholism at the bottom of this page)

A well known addiction physician in Houston was fond of explaining it like this: Addiction is biological, like diarrhea, so if you think you can simply choose to overcome it – the next time you have diarrhea, try to think your way out of it. (a bit over simplistic and graphic for some folks – but you get the point). Addiction is a challenging disease because it has psychological, emotional, relational and other challenges, but at it’s core, it is still a disease. You cannot successfully out-maneuver your own biology; at least not alone.

It’s important to note that some substances can kill you outright when you are using them, few are likely to do this when you are detoxing off of them. Alcohol (and Benzos) are two of the definitive and very dangerous exceptions. Many people have died trying to detox at home. Even if you have succeeded in doing this before it is not worth doing – luck doesn’t last forever. By the time you are in crisis, an ambulance may not be able to make up the time needed to get you into medical care and safety.

When it comes to alcohol detox – always seek the help of a physician and personally, I would opt for a medical detox level of care. Your life is too precious to gamble. Again, you will not win against biology. Please, don’t do it alone. Get help.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed medication for sedation. Also called ‘tranquilizers’, benzodiazepines come in a wide range of varieties – amounting to 2,000+ different kinds. Benzodiazepine is a silent but potentially deadly drug that’s often used in combination with a range of other substances to produce its effects. Considered an accomplice in thousands of drug-induced deaths, benzodiazepine dependence and addiction is a serious health problem that poses a threat to an individual’s quality of life. It is especially lethal when mixed with other substances like alcohol.

Benzodiazepine detox, like alcohol detox, is very dangerous to undertake on your own. It is highly encouraged that you do not attempt this outside of a medical detox with physicians and 24/7 nursing available.

Chemical Dependency Education

This should be part of any level of treatment and is needed for both the person struggling with addiction and their family/loved ones. Sometimes exhausted and scared families will contend that they are not the one with the addiction so why should they “have to go” to classes/counseling. As many recovery communities teach; you are not healing and growing in your recovery until you change your mindset from “I have to go” into “I get to go”.

Chemical Dependency Education and support are a benefit and gift – don’t waste it or let it go by. CD Education helps to relieve the strain everyone has been feeling, support the hard changes needed to sustain healing for everyone and make sure that all members in the family and support system have accurate information and understanding of what is happening. I often tell families, “It’s not your fault that we are here at this point, but you are able to make the healing easier or harder going forward.” Your actions can mean more than your words. Get informed and get involved.

Any reputable Residential, PHP or IOP treatment program will have education and support services specifically for family and loved ones as part of it’s program. Make sure you get the details and take advantage of it. It’s a good start and they will often be able to connect you with other resources for ongoing support.

Cocaine Addiction and Treatment

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that’s made from the leaves of the coca plant which grows native to various areas in South America. Cocaine is the second most commonly trafficked illegal drug in the world, with an estimated 1.9 million people aged 18 and over using the drug in the United States alone. 

One of the most difficult aspects of cocaine addiction is that the high first achieved – when the body has never before been introduced to cocaine – can never again be achieved to the same degree. The cocaine addict is essentially condemned to chase something that biochemically is no longer achievable. Yes, they can use more, but the pleasure will never reach the same point.

Risk of death is during use, not typically during detox unless other serious medical conditions are present. But, detox can be very unpleasant and for many difficult to complete. This is where going into a medical detox facility can be helpful.Following detox, residential or partial hospitalization is necessary for any chance of sustained recovery. And like with all addiction, immersion in a recovery community is paramount to success.

 

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

The best Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) will likely offer a holistic & evidence-based approach supporting long-term recovery for the client and the family. An IOP should include individual, group, & family therapy and all therapy should be conducted in a discreet, uplifting environment. If it is punitive or lacking privacy – go somewhere else. Beyond alcohol & drug addiction specific programming, the better programs tend to offer a range of therapies to support issues surrounding anxiety, depression, grief/loss, shame, trauma, family systems, process addictions and more.

Some programs are heavily weighted in favor of a particular recovery community’s philosophies; like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). More contemporary programs understand that there are different paths to recovery that may best fit individual needs. These will support clients being involved in AA, NA, Refuge Recovery, SMART Recovery, Life Ring, Celebrate Recovery and more. Many programs say they use evidenced-based approaches and individualize treatment. It’s okay to ask them to be specific and explain how this is achieved. A reputable program will welcome your interest and happily share what they do. IOPs in Texas should be at least 10 clinical hours (9 in group and 1 individual) each week and run 8 to 12 weeks. Groups should be run by Masters level therapists. Some will also employ Masters level intern therapists and they are required to tell you this up front. Some interns can be phenomenal, so don’t let that turn you away. But ideally there should be a balance so find out how much of your face-to-face clinical service is being provided by interns versus seasoned clinicians. Any IOP (or PHP) who has a majority of their clinician service hours being provided by interns should be up front about this and in our opinion, should also be ready and willing to negotiate a significantly discounted rate for clients without insurance.

Any reputable IOP will seek to involve family/loved ones in the treatment process and will provide a robust, specific and detailed Discharge Plan no less than 7-10 days before you leave that level of care. Make sure you let them know you want to be included in the development of this.

 

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Marijuana is the most used psychotropic drug in the United States. Although the likelihood that a person might abuse and then become addicted to marijuana are slim, there are more cases in recent years where dependence has developed. One argument for this is that the THC levels in marijuana commonly accessible today can be 15 times more than what it was 10-20 years ago. (“It’s not your Momma’s marijuana anymore”).

Another difference is that a notable amount of longer term marijuana users experience significant increases in anxiety during withdrawal, some to the point of having panic attacks. These points, and others, are part of the reason that more centers around the country have developed specific programs for this and are accepting admissions for marijuana abuse. Some insurance companies are now supporting coverage for this treatment, too.

 

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

A highly addictive stimulant drug, methamphetamine is used by an estimated 12.3 million U.S. citizens. Over the long term, recurrent, frequent meth use can lead to addiction and dependence. The longer that a person uses meth, the stronger the dependence becomes. It isn’t uncommon for meth addicts to fall into financial turmoil as a result of their addiction. At a certain point when all monetary resources have been exhausted in pursuit of the next fix, abusers may turn to theft and other illegal activities in order to sustain their expensive habit. Meth is particularly hard on the body and brain. Some treatment programs are cautious to admit long term users due to frequency of bizarre behaviors during early recovery. Healthcare needs and a longer duration of brain recovery are very common with longer term methamphetamine abuse.

 

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Considered a health crisis or epidemic, opioid addiction can cause serious dangers to a person’s health, social, and financial problems. The class of drugs are typically prescribed in healthcare settings to treat pain, but their strong potential for abuse has become a major problem worldwide. The treatment for opioid abuse is twofold: opiate recovery counseling and withdrawal management. The first focuses on the social, mental, and emotional aspects of the addiction while the second works to ease the system into a drug-free state. There are medications available to assist with opiate withdrawal and early recovery – there is some controversy around some of these. Speak openly with your addiction-savvy physician and counselor and get clear information. Even the most widely known medication for this has shown their highest success rates only when medication and treatment/counseling were used in tandem. There is no “miracle pill” cure. Treatment and a recovery support community are still necessary for any chance at sustained recovery.

 

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHP level of care should give our clients the strongest foundation possible upon which to build independence in an out-patient setting. It’s an highly-focused program, with groups meeting 5 days a week, for 5 hours a day, plus individual therapy and psychiatric visits. It is most often used in lieu of Residential Treatment (when combined with Sober Living) or as the first “step-down” post discharge from Residential.

PHP gives clients the knowledge, tools, support, and structure to start building strength and confidence in their sobriety. PHP should be seen as the first step of an extended treatment program that also includes Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP) and possibly Sober Living. Any reputable PHP will seek to involve family/loved ones in the treatment process and will provide a robust, specific and detailed Discharge Plan no less than 7-10 days before you leave that level of care. 

 

Process Addiction Treatment

Addiction comes in all sorts of forms. A common misconception is the physical over-reliance on substances, in which an individual would often fall in physical, emotional, and mental pitfalls. But this reliance on substances is just one type of addiction. Process addiction, or behavioral addiction, deals with the compulsive nature connected to the actual act of abuse on substances and other triggers that cause addiction. Some examples of behavioral addiction can include gambling addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction, gaming or social media addiction, and food addiction. 

Similar to other types of addiction, help is always available for the individual. Identifying the problem, addressing the different triggers, and creating solid treatment strategies are some of the best ways to help with this disorder. Addiction is nearly impossible to treat if the person won’t accept that they have an addiction. A behavioral addiction can be present alone, as a co-morbid condition along with a mental health disorder or even cross-addiction with substance. (It is important to mention that the presence of any addiction with the absence of any emotional or mental health disorder is extremely unlikely. At minimum, anxiety and depression are a common part of early recovery and whether that is solely due to the process of addiction recovery or fueled by emotional health is something that time and a seasoned professional should help to determine).

 

Recovery Coaching

Professional recovery coaching is an invaluable step in the sobriety journey, as these experienced coaches provide continued guidance and accountability for clients either discharging from a Sober Living House, or after IOP, or for those who can manage a lower level of structure. Clients typically work with a recovery coach for 90-180 days. The best recovery coaches have been professionally trained, extensively, in addiction treatment and recovery, have experience working within the field and are immersed in their local treatment community. In Texas, they should hold a professional certification and/or license.

 

Sober Living

Sober living program provides structure and support in early sobriety, and is designed for individuals in need of that structure and accountability during the transitional period back to normalcy and independence. There is a world of difference in the quality and support levels provided by various sober living homes. Do your research. Ask your physician and counselor for recommendations and whenever possible, go and visit/tour the facility. 

A reputable sober living will arrange for you to tour the property and answer your questions. You should expect that most will not allow family and others to visit or enter the property except at the initial tour – this is to protect the privacy of the other residents. Many will want you to have completed RTC, PHP or IOP before coming. Most will support your employment schedule, to a point.

Strong sober living homes have behavioral expectations, some type of curfew, house meetings and a required number of recovery community meetings each week. Rather than fight it, try to embrace it. If you’re headed to sober living then your way of staying sober wasn’t working anyway. So maybe it’s time to listen to someone else?

 

Synthetics Addiction Treatment

While drugs used to be made from natural ingredients, many of the drugs of today are synthetic or completely man-made. The roster of synthetics includes notorious names like methamphetamine, LSD, and ecstasy, all of which cause significant effects on both mind and body. Because of the nature of these substances, it’s highly likely for individuals to get hooked and addicted to their use.

Although the ever changing nature of synthetics can make it a challenge to understand the drug, synthetic drug abuse is treatable. The ideal treatment is a residential treatment center  in which a patient is sent to live in a facility for the duration of the process. This is because synthetics can take many forms, and caretakers at a private home setting might not be able to identify whether the patient is using synthetics or not.

QUICK FACTS ON ALCOHOLISM IN THE US

(from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics)

  • 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 have an Alcohol Use Disorder.
  • 140.557 Americans die from the effects of alcohol in an average year.
  • Of these, alcohol-related liver disease is the leading killer, causing 19.1% of all alcohol-related deaths.
  • 53.7% of alcohol-related deaths are due to chronic misuse.
  • 52.4% of chronic misuse deaths are attributable to alcohol alone; 47.6% include additional factors, such as other chronic health issues or drug abuse.
  • Alcohol poisoning is another leading killer, causing 32% of acute alcohol-related deaths.
  • Over half of Americans (roughly 60%) report increasing their alcohol use during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Each year, 97,000 sexual assaults among American college students involve alcohol.
  • 22.5% of acute-alcohol related deaths are due to suicide.
  • (Suicides involving alcohol kill more people than car accidents involving alcohol).

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Emotional Support Animals in Texas

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

Emotional Support Animals, sometimes referred to as ESAs, have special privileges in the State of Texas under federal laws; they are not considered pets.; they are assistance animals for people with mental and emotional health issues

Housing providers have to accommodate owners of emotional support animals free of charge as a necessity for their health condition. And, unlike typical pets, you don’t have to pay any extra deposits or fees for housing. Emotional Support Animals are also exempt from building policies regarding size or breed. 

These rights are given under the Fair Housing Act and guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and apply to the State of Texas. 

Any domesticated animals can be kept as an ESA in the home, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and yes…even sugar gliders and turtles! 

In this article, we’ll explain

How you can qualify for an emotional support animal in Texas. 

And, if you qualify,

How you can apply to receive a valid ESA Letter from a healthcare professional (*licensed in Texas) that you can use to secure accommodation for your emotional support animal.

Quick Review of Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

Assistance animals have rights under various laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both are federal laws that apply to every state in the U.S., including Texas

The ADA governs service animals that have highly specialized training to assist people with both physical or mental disabilities. *Emotional support animals, however, are not the same as psychiatric service dogs. ESAs do not need special training and provide comfort for those experiencing mental or emotional distress just by being present around their owners. 

Emotional support animal owners have rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, which mandates that landlords reasonably accommodate tenants who require an assistance animal. 

Texas Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws Allow ESAs to Live with Their Owners Without Additional Fees.

If you own an emotional support animal, have valid documentation and reside in Texas, you do have certain RIGHTS for housing that protect you from discrimination due to your mental or emotional disability-related need for an assistance animal. 

  1. Housing providers such as landlords, condos, co-ops, and HOAs must reasonably accommodate ESAs, even if the building has an outright ban on pets. 
  2. ESAs are exempt from normal pet policies. That means restrictions on size, weight and breed of pets do not apply to emotional support animals. 
  3. ESA owners also do not have to pay any additional fees (including application fees) or deposits to live with their ESA. 

However, there are LIMITATIONS to these rights

  1. An emotional support animal must be domesticated and well-behaved. This means that you cannot bring a wild or aggressive animal into an apartment, etc. 
  2. Your ESA also can’t pose any health or safety hazard to other residents. 
  3. Some small housing providers are exempt from having to follow ESA rules, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. 
  4. In addition, you cannot bring your emotional support animal into your new home unannounced and expect everyone in a no-pet housing complex will comply. You must submit a request for accommodation to your landlord in advance and provide a copy of your ESA letter. 

It’s important to make sure that you have the right documentation for your emotional support animal. Most landlords in Texas are fully aware of what constitutes a valid proof for an emotional support animal.

*Landlords have every right to validate if you have a true emotional support animal by requesting an ESA letter from you

Qualifying for an ESA Letter in Texas

To have a legally recognized emotional support animal in Texas, you will need an ESA letter from a healthcare professional who is licensed in Texas. 

  1. You can request one from your current healthcare professional who is providing services for your mental health. 

OR

  1. You can also reach out to this counselor and apply online for an ESA Letter without having to leave your home.

What Happens Next?

First, the licensed healthcare professional will determine if you have a mental or emotional health disability that substantially limits a major life activity

Qualifying conditions include:

PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias, autism, and learning disorders. 

Second, the healthcare professional will assess whether an emotional support animal can help alleviate the symptoms of that particular mental or emotional health disability. 

Pretty simple, right? (I told you it wouldn’t be as hard as you might think)

So, How Do I Get Started ?

Just call our number and leave the following. An application packet will be emailed to you and you will not be charged for the service unless you are approved. If approved, an original copy letter will be mailed to your physical residence.

Information we need to get started:

  1. your full legal name, 
  2. city in Texas where you live, 
  3. preferred phone number for contact (in case healthcare provider requires) and 
  4. a personal email where the application documents may be sent. 

(*all info must be that of the owner of the animal/s applied for)

Just Remember

If you’re a Texas resident, your ESA rights require that you have a legitimate ESA letter from a healthcare professional that is licensed in Texas.

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13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should Know

13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should  Know

On January 28th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in housing. 

(*This is a very important development for owners of ESAs and it is the first comprehensive update to ESA housing rules made since 2013.)

13 Facts Every Current or Potential Owner of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) in Texas Should Know

  1. Dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, other rodents and even turtles can be ESAs.
  1. Landlords are required to engage in interactive dialogue with tenants about ESA requests.
  1. ESA requests can be made orally or in writing (ESA Letter will still be required for approval)
  1. Tenants can make an ESA request before or after acquiring their ESA Letter
  1. HUD confirms that landlords are not allowed to refuse based on breed/weight restrictions.
  1. Landlords are prevented from being able to charge fees and deposits for ESAs.
  1. Landlords are expected to respond to ESA requests promptly, and at least within 10 days.
  1. Landlords cannot require your healthcare professional to use a specific form for their ESA Letter
  1. Landlords cannot request sensitive details about the tenant’s condition (your privacy protected)
  1. HOAs and Co-Ops are also subject to ESA rules
  1. Tenants can use the help of third-parties to care for their ESAs
  1. Registrations and licenses are NOT legitimate ways to qualify an ESA
  1. ESA letters can come from online health professionals (must be licensed in your State)

All current and prospective owners of ESAs in Texas should become familiar with these new rules which are now in effect and replace the 2013 rules.

 

Need other Emotional Health or Addiction Recovery services? 

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Uncategorized

3 Ways to Create a More Meaningful Holiday Season

The holidays are a time to be with the people you love, spread joy and cheer, and feel a sense of peace. Unfortunately, creating a meaningful holiday season doesn’t always happen in the middle of the hustle and bustle. And what about after the holidays are over?

That said, holiday stress is nothing new. Frantic mobs in the malls, juggling obligations with opportunities and even nostalgic traditions can get overwhelming. In 2020, it was even worse for many people who could’t even pay basic bills or get together with family or friends.

This year, and every year, it’s essential to make the most of the holiday season. That includes finding as many ways as possible to make it meaningful. When you’re able to do that, you can enjoy the season much more and get through it with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

So, what can you do to create a more meaningful holiday season?

1. Using Gratitude

This time of year is the season of giving, but how often do you actually show gratitude? That means so much more than just saying “thank you” for any of the gifts you might receive. Instead, use gratitude daily and take a few moments to really reflect on the things you do have in your life.

This past couple of years has been incredibly challenging for everyone. You may have had to deal with job loss, illness, the death of a loved one, grief, or loneliness. Sometimes, it can be hard to find things in your life to be grateful for — but they are there. Most of the time, we speed though life pursuing what we don’t have rather than acknowledging what we do.

The sooner you can start to recognize them, no matter how small they might seem now, the more appreciative you’ll become. That can make not only the holidays more meaningful but every day of the year. (and the bonus is, with regular practice, it can benefit your stress level and health, too)

2. Acts of Kindness

Instead of receiving this season, consider what you can give. Again, that goes beyond handing someone a present (although there is nothing wrong with that!). A meaningful holiday season can be found in simple acts of kindness.

From raking your neighbor’s yard to buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you at a cafe drive-through, little acts of kindness can go a long way.

Because this year has been so hard for so many, it can be the little things that make the biggest difference. You never know what someone might be going through and how much your moment of kindness can change their perspective and cause them to “pay it forward” to someone else. If there was ever a time to start a kindness change, it’s right here and now.

3. Service to Others

Being kind doesn’t mean merely buying someone something. Your small acts of kindness could (and should) trigger a desire to serve others all season long.

So very many people are in need throughout the holiday season. And even more so if the months that follow. This year rings true more than ever, mainly because people have lost their jobs or are dealing with loneliness or sickness.

You can make a real difference in someone else’s life through acts of service. Volunteer your time as often as possible. Work in a soup kitchen or a local food pantry. Volunteer at an animal shelter, or deliver groceries or medication to the elderly who can’t leave their homes. Ask a local church, temple, school or community center how you can help them.

Not only will acts of service make you feel good this holiday season, but it can genuinely open up your eyes to how many people need assistance. It can inspire you to do more throughout the year, not only around the holidays.

If you want to create a meaningful holiday season, these are just a few ways to get started. However, the best thing you can do is look into your heart and consider how you can take care of others. Now, more than ever, the holidays should be less about the chaos that typically surrounds them. Instead, take a step back to appreciate what you have, and think about helping others.

For more help creating a meaningful holiday season amid a grief-filled year, please contact me today or visit my page on Counseling for Loss to learn more about how I can help.

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Addiction Recovery

5 Signs Your Habit Has Gone Beyond “Harmless” and Become an Addiction

There’s a fine line between a bad habit and addiction. Unfortunately, because it’s such a fine line, it’s easy to cross over it without even realizing it. 

You might think that drinking or using any type of drug is something you have under control. Maybe it started out as something you did with friends. Or maybe you used it to relax.  

In some cases, though, your dependency on such things can become worse, and you won’t give it a second thought. 

With that in mind, it’s important to understand the signs that your habit has gone beyond “harmless”. When it is affecting the quality of your life and how you behave each day, a habit has crossed over into addiction territory. 

But how can you be sure? 

Let’s look at five clear signs that your habit has become an addiction. The sooner you take these signs to heart, the sooner you can seek the help you need and deserve.

1. You Can’t Stop

This is, by far, the most obvious sign that your habit has gotten out of control. If you’re unable to keep yourself from taking the substance, drinking, or performing a certain action (ie; watching pornography, etc.), you’ve become addicted. 

Addicts have an extremely hard time giving up their “habits” on their own. That’s why extensive treatment and rehabilitation are often needed. If you feel a constant need and urge to give in to that habit, it’s time to consider that there’s something more going on.

2. You’ve Isolated Yourself

People who are addicted to something often isolate themselves from others. They know they can’t be away from whatever their addiction is for long. Plus, they might worry that other people could sense something “off” about them. 

If you’ve started to cut yourself off from your friends and family or you aren’t interacting the way you normally would, ask yourself why? Does it have anything to do with that “habit”?

3. You’re Getting Into Financial Trouble

Most addictions cost money. The more you need, the more it costs. Unfortunately, drug dealers know how much people rely on certain substances, so they’re happy to raise their prices so addicts can get their “fix”. If your choice is alcohol, something as simple as a case of beer can cost $20. 

As you continue to feed your addiction, you might find that you run into financial issues. But, because you can’t give it up, you might find other means of getting the money. It’s not uncommon for addicts to take from others in their house, to sell their belongings, or even to give up things like eating or paying for utilities so they can use that money for their addiction. 

If that sounds like you, or you realize you’re experiencing financial strain, it will only continue to get worse unless you seek help.

4. Your Behaviors Are Unstable

Have you noticed yourself doing some things that you wouldn’t normally do? It’s not uncommon for addicts to practice “risky” behaviors. Unfortunately, those behaviors could get you hurt, or cause harm to others. There’s a difference between doing something fun that will boost your adrenaline and doing something that could put your life in danger.

You know yourself better than anyone. You might not want to admit it, but being active in dangerous behaviors isn’t you. Listen to yourself, and to any loved ones reaching out to help.

5. Your Relationships Are Strained

In addition to isolating yourself, have you found that your relationships are struggling? That could include a romantic relationship, friendships, or how close you are with family members. 

Addiction affects every relationship in your life. You might not feel you can be yourself without getting judged. Meanwhile, your friends and family might be concerned about you. 

If you start to become paranoid about your relationships, it might spill over into other areas of life, including your job. That can lead to poor work performance and start a vicious cycle of losing your career and trying to fuel your addiction all at once. 

These signs aren’t meant to convict you. Instead, they’re meant to educate you and to (hopefully) open your eyes. If any of them sound familiar or have caused any realizations, feel free to contact me. You can beat your addiction and take control of your life again— but you don’t have to do it alone

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Addiction Recovery

Why COVID-19 Caused a Rise in Relapse

Why COVID-19 Caused a Rise in Relapse [and What to Do About It]

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted almost everyone in some way. Some people lost jobs. Others lost loved ones. Some even had to battle the COVID virus, themselves. 

But for recovering addicts, COVID struck twice as hard. The addiction epidemic was already running rampant throughout the country, and a pandemic decided to show up, it’s almost as if the two teamed up to make matters worse for those in recovery. 

Simply put, COVID-19 has created a larger addiction problem and has caused a rise in relapses over the last year. 

Why the sudden spike? And what can be done about it now? If you’re a recovering addict, what can you do to protect yourself from relapsing, or get back on track if you’ve already slipped?

Why the Rise in Relapse

Since the pandemic began, there have been plenty of rules and restrictions put in place. The most widely used practices have included social distancing, quarantining/staying home, and wearing masks while out. 

Unfortunately, all three practices can be difficult for those in recovery. 

Isolation comes with plenty of problems for everyone. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and a weaker immune system. From a mental health standpoint, it can cause anxiety and depression. 

For a recovering addict, feeling alone is even harder. It’s important to have a support system and people who can hold you accountable. When you feel you can’t see those people who help you or reach out when you’re triggered, it can make it far too easy to relapse. A report by NPR found an 18% increase in overdoses across the U.S. throughout the pandemic. People staying at home and abusing alcohol and other substances behind closed doors created a dangerous combination.

The Stress of Everything

It’s not just the isolation that has triggered a rise in relapse across the country. This pandemic has caused a lot of fear, uncertainty, and stress for everyone. Maybe you had just gotten a new job but were laid off because of the virus. Or maybe you haven’t been able to see older family members or high-risk friends. You might even be concerned about your financial situation. 

Everyone has their own “triggers” with substance use. But a common trigger is stress. Many addicts use alcohol or other substances to deal with stress or cope with anxiety. 

When you feel you don’t have any other outlet and the stress is getting to you, relapsing becomes a greater possibility. 

What Can You Do About It?

The most important thing you can do to keep from relapsing is to be as proactive as possible. Some facilities across the country have seen fewer people looking for treatment and help throughout the pandemic. That doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to fall into that statistic.

Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the pandemic. Thanks to the vaccine rollout, more things are opening up. That can serve as your own “light”, too. 

If you’ve been struggling to stay sober, don’t be afraid to reach out to a treatment center as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t able to visit a facility or speak to an addiction specialist in person, it’s worth it to set up an appointment online. 

Remember, you aren’t alone in what you might be feeling right now. Reminding yourself of that can be a tremendous help. The effects of this pandemic won’t last forever, and you can get back on track by seeking the support you need by any means possible. 

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Grief Loss

How to Handle the Loss When a Loved One Dies of COVID-19

It finally feels like there’s some hope when it comes to seeing the end of this pandemic. But COVID-19 isn’t over yet. Even when it is, it’s impossible to ignore the destruction and devastation it has caused. 

People will feel the effects of this pandemic for years to come. It has taken a toll on mental health; it has changed the healthcare industry, and even the way people work. 

But, for some, COVID hit on a more personal level. 

Over 500,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19. While those individuals might be just another number to add to a statistic for some, when they are a loved one of yours, it’s different. 

So, how can you handle the loss when someone you care about dies of this virus?  

COVID-19 and Accepting Your Feelings

One of the worst parts about losing someone to the pandemic is that it was probably sudden and unexpected. An unexpected loss can feel so much worse, so people tend to handle them in different ways. 

However you choose to feel is completely up to you. Accepting your feelings and knowing that they are valid is the first step to grieving properly. Chances are your grief will begin with very intense emotions. You may be in denial, or angry, or you might immediately try to care for others.  

It’s easy to get “derailed” in your own thoughts and feelings, too. That’s become a common problem with COVID-19 deaths. You might start thinking about why it had to happen, and what could have been done to prevent it.

While those feelings are just as valid, try not to get caught up in the “what ifs”, as they can hold up the natural grieving process.  

Focus On What You Can Control

When you lose someone you love, it can also feel as if you’re losing control. You might become fixated on the things that are completely out of your grasp, which only serves to fuel frustration and hurt. 

Instead, use this time to focus on the things you can control. They might be small, everyday things, like choosing to take care of your physical health, or finding time to be mindful each day. Small choices can make a big difference.

The more you shift your thinking to things you can control, the stronger you’ll become, and the easier it will be to rise up to life’s challenges. 

COVID-19 and Getting Rid of Guilt

There are plenty of thoughts and emotions that will try to derail your grieving process. Guilt tends to be a big one, especially in dealing with an unexpected death. It can overwhelm you, especially when you wonder why you’re healthy and strong and someone you love had to die because of this disease. 

Survivor’s guilt is natural. But keeping an eye on it and making sure it doesn’t consume you is important. Eventually, you need to focus on experiencing joy and contentment in your life again. It’s okay if that takes a while, but don’t hold yourself back from positive experiences and moments of moving forward just because you feel guilty. 

The grief of losing someone to COVID can be different from the experience of a traditional loss. If you’re struggling to cope, feel free to contact me. This is a unique period of life, and with so many unexpected deaths due to this illness, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

Together, we can work on more ways to handle the loss effectively and in healthy ways that will allow you to grieve on your own timeline, with a focus on eventually moving forward in life. 

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Chronic Illnesses, Telehealth and the Pandemic

Chronic Illness, Telehealth and the Pandemic

The pandemic has impacted the lives of almost everyone in some way. But healthcare has been incredibly impacted. Specifically, in order to keep people safe from contracting the COVID-19 virus, telehealth has become more prominent than ever. And previously neglected chronic illnesses seemed to catch up with many of us during the pandemic. While it’s not necessarily new, the pandemic boosted the practice of telehealth tremendously across the country. And there are many benefits to it for people who might otherwise have accessibility issues. 

But, if you’re dealing with a chronic illness, telehealth and other changes made in the healthcare industry might not be in your best interest. 

So, how has the pandemic changed treatment for those who are suffering from chronic illnesses? 

Chronic Illness; from Frustration to Telehealth

Whether you’ve been able to hop on to a telehealth session with your doctor or not, the pandemic has caused a lot of frustration in getting deserved treatment. 

First, if you have been able to meet with your doctor(s) in person, you’ve probably experienced extended wait times. Many clinics and practices are short-staffed. Others are trying to space patients out, so time spent in different waiting areas is longer. 

When you have a chronic illness, long wait times can be difficult. You might be in pain or discomfort, and sitting there longer than usual will not help. Extended waits between visits have also become prominent, which can be difficult if you need help and relief immediately. 

At the start of COVID, hospitals were forced to put more resources into treating critical patients with the virus. As a result, patients with chronic illnesses or other cases were seen less frequently. Those depending on consistent treatment suffered, as a result. 

Telehealth and Managing Your Chronic Illness

Because the treatment changes brought on by COVID may not be going back to “normal” just yet, learning how to manage your illness at home is crucial. Obviously, that’s another huge change that can cause additional stress and confusion during times of need. 

For some people, home management techniques simply don’t work. Or, they might for a while, but eventually, medical treatment is necessary. Patients having to wait significantly longer between visits can find themselves on a decline very quickly. 

No matter what symptoms you’re having, one thing you can do to help manage them is to have an open dialogue with your doctor. One benefit of telehealth is that it often makes healthcare providers more accessible. Consistent communication is important. If you explain what you’re dealing with, your provider may be able to call in a new prescription or recommend something else. 

Taking Care of Yourself

The lack of treatment options and availability throughout COVID is, again, extremely frustrating. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’re waiting for your doctor to see you (yet again), you’ve probably felt completely overwhelmed. 

One of the best things you can do is to take care of yourself and manage your stress. Don’t let yourself get too frustrated by these treatment changes. Instead, find ways to relax and de-stress every day. Doing so can help to lower your blood pressure and may have a pain-reducing effect on your body. 

Hopefully, now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, normalcy will return to the healthcare industry. In some cases, however, pandemic practices might be here to stay. You may have to get used to longer wait times between visits, distancing, and the expanded and increasing promotion of telehealth. 

Make sure you’re communicating your issues and concerns with your doctor, no matter what the rest of the pandemic may bring. Doing so may give you peace of mind, and hopefully, some measure of relief. 

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5 Dangers of Drinking to Cope With the Pandemic

There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost everyone. Now that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the illness itself, byproducts of the pandemic are starting to show up. Below we take a quick look at 5 dangers of drinking to cope with the pandemic.

There is a significant concern in the healthcare community about a different kind of pandemic — a mental health pandemic.

Stress, loneliness, isolation, and loss have all been common themes over the last year. So many people have tried to find ways to cope. From corporations, to colleges to your neighborhood – the impact is everywhere. Unfortunately, some coping mechanisms can lead to even more significant problems. That includes drinking.

While using alcohol to get through something difficult might feel fine in the moment, the implications are severe.

So, what are the real dangers of drinking to cope with the pandemic?

1. It Can Lead to Addiction

Perhaps the most considerable risk of using alcohol to cope is becoming addicted. The longer you drink, the more your tolerance for alcohol is likely to increase. As a result, you’ll end up wanting more to get the same numbing effect.

It doesn’t take long for that desire for more to turn into a full-fledged addiction. When that happens, it can be a long and challenging road to recovery.

2. It Can Damage Relationships

Using alcohol to cope can create tension in your relationships. You might find yourself distancing from the people you love. Maybe you’re embarrassed by your new “habit.” Or, perhaps you get angry when someone tries to talk to you about it.

It’s not uncommon for the abuse of alcohol to lead to broken relationships. If you see yourself starting to push loved ones away, consider it a huge red flag.

3. You Won’t Look for Healthier Alternatives

If you start using alcohol as a coping mechanism and think it works, you’re less likely to stop. Even if you begin to realize that you’re becoming dependent, it’s hard to turn to healthier coping mechanisms if alcohol seems to be “working.”

It’s better to start with stronger coping mechanisms. Whether that’s a support group, therapy, or even something like exercising instead, they will steer you down a much healthier and more stable path.

4. There Could Be Physical Implications

The short-term physical effects of alcohol might not seem so extreme. But, if you’re continuously using it to cope, you’re putting yourself at risk of some long-term consequences that could be pretty serious.

Alcohol abuse can lead to an increased risk of liver disease, heart disease, and specific types of cancer. It can impair your cognitive function and can even weaken your immune system. As a result, you’ll be much more susceptible to illnesses.

5. Long-Term Mental Health Effects

Not only can drinking to cope with the pandemic cause physical issues, but it can lead to long-term mental health problems, as well. Drinking can increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety.

That often creates a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Drinking causes you to experience symptoms of depression. So, you drink more to cope. That’s how easy it is to become addicted.

If you know you’re drinking to cope with the pandemic, you’re not alone. But, you also don’t have to depend on alcohol to get through it. Consider alcohol addiction counseling if you’ve started to notice your habit turning into something more. There are many other ways to cope, and you can break free from the confines that drinking wants to keep you in.

Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about alcohol addiction counseling. By taking the initiative now, you can break the cycle of addiction before becomes a more severe issue.

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How to Cope After the Death of a Co-Worker

Depending on where you work, you can develop a close, healthy relationship with your co-workers. These are the people you spend several hours a day with, after all. So, it’s natural for friendships to form. Unfortunately, that’s also why the death of a co-worker can feel as difficult to handle as that of a close friend or family member. It’s hard enough when it happens, and tragically it’s happened at bit more for many of us over the past year. That’s why we wrote an article on how to cope after the death of a co-worker.

With the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant over the last year, you may know someone from work who has passed away from it. Even without the pandemic, anything from old age, illnesses, or accidents can cause someone’s life to be cut short.

What can you do to cope after the death of a co-worker? How can you go back to work knowing things will be different and knowing that you’ve lost a friend?

Workplace grief is real, so let’s dive a bit deeper into how to cope after the death of a co-worker.

Talk About That Person

If you work for a large company, people in management or different departments might not feel as strongly as you do about that employee’s death. They may not even bring it up or recognize it.

But it’s okay to talk about it at work. Bring it up to your co-workers. Connect with those who are also hurting at work because of the loss. It can be much easier to grieve together after the death of a co-worker. You can share stories about that person, laugh, cry, and choose to remember them through the pain you’re feeling.

Grieve as a Business

More close-knit businesses may be hit harder by the death of an employee. Suggest some charity or volunteer event in the deceased’s name that the company can participate in together.

Anything from hosting a 5k for charity to planting a memorial tree on the business’ property is a great way to grieve as a company collectively and to celebrate that person’s life.

Give Yourself Time

No matter what your relationship was with your co-worker, it’s critical to permit yourself to grieve. Things won’t be the same at work, and accepting that is a good place to start the grieving process.

Everyone will cope and handle the loss differently. If you had a closer relationship with your co-worker than others, take the time you need to work through the loss. Ask your employer for a few days off or a more flexible schedule as you try to get used to the change. Ensure you get the support you need, both at work and in your personal life, to handle your grief effectively.

Be Respectful of Others

Again, everyone may have had a different relationship with your co-worker. Be respectful of that, especially if you’re unsure what that relationship was. While it’s okay to ask people how they’re doing, be careful not to overstep boundaries.

Additionally, you can set boundaries for yourself. If you don’t want to talk about things right away after the death of a co-worker or if you feel like someone at work is trying to dig too deep for information, it’s okay to tell them you’re uncomfortable answering.

If you’re genuinely struggling to cope after the death of a co-worker, you might benefit from death in the workplace counseling. It’s easy to feel like you’re “alone” in your grief if you were only of the only ones close to your co-worker — but you’re not.

Learning how to work through that grief and get back to your job is crucial, and counseling can help you to do just that. Feel free to contact me for more information or visit my Death in the Workplace Counseling page. We will work through your grief together.