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Dopamine and the Early Recovery “Blahs” – Here’s What You Should Know

Dopamine and the early recovery process go hand in hand. When you’re recovering from opiate addiction, your brain is going to experience a lot of changes.

Unfortunately, many of these changes can lead to the recovery “blahs.” That can leave you feeling unmotivated, uninspired, and even depressed.

The more you understand about dopamine and the early recovery process, the easier it will be to take active steps to make your recovery go as smoothly as possible.

First, let’s look at why dopamine affects the brain so much when you have an addiction. Then, we’ll talk about how you can beat the early recovery “blahs.”

Dopamine, Drugs, and Your Brain

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter within the brain. It affects everything from sleep to concentration. What it’s most widely known for, though, is mood regulation. When you experience something good, dopamine is released into the brain. This might be something like getting a raise at work to something as simple as having your favorite dessert.

Certain drugs, like opiates, also typically cause a spike in dopamine. It creates a fast sense of satisfaction and gives your brain the message that you should feel rewarded for what you’re doing.

Because certain drugs make people feel so good, it’s not difficult to become addicted. The more you like something and the better it makes you feel, the more likely you are to do it again and again.

Unfortunately, over time, the brain becomes used to the drug and the surges of dopamine decrease. As a result, you might find yourself needing to take more of the drug or doing it more often.

Why You Experience the “Blahs”

Finding yourself in a rut during recovery is normal. It typically comes after a few weeks of abstaining from a substance. For others, though, it can happen a few months into your recovery period.

The problem with the recovery “blahs” is that they can sometimes lead to a relapse. Your brain isn’t getting the same release of dopamine that it once was, and it’s very easy to miss that feeling of pleasure, even if you’ve been off the drug for a while.

When your brain is recovering from that consistent increase in dopamine, it can be harder to feel it naturally from positive events or occurrences in your life. Additionally, you might start to feel the rush of success wearing off.

When you first start on your recovery journey and you’re committed to making a change, it’s easy to get a “high” from that. After several weeks, though, you might not get the same rush from it that you once did—even if that feeling of accomplishment is still there. Life might not feel as exciting to you as it did when you were using.

Beating the Recovery “Blahs”

So, what can you do to counteract dopamine and the early recovery problems you might face?

One of the best things is to find ways to boost dopamine in healthy ways. Create excitement for yourself if you’re feeling low or if it seems like your life is “boring” compared to what it used to be.

You don’t have to make huge changes or plan anything extravagant. Try some of the following things to get a boost of excitement:

  • Start a new hobby.
  • Go for coffee with an old friend.
  • Play a sport.
  • Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
  • Go to the spa.

There are endless possibilities for finding healthy ways to increase the pleasure sensors within your brain. When you’re dealing with the recovery “blahs,” these simple things can make a big difference.

If you’re still struggling with recovery and you feel like it’s not getting easier, please contact me.

Opiate addiction is serious, and it takes time and support to get through it. Together, we can work on different ways to make the recovery process easier for you.

Visit here to learn more about how I can help.

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Your Addiction: 5 Important Reasons Why You Should Get Help Now

It’s easy to ignore things that are hard or don’t always feel good. We all procrastinate or avoid from time to time.  And when you’re struggling with addiction, it’s really easy to ignore all the reasons why you need to get help now.

The addiction takes center-stage and demands all of your attention. All your focus on is getting your next drink, your next fix – so that you feel “normal” or “better.”

But the truth is; you will never truly feel better.

Not in the midst of the drinking/using and all the chaos that comes with it. It doesn’t matter how convincing you are – this isn’t about will power. There is a reason why addiction is called a “brain disease”.

And eventually, it will always take more drugs or alcohol to get even close to the same effect you had the first time you used.

There is an end point to this terminal disease. And it isn’t pleasant or happy or freeing. So don’t succumb to it – stand up and get help.

It may be hard to believe – but you CAN do this and there are a lot of folks out there who can help.

If you need some important reasons why you should get help for your addiction—now – then here you go…

1. Improving Your Health

The first important reason to consider is your health. Addiction only makes your health worse, not better.

If you are young, you may not have noticed much of a difference yet. But, as time goes by, you will see and feel dramatic changes happening to your body.

For example:

  • Your liver starts having a harder time processing the alcohol and can’t do its job properly to the point where you experience liver failure
  • You become more vulnerable to a heart attack or stroke
  • Your skin tone and quality changes
  • Your lung capacity diminishes
  • You have a greater possibility of contracting HIV/AIDS due to sharing intravenous needles
  • Your life expectancy is shorter

Clearly, addiction is not good for your health.

2. Strengthening Your Relationships

Another reason to get help is the relationships that you hold most dear. Whether it’s your partner, children, parents, or friends, addiction causes tremendous hurt and pain to the people you love.

You may have said or done things that you later regret and, thus, strained these relationships to the breaking point.

What’s happened in the past is done. However, by getting help, you have the power to strengthen those relationships and keep or bring those people close to you.

3. Saving Your Career

Did you spend years and thousands of dollars getting to where you are in your career? What would you do if you lost your job?

Addiction takes a toll on your work as well. At first, it’s occasionally showing up a little late or missing a project deadline. A reprimand or even a poor performance review doesn’t help. In fact, they may spur you forward in your addiction. Then, it’s more consistent absences or a blow-up at the office. Eventually, your employer will decide that it’s better to let you go.

If this scenario happens a few times, it can be damaging to your career. And once unemployed, you most likely resort to other means of feeding your addition and getting the substances you crave.

4. Bringing Joy Back Into Your Life

Remember a time when you felt happy and joyful? Was it while pursuing a hobby or sport that you like?

When struggling with addiction, it’s hard to feel happy at all. In fact, many also develop depression alongside their addiction.

There are several reasons why this occurs:

  • You are more isolated from those you care about
  • Hobbies, sports, and other recreational activities no longer have the same appeal
  • Your focus is now on getting more drugs
  • Your health and physical appearance have declined

It’s easy to focus on the obvious things that you lose with addiction. However, joy and happiness are just as important as your health, relationships, or even your job. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.

5. Having Peace of Mind

Finally, your peace of mind is certainly a reason why you should get help now for addiction. You probably feel sad, angry, and anxious with addiction.

Although when under the influence, you may experience a heightened state of pleasure—it doesn’t last. Most of the time you are in a more miserable state of mind. You may even recognize that you are miserable and need to get better.

Is that how you want to live your life?

Ultimately, you can list all of the reasons in the world why you should get help – thinking about it is easy. Talking is easy too. But until you’re willing to act – to actually get the help, real relief and real change simple will not follow. So, whether your personal motivation comes from the inside or outside—find your reason to change and take action!

Please, contact me to start your addiction recovery. Or, visit here to learn more about how I can help you.

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Addiction Recovery

Addiction Interventions

Addiction Interventions

Compassionate Intervention Consults (aka “soft interventions”)

So you are trying to decide whether or not to organize an intervention for a loved one? Choosing to confront a loved one about their addiction is a difficult decision and most people are at their wits’ end by the time they start looking at intervention as an option. You need reliable and targeted information to help you determine what’s best for your loved one. And perhaps more importantly, for them to be able to see the severity of their current situation. I have worked in this field, in this city, for over 22 years and I know the resources available locally, within and outside of Texas.

Before You Start

When you start planning an intervention for a loved one struggling with addiction you want to be sure the  professional you work with looks at your family dynamic in its entirety. There are a lot of different certifications, licenses and types of interventionists out there – very few of them are fully and independently licensed and even those who are credentialed rarely are licensed in both mental health and addiction. Fewer still have the precision that comes with years of counseling professionals struggling with addiction or having served for years as the Clinical Director of an inpatient medical detox hospital.

“Recovery is an evolutionary process of the self.

It requires change, commitment, community and time.”

BW Carrettin, 2013

Whomever, you consider – be intentional. Ask questions; interview them. You are trying to do the best you can for the one you care about – it’s okay to be thorough. Here’s a hint/hack for you; if the professional cannot weather a little scrutiny and direct questioning from you, how could they ever be successful in an intervention?

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that getting sober is only a fixed state (think is or is not), but staying sober is a gradual, ongoing process. To fully embrace and maintain true, life-changing recovery requires a commitment to whole life recovery as a way of living. This isn’t accomplished in a single week or even a month or two of treatment in a facility. But it can certainly begin there. The person who is addicted will ultimately need to commit to major lifestyle changes in order to return to enjoying a full life and ongoing success. In the beginning, just getting into treatment is a start in the right direction. While I definitely want those who need it to go to treatment, I want more. My goal is to have them understand for themselves why they need it and to make that choice. They are the only person who can ultimately decide if they will stay sober/clean. I believe it helps if they decide to start the path as well.

A Different Kind of Intervention

In my practice, I provide in-office, compassion-driven intervention consultations and therapeutic services for adults struggling with addiction. Through my practice, I also provide counseling for clients after they complete treatment and work with spouses and families of loved ones in active addiction and early recovery. Through my work I help families prepare to undertake a substance abuse intervention and also find the best possible treatment options for the adult who is in crisis. With over 20 years of experience working with individuals and families in crisis I am uniquely qualified to help you develop the best possible treatment plan for your loved one. My non-confrontational, invitational approach to intervention is proven effective and allows for a family to lovingly, effectively and compassionately encourage a loved one to get the help they need.

Please note, I do not use “tough love” or other adversarial, aggressive approaches. I have seen these work only insofar as, occasionally getting a person to agree to go to treatment and shortly after admitting, leaving against medical advice and relapsing, which can ultimately be life threatening. That is not to say that getting a person into treatment isn’t a first step or that harder approaches have not been successful for some and may be what your loved one needs. But if force is the flavor you intend to use, I am not the best option for you.

“Sobriety is a state of condition. Recovery is a way of living.”

BW Carrettin, 2003

Knowing the Options

I have developed relationships with many hospitals, residential treatment centers, intensive outpatient programs, physicians, and sober living houses over the years and have acquired inside knowledge of all these options. Each year, I dedicate time to personally visiting, evaluating and re-evaluating programs so that I can stay up to date on what they are doing and how they are doing it. This helps me to effectively support you and help you select the most effective programs available for your loved one’s needs. We work together so that you have the best information from the intervention through the treatment process and into aftercare to make it less stressful for you. The goal is to do everything possible to ensure you have the best information and support possible.

My Services

The consulting services I provide are both individualized and comprehensive. I assess each individual’s and family’s strengths and weaknesses to develop a plan that most effectively addresses their treatment needs. I meet you where you are in the intervention process and tailor a plan that helps you achieve your goals for success. Collaboration is key and I often consult with other professionals and utilize a team approach to develop a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary plan to most effectively meet your individual needs. Additionally, I can follow up with the program while your loved one is in treatment and coordinate aftercare plans for after they have completed a program.

In addition, I am a Nationally Board Certified counselor, fully and independently licensed therapist, licensed addiction specialist, have advanced training in traumatic loss and am trained in critical incident stress management. This means that I am uniquely qualified to assess programs and match individuals to the right type of services for their individual needs. I also work closely with the family after the intervention in order to support you through the treatment and recovery process and prepare you for your loved one’s eventual return home.

If this sounds like I may be the right person for you, please give me a call.

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

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Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery – for Professionals

If you are reading this, you are already taking a step in the right direction. Whether you are struggling with addiction yourself or love someone who is, getting more information is a good place to start. Addiction is a devastating disease that affects not just the addict but the entire circle of family and friends who care about them. And yes, addiction is a disease – a disease of the brain. The actual changes in physiology and neurochemistry are there – it is not a choice. However, just like a person fighting cancer – choice is involved in treatment and follow through. Genetics, lifestyle and and experiences all play a part, but once addiction is awakened, it’s a devil that doesn’t just go away. Lives change in it’s wake. Whether they change in bad ways or healthy ways is the choice an addict has in their addiction recovery – but sometimes that choice cannot even be discussed until the brain has been detoxed from the substance of abuse and begun to heal. Whether alcohol, prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, marijuana or designer/synthetics – if you are committed to your recovery, or are the loved one of someone struggling with any of these – I’d like to help.

Addiction And The Brain 101

So, in simple terms, by the time addiction is in play – the brain sees the need for the alcohol or drug as an issue of actual survival. Seriously, the same part of the brain that tells you to jump back from the rattlesnake or get out of the way of the oncoming truck is lit up like a bonfire during a craving episode in addiction. This is old brain – old world brain – it’s the part of the brain that essentially makes up the brain of a reptile. We all have it. It’s concern is survival (and aspects around that) and nothing else. And in addiction, it trumps logic, reasoning, emotions – everything. During addiction the reptile part of the brain that usually sits in the back seat, jumps up and grabs the wheel.

colorbrainquoteSo, how on earth can you expect to reason with old brain crisis-response wiring? Ultimately, you can’t. Not while the substance is still in control. Although the survival response comes from the non-dominant part of the brain, when it triggers the life-or-death survival button – it takes over and no argument or heartfelt plea is going to overcome it.

That being said, there are strong windows of opportunity to springboard addiction recovery. Sometimes it’s when an addict has hit an incredible wall of losses, sometimes it’s the edge of losing everything, sometimes it’s a wearing down to a few moments of openness amidst despair – it can come in many forms and no, it doesn’t require hitting “rock bottom”. If the addict is willing – don’t wait. No holiday, or inconvenience is worth an opportunity to get in front of this disease and begin to heal all the lives it is hurting. Whatever the excuse – remember that the risk is ultimately, death.

What The Different Levels of Treatment Looks Like

There are many levels of care and below I have listed from highest to lowest, the more common titles. There may be hybrids and extensions out there – but these are the core:

*Detox – Inpatient
*Residential-Inpatient
*Partial Hospitalization-Outpatient (although some with overnight exist)
*Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Outpatient
*Counseling/Psychotherapy
*Community Support Orgs (12 Steps, SMART, Celebrate Recovery, etc) – Outpatient
*Sober Living (this provides housing environment to support any/all outpatient services above and I highly, highly recommend this for no less than 3-4 months in a reputable Sober Living residence)

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Why Discharge Plans and Recovery Plans Are Critical

Far too often, patients are so excited and looking forward to getting out of treatment and back home that they fail to put the amount of focus, investment and commitment into the ongoing plan for their recovery after they leave inpatient treatment. Remember the reptile brain we spoke of earlier? Well, here’s the kicker – he isn’t really restrained until 18 months after the last use. (and for life it’s a risk) But it gets better – it’s 18 months after the last use of any mood-altering substance – not just the one the addict happened to be dependent on. Although the first 60-120 days are likely to show the greatest improvement (longer with meth and a few other substances) – the old brain “reptile” is still going strong and the risk of relapse is great. Perhaps even greater because to the addict and many around them – life is already so much better and so our vigilance relaxes a bit.

After a residential treatment stay, I would encourage most people, especially those in treatment for the first time, to definitely go to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This helps to bridge the experiences and tools learned in the secure and protected environment of inpatient or residential with the transition back into the open community where the environment poses many more risks to the recovering addict.

Sober Living Homes

(*in a safe, professional and reputable establishment) are a must in my book. If you want to significantly raise the chances of long term recovery then this extends the intensive support frame during those critical months and gets you ahead of the game. Sober living provides an extension of the organization and security, in part, that an inpatient treatment level gives but allows for the recovering addict to return to work, school and family. Many professionals dismiss this as being intrusive, others do not want to burden their families in their absence and even collegiates will say they don’t want to lose a semester. Stop. Losing all of the progress that has been made with a fast relapse back to use, or worse, is what is at stake. Loved ones, this is your arena too, don’t let convenience keep you from supporting what is necessary. Compassion is not about what is wanted, but what is needed. Be clear about this.

evoNemot12 Step and Community Support Groups

A word about 12 Step and other community support organizations. While I strongly support these the fact remains that they are not a replacement for counseling – and counseling is not a replacement for them. These groups are built as communities of mentors and peers – it is a communal path of support. Counseling is a clinical service delivered by professionals – it addresses emotional, psychological and complex cognitive issues. They are not the same and most long term recovering addicts will tell you they have used both. (be very cautious about a representative of either group who maligns or diminishes the other – this is your recovery path, get what you need from it.)

Why Loved Ones Need Help Too

Parents, partners, family – loved ones. This is called a “family disease” for a reason – it affects the whole family. No matter how strong or removed from it you may think you are – it affects the family; everyone. Many addiction recovery situations are made so much more complicated and jeopardized because of the false beliefs that the addict “is the one who’s sick” or “it’s their problem” – and so the hurt, confusion, resentment and pain just sits and ferments in all those around them. If you are a loved one of an addict – in addiction recovery, in treatment or actively using – you need support and information too, a lot of it. The denial that addicts have in the midst of their disease is less insipid because everyone but the addict sees it. The denial held by the loved ones is much harder because usually very few see it and even fewer will call it out and confront it. The very best gift you will ever give yourself and the addict you love is to get some help – private counseling, a support group of other loved ones of addicts – there are lots of resources out there. If you or a loved is struggling with the disease of addiction and you are ready to make changes and get your life back, I am here and I can help you.grief

Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor with over 20 years of experience. Ben has worked in the arena of addiction/emotional health and the corporate world for many years. He works with both addicts and with the spouses, partners and parents of addicts – ask about his “What Now?” workshops for loved ones or his recovery consults for professionals. If you have reached a point where you are ready for change, Ben is here to help.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Addiction Recovery Counseling and Support

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Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.