Category Archives: Triggers

Getting Started on Your Immediate Recovery

Start Your Journey into Your Recovering Future

Take appropriate action. Plan, build support for, or start a treatment program! You will benefit from reading my complete book – Thriving Beyond Addiction – but reading it without taking action only gives you facts, not results. Recovery is an emotional experience. You’ll need to open up and recognize your feelings, and allow them to guide you. Once you understand what you need to do, take action as soon as possible.

IMMEDIATE TASKS

Finding Support

Every recovering addict needs help and encouragement. Even if you decide to use only my book as the basis for your recovery (not recommended), you’ll want an active core support group. Consider friends and family as part of you support group, ideally who are in recovery and can relate, but only accept help from those who’ll give you quality support and good direction, who’ll be there for you in the hard times. Trust those you have chosen to work with, unless you discover you shouldn’t.

Eliminating Cravings and Neutralizing Triggers

Addictions occur because of excessive behavior, like the abuse of substances, that overstimulates the neuropathways in the brain, causing cravings that can be difficult to suppress. Cravings do not go away overnight. All addicts in recovery have cravings, which can cause a range of issues, from occasional discomfort to an addict’s return to using. Though cravings can develop on their own, they are also caused by triggers, environmental cues that initiate the rapid fire of neuropathways, such as when a smoker sees a cigarette. To be successful in recovery, it is mandatory to minimize or eliminate these triggers.

There are effective techniques for neutralizing triggers. Cravings can also be reduced or eliminated with options such as: awareness of your desire for recovery (called Your Heart Trigger); distractions like fun and humor, nutritional supplements (Vitamin D, Omega 3, and L-glutamine), and a high-quality diet. Always check with your M.D.

Reduce Cravings

Stress is a major cause of triggering. Reducing stress will neutralize triggers or at least lower the likelihood of being triggered and succumbing to relapse.

Other methods to deter cravings include acupuncture, meditation, progressive relaxation, and sleep.

Medical Exam

Medical Exam

A physical examination by a medical doctor is highly recommended, especially when abstaining from drug and food addictions. Be honest with your MD about your situation and issues. For instance, sex addicts need to get tested for STDs. Ask about vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and nutritional supplements. Medication for relief of physical withdrawal symptoms may be necessary. If possible, work with a physician who specializes in addiction medicine (or at least one who understands addictions) and who will consult with an addiction nutrition specialist. Ask for a referral through the association, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

 

 

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Summertime Setback Series – Part Three

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder or BED is a food disorder in which a person frequently consumes large amounts of food in short periods and suffers severe guilt when finished. This disorder is exacerbated by anxiety and insecurity and, in turn, causes the vicious cycle to repeat over and over again. An individual who suffers from BED understands that it is cruel, humiliating and can strike at any moment of vulnerability.

During months where routine in predictable – September to June for those who work or are in school – binge eating can be easy enough to hide. Everyday practices are its best cover as we are in more control of our lives during these months. However, BED should not be dismissed during this time, nor should its warning signs be ignored.

During the holiday months, BED becomes much more punitive and often unbearable for those who experience the disorder.

Now that summer is here, for most people that usually means going to the beach with friends, hanging out by the pool, endless summer cookouts, shorts and tank tops, and the anxieties that can arise along with wearing a swimsuit. If you are one of the millions with an eating disorder, this time of year may make it even harder to manage your symptoms. Body image issues often resurface and maintaining a healthy relationship with food becomes more challenging.

Summer is a time to relax and recharge, but it is important to stay committed to your recovery. Here’s why:

  • The increased “free time” that occurs during summer tends to create more “alone time” and eating disorder behaviors thrive in isolation and secrecy.
  • Body image issues may increase during summer months, as we tend to wear less clothing and show more skin.
  • Wearing a bathing suit can be particularly challenging for many.
  • The lack of structure in the summer months can lead to unhealthy routines like skipping meals or altering your normal sleep habits. This can make eating disorder and mental health symptoms worse.
  • Changes in the summer schedule can lead to an increase in physical activity and excessive exercise.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues like depression and substance abuse benefit from treatment and are not likely to go away in summer months.
  • Getting back into activities with “old friends” or even “new friends” can add to the social demand and thus increase overall stress.
  • Eating disorder behaviors may be exacerbated if stress increases due to new activities (taking courses or starting a new job) in summer.
  • Eating disorders are challenging to treat, require specialized treatment and have a high relapse rate. Anorexia nervosa, in particular, has the highest mortality rate of all mental health issues.
  • The longer that you wait to seek help for an eating disorder, the sicker you may become, making future treatment even more challenging.

But if you are struggling, or know that a loved one is struggling, do not delay seeking help any time of year. Call a professional for guidance. The courage you draw upon to choose treatment now will inevitably lead to improved outcomes and improved well-being.

Important information about Binge Eating Disorder

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the country and is defined by eating large quantities of food ” as much as 5,000-15,000 calories ” in a single sitting, then experiencing feelings of guilt and shame as a result. Binge sessions may occur after a period of stringent caloric restriction or dieting and they are often characterized by feelings of a loss of control.

Those who struggle with binge eating are often overweight or obese and, as a result, are likely to struggle with medical problems such as heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, high levels of “bad” cholesterol, and/or type II diabetes.

  • An estimated two-thirds of people living with binge eating disorder are obese.
  • Binge eating contributes to the development of obesity, which in turn can trigger a host of chronic health disorders, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, and an estimated 3 percent of Americans are living with the problem. Additionally, about 50 percent of patients with BED are also diagnosed with depression, 24 percent are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 44 percent self-report struggling with eating habit management.
  • Cortisol released during the stress response and the corresponding storage of fat in the abdominal area are increased issues for those living with BED and obesity as compared to the general public, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. Stress can also be a trigger for binge eating.
  • Binge eating has been linked to increased rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially if the person with BED struggles with feelings of low self-worth and/or feels lacking.
  • People living with binge eating disorder very often also struggle with disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep, waking at night to eat, and struggling to go back to sleep.
  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that people living with binge eating disorder are at higher risk of developing such health problems as headaches, joint and muscle pain, sleep apnea, digestive problems, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease. They also experience difficulty in getting or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

For BED victims, though it may not feel like it now, it does get better. Here are a few extra tips to help with your recovery, keep you on track and reduce the possibility of relapse.

  • Set regular times for eating, but be careful about it. Do not starve yourself by allocating inconvenient times for a meal. The more control you have over food, the more you will find control in your mind.
  • Look at food in a positive manner. Food is not an enemy but key to your survival. Learn to manage food intake to your benefit and overall health.

Most importantly, accept that some days are better than others. Do not blame yourself if you don’t feel invincible every day. Accept that you had a moment of weakness and continue to strive for a better day and a healthier future.

Good luck and have a Happy Summer!

 

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Summertime Setback Series – Part Two

Summertime Alcohol Relapse

If you’ve spent your previous summers under the influence of alcohol, a sober summer is a formidable task. Fortunately, there are many wonderful relapse prevention strategies and sober things to do that will keep you feeling happy and healthy

Summer is, of course, about sunny beaches, cookouts, and Fourth of July fireworks. Grassy lawns and relaxing gardens are perfect for a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail and you see a lot of people, including friends and family, enjoying their drinks outside. This increase in public drinking means that a recovering alcoholic will be faced with more temptation under the guise of carefree, good times in the sun, making them forget that they have an alcohol problem.

Why do people relapse during the summer?

There are a number of reasons for why newly sober people may be at high risk of relapse during the summer months.

  • Most people are thinking about summer vacation and the summer celebrations such as July Fourth. Those who are recovering from alcoholism may associate vacation time with heavy drinking and find it difficult to imagine have a good time without alcohol.
  • As outdoor events are numerous, there tends to be more drinking outside during the summer months. Tempting as it may be, do not romance the drink as you watch people looking as if they are having a good time because they have a drink in hand.
  • The sunny, warm weather triggers all types of positive emotions, but the risk with this is that the individual may be feeling so positive that they forget that they have an alcohol problem. The person may mistake these positive emotions as a sign that they are now safe to drink again.

Preventing relapse during the summer months

Here are a few suggestions for helping prevent relapse during the summer months.

  • Talk it out. If the thought of relapse worries you, share those worries with others. Discuss these feelings at your next recovery group meeting or attend more meetings as to reinforce determination to stay sober. Call on family and close friends for comfort and reassurance as they will help look out for you. Most importantly, seek help immediately and do not ignore your feelings if they seem to be getting out of control.
  • Nix nostalgia. Avoid romancing the drink as you watch your friends enjoying alcoholic beverages. This is simply false nostalgia – snap back to reality. You know that alcohol is a problem and remember the pain caused by your addiction. If you do not feel very secure in your sobriety, it is best to avoid bars – only go to these places if you have a valid reason for doing so.
  • Explore options. The hot sun is not a reason to drink an alcoholic beverage. It dehydrates your body and is much more harmful on a hot, sunny day. There are many better options to quench your thirst – ice water – iced tea – and to a lesser degree, cold sodas. Bring your own nonalcoholic drinks to barbeques, to the beach, or wherever your friends and family gather over the summer. It is important to drink plenty of water on those days when it is hot outside – carry a bottle with you everywhere. The risk is that if you become thirsty it may trigger intense cravings for alcohol.
  • Move and keep moving.  Become physically active and direct your energy into productive and fun exercise. Not only is it good for the body, it is good for your mental well-being too. Hike – bike ride – train for a half marathon. There are so many things to do outside and they are all better and easier to without alcohol.
  • Be thankful and reflect. Look over your accomplishments in your efforts to stay sober and how far you have come in your recovery. Remind yourself of all the reasons to stay sober. Reflect on those who love you and who are supporting you in recovery.

Staying sober on vacation

Most of us take a vacation during the summer and often travel involves a destination of sun, fun and evening gatherings. Though this break is usually well-deserved, those who have had drinking problems often indulged in partying to excess.  It may be extremely difficult to imagine fun without alcohol. Here are a few suggestions to remain sober during a vacation:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous recommends that members do not make any major changes in the first year sobriety. A vacation could be a major change if not part of an annual routine.
  • Ensure that the people you are vacationing with understand and respect your need to stay sober.
  • Try to have another person in recovery be part of your vacation.
  • Check the availability of some recovery meetings at the location you will be staying.
  • Take along some recovery resources such as books – with the availability of tablet devices, it is much easier to access to e-books, videos and forums.
  • Speak to your therapist about your vacation plans before you leave.
  • Make sure that there are going to be many non-drinking activities available for you on this trip.
  • If you want a specialty beverage, try a non-alcoholic cocktail.
  • Make sure when ordering food in a restaurant that it contains no alcohol. If you are unsure, it is always best to ask.
  • Online options such as Skype are a good way to stay in touch with your recovery friends back at home.

Staying sober at parties

Prior to attending summer gatherings and parties, it is important for a recovering person to make a promise not let the event breakdown a hard-won abstinence.

It is important to note that those who are recovering from substance abuse that did not include alcohol are still advised to abstain from alcohol consumption. Any intoxication qualifies as a relapse. Recovering individuals should bring their own non-alcoholic beverage to a party to avoid going to the bar or drink table. Also, people are less likely to offer a drink to a person who already has a beverage. For this same reason, it is recommended to keep a non-alcoholic drink in one’s hand throughout the party. To avoid any drink confusion after putting down a beverage to dance or use the bathroom, it is always best to get a fresh drink – so it is wise to bring more than one beverage to a party in the event the host runs out of non-alcoholic beverages.

Find support during the summer months

Here are some options for support during the summer months:

  • Your addiction therapist is an excellent source for support and encouragement.
  • Regular attendance at recovery meetings is a good way to get support during the summer months
  • Friends who have been sober for a long time are usually a good source for advice and support.
  • Friends who have never had a problem with addiction can be a very helpful provided they respect your situation related to alcohol.

If you are newly sober, you may worry about how you are going to manage during the summer months, as this may be a time of year where you have traditionally used alcohol heavily. The good news is that so long as you follow the previous steps to protect your sobriety, you may be about to enjoy the best summer ever.

Good luck and Happy Summer!

 

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Summertime Setback Series – Part One

Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

Summertime SAD

Many people are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which for some is the onset of the “winter blues”. There are people who get SAD in “reverse”.

Reverse seasonal affective disorder affects less than 1/10th of those suffering with SAD, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Also, like winter-onset SAD, reverse seasonal affective disorder returns every year at about the same time.

The lack of sunlight is linked to winter SAD.  It is thought that summer SAD is caused by too much sunlight. This may lead to changes in melatonin production in the brain. An additional theory is a person’s circadian rhythms are altered because one might stay up later in the summer. Summer SAD seems to be more frequent in areas prone to warmer summers such as in southern states while the winter SAD is more common in areas with colder winters as in the northern states.

Source: Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that serves to protect the brain. By reducing melatonin production, SAD increases the risk for depression and other mood disorders.

The Dangers of SAD for Addicts in Recovery

Seasonal affective disorder can be dangerous for people in recovery. This is particularly true when the individual has no idea what is causing the discomfort. If people feel that the joy has gone in their recovery, then they may begin to miss their addiction. The symptoms of SAD will also get in the way of the individual’s ability to build a new life away from the addiction. Once the problem is identified, it is almost always possible to bring it under control.

Symptoms of Summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Agitation or anxiety

Tips to Help Cope with Summer SAD

  • Plan ahead.You will feel more in control if you have plans in place, such as vacation arrangements and when to take time off from work.
  • Sleep. It’s important to maintain good sleep habits in the summer. Even though vacations and summer barbecues encourage you to stay up later, make sure to keep your sleep schedule the same. Not getting enough sleep is a common trigger for depression. So make a concerted effort to get to bed on time: and wake up at the same time every morning. Try not to sleep much less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours a night.
  • Keep up with your exerciseMany studies have found that regular physical activity can help keep depression at bay. Start earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when it’s not so hot. Consider fitness equipment for the cool basement or joining a gym for a couple of months over the summer.
  • Don’t overdo dieting and fitness. Don’t kick off the summer with a frenzy of dieting and exercise to keep up body image. Instead, exercise sensibly and eat moderately. If you try a too restrictive diet, you may not be able to keep it up. And that “failure” will just leave you more demoralized and worsen your summer depression.
  • Protect yourself. Don’t let obligations drag you down. Maybe you always host the annual family gathering on Memorial Day or the July 4 picnic. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, give it a pass this year. Don’t risk pushing yourself into a summer depression just to live up to tradition.
  • Think about the causes for your worry. If you struggle with summer depression yearly, ask yourself if there may be reason. Do you associate summer with a difficult time in the past? Have you had depression during the summer previously? If you do have some unhappy connection with the summer, thinking it out could help you break the cycle.Relapse
  • Plan your vacation carefully. Don’t get lodged into a vacation that will not feel like a vacation. Is this what you really want? Or is it an obligation you’re fulfilling? Will it make you happy? Will it stretch your finances? Consider alternatives – in place of taking two weeks off at once, perhaps plan to take several long weekends spread out through the summer.

One thing particularly difficult about summer depression is that you feel out of step – everyone else seems happy in the warmer months. Don’t be too hard on yourself. So stop worrying about how you feel relative to other people. Instead, concentrate on what’s triggering your summer depression and how you can overcome it.

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