Tag Archives: drug and alcohol abuse

Experiential therapies provide new options to substance abuse treatment programs

article3When a substance abuser seeks help, it’s likely that he or she will fully expect to be part of one-on-one talks, group discussions and other routes of traditional treatment. But tending to the growth of a plant or creating a painting? Probably not.

And yet participation in horticulture, art, music, fitness and other areas of interest have become an integral part of several treatment programs across the country, including Rosecrance Health Network.

It’s all part of recognizing the success of Experiential therapies in art, music, fitness and other areas in assisting recovering addicts, according to Christine Nicholson, experiential therapies supervisor at the Rosecrance adolescent campus in Rockford. “Teen patients use life experiences to help them understand abstract recovery concepts, which in turn, help tell the client’s story,” says Nicholson.

And understanding those abstract recovery concepts can come in a painting, a song, a period of meditation or another form personal expression.

“Our clients thrive in experiential opportunities and comment that they were finally able to step outside of their comfort zones and feel comfortable being who they are. They talk often about how they are learning to love life again by being exposed to healthy play and leisure and feel better physically, mentally and spiritually,” says Keri Fager, experiential therapies supervisor at the Rosecrance adult campus. “They share that they are better able to be present in the moment, feel more centered and are able to unload their concerns and worries and practice mindfulness. They comment about the safety of being able to finally express themselves through art, music or other creative expression, and learn to regulate and manage their emotions that they had suppressed through their addiction.”

article2Each experiential therapy differs, but as a starting point, an art therapy program might look something like this:

  • Patients might be asked to draw their addiction, illustrating what would it look like.
  • Patients might be asked draw a picture of an incident that occurred when they were using drugs.
  • Patients might be asked to draw where they are on their path to recovery.

Working together

For experiential therapy to be successful, it has to be one component of a comprehensive treatment plan. “Experiential therapies staff are fully integrated into the interdisciplinary treatment team,” says Nicholson. “Everyone works together to meet the client’s goals in the individual treatment plan. The clinical team looks closely at how well clients demonstrate such recovery values as honesty, teamwork and acceptance in their experiential therapies activities as part of the bigger picture when they evaluate the client’s progress toward their individual treatment goals.”

Fager says experiential therapies can help patients with their long-term success. “We work with clients while in treatment to learn, explore and practice new life skills through their own strengths and interests so that they can be prepared for real-life situations,” says Fager. “Research shows that participation in experiential therapies increases self-esteem and improves motivation, follow-through with goals, leisure skills, social skills and health in general.”

Eye toward the future


The Ipsen Conservatory at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus.

At the adolescent treatment center in Rockford, the experiential therapies program now includes the use of the new 750-square foot Ipsen Conservatory, a glass-and-steel classroom for the horticultural program. The conservatory, which was built on a rooftop of the 78-bed treatment center, is used as a classroom for teens in treatment. As with the goals for Rosecrance’s other experiential programs, counselors and administrators hope that patients will cultivate and continue the horticulture skills they learned in the conservatory after they complete the recovery program, just as many patients continue pursuing the arts, meditation strategies or fitness plans they learned at Rosecrance as part of their lives outside the facility.

“Research shows that participation in experiential therapies increases self-esteem and improves motivation, follow-through with goals, leisure skills, social skills and health in general,” says Fager.




Families offer addicts support and strength instead of solutions

Any individual working to overcome an addiction knows of the long and challenging path ahead. But addicts aren’t the only ones dealing with the physical and mental roadblocks of substance abuse. Addicts don’t exist in a vacuum. They have coworkers, friends and relatives. They live with others, eat with others, socialize with others and mourn with others. They’re part of a community – whether involved or detached – that often feels the impact of their addictive decisions. For many members of that community, anther person’s addiction can become a burden. Many times, family members find that they too can become as sick and needy as the addict. “Family members fail to take care of themselves because they are so busy trying to fix and control the addict,” says Mary Roufa, community service manager for Rosecrance. “They lose sleep, can’t concentrate at work or school, are drained of their finances, and stop interacting with friends and other family members as their worries take over their lives.”

Families can seek help

Family members suffering from depression, sadness and anger due to someone’s addiction can find helpful substance abuse resources and seek treatment for themselves. They have problems that can be solved. Families can heal, often finding new ways to support their loved ones without constantly shouldering the weight and guilt of a child, sibling or other relative who’s undergoing treatment. In many ways, a family’s healing process can have a positive impact on the recovering addict, but that should never be the reason for seeking treatment, according to Roufa. “Instead, the prompt to get better has to come from the desire to live in the present moment and feel better themselves,” says Roufa.

Still, an addict in treatment can receive positive outcomes from witnessing his or her family’s improved attitude and stability, mainly by seeing humble, peaceful and focused relatives who are intent on managing their approach to addictions and their outlook on life. And if the person in treatment has a relapse, he or she may look to the family for reinforcement, encouragement and stability.

“It can be an example of the long-term approach to treatment,” says Roufa. “An addict or family member needs to recognize that there is no cure and that they need to work to stay on track.”

Eventually, the idea of treating addictive diseases with short-term treatment programs are replaced by the reality that addiction treatment is a lifelong process, one that addicts and family members can eventually learn to live with. “Managing their disease is just a welcome part of their life.” says Roufa. “They are able to play the tape through when faced with a difficult situation, reach out for help and not go back to old ways that did not work before.”



Addiction’s impact goes far beyond the individual

The stereotype scenario of an addict often involves the image of a single individual hiding away to engage in drug or alcohol use. And while these activities may occur in solitary settings, they are far from isolated incidents.

Mary Roufa, community service manager for Rosecrance, says anyone who has dealt with drug or alcohol dependence directly or through the life of a loved one knows that it’s impossible to completely separate the addiction from the lives of others.

“Addiction is a family disease,” says Roufa. “Like any other chronic illnesses, it impacts all members of the family as family members live their lives in response to the manifestations of that illness.”

In fact, the lives of many family members can be altered long before an addict faces his or her issues. “Family members have a tendency to tolerate poor behavior and warning signs with their loved ones more so than the same behaviors coming from a stranger,” Roufa says. “They know the wonderful qualities of their loved ones and rationalize the unacceptable behaviors displayed by the addict.”

Addicts are well aware of the leeway they get from family members, and can act accordingly. “Addicts are very skilled at eliciting guilt from their family members when they attempt to hold them accountable,” she says.

In some cases, the lack of accountability is compounded directly or unintentionally by loved ones’ actions. In either case, the enabling from family members allows the addict to continue down his or her path of self-destruction. Enabling can take many forms, according to Roufa, including making excuses for the addict, giving them money or paying their bills, allowing certain privileges – like the use of a cell phone or a car – even though those privileges get used to fuel connections to drugs or alcohol. In some cases, the enabling is more obvious. Family members pay fines and legal fees incurred by the addict or bail them out of jail if they’re arrested. These small and large actions often stem from a family member’s reluctance to face reality. “There’s a horrible sense of shame that family members feel when it comes to admitting their loved one may have a problem, until the problem becomes so huge it can’t be ignored anymore,” Roufa says.

When support fails

Still, many family members think they’re helping, or in many cases, just being there to provide support. But at some point, supporting is often confused for enabling. “It can be difficult for family members to distinguish supporting someone they love from enabling destructive behaviors,” says Roufa. “But family members need to actually see and understand how they think helping their loved one is actually hurting them, which is the last thing a family member wants to do.”

Again, manipulation of the family member can play a role in dealing with addiction in the family. “Addicts may threaten to never see their family again, or offer up some scenario that causes a family member to envision a horrible outcome,” says Roufa. “But family members often realize they do not have the power to make their loved one stop, but they do have control over what they will support and do to help the addict. They stop enabling and allow the natural and logical consequences to happen for their addict.

And it’s this decision, Roufa says, that often triggers the addict’s realization that he or she needs help. “That is how addicts can come to the conclusion finally that maybe they don’t want to keep doing what they are doing and ask for help,” she says.

Ultimately, Roufa says that family members need to rely on the Three C’s when it comes to dealing with a loved one’s addiction: You did not Cause it, you Can’t Control it and you Can’t Cure it. “Family is not so powerful to cause someone else’s disease,” Roufa says. “They’ve tried to control it and that doesn’t work. And they are not so powerful to be able to cure it, especially since there is no cure for addiction. There is only the hope to manage it.”



12 Steps offer recovering addicts structure and stability

For those who have never had an addiction, the 12 Steps are often the stuff of movies and novels, a plot device when a character is battling addictive demons. But for the many recovering addicts across the world, the 12 Steps are tangible ideas that require thought and action. For those individuals, the 12 Steps are indeed a pathway to a better life.

In the same way, to the uninitiated, the term “sponsor” may be interchangeable with “coach,” “mentor” or even “friend.” But for people looking to overcome an addiction, a sponsor can be all of those and more. In theory, a sponsor is someone who will guide a newcomer through the 12 Steps, answer questions and share their experiences and hopes.

“When someone enters recovery it’s like moving into a new community. Just adjusting to life without drugs and alcohol is a major challenge,” says Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network.

Sponsors are a key part of the 12-step program, a set of principles that outline an addiction-recovery plan. Although originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous as part of its recovery program, the steps have been adapted by other organizations and individuals as well. Sponsors help participants follow the steps and are often essential to the success of the program. In return, the sponsored recovering addicts often play an important role in keeping the sponsors out in front of their addictive tendencies. “Learning what the program is about, the language, the process and meeting new people in recovery are some of what sponsorship is about,” says Garrison. “Having someone available to answer your questions and being available when you’re struggling not only helps the newcomer, but keeps the sponsor clean and sober as well.”

The 12 Steps

To understand the importance of a sponsor and the recovery process, it’s helpful to take a look at the 12 Steps themselves:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

According to Garrison, the 12-step program “works if you work it,” but isn’t without pitfalls. That’s why sponsors are vital to helping recovering addicts get through the rough spots. “Basically, just attending meetings will not keep anyone clean and sober,” Garrison says. “There has to be action. That’s where finding a sponsor, working the steps and helping others come in.”

Rosecrance alumni are a great resource for people currently in the program. “It’s all about support,” Garrison says. “The Alumni Program is a great way to practice Step 12. It’s very clear to someone who is working a 12-step program that you can’t keep your recovery unless you give it away by sharing your experience with others, and that’s what alumni members do.”

Alumni offer assistance, information and support those recovering addicts going through the 12 Steps. At times, the necessary support comes in the form of a phone call or visit from a sponsor. Other times, it can come from reference material or different forms of media. In a contemporary twist on the original, it can arrive in the form of 140-character Tweets, which Rosecrance, as @rosecrance12twe, often sends out as “wisdom for recovery and life.” A recent example focuses on owning up to one’s mistakes: “I am flawed. So, I work to further my emotional and spiritual health. When I am wrong, I admit it and try to fix it.”

Battling addiction and beyond

Garrison says that many people continue to use the 12 Steps even after they learn to overcome their addiction. It becomes part of their day-to-day life and an important toolbox when dealing with others. “When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, someone cuts you off in traffic, your daughter shrinks your favorite sweater in the dryer – these are all situations where one is powerless and can cause emotions to flare,” says Garrison. Applying the first three steps can help you handle the situation without a total meltdown. Looking at your part in these events can help you see you have a choice in how you react. If you do overreact you can choose to make amends and grow from the experience.”

Garrison says continued use of the 12 Steps is also a way to strengthen relationships with others throughout a lifetime. “When we find something that helps us feel better, our natural instinct is to share this wonderful plan,” Garrison says. “The more you practice the 12 Steps, the less stress you experience and the closer you become to others in your life.”

Determining whether signs of addiction require attention

Whether you’re doing an intentional search for marijuana in your daughter’s room or just happen to come across a bottle of Jack Daniel’s while gathering up your son’s laundry, you’re probably more than a little concerned about what to do next.

Do you confront the issue head on, demand answers and issue punishments, or do you take a more measured approach and ease into a conversation with your child about personal responsibility? Or should you consider it just another aspect of teen life and treat it with little concern?

Mary Egan, director of outreach at Rosecrance Health Network, says finding alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia in a child’s room is a serious warning sign, one that addiction counselors see as an indication that drug or alcohol use has progressed beyond experimentation. Therefore, it should be treated as a serious matter by parents.

“When a teen brings a drug into their home, it can signify that drug use is becoming more normalized and habitual,” says Egan. “Teens who are experimenting usually don’t carry the drug or paraphernalia around in their personal effects.”

Still, parents should be cautious about rushing to conclusions until they’ve had a chance to speak with their child to get a full picture of what’s going on, especially since many teens will try to pass off the situation by saying that the drug or paraphernalia belongs to a friend.

Keeping track of patterns, habits

Egan recommends being proactive when dealing with a child’s potential addiction, suggesting that parents keep an eye out for changes in grades, friends and other aspects of their child’s life.

When Egan and her team at Rosecrance assess a teen for addiction, they pay special attention to the following issues:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in interaction with family members
  • whether the child follows home rules and curfew
  • changes in school grades, attendance and discipline
  • changes in previously enjoyed sports and activities
  • shifting friendships from one group of teens to another
  • increased overnight sleepovers at a friend’s house
  • signs of the child coming home under the influence, smelling of unusual odors or engaging in unusual behavior

If parents notice changes in these areas, they need to follow up with more questions to determine whether substance abuse is an issue.

Parents are often frustrated by the casual attitude their children have toward the use of drugs. Indeed, many teenagers think it’s OK to experiment with drugs and alcohol because they see adults using substances and hear messages in popular culture that condone overuse.

“Normal teenage development involves an ebb and flow between adult and childlike behaviors throughout adolescence as they progress toward full adulthood and try out adult-type behaviors and choose who they want to be,” Egan says. “We know, however, that (young brains are) not fully developed until the mid-20s — especially the areas involving judgment and critical thinking — so making a decision about substance use is flawed by a brain that doesn’t fully understand what the consequences can be for experimentation.”

Experimentation may rapidly become abuse

The casual light in which teens may view drugs makes early action even more important. Egan says the adolescent brain is also very susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol, which can result in addiction much more quickly than an adult. “A teen can progress from experimentation to abuse and addiction in a very short time span, especially with the potency of drugs available to them today like marijuana, prescription pills and heroin,” she says.

As difficult as it may be to have a conversation with your teen about drug use, it’s essential.

“This is the time for you to be the parent and not the friend,” Egan says. “Holding your child accountable is one of the most important things a parent can do.”

This article will soon be followed up with important and helpful information on this difficult issue. Up next: How to discuss your child’s potential addiction

If you suspect your teen is abusing substances, it’s time to seek a professional evaluation. Rosecrance will answer your questions and walk you through each step to get the help your family needs. Call Rosecrance at 888-928-5278 or go to www.rosecrance.org. Life’s waiting.