Author Archives: James Haggerty

About James Haggerty

Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.

Feeling lonely in recovery

Combating Loneliness in Recovery

With how pervasive the internet and social media are, it can be easy to assume that we’re more connected than ever before. These tools can make you feel like you have the world at your fingertips; after all, we can get answers to questions in mere seconds as we connect with people the world over. The web is purported to make finding new communities easy, as people are able to gain access to relationships with a number of people they’ve never met.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that the opposite is true – and this phenomenon, along with other issues, can make addiction and recovery extremely lonely. Join me as I explore the loneliness of recovery

Why Are We So Lonely in the Information Age?

While the internet ensures that we’re connected on a basic level, the problem is that these relationships are all parasocial. Unfortunately, far too many of us are not building real relationships with real people. We’re only able to view others through the lens they choose. As a result, as the predominance of social media rises, our ability to connect and build healthy relationships actually decreases.

This leaves us lonelier than ever before. When people get attached to these social media sites and spend so much time scrolling rather than actually interacting with other human beings, they can actually become addicted to these parasocial relationships. At the same time, feelings of loneliness grow. That’s because parasocial relationships can leave most people feeling unfulfilled. For some, turning to substances can seem like a convenient way to ease the feelings of loneliness or even as a way to jumpstart social connections that are only built on substance use.

The Relationship Between Loneliness and Addiction

The 2020 Pandemic forced much of the world into isolation, taking away many of the opportunities for genuine social interactions. From workplace relationships to friendships and social relationships all the way to familial relationships, interactions were severely limited. Most people started spending less time in the presence of others and much more time interacting through a screen.

As discussed earlier, an increase in isolation and dependence on parasocial relationships can increase loneliness. One early study discussed the necessity of psychological intervention and mental health care during disasters of all kinds, and COVID-19 was no exception. Additionally, one study shows that the greater the feelings of isolation and loneliness, the greater the impact on a person’s mental health. Isolation leads to people feeling more lonely, and loneliness can lead to substance use.

While substances are frequently used to combat difficult situations or feelings, they may also be used to cope with feelings of loneliness as an avoidance tactic. So, rather than facing feelings of loneliness and reaching out for help, a person may turn to the comfort of drugs or alcohol to combat these issues. In the same way that people suffering from anxiety or depression may use substances to numb or avoid these feelings rather than heal them, substances are often used to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Worse, substance use can itself cause severe isolation. Often, as the person tries to hide substance use from loved ones or minimize the way it has affected their life, they can fall deeper into substance use. People suffering from substance use disorder, or SUD, can eventually cause serious damage to their relationships, potentially losing them altogether. The loss of these relationships can lead to further isolation. This is a vicious cycle, with SUD fueling loneliness and loneliness continuing to fuel SUD.

Why Is Sobriety So Lonely?

A young lady feeling lonely in rehab

If you’re currently in recovery, you likely know the pain of isolation in the depths of substance use disorder. However, while the correlation between SUD and loneliness is clear, you may not have recognized that there can be a significant risk of loneliness in recovery, too. This can be for a number of reasons. Those suffering from an SUD turn to substances to combat feelings of loneliness, and taking away these substances can make a person feel more isolated.

In addition to this, sobriety removes you from the relationships you had while actively using. Losing that community and those relationships can feel incredibly daunting. Think about the reality of beginning recovery: when you began your journey toward sobriety, you likely had to leave behind a small community of other substance users you had been a part of. Frequently, too, people suffering from SUD surround themselves with others who enable their behaviors or partake in the behavior alongside them. Worse, if you’ve isolated yourself from healthy relationships, you may be feeling lost regarding how to reconnect with those people – and the world – now that you’re in recovery.

For many, sobriety can feel like completely starting over, which can be scary.

How Do You Deal With Loneliness in Recovery?

The journey of recovery requires leaving the world of substance use behind, including any relationships that may hinder your progress. If you’ve damaged your previous relationships, it can take significant work to gain those back. Fortunately, there are ways that you can deal with loneliness while you’re working on recovery.

Acceptance

First, it’s important to accept the things you’ve done rather than hide from them. The thing that drove you to use substances in the first place – avoidance – only exacerbated SUD. It’s important that you face what you’ve done in the past, as well as your current situation, and take accountability. Accepting and remaining accountable for your actions can help you come to terms with the issues and help you heal from them.

Regular Meetings

No matter what recovery community you join, it’s important that you attend some kind of meeting or group aimed at helping you stay on the road to recovery. Attending regular meetings gives you a place to be social, allows you to connect with others, and helps you build new relationships with people who share the same goals as you. This is crucial, as these people know what you’re going through because they’re going through it, too. You can relate to each other’s stories, and you can work through the toughest parts together.

These solid connections help you combat loneliness and give you a new community. Your community can also help to hold you accountable during critical moments of your journey. Having people to lean on when you’re struggling helps you feel less alone, and when you know others can empathize with your situation, it can make it easier for you to continue on your path to sobriety.

Healing Relationships

As mentioned, people with SUD often damage close relationships when they’re trying to hide their struggle. Whether they’re family, close friends, or even working relationships, losing these connections can be incredibly damaging for people working toward recovery.

These relationships won’t heal overnight, but it’s important to make attempts to rekindle the relationship, beginning by apologizing and taking ownership of the situation. While this might not work right away, it’s definitely a good place to begin the healing process. These relationships can help you continue to hold yourself accountable throughout your recovery journey.

Find New Hobbies

Finding interests outside of substance use can help you deal with issues of loneliness in more than one way. From reading groups or clubs to sports and exercise, new hobbies give you access to new communities and help build relationships with new people. This helps fight loneliness and gives you different things to learn and focus on that aren’t feelings of isolation. It can also give you a sense of belonging and purpose.

Avoid Social Media

While avoiding social media altogether may be incredibly difficult, it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Because social media and parasocial relationships keep you from building real relationships, it can also help to drive feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is exactly what you want to fight against in recovery.

So, What Is the Best Way To Overcome Loneliness?

Stay Positive Good Things Will Happen Sign

As you can see, there are a lot of different tactics that a person can use in order to overcome loneliness. Still, this is an important part of the healing process. The most important things to keep in mind are accepting where you’ve been and where you are and finding a sense of meaning in everyday life.

As mentioned, acceptance is so important because it allows you to acknowledge any mistakes you’ve made in your past and hold yourself accountable for those actions. It also allows you to accept who you are now and that each step is a step forward. Similarly, finding a sense of meaning helps give you tools to fight against loneliness and SUD. This can be things like new hobbies, a new career, education, and much more. What’s important is that you have something to strive towards rather than letting SUD regain control of your life.

What Does the Big Book Say About Loneliness?

Last, it’s important to consider what one of the world’s most crucial resources for recovery has to say about loneliness. The Big Book is the book that’s used to guide Alcoholics Anonymous, and it has many things to say about loneliness.

In step 5, people take accountability for their past actions and any wrongs they have committed. One thing the Big Book says about loneliness during step 5 is that self-pity and alcoholism can lead to immense feelings of loneliness. This loneliness can damage your path to sobriety by driving you back to the SUD.

By allowing your substance use to diminish, you allow your loneliness to diminish, and you have a better chance to heal from your struggles. Leaving loneliness behind helps you be surrounded by people who care about you and lets you experience fellowship in a healthy and loving way.

When you’re working towards sobriety while connected to a community of people who are also on their own sobriety journeys, you’re never truly alone. It’s important to remain a part of this community to help you banish feelings of loneliness. Leaving this feeling behind helps you grow closer to your goal of long-term recovery.

The Path to Recovery

Walking the path to recovery

Recovery can be an incredibly difficult and lonely journey. All too often, people working towards sobriety find themselves working hard to fight off heavy feelings of loneliness. While everyone’s journey and struggle is unique, loneliness is a uniting factor most people in recovery can share. This can help you build relationships with others who may be suffering.

There are many different paths to recovery; however, one thing is clear: leaving behind loneliness is vital to the success of the recovery journey. While loneliness helps to drive isolation, and these two things work together to keep the cycle of addiction going, you don’t have to feel alone. When you build new relationships and gain new recovery tools, recovery can be within your grasp. In recovery, you’re never truly alone; with a strong community and a sense of purpose, recovery is within your grasp.

Keep going,

Jim

P.S. If you need help navigating your journey to recovery, contact me for help. I’m here to help you or your loved one find the right addiction treatment program for your unique needs. Reach out if you are struggling.


Resources:

  1. Akhtar, N., & Islam, T. (2023). Unveiling the predictors and outcomes of TikTok addiction: the moderating role of parasocial relationships. Kybernetes. ‌https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/K-04-2022-0551/
  2. Talevi, D., Socci, V., Carai, M., Carnaghi, G., Faleri, S., Trebbi, E., Bernardo, A. di, Capelli, F., & Pacitti, F. (2020). Mental health outcomes of the CoViD-19 pandemic. Rivista Di Psichiatria, 55(3), 137–144.‌ https://www.rivistadipsichiatria.it/archivio/3382/articoli/33569
  3. Richardson, T., Elliott, P., & Roberts, R. (2017). Relationship between loneliness and mental health in students. Journal of Public Mental Health, 16(2), 48–54. https://doi.org/10.1108/jpmh-03-2016-0013
Food for Alcohol Recovery

Top Foods for Alcohol Recovery: Nourishing Your Body On the Path to Wellness

Taking the first step and admitting you need help addressing your alcohol use can be the most difficult, most critical decision you’ll ever make. It’s common to feel defeated in the face of the many physical and mental health issues caused by excessive alcohol use, but it’s not too late to forge a path forward. I made this difficult decision myself many years ago, and today, I continue to encourage others to move away from alcohol use and toward healthier choices.

At ECHO Recovery, I’ve found great value in the education and recovery support we provide for those who are struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), including alcohol use disorder (AUD). While I know how challenging it can be to face the ravages alcohol has wreaked on your mind and body – and how tempting it can seem to turn back to alcohol to manage these daily struggles – there are far better answers.

With careful planning and attention to your diet and lifestyle, you can address your physical needs, stay in recovery, and go on to live a meaningful life.


Today, I’d like to discuss a few key foods that aid in alcohol recovery that you can begin eating to improve your recovery journey.

What Does Alcohol Do to the Body?

Alcohol can alter your brain chemistry

To determine which foods are best for alcohol recovery – and understand why they’re so helpful – it’s critical to learn more about what alcohol really does to the body.

Alcohol can not only alter your brain chemistry, but it can negatively affect your nutrition as well. In fact, alcohol is known to prevent the body from absorbing and using the nutrients gained from foods. Without these key nutrients, you not only risk succumbing to various physical ailments, but you can also struggle to think clearly and act quickly. Worse, even if you begin an exercise regimen, this phenomenon can limit your muscle growth, making exercising more complex and less effective.

Certain health consequences become more likely with continued alcohol use, and people who consume alcohol excessively or daily are most susceptible to the following conditions.

Liver Damage

Your liver is responsible for filtering waste from your body and storing sugar that your body uses as energy. If you drink heavily, your liver will begin to struggle to keep functioning as normal. Not only can you suffer from excruciating pain, but you also risk experiencing other symptoms of liver damage, like fever, nausea, intestinal bleeding, and even cancer.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is an advanced form of liver damage commonly caused by excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time, leading to healthy liver cells being replaced by scar tissue. With years of constant damage and scarring, the liver becomes swollen, stiff, and incredibly weak, meaning it can no longer carry out its important functions. Cirrhosis is unfortunately irreversible, though you can slow its progress by ceasing alcohol consumption and eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

Inflammation

Inflammation primarily occurs when your body attempts to defend itself from diseases, but alcohol use can also be a source of inflammation. The more alcohol you consume, the more regularly your body is in a state of inflammation, which can cause issues with the liver, brain, intestines, and more. Inflammation can be especially impactful in the intestines, as the harmful components of alcohol can leak from the organ, which becomes weaker as drinking continues. Worse, the immune system will eventually struggle to fight off the resulting infections.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Because alcohol can slow down or even stop the absorption of nutrients, you can expect to deal with nutritional deficiencies if you continue to drink heavily. For example, you may lack adequate levels of vitamin A in your system, which can lead to vision impairment and dry skin. Some people may also drink excessively while eating very little, which leads to multiple nutrient deficiencies that are tough to correct.

Top Five Foods for Recovering Alcoholics

Nutrition for alcohol recovery is essential to healing both physically and mentally. Of course, the first step is making the decision to seek help, at which time you will go through a detox process to rid your system of harmful substances. However, detox often doesn’t fully address the foods and nutrients you’ll need on your recovery journey. Often, too, you’ll receive the best in nutrition while in a treatment program, but I’ve seen many people return from treatment and then struggle to maintain a healthy diet suitable for alcohol recovery.

While I am not a nutritionist myself, there are certain foods research has demonstrated to effectively support the alcohol recovery process through all stages of recovery. These top five foods that aid in alcohol recovery are foods to prioritize as you return to physical and mental wellness.

1. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables include leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, and kale. These vegetables are full of nutrients commonly depleted during heavy alcohol use, such as potassium, vitamin A, and calcium. These veggies also contain a lot of water, which can help keep you from becoming dehydrated. Finally, the substantial amounts of fiber in cruciferous vegetables can keep you regular, improve your gut health, and help you regulate your blood sugar levels.

Cruciferous Vegetables

2. Shellfish

Shellfish is known for including a fair amount of zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron, all minerals and nutrients that aren’t adequately absorbed by the body during heavy alcohol use. For example, without zinc, you can experience appetite loss, rough skin, and mental lethargy, and iron is responsible for helping red blood cells carry oxygen to and from your body’s organs. Shellfish can help you replenish these minerals, helping your body return to normal functioning.

Shellfish

3. Sunflower Seeds and Nutritional Yeast

Sunflower seeds are a source of protein that can not only boost your energy levels in a pinch but can also raise your dopamine, or “feel-good” hormone levels. Rather than turning to alcohol to get through a tough moment, chew some sunflower seeds instead – they contain the nutrients needed to help you feel good without harming your body and can be an excellent way to cope with the situation at hand.

Sunflower Seeds and Nutritional Yeast

Similarly, nutritional yeast contains many B vitamins that your body is likely missing as a result of alcohol use. Incorporating nutritional yeast into your diet is easy, as it makes a great savory topping or a thickener in soups, smoothies, and sauces. Nutritional yeast can replenish B vitamins and keep your body going without much fuss.


4. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish contains many healthy nutrients, prime among them omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Both are crucial for keeping you feeling healthy and helping you recover from damage and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids specifically are among the best nutrients for fighting inflammation caused by alcohol. Look for meaty, fatty fish like salmon, which contain high levels of omega-3s and are also packed with a fair amount of protein.

Fish and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

5. Large Meal Salads

Eating salads filled with a variety of cruciferous and non cruciferous vegetables and topped with sunflower seeds, salmon, or more can improve your hydration and boost your nutrient intake. Just be sure to mix your greens and include a hard-boiled egg, as eggs, raw spinach, and cabbage contain high levels of L-glutamine, a protein building block (amino acid) thought to help reduce alcohol cravings and improve muscle building. Eating at least one salad a day with a variety of ingredients can help you stay away from alcohol while replenishing your nutrient levels.

Large Meal Salads

Specific Nutrients to Look Out For

While whole foods are crucial for addressing your dietary needs and providing nutritional support for recovering from alcoholism, it is often necessary to supplement a healthy diet so you can address the most critical nutrients. These minerals, vitamins, and supplements are the ones we recommend focusing on first.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in most fruits and can help repair liver damage and increase glutathione levels. Glutathione is an antioxidant that accelerates liver repair, and vitamin C is essential for maintaining adequate levels. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables, and consider taking a vitamin C supplement.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is essential for those with cirrhosis and alcohol-induced fatty liver. It can improve liver function and protect the liver from various toxins. While more research is needed to see if it can also aid those with cancer, some studies have noted its potential in this area. Milk thistle supplements are available in most pharmacies.

Cysteine and Glycine

Both cysteine and glycine are amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. By boosting levels of cysteine in your body, you can regain your strength and keep your body protected from certain illnesses. Whole grains, sunflower seeds, legumes, yogurt, and poultry are known to contain cysteine, or you can look for a supplement (more on this below).

Glycine is also used to create protein, helping you replenish your ability to strengthen your muscles. Most meats contain adequate levels of glycine, but it can also be found as a powder for supplementation. Adequate glycine levels can help you can feel fuller, stronger, and more nourished.

N-Acetyl Cysteine

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is the supplemental form of cysteine especially useful for boosting antioxidants in your body and improving brain function. Both are essential after long periods of alcohol consumption. Look for supplements containing NAC if you are having trouble consuming enough whole foods containing cysteine.

Glutamine

Glutamine should be the most abundant amino acid in the body, but you can experience glutamine depletion if you use alcohol heavily for an extended period of time and/or neglect proper nutrition during this time. Increasing your glutamine intake during early recovery can help you suppress your cravings while also keeping your nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea under control. Glutamine is also good for supporting proper gut health, so get plenty of meats, cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and cruciferous veggies like spinach and cabbage. Alternatively, look for a glutamine supplement.

Zinc

As previously mentioned, insufficient amounts of zinc can negatively impact your skin and appetite and can also reduce your sex drive. Zinc can help clear alcohol-related toxins from your body while also keeping your thyroid health in great shape. Consider a zinc supplement, or eat plenty of shellfish, beef and pork, oats, cashews, and chickpeas.

Other Effective Tips for Alcohol Recovery

Kombucha for Gut Health

Now that you know several effective supplements and nourishing foods for alcohol rehab to choose from, it’s important to learn about the best ways to consume them. Here are some tips I’ve found effective for recovery:

Consider Intermittent or Periodic Fasting

One critical nutrition and recovery tip is to consider not only what you’re eating, but also how and when. Intermittent fasting means you’ll only eat one or two meals a day, restricting these meals to certain time periods. This can be an effective strategy to promote autophagy. Autophagy is a bodily process that helps clean up damaged proteins throughout your body and replaces them with healthy amino acids.

Periodic fasting, which consists of fasting for 24-hour periods a couple of times during each week, can mean autophagy occurs at around the 18-hour mark. Periodic fasting also speeds up the process of restoring amino acids. If this is a concern for you, consider periodic fasting if intermittent fasting isn’t helping you as quickly as you’d like.

Try Kombucha

Another strategy to consider is the use of kombucha tea to stand in and provide relaxation during times you’d normally desire alcohol. Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea created with yeast and bacteria cultures that can help you improve your gut health. While the fermentation creates a bit of alcohol in kombucha tea, it’s incredibly small, under 0.5%. It’s recommended to use tea that’s low in sugar and proceed with caution with any beer or wine stand-in.

Improve Your Recovery Journey Today

Man on a Recovery Journey

I know firsthand how difficult it can be to stay on the path toward recovery, especially when substances like alcohol have been an integral part of your daily routine. That’s what makes proper nutrition for alcohol recovery so crucial – by including these foods and nutrients in your diet, you can support your overall healing and begin addressing your physical and mental well-being. Use these tips, along with a consultation with your personal healthcare provider or dietician for more personalized guidance on this matter.

If you’re still considering seeking help for your alcohol use disorder, ECHO Recovery is here for you. Contact us to discuss recovery, find resources in your area, and learn more about how recovery can change your life. Cheers to a brighter and more hopeful future!


Resources:

  1. UC San Diego Health Services. (n.d.). Nutrition and Endurance.
    https://studenthealth.ucsd.edu/resources/health-topics/alcohol-drugs/nutrition-endurance.html
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.
    https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease.
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alcoholinduced-liver-disease
  4. Stanford Health Care. (n.d.). Alcoholic Cirrhosis.
    https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/liver-kidneys-and-urinary-system/alcoholic-cirrhosis.html
  5. Healthline. (n.d.). N-acetylcysteine (NAC): Benefits, Side Effects and Uses.
    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nac-benefits
Supporting Those in Sober Housing

Supporting Those in Sober Housing

People in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) frequently develop the need to find alternative housing – and for a number of reasons. For example, some people who are homeless find themselves relying on alcohol or drugs to cope with their struggles and need a safe place to continue their recovery. Others find that their previous living situations are not conducive to recovery. For these people and many others, sober housing can be crucial for providing security, avoiding relapse, finding community, and developing healthier methods of managing stress.

While the importance of sober housing is more accepted than ever before, organizations that offer sober housing cannot do it alone. Many individuals who are looking to treat their SUD don’t have the financial means to do so, while others may not have the resources available to find sober housing. Still others may not have access to sober housing options in their local communities. However, all individuals completing treatment need a place to practice the principles of recovery and continue to care for themselves in a safe, secure place.

What Is Sober Housing?

What Is Sober Housing

While sober housing can take many forms, the most important component is that sober housing allows people with SUD a safe place to live while in early recovery. Sober living arrangements are developed specifically for those with SUD and are designed to be a safe and healthy environment free from many common triggers. Sober housing often employs staff trained to empower residents to make changes and improve their lives.

As residents address their SUD and other mental health issues, recovery housing can provide a supportive environment that makes navigating these challenges easier. In this way, sober housing arrangements can prove to be a cost-effective and reliable resource for maintaining recovery, especially when compared to ongoing residential treatment. In addition, another advantage sober living environments have is that they serve as a valid transition from treatment to the individual’s intended living situation – instead of a cold or institutional setting, sober housing tends to look like private residences in order to maintain the feeling of “home.”

How Does Sober Housing Work?

How Does Sober Housing Work?

While sober housing options are not uniform, sober housing generally uses a tiered system to determine what types of resources patients need. Some people with SUD need more support and treatment options than others, and these homes may have these options organized over a few various levels. Depending on the level, different rules may be in place.

For those who intend to live in a sober home while recovering from SUD, there are certain ground rules that must be followed and mandatory activities that must be completed each day.

These rules often include things like:

  • All residents must pay rent on time.
  • Residents must attend individual and group therapy
  • Residents may not have intoxicating substances in any capacity. (Some homes will allow prescription medications.)
  • Residents must attend house meetings.
  • Residents must contribute to the running of the household, including cleaning, laundry, maintenance, and other duties.

Most sober houses are overseen by people who are in recovery themselves and are occupied entirely by people who have had their own struggles with substance use disorder. That way, nobody needs to fear social isolation on the recovery journey; sober housing arrangements enable people to support one another while walking the path toward recovery.

The Housing First Model

A unique approach to sober housing, known as Housing First, relies on finding permanent housing for people with SUD before seeking treatment. In this model, there are no prerequisites for becoming sober. This model allows people to make progress on their mental health disorders and SUD both before and during treatment.

The main idea behind this model is that people who have stable housing are more willing to accept treatment and more able to make significant progress. Housing First believes in reducing harm rather than preaching abstinence only. Programs in this model also vary, and staff at these homes will monitor residents daily and as needed.

Why Is Sober Housing So Important?

Why Is Sober Housing So Important?

When people have personal struggles they feel are too difficult to manage on their own, they may turn to substance use in an effort to address them in another way. However, substance use only aggravates the problem and makes the daily routine more challenging. Some people experience difficulty maintaining the employment and personal relationships necessary to manage housing on their own. While treatment can help them cease substance use, it is often difficult for people to maintain the resources necessary to return home.

In addition, many individuals complete treatment only to be thrust into the same environment as they occupied before. They may have been surrounded by other people who used substances or other reminders of substance use. Returning to that environment is, unfortunately, conducive to relapse.

Other people may not be welcome in the home they occupied before recovery or may be unable to continue to afford living there. Unfortunately, becoming homeless can lead to continued substance use disorder issues. Roughly 35% of homeless individuals have a substance use disorder. While we recommend dialing 211 or contacting the National Alliance to End Homelessness for those experiencing homelessness during recovery, proper funding for sober housing can help prevent homelessness for many of these individuals.

Sober Housing Arrangements Work

Sober Housing Arrangements Work

When given the support and care they need to continue to give attention to the principles of recovery, people can go on to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Sober housing is essential in helping people maintain an environment conducive to creating a meaningful future. Taking the first step in seeking help can be daunting for many, and the prospect of returning to or staying in an unsafe or triggering environment can actually derail recovery. If someone truly does want help, it’s crucial to find an environment that contributes to recovery rather than taking away from it.

Research shows that sober housing programs can improve the overall well-being of residents with SUD. People who lived in sober housing arrangements maintained recovery longer than those who did not. While this is promising, there is a shortage of affordable sober housing in the nation. For every 100 low-income households, there are only about 29 available housing options available.

This is a key indicator that policy must be adapted to make housing more affordable for those with SUD. In other words, while statistics show promise, more work must be done. This is where the efforts championed by the ECHO Foundation’s Sober Housing Initiative come in.

How Much Does Sober Housing Cost?

How Much Does Sober Housing Cost

Sober housing rates can vary widely depending on a variety of factors. While there is no unified cost structure for sober housing, there are some ways to assess the cost.

Factors may include:

  • Average rent in the local area
  • Mortgage cost
  • State funding and allowances
  • Sober housing programming considerations

For example, we’ve heard reports of cheap sober housing costs at about $400 a month, but there’s no guarantee the cost will be this low. In fact, the average sober housing rate significantly exceeds this amount in most states. For more comfortably furnished homes that include other activities and services, sober housing rent can exceed $10,000 per month and can fluctuate depending on how many people reside in the home to contribute.

Why Do Those in Sober Housing Need Monetary Support?

Why Do Those in Sober Housing Need Monetary Support?

Affordable housing is an issue for individuals in many groups, but it is especially difficult to find affordable housing that supports sobriety. For all the reasons listed above, people with SUD depend on sober housing to maintain recovery before, during, or after SUD treatment. So, what barriers are in place that are preventing people from accessing sober housing?

People Can’t Afford It Alone

While housing programs for people with SUD have been shown to be effective, free programs are rare. Many people in recovery are experiencing financial issues, job loss, legal troubles, lack of transportation, and more, which can cause difficulty paying for sober housing. By donating to a sober housing initiative, you can help ensure that people in recovery have the housing support they need to continue practicing the principles of recovery.

Government Programs May Not Pay

While there are federal and state healthcare programs in place, they often don’t cover many recovery necessities. Medicaid and Medicare, for example, won’t always cover the costs of sober housing.

There are certain conditions people must meet to qualify, including:

  • Age restrictions
  • Income restrictions
  • Restrictions from the state of residence

The same can be said for other social services, depending on the situation. In Maryland, where our headquarters are located, the Department of Housing and Community Development has enacted programs that assist low-income families and offer foreclosure protection. However, residents must meet specific requirements to qualify.

Policy Changes Are Necessary

While there is research that shows the efficacy of sober housing programs, policymakers haven’t made adjustments. Unfortunately, addressing housing issues takes time and careful planning, and there are currently thousands of people in need of sober housing as a recovery tool. We can’t wait for others to act; donations are the best way to ensure people can access affordable sober housing.
Policy Changes Are Necessary

How Can I Help Those in Sober Housing Programs?

If you’re ready to help people with SUD make the recovery journey more sustainable, it’s important to consider the following steps.

Be Patient and Supportive

People who have made the decision to seek help with SUD have made one of the most difficult and influential decisions in their lives. It can be a stressful time for them, and they may be anxious regarding what will happen in the future. If you know someone who is in need of a sober housing program, listen to their concerns and be patient. Offer your patience and emotional support; even listening to someone share their story can make a significant difference in their life.

Volunteer

Some sober housing programs may offer volunteer opportunities, but this isn’t guaranteed. Volunteering can help you make connections, especially if you’re in recovery yourself, which will also allow you to spread the word about the impact of sober housing. Whether you’re participating in a community event or simply contributing to a household item drive, you can make an impact on the lives of those in recovery.

Support the Recovery Process

If you have a loved one looking for a sober housing arrangement, it’s highly advised you participate in the recovery process as much as they wish. Recovery is a lifelong process, and your support is valuable as they complete treatment and re-enter the world. If you’re engaged with moving forward from SUD, you’ll be prepared to help when they feel overwhelmed.

Make a Financial Donation

Making a financial donation to a sober housing initiative like the ECHO Foundation Sober Housing Initiative is the simplest, most effective way to help people afford safe, sober housing. Your contributions can help provide sober housing scholarships for people with SUD, as well as programming like art therapy and more. Relieving this financial stress can not only ensure safe housing for others but remove a major factor that can contribute to relapse.

Donate to Our Sober Housing Initiative Today

Donate to Our Sober Housing Initiative Today

ECHO Recovery created the ECHO Foundation Sober Housing Initiative, which is a program meant to offer financial assistance to those in recovery. We are not a sober housing facility, nor do we offer case management, but we offer assistance to those who need help finding and funding safe, sober housing.

Our mission is to help keep people on the path toward recovery, and we need your help to do it. Consider donating to our initiative today. Housing needs for people with substance use disorder must be met to prevent relapse and ensure proper care. Your donations can help support those who need sober housing to meet these needs. Thank you for your support.


Resources :

    1. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/homelessness_programs_resources/hrc-factsheet-current-statistics-prevalence-characteristics-homelessness.pdf
    2. https://www.usich.gov/news/successfully-connecting-people-affected-by-opioid-use-to-housing-central-city-concern-in-portland-oregon/
    3. https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/recovery-homes-help-people
    4. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/meeting-the-housing-needs-of-people-with-substance-use-disorders
    5. https://dhcd.maryland.gov/Residents/Pages/HousingChoice/default.aspx
Techniques for Coping with Trigger

Techniques for Coping with Triggers

Dealing with triggers in recovery can feel like an ongoing battle – and that’s because, in large part, it is. Triggers are a lasting, repetitive reminder of your substance use and are unique to you and your situation. They can also look different for each individual and could be a person, place, situation, or even an object. Understanding how to handle addiction triggers can help you prepare for when you find yourself in a triggering situation, and the coping skills that work best for you can help you stay on your path to sobriety.

Handling triggers can be difficult at any stage of recovery. What is most important is identifying your unique triggers and learning to cope with them in a way that is healthy and positive. As someone on a lifelong sobriety journey, I can attest to moments where triggers still pop into my life. Our ability to overcome and stay focused minimizes the impact these triggers can have.

In this post, I will highlight some of the techniques that have worked not only for myself but others as they continue on in their own recovery journey. I hope they can help you as well!

What Are Triggers?

Psychologically speaking, triggers are any sort of stimulus that can cause the urge to use a substance to resurface. Triggers can come in many different forms depending on you and your experiences. As mentioned, they can be people, places, objects, or even sights and sounds that remind you of intense or overwhelming emotions and your past substance use. They can be a reminder of instances where substances ruled your life or of a past trauma that once led you to use substances.

When faced with these triggers, you are at risk of both emotional and physical consequences, like breaking down or trying to cope with the trigger in a way that is counterproductive to the recovery journey. For someone who once used alcohol as a coping mechanism, this could be as simple as walking past a bar they used to frequent, a friend who would party with them, or even a holiday or celebration where drinking is normalized. Triggers are dangerous because they can increase the risk of relapse if not appropriately addressed.

Types of Triggers

Types of Triggers
While triggers exist in many forms, there are two main types: external and internal. External triggers are associated with objects, people, places, sights, sounds, activities, and memories that bring back certain feelings or cravings associated with past substance use. Many external triggers can be avoided, such as taking a different route to work if it brings you past a bar or hangout spot. It is often best to learn to face those triggers and to be prepared for the emotions or cravings external triggers can create.

Internal triggers are experienced in the form of emotions and thoughts and can be difficult to cope with. Emotions can be at an all-time high during recovery, especially in the early stages when you once again begin experiencing the emotions you’ve been stifling with substance use, along with a host of new ones. You may feel angry, guilty, or shameful about past choices, and these intrusive, negative thoughts can deter the recovery process. Having a plan of action and developing coping techniques can help prevent internal triggers from compromising your success.

Internal and external triggers you may experience include:

  • Extreme emotional states
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of control
  • Social settings
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Certain locations
  • Trauma
  • Feelings of being judged or attacked
  • News stories
  • Memories

Keep in mind that each person’s potential triggers are unique. They can and do happen to everyone, no matter how long they have been on the path toward recovery, which is why a significant component of recovery is to handle each trigger as it comes. Burying your feelings or coping in a negative manner can increase your risk of relapse, while positive coping techniques can help you overcome any obstacles you may face.

Triggers, Healthy Coping Skills, and Addiction Recovery

Fortunately, while there are several ways you may experience a trigger, there are also several ways you can positively cope with those triggers. Since triggers are so varied and individualized, self-awareness is vital in the recovery journey.

Substance use often begins when someone has the desire to numb an emotional response to a trauma trigger. That’s why treatment and recovery are so focused on helping people develop the ability to look within and face some of the hardest aspects of their lives without the crutch of substance use. As you move forward in recovery, working to identify triggers that lead to certain behaviors is essential to managing them effectively.

Here are some essential practices to employ to begin identifying and managing triggers.


Honesty

Embrace Honesty
The ability to be honest can be difficult for individuals in recovery because substance use and dishonesty often go hand-in-hand. We may lie to friends, family, coworkers, and even ourselves about the severity of the situation. In time, lying begins to seem much easier than telling the truth, revealing your inner self, and addressing the root of the issue, which is a key reason addiction can be so isolating. Reestablishing the ability to truly be honest with yourself and others is a great step to coping with triggers.

Be honest with yourself about what triggers you. Some triggers can be especially hard to face, but attempting to ignore them can lead to relapse and more pain. It can be difficult at first, and you’ll likely have some tough truths to face, but over time you’ll learn to show yourself some grace and compassion. In addition to being honest with yourself, you should strive to be honest with others. This is especially important when you’re in situations where you feel anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, or anything that feels like a potential trigger – being honest about your feelings can help others help you manage the situation.


Mindfulness

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness in recovery helps you develop the ability to stop, reflect, and choose how you want to react by shifting your focus inward. It’s important to recognize that the body-mind connection can be rewarding or harmful, given the circumstances. For example, if you are someone prone to dwell on stressors, these feelings can manifest in muscle pain, heart strain, and other physical complications. However, practicing mindfulness can help your inward focus become positive, and you can find your muscles relaxing, stress levels diminishing, and a renewed sense of clarity toward the trigger.

Mindfulness can take practice, but it can be a valuable tool when handling triggers. Relaxing the mind and body in the moment can begin by taking slow, deep breaths. Controlled breathing gives you something that you can control and focus on, slowing the heart rate and allowing you to process your thoughts. You can also use mindfulness practices throughout your day, including various meditation techniques, soothing music, or a warm bath to aid in relaxation. Yoga and outdoor activities are also great ways to step away from the stresses of life and focus inward.


Journaling

Journaling

Journaling can be a wonderful tool for discovering and overcoming various triggers. A journal provides a safe space where you can be open and honest without fear of judgment or criticism. You can also look back and see the growth you’ve achieved. This can be a valuable practice on days when nothing seems to be going right.

How you use your journal is up to you. You may simply want to write about your day, use your journal as a place to keep a list of moments that brought you joy, or even construct a gratitude list. There are also recovery-specific journals available that include inspirational quotes and reminders to help you on your path. These journals may provide various prompts or inspirational stories to aid your recovery journey.

Suggested Reading: Journaling for Mental Health

Support System

Create a Support System

Substance use disorder can be extremely isolating. In the depths of substance use, you may have cut yourself off from friends and family, or they may have distanced themselves from you. However, when you choose recovery, you must not only rebuild the positive relationships damaged by SUD but also end relationships with people who could be a potential trigger.

Developing a healthy support network is vital to recovery. Surrounding yourself with people who support your decision to be sober and building connections with others who are choosing to live life without drugs or alcohol is an essential way to ensure you have the support you need when triggers occur. While you don’t necessarily need to cut yourself off from friends and family who aren’t sober, the less you are put in tempting situations, the better chance you have of staying in recovery. Like-minded individuals will want to participate in activities that are healthy for you both.

It’s also important to construct your support network of people you know you can be honest with. These people can help keep you accountable, encourage your recovery, and share their experiences as well. Surrounding yourself with positive, honest people helps to minimize the triggers you may face and gives you the security that when triggers do occur, there’s someone you can turn to.


Therapy

Consider Therapy

Therapy is an essential step to learning to identify and manage your triggers. A therapist can help you identify triggers and walk you through various methods that can help you overcome those triggers. Practices like cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, enable you to rebuild the brain pathways and negative thoughts that lead from triggers to unhealthy responses.

Whether individual, group, or family therapy, you’ll have a safe space for an honest exploration of what you are thinking and feeling. Family sessions are a fantastic way to rebuild relationships and learn to be supportive of one another when triggers arise. Group therapy can provide an important reminder that you are not alone on your path to recovery – there are others who are experiencing the same triggers, and all can benefit from sharing coping techniques.

Suggested Reading: The Benefits of Art Therapy

Exercise

Exercise

Exercise can serve as a healthy outlet for the emotions that often arise from cravings and other triggers. Working out can also add structure to your day, giving you something to look forward to. In addition, exercise can help your body begin recovering from the negative physical effects of prolonged substance use. Exercise is a great way to practice focusing on the task at hand, and you’ll feel good for hours afterward.

There is no form of exercise superior to another when it comes to developing a healthy coping mechanism. Whether you like biking, dancing, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or anything in between, what matters most is the effort and consistency you put into it. We suggest participating in group workouts so you can begin forming positive social connections.


Nutrition

Nutrition

Substance use disorder often coincides with poor nutrition or even malnourishment. Drugs and alcohol deprive the body of the essential nutrients it needs to function properly and can also increase or decrease appetite, which can snowball into further health concerns. When you aren’t fueling your body as you should, you can develop sleeping issues, headaches, and depleted energy. You may also find yourself feeling short-tempered, on edge, and emotionally unstable. When you are already struggling with regulating emotions, this can feel overwhelming.

The best way to keep your body feeling good and your mind feeling focused is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Hydration is another important aspect of nutrition and is vital for everyday health and overall happiness. With proper nutrition in hand, you can confront triggers and focus on developing a positive response.


Activities

Participate in Activities You Enjoy

One of the most rewarding aspects of recovery is rediscovering your passions and finding new things that bring you joy. Immersing yourself in something you enjoy, whether it’s kayaking, painting, crafting, golfing, or crafting something new in the kitchen, can help you cope with unwanted feelings and thoughts. It can be hard for those in recovery to realize they do deserve happiness and to enjoy the little things in life. If you are feeling stuck, lonely, or fear certain triggers are on the horizon, get out and enjoy yourself.


The ECHO Recovery Community Helps You Cope with Triggers

The ECHO Recovery Community Can Help You Cope

Positive coping techniques can include practicing mindfulness, surrounding yourself with a solid support system, finding a regular exercise or activity you enjoy, or any of the other tips listed above. What is most important is finding techniques that work best for you. Triggers can be difficult, but their impact can be fleeting with the right coping systems in place.

Our mission is to help those in recovery by providing a safe place to connect with others in recovery as well as a place to find helpful resources such as art for recovery, sober housing support, free treatment links and educational addiction recovery articles.

Connect with us on social media and fill out our form or DM us if you need to chat!

The 4 Key Pillars of Addiction Recovery

The 4 Key Pillars of Addiction Recovery

One way to create a strong foundation is through the four key pillars of addiction recovery. Recovering from a substance use disorder is a challenging process and may require significant changes in your life. A substance use disorder impacts many aspects of your life, including mental health, physical health, relationships, connections with the community, and more. Altering these aspects of your life during recovery does not make the process any easier but is often necessary to retain the progress that’s been made.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone in the challenges you face. Many people nationwide and around the world are going through the process of recovery. You’ll also have support along the way, as it is possible to continue your journey in treatment and rehabilitation while working toward long-lasting recovery. To do so, it is key to provide yourself with the environment and tools needed for success.

SAMHSA’s Four Pillars of Recovery

To begin, it is crucial to note that there is no perfect path to recovery. Just as every individual is different, so is every SUD story and every recovery story. As such, there are many methods used by professionals to define a healthy approach to recovery, as well.

However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines the four essential pillars of recovery :

  • Physical health
  • A stable home
  • Community support
  • Purpose and meaning

These pillars are meant to provide a foundation for recovery, change, and a healthier life. Recovery is a long process that has different challenges throughout. The first few months and years of recovery are not the same as recovery later in your life. Recovery takes time to become established and lasts a lifetime – and a strong foundation supports you in success.

SAMHSA’s pillars provide insight into the four areas of your own health that are important to maintain for recovery. When you care for these four aspects of your mental and physical health, you can develop the strength and well-being essential for lasting recovery.

Four Pillars of Recovery

What Are the Pillars of Addiction Recovery?

Recovery is not a straightforward path, but by taking care of the four pillars of your personal health, you provide yourself with the strength, support, and care necessary to avoid substance use. Without caring for your own mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual health, you leave yourself significantly more vulnerable to future relapse.

Physical Health

An essential first step of recovery is taking care of your physical health. When you look after your physical health, your body is better equipped to handle stress and recover from the physical damage caused by substance use. You’re able to make more informed decisions, and your body is able to heal.

Physical Health

Take care of your body and health by making ongoing changes, including:

  • Abstaining from substance use – This may include any potentially addictive drug or alcohol, not only the substance you are in recovery from. Find support from a treatment center to look after your physical health during this time.
  • Schedule appointments with healthcare professionals – See a doctor, physical therapist, counselor, dentist, or other healthcare provider who can help improve your physical health.
  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet – and stay hydrated. Eating high-quality foods and complete meals can help your body heal and recover from substance use. When you’re hungry or eating non-nutritious foods, your body and brain are more vulnerable.
  • Get enough sleep – Try to get quality time asleep and maintain a regular schedule to keep mentally sharp and improve your physical health.
  • Take breaks – Find time to meditate and relax to engage in mindfulness.
  • Get regular exercise – Exercise increases serotonin and endorphins, and there is a link between getting exercise and limiting the effects of depression, anxiety, and stress. Regular exercise can also improve your overall physical health – even something like a short walk every day can make a significant difference.

When your body is healthier, you can reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders and deal with stress or sudden emotional changes. These are all common effects of the recovery process. When your body is happy and healthy, it is often easier to avoid the temptation of substance use.

Psychological Health

Physical and mental health are interconnected, and it’s essential to look after your psychological health. Substance use disorders may result from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and combinations of these and other disorders. Treating these underlying causes of substance use can support physical health and recovery.

Treatment for mental health disorders or general psychological help during recovery includes:

  • Attending professional counseling or therapy – This may include talk therapy or otherwise working with a mental healthcare professional to address trauma and learn coping mechanisms.
  • Joining group therapy and 12-step meetings – Talking with or witnessing others who are going through the same struggles and joys during recovery can be cathartic, make you feel supported, and give you hope for the future.
  • Going offline – There are several ways that social media can help and harm recovery. It’s important to recognize how the use of technology is aiding or hindering your journey so you can take steps that benefit your mental health.
  • Practicing mindfulness – Take time in your day to center yourself, whether through meditation, yoga, or journaling. This can help your brain manage stress.

Practicing mindfulness

Another important aspect of your psychological health is a stable and safe home. Living in an unstable environment causes immense amounts of stress. If your current living situation includes people or circumstances with substance use, it could have a negative impact on your recovery.

It’s not always easy to find stable and safe housing. For many, it’s not financially possible. Substance use can cost a lot of money and make it hard to find work, leading to significant financial issues.

If you’re unable to move to a new place, reach out to friends, family, a sober living community, or temporary housing programs. When you’re in early recovery, a recovery and sober living community may be ideal for providing community support and a stable environment. Independent living or housing with safe friends and family can be ideal later in your recovery journey.

Social Support

Social Support

Community and social support are other essential aspects of your personal health. Every human needs connections, whether that means family, friends, relationships, or any community of people who you can relate to. Healthy interpersonal relationships promote mental and emotional health and support your efforts toward sobriety.

You may find community in several ways, including:

  • Group therapy, support groups, and peer support programs – You can find others who have been through or are currently dealing with the same issues as you.
  • Local volunteer organizations – These can combine other aspects of health and allow you to make connections with others while giving back to your community.
  • Therapy or counseling – Not only can therapy help with mental wellness, but it can help you determine the healthy relationships in your life and determine ways to make new connections. This also enables you to have a professional emergency contact if you are worried about your path during recovery.
  • Close connections – In addition to or in lieu of therapy, have close individual friends or groups of friends that you can emotionally connect with and rely on. You may want to repair relationships that were harmed during your substance use, or you may want to reevaluate relationships that were abusive or otherwise unhealthy.
  • Spending time with supportive groups of friends – Having a network or group of friends that support your journey to recovery is important, and it can be helpful to find friend groups who can enjoy time together without substance use and who have similar passions to you. Friends who are not supportive of your journey, pressure you, or engage in behavior that makes you uncomfortable are harmful friends, whether or not you are recovering from substance use.
  • Adopting pets – For many people, a pet is a wonderful way to develop routines, have company throughout the day, and provide hope for the future. Pets also provide unconditional love that can help during recovery.

A supportive community and network of people you can rely on is essential to social and mental health and helps you feel a sense of belonging. Meaningful relationships help you improve your communication skills as well as your personal self-esteem. They also help with accountability, healing, hope, and encouragement during recovery. Your recovery will benefit from strong social ties.

Spiritual Health

For many people, recovery involves eliminating habits, hobbies, and activities. Though necessary, you have to replace those hobbies and activities with healthier alternatives. Otherwise, boredom and lack of focus make recovery more difficult.

When you have a focus and a passion in your life that doesn’t revolve around a substance, your recovery journey is more likely to be successful because you have motivation and joy from other sources.

Spiritual Health

You can find hope for the future when you engage in new and meaningful passions with people you love and who support you. Taking care of spiritual health means you find a purpose or a meaning in your life.

This is something different for every person and may include:

  • Educational endeavors or goals – These are especially useful when you’re passionate about your learning.
  • Work or a career path – In addition to a purpose, working gives you the financial resources needed to thrive.
  • Volunteer work – You can spend time with others, work toward a common goal, and maybe even get some exercise. Most importantly, volunteer work gives you a purpose and allows you to give to your community.
  • Caring for others – This may include family members, friends, or others in the community that you love, and your support may be financial, emotional, or physical. Helping a loved one can provide much-needed meaning and purpose.
  • Mindfulness and meditation – This may include finding your purpose in centering yourself with your thoughts and emotions, connecting with the natural world, meditating through art, or other forms of mindfulness.
  • Religion – Spiritual health may come in the form of spiritual practices and faith in their religion. You can find meaning in life by contributing to and working with your religious community.
  • Creativity and art therapy – There are many creative activities that you could find a passion for, such as dancing, painting, singing, writing, or creating music. Art therapy is an effective way to merge a passion with mental healing.

There are many other avenues that may help you find a healthy path to finding meaning and passion in your daily life. Those in your support system may be able to help you.

How the Four Pillars of Recovery Work Together

When you focus on health and improvement in these essential pillars, it can aid in your recovery. They have helped many individuals form strong foundations in recovery, including someone very familiar to us here at ECHO Recovery, a person we’ll call Sarah. Sarah dealt with an opioid use disorder for many years. She attempted recovery time and again but suffered several relapses.

Focusing on the four pillars of recovery provided Sarah with a more comprehensive treatment and recovery program.

She did the following to address the four pillars:

  • She focused on yoga and exercise to improve her physical health. This had the added benefit of a consistent and healthy routine, as well as increasing her confidence.
  • She found psychological treatment for the underlying causes of her substance use and received care for trauma. Through this, she was able to learn techniques and coping mechanisms to manage triggers for substance use.
  • She found support through peer support programs and group therapy. This gave her connections, belonging, and accountability during recovery.
  • She practiced mindfulness and meditation. This helped her find purpose in life, hope for the future, and motivation to continue with her recovery.

Through this encompassing recovery, Sarah has been in recovery for more than two years and is continuing her recovery journey toward a productive, healthier, and happier life.

Find Long-Term Addiction Recovery and Support

As you can see, each of the four pillars of recovery is essential to supporting full, lasting healing from SUD. Without any of the four, the other three are unable to support recovery. In this way, all aspects of your personal health are interconnected. Therefore, focusing on each of the four aspects can help you manage your needs.

For recovery to be a successful journey, it is essential to take care of yourself and all your needs, whether physical, emotional, community-based, or spiritual. While recovery is not always a straight line, attention to these pillars can help you persevere and give yourself grace along the way. With these things in place, you, too, can reach lasting recovery. ECHO Recovery is here to provide you with addiction treatment and sober living resources.


References :

  1. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/pep12-recdef.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1526775/
  3. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7358(99)00032-X
  4. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health
How Community Can Help with Addiction Recovery

How Community Helps with Addiction Recovery

You may not have considered how a community helps with addiction recovery, but I’d like to discuss several ways that a community can make a difference. It’s common for those recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) to feel isolated from the rest of the world. However, you don’t have to navigate this journey on your own. With community support, your journey toward sobriety can be completely altered in a positive and engaging way.

I’ve met countless people who struggled to find – and stay on – the path toward recovery. In fact, I was one of them. Whether we were ashamed of our past or felt we wouldn’t be accepted, I, and others like me, felt isolated – as if the goal I was working toward was so far away it was unobtainable.

However, by connecting with others who are walking a similar path, we can share our own stories and encourage others. This is one of the essential roles of the recovery community, and it’s one we felt strongly enough about to assemble the ECHO Recovery community.

Finding an Addiction Recovery Community

Finding Community Support

Most people who choose to pursue recovery once struggled to make that difficult first step. Among other issues, they may have felt they would be left behind by loved ones or even may have felt as if they had nobody that would be supportive of their journey. However, it’s crucial to remind yourself that this is a journey you do not have to take on your own.

Finding a community of people you can relate to and share similar experiences with can make a significant difference as you walk the path toward recovery. Fortunately, you don’t need to do it from scratch – there are many community-building resources already in place. Let’s explore some of the most common.

Addiction Recovery Community Options

Some of the most common examples of resources you can use as you begin to build your recovery community are 12-step programs. The best-known examples are the “Anonymous” groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Individual 12-step groups typically meet once each week, but you can find these groups in abundance in most areas so that you can attend a meeting each day if you’d like.

In 12-step meetings, members listen to one another’s struggles, stories, and progress and offer support in any way possible. Depending on the type of meeting, members may discuss working through one or more of the steps or defining one of the major principles.

Overall, the purpose of the meeting is to provide a shared sense of community, reduce the isolation that often comes with substance use disorder, and perpetuate the goal of the 12-step program. This goal is not to remain sober forever but simply to refrain from substances that day. By setting meaningful and achievable goals and working in community with one another, 12-step groups like AA and NA can help you build resources for the future.

Another community-building example is SMART Recovery, which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. In SMART Recovery, there are four basic guidelines to follow:

  • Find and maintain motivation.
  • Manage your urges.
  • Properly handle thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Find a balance in life and maintain it.

As you can see, neither of these community resources is focused on finding a cure or diagnosing co-occurring conditions. Instead, they focus on supporting others walking similar paths and building up both the givers and the receivers of support. In fact, the 12th step refers to living all the steps in your daily life so that you and those around you can continue walking the path of recovery.

If an in-person support group is not feasible for you, or you want to explore elsewhere, you can always visit online forums, where you can discuss your struggles with people from across the globe.

How to Choose Addiction Recovery Support

You may not know where to look for a support community, and that’s okay. To find a community, you can speak with your physician, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or reach out to a recovery community like ECHO Recovery. You may feel you’re the only one needing support, but the reality is that more than 40 million people had SUD in 2020, and many are still on the path toward recovery.

Types of Groups to Avoid

While a recovery community can make a significant difference in the lives of those with SUD, there are types of support groups you should avoid. For example, if a group is requesting high attendance fees or pressuring you to purchase certain products, you may want to look for support elsewhere. Many groups exist due to donations and support from those who attend, but high costs should not be a roadblock for anyone who needs community.

If a group promises to cure your problems, you’ll definitely want to look elsewhere. SUD isn’t a curable disorder, but it is a disorder that can be managed with motivation, effort, and genuine support.

Why Join an Addiction Recovery Community?

Many people who have completed a treatment program or are beginning recovery may not understand the significance of how community helps with addiction recovery. However, joining a community of people all walking the path toward recovery can provide several unique benefits. Here are a few key reasons to consider participating in your own recovery community.

Improved and Increased Communication

It can be daunting to open up about your struggles, especially as someone who has struggled with substance use. You may worry about being ridiculed, shunned, or ignored as a result of your past. However, participating in a recovery community means people are there to facilitate discussions about these struggles and help you see that you are not alone.

While you are not forced to share, if you do choose to speak, the floor becomes yours for a period of time. By being honest with the community, including yourself, you can develop a clear focus on what’s next in your recovery journey. If you’re feeling isolated, you can create and strengthen relationships with others who have been in your situation.

Measuring Success

Taking that first step and accepting help from others is incredibly difficult, especially for those battling SUD. Similarly, when you interact with others in a recovery community for the first time, you may feel nervous and confined. As you progress, however, you’ll open up more and have the support of others ready to cheer you on. Because of this, you can more easily gauge your progress in recovery. In return, you can help to provide this support to others as they experience pitfalls and successes.

Becoming Inspired By Others

Becoming Inspired By Others

You can find inspiration in a recovery community in many ways. For example, you may meet someone who didn’t want to be there or felt the experience was a waste of time. However, you may then see them become an integral part of the community.

Others may thrive in the recovery community from the beginning, and by witnessing their successes as well as their struggles, you can get inspiration for handling your own journey. Seeing the multitude of ways others navigate the difficult journey toward recovery can help you find the motivation you need to keep going. This is an important feature of a recovery community.

Pushing Through Difficult Times

It’s important to remember that tough times will not go away just because you’re in recovery. You will have bad days, you’ll slip, or a crisis will pop up when you least expect it. The point is that difficulties don’t just apply to people with SUD; everyone experiences tough times. When you do encounter a tough situation, your recovery community is there to help you navigate your struggles.

Repaired Relationships

SUD is notorious for damaging and even completely destroying relationships, but this doesn’t have to be forever. With the support of others, you can not only build new relationships, but you can learn how to repair or strengthen the ones you already have. A community can help you practice interacting with others who know what you’ve been through so you can put the same skills to work in relationships that may have been suffering due to your SUD.

More About Accountability and Inspiration

Accountability is crucial for those of us with SUD to make meaningful changes in our lives. With community support, we’re more likely to take responsibility for our actions, and we can encourage others to be accountable as well. Being accountable can be inspiring to others looking to make changes in their own lives, which is why being responsible is essential in the recovery process.

How Community Support Facilitates Accountability

How Community Support Facilitates Accountability

By frequently engaging with others in a community setting, you’ll be more prepared and motivated by others to make changes in your life, and vice versa. For example, on your own, you may put off important recovery tasks and habits. You may choose not to do step work or skip writing in a recovery journal.

However, by meeting with your peers regularly, you’ll be more motivated to do what needs to be done because you have encouragement, support, and accountability – and you’ll learn to expect it from others, too. When everyone is committed to mutually supporting success, you’ll learn to take ownership of your recovery.

More About Rebuilding Relationships

As mentioned, SUD frequently contributes to damaged and broken relationships. You may have distanced yourself from others while actively using substances, treated one another poorly, or even sought unhealthy relationships with others in the midst of SUD. After you’ve spent your time using substances to cope with your daily struggles rather than looking to your friends and loved ones for support, it can be difficult to not only repair those relationships but become comfortable opening up with one another once again.

With a support community by your side, you have a strong chance of repairing broken relationships and healing from past hurt.

Community Support is Crucial in Repairing Relationships

People with SUD tend to isolate themselves from others as a result of substance use. While repairing relationships is challenging, it is possible. One of the best ways to stay motivated in recovery is by rebuilding trust with others. People in recovery who want to repair a relationship often begin by making amends to those they have harmed with their substance use (a critical step in a 12-step program) and then find forgiveness for those who harmed them in the past. After forgiveness, you can begin a fresh start, one that doesn’t include fixation on substance use.

It can seem daunting to offer amends and forgiveness to those in relationships damaged by SUD. However, if you truly want to start fresh, asking for and offering forgiveness is an essential part of the process. Recovery communities can encourage you along the way and offer support and new friendships if your relationship cannot be repaired.

Should My Friends and Family Be Involved in Recovery?

As indicated by the broken and damaged relationships most people in recovery have in common, SUD doesn’t impact only one individual. Instead, it impacts friends, family, and other important people in your life. If you have the option and the desire to involve your family and friends in your recovery, consider adding them to your recovery community. Your friends and family members may have developed their own ways of dealing with your SUD in the past. They may have kept their distance from you, tried to control your actions, or established boundaries that preserved their physical and mental health.

While it’s important for them to make their own decisions regarding their involvement in your recovery community, being open and honest and providing mutual love and support can benefit you both as recovery continues. Your loved ones want you to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, and it’s essential that they understand what they can do to support you when things become difficult.

Many recovery centers, support groups, and other community resources host family education sessions that can help your loved ones understand multiple aspects of SUD. These topics range from how to best support your loved one in recovery, communication methods and strategies, setting healthy boundaries, and more. Encouraging your loved ones to join your recovery community and build one of their own can positively affect your recovery and your relationships with them.

Consider these options:

  • SAMHSA offers several different therapy options to anyone walking the path toward recovery, and your loved ones can get involved in the process, too.
  • Another option for families who want to be involved in their loved one’s recovery from SUD is Al-Anon. Al-Anon offers family therapy for those who have misused alcohol, and their website contains plenty of resources for those considering other avenues of community building.
  • You can also visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse website for information regarding SUD, including statistics and programs.

ECHO: A Healing Addiction Recovery Community

Online Recovery Community

Recovery is an arduous process, and many believe they must navigate it alone. However, recovery doesn’t have to be done on your own. By seeking support and building a community of other people walking similar paths as you, you can learn healthier strategies for managing your life’s difficulties and encourage others as well. In addition, you can bring your friends and family along with you and begin repairing relationships broken by SUD.

Whether you’re aiming to repair relationships, find inspiration, and develop accountability, or you’re simply yearning for others who understand your experience, ECHO Recovery can help provide the resources you need. Our goal is to educate and encourage those with SUD so they can work toward living a robust, fulfilling life. Our sober housing initiative can help those unable to support themselves during the initial steps of treatment, and we also offer a platform to support art as a means of expressing thoughts in recovery.

How to Help Someone With SUD That Resists Rehab

What to Do When Someone Doesn’t Want to Go to Rehab for Addiction

What do you do if someone needs help, including SUD rehab, but won’t accept it? One of the best things anyone battling an SUD can do is to seek professional treatment, and most friends and family members want to aid in this process however possible. Unfortunately, getting someone the help they need and deserve isn’t always easy.

Many people with SUD refuse, at least at first, to go to rehab. This brings up a difficult question for many people in the same spot. While it’s important to remember that every person—and every situation—is unique, there are some things you can do to help both yourself and your loved one after they’ve refused treatment.

How Do You Help Someone that Doesn’t Want to Stop Drinking or Using Drugs?

Sometimes, helping someone that doesn’t want to be helped can seem impossible. Whether your loved one doesn’t want to come to terms with their substance use or they don’t understand the scope of their problem, it’s important to take some time to evaluate the actions you’re taking and whether you’re truly helping. To do so, follow these seven tips for dealing constructively with someone who is resistant to your help without overwhelming them or pushing them away.

Educate Yourself

Researching Addiction Recovery Help Online

Experiencing a situation where it seems as if someone you love is purposely hurting themselves by ignoring your attempts to help them is never easy. That’s why educating yourself on SUD is so important, both for you and your loved one.

A substance use disorder is considered a mental health disorder. SUD is incredibly complex and can occur for a variety of reasons, from a person’s genetics to a trauma response, a poor coping mechanism, or even self-medication to deal with physical or emotional pain. It’s crucial that you understand the various aspects that can contribute to your loved one’s substance use disorder so you can also do your best to understand why they are struggling. Educating yourself can help you gain a better perspective of a situation that may make you angry or hurt and allow you to understand the sort of help your loved one may need.

Identify Your Role in the Situation

Your role in a substance use disorder situation depends heavily on your relationship with the person that is struggling. It’s important to identify your role so you don’t overstep boundaries while still supporting them in the way they need. Consider how your role as someone’s partner may look different than if you were someone’s parent, child, or close friend.

For example, if you are a parent and have a child that is struggling with alcohol, you may need to decide to stop supporting them financially to slow their substance use. If you are an adult child of a person with SUD, your role may be completely different. Keep in mind, too, that every situation is incredibly different and unique to the people involved. To identify your role, ask yourself questions like whether a relationship with this person is supportive and whether your behavior may enable them. This can help you better understand what you may need to change moving forward.

Identify and Remove Enabling Behaviors

This tip is a critical follow-on tip for Tip 2—if you’ve been approaching your role with your loved one in a way that enables them to continue their substance use, it is critical to evaluate and remove your enabling behaviors. Of course, it’s natural to want to help the people that you love, especially when you know they are struggling. Unfortunately, some of the things you may do to try to help your loved ones may end up enabling them further.

For example, one of the most common enabling behaviors that family members and close friends engage in without realizing the trouble it may cause is funding their loved one’s substance misuse. However, establishing boundaries like not giving money to a close friend who is struggling with SUD can help both your loved one and you. Other enabling behaviors include making excuses for your loved one’s poor behavior, covering for them when they make mistakes, lying to/for them, doing work for them, and even providing them with their substance of choice to minimize conflict. In general, many of the things friends and family members do in an attempt to “help” loved ones with SUD wind up enabling the person to continue to use.

Establish Boundaries

Establishing boundaries is an important way to protect both you and your loved one. Boundaries are essential for any relationship and can help you ensure that you are comfortable and not taken advantage of. Sometimes, when someone is struggling with a substance use disorder, they cross boundaries, whether intentionally or unknowingly. Often, their behavior creates the need for you to establish boundaries in the first place to protect yourself.

It’s crucial that you set firm boundaries with your loved one for your health, both emotionally and physically. If you feel like you need to walk on eggshells around this person, cover or lie for them, or protect them from the consequences of their actions, it’s time for you to create boundaries. Most urgently, if you feel you are in emotional or physical danger due to your loved one’s behavior, you must create boundaries to protect yourself.

Allow Consequences to Occur

Once you establish firm boundaries between you and your loved one and stop enabling behaviors, you will likely notice that they’ve begun to experience consequences of their actions. These consequences are what so many friends and family members have been trying desperately to “help” their loved ones with SUD avoid. However, it is important for all involved to realize that nobody is immune to consequences.

Whether your loved one is fired from their job because you stopped calling in for them or they fall behind on bills without your financial help, it is critical that consequences do occur. While it may hurt to see your loved one struggling, it is also important for them to understand what their actions are doing to both themselves and others. It can be near impossible for people with an SUD to recognize how much their own actions affect others when they’re deep in active substance use. Because of this, consequences can serve as an unfortunate wake up call.

Offer Positive Support and Practice Empathy

One of the best things you can do for someone struggling with substance use disorder, especially when they say they don’t want help, is to simply offer your support. SUD can cause extreme isolation and make people feel like they are alone in their struggle. Sometimes, just offering positive support can mean the world to your loved one.

If you haven’t had conversations about these issues with your loved one before, it’s important to remember to be as empathetic as possible. It can be easy for your loved one to feel attacked and be hurt when you suggest help or insinuate that they are in the wrong. By offering positive support and letting your loved one know you’re there to help them when they’re ready, you are taking steps in the right direction.

Consider Staging an Intervention

Interventions can help your loved one more than you know. An intervention can be done with just a few close family members or someone’s entire friend group—what’s most important is effectively communicating how this person’s actions are affecting others. Using “tough love” is important during interventions because it puts responsibility on the person who has been hurting those around them and emphasizes the importance and urgency of the issue.

In many interventions, friends and family members choose to lay out boundaries and consequences for violating those boundaries. For example, you may tell a partner with SUD that you have established a boundary that involves them not being intoxicated around your children, and that they must seek treatment, or they can no longer live in the same home as the children. Then, be prepared to follow through with the consequences you’ve established. Remember, too, to remind the person how much you love and care for them, and that this is the reason you want them to seek treatment in the first place.

Addiction Rehab FAQs

When you ask a loved one to seek treatment for SUD, they may refuse. Often, refusals are based on three common themes:

  • “You can’t make me go.”
  • “Rehab doesn’t work, anyway.”
  • “I can stop on my own/I don’t need to stop.”

Q: Can You Make Someone Go to Rehab?

A: The answer to this question varies from state to state, as well as from person to person. In some cases, you can send people to rehab involuntarily. This can be done in a few different ways. If you are the parent or legal guardian of a minor under the age of 18, you have the right to make legal decisions regarding their health and well-being. In most states, this also allows you to send your child to rehab for a substance use disorder.

If your loved one is over the age of 18 however, it is much more difficult to try to commit them to treatment without their consent. Some states allow family members to send their loved ones to rehab through a process called involuntary commitment. Involuntary commitment is legal in 37 states and can occur if a person demonstrates that they are unable to take care of themselves, are a threat to themselves or others, or are neglecting their life and duties. The case must usually go through a court to be approved before a person is committed. The state of Maryland does not have outpatient commitment laws and you cannot use involuntary commitment legislation to try and force someone into rehab if they don’t want to go.

One of the only other ways someone can involuntarily be sent to rehab is via a drug court order. For example, this situation can occur when a person is taken into custody for possession, is willing to plead guilty to the nonviolent crime, and accepts rehab in lieu of other penalties. However, this method only works for some substance use disorders and isn’t helpful for people struggling with alcohol.

Q: What Percentage of Users Relapse After Rehab?

A: Some sources claim that as many as 30+ percent of alcohol users and as many as 80% of illicit drug users relapse after completing rehab. However, this statistic simply isn’t reliable, as there is no true way to document how many people relapse. Even documented relapses do not account for the type of treatment program experienced, repeat experiences in rehab, or the eventual recovery of many individuals after subsequent treatment.

In addition, for many people, relapse is a part of the recovery process. Most importantly, relapse does not mean the person has “failed.” Relapse does not erase the recovery tools and resources gained during SUD treatment and should not be a reason to avoid going to rehab.

Q: Can People Stop Using Substances on Their Own?

A: When someone with SUD ceases use of that substance on their own, they will almost inevitably experience physical and mental withdrawals. These are extremely difficult to manage alone, without medical intervention. In some cases, as with alcohol or benzodiazepines, withdrawals can cause seizures and even become fatal.

In addition, SUD is often co-occurring with mental health disorders, trauma, and other physical health problems. For that reason, while being willing to stop using drugs or alcohol is a positive sign, it is very hard to accomplish alone. Encourage your loved one as much as possible but remember that it is critical they stay safe while curbing substance use.

Getting the Help Loved Ones Deserve

Getting Loved One Addiction Support

If you know someone in need of substance use disorder treatment, find them help as soon as possible. When that time comes, it’s natural to want to help in whatever way you can. Whether you’re a family member, friend, or partner of someone with SUD, worrying about someone you love can be both emotional and exhausting.

Social Media Use While in Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Social Media Use While in Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Recovering from an addiction is a complicated process that requires dedication and commitment for long-term, positive effects. It may be obvious that routines and lifestyles must be changed for your recovery to be successful. However, an area that you may not have considered changing is your social media use.

Unfortunately, there is a significant link between social media use and substance abuse addiction. Ironically, social media use is also linked to substance abuse recovery. It’s important to fully understand these links so you can start working on your recovery with fewer obstacles.

How Are Social Media and Addiction Linked?

The link between social media and addiction may not be obvious to you. Things like cute cat videos on social media do not have ties to substance abuse and addiction; however, there are still many connections between the two.

Glamorization and Normalization

Social media tends to glamorize drug and alcohol use. People can easily share photos and posts showing alcohol and drug use, making these activities appear fun, wild, and interesting. Though the average person’s post will not reach many people, celebrity posts create a lot of interaction and widespread viewing. Snoop Dog, Wiz, Khalifa, Drake, the Kardashians, Nina Dobrev, Cara Delevingne, and many other celebrities have photos of alcohol or drugs on their social media platforms that are followed by millions of people.

This effect can make people more likely to try commonly abused substances, which can then result in developing addictions. This glamorization is even more significant for teenagers, as roughly 81% of teens aged 12 to 17 use social media, much higher than the same figure for adults (67%). Their still-forming brains are more likely to be affected by what they see on social media, and they are more easily influenced into participating, either to impress peers or for attention.

Ease of Access

As mentioned, a vast portion of the world has access to social media. Therefore, social media makes a lot of things easily accessible to the public that are not normally so prevalent. Social media has been used to connect dealers with both current and potential customers. Substance dealers can use social media platforms to contact purchasers and reach a wider audience.

Location-based platforms like dating apps and Instagram make connecting dealers and those in their areas interested in buying the substances quite simple. Though the apps claim they attempt to prevent this use of their platforms, they are not effective at monitoring and shutting down violators.

Mental Health Impacts of Social MediaMental Health Impacts

For some people, there is a link between social media and poor mental health. Most people only post positive aspects and filtered versions of their life, which can cause others to experience dissatisfaction with their own lives. This can spiral into sadness, depression, and isolation. These emotions may lead people to turn to substance abuse, which they’ve seen glamorized in other social media posts, to cope with their struggling mental health.

This is an important connection, as about half of individuals who develop substance abuse disorders will also have mental health disorders. This research also suggests that over 60% of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs meet the criteria for mental illnesses.

Social Media as an Addiction

Finally, a major link between addiction and social media is the fact that it is possible to develop an addiction to social media itself. All addiction processes alter brain chemistry and damage reward pathways. A healthy reward pathway is activated when we experience something rewarding, winning a game, eating tasty food, or even having sex. At this point, dopamine is released, causing a positive emotional rush. This reward pathway intends to drive humans toward stimuli or behaviors that increase fitness and survival, while also driving them away from harmful stimuli that do the opposite.

Addiction damages this reward system and creates a dysfunctional reward pathway that is activated by addictive behavior. The reward system begins to function improperly, only becoming activated with the use of that substance or behavior. Further, less dopamine will be released with each experience, and the person will need to increase their exposure to get the same positive rush. This same type of damage occurs in any addiction process, whether the addiction is to drugs, gambling, sex, or even social media.

Can Social Media Worsen Addiction?

Not only can a person become addicted to social media, but social media use can also increase addictive behaviors and make an active addiction worse. A person that overuses social media is also more likely to have brain impairments like those seen with a clinical addiction. Decision-making skills are decreased, and heavy social media users are more prone to poor choices.

Since social media addiction affects the brain’s reward system, a person may search for new ways to achieve a dopamine rush. Since their decision-making skills are impaired, some may turn to drugs to experience the dopamine rush they are no longer experiencing with social media alone.

Social Media and Addiction Recovery

Recovering from an addiction is a massive undertaking that requires making deliberate choices and utilizing any resources. With that in mind, social media can be both a hindrance and a support to recovery, depending on how it is used. You must be able to remain vigilant about your social media use and how it is affecting you during that specific time in your recovery process.

Identifying how social media influenced you during active addiction can help you positively alter your habits. Using social media while in recovery for addiction is a delicate process and may be aided with the help of a professional. Let’s take a look at how social media can help and hurt your recovery.

Hindrances to Recovery

Social Media Hindrances to Recovery

Negative Self Image

As mentioned before, social media is full of people posting about the positives in their lives, like job promotions, relationships, and fun vacations. However, these posts often leave out all the less than glamorous parts behind the positives. A job promotion may have followed many long days at their job, a good relationship may have been found after a string of bad dates, and the vacation may have been the first one they’ve taken in many years.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to remember these negatives when confronted with post after post of other people’s lives working out well, and this can result in feelings of inadequacy, envy, and the fear of missing out (FOMO). One may choose the comfort and familiarity of their addiction instead of these negative emotions, making recovery more difficult.

Sleep Deprivation

Those that struggle with addiction are far more likely to have a sleep disorder than the general population. Disturbances in sleep patterns and cycles can increase the likelihood of relapse, as your brain and body lose out on the healing that occurs during sleep. Overusing social media can decrease the time you have available for sleep and make recovery a steeper hill to climb.

Depressing/Harmful Content

We know depression can be a significant contributor to addiction. Unfortunately, being bombarded with information that hurts your mental health while scrolling social media can further hinder recovery. In addition, social media exposes you to many more people and situations than you would experience in person. Some of these people will have bad intentions and can spread their own negative emotions to you via online interactions like cyberbullying (abusive messages, images, or posts directed at an individual). Maintaining a positive headspace will be next to impossible if you’re bombarded with negative content on your social media.

Advantages to Recovery

Family and Friends

Social media can be used to maintain contact with family and friends. Having a strong support system made up of the people that care for you is important for recovery and preventing relapse. These people can quickly provide support by liking and commenting on your content. Preventing feelings of isolation will help with the confidence it will take to follow through with recovery.

Online Recovery Forums/Groups

Social media provides access to millions of people that you will never see in person. Some of those people will have had similar experiences to yours and they may openly post about their struggles and what helped them recover. Seeing their success stories may be bolstering enough for you to aid your recovery. There are also many online groups created to offer support for those undertaking their recovery process.

These online groups offer some anonymity that may help you feel more comfortable with sharing and confiding your story in the support group. Finding support in a community is vital to lowering the chance of relapse and creating habits that will result in lifelong sobriety.

Apps Created for Recovery

Support programs have taken advantage of social media and created apps to aid with your recovery. There is an FDA-approved app for substance abuse treatment, Pear reSET-O, that offers a 90-day behavioral program for adults, available with a prescription from your doctor. There are also many different apps available without a prescription that can help track your sobriety, manage cravings, find treatment providers in your area, create an online community specifically for those going through recovery, and offer inspirational content about addiction and recovery.

Seek Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Seek Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Ultimately, treatment and recovery for addiction is a massive undertaking that frequently requires that you seek help from outside sources. A lack of support likely had a hand in the addiction, so leaning on a support system—no matter the source—may be a valuable tool to help pull you out. I believe social media can help, but it must be used correctly, in conjunction with other resources. As you can see, our addiction recovery community uses a few social media platforms, and they can be an excellent resource when used correctly.

What Is Mindfulness?

There’s More Than One Path to Mindfulness

When people think of mindfulness, they often confuse it for meditation. As a result, many picture practicing mindfulness in a quiet room, eyes closed, deep in thought. Fortunately, meditation is only one mindfulness technique. While not everyone is successful with meditation, mindfulness is a much broader practice than most people realize.

Proper mindfulness techniques can help you destress, appreciate the natural world around you, and become more compassionate towards yourself and others. With various techniques to choose from and apply to your own life, you can practice being mindful anywhere any time. The important part is that you can achieve peace. Anyone can practice mindfulness, and once you find the technique that works for you, you’ll be able to achieve multiple mindfulness benefits.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state in which you’re paying open and active attention to the world around you. When you practice mindfulness, you observe your thoughts without judgment or reaction, and extend the same courtesy to others by being compassionate and accepting. To be mindful is to be in the moment and at peace with what the moment brings. When you practice mindfulness, you can learn to destress and go with the flow, wherever you may be.

Meditation is, of course, the best-known mindfulness technique. This technique involves closing your eyes, focusing on your breath, and/or listening to auditory stimulations and visualizations. During meditation, you’re usually in one place for a few minutes at a time, in a state of deep concentration and thought. While meditation is the most famous mindfulness technique, it is not the only type of mindfulness. In fact, this stereotypical image of meditation is only one type of meditation, all of which fall under the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help with depression and anxiety. As a part of the larger category of mindfulness, it is a very useful technique to not only begin practicing mindfulness, but also to begin discovering which other mindfulness techniques may appeal to you. Let’s explore some of the options.

A Variety of Mindfulness Techniques

The goal of a mindfulness exercise is to enter a state of relaxation and personal acceptance, all while being one with the world around you. While this may sound difficult to achieve, the truth is that there are a great many mindfulness techniques, so there’s bound to be one that clicks for you. The key is to practice your favorites, learn to accept your current mental and emotional state without judgment, and focus on the present. Here are some of the most common.

Arts and Crafts

Described as “art therapy” when it pertains to the mindful participation in art to reduce stress and improve mental health, working on art is a good way to stay present and centered on something tangible, while still being able to just let your emotions be released and embraced without suppression. Any sort of art will do, from working with clay to drawing in pencil, to all forms of painting and even coloring. Whether art therapy is done in a clinical setting with a specific format or you’re simply sketching in your free time, art therapy has been proven to decrease stress and increase the general quality of life.

The subject you choose is up to you. However, one recommendation is to create art about a place you like. Start by attempting to depict the lake you camp at, the beach you went to as a kid, the city you dream of living in, and similar. This focus can help you mentally transport to those places and the calm they produce. Creating art about things that make you happy is a good way to calm down and focus on something positive and relaxing, especially if it’s about nature.

Finding Mindfulness in Nature

Finding Mindfulness in Nature

Whether you’re going for a walk in the park, adventuring through a local hiking or forest trail, or just sleeping out under the stars for a night, enjoying the outdoors doesn’t only help you appreciate the beauty of nature; it can also be incredibly relaxing and therapeutic. Going outside can improve both your mood and your connection to the natural world. One study even found that practicing mindfulness while out in nature may enhance these already present benefits.

If you’re simply sitting down and taking it all in, this sort of nature-based mindfulness exercise can even be considered a sort of meditation. All you have to do is focus on the sensations around you; the sound of the animals, the warmth of the sun, the feeling of the breeze, the smell of the salt water—anything that you can connect with and think about. You’ll be able to enter a state of deep concentration and relax, much like with visualization-based meditation exercises.

If you’re going for a walk, however, you’ll be practicing a mindfulness technique that also involves physical activity. This strategy works for multiple reasons. First, exercise has been proven to reduce stress due to a release of endorphins and norepinephrine, chemicals that make you feel happy, euphoric, and less stressed. Second, you’re out in nature, which, as already mentioned, also improves your mood. However, to get the most mindfulness benefits out of this exercise, you need to find ways to stay present and focused on the world around you. If you’re out in nature enough that a nature walk is already routine for you, you can do this by changing your route or taking pictures.

5-4-3-2-1 Sensory Grounding

This mindfulness technique is much more portable than either art or time in nature, and can be done anywhere. That’s because by using your senses, you can ground yourself in the moment regardless of where you are. For example, if you’d like to destress on your daily bus commute to school or work, this is an exercise you can do without much time or practice required.

All you have to do is focus on 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1:

  • 5 things you see
  • 4 things you feel
  • 3 things you hear
  • 2 things you smell
  • 1 thing you taste

If you consider the bus scenario mentioned above, you may be able to focus on things like the other bus passengers, the cars outside, the music on the radio, the feel of the leather seats, and the rumble of the ground and wheels beneath you. If you’re in public, however, you might not have all of your senses available to you. You can omit these and replace them with another sense, or tap into your sensory memories and use those.

By making use of your senses, you’re once again focusing on something tangible without judging either your surroundings or your reaction to them. This doesn’t work for people who are sensory averse, but for those willing to give it a try, you’ll be able to calm down even in an otherwise stressful moment. Better yet, the more you practice grounding in the moment regardless of your circumstances, the easier it will be to focus the next time a stressful situation presents itself. This sort of technique may even help you calm down during a panic attack, if you’re able to redirect your thoughts and accept your negative mental state.

Body Scanning

Body scanning is similar to sensory grounding, with the difference being your point of focus. Instead of noticing all the sensory stimulations that have to do with your surroundings, you’re instead focusing on your own body and how you feel. Just lie down and, starting from either your head or your toes, work your way over your body. During this process, you’re focusing on and calling attention to any pain or discomfort and, for the time being, accepting the feeling.

Mindfulness and Meditation Games

It may seem unusual, but playing games on your phone, computer, or TV can also help you destress and practice mindfulness.

Body Scanning

The calming nature of some games gives you an activity to focus on and rewards you with positive feelings for doing it right. In fact, video games have been proven to release dopamine.

In small doses, playing calming video games can make you happier while giving you a goal to focus on. In fact, there are mindfulness apps and games dedicated to helping you relax through simple, yet satisfying, gameplay. Some even feature physical effort that can further release physical tension and stress.

Apps like I Love Hue 2 and #SelfLove, as well as console video games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons are all designed to be relaxing, yet rewarding. Users experience an activity one can play for both fun and to practice mindfulness techniques in an indirect way. There’s a reason New Horizons is the best-selling Animal Crossing game since the franchise began. It was released at the beginning of the pandemic, so people who were both stuck inside and stressed by the virus had an easy, fun outlet to relax and hang out with their friends.

Mindfulness Benefits

Mindfulness Benefits

In the short term, mindfulness exercises can be used to relax during or after a stressful situation and become more connected to the world around you. The more you practice, the easier it’ll be to ground yourself in the moment and connect with your future self. This helps to relieve temporary stress and appreciate your current surroundings and emotions.

In the long term, mindfulness exercises are used to train your body and brain to relax more effectively, accept yourself and your feelings, and extend that same focus and compassion to the environment and the people around you. The various techniques used can also teach you other skills in the meantime.

For example, mindfulness practiced by playing games has the same benefit as playing video games in general, including an increase in detection skills and strategic thoughts. Mindfulness through exercise gives you physical benefits as well as mental and emotional boosts, allowing you to become healthier all around. Mindfulness through art can help you become more creative. Each of these mindfulness endeavors can help you shift focus away from the relentless thoughts that fuel addiction and towards healthier endeavors.

While it may be hard to get into the rhythm at first, practicing proper mindfulness and meditation techniques can teach you skills you’ll use in your daily life. You’ll be able to avoid triggers, calm down, and stay centered to solve problems, become more healthy, and see things from a new perspective.

If one technique or artform doesn’t work for you, there’s no harm in trying another until you find something that helps you reach your goals. After all, this is about personal connection and acceptance just as much as it is about relaxation techniques and relapse prevention. Different exercises work for different people, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something that fits.