4 Tips for Following Through on the New Year’s Resolution to Get Sober

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries

It’s a new year. And, as such, many people have made some important resolutions to begin changing their lives for the better. Vows to eat healthy, exercise more and reestablish connections with friends or estranged family members are just a handful of examples.

Still, some resolutions are life and death matters. Getting sober is certainly one of those. Seeking treatment and entering into a lifelong recovery process, however, is not always the wording or perspective used when making that resolution.

Yet, as we know, getting clean is just the first step on a journey which requires commitment and a lot of work and support to sustain.

Of course, other resolutions—like eating better, working out and reestablishing relationships—takes work too. But, with regard to getting sober and staying sober, the work is a bit more involved and a lot more challenging.

What could be more challenging than turning down sweets or fried foods? Facing yourself and all the pain you’ve been suppressing, avoiding and attempting to numb throughout your active addiction.

The thought of that makes going to the gym every day look pretty easy, right? Right.

But without emotional, psychological and spiritual health, physical health is pointless. And, with regard to active addiction, all of the above are completely compromised.

As such, it is important to know what steps to take to follow through on the New Year’s resolution to get sober. More importantly, it’s vital to learn tips for maintaining that sobriety through active recovery.

Seek Treatment. Of course, the first step to getting sober is to admit you need to. Kudos for recognizing there is, indeed, a problem.

However, getting sober is not as easy as putting down the drugs or alcohol. In fact, to do only that is potentially deadly, as alcohol withdrawals can be fatal. Additionally, to stop drinking without treatment or recovery is referred to as “white-knuckle sobriety,” and it is a setup for a relapse which spirals one further down past the initial rock bottom.

As such, it is vital to seek treatment. There are residential, rehabilitation and outpatient treatment facilities available. Find what best suits your personal and financial needs.

Find Community. Once you have entered treatment, you are considered a recovering addict/alcoholic. As such, you will meet many others while you are in treatment who are recovering as well. This creates a wonderful support network of people who understand your struggle and can easily relate.

The challenge begins when you leave treatment and all those individuals, supportive staff members and the safety of the facility behind.

As such, it is necessary to plug yourself into a recovery community as soon as possible. You can begin asking for information on how and where to access sober living, recovery and/or collegiate recovery communities while in treatment. Otherwise, you can easily find this information online.

If you live in a rural community and have limited or no access to these communities, it may be necessary to simply seek the support of a sponsor, counselor, church community or spiritual group or commute to the nearest recovery group, if possible.

Get Support. When you are plugged into a recovery community, it feels like enough. But, for the record, it isn’t. Though you are surrounded by people who understand and have likely been in your shoes or are currently going through it who can help you work the program, they are not capable of being your personal therapist. This is especially true with regard to dual diagnosis.

For that reason, it is best to seek a counselor or psychologist, along with a sponsor and/or recovery coach, when in recovery. Finding a professional who can help you sort out any emotional/psychological issues resulting from your time in active addiction, as well as those that spurred or perpetuated it, is vital to preventing relapse.

Do the Work. The process of recovery is not an easy one. It is a lifelong journey of personal growth, healing, empowerment and enlightenment. And, because it requires a lifetime commitment, the work never ends.

However, the workload does decrease. Once the deep wounds are surfaced, the grieving begins and (of course) and dual diagnoses are addressed and treated, the work becomes about maintenance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean things get easy. Conversely, there are no easy routes in recovery. But, if you do the work—the hard, grueling and scary work—in the beginning, the journey becomes less daunting, and the gifts that result becomes clear and accessible.

The resolution to get sober is an admirable one. But, just to state it as a desire or a promise to yourself is not enough. Active addicts break promises to themselves and others every single day. It’s a criteria for diagnosis.

As such, make this resolution stick, so you can be around to make another one on the last day of this year.

Trick or Treat—A Reminder to Guard Against a Tricky Ego this Halloween and Treat Yourself to Continued Success in Recovery

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

As Halloween quickly approaches, invitations to festive events and costume parties may be pouring in. For those in early recovery, this can pose a potential challenge. It seems that everyone has plans to dress up and head to the bar, enjoy live music and participate in the fun a costume contest can bring.

Equally as challenging to all recovering individuals may be the fact that, during Halloween and all throughout the holiday season, people who seemingly aren’t addicts or alcoholics start stocking their homes with alcohol in preparation for adult guests who will be enjoying an evening of fun and entertainment.

These realities can bring a sense of resentment to those who have found themselves diagnosed with alcoholism or addiction. Those in early recovery may not feel safe to go to the local bar for fear of relapse. As such, it may feel as though the alternative is to stay home and miss out on the fun.

Additionally, for all individuals in recovery, the fact that some can seemingly consume alcoholic beverages in moderation with no negative consequences can cause a great deal of frustration, regret and possibly even self-loathing; a huge threat to recovery. Moreover, it may make those in early recovery question their own ability to do the same. And, of course, those whose substance of choice was never alcohol to begin with may find it tempting to partake in the consumption of what is likely intended to be just a few beers.

But, just as diabetics have a disease, addicts have a disease. And, for the record, Halloween is quite a challenging time for diabetics as well. In fact, the entire holiday season can pose some serious threats, if diagnosed individuals don’t find healthy ways to balance their desires to enjoy holiday treats and festivities while still respecting the critical needs of their bodies.

Individuals in recovery from addiction must do the same.

It is important to remember how tricky the ego can be in rationalizing relapse thinking and behavior. Moreover, it’s necessary to reach out to others in recovery for support. Work together to find or organize sober events, costume contests and Halloween parties that provide your inner child with the joyful experience of Halloween without risking your success in recovery.

“I’m Stuck with You”–A Caution to Guardians

By | Guardians | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Children of addicts are often raised by grandparents or other family members, single parents, etc., as a result of active addiction. This can be a challenging and often painful reality for both guardians and the children affected. Confusion and constant questioning often surface quickly with children of addicts, once addicted parents are temporarily or permanently removed from their lives. All too often, guardians are not properly equipped with information or education about addiction and sometimes lack communication skills or the ability to carefully confront the delicate issue with honest explanations.

This combination of potentially overwhelming experiences can try even the kindest heart and potentially turn the best of intentions into an innocent child’s worst nightmare. As such, it is necessary for guardians to take a personal inventory, gain self-awareness, practice self-care and get professional help for themselves and the child, if necessary. Because, though the experience and responsibility of raising someone else’s child coupled with the resulting added stress, concern and frustration can wear a guardian down, patience and complete compassion are the guardian’s responsibility.

Remember, children—regardless of circumstance—require more than just food, shelter and clothing to survive. They need emotional and physical safety, love and belonging and self-esteem to thrive. Taking on the responsibility of a child implies the added accountability for providing those key elements, as well. With regard to children of addicts, the degree to which those components are needed is critical.

In essence, children of addicts have already been and currently are grieving the living. As such, they generally already lack a great deal of their basic physical and emotional human needs. Therefore, they will likely act out in response to that reality and throughout various stages of their ongoing grief process.

The latter possibility depends greatly on their age and development, but it is important to remember children of addicts often experience stunted development. This results from their experiences of living with an active addict. Additionally, the emotional trauma of losing a parent to active addiction negatively affects the development process.

As such, it is very important for guardians—temporary or permanent—of children of addicts to express gratitude for the privilege to raise the child, rather than making disparaging comments during moments of frustration. Guardians must remember, making hurtful statements—with or without negative intentions—about the effects of addiction that imply the child is a burden only worsen the child’s suffering and potentially result in the progression of any existing emotional/behavioral issues.

Moreover, guardians of children of addicts need to keep in mind, the children are already struggling a great deal, feel burdensome, abandoned and confused. It is vital for guardians to know what to say to these children to explain the situation, how to get help for them and how to ensure they do not feel like burdens or unwanted in any way.

If you are a guardian of a child of an addict and have questions or need further information, call our hotline: 1-844-6-GETHELP

The Gift of Anger—Learning to Allow and Accept the Emotion

By | Anger | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Too often in today’s society we are asked to suppress or deny our anger. Concepts like the power of positive thinking andmanifesting our reality can work to steer us away from fully feeling and expressing our anger. Moreover, they may imply and impose upon us a dangerous level of guilt and shame for desiring to do so. The latter is something we likely already acquired in ample supply from our days in active addiction or dysfunction. Besides, where guilt and shame serve only to hurt us, anger can actually help us heal.

Anger is often a demonized emotion. Many people fear it, not knowing how to appropriately confront, express or release it. Some simply try to deny or dismiss it. However, the vast majority of people—in active addiction, recovering or not—simply believe it to be a state of victimization. Even some specialists within the addiction treatment field see anger as result of a lack of gratitude or an emotional expression of self-pity.

However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to feel and express anger while simultaneously maintaining a sense of gratitude. But the awareness of lessons learned and ability to see a silver lining does not negate the justification for anger. Moreover, to deny ourselves or anyone else the right to feel and express it is to engage in oppressive recovery—the opposite of helping and a setup for relapse.

Truthfully, anger is indeed a gift. It is an internal alarm that loudly sounds when personal boundaries have been repeatedly crossed or disrespected. Anger amplifies our voice when we desperately need to speak and be heard and wakes us from a potentially holistically comatose state. Additionally, it is a normal, expected and necessary stage of grief, personal growth and healing.

As such, it is vital to successful recovery for individuals and helping professionals to learn to allow and accept the gift of anger within ourselves and others. After all, it is not anger that destroys us or causes us to relapse. But, in fact, the suppression of it can easily do both.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

No business owner wants to assume addiction in the workplace will be an issue. To plan for it sometimes feels like an omen or self-fulfilling prophecy. However, refusing to have a plan in place for the worst case scenario leaves businesses unprepared and results in a detrimental reactive state. It is far better to initially take a professional proactive stance.

Preventative measures normally utilized during the hiring process simply do not guarantee problems like addiction in the workplace will not occur. Prevention is certainly a step all companies should take. However, even if the company chooses a method of drug testing that is fail-proof, not hiring an active addict does not prevent relapse for recovering addicts hired or currently employed. Additionally, it does nothing for employees who may be developing chemical dependency.

Termination is not always the simple answer. Many valued employees, managers and even business owners struggle with addiction. It is a disease and, therefore, does not discriminate. Fortunately for businesses, there are ways of confronting addiction in the workplace, protecting the business and its employees, addressing any resulting issues while still offering compassion and, eventually, an opportunity to return to or maintain employment with the company.

Below are six possibilities:

  • Incorporating addiction and recovery education for management and staff
  • Supplying training opportunities for management/staff to assist in identifying signs of addiction
  • Providing opportunities for staff to attend addiction and recovery presentations and/or conferences
  • Offering a leave of absence—similar to maternity leave—that allots time for addicted employees to receive adequate drug/alcohol treatment
  • Opting for insurance that covers drug treatment
  • Collaborating with intensive outpatient programs designed to assist recovering individuals who relapse

Any or all of these can easily be incorporated into a company’s policies and procedures. Each provide feasible ways of being proactive with regard to addiction in the workplace. Of course, business owners should always hope for the best with regard to their employees, themselves and their business. But, as any business-minded person knows, preparing for the worst is the best way to prevent panic, chaos and the ultimate demise of the company.

If you are a business owner in need of resources for the aforementioned list of proactive possibilities for your company, contact Stages of Recovery via our hotline: 1-844-6-GETHELP.

The Risk for Businesses

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Addiction in the workplace poses many potential problems for businesses. Of course, the main threat is chaos within the work environment and business system. However, chaos plays out in various ways for businesses and, like families, affects more than just the addict and the business as an entity. It is toxic to the entire system and all those working within and relying on it.

This trickle-down effect creates resentment, decreased productivity, shatters morale and ultimately causes a lack of respect for management, employers, business owners and the company itself. Additionally, it generally creates an unsafe work environment. Though there may not be direct physical threats on individuals as a result of addiction in the workplace, there are negative emotional/psychological ramifications for non-addicted employees which often leads to poor performance and eventually resignation or termination.

The potential loss of valued employees and overall shift in the internal view of the company, its mission and founders is just the tip of the iceberg. There are external risks to consider as well. Companies rely on their employees to maintain and operate the business. But, it is the consumers, clients, customers, etc., who fortify the company with the means to operate and employ those individuals. If representation becomes tainted by way of addiction and the aforementioned negative effects, the reputation of the company is suddenly in question and financial support is easily lost.

The point is simple: Addiction is a disease, and disease spreads.

The toxicity either climbs the corporate ladder and eventually negatively impacts even those far removed from the reaches of the addicted employee or spirals downward, knocking off each rung of the ladder on its way down. Ultimately, the company plummets to rock bottom alongside the addict. In other words, nothing good comes from addiction in the workplace, so there’s never a good or justifiable reason to enable or allow it to continue.

Though the latter seems obvious to most, many employers and businesses find it difficult to terminate an employee based solely on the presence of addiction. Considering the fact that addiction is generally viewed and referred to as a disease, they find it troubling—both legally and personally—to dismiss someone from their professional duties based on the realization of the onset of an illness.

However, like any other disease, if left untreated, addiction will advance and worsen. As such, it is important for business owners and employers to realize that continuing to employ an active addict or alcoholic is no different or less enabling than employing a person with untreated, advanced diabetes. Moreover, for a business owner, it is a form of self-sabotage.

The physical and mental health of an individual directly affects their ability to show up, be mentally present, perform required tasks and perpetuate and participate in the positive forward movement of the company. Additionally, poor physical and mental health creates risk for not only the addicted employee but other staff members as well. The risks far outweigh any short-term perceived benefits of enabling active addiction in the workplace.

The Problem with Prevention

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Many businesses often encounter addiction in the workplace. Some set up drug testing as a preventative screening tool during the hiring process to avoid such occurrences. However, most addicts and substance abusers are aware of the half-life of their substance of choice. As such, they know just how long to abstain in order to pass a drug test. Additionally, there are methods of over-the-counter detox, easily purchased and readily accessible day or night, which prevent positive drug tests.

Some readers might believe traditional urinalysis drug testing is a measure put in place to prevent even the recreational use of drugs, and in that way highly beneficial and successful. However, it is only so with those companies who administer random drug testing throughout the duration of employment. And, with regard to random, there are very few companies who don’t disclose the onset of a test with some degree of advanced notice. In that way, the sole purpose of the test is basically sabotaged.

The only fail-proof way to test for illicit drugs is through hair follicles. However, those tests are rather expensive and tedious and often present false positives. Though the turnaround time for results is improving with advanced technology, it is simply not always feasible for the purposes of hiring or maintaining drug-free employees. Besides, addicts will search and typically find ways to pass any drug test or obscure results, even willingly shaving their heads to avoid a positive result.*

Truth be told, there is no limit to what an addict will do to avoid the negative consequences which might lead to a realization of a real problem. However, simply not applying is not necessarily on that list. Remember, manipulation is a skill drug addicts and alcoholics master.

Consequently, though companies believe drug testing prevents the inadvertent hiring of an active drug addict, it doesn’t do much of anything other than reinforce an addict’s manipulative tactics and methods of denial and increase the false sense of security for businesses and non-addicted employees. Moreover, drug testing does absolutely nothing—and seeks to do less—to prevent the hiring of active alcoholics.

How does it seek to do less?

Well, drug testing is simply that; a test designed to screen for drug use, including alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs. However, since alcohol is a socially accepted drug, the stigma for even the recreational use of illegal drugs is quite different. In fact, most helping professionals (including myself) differentiate the terms; addicts and alcoholics.

When companies require drug testing, they are implying by way of omission and semantics that no other form of substance use, abuse or addiction is problematic or even considered with regard to hiring. Hence, the reason recreational alcohol consumers rarely fear a drug test, yet recreational marijuana smokers stock op on Goldenseal and other urine cleansing agents in preparation for one.** Additionally, drug testing does not test for alcohol in the same way it might for opioids or amphetamines due to the vast variation in half-life.

Though a high BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) would certainly raise a red flag and prevent hiring, an individual would need to be literally drunk during the hiring process. Though that is not unheard of, as advanced stages of alcoholism and addiction certainly require a certain degree of intoxication for normalization and the prevention of withdrawal symptoms, it is not the only marker for alcoholism. Testing the urine or blood for alcohol would merely prevent the hiring of an alcoholic in the advanced stages of the disease, as most companies would not likely decide not to hire someone with trace amounts of alcohol in their system.

The problem with prevention with regard to businesses is because of the nature of addiction and drugs in general, there is no certainty in the screening process. Additionally, due to society’s vague definition of addiction, the preventative measures don’t account for alcoholism—the nation’s #1 disease and most frequently occurring and problematic addiction known to businesses. As such, though prevention is of course the first step, it is not the only one businesses should take in an effort to remain proactive with regard to addiction in the workplace.

[Note: With regard to hair follicle drug test, unless eyebrows, eyelashes and all other hairs are removed from the body prior to a hair follicle drug test, shaving one’s head will not prevent the presentation of a sample or a positive result. Moreover, mandatory drug testing by definition implies one must provide a sample to be tested. As such, if an individual agrees to mandatory testing, a sample will be provided and tested, regardless.] [Note: There is no evidence of Goldenseal actually detoxing urine and preventing a positive drug test result. However, many still consider it a go-to for detoxing prior to drug testing.

A Dangerous Misconception

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Addiction does not confine itself to weekends. It is a disease, and like any disease, it is chronic. In other words, it doesn’t go away nor can it be placed on hold for any reason. As such, it not only makes a constant appearance in the home. It shows up in the workplace too.

Addiction in the workplace is a common occurrence. That’s a reality the general population might not believe. The reason? Well, most people who have little to no education in the field of addiction believe it to be an affliction that instantly lands an individual in the unemployment line, jail and/or on the streets. However, the idea that addicts and alcoholics are homeless, jobless bums is not only a false one; it’s a dangerous misconception.

Many addicts are actually very high-functioning, meaning they still maintain employment. Some even experience a great degree of financial success, accomplish day-to-day tasks and present with a certain level of responsibility not generally expected from addicts. In these situations, the devastating effects of problematic behavior typically occurs in the home and becomes more obvious in private, interpersonal relationships.

As a result, these high-functioning addicted individuals often go undiagnosed and untreated. Because they lack a degree of negative social consequences—those which threaten physical survival and socio-economic status—and still see a level of reward in their lives via monetary gain and material possessions, they often fail to see a need for help. After all, rock bottom doesn’t look so bad when it comes with a penthouse view. Right?

Wrong.

There’s where the danger lies—the idea that only the loss of employment, material possessions and personal freedom constitutes a real problem; aka, addiction. This misconception not only keeps high-functioning addicts from seeing the need for help. It also perpetuates a detrimentally enabling society; one that champions individuals based solely on financial gain and social status, regardless of their crumbling relationships, lack of emotional availability, deteriorating mental health, character or integrity.

The latter is something money cannot buy. Drugs, however, money can. And, as long as addicts remain gainfully employed, their addiction will progress without much contemplation for change.

The Codependent Fable: A Learning to Let Go Version

By | Literature | No Comments

By Toshia C. Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

A woman was walking along a bridge and noticed a man standing near the edge. As she approached, the man called to her,

“Excuse me, ma’am. Can you please hold this rope for a moment?”

The woman, wanting to be helpful, easily agreed without giving thought to her busy schedule, her destination or the dreams that awaited her on the other side.

“Hold the rope tightly, please,” the man instructed.

She grasped the rope tightly. She began to wonder what exactly her purpose would be, and she became concerned with time. She had a million things to do, all of which would open doors to personal success and long-awaited opportunity. Yet, she made no mention of the time for fear of what the man might think. She wanted to appear helpful, selfless, compassionate and kind.

So, she stood there holding the rope, gripping it tightly.

Suddenly, the man leaped off the bridge. The weight of his body dropping to the depths below pulled her violently to the edge. Stopped only by the safety railing, she found herself staring down at the man who now dangled precariously from the rope she was holding.

Little did she know, while she was thinking about her dreams that awaited her on the other side, the increasing scarcity of time and finding herself perplexed by her obvious need to set boundaries versus her tendency toward people-pleasing, the man was busy affixing the rope to his body. Now, she found herself in charge of this man’s safety. His life was literally hanging in the balance, and the rope to which she was now grasping was his only hope for rescue.

“What have you done?” She screamed. “You must climb up! I cannot hold you. Your weight is too much for me to bear. The rope is slipping. Climb up!”

She tried desperately to cling to the rope, bracing her body against the edge of the bridge, but the fibers were now ripping into the flesh of her hands. Her arms were already noticeably scraped and bloody from the concrete edge on which they now attempted to rest. But the constant pull of the man’s body, as it dangled and swung below, shifted her weight, and with every shift came a painful blow from the concrete’s rough surface.

“Climb up!” She shouted. “I cannot hold you any longer.”

The man stared up at her and screamed,

“You must hold the rope! If you let go, I will fall onto the rocks far below. I will die!”

She began to cry, reeling in the physical pain she experienced with every movement the man’s body made and terrified of the responsibility she now faced.

“I cannot hold you!” She exclaimed. “You are too heavy. I need you to climb up!”

The man stared up at her, seemingly helplessly, and shouted a desperate plea.

“Then tie the rope around your body. I gave you enough length when I first handed it to you—just enough to easily secure me to you. Use your body to bear the weight of mine. Do not let go of the rope. If you do, I will surely die.”

The woman immediately replied,

“If I tie the rope around my body, I could easily be pulled off with you. Besides, I have a million things to do. My dreams await me on the other side. I cannot stand here all day. I cannot hold you forever. You must climb up! You need to think about me and my needs too!”

The man became angry and bellowed,

“You’re the one that agreed to hold the rope! Why are you suddenly upset about it now? This is my life you have in your hands. A life is a bit more important than your to-do list, don’t you think? How could you be so selfish?”

The woman, not wanting to seem heartless and selfish, pulled the few feet of rope that remained on the bridge and carefully wrapped it around her body, tying it tightly to prevent release. The weight of the man’s body instantly cinched the rope to an excruciatingly painful point. It felt as though she was being squeezed in half.

She pleaded with the man, again.

“Please, sir. I need you to climb up! You are killing me!”

The man gave one final response.

“I will not climb. Why should I? As long as you are holding me, I will not hit the rocky bottom below. Besides, it was your choice to hold the rope, and now it is also wrapped around your body. So, you might want to think twice about angering me. If I decide to throw a fit, that would be truly painful and possibly fatal for you. As such, it seems your life is in my hands now too. You have no choice. Only I do, and I refuse to climb.”

The woman, hearing those words, knew what she had to do. Valuing her life, the dreams she so wanted and deserved to achieve, she took a deep breath, untied the rope and simply let go.

The Toughest Part of Tough Love: Where They Have 12 Steps, You Have One

By | Romance and Recovery | No Comments

By Toshia C. Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

In the addiction field, we often speak of tough love. This terminology was born in response to the typically enabling role of family and friends. These enablers usually don’t intend to advance the disease of addiction. However, because they also have emotional investment in the addicted individual and a general lack of knowledge regarding the disease, they easily confuse helping with enabling.

Helping an active addict consists of one step: let go.

That is likely the toughest part of tough love. And, for the record, it is not merely tough on the active addict. Family and friends struggle with the idea that there’s nothing they can do.

For them, the act of doing nothing while someone they love stands seemingly willingly on a railroad track in front of an oncoming freight train is far too painful. The urge to violently shove them out of the way becomes too great. Often they succumb, only to watch in shock and awe as the active addict not only dusts themselves off and jumps right back on the track but also victimizes themselves and complains about the violent way in which they were shoved.

Of course, family and friends are expected to attempt a few interventions. It is the normal course of caring deeply for someone. But, at some point, everyone must realize the only way an active addict might stop standing on a railroad track in front of an oncoming freight train is if there is no one left standing there to shove them off just in the nick of time.