Gateway Foundation Partners with myStrength

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What is myStrength?

myStrength is a digital behavioral tool that allows users to track and monitor their daily progress and mood. It is a great resource for users that provides them with tips and information on a variety of topics including addiction, anxiety, and depression. Each user is able to customize myStrength to fit them and their needs.

Why use myStrength?

According to research from the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s Research Protocols, individuals who used myStrength’s digital mental health tools had 18 times greater reduction in depressive symptoms within two weeks of use as compared to the control group.

“myStrength is a great tool for clients who are struggling with a wide variety of issues in their recovery. It gives them access to evidenced-based treatment materials outside of their group therapy sessions and allows them to build additional skills at their own pace,” says Brandon Underwood, clinical supervisor at Gateway Pekin. “It is also a great resource for clinicians to help further a client’s progress and growth outside the traditional therapeutic setting.”

Gateway led multiple training sessions for staff to ensure they would know how to utilize the tool and be able to incorporate it in counseling and therapy sessions.

Patients were also given a chance to test myStrength and afterwards were asked to rate the tool’s usefulness. The results were overwhelming positive.

“I think it (myStrength) is an amazing resource. If it helps keep just one person sober or gives them help, it is worth it. However, it will help many more than one person,” says one Gateway client after receiving the training.

How much is myStrength?

The tool will be free to current patients, their loved ones, and alumni, due to a generous donation from the family of a former patient.

Is it safe?

Privacy is often a concern with Internet apps, but myStrength is safe to use. There is no data-tracking and all user information is entirely confidential.

A Conversation about Being Sober and Becoming Happy with John MacDougall

John MacDougallDr. John MacDougall spent 30 years drinking and using drugs every hour of the day before he found sobriety in 1989. He worked at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for two decades as the director of spiritual guidance and now works as the spiritual care coordinator at The Retreat, a treatment center grounded in the 12-Step principles. He will present on June 23 in Northbrook and June 24 in Aurora based on his lectures and book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy.” Gateway spoke with MacDougall about the lessons he’s learned through a life and career in recovery.

What is the “spiritual condition” for people recovering with substance use disorder?

Basically, spirituality consists of a set of three relationships: how well we’re getting along with our higher power, with ourselves, and with other people. You really can’t pull them very far apart. For example, I don’t think it’s possible to love God, be at peace with yourself, and treat other people like dirt. So any improvement in one of the three relationships improves the other two; any breakdown in any of the three relationships brings the other two down.

Before you found your sobriety, what was your relationship like with the “spiritual condition”?

My attitude was I’m the center of the universe and you exist only to the extent that you can help me get what I want.

What clicked for you, so to speak, when you found your sobriety, or what worked for you to strike a balanced “spiritual condition”?

I thought I was just a heavy drinker and used a lot of drugs and that I wasn’t an alcoholic because I had a job, an address, a wife, a car—what I now call “scavenger hunt recovery.” When I finally figured out I was an alcoholic and a drug addict, I carefully detoxed myself over a six-week period, I went to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and I asked this guy to sponsor me. He said to me, Here’s “The Big Book.” He opened it and basically said, Here’s chapter five: it’s how it works. Here’s chapter six: it’s it in action. The 12 Steps are contained in these two chapters. If you read these 12 Steps and you do what they say, you will never drink or use again. And at that point, I had been drinking and using drugs every single hour of the day for 30 years in a row. I read them and never drank or used again. So I did a very literal application of “The Big Book.” The things it says to do are really spiritual in nature: honesty, hope, faith, courage.

What made you wake up one morning and say, I need to write my own guide?

I worked 20 years at Hazelden and I gave a lot of lectures. My wife said to me, You’ve got to write this stuff down. I said, No, no, I’m a talker, not a writer. And she said, No, no, you’re getting old. This stuff will be lost. You’ve got to write it down. So the lectures I’ve done made the basis of the book.

If someone could only hear one lesson from your book and from your lectures, maybe someone who is initially struggling with their sobriety, which lesson would you tell them?

I see guys relapse at my meeting after 10, 15 years, not because they’re not working the steps, but because they’ve been working them and every aspect of their life has gotten better—marriage, job, home, finances. They look at the fact that their life got better and they go, So I’m better.

Because this is a brain disease, our brain resets every night to alcoholic. So I need to take the first three steps of AA in the first minute of my day. My simplified version is this:

Step 1: Good morning, John. You’re an alcoholic. Pay attention.

Step 2: There’s a God; it’s not me.

Step 3: I need a fresh decision today to turn my world and my life care to God. And then carry step three all through the day.

MacDougall will speak from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. June 23 at Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center in Northbrook and on June 24 at Prisco Community Center in Aurora. For more information and to RSVP to the Northbrook event, click here; for the Aurora event, click here

Wellness Wednesday: Gateway Swansea Adds Free Acupuncture Service

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Gateway Foundation Swansea is now officially offering acupuncture every Tuesday evening as part of its regular treatment programming. Dr. Eric Waltemate will be providing free acupuncture to every patient who signs up.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has gained popularity in the United States over the past decade. The practice is believed to have originated in China thousands of years ago. During a session, the acupuncturist pierces the skin with thin needles at specific points of the body, which are then stimulated to adjust the flow of energy throughout the body.

It is often used as an alternative and holistic form of treatment to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions.

It is a safe and beneficial treatment that is relatively painless.

Why use acupuncture?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Acupuncture can relieve physical withdrawal symptoms, help with relaxation, and suppress cravings for drugs and alcohol.”

In addition, acupuncture has been proven to increase retention in treatment, ease physical pain, help the client regulate emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and regulate sleep. All of which are extremely beneficial in promoting overall health and wellbeing.

This service is an addition to a new series now being offered every Wednesday during evening and morning groups that covers homeopathic coping skills including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise (including yoga and tai chi)

Trending: How the Stigma of Mental Health is Changing with Pop Culture

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Now more than ever, TV series and movies have been showing characters coping with mental illness while a growing list of celebrities have been speaking out about their own struggles with mental health disorders, helping to continue the national conversation about mental health.

Though mental health has long been considered a taboo topic, men, in particular, have had difficulties speaking about their emotions due to long-standing societal norms. Men are much less likely to seek treatment for mental health concerns compared to women. Recently, however, this attitude has shifted as more male celebrities and athletes have started to speak out about their battles with mental illness.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love wrote an article this past March about his experiences with anxiety, including a panic attack mid-game last year, and urged people to understand the reality and prevalence of mental illness.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a former athlete and now a popular actor, revealed his past battles with depression during his teen and early adult years. He encouraged men, in particular, to speak to someone and ask for help rather than bottling up their emotions.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has also been open about his struggle with depression and how it almost destroyed his career. Phelps credits therapy for helping him through his depression and, like Love, encourages anyone struggling to visit a therapist.

A common theme throughout these stories is asking for help. Seeing well-known and admired figures reach out for help influences others to seek help for themselves. When major figures speak about their personal experiences with controversial issues like mental illness, the conversation surrounding those issues usually becomes more normalized. Asking for help and seeking treatment for mental illness are both instrumental in getting better.

At Gateway, a team of therapists and counselors work with patients to help them understand and treat the underlying causes of their substance use, not just their addiction. If you or a loved one is considering Gateway as a treatment option, click here to learn more.

Gateway Director of Events Marty Cook and alum Nick Share Their Thoughts on Life After Recovery

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Photo Credit: Jason Marck/WBEZ

For WBEZ’s final Voice of Chicagoland’s Opioid Crisis segment, host Jennifer White spoke to Gateway Foundation Director of Events Marty Cook and alum Nick about young people in recovery.

To listen to the segment, click here.

“I just imagine that the power, particularly for younger people, to walk into a room and they think their life is over because they’ll never have fun again, and when they walk into a room, they see there’s 50 other people their own age that look just like them, who are young and who are laughing and having fun, but share the same common disease of addiction but are overcoming it and living life.”

Marty Cook talks about the importance of young people in recovery being able to see that they can still have fun without the influence of drugs and alcohol.

 

“It’s hard to connect definitely in high school. It’s already hard being a teen, and drugs and alcohol gave me that connection.”

Nick speaks about the struggles he faced during his teens and what led him to ultimately starting drinking and using drugs.

 

“The work we’re doing at Gateway is to create an added layer of support for our alums. When they leave treatment they get connected to other people.”

Marty discusses the work he does for Gateway Foundation and the events he plans for the alumni program to make sure alums have a support system in place post treatment.

 

“Recovery is possible.”

While reflecting on success stories and the various alums he encounters at his alumni events, Marty speaks to the change he’s seen in those that have left treatment and stayed engaged in the alumni programs.

 

“I enjoy exactly what I do and I think I’m in the right place and where I need to be.”

If you or a loved one are considering Gateway as a treatment option, click here to learn more.

John Oliver Brings Much Needed Attention to a Very Important Issue

On Sunday night, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver had a segment on the addiction treatment industry. During the segment, Oliver touched on many concerns that those within and outside of the industry have regarding addiction treatment providers.

At Gateway Foundation, we agree that there is not enough transparency or information available to the public about many of the treatment providers. People should be able to have access to the information they need to make a well-informed decision about where they or a loved one will receive treatment.

Oliver also made an assertion that there needs to be more expertise and oversight of the industry. At Gateway, we share his sentiment. There does need to be more oversight of the industry. This is why we are so pleased with all of the great work the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, NAATP, has done, including its Treatment Selection Guide and Code of Ethics 2.0. In addition, NAATP has also worked closely with Google and LegitScript to develop the qualification standards a treatment provider has to demonstrate in order to use Google AdWords.

In his segment, Oliver called for more treatment centers to provide evidence-based treatment options. We understand the importance of ensuring each one of our patients receives the treatment they need, which is why we utilize evidence-based practices, including medication-assisted treatment, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many more.

Dr. Britton and Gateway Alum Discuss the Opioid Crisis

Gateway Foundation President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Nick spoke to Niala Boodhoo on Illinois Public Media’s The 21st show to discuss the current opioid crisis and Nick’s journey to recovery.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

“It destroyed everything.”

Nick’s addiction had severe consequences. It damaged his relationships with family and loved ones. He found himself in legal trouble, and struggling to maintain any sense of normalcy in his life.

 “If we were to snap back 10 years ago, 5 to 10 percent of the people that we supported had opiates as one of their primary drugs and in a lot of the facilities that we treat today it’s as high as 60 percent.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the increase in the amount of people seeking treatment for opiates as the opioid crisis  continues to grow exponentially.

“An estimated 27 million people that require treatment for substance use disorders and 66 million drank in a binge fashion in the last 30 days so there’s this massive problem with all substances. Opiates are one of the smaller as a whole out of that, however, the consequences are so much faster and more intense.”

Dr. Britton discusses the current substance use problems facing the country, including excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking, which are often overlooked. Though alcohol use disorder affects more people than opioid use disorder, the consequences of opioids are felt much faster.

“[Addiction] is a brain disease; it is not an issue of moral failing or willpower.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of treating addiction as a brain disease and ending the stigma around addiction.

“There is fun in sobriety.”

Nick discusses how becoming engaged in the Gateway Alumni program and attending the events helped him after completing treatment.

“I’ve been sober for two and a half years… I have a great job that has insurance and benefits and the whole works.. It’s a total turnaround from who I was to who I am today… I gave this thing a shot and I actually gave myself that chance.”

If you or someone you know would like to tell your Gateway recovery story, please contact us. We’d love to interview you and inspire others. 

The Importance of a Recovery Community

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For many people, leaving treatment presents a whole new set of obstacles to overcome. One way to face these obstacles is to get involved with a recovery community. A recovery community gives people the opportunity to connect with others who have shared experiences and helps them build connections with one another.

Marty Cook, director of alumni events for Gateway Foundation, started a recovery community in the northern suburbs and continues growing that community in his role at Gateway.

“I’ve had the great fortune of seeing people who didn’t know each other come to events, get to know each other, and they’re best friends,” Cook says. “They go to 12 Step meetings together, they work out, they study together, and they support each other. But that’s not possible if there’s not a concerted effort by recovery groups or hospitals to add that extra layer of support for them.”

For younger generations, finding a support system may be even more challenging. Cook offers some insight into why a recovery community is critical for this age group.

“People get sicker sooner now,” Cook says. “Even 10, 20 years ago, people would maybe get into treatment in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, but they’re coming in in their 20s now and when you’re in your 20s, most of your friends are out on weekends, there’s not a spouse, kids, so what do you got? The social network you used to have is kind of cut off because it’s built around parties and bars and alcohol and drugs, etc.”

Following treatment, many young people feel there is nothing to do without alcohol or drugs, especially on the weekends. This can cause some people to isolate themselves and lose human connections and interactions, which can be detrimental to mental health; others may fall back into the same crowd of friends as before and start drinking or using drugs once again.

Although Gateway’s recovery events are usually open to all ages, the focus on young adults for some of these events, like the recent Chicago social on May 5, aim to connect young adults beyond specific treatment sites and beyond Gateway. Gateway’s recovery community has monthly socials in addition to a variety of other events that occur throughout the week as well as on weekends. The Lake Villa social takes place the first Saturday of every month and the Chicago social takes place every third Saturday of the month. To keep up with all recovery events, like us on Facebook and check out our event calendar.

Gateway’s recovery community is open to anyone in recovery.

“We’re not just saying ‘alumni,’ we’re saying if anybody is in recovery, come to our events. Because their experience could help us, just as our alumni can benefit from them,” Cook says. “Everybody wins.”

If you or someone you know would like to get involved with Gateway’s recovery community, please email Marty Cook at MrCook@GatewayFoundation.org.

 

 

Connecting to Social Media, Disconnecting from Mental Health?

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Loneliness has been perceived as a problem that mostly affects older populations. However, a new Cigna study found that Americans, as a whole, are feeling lonely, with adolescents and young adults reporting the highest rates of loneliness.

So what’s behind this wave of isolation? While some people blame the younger generations’ fixation on social media, the current evidence is inconclusive, in part because social media has only recently become prominent, making it difficult to study its long-term effects.

What is certain is a lack of face-to-face interactions is connected to people’s feelings of loneliness.

Teens today spend more time with media than anything else in their lives. Even when they are spending time with other people, many are still using their phones. And studies have shown the more time someone spends on social media platforms and the more social sites they visit, the more likely they identify themselves as socially isolated.

Passively spending time on these platforms and not engaging with others online can also result in feelings of isolation.

A’nna Jurich serves as executive director of Gateway Carbondale, which offers a program for self-esteem-related issues among adolescent girls. Jurich runs through some of the online trends associated with loneliness and mental health:

Cyberbullying

The rise of social media has raised with it concerns about online bullying. According to research, cyberbullying is often related to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, frustration, and other emotional problems. Bullying can be dangerous, especially for adolescents who are undergoing a lot of change, and ongoing.

“There are a couple of issues with the social media trend for adolescents: one is that they do not have the ability to disengage from all of the input from others, be it peers or media,” Jurich elaborates. “For example, if they are being bullied at school, they go home and log in and, often, the torment continues. They don’t have that period of afternoon and overnight to process and disengage from the negative messages.”

The Comparison Trap

Social media is a highlight reel and no one sees the daily behind-the-scenes; however, it can be difficult to keep that in mind while scrolling through endless photographs and videos everyday.

“Much of what is on social media is not always reality, so kids are often feeling that they need to live up to other’s perfect life experiences or appearances,” Jurich says. “They don’t see the everyday stuff, just the fabulous, and it puts a lot of pressure on them.”

FOMO

Also weighing on today’s younger generations is the fear of missing out on things, also known as “FOMO.” Many people’s moods shift after seeing their friends via social media having a good time while they aren’t. This trend is particularly common in adolescents and young adults, and it can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

Online Community

Although social media facilitate certain issues, good can also come from these platforms.

“I think that social media could be a great way to reach kids who are isolated with symptoms of mental health by educating and starting positive conversations,” Jurich says. “Many of them would be more willing to say something online than they are in person. So hearing others’ stories and even sharing their own in that venue could be less intimidating and help them to reach out when they need it.”

Starting Conversations about Mental Health

 

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May marks Mental Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma. To start our month-long conversation about mental health, we started asking some questions:

Who is affected by mental health disorders?

Millions of people in the United States alone deal with mental health disorders. Yet less than half receive help. Chances are you know someone with a mental illness or someone who is affected by a person struggling with a mental illness.

According to recent studies, adults between the ages of 18 to 25 make up the highest percentage of people struggling with mental illness, but compared to other age groups, they also report the lowest rates of seeking treatment.

Why don’t more people seek treatment for mental health?

One of the main hurdles preventing people from seeking necessary treatment is the stigma surrounding mental health. Many people feel their mental health is not as important as their physical health or feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit they have a mental problem. As a result, some ignore their mental health concerns while others try to treat their symptoms by themselves.

What are some signs of a mental health disorder?

The signs of each mental health disorder are unique to that disorder, but here are a few to look out for:

  • Extreme changes in mood and behavior
  • Changes in work or school performance
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Prolonged feelings of anger or sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Struggles with carrying out day-to-day tasks

What are some examples of mental health disorders?

Depression and anxiety are the two most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States; however, many Americans also live with obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorders, among others. The severity of mental health disorders also varies by individual.

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Nearly 80 percent of people with mental health disorders have substance use disorders. In an effort to cope with the symptoms from their mental health disorder, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. The most common substance people turn to for help is alcohol. However, alcohol and many other drugs can exacerbate symptoms.

How can we reduce stigma?

In the past few years, there has been a change in the conversation around mental health. Mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, have garnered more attention due to more celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, sharing their battles. If we continue asking questions and normalizing conversations about mental illness, then we can continue investing in and improving treatment for mental health.

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