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)

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.

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.

 

 

A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

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Today is “Day4Empathy” in Chicago as the Ebert Foundation honors late, beloved film critic Roger Ebert on the fifth anniversary of his death. Coincidentally, it is also the 50th anniversary of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

The day is more than an observance; it is a call to action to people across the city, and even across the country, to show more kindness and work towards more understanding with one another. Throughout the day in Chicago, ambassadors from the Ebert Foundation will pass out cards and bracelets to call on people to perform random acts of kindness for others. In addition, Roger Ebert’s wife, Chaz, will take an empathy truck around the city and stop to interview people about what empathy means to them.

On a number of occasions, Ebert spoke about empathy as one of the cornerstones of civilization. This is especially true when thinking about people who are facing difficult battles, like addiction. People fighting addiction who have the support of a strong community demonstrate much higher rates of success. Developing an understanding of where another person might be coming from is necessary to build such communities; it is critical in the journey of recovery.

In his reviews, Ebert talked about the ability of movies to bring about empathy. “When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes,” Ebert once said. “I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.”

That is what great movies do – they transport us to places and situations we never dreamed of experiencing, developing our understanding of the characters, others, and ourselves.

Today, remember to practice empathy more days in our lives.

How to Support your Loved One’s Recovery at Holiday Parties

Holiday SeasonThe holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but maybe especially hard for someone in recovery from a substance use disorder. With triggers typically present at holiday parties – normalized over-indulgence, staying out late, and the other various and bold rituals of celebration – it can be a challenge for those fresh in recovery and even those in long-term recovery, to maintain their sobriety. If your loved one in recovery takes on the challenge to attend a holiday party this season, please consider the following:

Worry about your own cup. Do not pressure others to drink with you. If you notice that someone does not have a drink in-hand or has something clearly non-alcoholic, let them be. The questions “What are you drinking?” and “Where’s your drink?” etc. are anxiety points for people in recovery, so much that they may disguise their non-alcoholic beverage in a tumbler or wine glass to avoid those encounters.

Do not question someone arriving late and leaving early. Not giving in to temptation requires a certain motivation that can be emotionally taxing. Respect your loved one’s limits and do not “guilt-trip” for them coming late and leaving early. It is also helpful to welcome their sponsor or sober guest for support.

Have non-alcoholic options ready. If you are hosting a holiday party, accommodate those that wish to not consume alcohol by having soft drinks, teas, lemonades, etc. on hand. It is also special to prepare non-alcoholic specialty drinks, or “mocktails”, so all can enjoy a drink that is festive.  It is also a good rule of thumb to not set the dining table with wine glasses. Offer the wine separately so it does not appear as an obligation to guests.

Try not to be offended if your loved one chooses to skip the holiday party overall. As a family member or friend, you may think that adverse pressures only come from your notion of bad influences; however, they can originate from something as simple as a holiday social. Have patience this holiday season and stay thoughtful of those in recovery.

If you or your loved one needs help during the holidays, or any time of year, Gateway’s treatment programs are always here to help.

The Relationship of Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

suicide and substance abuse, gateway treatment centersAt Gateway, we recognize that mental illness and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) often coincide. In fact, the presence of a co-occurring diagnosis is more the “rule” than the exception. The terms “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring” refer to an individual that is affected by two or more disorders or illnesses.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 37% of individuals with alcohol use disorder and 53% of those with a drug use disorder also have at least one serious mental illness.

It is difficult to diagnose which came first – the SUD or the mental health disorder. Drug use can cause one to experience symptoms of mental illness. However, mental illness can also lead to drug use as a form of self-medication to manage symptoms. There are many overlapping factors that can make it difficult to detect the initial issue.

“There is no question that no matter which came first; both issues need to be addressed in treatment,” said Katie Stout, Executive Director at Gateway. According to reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most common reason for relapse is an untreated mental health problem.

“The best chance of recovery is through an integrated treatment program that includes treatment of the SUD and the mental health illness,” said Katie Stout.

Evidence-based treatment for co-occurring disorders includes: motivational interviewing, mindfulness based therapy, trauma informed therapy and 12 step facilitation.

Gateway is a recognized leader among behavioral health care providers in offering substance use disorder treatment, as well as treatment for individuals that are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental illness. To learn more about our treatment programs visit us at RecoverGateway.org.

Stress on the Road to Recovery

April is Natiroadonal Stress Awareness Month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medical specialists believe that stress is the leading cause of relapse back into drug use. Research shows that the brain of those with substance use disorder is more hypersensitive to stress, which may provoke them to relieve their stress by returning to drugs.

 

 

For those in recovery, many stressors arise such as family/relationship conflicts, work, money and health concerns. It is important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you to recognize stress.

  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Stress is often unavoidable. However, you can take a proactive role in acknowledging and calming the stress to avoid relapse. There are many healthy and practical ways to reduce stress and increase your chance of staying sober. Among these are: Exercise, talking it out (or write about it), breathing with purpose (yoga/meditation), and of course good old laughter.

Most important is to recognize when you are experiencing stress and find your most healthy way to cope with it.

What Is the Difference Between Alcoholics Anonymous and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program?

In Honor of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, Gateway highlights the differences between 12-Step Meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous or 12-Step?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-Step group for those struggling with alcohol use disorder. Led by peers, this group allows participants to follow a set of recovery steps to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol.

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. AA works through members telling their stories of recovery from alcohol use disorder. AA is nonprofessional – it doesn’t have clinics, doctors, counselors or psychologists. All members are themselves recovering from alcoholism. There is no central authority controlling how AA groups operate. It is up to the members of each group to decide what they do. However, the AA program of recovery has proven to be very successful and almost every group follows it in very similar ways.

How is an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program Different from AA?

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment believes 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other kinds of recovery support groups play a valuable role in substance abuse treatment, but they only comprise part of the picture.

Gateway believes that a substance use disorder treatment program should include the use of evidence-based practices – drug and alcohol disorder treatments that integrate professional research and clinical expertise to achieve the best outcome for an individual.  The clinical professionals at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers employ evidenced-based practices to create meaningful, individualized treatment programs. We believe there is more than one pathway to recovery so we expose clients to a wide array of treatment methodologies. The greatest benefit can be derived from experiencing 12-step programs in conjunction with evidenced-based treatment.

Gateway engages both adults and teens through a variety of highly effective clinical approaches and therapies to help them get life back on track. On average, Gateway’s drug rehab programs have a 10% higher successful treatment completion rate when compared to other Treatment Providers.

12-Step as Part of Gateway’s Integrated Treatment Programs

“It’s a Personal Choice – Some individuals come to Gateway convinced that a 12-step program is the only thing that will work for them, while others have equally strong reservations about them. We make it a priority to accommodate the needs of clients who are of either mindset and implement the 12-steps accordingly,” said Gilbert Lichstein, LCPC, MS Clinical Psychology, Program Manager at Gateway Chicago.

Gradual Exposure- Our experienced staff utilizes a targeted approach that provides clients with an in-depth understanding of 12-step principles. Our curriculum is designed to break down barriers to participation and “kick start” the process of attending meetings and finding a sponsor.

12-step meetings can not only be challenging for some, they also vary from group to group and meeting to meeting. In order to give clients a good idea of what to expect out of support groups like these after leaving treatment, Gateway provides exposure to 12-steps in multiple settings. To offer our full support, we accompany individuals in our treatment programs to both on-site and off-site 12-step meetings.

For those who prefer not to use 12-step techniques, many Gateway treatment locations offer on-site SMART recovery groups and linkage to other peer support options such as Dual Recovery Anonymous.

To learn more about Gateway’s alcohol and drug treatment programs, visit RecoverGateway.org

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