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.

Gateway Foundation’s ASPIRE Program Achieves Top, Dual Diagnosis Rating

Chicago Independence _Preferred

Gateway is proud to announce the ASPIRE program at Chicago Independence is the first in Illinois to be certified as a Dual Diagnosis Enhanced (DDE) site. This means ASPIRE is now officially able to treat co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. ASPIRE is the only women’s program that has met the DDE standard, as determined by an independent rater, and one of the only women’s programs American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) deems appropriate for clients who have severe or unstable mental health disorders and need residential treatment.

The ability to treat substance use and mental health disorders is extremely important, as 80 percent of individuals with mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, also have substance use disorders. In order for a person to have the greatest chance of a successful outcome, both aspects must be treated. When either disorder goes untreated, the probability of relapse is much higher.

In order to ensure the staff is thoroughly prepared for treating clients with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, Gateway hired employees who established many techniques to develop a training program to spread the knowledge. Ensuring the staff is properly prepared to treat both disorders allows for patients to have the best chance at lifelong recovery.

What is ASPIRE?

The ASPIRE program was first implemented six years ago and provides evidence-based treatment for women suffering from substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. While addiction does not discriminate based on gender, addiction has often been painted as a male issue. In reality, millions of women in the United States are also battling addiction. A program like ASPIRE helps bridge the gender gap of addiction while still ensuring women receive a tailored, personalized treatment plan for their individual needs.

“The program gives women everything that exists in the best non-gender specific programs, with the added benefit of women-specific programming that addresses how gender roles impact substance use disorders and related co-morbid conditions, such as trauma,” says Chicago Independence Clinical Director Gilbert Lichstein. “The program is a safe space where participants are not addressed in a confrontational manner or judged.”

ASPIRE is one of many Gateway initiatives that demonstrates our commitment to treating not only substance use disorders but the underlying causes of addiction.

9 Tips to Encourage Your Valentine to “Lean In” to Addiction Recovery

iStock_000008811652MediumIn honor of Valentine’s Day, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment reminds couples that selfless act of love can rekindle a sense of purpose in their Valentines. Without a doubt, the power of love can help people take the first step in overcoming alcoholism and/or drug addiction.

“An act of concern and support may arouse a renewed sense of personal power in others, which changes their perspective from ‘feeling forced’ or powerless to change to ‘feeling confident’ or capable of change,” explains John Larson M.D., Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers.

Building self-confidence and sense of purpose in your Valentine requires genuine respect and judgment-free affection from reliable “agents of change.” To help encourage an open approach versus a confrontation about substance abuse concerns, Gateway offers nine tips:

  1. Get smart about effects of alcoholism and drug abuse as well as potential treatment options to help facilitate a productive discussion.

  2. Timing is extremely important. Choose a time when your Valentine is sober and the mood is calm.

  3.  Set a caring and supportive tone for the conversation–anything less may backfire.
    – “You haven’t seemed to be yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
    – “What can I do to help the situation?”
  4. Use open-ended questions to draw out underlying feelings.
    – “It’s not uncommon for people to drink alcohol to try to appease their tough thoughts and feelings. What are some memories and feelings that trigger drinking?”
  5.  Talk less, listen more. Listen and respect everything your Valentine has to say, and resist interrupting.
    – “What are some of the things that make you happy when you’re not drinking?”
    – “What are some of the not-so-good things about drinking?”
  6. Use affirming statements to demonstrate understanding and to validate a loved one’s feelings. Validating a person’s feelings—no matter what he or she has to say—can help encourage self-guided change.
    – “You are under a tremendous amount of pressure so it’s no wonder you feel so overwhelmed.”
    – “That must have been devastating. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
  7. Take with a grain of salt any accusations of blame or verbal abuse, and refrain from engaging in arguments.
    – “I understand this isn’t easy to talk about so I’m going to let that one go.”
  8. Substance abuse rattles one’s self esteem so be sure to express he or she deserves better, and is capable of achieving whatever change is desired.
    – “I’m not giving up on you. You are the most amazing person I know.”
  9.  If shut down, don’t take it personal. Rather, just listen and try to withhold frustration or it may be more difficult for him or her to open up later.

“Planting the seeds of recovery from addiction is a delicate balancing act requiring patience and unconditional love but it’s not impossible,” says Larson.

For more insights and tips about helping a person take on addiction issues, download Gateway’s Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse at RecoveryGateway.org/Roadmap.

Another Helpful Article: “What To Do When a Loved One Has a Substance Abuse Problem?”

Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness February 2016.

New Year’s Resolutions Can Increase your Chance of Success with Drug Rehab

new years resloutionThose who make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who don’t, according to researchers at the University of Scranton. A resolution to enter drug rehab can be an important first step towards a new and better future.

Every New Year brings a significant increase in people accessing drug rehab, so anyone resolving to break free of their addiction won’t be alone, according to Gilbert Lichstein Program Director at the Chicago West facility of Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers.

“One of the best predictors for success in treatment is one’s readiness to change.  Committing to change, like making a New Year’s resolution, means you’re more likely to succeed,” Lichstein said.

Setting specific goals can increase the chance of a New Year’s resolution succeeding: simply resolving to lose weight is not as effective as deciding to exercise a set number of days each week. Those looking to break free of addiction can increase their chance of success by resolving to enter a drug rehab program in January of the New Year.

Enlisting the support of friends and family members can also help a New Year’s resolution succeed.

“Many people will spend the holidays with their friends and loved ones. This is a great opportunity to share your resolution with them and rally their support,” Lichstein said. “If a drugs and alcohol have isolated you from those you care about, treatment can put you on the path to reconnect with them.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drugs, visit recovergateway.org or call 877-505-4673 to learn more about treatment options, insurance coverage, and Gateway’s free, confidential consultation.

In Honor of National Recovery Month, Gateway Alumnus Shares the Story of his Road to Recovery

In Honor of National Recovery Month in September, John Fields, Gateway Alumnus Shares His Recovery Story:

National Recovery Month, Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment CentersBy the time John Fields turned to Gateway, he was having a drink as soon as he woke up in the morning. He had become aware his drinking was out of control and that he needed help. “I knew I couldn’t quit on my own. I needed a safe place where I didn’t have access to drugs or alcohol,” John said.

John wanted to get his mind clear so he could begin to think rationally again. He also wanted to learn how to live on the outside without using alcohol

“Gateway gave me what I needed most, a safe place and the tools and knowledge I needed to live a sober life outside of treatment,” John explained.

John had been sent to drug treatment centers in the past by family members or managers at a job but he’d never gone to treatment for himself. Each time, he’d end up returning to his same routines. He never followed up with meetings or became involved in an alumni program, and he thought he could resume his old lifestyle with friends.

This time around, he was highly motivated and he also did his homework. John said, “Gateway is a much nicer facility than the others I looked at and the staff is great. These people know what they’re doing.”

Read John’s full story at RecoverGateway.org/AlumniSuccess>

Gateway Chicago River North Provides Lifetime Addiction Recovery Support

Gateway Chicago River North

Gateway Chicago River North
Located at 444 N. Orleans, near the Merchandise Mart, our center offers easy access to parking and public transportation
(Metra and CTA)
Merchandise Mart (Brown Line, Purple Line)
Clark/Lake (Blue Line subway)
Clinton/Lake (Green Line, Pink Line)
State/Grand (Red Line subway)

Fresh out of treatment, life in early recovery is bombarded with change. To help our former clients remain firmly grounded in addiction recovery, Gateway Chicago River North provides structured ongoing support and sober fun at no additional cost through our Alumni Program.

Our Alumni Support Specialist, Taylor Evers, is dedicated to ensuring former clients have access to fellowship and resources for lasting recovery. The Alumni Program meets the last Wednesday of every month at our River North Treatment Center from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Gateway’s River North center is located near the Merchandise Mart and is easily accessible via public transportation. Our Outpatient Treatment Programs are offered in the evening to accommodate the schedules of busy, working adult men and women.

For questions about Gateway Chicago River North’s Alumni Recovery Support Programs, contact Taylor Evers at tlevers@gatewayfoundation.org.

To learn more about treatment options at Gateway Chicago River North, visit Recovergateway.org/ChicagoRiverNorth.

The Affordable Care Act Opens Doors to Addiction Recovery

By Dr. John Larson

JohnLarson_Gateway Alchol and Drug Treatment Centers

Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers

In predicting the types of medical problems we may experience in the future, we tend to underestimate the likelihood substance abuse will occur in our own life or the life of a close family member.

Studies have shown that approximately 10% of Americans need substance abuse treatment each year but only 1% receives it. And while the reasons vary, financial constraints are frequently a barrier that prevents people from getting the kind of help they need.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans who had insurance and tried to get treatment for themselves or a family member discovered alcohol and drug abuse was not covered by their health insurance. But things are different today.

Now, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance carriers to provide the same benefits for psychiatric and substance abuse as they do for other medical conditions.

Unfortunately, too many people still assume treatment for addiction issues is not covered by their health insurance, and the reality is they have the type of coverage benefits they need and can engage in treatment right away.

With the financial barrier removed, there’s hope for more families to end the relentless cycle of substance abuse.

Not enough hours in a day to iron out what’s covered by insurance? Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment will do the work for you. Call 877-505-HOPE (4673) to learn more about your insurance coverage options for substance abuse treatment.

Boosting Memory Aids Addiction Recovery Efforts

memory addiction recovery, gateway treatment centersAccording to findings from recent study, playing those memory games can improve decision-making in recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, which may result in an increase in substance abuse treatment efficacy.

The discovery involves an underlying relationship between memory and delay discounting. Psychologists use the term “delay discounting” to refer to one’s inability to resist the temptation of a smaller immediate reward in lieu of receiving a larger reward at a later date. Discounting future rewards too much is a form of impulsivity, and an important way in which we can neglect to exert self-control. Delay discounting has been linked to substance abuse treatment outcomes, with higher rates of impulsivity associated with a greater risk for relapse after drug rehab. This predictive ability is true regardless of one’s drug of choice, be it heroin or nicotine—the longer you can wait for any type of reward, the longer you are likely to go without using.

Meet Your Brain’s Impulse Control Center

The ability to delay gratification is linked to activation in a specific part of the brain—the dorsal (top) lateral (outside) prefrontal cortex, which is associated with planning and decision-making. Typically, more activation in this area means better self-control. However, the prefrontal cortex is known to be abnormal in substance abusers, and numerous studies have shown that addicts have less brain volume in this region than non-drug users. The decrease in size seems to be directly related to drug use itself, with severity and length of use linked to a greater decrease in volume and activity.

Researchers’ Aha Moment

A recent study alludes when you improve working memory you enhance your willpower. Initially this realization was surprising to researchers—since discounting and working memory are separate cognitive processes. However, the two functions overlap in the brain, and both are linked to activation in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex. As a result, it appears that improving working memory can strengthen activation in this area, which can subsequently enhance other behaviors that tap into it—like self-control.

“Remembering an event in the past and thinking about the future are really tied processes. And working memory, being able to hold ideas and concepts or facts in our heads for a certain period of time, may be necessary for us to think about and value things that occur in the future,” explains Dr. Warren Bickel, who has been researching drug addiction for the last 20 years.

Losing brain cells is never a good idea, but in the prefrontal cortex it can be especially detrimental, impacting the ability for self-control and making someone even more impulsive than they already were. But all is not lost.

The good news: Studies have shown that our brains can bounce back once off drugs because the cells have the ability to regenerate—similar to leaves sprouting from tree branches after a long, cold winter. If someone you care about needs help getting life back on track, Gateway Treatment Centers can help. Call today to learn about a free, confidential consultation at (877) 505-HOPE (4673).

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