Shame, Stigma, and Addiction

Individuals struggling with substance abuse may often feel a sense of shame or stigma and find that it is easier to lie and hide rather than seek treatment. However, more prevalent coverage of substance use disorder-related issues in media and depictions on television of individuals who are not only struggling with drugs and alcohol but also seeking treatment and sobriety, is helping reduce the shame and stigma associated with addiction.

THE FIX REPORTS:

With addiction, stigma can crush you. Stigma is what says your drug and alcohol use is a character flaw. It’s what says you’re a bad mother, it is what says you are a bad son, or a bad husband.

TheFix

It took me a while to get to rehab. I spent years bashing around, harming myself and the people around me before I finally went. I knew I had some serious issues with booze, drugs and sex that I could not get under control on my own, but still, at least people didn’t know I had those problems, and at the time that was all that mattered. It wasn’t like my parents, friends, employers, wives and lovers, knew I was a drunk, a freak and a loser. Sure, it might help if I went to rehab, but as ridiculous as it sounds to me now, the embarrassment of going, and the stigma attached to it, outweighed the fact that I actually might be able to get help. I was terrified of people finding out what my problems were. I had fallen victim to shame, that was perpetuated by stigma.

If you are suffering with an issue of addiction, stigma can crush you. Stigma is what says your drug and alcohol use is a character flaw. It’s what says you’re a bad mother, it is what says you are a bad son, or a bad husband. It is what says you are weak, that you are crazy, that you are a piece of crap. It is why you are afraid to tell your boss that you need some time off to go get help. It is why you would rather lie than tell someone that you are not doing okay. It was why I would rather steal than let people know I needed help.

That was ten years ago. Now, when I look around at the people I know who are struggling with similar issues, there seems to be much less stigma attached to addiction and getting help for one’s problems, at least when it comes to the younger people I know. I am a member of Generation X, my generation hid everything we could about our issues as a rule, but with the coming of Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials, things finally seem to be changing.

Mike Reis, CEO and Founder of DecisionPoint Wellness, had this to say to me about stigma and the younger generation over an email interview: “A big factor that prevents many people from getting the help they need is the stigma associated with being labeled an addict. This is especially true for older Americans who isolate and feel an overwhelming sense of shame. Surprisingly, millennials are leading the way to remove the social stigma. I’ve learned a lot from the millennials that have come through our intensive outpatient program at DecisionPoint in Johns Creek, Georgia. They are connecting to others in recovery through technology and social media. Millennials openly share their recovery stories and daily journey on the Internet too. Unlike previous generations that came into recovery through the anonymity of AA, millennials don’t feel the need to be shackled to those traditions. They are more focused being individuals, and building a community of support. It’s common to see them proudly posting their sober anniversary dates on Facebook. Millennials seem to understand that the way to maintain their sobriety long-term is to publicly share their personal stories as survivors, and bring truth to the spotlight while creating a community of support. In doing so, they help others realize that addiction is a disease, and it needs to be treated as such without shame.”

Many millennials just don’t care a whole lot about what anyone thinks. A good example of this is Kassia Kristoff, a 30-year-old woman who once went to rehab to get help with her heroin use. “Fortunately for me, I have never cared much if at all what ‘society’ thinks of me, and as a result, felt no shame going to rehab. My world by the end consisted of only other addicts, so the only shame might have been in throwing in the towel. What I do feel shame about is the fact that people in this country are judged so harshly for being addicts. As someone who now works in a rehab and works with addicts in my personal life as well, I have seen the devastation that addiction causes to all who suffer from it. Most addicts, when clean, are extremely loving, caring and productive people. They simply need to be taught how to live without using first. Rehab is very helpful in this regard, because it teaches addicts (a term I use for all who suffer from addiction to any substance, including alcohol) about their addiction, and ways to cope without the crutch of their substance. Rehab gives addicts an opportunity to temporarily thrive in a safe and compassionate controlled environment, and to allow their brains and bodies to ‘sober up.'”

According to Karen Wolownik Albert, LCSW, who is executive director of Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment, social and traditional media has a lot to do with this change. She said to me in an interview: “More prevalent coverage of substance use disorder-related issues in media and depictions on television of individuals who are not only struggling with drugs and alcohol but also seeking treatment and sobriety, is helping reduce the shame and stigma associated with addiction. Younger generations are more likely to openly discuss the topic and be more transparent with their families and friends about their desire to seek help, compared to previous generations that kept their struggles private due the negative stigma of being an ‘addict.'”

Of course, it isn’t easy to go to rehab, no matter what generation you are in. But the stigma is way harder to deal with when you are going to get help than it is once you come out on the other side. As an obvious example, I have gone from someone who was terrified about letting anyone know about my issues, to writing about them in forums such as this one. Someone else who has done that is Lindsey Hall, who writes for many websites about her experiences with her eating disorder, including her own.

She told me that “I do not feel stigma around my eating disorder. Not anymore, at least… but I also write about it publicly and have connected with hundreds of people who have been through what I experienced, and I think that has slowly worn away the fear of stigma. Also, we live in a world where opioid addiction and eating disorders are on the rise, so it’s more likely than ever that you have a loved one or you yourself have experienced addiction. Due to social media, people talk about their ‘issues’ more openly than ever and for an eating disorder, there are so many body positive Instagram accounts as well as recovery websites and essays and blogs (including mine) about this exact topic that make you feel like you’re actually in a community. However, before I went to rehab in 2013, I absolutely did feel stigma. I was terrified to tell people I was going. I wanted people to respect me and think of me as someone who had her life together, and I felt like rehab had this whole stigma of ‘Oh, you went to rehab? You must be like super messed up. You’re crazy. I can’t take you seriously anymore.’ At the end of the day, I’m not going to say it’s easy to proclaim, when meeting new people, that I’ve been in rehab. But, it’s just becoming more of an acceptable reality in a culture where drug addiction/binge drinking/and eating disorders are rampant.”

David Rosenbloom, PhD, is a professor of Public Health at Boston University where he directs Join Together, a program that helps communities prevent and reduce alcohol and drug problems.

Dr. Rosenbloom told me that he believes millennials are more tolerant of a much broader range of human conditions than their parents or prior generations. When I asked him what we could do as a society to decrease stigma, he said, “We need to significantly expand access to medication-assisted treatment and conduct a public education campaign in support of their long-term use. We also need to apologize for past excesses in the criminal justice system, and systematically review and release hundreds of thousands of people who are in prison or jail because of their substance use disorder. We should repeal all laws that prevent individuals with criminal records associated with drug or alcohol use from getting jobs, housing or education, and expand public investments to provide jobs for these people.”

When it comes right down to it, more and more people of the millennial generation are not only not ashamed of their seeking help for their issues, they make a point of that for all to see. One of those people is Seth Leaf Pruzansky, who is shopping a book about his spiritual awakening that came when he was incarcerated for a drug-related offense.

Seth told me that, “The stigma of being an addict shouldn’t stop anyone from getting help. Taking responsibility for getting it is squarely in the lap of the addict him or herself. Until they really own the fact that despite the circumstances leading to their addiction, they are the ones who ultimately made the choice of devolving into their current station in life, they will remain in a state of not believing that help is available. They will continue to play the victim card because in the short run, it’s a lot easier to stay in that rut rather than to get help and clean up. But in the long run, the continuing spiral into de-evolution and death is all but inevitable. I know. I personally climbed out of that hell.”

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If you know someone struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, know that help is available. Visit RecoverGateway.org for more information or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders: Is There a Correlation?

addictioneatingdisorder

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, organized by the National Eating Disorders Association, began on Sunday, Feb. 21. The week seeks to bring about awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, and to challenge the way the public perceives these illnesses.

The goal of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness) is to put the spotlight on eating disorders and improve public understanding of their causes, dangers and treatments. Millions of people across the country suffer from eating disorders, and by increasing awareness and access to resources, we can encourage early detection and intervention. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, so early intervention can mean saving lives.

Co-Occurring Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorders

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment aims to help individuals understand the connection between eating disorders and substance abuse.

Substance use and eating disorders have strong correlations starting at development. Both diseases are influenced by genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors and can develop before, during, or after treatment for an eating disorder. For some individuals, substance use may cause appetite suppression leading to significant weight loss that can trigger the onset of an eating disorder. For others, it can be relied upon for avoidance-based coping.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, nearly 50% of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing substances such as drugs and/or alcohol.

These two diseases feed upon each other and intensify the destructive qualities of one another. This in turn creates a vicious cycle for the person suffering being that one disorder cannot be treated without treating the other.

If you know someone who has an eating disorder and is also abusing substances, seek treatment and determine if they are equipped in treating individuals with this specific co-occurring disorder.

Sources:
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
www.eatingdisorderhope.com

Emerging Teen Drug Trends and Treatment Options

teen drug trendsKeeping teenagers drug and alcohol free can be an especially difficult challenge parents face. There are many emerging teen drug trends they need to be aware of.

For example, the heroin epidemic sweeping the country is primarily among middle and upper class 18 to 22-year-olds. Coroner officials reported there were 29 heroin-related deaths in Lake County, Illinois alone last year. With many heroin users, their first experience with drugs is a prescription pain reliever provided by their very own doctor.

Teenagers with an opioid-based prescription are three times more likely to wind up misusing these drugs after high school, according to the Michigan study. Many of them turn to heroin when prescription drugs become too expensive or unavailable.

Parents also need to watch out for the use of synthetic marijuana, a dangerous and unpredictable product that many teens believe to be a legal and “natural” alternative to real marijuana.

This includes information on the signs and symptoms of teen drug use, teen drug trends, effects of drug use on developing brains, tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

Concerned parents can also visit RecoverGateway.org to access free information on prevention and treatment. To talk to our treatment specialists about teen drug or alcohol treatment options throughout Illinois, including Lake County, call our 24-Hour helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673). With more than 45 years of experience treating teens and adults, Gateway is here to help.

Gateway’s Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center in Aurora to hold Open House Friday, Oct. 16

fox-valley-drug-rehab-centerThe Aurora facility of Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers will hold an open house Friday, Oct. 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Attendees can tour Gateway’s recently-expanded facility, meet the staff and learn about the alcohol and drug treatment services it provides to the Fox Valley community.

They can also hear about Gateway’s plans for future alcohol and drug treatment programs from Dr. Thomas P. Britton, Gateway’s new President and CEO.

“People might have a loved one they’re concerned about, or they could simply be curious about our facility and what we have to offer,” Britton said. “This open house will be a chance for the community to learn more about our Gateway center in Aurora, meet our staff and get answers to whatever questions they may have about substance abuse and the treatment options available in the Fox Valley area.”

The Aurora facility, on the campus of Presence Mercy Medical Center, recently added 10 residential beds to its alcohol and drug treatment center. The expansion increases the inpatient annex to 44 residential beds, and also provides additional counseling space for outpatient treatment.

Jim Scarpace, Executive Director of the Aurora Treatment Center, said this is part of Gateway’s effort to meet the increasing demand for drug treatment, given the continuing surge in opiate addiction in the Fox Valley, Aurora and Chicago areas.

“Our goal is to help individuals get their life back on track through the use of client-centered, evidenced-based approaches in both our residential and outpatient programs. The expansion provides more convenient access to those who need drug and alcohol treatment in the Fox Valley area” Scarpace said.

The facility is located at 400 Mercy Lane, Aurora, IL. RSVPs are suggested, but not required, by calling Donna Butler at 630-966-7403 by Friday, Oct. 16. Free parking is available.

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers offer a comprehensive approach to drug rehab. With 10 facilities throughout the state, including three in Chicago and two in the Chicago Suburbs, its staff creates personalized treatment plans for each client, one that treats the underlying causes of substance abuse—not just their addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Services include substance-abuse education, group and individual counseling, medical treatment of withdrawal symptoms and integrated therapy for underlying mental health concerns. Gateway also provides family counseling and education, relapse prevention and aftercare recovery support programs for teens and adults.

Gateway Caseyville Supports St. Louis Metro East Community

Gateway Caseyville

Gateway Caseyville

This holiday season, Gateway’s St. Louis Metro East Inpatient drug treatment center held its fifth annual food drive for the Caseyville Food Pantry.  Gateway Treatment Centers are committed to giving back and are proud to support the St. Louis Metro East community. Canned food donations from Gateway Staff were collected and delivered to the pantry by Gateway’s MaryBeth Reinger. The pantry is located at 119 W. Lincoln Ave., Caseyville IL 62232, and is run by the Caseyville United Methodist Church in conjunction with St. Stephen Catholic Church in Caseyville. The pantry was able to serve approximately 300 families and 1,000 individuals in 2014.

Todd Bridges, Star of “Diff’rent Strokes,” Inspires Residents of Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Springfield

Gateway alcohol and drug treatment springfield, Todd Bridges, different strokes, Addiction Treatment

Jan Ruby, Outreach Coordinator, Gateway Springfield; Dana Schanholtzer, Midwest DNA and Drug Testing; Todd Bridges; Kerry Henry, Executive Director, Gateway Springfield

Former child actor, Todd Bridges, provided inspiration and substance abuse recovery guidance to the residents of Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment  in Springfield, IL on Friday, September 19, 2014. Bridges was a long time child actor on the television show, Diff’rent Strokes, and remains active in various movies and television shows today.

Bridges discussed his personal struggle with drug addiction and the damaging effects it has had on his life. During his presentation, Bridges elaborated on his various substance abuse treatment episodes and what it finally took for him to get his life back on track. He shared with adults in the audience the importance of working on themselves; and encouraged those with children to remember the impact drug addiction has on the entire family.  Bridges also encouraged  teens in attendance to make better choices with their young lives; pointing out  they risk losing their freedom, families and possibly their lives. Bridges sprinkled his presentation with humor and laughter and encouraged questions from the substance abuse treatment facility residents.

Remaining gracious and humble, Bridges demonstrated a real life example of how to overcome addiction by meeting life on life’s terms; one day at a time.  Gateway Treatment Centers would like to thank Mr. Todd Bridges for sharing his story.

 

Diffusing Drug Cravings with Mindfulness Urge Surfing

As defined by author Jon Kabat-Zinn of University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness is: “A gentle effort to be continuously present with experience…paying attention on purpose.”

With practice and commitment, mindfulness is a tool that can help people work through a variety of common concerns, such as: mood swings, stress, depression, grief and impulsivity. And now, it is being used with success to help people in drug treatment manage their addiction issues for lasting sobriety.

A newly released book, Mindfulness-Based Sobriety (Turner, Welches and Conti; 2014), relates mindfulness techniques to relapse prevention. According to the book, mindfulness begins by focusing awareness on one’s own breathing. If and when the mind strays—to thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges—it’s completely normal. However, the trick is to observe yet not react to the distractions.

 The key to appreciating mindfulness is twofold:

  1.  Be aware and accepting of urges, cravings, emotions, and all aspects of your experience, while not driven to act on them.
  2. Base motivation and actions on what need to be done in order to move towards a life worth living.

mindfulness, urge surfingWhen cravings or urges arise, a person in drug treatment learns how to acknowledge the urge without “fusing” with or acting upon it. Cravings, like waves in an ocean, tend to rise in intensity, crest and then subside. Also like waves, the process typically repeats itself. Mindful awareness of this pattern is called “urge surfing,” a term coined by the late Alan Marlatt, psychologist and developer of Relapse Prevention Therapy.

Experiencing and accepting the rise and fall of cravings and urges without reacting can be liberating for individuals who have surrendered to their urges with alcohol or drug use in the past. With a new sense of empowerment, individuals with a foundation in mindfulness will base their actions on what they need to do to achieve the life they want.

To learn more about using mindfulness to manage addiction issues, please sign up for Gateway’s free CEU webinar on Jan. 30, 2014, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The trainers are Dr. Phil Welches and Nick Turner, substance abuse experts and co-authors of Mindfulness-Based Sobriety: A Clinicians Treatment Guide for Addiction Recovery.

Purchase the book with curriculum on Amazon.com today.

I Need Help for an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Problem

Do you ever feel guilty following heavy drinking/drug use? Do you drink or use drugs to help you unwind after work? Have you ever thought about cutting down on your alcohol/drug consumption?

help for substnace abuse, drug problem, alcohol problemPeople often believe their alcohol/drug usage is under control until something bad happens, such as a DUI or hospitalization.

If your unhealthy habits are causing problems at home or affecting your performance at work, Gateway has the answers you need to overcome substance abuse. The dedicated staff will be with you every step, making sure you receive the treatment, guidance and support for lasting recovery. In treatment, you will learn healthier coping skills and how to confront problems in your personal life. Think about the possibilities with a fresh start.

Individual Needs Come First at Gateway

Gateway gives you the power to get your life back on track. Along the path to recovery we want every person to know that they are not alone. Our experienced team of substance abuse experts is here to provide support and guidance, every step of the way. Rest assured, or dedicated counselors and team of clinicians work hard to understand each person’s unique needs and circumstances.

Through personalized treatment, we learn the underlying causes of one’s addiction, so recovery may begin.

At Gateway Treatment Centers, we provide the most advanced treatment options, which include clinically proven evidence-based therapies. Our goal is to empower people by providing them with the tools and knowledge they need to support their lasting recovery.

Learn more about Gateway’s substance abuse treatment for Men, Women and Teens.

Joint Commission Films Video at Gateway’s Aurora Treatment Center

DOES SEEING RED & GREEN MAKE YOU BLUE?

holiday depressionReady or not, the holidays are approaching! It’s likely you are seeing signs of the season. Zealous shopping destinations have already decked the boughs and wrapped the aisles in ribbon and garland.

While many look forward to the holidays, for others, the season can trigger feelings like depression, loneliness and other deep emotions. These types of feelings can be especially challenging for those who are in substance abuse treatment or recovery.

Nick Turner, Clinical Supervisor at Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Chicago River North offers some helpful reminders to help improve your mindfulness and your outlook:

Think about what you can do to have a holiday you will appreciate rather than getting caught up in thoughts of what could happen during the holidays.

  • Carry your values with you, like the love you have for your family and friends, and remind yourself how you want to behave around them.
  • Be mindful and aware instead of ruminating about how unpleasant the holiday event can be.
  • Practice putting less focus on others and more attention towards what you can control, such as your thoughts, attitude and actions.
  • Think ahead to when you’re driving home from the gathering, how do you want to feel about your actions and behavior towards your loved ones?
  • Exercise the tools you favor for reducing anxiety and depression, such as positive self-talk, journaling, exercise and meditation.
  • Attend recovery support meetings and alumni events to share your feelings with others and stay grounded in your values.

For more information about recovery support and upcoming alumni gatherings, please visit RecoveryGateway.org/Alumni.

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