Category Archives: Recovery

How To Kick An Addiction While Building
A Career

Ways To Kick Addiction While Building A CareerDrugs, alcohol and work don’t mix. At one time, hiding a bottle of Scotch or a handful of pills in a desk drawer for an afternoon high was conveniently overlooked by employers. Today, addictions are surefire career killers.

If you find yourself experiencing the torment of addiction while trying to hold down a serious fulltime job, you know you’re walking a treacherous tightrope. How many times can you call in sick or show up late for work before you get called into the boss’s office or the human resources department? How many excuses can you invent for your lengthy lunches or extended coffee breaks? As the work piles up and your performance dips down, you try to bluff your way through another miserable week at work hoping no one will notice you’re drowning with no hope in sight.

Addiction On The Job

Many hardworking career professionals suffer from the disease of addiction. Trying to navigate recovery and maintain your career path can be very tricky indeed. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 90 percent of alcoholics are functional. These include many high-paid professionals such as executives, physicians, entrepreneurs and even pilots. What all of these individuals have in common besides addiction is the ability to hide their struggles from coworkers, friends and loved ones.

“…more than 90 percent of alcoholics are functional.”

Overcoming The Denial Of Addiction

Many functioning addicts tell themselves that they’re ok because they pay their bills on time and are employed. Some drink only the finest wines or choose to use opioid painkillers prescribed from top-rated physicians. It’s easy to be in denial when you’re not on the streets struggling to find the cash for your next fix.

It’s also a fact that high-functioning addicts often spend years or even decades in denial. The problem is often made worse by family or friends who either fail to recognize or choose not to confront the problem.

Ways To Maintain Your Career While Overcoming Addiction

The good news is that many individuals manage to sustain their career and even achieve greater heights of success when they embrace recovery. In fact, there are many treatment options for professionals who need help with drug abuse or alcoholism.

Outpatient Programs: One option that is particularly beneficial for busy professionals is outpatient treatment that is scheduled around work and other responsibilities. An outpatient program offers personalized, on-going support as an individual continues in their career. Outpatient programs typically have a variety of treatment options that fit into a busy work schedule, including group and family counseling and 12-step meetings.

Internet Recovery Forums: Another flexible option that can help you kick an addiction are internet-based recovery forums such as and Although these types of forums can help you stay positively focused and offer supplemental support, they are no substitute for tangible, professional addiction treatment.

Are You A Busy Professional Struggling With Addiction?

The first step in overcoming addiction is breaking through the denial and asking for help. There are plenty of other professionals just like you who have already asked for help and are now enjoying a more productive, balanced life free from addiction. You’re not alone.

It’s time to take control of your life so that you can stay focused on your career, your family and the many other things that are truly important in life. If you’re ready to finally get control of your addiction, call Summit Estate now to speak with an addiction specialist.

We focus on each individual’s personal needs and goals and create a customized treatment plan that will work.

Learn more about our San Jose outpatient drug and alcohol programs below.

Outpatient Program

Why Spirituality Is Key To Effective Addiction Recovery

SummitEstate-SoulMind-banner-4-28-16According to a 2014 study conducted at Harvard, spirituality and brain activity are inextricably linked. The study found that mindfulness meditation could do far more than simply redirecting certain thought patterns. It actually changed the brain’s gray matter. Specifically, meditation resulted in “a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.” Because addiction impacts the brain in profound ways, this new knowledge holds enormous implications for the effectiveness of certain spiritual techniques used in addiction recovery.

An Unlikely Antidote

In 2002, international social work professors and researchers, Kris Kissman and Lynn Maurer, published an article in the Journal of International Social Work entitled East meets West: Therapeutic aspects of spirituality in health, mental health and addiction recovery. In it, they share that spirituality – the moral framework for giving meaning to life – can be a sort of “antidote to depression and despair.” They go further to say that “spiritual healing promotes wholeness and well-being, lacking when life circumstances create dejection that can result in self-medication, or the use of psychoactive substances to combat dispirited feelings.”

For anyone who has ever felt the unyielding grip of depression or addiction and is ready to encounter change, hope of such an antidote is worth exploring further.Women In The Field

From scholars to clinicians, experts are taking a closer look at practices that have been commonly used in Eastern cultures, and finding ways to incorporate them into the addiction recovery tactics used in the West. In a 2014 New York Times article, Dr. Lisa Miller, Director of Clinical Psychology and of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College, wrote that “a personal relationship with a higher power is the most powerful form of protection against the ‘mystic consciousness’ of substance abuse.” Addiction recovery programs offer a space in which one can explore this personal relationship alongside professionals who are familiar with the multifaceted nature of addiction.

One by one, the most highly respected authorities in the field of medicine are getting on the spiritual bandwagon because of the unquestionable evidence that brain and spirit are connected. In 2008, Pew Research Center published the transcript of a discussion held among a panel of neuroscientists. They spoke about how brain-imaging technology is telling us more and more about how we are affected by matters of the soul – “In observing Buddhist monks as they meditate, Franciscan nuns as they pray and Pentecostals as they speak in tongues, Dr. Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that measurable brain activity matches up with the religious experiences described by worshippers.”

Addiction recovery experts are utilizing this knowledge, and it is proving to be quite effective.

Spirituality vs. Religion

Reaching Towards the Sky-Spirituality vs. ReligionThere’s a difference between spirituality and religion, so it’s important to distinguish between the two. Lance Dodes, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, clarifies this difference – “…up to about 70 years ago, the terms spirituality and religion were almost synonymous.  But since then, ‘spirituality’ has also been used to refer to a feeling or belief in the oneness between an individual and the universe, being in touch with one’s soul or inner self, and even simply a sense of personal well-being.  None of these newer meanings has a specific reference to a deity or to religion.” Others who have attempted to define the terms have said religion relies more heavily on a collective agreement to adhere to certain rules, while spirituality is more focused on individual experiences and the unique meaning that s/he derives from those experiences.

Spirituality – A Lasting Road To Transcendence

Across disciplines, spirituality is being utilized as a dynamic tool that guides individuals toward an inner connectedness, awareness of oneself in relation to the universe, and a state of health and well-being.

What we now know is that addiction is often the result of a person’s desire to have a sense of pleasure and well-being. One’s substance of choice offers a temporary and false sense of euphoria, or as Dr. Miller puts it, “a shortcut to transcendence.” A deeper understanding of this human need for transcendence is informing the development of mental and behavioral alternatives to patients. These alternatives hold hope for those who use substances to satisfy their craving for feelings of bliss and relief.

Spiritual Recovery – What To Expect

Meditating-Spiritual Recovery, What To ExpectFor those who choose to venture into the world of spiritual healing, some of the angst may be due to not knowing what to expect. Many of the methods involve what Kissman and Maurer refer to as “present-moment awareness.” By focusing on breathing, listening, and sharing stories, this “present-moment awareness” has the potential to correct distortions that exist in the thoughts of addicts, quieting the mind and opening the door to another way of coping with stress and worries.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Spirituality and Power – Addiction recovery is often about giving up reliance on personal will power, and surrendering to the power of the collective. This is why group processes are so effective. Spirituality takes this concept to another level by teaching patients how to not only relinquish power to control, but also how to “[join] with a higher power in order to increase personal power,” according to Kissman and Maurer.
  • Spirituality and Transformation – Successful and lasting addiction recovery involves personal transformation. Addicts who once identified themselves as weak or powerless learn how to reframe their identity. This change comes as a result of the metaphors and stories that are characteristic of many spiritual practices. The stories give voice to individual struggles, and provide the spiritual component of “interconnectedness between individuals” by “[breaking] the emotional isolation” that often fuels addiction.
  • Spirituality and Cognition – Our brains are fascinating, and have the incredible ability to focus on the past, the present, the future, or realms of thought that aren’t even real. Kissman and Maurer’s research reveals that “present-moment awareness… facilitates a cognitive focus on positive aspects of everyday life” which “clears the mind for self-nurturing and coping.” In a world where suffering and despair may threaten to take over, self-nurturing is a skill that can improve cognitive function. Spirituality can clarify the “cognitive distortions” that can trigger substance abuse.

Addressing The Skeptics

AA MeetingAlcoholics Anonymous (AA) has now been around for over 80 years. Since the program’s inception in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, scientists and AA enthusiasts have gone back and forth about the credibility and success rate of the program’s spiritually-based 12-step method. To be fair, collecting data and publishing the findings of AA groups in peer-reviewed medical journals has been quite difficult because of the expectation of anonymity that is the very basis of the groups’ operation.

Even with this challenge, scientists have found ways to measure the success of the program. The numbers cannot be denied.  When discussing the skepticism that academicians have directed toward the spiritual components of AA, Thomas McClellan, Ph.D., Director of the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, says that because of the data, “professionals with such attitudes owe AA an apology.” Robert Fiorentine, Ph.D., Director of Research Training at the UCLA Drug Abuse Research Center, agrees, saying that “recent evidence [indicates] the effectiveness of the Twelve Steps in assisting in recovery.”

In 1998, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published a study called Project MATCH, which looked at 21 personal characteristics that could serve as reliable predictors of how well people would do when engaged in specific types of treatment. The findings of the Project MATCH study were fascinating. A total of 806 clients were randomly assigned to one of three different treatments. When total abstinence – fully giving up alcohol – was the desired outcome, the spiritually-based 12-step method held a “statistically significant advantage” over the other 2 treatments – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Enhancement Therapy.

Learn More

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, exploring spiritual treatment options might be worth a try. If your interest is piqued, give us a call today to find out more about how we can support you through your own transformation.

5 Things To Be Thankful For When Recovering From Addiction

5 Things To Be Thankful For When Recovering From AddictionThe emotionally demanding process of recovery is not easy by anyone’s standards. The initial phases of sobriety are particularly difficult, and even physically and emotionally exhausting. Yet, in the early phase of recovery, individuals who are battling drug or alcohol addiction are often surprised that they quickly begin to rediscover hope and a renewed appreciation for life.

In rehab, you will often hear people say that you can start your day over at any time. In recovery, you have the opportunity to start your life over. Whether you’ve lived with addiction for months, years or decades, today is truly the first day of the rest of your life – your sober life! This is why many addicts will tell you that their worst day sober is better than their best day using.

Things To Be Thankful For When Recovering From Addiction

While every individual in recovery will have their own particular reasons to be thankful, the following are some of the most typical that you’ll hear from those who are on their journey of recovery.

1. Better Health

Drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc on your physical health. From causing sleep disturbances and digestion problems to damaging your skin and eventually your internal organs, addiction is a one way ticket to health problems. By eliminating the substance from your system, you’ll begin to heal yourself. In fact, feeling and looking better are some of the earliest benefits of sobriety.

2. Clarity

Drugs and alcohol put your brain in a fog that can make it hard to concentrate, connect with others and experience feelings. Many people who enter recovery are amazed to experience a renewed ability to comprehend ideas and feel the gamut of emotions that are part of a healthy, fully-functioning life.

3. New Friends

While it’s important to stay connected with existing friends who support you in your recovery, you’ll most likely meet new individuals in meetings and support groups. Often, these will be the friends who you celebrate milestones and victories with as you achieve long-term sobriety.

4. Better Family Relationships

Addiction can be devastating on a family. Relationship can be damaged, and trust is lost. With each day of sobriety, you’ll be able to regain trust and participate fully in the lives of those who mean the most to you.

5. Greater Productivity

Work, school, relationships, exercise, hobbies and more will improve when you’re free from addition. It can feel like you have more hours in the day, and, in a sense, you do! Make the most of your reclaimed time, and relish in the pleasure of making the most of your life!

Get On The Road To Gratitude

Starting on the journey of recovery can seem overwhelming. Yet, it begins with taking that first step of asking for help. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call now to speak with one of our team members. We will treat you with the respect and compassion that you deserve.

The Beginning Of Recovery Starts Today…With One Call

How Much Time Is Enough For Long-term Rehab?

There are a lot of unknowns when you are considering entering rehab for drug or alcohol addiction. One of the most common questions asked is, “How long will I need to stay in rehab?”

This is a fair question. An inpatient rehab program takes you away from everyday activities including work, school, and social activities. However, there is no clear cut answer to how long rehab takes. The length of stay is based on your individual needs (including your substance abuse, relapse and mental health history).

Who Long-term, Inpatient Rehab Is Best For

How Much Time Is Enough For Long-term Rehab-Summit EstateLong-term rehab is the right choice for those with severe addiction, particularly for men and women who have attempted rehab in the past and have relapsed. It’s also extremely beneficial for individuals who are dealing with co-occurring disorders of both addiction and conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

At Summit Estate, we ask that every person who is entering inpatient rehab commit to a stay of at least 30 days. Substantial evidence has shown that 28 to 30 days are necessary for changing a person’s behaviors.

For many clients, the stay is longer than 30 days. Often, the stay for inpatient substance abuse treatment is between 45 and 120 days. Interestingly, research has shown that inpatient care of 90 days or more is most likely to lead to lifelong sobriety.

What Happens In Inpatient Treatment?

Ninety or 120 days can seem like a long time to recover from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Yet, recovery is actually a life-long process with significant work accomplished during this pivotal inpatient phase in the recovery process.

Upon completing the initial detox, inpatient rehab is focused on healing the mind, body, and spirit. This means acquiring new ways of living and being able to manage the triggers that led to the addiction in the first place. This is accomplished at Summit Estate’s long-term inpatient drug rehab in the Malibu area with a personalized treatment program that can include one-on-one therapy, group therapy, a 12-step program, and holistic treatment like meditation, yoga, and nutritional counseling.

Find out more about getting the help that you need today! With a single call, you can take the first step in overcoming addiction and reclaiming a life free from addiction and pain.

Call Us Now To Learn More Or To Begin A Life Free From Bondage – You Are Worth It & Always Have Been!

3 Activities Of Self-Expression In Recovery

Make Time For Yourself-Self-Expression In Recovery-Summit EstateFor those who are in addiction recovery, one of the primary goals is to develop strategies that can help overcome negative emotions and behaviors. Before starting on the road to recovery, the substance was used to numb feelings like anger, sadness, guilt, and shame. Without the substance as a crutch, feelings are often more pronounced and require an outlet.

Fortunately, there are many beneficial activities that can facilitate self-expression in a positive way as part of a holistic healing treatment program. The following are three activities that can help manage feelings and support positive behaviors.

Activities Of Self-Expression In Recovery

The Mindful Walk

Without a doubt, walking is a great exercise that you can do almost anytime and anywhere. Yet, most people do not practice mindfulness while on a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or a power walk on a park trail.

Being mindful on a walk requires one to be aware of surroundings and to make note of feelings and sensations that they are experiencing. Extra attention should be placed on breathing. A 15 minute mindful walk followed by journaling about the experience can help encourage feelings of centeredness and stress-relief.

The Visual Journal

Writing in a journal can be a very therapeutic activity. This can be made even more beneficial with the addition of visuals such as signs, marks, sketches, and symbols. There are no rules when it comes to putting your feelings down on paper. The key is to do this on a regular basis. This visual journal can be discussed with a therapist to delve deeper into feelings and strategies for sustaining long-term recovery.

The Process Of Creating, Building, Or Refurbishing

A metamorphosis occurs in recovery. Over time, there is positive change and growth. To help express this process, it can be useful for some individuals to work on a project that requires extended effort. The process of creating, building, or refurbishing is very similar to the journey of recovery. The item that is worked on literally becomes a symbol of the renewal and the forward movement towards a new, more positive life.

Find Out More About Holistic Addiction Treatment

To learn more about self-expression in recovery and how it fits into a larger customized treatment program, call Summit Estate today.

We Will Be With You Every Step Of The Way – Call Now!

Why Consider Holistic Treatment Options?

Why Does Holistic Treatment Help?

Treating mind, spirit and body, as well the physical addiction means that addicts can experience faster, longer-lasting, and more effective recovery. Addiction isn’t something that you “catch,” get treatment for, and then it goes away. Addiction is a complicated illness tied closely to the psychological and emotional parts of us. Treating the whole individual and not just the addiction makes a big difference.  Let’s look at some holistic approaches and how they assist in your recovery process.


YogaYoga is perfect for strengthening mind, body, and spirit. The physical practice improves flexibility, strength, and body control. The mental practice improves focus and relieves stress and tension. The spiritual practice involves getting in tune with yourself, quieting your mind, and truly concentrating on your inner being. By quieting and centering, you can block out the distractions of the world.
[image via Flickr]

While yoga is ideal because it allows one to strengthen the mind, body, and spirit, any kind of exercise is great throughout lifelong recovery. Exercise boosts mood,  makes you feel better about yourself, and keeps your life on a healthy forward-moving track. around you. By building both physical and mental strength, you can be more confident when life throws you a challenge. All of this helps you prepare for dealing with the issues that used to trigger addictive behaviors.

Healthy Eating

Healthy EatingMany addicts suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain, and the proper diet and supplements can help to restore this balance. Addiction often causes the addict to neglect their physical health, creating a whole host of physical problems that only fuel the addiction. Proper nutrition and diet can help the body heal and recover, just as the mind and spirit must recover. Addiction is a disease, and just as proper nutrition and healthy eating is important in healing the body from any other kind of illness, it’s important for addiction recovery too. [image via Flickr]


Journaling is another way to beef up mentally and spiritually. Journaling can help you get in touch with the real you, the deep-down-inside you. It can assist in pinpointing patterns of behavior, in rooting out triggers, and in charting your progress. Studies have shown that those who journal their way through recovery are more likely to have fewer setbacks and gain better insight into their personal struggles than those who don’t. Listing things that you are grateful for, tracking your ups and downs, and listing your successes, no matter how small or large, can keep you on the track to recovery when life threatens to derail you. You’ve got your abilities and your victories down in black and white, to remind you anytime you forget and are tempted to fall. Plus, journaling is one of the best ways to release and communicate feelings that you need to process. A journal is like a best friend who always has an open ear.

Incorporating a holistic approach to treating addiction works, plain and simple. A healthy recovery includes all of you, and you are way more than a body. You are more than your addiction, and we know that at Summit Estate. That’s why treating mind, body and spirit is important to us, and we encourage our patients to embrace a holistic approach to recovery—and that means for life.

How Do You Pay for Rehab?

Addiction recovery programs can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean that if you need it, you have to be wealthy to get it. No one should let financial situations stop them from getting the help they need. There are many ways to gain the money necessary to pay for your recovery program. Let’s explore some of your options.


Depending on the type of health insurance you have, insurance may pay for all or part of your rehab program. It’s not uncommon for insurance to place conditions or parameters on the type of treatment an individual can receive and remain under their coverage. These often include outpatient rather than inpatient programs, a limited number of treatment sessions over a certain period of time, or coverage for a certain dollar amount. You may also be required to pay co-pay at each session. All in all, insurance can be a limiting way to pay for recovery treatment, as the parameters can limit the addict to less-than-effective types of treatment or to limited treatment overall. Still, never assume that your insurance won’t be able to help. Thoroughly investigate your insurance policy. Take notes, write down your questions, and make the right calls to see just what options your insurance provides

Sliding Scale Fees

Many believe that only the rich and famous can afford the best in addiction recovery programs, when in truth many of the nation’s top programs offer a sliding-scale fee option. This means that you only pay as much as you can afford. Your income is evaluated and your fees are determined based on how much you earn. Sliding scale fee systems allow those who need treatment to receive it, since no addict can afford to go without treatment.

Savings and Retirement Fund

While no one wants to dip into precious savings accounts, if you have a substantial savings built up or a retirement fund you can borrow against, this is an option to carefully consider.

Private financing

Many treatment centers are now offering their own financing options to patients. This allows you to pay a monthly fee, even long after you’ve completed your treatment, so that you can begin your treatment now. Those who qualify may decide that this is the better route to take, as you are dealing directly with your treatment center and don’t have to involve any outside parties.

Private fundraising

You can raise your own funds for addiction recovery treatment a couple of different ways. If you have anything of great value, you can sell it. That extra car, boat, or investment property will serve you better by contributing to your recovery than it is just sitting there. Those stocks may not bring in the windfall they might have, but they can help get you the help you need. Another option brought on by the digital age is crowdfunding. Several online sites exist for the express purpose of helping the average person raise money for whatever they choose. You can receive donations from around the world for your recovery program. You can often raise funds quickly and easily using these crowdfunding sources. A lack of financial resources should never stop you from pursuing the addiction recovery you need. You can’t afford not to explore your financing options. There is always a way for those who truly try to find it.

Is Your Loved One Coming Home From Rehab?

Five Helpful Tips for Supporting a Loved One’s Ongoing Journey Toward Recovery

If you have a loved one suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, then you know the unexplainable pain of watching that substance take hold of their life. On the other hand, you may also know the tear-jerking happiness that comes with witnessing your loved one seek help and go to rehab. While rehab is an effective and courageous first step toward a life of sobriety, it is up to friends and family to help those who are recovering stay on track once they return home.

The percentage of individuals who relapse after recovery from a drug addiction is 40-60%, based on a report from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Taking effective measures to protect oneself against the various stages of relapse is absolutely essential.

Take a look at the following 5 suggestions for supporting a loved one after their stay in rehab, and play an active part in helping lower the relapse rate. These suggestions are broad. Helping a loved one differs depending on if they are your child, spouse, parent, sibling, or friend—so you will need to give some careful consideration about how to apply them to your own unique situation.

1. Make Adjustments

Rehab is very effective in helping the individual identify the cause of their substance abuse. Your loved one will return home knowing what their triggers are, and it is up to you to help them make life adjustments to avoid those triggers. Relapse triggers are toxic situations, environments, or relationships. This includes unhealthy friendships with other users, a dysfunctional home life, or a stressful job. But triggers also come from within, through negative thoughts, anxiety, and depression. At the core, all relapse triggers are psychological.

Your loved one will likely come out of rehab with a plan from their counselor. Work with your loved one and their counselor to help support that plan even if it means supporting them financially, helping them find a new job, or even relocating with them to another area. Your sacrifice could make a huge impact!

2. Create Boundaries

Coming out of rehab, your loved one likely has a new sense of independence and responsibility. It may be time for you to examine your relationship with your loved one and adjust the way you interact with them to support that independence. Create attainable expectations in regards to:

  • Household duties
  • School or work
  • Family time
  • Curfew
  • Attending meetings
  • Finances

Note: The plans you make should be in accordance with the counselor’s suggestions.

3. Help Inspire

Be an inspiration to your loved one by helping them get involved with healthy, sober hobbies and activities. You do not necessarily have to have the same hobby as them, but show them that you are making a change as well to give them a buddy through this process. Check out these healthy hobby ideas:

  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Sports
  • Painting
  • Meditating

Help your loved one find a hobby that fulfills their spirit, lifts them up, and makes them feel good. Help them to personally know the difference between this kind of satisfaction and the short-term rush that comes with using substances.

4. Walk Alongside Them

Saying that you support your loved one is one thing, but joining them in their efforts to stay clean is another. Show your support with these selfless suggestions:

  • Practice sobriety around your loved one
  • Remove all substances from the home
  • Stay away from social situations with alcohol
  • Tag along to meetings and appointments
  • Assist financially while they work toward self-sufficiency

5. Endlessly Encourage

Encourage your loved one’s continued recovery by being intentional about your attitude and actions towards them.

    • Attitude:
      • Be positive about their change.
      • Show hope for their improvement.
      • Act confident about their recovery success.
    • Actions:
      • Take active interest in their new hobbies.
      • Listen to their struggles, accomplishments, questions, etc.
      • Encourage the entire family (if a positive influence) to be involved.
      • Give them time to adjust to being home.

Know Your Limits

Remember how influential your role is in your loved one’s sobriety success, but also remember that it is ultimately up to them to stay sober. Keep these suggestions in mind and do your best to create a safe and stable place for your loved one to continue to recover. Additionally, be informed about red flags to look out for and contact your loved one’s counselor if you are afraid they might relapse.

How to Avoid a Relapse in 2015

You’re clean and sober. You’re headed in the right direction. And the most important thing now is to stay that way, heading up the road to recovery and a life without addiction.

DrugsWhile everyone in recovery wants to stay in recovery, relapse can happen to anyone. In truth, recovery is a day-by-day, minute-by-minute journey away from dysfunction. Relapse is only a heartbeat away.

But you can keep it there if you know the signs of impending relapse, and ways to avoid falling into its traps.

Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAW) There are some things you should understand—really, truly grasp with head and heart—if you are to beat the relapse monster into shape. These include post-acute withdrawal and the stages of relapse. Let’s look at each one in turn so you can arm yourself with valuable knowledge and empower your road to recovery.

Post-acute withdrawal lasts for roughly the first two years or so of your recovery. That’s a long time on one hand, and a short blip on the other. Why? Because when you are in the midst of an episode, it can feel like forever. However, when the first couple of years are over, it’s a thing of the past. Post-acute withdrawal is caused by the brain and body coming back into a normal state of being. Addiction and dysfunctional behaviors like eating disorders truly do a number on your body chemistry. It can take a long while to get back to status quo. In the meantime, you can expect to unexpectedly find yourself experiencing:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Energy highs and lows
  • Feeling “blah” or tired

These will start off changing by the hour, and then gradually subside until they disappear for weeks, or even months at a time. They will usually last for a few days. If you can accept the challenge and hang on to your recovery for a few days, things will even out again and you’ll be fine. It’s like surfing—the wave isn’t going to last forever. Just ride it out. If you can hang on for the two or so years it takes for post-acute withdrawal to disappear altogether, you’ll have a much better chance at real, long-term recovery.

The best way to deal with post-acute withdrawal is to be patient. Be patient and realize that you’ve had a lot more good days in your recovery than bad. Be patient and take care of yourself. If you’re having an episode, don’t try to do too much or to carry on as if nothing is happening. Be patient and know that after a couple of years, you won’t have to go through these acute episodes anymore. Be patient with yourself and with your symptoms. Accept that it is a part of recovery, and that there’s nothing you can do to make it go away, just as there was nothing you did to make it come back. Be patient.

The Stages of Relapse

We discussed post-acute withdrawal before getting to relapse itself because it is a huge factor in many relapses. There are three stages of relapse, and post-acute withdrawal can be a trigger for the first, which is emotional relapse.

1. Emotional Relapse

SadIn emotional relapse, you aren’t really thinking about returning to your old ways, but your behaviors and emotional state are setting you up for it. You’ll find yourself:

  • Stressed
  • Irritable
  • Defensive
  • Anxious
  • Isolating yourself
  • Not seeking help
  • Not going to meetings
  • Not sleeping or eating well
  • Intolerant
  • Suffering mood swings

Sounds a lot like post-acute withdrawal doesn’t it? That’s because, in a way, it is. That’s why knowing and recognizing the symptoms is vital to avoiding relapse. And the earlier you can pull back from relapse, the better and easier it is. So, practice self-care. Be patient and go with the flow, but don’t go it alone. Seek help. Get out and amongst friends and supportive folks. Get over the hump of a few days of post-acute withdrawal and get back to the business of happy, healthy living.

2. Mental Relapse

The second stage of relapse is mental relapse. This is when you start thinking about falling back into your old ways. Part of you wants to, but part of still wants to stay clean. You’ll find yourself doing the following:

  • Associating with your old “habit” buddies
  • Lying
  • Thinking about relapsing
  • Fantasizing about  your old behavior
  • Glamorizing your old behavior
  • Planning your relapse around someone else’s schedule
  • Thinking about the people, places, and things associated with your old behavior

The best thing you can do to avoid relapse at this stage is to play that fantasy through—and don’t cut out the unglamorous parts of it. Play that mental tape all the way to the credits, and remind yourself of just how ugly your past behavior really was. Then, find some support. Call a friend, a sponsor, or a therapist. Talk to someone. Distract yourself with something other than thinking about your past. Also, make sure that relaxation and patience are part of your daily routine. Remember, recovery is a day-by-day, minute-by-minute thing. Be patient and those thoughts will go. Relax and those stressors might not come around at all.

3. Physical relapse

Physical relapse occurs when you actually physically make the choice to partake in the addictive substance again. Catch yourself before it’s too late. Stop the train before it plunges off the broken bridge. Recognize that you are the only one who can, but not the only one who can help. Be patient. Love yourself. You can get through any early relapse. You can pull back from any mental relapse, too. And if you do succumb to physical relapse, it doesn’t mean it’s over. It just means you start again. You only fail if you stop trying. But you don’t have to let it get this far.

If you are an addict who is currently experiencing emotional, mental, or physical relapse, there is hope. Reach out for help and give yourself the same compassion and support you would give to someone else in need—someone you love.

Although the waves are rough, ride them out and you’ll be guided safely to shore…
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