Alumni Perspective: Willingness

Alumni Perspective: Willingness

by Mandy
Munro Alumni, March 2017

 

So many of us seek recovery when we are desperate and have tried our own ways and failed. We have had our share of pain and suffering and are looking for the solution. Yet the biggest riddle is this: When given the solution, many of are unwilling to fully accept it or do what we are told will make us better. Many of us want recovery on our own terms. “I’ll do this, but not that.”

I was one of those people. Initially, I never even wanted to be a sober person. Sobriety to me was the end of the road and signified the end of my life. Unknowingly, I sabotaged my every attempt to be sober. It took me six years of constant relapsing to become completely 100% willing to go to any lengths.

When I first entered AA, the initial problem I had was with God. I didn’t believe nor did I plan to. My mind was a steel trap. Completely closed. This was the first sign of my unwillingness. Straight out of the gate, I wanted it my way. I relapsed.

My next attempt at recovery was doomed because of my dislike of the 12 steps. I was aghast at the notion of being told that I might have some character defects or was less than perfect. How dare AA suggest that, without knowing me! No AA for me and I continued to relapse. I chose a different path of recovery, known as harm reduction. No 12 steps, no need for God. This I would do. I entered a harm reduction treatment centre and relapsed five days after leaving.

My options were running out and my relapses were getting worse. I didn’t yet understand that my alcoholism was progressing. My work was being affected, my family was at their wits’ end, and I was isolating and binge drinking. I decided I would give AA another try and imagined I would be finally healed. I went to some meetings and sat in the back row (relapse row). I never went early and I shot out of there as soon as the Lord’s Prayer was recited. I continued to relapse.

I decided to get a sponsor but was unwilling to calI her because I was full of fear, I had social anxiety, and a phone phobia. In my mind, I was going to AA, I was accepting God, and I had a sponsor and believed this was enough. Now when I relapsed though, my short spurts of binge drinking had progressed to not being able to stop once I took that first drink. The nightmare of a binge would not end until I went to the hospital.

I decided I was not connecting to my sponsor so I got a new one and she made me begin the steps. I started to get better and got a little bit of sobriety time. I didn’t really enjoy AA though. I didn’t connect to the fellowship. I still had some of my old friends and still wanted my old life. I was one foot in and unwilling to jump in with both feet. And although my relapses were farther apart, they had become dangerous, terrifying, and worst of all, life threatening. I was locked up in the psych ward on a Form 1 more than once, in and out of the hospital, suicide attempts, injuries, and loss of my driver’s licence. My body and my mind were no longer working properly. I was a shell of my former self.

I was beaten. I knew this disease was going to kill me so I put myself into Renascent. There began a journey of real recovery and the beginning of a new life. I became willing. I decided I would do anything and everything I was told to do. I did the work. After leaving Renascent I did their Continuing Care program, I did 90 meetings in 90 days, I did the 12 steps, and I got active in the program and in service. I went to retreats, round ups, conferences. I went to closed discussion meetings and Big Book studies. When I was afraid or unwilling, I prayed for help for strength and willingness. I built a foundation of trust in my Higher Power and began to think of myself as a student of AA and recovery. The more I did, the more I began to like it, and even love it. I learned tools to live happily in this world without the need or desire for any substance.

This past February I celebrated two years of sobriety.

I am continuing to learn and grow and I feel grateful every day. I look back at my stumbling blocks and I remember thinking that because I couldn’t understand how or why things worked, that they couldn’t possibly. I remember thinking “How will praying help me find a job and pay my bills?” “How will going to a meeting affect my day today?” I had been unwilling to listen and trust. In the end, I just had to do the things I was told to do.

At a 12-step retreat I attended a little over a year ago, I read something that has stuck with me, because it described the old me. It read, “Most people say to God, ‘Prove to me that you exist and I will believe in you.’ God says in return, ‘Believe in me, and I will prove to you I exist.’” For me, that says it all. Believe first. Do the work. Live a life beyond your greatest dreams.

Last year I went to India for two months to study yoga and meditation. This year I am travelling to Thailand for a month to volunteer for an organization that rescues street dogs. This is a life I never could have imagined. I have had a spiritual awakening and the desire to drink has been lifted from me. I have a love for recovery, for AA, and for 12-step living. I am no longer running the show; thank God for that!

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Officially I don’t belong to a 12-step group; I do have a sponsor who has become like a sister, and a team of incredible women who inspire, mentor, entertain, challenge, and have continued to love me on my best and worst days over the last 8 years, 10 months. Some may say that because I don’t have a home group, I am not a member of AA. I remind them the only requirement of membership is a desire to stop drinking.

For the past 8+ years, I have lived my best life. I am the same woman who could not stop drinking for anything or anyone; I was hopeless and destined to die until I finally “surrendered” in January 2010.

I am growing up in AA and was actively involved in service for a number of years. I still say I owe everything to AA, my higher power, and the people who showed me the way. This includes people outside of 12 step and the people who stick around the rooms, make coffee, and open the doors. I have experienced my parent’s funeral and my child’s wedding, and I didn’t drink — this is truly a miracle. I have found a recovery program that worked for me, and I have persevered. I still consider myself in early recovery, and I don’t hide my recovery from the public. Whenever I can put a face to recovery, I do it with pride as a person with lived experience of a substance use disorder and long-term recovery.

What I’ve learned along the way is there are many roads to recovery, and recovery looks different for everyone. What I measure as success may not be what you consider success. One of the very first teachings in AA was “to keep an open mind” and when I was in early sobriety, I was very opinionated about the quality of other people’s programs even though the next thing I was taught was “live and let live.” It took time, patience, pain, and practice to stop looking at the quality of other people’s lives and focus on my own.

What prompted me to write this is that I want to — as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous — provide an alternate perspective when it comes to harm reduction, abstinence, cannabis, methadone, suboxone, and other mood-altering substances. What people choose to do is none of my business; I want my friends and members of the fellowship to live their best lives. I don’t care if you smoke pot, I don’t care if you drink, I don’t care if you come to meetings drunk. I care that you’re happy, I care that you’re whole, I care that you’re not suffering, and I care that you’re alive.

Letting go has been a process, and for me that means freedom.

Wishing you peace, love, and happiness.  

 

How to Recover from Marijuana Addiction through Treatment

How to Recover from Marijuana Addiction through Treatment

Marijuana has a storied history in pop culture as a casual drug, a ‘soft’ drug, the one so socially acceptable even President Barack Obama admitted using it. If you’re reading this though, you may also know it as an addictive substance that can have serious life-changing consequences for those who use it and their loved ones. Partners, employers, friends, and family members often lose patience for the person who is unable to stop using, and have trouble understanding just how an addiction to marijuana can cause such a change in a person’s life. Whether you call it weed, pot, cannabis, marijuana, or any of the other names it’s had over the centuries, in this how-to guide, you will gain the knowledge you need to recover from your marijuana addiction once and for all.

Marijuana addiction is real, and recovery is possible. It begins with taking the first step: admitting that help is needed, and accepting that help.

What kind of a drug is marijuana, and what are its effects?

  • Cannabis has been grown and used by humans since before 2000 B.C.
  • Marijuana’s effects range from stimulant to depressant to hallucinogen, depending on the user and the various strains.
  • Herbal cannabis is derived from the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the female Cannabis plant.
  • Marijuana can be smoked or ingested.
  • Studies vary on the addiction rates for marijuana, but dependence and addiction are known effects of long-term use.
  • Cannabis use disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition requiring treatment.

So what are the side effects of marijuana use? To start, cognitive impairment on attention, short-term memory, and ability to complete psychomotor tasks — that’s what makes it so dangerous to drive while stoned.

Long-term marijuana use can lead to chronic cognitive deficits like memory loss and reduced IQ, and is associated with a risk of developing other mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Physically, inhaling the carcinogenic marijuana smoke increases the risk of chronic bronchitis, lung disease, and cancer.

According to the DSM-5, the withdrawal symptoms from marijuana include:

  • irritability,
  • anger or aggression,
  • nervousness or anxiety,
  • sleep difficulty (ie, insomnia, disturbing dreams),
  • decreased appetite or weight loss,
  • restlessness,
  • depressed mood, and
  • at least one of the following physical symptoms causing significant discomfort:
    • abdominal pain,
    • shakiness/tremors,
    • sweating,
    • fever,
    • chills, or
    • headache.

Addicts can and do recover with marijuana addiction treatment.

Recovery is possible. That’s great news for the person struggling with marijuana addiction who may feel hopeless. However, a certain mindset is generally necessary in order for marijuana addiction treatment to work. Some of the things that are generally considered a helpful prerequisite for successful recovery include:

  • Willingness to admit there is a problem. As with addiction to other drugs, marijuana addiction often leads to denial. Users shrink from confronting what is actually going on, the toll the drug is taking on their lives and relationships, and the severity of the problem; owning the wreckage can be overwhelming and is often best accomplished in an intervention-type setting with the help of concerned and supportive loved ones. Admitting the truth about the impact of the addiction is essential to seeking help and ultimately recovering.
  • A sincere desire to stop using marijuana. A person must not merely pay lip service to the idea of getting clean and sober; it doesn’t work that way. Of course, he or she may not feel enthusiastic about having to give up cannabis, indeed may be terrified at the prospect, but one must be willing to put it aside in order to give treatment a fair shot.
  • A willingness to consider complete abstinence as a means to successful addiction treatment. Someone with a marijuana problem may not believe they also have a problem with alcohol or any other drug, but generally speaking, those who are entirely abstinent have a much better chance of recovering from their addiction because other mind-altering drugs can act as gateway drugs to your substance of choice.

How marijuana addiction treatment works

There is no magic pill, quick fix, or single technique to help someone recover from addiction. You can change your life and recover from addiction, and be happier than you ever were before; it’s just a matter of doing the work. At Renascent, marijuana addiction treatment consists of a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem of addiction. It’s an approach that has helped thousands of people who once struggled with addiction achieve lasting recovery.

Treatment modalities for addiction include:

  • Education into the nature of addiction and its physical, emotional, social, and spiritual effects
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy: Practicing techniques to change behaviour patterns that led you to reach for a mind-altering substance in the first place
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
  • Additional therapies personalized to your individual needs and situation, including reality therapy, person-centred therapy, solution-focused therapy, mindfulness principles, and art therapy

Treatment is facilitated individually and in groups by our team of registered psychotherapists and certified drug and alcohol addiction specialists, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.

At Renascent, the atmosphere is that of a comfortable home, not a bleak institution. You will be surrounded by loving, caring, experienced staff and peers who, like yourselves, are on a journey of recovery. We have found this to be the best possible environment to support someone as they recover. The bottom line is, marijuana addiction doesn’t have to rule your life anymore. For more information about Renascent’s programs and to find out why we are your best choice for lasting recovery, please call our Access Centre, day or night, toll-free at 1-866-232-1212 or text 1-647-691-4146 to speak confidentially to one of our counsellors.

How to Recover with Cocaine Addiction Treatment

How to Recover with Cocaine Addiction Treatment

In this brief, but powerful How to Recover with Cocaine Addiction Treatment guide, you will have the knowledge to get clean once and for all.

If cocaine has entered the life of someone you know – or is affecting you directly – you may already be aware of the reason it’s casually known as a ‘hard’ drug. Once it has taken hold, it’s a hard habit to break. It becomes hard for the sufferer to lead any semblance of a normal life. And it can harden the hearts of family members, friends, and employers toward the user as this addiction rages its way through relationships, finances and personal lives, with often devastating consequences.

If you didn’t think it was possible to recover from cocaine addiction, think again: while cocaine is certainly a very powerful foe, with cocaine addiction treatment, the habit can be defeated. Recovery is possible. It begins with taking the first step: admitting that help is needed, and accepting that help. Sometimes a cocaine addict has to be badly battered by the drug before they will take this step. But once taken, the journey to recovery from cocaine addiction has already begun.

What kind of a drug is cocaine, and what are its effects?

When cocaine made a big splash in the collective consciousness in the 70s and early 80s, it was known as a ‘rich man’s drug’ and ‘not physically addictive’ because of its cost, rarity, and a lack of the strong physical withdrawal symptoms characterized by other hard drugs such as heroin. We have learned much about this designer drug since then, and unfortunately, it has claimed many lives and fortunes in the intervening decades. Here’s some of what we know about cocaine.

  • Cocaine is a stimulant derived from the coca plant. In South America, native people used to chew the leaves of the coca plant for more energy while working in the fields.
  • Cocaine can be snorted, injected or freebased (crack cocaine)
  • Cocaine is highly addictive. With a rush lasting just two to five minutes, a user needs to use almost continuously in an attempt to maintain their high
  • In experiments done on mice, cocaine was found to be so addictive that mice will repeatedly press the ‘cocaine button’ to get a hit, to the exclusion of food and water, until they die.

So what happens when cocaine is abused, as it has a high potential to be? There are serious side effects to this powerful stimulant. It causes the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to heart attacks. In fact, it’s an open secret that whenever a 20-or 30-something Hollywood actor or sports celebrity with no history of heart disease suddenly dies of cardiac arrest, cocaine was the likely culprit. Cocaine overdose can also lead to strokes, and habitual use can cause high blood pressure, weight loss, lung damage and kidney failure.

Despite its lack of ‘physical’ withdrawal symptoms (such as the vomiting and sweating associated with opiate withdrawal) cocaine withdrawal is very painful. That much is obvious – otherwise why would an addict do almost anything to get more, and keep using it even when the consequences are so negative? Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings, severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, anger, mood swings and sleeplessness. It’s little wonder the relapse rate for cocaine is high.

Addicts can and do recover with cocaine addiction treatment

Recovery is possible. That’s great news for the person struggling with cocaine abuse who may feel hopeless. However, a certain mindset is generally necessary in order for cocaine addiction treatment to work. Some of the things that are generally considered a helpful prerequisite for successful recovery include:

  • Willingness to admit there is a problem. As with addiction to other drugs, cocaine addiction often leads to denial. Users shrink from confronting what is actually going on, the toll the drug is taking on their lives and relationships, and the severity of the problem; owning the wreckage can be overwhelming and is often best accomplished in an intervention-type setting with the help of concerned and supportive loved ones. Admitting the truth about the impact of the addiction is essential to seeking help and ultimately recovering.
  • A sincere desire to stop using cocaine. A person must not merely pay lip service to the idea of getting clean and sober; it doesn’t work that way. Of course, he or she may not feel enthusiastic about having to give up cocaine, indeed may be terrified at the prospect, but one must be willing to put cocaine aside in order to give treatment a fair shot.
  • A willingness to consider complete abstinence as a means to successful cocaine addiction treatment. Someone with a cocaine or crack problem may not believe they have a problem with alcohol or any other drug, but generally speaking, those who are entirely abstinent have a much better chance of recovering from cocaine addiction because alcohol, marijuana and other drugs can be considered gateway drugs to cocaine.

How cocaine addiction treatment works

There is no magic pill, quick fix or single technique to help someone recover from cocaine addiction. You can change your life and recover from addiction, and be happier than you ever were before; it’s just a matter of doing the work. At Renascent, cocaine addiction treatment consists of a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem of cocaine addiction. It’s an approach that has helped thousands of people who once struggled with cocaine addiction, to achieve lasting recovery.

Treatment modalities for cocaine addiction include:

-Education into the nature of cocaine addiction and its physical, emotional, social and spiritual effects

-Cognitive behavioural therapy: Practicing techniques to change behaviour patterns that led you to reach for cocaine in the first place

-12-step facilitation therapy

-Additional therapies personalized to your individual needs and situation, including reality therapy, person-centred therapy, solution-focused therapy, mindfulness principles and art therapy

Treatment is facilitated individually and in groups by our team of registered psychotherapists and certified drug and alcohol addiction specialists, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery

At Renascent, the atmosphere is that of a comfortable home, not a bleak institution. You will be surrounded by loving, caring, experienced staff and peers who, like yourselves, are on a journey of recovery. We have found this to be the best possible environment to support someone as they recover. The bottom line is, cocaine addiction doesn’t have to rule your life anymore. For more information about Renascent’s programs and to find out why we are your best choice for lasting recovery, please call our Access Centre, day or night, toll-free at 1-866-232-1212 or text 1-647-691-4146 to speak confidentially to one of our counsellors.

The Impact of Renascent’s Children’s Program

The Impact of Renascent’s Children’s Program

by Sunil Boodhai MSW (RSW), BEd.

I have chosen to work with children not because I believe I need to step into their lives and help them, but because their strength and resiliency is both boundless and awe-inspiring. I am in the enviable position to witness this strength and resilience as a therapist in the Children’s Program at Renascent. Children growing up in homes where addiction is present have no choice but to push their strength and resilience to the limit in order to cope and survive the challenges that come with fear, sadness, disappointment, neglect, and sometimes violence. Our concern in the Children’s Program is that a child’s resilience is used against them by the monster that is addiction. Instead of being used to create, build, and find joy, strength and resilience are used to find ways to survive, and survival becomes the norm. Survival takes the guise of perfectionism or acting out in negative ways; both serve to draw attention away from that addiction and over to the child, where attention is desperately needed. Our program’s primary purpose is to put a child’s focus back where it belongs. With the loving support of their families, children are reminded that their primary focus in life is to love, be loved, learn, and have fun.

It is my distinct privilege to see families transform as the make their way through our four-day Children’s Program, always hosted at the Wright Centre, our beautiful family treatment centre in the heart of downtown Toronto. Children nervously arrive with their parents at 9 a.m. on Thursday, not really knowing what to expect. That nervous energy is always transformed into joy and excitement by the end of their first day when children learn that addiction is a disease and they have bonded with other children who share a very similar experience. These children have usually been carrying addiction with them as a family secret and are relieved to find a place where they can speak openly with other people about this aspect of their lives. Children also learn about safe people in their lives with whom they can share their experiences and feeling (not everyone is safe), and about the 7C’s. The seven C’s state, “I did not cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it, but I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices, and celebrating myself.” In this manner, children are reminded of their role and responsibilities in relation to the presence of addiction in their lives. Children are relieved to learn that none of their actions have caused an adult to use a substance (though they are sometimes given that message by the adults in their lives), there is not anything they can do to control the substance use — such as acting out or being absolutely perfect at everything — and there is no cure for the disease. Children are given a great deal of hope when they find out that there is hope even if there is no cure. They learn about abstinence-based treatment and twelve step programs and they meet counsellors and other adults who have lived long periods of time free from substances. Children are also given hope for the future when they learn about making healthy choices, not only in relation to alcohol and other substances, but to fundamental lifestyle habits as well, such as food and sleep. They also practise and learn the benefits of communicating feelings, and how essential it is to not keep their feelings bottled up inside.

By the end of our Children’s Program at Renascent, children join their adult loved ones to work on a project together. This is where they begin to practice the skills they have learned while in the program, and are gently coached through complex emotional interactions in a safe manner. It is this safety that allows children to refocus their strengths and resiliencies again. I cannot state enough how glorious a thing it is to see children make their way through the amazing process of the Renascent Children’s Program.

Sunil is the manager of Family Programs at Renascent. His is currently the lead therapist in the Children’s Program and provides individual counselling sessions for addicts, family members, families, couples and children. Sunil did his undergraduate work and MSW at Ryerson University, as well as a Humanities degree and Bachelor of Education degree at York University. He has been working as an addictions counsellor for over 12 years.