Addiction Recovery Blog

“Barn’s burnt down — now I can see the moon.” — Misuta Masahide (17 century Japanese poet)

Did 2020 challenge your beliefs, priorities, habits, strengths — and more? Recovery from the COVID-19 impacts may still be a long way away, but what you can do now is start 2021 with fresh hope and determination. That’s part of being resilient.

Building resilience is a crucial part of the recovery journey. By becoming more resilient, you empower yourself to bounce back next time life throws the unexpected at you. (more…)

Social isolation. Economic losses. Fears of the unknown. Health worries. Pressure to balance work and family. Any one of these factors is enough to lead to mental health issues like stress, anxiety or depression.

The pandemic, of course, is causing all of these challenges. And many people are experiencing not one but several at the same time.

In times like these, more individuals turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. If you’re experiencing new emotions or cravings, it’s important for you to understand why — and what you can do to stay on track with your recovery. (more…)

Maintain Wellness To Maintain Your Recovery Goals – Creative Ideas To Sustain Your Physical, Spiritual And Mental Wellness While Distancing

After months of home quarantine and limited access to activities, no doubt you’re feeling the collective cabin fever. Maintaining wholistic wellness in these times takes a lot of creative thinking, but don’t give up on the idea of staying in shape physically, mentally and spiritually—maintaining wholistic wellness is important to maintaining your recovery goals.
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The pandemic has upended everyone’s lives, but coping may be especially difficult for youth. Many have been physically isolated from their friends and peers for months and have been left without their typical coping mechanisms like sports and social activities.

Many school districts are launching the school year with online instruction, and adolescents will once again find themselves with a lot of idle time on their hands. Just like adults, they are grieving for their loss of normalcy — and just like adults, they may be turning to unhealthy behaviors in response.

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Most people likely know they can take first-aid and CPR training to help someone in a medical emergency — but did you know you can also learn mental health first aid? It’s an invaluable set of skills that can help anyone identify signs and symptoms of a developing mental health problem and respond in a crisis.

In these times of social isolation, mental wellness is even more important than ever, but many individuals find it difficult to cope. Mental health first aid training can not only give you the skills to help a distressed individual but also break down any stigmas and negative attitudes associated with mental health.

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The violence sweeping our nation underscores the systemic racism and discrimination against people of color. We are saddened by George Floyd’s tragic death and the pain and anger that the black community is going through. We stand in unity and solidarity with all individuals of color, and we support the tough conversations that need to take place about social injustice in America.
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Despite the recent federal ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 21, media reports show that hasn’t stopped teens from vaping. And while the FDA has also banned many flavored electronic cigarettes, youth are finding ways to exploit a loophole that still allows flavored disposable products.

E-cigarettes are a growing trend that is not only contributing to nicotine addiction among teens but is also causing lung injuries and other health concerns. Parents need to understand the facts — and learn how they can help their kids.

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New research published early this year showed that alcohol abuse has reached an epidemic level in the United States. Nearly 1 million Americans age 16 and up have died in less than a decade due to alcohol — surpassing drug overdoses by almost 300,000.

This trend is concerning by itself, by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more so. Alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to this novel coronavirus. And according to market research and media reports, sales of alcohol have climbed in March — indicating the potential of alcohol abuse.

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Substance Misuse vs. Addiction — What’s the Difference?

Substance misuse is not the same as addiction, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t cause concern. While an individual who misuses drugs or alcohol doesn’t require — or qualify for — the same level of treatment as an individual diagnosed with substance use disorder, addressing the early-warning signs may help avert a crisis later.

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One of the most difficult steps for individuals struggling with addiction is to recognize that their substance use disorder is adversely impacting their life — and that they need help fighting this disease. This is where loved ones can play a role. An intervention helps friends, family and even colleagues to rally around their loved one and help the individual recognize that it’s time to address the problem.

You’ve probably heard of interventions but if your knowledge is based on Hollywood portrayals, let’s bust some myths first. Unlike the “made for TV” version, a real-life intervention takes time, resources and commitment. Prepare to be patient.

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Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” — Brian Tracy

A growing body of research has found that gratitude has a positive impact on our wellbeing. Being grateful doesn’t just make us happier, but also reduces stress, makes us more resilient and improves our health.

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While relapse is not uncommon in recovery, it happens gradually, in stages. Relapse often takes weeks or months to build up, and it’s more likely during early recovery.

Learning to recognize the early signs can help prevent relapse from happening. One model that helps is called HALT, which stands for hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. These four feelings are also potentially high-risk situations that can lead to substance cravings.

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Alcohol and drug addiction can happen to anyone.

You may see a stereotypical “junkie” or alcoholic portrayed in the media as a homeless person or someone who does nothing all day but get high or wasted. The truth is, many people struggle in secret without showing it on the surface. Your friend, family member or co-worker may harbor an addiction without you noticing.

People of all walks of life, regardless of their background, can experience substance use problems that escalate out of control. But how do you know when alcohol or drug abuse becomes an addiction?

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The first few months after treatment for substance use disorder may be the most challenging phase of your recovery journey. You are experiencing physiological and psychological effects of withdrawal while also adjusting to a new life. At the same time, you are no longer in the structured environment that in-patient treatment provided, and you’re still learning how to apply the new recovery strategies you have learned.

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The first few months after treatment for substance use disorder may be the most challenging phase of your recovery journey. You are experiencing physiological and psychological effects of withdrawal while also adjusting to a new life. At the same time, you are no longer in the structured environment that in-patient treatment provided, and you’re still learning how to apply the new recovery strategies you have learned.

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The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.            — Abraham Lincoln

One thing you’ll hear often as you enter recovery is that you need to let go of the past. You do need to take responsibility for your old actions, but that doesn’t mean dwelling on the past — that will only impede your progress by taking focus away from here and now.

Living in the past is not just about reminiscing. While letting go of old habits or bad influences is important, there’s also real danger from being so paralyzed by your shame and guilt that you can’t move beyond your mistakes. You may be feeling anger and pain over some of the things that happened to you. You may also feel fear about the unknown since the past, however destructive, is at least a familiar road.

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Individuals who start substance-abuse recovery often go in thinking that once they complete a treatment program, all they have left to do is maintain physical health. Getting healthy, of course, is the end goal — but there are many dimensions to the recovery journey. Each has its own challenges, and each has to be managed.

In addition to physical, emotional and mental strength, you’ll need to build spiritual and financial health. The financial side of the recovery journey may be especially overlooked, yet it’s an integral part of the process.

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Addiction recovery is a major feat, and you need to celebrate your achievements, whether big or small. Creating a healthy-rewards system for yourself can help keep you motivated.

As we know, the human brain is wired to respond to rewards. That, in fact, is one of the reasons behind drug and alcohol addiction. Because the brain is wired to pursue pleasurable activities, it has a sophisticated “reward circuit” — and substances create a huge surge of neurotransmitters that signal the brain to repeat the activity.

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Substance addiction is often called a “family disease,” and for good reason. When an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the entire family feels stressed and overwhelmed.

As much as it is difficult for adults to cope with a family member’s addiction, for kids, it’s much worse. Unlike adults, children don’t always know where to find a safe space and whom to talk to about their concerns. Yet a highly stressful family environment puts them at risk for physical and mental health issues.

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At Olalla Recovery Centers, it’s very common for our counselors to see recovering individuals who have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. Many times, these individuals don’t realize the long-lasting effects of that trauma or how it affects their addiction recovery. Yes those experiences, however old, can jeopardize the treatment outcome if they’re left unresolved.

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No matter how hard you work at your recovery, you may experience a relapse. While addiction treatments are designed to help prevent it, a relapse is not uncommon.

Individuals with various chronic diseases experience relapse, and addiction is no different. In fact, past research has found that the relapse rates for addiction are similar to those of asthma and other chronic illnesses.

It’s important to not see relapse as a personal failure, and to not blame yourself and others for it. While the human brain’s ability to recover from substance abuse is remarkable, relapse is a normal part of the process. If you continue to seek support from your medical and recovery team, and keep up your treatments, you’ll be able to rebound and get back on track.

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One of the least-expected experiences for individuals starting recovery is the emotional roller-coaster, the extreme states of new feelings. Anger can be especially a struggle, not to mention very self-destructive.

As with other aspects of your life, you may be challenged to return to the basics. You may need to learn or relearn the tools of emotional control.

When you were addicted to drugs or alcohol, you likely never properly learned how to manage finances, take care of yourself and build healthy relationships. It’s the same way with emotions — addiction may have caused you to become numb for a long time, and you may no longer know how to respond to your emotional states.

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Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucius

Living a simple life. Sounds boring, on the surface, but is it? And why should you even think about simplifying your life?

Over the last few decades of industrial and technological growth, we’ve been conditioned to want more, accumulate more, do more. In the whirlwind of this nonstop quest, it’s hard to find a moment to quiet the mind.

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Every moment is a fresh beginning. — T.S. Eliot

As you begin your journey to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, one of the biggest challenges is to break your old habits. As an addict, you had certain routines and behaviors — and sobriety leaves a void that you’ll need to fill with new habits.

Don’t expect this to be easy or fast. Think about how long it took you to form your old habits — months? Years? While a popular concept is that it takes 28 to 30 days to form a new habit, some studies have shown that it takes much longer than that. You’re in this for the long haul.

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And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul…” —John Muir

The sun-kissed summer season is a special time in the Pacific Northwest. While we’re blessed with warm weather for much of the year, summer is when we can finally count on clear skies. The whirl of activity on the local beaches, at the campgrounds and on the waters of Puget Sound reminds us what a natural jewel this area is.

Do you remember the last time you hiked in the woods, relaxed by a waterfall or lake, or took a walk on a beach while waves splashed at your feet?

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A variety of factors contribute to the likelihood of teens and youth turning to negative behaviors such as substance abuse, but research has found that the more protective factors are in place, the more risk can be reduced. Protective factors are internal characteristics that an individual has, as well as external conditions such as family, school and community, that can help a person cope with challenges in life.

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When we previously discussed building resiliency in the journey to recovery, we talked about how by strengthening your mind, body and spirit, you can better cope with challenges such as stressors leading to substance abuse or relapse. However, for youth and young adults, the message of building resiliency doesn’t resonate in the same way.

Resiliency — the ability to bounce back after a setback and make positive choices — is built on the idea of long-term preparedness to withstand challenges.

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Most of us look forward to summer’s arrival. The longer days, the nice weather, the get-togethers, the outdoor activities, the extra time off — all these make summer one of the best times of the year.

But summer is not easy for those in recovery. The outdoor parties and celebrations like weddings and graduations often entail alcohol. Not to mention they can make you feel nostalgic about all the “fun” you had at those kinds of parties when you were addicted.

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Addiction is a complex issue and as such, it doesn’t have a “one-size-fits-all” solution. At Olalla Recovery Centers, we take a holistic approach that’s personalized to the individual. Our clinicians use strategies based on what may be most successful for each patient.

One of the key components of effective treatment is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy helps individuals understand why they turn to drugs and alcohol and reinforces positive behaviors.
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“Do not judge me by my success; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela

 

In recovery, we teach about being mindful and living in the moment. You know that it’s important to let go of the past and focus on the present. But there’s also something to be said about preparedness — you must be ready to bounce back when the tough times come.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we know all about being prepared. We have to be ready when “the big one” hits, right? So we stock up on nonperishable foods and emergency supplies. At the very least, this gives us peace of mind that in a major disaster, we can be self-sufficient for a few days.

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As a chronic disease, addiction must be managed like any other chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. In the past, treatment focused on clinical modalities, but a new understanding is emerging about the importance of social support for long-term recovery.

This cultural shift is based on new research showing that as part of a chronic care model, social supports improve recovery outcomes.

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Did you feel overwhelmed, perhaps even blue, during the “season of love” we recently had? You can’t escape thinking about love and relationships in February, as Valentine’s Day merchandise and messaging is in your face every time you go to the grocery store.

Many recovering addicts feel they’re not worthy of love, ashamed of some of things they’ve done to their loved ones. But be honest — do you even love yourself? If you don’t, how can others?

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Learning through experimentation is a rite of passage for the developing adolescent and young adult. Unfortunately, when that experimentation includes risky behavior, this young demographic doesn’t have the advantage of an adult’s executive-decision-making process.

Parents of teenagers will certainty relate to the scenario of trying to appeal to their child’s senses. Doesn’t it feel like an uphill battle most of the time? Long-term thinking and weighing consequences is simply not on the young people’s agenda.

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“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” —Alexander Graham Bell

In recovery, all doors are open to you and there are opportunities waiting everywhere. Some of those opportunities will take you down the wrong path. When the wrong opportunity knocks on your door, will you answer? Or are you ready to stay strong and make the right choice?

One of the biggest challenges for the recovering addict is letting go of the past. When that happens, decisions are colored by guilt and regret.

 

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Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction can be a controversial topic in the recovery community, as some believe that treatment and recovery should be based on abstinence.

At Olalla Recovery Centers, we embrace medication-assisted treatment (MAT) because we want our patients to focus on building the skill set they need for lifelong recovery. For some individuals, MAT can be highly effective in treating addiction — and we want to be part of that dialogue.

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“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
— Tony Robbins

Can you believe that another year is coming to a close? I’m a “glass half-full” kind of person, so instead of thinking of all the things left undone, I’m looking at the incoming new year as a new opportunity to accomplish all those things and then some.

How about you? Are you taking time to reflect on your achievements for 2017?

Don’t worry about the goals you didn’t meet. This is a time to think about all the right decisions you made and how they helped you get closer to your goals. It’s those accomplishments that can inspire your actions in 2018.

You may think that setting goals for the new year sounds just like making New Year’s resolutions. There’s one major difference.

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Gratitude, blessings, appreciation — these are words we hear often this time of year. For the recovering addict, expressing those feelings is not easy. Especially if you’re just starting on the path to a new life.

Did you have a family dinner this Thanksgiving? Did you have a chance to give thanks to the people and things important in your life? Or did you feel ashamed, hurt, resentful even?

Those are normal feelings. If you’re like many others in recovery, you’ve no doubt made many mistakes and ruined many relationships on your way to hitting rock bottom. It’s not an easy place to come back from.

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“I am struck by the simplicity of light in the atmosphere in the autumn, as if the Earth absorbed none, and out of this profusion of dazzling light came the autumnal tints.” — Henry David Thoreau

 

Are you starting to notice all the red, green and sparkle at the store? We haven’t even finished Thanksgiving plans yet but retailers are already reminding us that the most stressful time of the year is upon us. I suppose the shops are being helpful so we’re not waiting until the last minute (and getting more stressed!) but still…

It’s not a secret that November and December can be tough for those in addiction recovery.

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If you are looking for a substance-abuse treatment program for yourself or a loved one, know that not all treatments are the same. While they have their same end goal — helping a person recover from drug or alcohol addiction — there are different approaches to treatment and the modalities will vary.

Some methodologies are less effective and may not be successful in the long term. Before you commit to a program, it’s important to understand the differences and how they can affect the outcome.

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“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” — Ronald Reagan

Practice makes perfect. How often have you heard those words from someone trying to encourage you to get better at something?

Those are good words of wisdom to live by, generally speaking. But in recovery, you need to take a completely new approach. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being humble, tenacious — and consistent.

The goal you’re after is progress, which means practicing good habits and taking the right steps every day, however little.

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Whether you’ve been in recovery for a short or a long time, you know that it’s important to avoid triggers — they’re the easiest way to a relapse. Unfortunately, a major trigger for many people is stress. And there’s plenty to stress to go around as you’re working on your sobriety.

Stress is a biological process, and it’s hard to avoid even for those with the most balanced lifestyles. But you can minimize it by practicing mindfulness. It’s a way to help your body and mind get in tune with each other.

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The opioids epidemic has been in the news a lot lately, as the concern about its impact has expanded into the political arena. With the dramatic increase in the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in recent years, fentanyl especially rose as a major concern because of how extremely dangerous this synthetic drug is.

If you know someone who is addicted to opioids or fentanyl specifically, you need to understand the urgency to get help for your loved one. Here are some facts you need to know:

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“Just for today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once.” — Al-Anon meditation

The beginning of recovery is an exciting time, as you set new goals and dream of new opportunities for your life. But things can quickly become overwhelming as you learn new habits and navigate unknown situations.

The important thing to remember is that you have a long journey ahead of you. As the cliché goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. To be successful, you need to set achievable goals — and that means small, simple steps.

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If you’ve never been to our alumni picnic, you’re truly missing out. This annual family event is a highlight of summer for the Olalla Recovery Centers community. We celebrate recovery together and get a chance to reconnect with those we haven’t heard from in a while.

For those struggling with their recovery journey, there’s no better place to be. Some of our alumni are celebrating 20 or 30 years of recovery — and hearing their stories is a moment of pride for our staff and a beacon of encouragement for other alums.

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“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” — Hippocrates

Recovery from any disease requires a holistic approach, and substance-addiction recovery is no different. You need to work on the whole you, not just your body — without a healthy and strong mind and soul, physical healing will be challenging.

Olalla Recovery Centers’ in-patient rehabilitation program helps you get on the right path by offering holistic programs such as yoga, meditation and acupuncture. But recovery is a lifelong process and you need to continue taking care of your whole health after discharge.

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After record-breaking rains, I’m happy that summer is finally here. We are blessed to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery in our neck of the woods — and all the fantastic recreational activities that come with that.

For many, school is out and this is the best time to enjoy activities with the family and spend time outside. But if you’re in recovery, this may be a challenging time because the longer days may remind you of that phase in your life when having a good time was synonymous with drinking or using drugs.

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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau

As we celebrate mothers, fathers and new graduates this time of year, we are also celebrating the importance of families. We may not always see eye to eye with our family members, but we know we can count on them during the pivotal points in our lives.

Are you ready to do something new and different? Whatever dreams and aspirations you have in life, they’re easier to conquer with the encouragement and support from your family.

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“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

 

Spring is the time when many of us yearn to declutter our homes, organize and start fresh. After the doldrums of winter, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, a little spring-cleaning seems good for the body and the soul.

For the recovering addict, this is a perfect time to renew your energy and spend a little time decluttering your life. Just like spring-cleaning your house, this process can help you prioritize, get rid of what you don’t need in your life — and focus on what matters.

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Many of us living in the Puget Sound area get a little restless this time of year. The rain becomes tiresome, especially if spring is late.

For those struggling with addiction, this can be an especially tough season. The dark, cold, rainy days can trigger a form of depression called seasonally affective disorder, or SAD — and turning to your substance of choice may seem like an easy fix.

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“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Spring is a special season, as things that have been dormant and hidden for months are rising from their slumber. It’s a time of new growth and renewal.

Just like nature, we, humans, go through our own cycles. Sometimes we feel stuck while other times we’re full of despair. It feels impossible to see beyond the gloom and the darkness when we’re facing challenges.

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Electronic cigarettes are the newest trend among young people. The industry claims that they’re not addictive, like traditional nicotine products are, yet the numbers suggest otherwise.

Rates among teens using e-cigarettes have been growing at an alarming pace — a 900 percent increase among high school students between 2011 and 2015.

E-cigarettes are being promoted by the industry as a much safer nicotine product. Advocates claim e-cigarettes are not addictive and can even help people quit smoking.

It’s true that the nicotine amount is much smaller in e-cigarettes. But they’re far from being harmless, especially for youth and young adults.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

As a fictional starship captain once said, “Fear exists for one purpose: to be conquered.”

That statement couldn’t be more powerful today, as you walk the journey to sobriety. On this path, you’ll falter — probably more than once. You may even feel that you don’t have what it takes to conquer all the obstacles that lie ahead.

These doubts rise from fear. Fear of the unknown.

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Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, access to substance abuse treatment was extended to countless individuals who could not previously afford it. But the new political climate has created uncertainty about the future of healthcare benefits.

If you’ve been thinking about getting clean and sober, we urge you to act now. Acknowledging that you have a problem — and wanting to do something about it — is a major first step.

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“We rise by lifting others.” —Robert Ingersoll

 

If you’re traveling the journey to recovery, you don’t need to wait for the New Year to make the most important resolution: maintain sobriety. But since we can’t help but love traditions, this is a good time to take stock. What do you want to achieve in 2017?

One of the best ways to stay on track is by sharing your story with others. How far have you come? What struggles have you overcome? How has that helped you grow?
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“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” — Neal A. Maxwell

count your blessings

When we meet a challenge, we’re much more likely to see the glass half-empty than half-full. We tend to focus on what we don’t have. The missed opportunities. The things that don’t go according to plan.

This is certainly true for those in recovery. As you face your daily struggles, it’s easy to forget that every day is part of a lifelong journey. And not every day on this journey will go smoothly.

Beating addiction is never easy. But gratitude — especially for the things and people you may be taking for granted — will give you the strength you need.

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“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu

This time of year, it’s far too easy to become caught up in the quest for more.

More gifts to be purchased for a never-ending list of relatives. More cleaning, cooking and baking to impress the guests. New obligations seem to be piling up each year — more visiting, more entertaining, more volunteering — yet there’s never more time for getting it all done.

In the midst of this chaos, there’s also no time left for what’s most important. Recharging. Reflecting on the true meaning of the season. Enjoying — truly enjoying, not hurriedly trying to make time for — the people who are most important in your life.

Even without the complications of the holiday season, life can become too complex if we don’t take the time to prioritize and simplify. Before we realize it, we can become so overwhelmed that even easy tasks become a burden.

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