For Mental Health Awareness Month, we invited Dr. Sam Buser, psychologist for the Houston Fire Department, and his daughter Kimi Buser-Clancy, actor and activist, to our podcast to discuss the connection between substance abuse and suicide, and how we can reach out to others to prevent both during traumatic times.
For more enlightening conversations on mental health and substance use, listen to Healing Choices on our website and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. For more honest and open conversations on suicide in our society, visit Sam and Kimi’s podcast on suicide and prevention, Leaving the Valley.
In this episode of Healing Choices: Conversations on Addiction and Recovery, President and CEO Mel Taylor and Clinical Director of the Center for Recovering Families Lori Fiester meet virtually to discuss how to best take care of your mental health during the Coronavirus pandemic and social isolation. They also discuss resources that are available to you if you need professional help.
This episode was originally recorded for The Council on Recovery’s new video conversation series, Conversations on Addiction, Recovery, & Family, and adapted for Healing Choices. Weekly video conversations with our clinician staff occur every Tuesday at 4 PM CST on Zoom and Facebook Live.
Guest Blog contributed by Rick Renaudin, member of the Board of Trustees for The Council on Recovery
Like many of you, I am a creature of habit. I’ve got my set routine which includes family, work, exercise, playing with our puppy, etc.
Sobriety begs for a good routine.
Roughly 7 or 8 weeks ago, it became apparent that my life was going to change due to the “shelter in place” recommendations that arose from the Coronavirus pandemic. During this time I have celebrated my 4 year sobriety anniversary.
I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for my sobriety. I can’t even imagine the nightmare this confinement would have put me and my wife through otherwise… all of the planning, scheming and hiding that would have been necessary to extend my drinking, would have exhausted my whole family. Thanks to them, I am facing this most unusual period in all of our lives with a clear mind. A mind absent all of the angst and turmoil that went with prolonging my drinking.
If you are struggling with any kind of substance abuse, please know there is help right around the corner at The Council on Recovery. Whether you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, The Council is the place to start. It’s confidential and it will change your life forever!
By Lori Fiester, Clinical Director of the Center for Recovering Families
As the last week wound down and settled, my staff and I made it through the trials and tribulations of integrating telehealth into our services. The reward – we are able to connect with our clients, see their faces, continue the work prior to this pandemic and offer assistance with this struggle. Most clients’ response was similar, “This got real!” Along with this response, most were grateful to get back to their recovery groups and have a safe place to talk. Reality appears to have shifted throughout everyone’s life. We all have been significantly impacted one way or another, and maintaining community seems harder than ever.
Change and the unknown can bring fear and anxiety. Some feel resistance to the change, which can increase such feelings. Another feeling common among our clients is grief. Not only from seeing the daily news and how this pandemic has killed thousands, but how the disruption of our daily routine magnifies all the little things we ordinarily do without a thought. Clients have expressed grief about their connections being disrupted or lost, friend/family becoming sick, employment threats or lay-offs, and how isolation compounds their feelings.
Isolation is one of the worst possible positions someone who is struggling with sobriety can be in, yet here we are.
Mandated to shelter in place. Isolation in any addiction or compulsive behavior is that ‘ism’s’ best friend. It causes us to think negatively, erroneously, and mostly disengage from the connection we most want and need. It can cause us to turn on ourselves, only to fill with self-loathing. As clinicians, our efforts are aimed at assisting our clients to navigate these changes by maintaining community in the chaos.
The technology that has often led to disconnection is now assisting us in the recovery community to connect with telehealth, online meetings, and online activities like yoga or meditation. While many are working from home, there are many others that are not working at all, and thus have even less connection to the world and more time on their hands. We are encouraging all our clients to reach out and connect, so the isolation can be lessened. Isolation, often the most troublesome of characteristics in this disease, now feels like it’s quadrupled.
And while there are a lot
of unknowns, what is known is that we need each other.
We cannot do this alone. As human beings, we aren’t wired that way, which is very similar to those in the recovery community trying to stay sober…. we all need the help of another. Today we need connection even more, even if it’s six feet apart and no more than 10 people at a time. Maintaining community in recovery is key. Another known is that the feelings of fear, anxiety, grief or any other feeling will become more manageable if we allow them in. If we can feel the feelings and allow them to move through, they will leave. Often we resist because the feelings overwhelm us, which causes suffering and more times than not, the feelings will come out sideways in unwanted behaviors. Another known is that we are in this together. If this is happening to you, help is just a phone call away.
So, together we need to support one another to stay home and stay safe. We must continue our lives in recovery by maintaining community through attending online meetings, virtual classes, calling or video chatting with our sponsor, and if any of that hasn’t been attempted, it’s time now more than ever.
Here at The Council on Recovery, we believe in the power of mindfulness to aide us in difficult times. Mindfulness is the act of developing awareness of how we think and process information. We do this through focusing on the moment at hand and letting stillness and silence guide our emotions.
If we’ve taught ourselves or been taught to numb our feelings in response to emotional situations, with substance abuse or other behaviors, we are not allowing ourselves the opportunity to understand our mind and body fully. We get to a potentially dangerous state in which we only know what we think and not what we feel.
Just being still for a few minutes every day and getting into a mental headspace in which you allow yourself to process emotions you’ve been potentially withholding can be mentally rejuvenating for anyone in this chaotic world. Every day now we’re overwhelmed with potentially traumatizing information, and lots of it. If it’s not the barrage of information that’s getting to us, it’s social isolation, changing the way we do our work, and more. Taking a step back and processing this information without judgement gives us a better chance at inner peace when it would otherwise seem impossible.
In this podcast episode, we discuss how to deal with negative emotions through mindfulness. At the time of this recording, COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, had just reached the United States. Since then, the virus has become a global pandemic and shaken up daily life, causing uncertainty and anxiety for many people. People who already experience a mental health disorder, including many people in recovery can be especially affected.
Caitlin Payne joins Mel Taylor and Lori Fiester to discuss in detail what mindfulness is and how it can improve your life during times of stress and uncertainty, whether or not you are impacted by addiction.
By Lori Fiester, Clinical Director of the Center for Recovering Families
I have been in the social work field for approximately 32
years and have seen trends come and go in substance abuse treatment settings.
Treatment for substance abuse was primarily geared to the 12 Steps when I first
entered the field, along with licensed chemical dependency counselors. Today we
have a plethora of providers that give a vast array of therapeutic
interventions that can assist those seeking help. Recently, I stumbled upon an opportunity
to learn another intervention that can assist people who want to get sober, are
sober, or are in sustained recovery, called Acudetox.
Acudetox is a five-point acupuncture protocol specifically
designed for those struggling with substance use issues. The acupuncture
needles are gently placed in the ear at specific points. This helps balance the
body’s energy and assists the healing process. It is referred to in Eastern medicine
as a yin tonification, restoring calm inner qualities like serenity. This
process is best done in a group setting lasting from 30-45 minutes and is
non-verbal with minimal interaction from the facilitator.
Acudetox has shown to decrease cravings for alcohol and drugs,
withdrawal symptoms, relapse episodes, anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Even more exciting, the effects can be
immediate. There are usually no side-effects and the intervention is
inexpensive. Clients report relaxation,
stress and craving reduction, mental clarity, an increased sense of wellbeing
and more energy. Programs have reported
more successful completions and less client discharge against medical advice,
along with higher client satisfaction improvement.
This seemed too good to be true, so off I went to get
trained in Acudetox. As a result, I’m a firm believer that this intervention can
assist anyone in the process of recovery. While practicing the protocol, I
experienced immediate relaxation myself and noticed later that my mindless
eating wasn’t as mindless. As I practiced on friends and colleagues, they
reported decreased blood pressure, better sleep and more concentration. Even
those who chose not to have the intervention in the group setting experienced a
meditative state. As a therapist, it’s an interesting shift from talk therapy
to inserting needles, but I see the value as clients become more aware of their
body and their thoughts, and are able to settle more quickly to begin their
The Council is offering Acudetox to clients in The Center for Recovering Families’ Intensive Outpatient Program, and is also now offering appointments open to the general public. Click here for more information on Acudetox or to register for a session.
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