Blog

Codependency & Addiction: When Does Loving Others Become Unhealthy?

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but this celebrated holiday stirred the minds of our clinician staff here at The Council. Romantic relationships can be a source of great joy for many people, but it can also be a source of some of our deepest struggles. In this episode of Healing Choices: Conversations on Addiction and Recovery, Houston social workers and addiction recovery experts Mel Taylor, Lori Fiester and Andrea Washington discuss codependency – what it is, how it happens, and its connection to addiction.

Learning to Love Yourself on the Journey of Recovery

This guest post is written by David Sunday, outreach coordinator and veteran liaison for The Council on Recovery.

As we move into a month that celebrates love and relationships, I couldn’t help but think how confusing loving myself was early in my recovery, or that I couldn’t fully love anyone else until I loved myself. I would hear things in meetings like “We’ll love you until you’re ready to love yourself.” I remember thinking to myself, “What does that even mean? Aren’t I my problem?” 

As I worked my program and grew in my sobriety, I gradually learned to put others before myself. Even this within itself was confusing. I spent a good amount of time helping others and doing service work, but I never realized the only way I could truly help another was by helping myself. If I’m being honest, I still had a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror. I had no idea how to have a healthy relationship with myself or anyone else. I still put expectations on people, places and things, and when they didn’t fit into my agenda I walked away “to protect myself.”

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash

I can’t exactly put my finger on when the light turned on, but the little boy inside of me that was crying out for help was not the problem. The problem was the man who still hadn’t separated himself from his ego, who was standing in his way and wouldn’t allow him to fully heal. This person was the problem! This is what it meant to love myself – to be kind to myself in this process of healing, and to not always need to do or say everything right, but to know that if it came from my heart, it was enough. To make an effort to take care of myself the best I know how with the tools I have, physically, mentally and spiritually.

As I sat in a support group the other night and listened to people share their gratitude, struggles and fears, I knew in that moment that this is what people meant by loving myself- being in a space with others who are on this journey with me and who value what I have to bring. It’s not perfect, but it’s real, and it’s love. It’s loving the life I have today without the need of escape, because I am able to show up and be who I have always been. Real love of self isn’t comparing myself to anyone else’s journey but looking in the mirror with my head held high and saying to myself “I’m the one I’ve been waiting for!” And so are you!

The Promise of Intentions

This guest post is written by David Sunday, outreach coordinator and veteran liaison for The Council on Recovery.

As we move into another exciting year full of possibilities and opportunities, I was struck by the number of New Year’s resolutions the crossed my social media. It brought up the question, what is a resolution? Merriam Webster defines a resolution as the answer or solution to something, a firm decision, to do or not do. That was very intriguing to me. As a person in long term recovery, working a program and involved with the recovery community, I often hear sayings like “one day at a time” or “easy does it”. There’s even an old joke poking fun at the disease of addiction that quotes, “The three words you never want to hear from a person in recovery say are ‘I was thinking…’”

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Today, we’re able to laugh at ourselves, but we also recognize that we are works in progress, and that every day we try to be just a little bit better than we were the day before. Some days we have clarity, and others, we simply know that tomorrow is a new day! We try our best to be gentle, first with ourselves and then with others. 

Maybe it makes sense to simply change our language a little.

Using the word intention instead of resolution reminds us that today we will make every attempt to show up as our true and authentic selves, and in doing so knowing that we have done our part. After all, there is only today, we no longer live in yesterday and tomorrow is not a guarantee. Our intention is all we really have, as psychologist Ram Dass has taught us to “be here now” in this place together.

This writer’s love for the people of the recovery community stems from acceptance that we are all enough, perfectly imperfect. We no longer need to measure up to a standard because we are already there, but maintaining the intention that there is always room for improvement. Every single day is a new beginning and a new chance to create a life well lived!

Resolutions: What Does it Take to Truly Quit Something?

In this episode of our newly reimagined podcast, Houston addiction recovery experts Mel Taylor and Lori Fiester discuss resolutions and what it takes to truly quit something, whether it’s a bad habit or fully developed addiction.

The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

For decades, the professional approach to addiction has been shifting away from shaming and blaming, and toward the belief that addiction is a normal and common biological response to adversity experienced in childhood. The popularization of this game-changing perspective is credited to Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine, who began his crusade to change the narrative around addiction after treating Vietnam veterans with PTSD in the early 1980s.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) affect long-term health, and can include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; living with a family member who’s addicted to substances; depression and other mental illnesses; parental divorce or separation; incarceration or deportation of a family member; racism; involvement in the foster care system, and more. Clinicians like Dr. Sumrok administer an ACE assessment upon meeting a patient for the first time, and for good reason.

childhood trauma and addiction

According to ACE studies, about 64% of people have at least one ACE, which can double to quadruple the likelihood of using drugs or alcohol, particularly at an early age. Having an ACE score of 4 nearly doubles the risk of heart disease and lung cancer and increases the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic by 700%. People with a score of 5 or higher are seven to 10 times more likely to use illegal drugs and become addicted. Furthermore, these studies show that it doesn’t matter what type of trauma the patient experienced. Different combinations of ACEs produce the same statistical health consequences.

Considering potential childhood trauma is necessary for addressing one’s addiction.

This requisite has fortunately also normalized the concept of addiction as “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking” – it’s something one adopts as a coping behavior because they weren’t provided with a healthy alternative when they were young. This approach is not only supported by psychological research, it’s also the compassionate route to treating clients with substance abuse problems. Rather than labeling someone as an addict and punishing them for their behavior, clinicians like those at The Council find it’s kinder and more productive to address ACEs with their clients, and to help them seek comfort in other behaviors. Since its inception, the staff at the Center for Recovering Families is dedicated to helping their clients by looking at their trauma when appropriate and providing the necessary skills to deal with their feelings.

For more information about ACEs, read here. To calculate your ACE score, click here.

For questions about The Council’s assessment and treatment options, or if you or a loved one needs help, call (713) 914-0556 or contact us here.

CDC Reports High Tobacco Use Among Youth in 2019

The Center for Disease Control released a report earlier this month on tobacco product use among middle and high school students in public and private schools across America, reminding The Council on Recovery that although we’ve made great strides in the past decade, we still have much work to do in the coming years in our fight to reduce substance use and abuse by minors.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) is an annual, cross-sectional, self-administered survey of U.S. middle school and high school students attending public and private schools that uses a representative sample to estimate how many youths are using tobacco, and what factors contribute to this number, such as type of tobacco product, exposure to tobacco marketing, perceptions of harm, and more. Here are its major findings:

Over half of all U.S. high school students (53.3 %, around 8 million) have used a tobacco product.

Almost a third of high school students (31.2%) reported they were currently using tobacco products. E-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high schoolers, with 27.5% reporting they had used one in the past 30 days.

A fourth of all U.S. middle school students (24.3%, around 2.9 million) reported using a tobacco product.

About 12.5% of middle school students reported they were currently using tobacco products. E-cigarettes were also the most commonly used tobacco product with middle schoolers, with 10.5% reported using them.

E-cigarettes remain a major public health concern.

The prevalence of cigarette smoking among students was the lowest ever recorded by the study since 1999. This is no cause to celebrate, however, as this is due to the emergence and popularization of e-cigarettes, which have been recorded as the most popular tobacco product among youths since 2014. In 2017-2018, the use of e-cigarettes increased by 77.8%, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use a national epidemic last December. This 2019 report reports even higher e-cigarette usage, but takes into consideration changes to the survey itself that could have affected outcomes.

This survey acts as a reminder to The Council that there is still much work to be done in middle schools and high schools across the major Houston area. Through the CHOICES program, The Council will continue to meet schools where they are at to help students and their families resist the seductive appeals of e-cigarette and other tobacco product marketing, and learn the risks and consequences of substance use at such an early age.

“Longitudinal studies have shown that youth vapers are four times more likely to smoke combustible cigarettes than non-vapers,” says Patrick Hagler, CHOICES counselor. “CHOICES can help by educating teens and parents about the real consequences of vaping.”

The Council on Recovery and Prevention Resource Center 6 have also teamed up to host a Houston Vaping Summit on February 21, 2020, with the goal to educate local school administrations (as well as healthcare, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and parents) on vaping and to equip them with the tools they need to respond promptly and effectively.

In positive news, the federal government has raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, effective in the summer of 2020.

For more information on the National Youth Tobacco Survey, click here.

If your teen or child needs our help, call (713) 914-4100. For information on how to create a CHOICES program at your school, please contact (281) 200-9272.