Mindfulness: Strengthening the Relationship Between Mind and Body

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.

What is Acudetox, and why has The Council decided to offer it?

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 work.   

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.

What is CBD and How is it Different from Marijuana?

Clinical Director for the Center for Recovering Families Lori Fiester answers your burning questions about CBD.

If you’ve driven around town lately, you might have seen all the CBD shops that have burst on the scene, or may have seen ads on your favorite social media site selling CBD oils and other such related items.

This surge recently came about due to hemp being legalized in 2018. There seems to be a lot of confusion about that too, especially when you realize that hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis plant. The difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp can only contain 3% of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Past that percentage, it’s considered marijuana, which is illegal in Texas. While I see the effects of recreational marijuana abuse in my work, I had limited understanding about the what the differences between the substance were, the legalities, and was Cannabidiol (CBD) just another silver bullet. So I thought I’d dip my big toe in the river.

The Science of CBD

First of all, THC and CBD are chemically the same! Twenty-one carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. The difference is in a single atom structure. And that single-atom difference is about feeling the psychoactive effects of the substance or not.

There are about 85 known cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant, which include THC and CBD. A cannabinoid is a compound that interacts within the network of receptors in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which assist to maintain vital functions within the body. There are two receptors in the body called CB1 and CB2. CB1 is found in parts of the brain that is responsible for mental and physiological processes such as memory, cognition, emotion and motor skills. CB2 is found throughout the central nervous system and the immune system.

While both CBD and THC bind to the CB2, they interact with the CB1 receptors differently.  THC binds to the CB1 receptors that signals the brain to feel pleasure or ‘high’ feeling. CBD doesn’t bind directly to the CB1 and even its presence will negate the effects of the THC on the brain, meaning you won’t feel high. 

Use and Effects

CBD has been linked to assisting with pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, and inflammation, just to name a few. CBD is not regulated by the FDA and there have been no long term studies. There are no known side effects except in drug to drug interaction, i.e. medication.

THC is psychoactive which gives the ‘high,’ and its effects can include relaxation, altered senses, fatigue, hunger and reduced aggression.  Long term effects include addiction, impaired thinking and reasoning, a reduced ability to plan and organize, altered decision making, reduced control over impulses and correlates with significant abnormalities in the heart and brain.

Medical THC has been seen to help with the side effects of chemotherapy, MS, HIV/AIDS, spinal injury, nausea/vomiting, chronic pain, inflammation and digestive issues.

Marijuana is illegal in Texas although many states have legalized it for both recreation and medically.  Medical cannabis is legal in Texas in very limited situations. The Texas Compassionate Use Act came into law in 2015 allowing those affected with epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease have access to cannabis oil with less than 5% THC.

The Bottom Line is…

While CBD and THC come from the same plant, one is legal in Texas and one is not. It appears that CBD can have positive effects on a person’s health, it is not a psychoactive drug, there are no known side effects, and due to the changes in the law, it is readily available.  However, with that being said, there are no guidelines for manufacturing the substance, and there are no long term studies on the effects from taking the substance. I stress the issue of manufacturing due to the serious illness and even deaths we have seen from vaping when this delivery system was off-brand/market and often involving marijuana.

Marijuana is still illegal in Texas, it is a psychoactive and addictive drug and there are many side effects from its use. 

To make an appointment for a clinical assessment, or if you have any questions about how we can help you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse, call 713-914-0556 or contact us online.

If your campus, workplace or community would benefit from a presentation, contact us at 281-200-9273 or comm_education@councilonrecovery.org.

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!

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.

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.