Most people who struggle with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue, or a dual diagnosis. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 3.3 percent of all American adults had a dual diagnosis of addiction and another mental health issue. [] Some mental health issues can multiply your risk of developing a substance use disorder by several times. 

A preexisting mental health issue can increase your risk of addiction, addiction can increase your risk of developing a mental health issue, or both may be caused by some other factor, such as abuse, neglect, or trauma. Many people struggling with addiction aren’t even aware they have an untreated mental health issue. Unfortunately, unless the mental health issue is treated concurrently with addiction, it’s very hard to overcome a substance use disorder. That’s why it’s crucial to find a treatment program that has the staff and expertise to integrate addiction treatment and mental health treatment. The following are some of the most common mental health issues that require treatment along with addiction.

Anxiety disorders

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, nearly 20 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder in any given year and more than 30 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. [] One reason anxiety disorders are so common is that it’s an umbrella term that includes many conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, phobias, and others. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 20 percent of people with an anxiety disorder or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder. [] In other words, having an anxiety or mood disorder more than doubles your risk of addiction. Many people with anxiety disorders use drugs or alcohol to relieve their anxiety. For example, one common pattern is for people with social anxiety disorder to drink to relieve their social anxiety and eventually become dependent on alcohol. And benzodiazepines, a common anxiety medication, are extremely addictive and can lead to dependence in as little as two weeks of daily use.


Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is technically an anxiety disorder but it increases your risk of addiction by so much that it deserves special attention. About seven or eight percent of people will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. [] About half of people seeking help for a substance use disorder meet the criteria for PTSD. [] That’s about five times the national average for substance use disorders. PTSD has a number of symptoms, including intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and insomnia that people try to treat with drugs or alcohol, especially alcohol. 


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than seven percent of American adults, or more than 17 million people, experienced an episode of major depression in 2017 and that number has risen in recent years. [] According to the World Health Organization, depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide. [] As with anxiety, depression can lead to a substance use disorder or vice versa. Among people with lifetime major depression, 16.5 percent have had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent have had a drug use disorder, both of those rates are significantly higher than average. [

Women suffer from depression at about twice the rate as men but men are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, less likely to seek help for depression, and more likely to die by suicide, making a dual diagnosis of depression and addiction especially dangerous for men. Since depression is so common in general and a common result of addiction, treating depression along with addiction is frequently necessary.


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is another condition that is highly correlated with addiction. One survey found that about 15 percent of people with ADHD also had a substance use disorder, about twice the national average. [] People with uncontrolled ADHD often have racing or intrusive thoughts, poor mood, or insomnia and about 70 percent of people with ADHD and substance use issues say they try to reduce these symptoms with the aid of drugs or alcohol. Many adults with ADHD aren’t even aware they have it, since the hyperactive aspect tends to diminish with age. However, the other symptoms can persist, so treating addiction requires getting ADHD symptoms under control.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is typically classified as a major depressive disorder but there’s such a high correlation between bipolar and substance use disorders that it deserves special mention. Of people with bipolar disorder, about 56 percent developed a substance use disorder at some point. [] And bipolar isn’t as rare as most people believe. About 2.6 percent of Americans will develop bipolar disorder and about 83 percent of those cases are severe. [] What’s more, bipolar is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, often mistaken for depression, and it presents special challenges for addiction treatment, especially during manic episodes. 


Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

Why Making Comparisons is Bad for Addiction Recovery

It’s normal to feel a bit disoriented when you enter treatment for the first time or enter a specific program for the first time. The way most people respond to this kind of uncertainty is to start looking around at what others are doing. As a social species, we are strongly influenced by the opinions of others. We don’t want to be thought of as odd, lazy, weak, unfriendly, or any number of other essentially relative adjectives. It’s also normal to enter treatment feeling anxious. After all, treatment is a big commitment of time, money, and effort and a lot depends on the outcome. There are families anxiously waiting to see how their loved ones will do, whether they may have finally reached a turning point. With so much at stake, we look for signs to see how well we might be doing and unfortunately, many people assess their progress by comparing themselves to others. Making these kinds of comparisons in treatment and recovery is not only misleading but ultimately counterproductive. Here’s why.

Comparisons are bad for your mental health.

There have been many studies showing that social comparisons are bad for your mental health. One study found that people who made more frequent social comparisons had many negative mental health outcomes, including more feelings of guilt, envy, defensiveness, and regret. They were also more likely to lie, blame others, and have unmet cravings. [] Much of the research on social media and mental health has found that social media use increases feelings of depression and isolation and several studies have found that this increased risk of depression is likely a result of social comparison. 

One study [!] found that women who were asked to engage on social media with peers who they judged as more attractive than themselves–perhaps predictably–reported lower self-esteem. However, another study [] found that people who made frequent comparisons on social media felt more depressed whether they judged themselves as better or worse off than the people they compared themselves too. Yet another study [] found that social comparison, but not total time spent on social media, correlated with depressive symptoms. This suggests that it’s the act of comparison or judgment rather than failing to measure up that makes us feel bad.

This research is especially important for people recovering from addiction because there is significant overlap between depression and substance use disorders. People often develop substance use disorders as a way of coping with the symptoms of depression. Sometimes it goes the other way; addiction leads to feelings of shame and hopelessness, which can turn into depression. It’s also common for people recovering from addiction to experience post-acute-withdrawal syndrome during their first year. This is often described as emotional numbness or depression. In short, anything you can do to reduce your risk of depressive symptoms can only help your recovery from addiction.

Comparisons are almost completely meaningless.

Another major reason to avoid making comparisons in addiction recovery is that comparisons are mostly meaningless. Addiction and recovery are complex and personal and no two people will have exactly the same experiences. Everyone enters treatment with a different personal history and a different addiction history. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. There’s no way to meaningfully compare two people in recovery. 

What’s more, you never know what someone else is really going through. You mostly only know what other people let you know. This is especially true of recovery, where so much happens inside your own head. Someone who appears to be making fast progress and generally have it together may secretly feel like she’s struggling, falling behind, or on the verge of collapse, while someone who appears to be a complete mess is actually more willing to be vulnerable and rely on social support to get her through rough times. Most importantly, neither the person who seems to have it together or the person who is a complete mess has any influence over how well you will do in recovery.

Recovery is not a race.

There’s no prize for being the first person to graduate from a program. What milestones there are in recovery tend to be chunks of time. For example, your risk of relapse usually falls significantly after your first year sober, then again at five years sober. However, everyone takes exactly the same amount of time to reach these milestones. If someone accomplishes something you would like to accomplish, it doesn’t take anything away from you. In fact, it might help you.

Cooperation matters more than competition.

A competitive mindset can undermine what’s really important in addiction recovery: cooperation. Social support is one of the best predictors of a successful recovery and having the attitude that you’re competing against everyone else undermines that sense of mutual support. Addiction recovery is a positive-sum game, which means that all participants do better by working together. When someone in your program or at your 12-step meeting succeeds, it shows that you can succeed too. It makes good possibilities seem more real.

Only compare yourself to where you were yesterday.

There is only one kind of comparison that is meaningful: comparing yourself to you from yesterday. Every day in recovery is up and down, especially in the beginning, but you can always try to do a little better than you did the day before. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it could be trying to be a little kinder to yourself or a little better listener. These small improvements accumulate over time and will eventually lead to a strong recovery.


Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

Watching your loved one struggle with addiction can make you feel helpless and heartbroken.  When they finally decide to seek professional help in the form of an inpatient recovery program, the emotions surrounding that decision can be very complex for everyone involved.  While you will surely be proud of them and hopeful for the future, it can be hard to know how best to support them during this time, and what your role is now that you aren’t seeing them every day.  Even though the situation has changed, there are still steps you can take while your loved one is in recovery to help them stay positive and ultimately succeed in their battle against addiction.

Educate Yourself

One of the best ways you can empower yourself to support and encourage your loved one through addiction recovery is to inform yourself about the science of addiction, as well as some of the techniques that may be used to help your loved one begin to recover.  By creating a better understanding of how drugs and alcohol effect a person’s behavior, and of how addiction continues to affect the brain for many years into sobriety, you can begin to reframe the way you perceive your loved one and their addiction.

Ask About Family Programs

Many treatment centers encourage the active participation of supportive family members in their clients’ recovery journey.  Not only do family programs help you deal with the emotional ups and downs of having a loved one in recovery, and help to establish realistic expectations of the process, but your involvement will also increase your family member’s chance of success.  Additionally, but joining a support group for family members of those in recovery, such as Al-Anon, you will get to know other people going through the same difficult time, and have a safe space to openly discuss the way addiction has affected you and your family. 

Seek Out Individual Counseling

Therapy is a great addition to anyone’s self-care plan, but it is especially beneficial to people who have experienced the trauma of a loved one’s addiction.  One of the best ways you can support your loved one’s recovery is to take the time to focus on your own healing. By working through any pain and anger you have as a result of your loved one’s actions, you can take responsibility for your own mental wellness and lessen the burden on them.  

Write Letters of Support

In addition to visiting your loved one while they are at an inpatient recovery center, you should write them encouraging and supportive letters.  Let them know that you are proud of them for their decision to get help, and that you are also taking this time to learn more about addiction and work on your own healing.  You may ask for the guidance of your therapist in composing a letter, to be sure that you stay positive and refrain from any accusatory language. 

Change Your Environment

This is especially important if you typically live with the person who is now in recovery.  While they are away, it can be a good time to consider the environment and lifestyle they have to come home to. For example, you can start to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself by improving your diet and keeping junk food and sweets out of the house.  You may also start to become more active so that daily exercise becomes a normal part of your routine. A holistic treatment center will encourage your loved one to improve upon their nutrition and activity to support their recovery, and by doing this for yourself you are contributing to your own wellness while also creating a lifestyle more conducive to their recovery.

End the Stigma

One of the biggest obstacles for people who experience addiction is getting past the heavy stigma of the disease.  Often, families will conceal their loved one’s battle with addiction out of shame or embarrassment. By acting as if your family member’s decision to get help is something to be ashamed of, you are increasing the stigma surrounding addiction and taking away the empowering aspect of recovery.  End the stigma by being honest with others about your loved one’s battle with addiction (with their consent), as well as by being openly proud of them for choosing to get sober.

Stop Enabling

If you have participated in enabling behavior in the past, your loved one’s inpatient recovery is a great time for you to wipe the slate clean and stop all co-dependency.  If your loved one will eventually be returning to your residence, make your home a strictly substance-free zone, and make a commitment not to financially or emotionally support decisions that will be detrimental to their recovery.  


At Burning Tree Ranch, we specialize in long-term care that produces real results, especially for those who have experienced relapse.  Here you will find a team of qualified and compassionate professionals, ready to help each client through a customized treatment program that addresses all aspects of addiction, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  We know that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of an inpatient program, and we provide extensive aftercare programs to best support our clients during their transition into lasting sobriety. We also know that addiction affects the whole family, and therefore loved ones are encouraged to participate in the recovery process and take advantage of all our support resources.  For more information, call us today at 512-285-5900.      

6 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Group Therapy

Group therapy plays a central role in nearly every quality treatment program and for good reason. Studies show that group therapy is a cost-effective way to treat many conditions, including addiction. More importantly, group therapy offers a valuable opportunity to learn and practice skills that are hard to acquire on your own or in private therapy. For example, group therapy allows you to practice communication skills in a safe environment where a therapist can moderate interactions. Group therapy is also a great way to get many different perspectives on your problems and not just the perspective of untrained peers or your individual therapist. However, like any form of therapy, you only get out of it what you put in. Here are some tips for getting the most out of group therapy.

Be open.

Being open is perhaps the most important part of group therapy and, for some people, the hardest. It can be hard to be honest about your feelings and experiences in front of a group, but the more you share, the more the group can help you. Keep in mind that a group therapy session isn’t like a work meeting, where communication should be clear and concise. It’s fine and often helpful to try to express thoughts or feelings you can’t quite articulate. This also goes for feelings or experiences you probably wouldn’t share in other social settings.

Openness is important for several reasons. First, by being honest about your emotions, you learn to better understand them. Just making an effort to describe how you really feel makes you more aware of your own emotional landscape. Second, it’s often harder to see ourselves clearly than to see others. By being honest with the group about your feelings, you can gain much greater insight into your emotional life. Third, we reflexively protect the places we’ve been hurt and by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you discover that whatever you’re feeling is okay.

Learn to give feedback.

A major advantage of the group is that you get feedback from others while simultaneously practicing your communication skills. Giving feedback is one of the most valuable skills to practice. Not only is it important in the context of the group, but it is also a valuable skill in other areas of your life, especially when it comes to setting boundaries. It can be tricky to balance honesty and respect. We often excuse meanness by saying, “I’m just being honest.” Honest feedback is important, but it should always come from a place of compassion.

To be effective, feedback should be as specific as possible. For example, it’s better to give feedback specific to something someone said or did rather than how they seem to behave in general. Providing concrete examples is always helpful. So instead of saying, “you’re too negative,” try something more grounded like, “you said just now that you fail at everything, but I think you were overgeneralizing.” Also, be sure to give positive feedback. Let people know when you appreciate something they said or did.

Learn to accept feedback.

Accepting feedback is just as important as giving good feedback. Some people feel like they’re being personally attacked or criticized when they get feedback. This is understandable, especially for people who are used to being attacked or criticized. However, it’s important to manage those feelings constructively. Getting feedback from a group of people you can be totally honest with is a valuable source of information and if you’re overly defensive, you might miss out. If you feel like you’re becoming defensive, it may be a good idea to acknowledge that feeling and share it. In general, it’s good to acknowledge feedback and appreciate that the person who gave it is trying to help. You may want to see if others agree or disagree with the feedback as well. Finally, it’s also helpful to ask for feedback, rather than just wait. This way, you’re actively gathering more information about yourself.

Don’t rely on stories.

It’s tempting to prepare what you’re going to say in advance and especially to rely on stories. However, in the context of the group, that may be counterproductive. Stories are often pared down to be efficient and produce a certain impression. In effect, you may be using a story to project a certain image. This may be a way to avoid being honest or avoid struggling with uncomfortable emotions. It’s much better to be honest and responsive to what’s happening in the group.

Be wary of giving advice.

It’s often tempting to give advice when someone in the group describes a problem they are having. However, it’s usually best to refrain. It’s easy to give someone else advice, but even if it’s good advice, it may not be what they need to hear. A better approach is to listen and ask questions. Try to understand what they’re trying to say and how they are feeling. You can give someone advice if they ask for it, but more often, people just want to feel like they’re being heard.

Pay attention to group dynamics.

There’s a lot going on in a group and you can learn a great deal by paying attention to group dynamics. What kind of discussions make you feel uncomfortable? Which group members are good communicators? Which group members are others drawn to? Which members do people avoid? How does the therapist moderate conflict and misunderstanding? All of these things can help you learn new skills and understand your own position better.



Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

Shame in Recovery: Navigating the Waters of Healing

For many, the physical and mental restoration that is worked towards in recovery is only half the battle; there’s often a lingering effect of guilt and shame that also must be worked through. In 2017, NPR conducted an interview with author Neil Steinberg, whose written several books on addiction recovery. He explained in the interview that addiction in and of itself is a secretive disease – and along with it being portrayed as a “weakness” or a “failing,” it’s not surprising that many in recovery still struggle with shame, guilt and stigma. He stated,

“Nobody says, here, wait a second, ‘Mom, I’m going to go hide in the bathroom and guzzle vodka.’ You don’t say that. You’re used to being secretive and ashamed of it while you’re doing it.”

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame


Dr. Georg Fuerstein told Inner Self that guilt derives from the Old English term gylt, which means “a fine for an offense.” Today, those who experience guilt often experience that nagging feeling of having done something wrong; even once a person is in addiction recovery, they may have great concern over the “rightness” or “wrongness” of their actions. Furthermore, a person in recovery may fear punishment from their loved ones, especially when it comes time to addressing these transgressions in person. Guilt sets that tone that a person needs to “make things right.” While a person can’t change their past, they can work towards changing their present and future, and this is the only action that can be taken when guilt arises.

Guilt is a normal emotion – as humans, we’re built to recognize the mistakes and errors we’ve made and to apply judgment to them – but if this consumes a person in recovery, they will find that it’s hard for them to reach their goals.


This emotion grabs a bit more at the core, and occurs when a person feels “bad” or “unworthy.” Those in recovery who experience shame may feel that their actions are too bad for them to ever come back from – that their family members should no longer include them in their lives, or that they’re basically “bad” human beings. Shame is often much more difficult to heal from than guilt because it’s rooted in a person’s self-concept. Both shame and guilt often serve as “revolving doors” of emotion, peddling back and forth as a person tries to make sense of their life.

A 2017 study published in the journal BioSocieties found that for many, the stigma behind addiction sparks these two feelings; genetic predisposition can even facilitate feelings of shame if a person feels there’s no way out because that’s “just who they are.” There are so many symptoms of mental illness that can stem from both guilt and shame, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and more – but by participating actively in recovery, a person can make huge strides.

A Path Towards Healing

Within researcher Donald Nathanson’s book “Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of Self,” a quadrant model to understanding shame:

  •    Withdrawal – isolating and hiding
  •    Attack Self – self-criticism and self-harm
  •    Avoidance – denial, substance abuse
  •    Attack Other – blaming others and lashing out

No matter which side of the spectrum a person tends to act upon (and this may even include more than one side), there are ways to heal from shame:

  1.     Recognize that you and your needs matter.

Addiction doesn’t define you. Acknowledge that underneath all of the shame, embarrassment and feelings of failure, you have needs. This includes feeling a part of society, feeling important, wanting to have connections – and if this matters to you, it’s important.

  1.     Build relationships that facilitate healing.

Both with yourself and with others, find people who support your need for connection, love, joy and adventure. If you find that you’re being rejected by certain friends or family members for your past with addiction, give them time – and continue reaching out to others who may become part of your social support network.

  1.     Learn to tolerate the emotion.

Many people who feel shame want to avoid it, and that’s natural; however, you can’t let your feelings of shame hold you back from living your life. Every relationship you attempt has the potential for rejection and humiliation – that’s what comes with being vulnerable. However, you can still push forward and recognize that despite shame, you can build healthy relationships.

Begin Your Path Towards Healing Today

If you’re ready to embark on this beautiful sobriety journey, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today. It’s never too late to start building the life you’ve always wanted.



Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

holistic approach

We all have a unique story to tell. We’ve all been through different circumstances – different chains of events that have led us to where we’re at today. Substance abuse is only the tip of the iceberg, because underneath lies a lot of thoughts and feelings that make up who we are. Holistic practices take this into account by acknowledging the fact that we can’t treat everyone in addiction recovery the same way; there’s no “one-size-fits-all” treatment.

What Does Holistic Mean?

The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) explains that holistic practices,

“…Encourage the patient to include healing strategies that support the whole person.”

Let’s take a look at the three main areas of holistic health:

Mind – this includes acknowledging everything that’s affected our mental health; examples of this may include recovery from trauma, mental illness, eating foods that support brain health, etc.

Body – the mind and body work together, and by feeding your body nutritious food, along with exercising to keep your body fit and flexible, you’ll find that benefits spill over into other areas of your life as well

Spirit – spirituality is separate from religion, but it emphasizes our purpose in life. If we feel needed – if we have a direction for where we want to go, and if we become stronger in our sense of spirituality, we’ll become stronger in recovery, too

In 2016, Elite Daily noted that holistic health is about observing everything as a whole – and there are several holistic practices that you can pick up during your time in treatment (and throughout the rest of your journey to recovery, too)

Types of Holistic Practices

Lucy R. Waletzky, MD, and Marsha J. Handel, MLS, highlighted several holistic practices via AHAA:

  •    Acupuncture – opening energy pathways throughout the body to release tension, stress and negativity
  •    Biofeedback – using instruments to provide feedback to clients on bodily processes so they can develop greater awareness and tools for reducing stress and anxiety as well as help for relapse prevention
  •    Neurofeedback – individuals learn to alter their brainwave patterns through specific technological processes
  •    Exercise – moving the body to boost mood, increase vitality, promote a deepened sense of awareness, gain strength, and more
  •    Meditation – connecting with the present moment to build awareness and reduce overactivity in the brain that stems from depression, anxiety, stress and more
  •    Nutrition – feeding the body healthy vitamins and minerals to help promote neuronal activity in the brain and increase overall functioning
  •    Yoga – powerful positions that promote flexibility, balance, awareness, concentration, calmness, etc.

A 2017 study published in the journal Nursing Outlook explored the benefits of holistic practice for those in recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD); researchers expressed that not only can holistic practices help treat direct issues in recovery (as well as help clients learn more about themselves), but they can also serve as preventative measures for the future, too.  Last year, an individual shared their story of recovery through Thrive Global, a website that publishes stories and information on topics related to well-being. They stated,

“Before I learned to meditate, my mind was out of control…meditation provided me with enough space to catch a thought pattern before it dragged me around for hours or days on end. I was able to access a part of me where peace and tranquility existed.”

Holistic practices like meditation can help those in recovery find new ways of relating to their thoughts; in addition to this, clients may find that it becomes easier to make decisions, that stress and anxiety aren’t as intense and that relaxation is easier to achieve once balance is found.

Efficacy of Holistic Practices in Addiction Recovery

There have been numerous studies conducted which only further promote the effectiveness of holistic practices in addiction recovery, even when combined with traditional practices such as medication management and therapy. For example, a 2017 study published in the Asian Journal of Applied Science and Technology found that after assessing 120 people in recovery, those who pursued yoga and an overall active lifestyle witnessed positive changes in other areas of their life.

Furthermore, a 2015 study published in the Open Journal of Psychiatry found that after comparing results of cravings between 10 males who struggled with methamphetamine addiction to 10 males who didn’t, neurofeedback therapy provided positive results. Those with addiction experienced less cravings after receiving several sessions in neurofeedback therapy – and it’s safe to say that the integration of these holistic practices only serves to broaden the possibilities of success for those who want to reach their recovery goals.

Seek Help Today

If you’re ready to find treatment that is personalized to your needs, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today. It’s never too late to begin your journey towards healing and restoration – and with so many diverse practices available to you, you’ll have all the support you need.


Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.


We can’t always control what happens to us – and sometimes we’re caught in unfortunate, devastating, downright traumatic situations that leave marks on us- physically, mentally, or both. In some instances, these traumatic incidents occur during childhood – when we feel helpless and vulnerable. In others, we’re adults – but we still feel the pain of not being able to change what’s happened. Traumatic events happen to so many of us: war, assault, accidents, natural disasters and so much more can make us feel as though we’ll never heal again. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines trauma as when,

“…A person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.”

Trauma and Addiction

In many instances, trauma can leave so many emotional wounds that a person develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be incredibly distressing to endure a variety of symptoms such as: flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, irritability and others. Earlier this year, an individual shared their story of living with PTSD via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA); they explained that after the traumatic incident they experienced, they were never the same. Their PTSD caused them to feel panic in even leaving their apartment – and every time they closed their eyes, they envisioned the traumatic event they survived.

Many people who struggled with addiction have also survived at least one traumatic event. In fact, the aftermath of trauma can leave some individuals abusing substances like drugs or alcohol just to mask some of the distress they’re experiencing. A 2017 study published in the Canadian Journal of Addiction assessed 132 individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse, and discovered links between severity of addiction, severity of life trauma and number of stressful life experiences. This means that trauma does have a significant effect on us, and the greater the severity of this – along with stressful life events like the loss of a loved one, or divorce – the more likely we are to struggle with addiction.

While it may feel like things will never get better, they will. Research is showing that although there are many people battling to overcome the effects of trauma everyday, there are also many people who are pushing past what’s been holding them back – and they’re becoming stronger because of it.

Post-Traumatic Growth

Science of People, a website that provides information on how humans behave, shared some enlightening news related to trauma:

  •    Many survivors of trauma have reported becoming closer to their friends and family, which has strengthened their relationships.
  •    While trauma can certainly make a person feel like a victim, there are many people who have come to find added wisdom, personal strength and overall gratitude for the people, places and moments in their lives that have brought them joy.
  •    Trauma can radically change a person’s life – and many find that because of this change, they’re forced to reassess what they want out of life. When this happens, a person’s life can become even more fulfilling than it was before.

The UNC Charlotte Post-Traumatic Growth Research group defines the term as,

“A positive change experience as a result of a struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event.”

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse surveyed 51 counselors who work with adults seeking help with substance use disorders (SUDs), and found that many counselors were able to witness their clients develop strength, even from the most traumatic of incidents. Does this mean that those who go through post-traumatic growth never feel pain moving forward? Of course not! It simply means that alongside the aftermath of trauma, they were also able to find strength, solidarity and courage to move forward with their lives in the best ways possible.

Applying This To Your Own Life

Not everyone in addiction recovery who has experienced trauma achieves post-traumatic growth, and this due to a number of factors:

  •    How dedicated a person is to their program
  •    How hard they work on their mental, physical and spiritual growth
  •    The work they complete in therapy
  •    Their attendance and participation in recovery-related activities, such as 12-Step programs (like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous)
  •    The level of hope they have for the future
  •    Whether or not they hold onto core negative beliefs or whether they choose to form beliefs that are more beneficial to their happiness and health
  •    And more

Everyone has the opportunity to achieve post-traumatic growth, but it’s all a matter of how you pursue recovery. Zig Ziglar, an American author, once stated,

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

Don’t give up on your recovery. Continue working with those who love and support you. If you’re ready to take the leap towards healing and restoration, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today.


Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

Impulse Control

Once we’re on the path towards recovery, we’re able to start learning of the many ways addiction affects our mind, body and spirit. When addiction is active, we’re more likely to say and do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do when we’re sober. For example, we may lie to loved ones about our substance abuse, we may skip getting together with friends who don’t use, or we may become angry if we’re unable to drink or use drugs for a brief period of time. Addiction, in a sense, can hold a strong power over us – one that’s hard to break free from – and that’s why it’s important that we go through detoxification as well as learn techniques for managing withdrawals.

What is Impulse Control?

Impulse control is the ability to control a person’s urges – but those with impulse control disorders experience difficulty holding back from a feeling of tension that builds up prior to acting out on it. An impulse could be towards a number of things – gambling, substance abuse, sexual gratification and much more; in 2015, The Fix, a website that publishes information related to both addiction and recovery, explained that impulse control issues tend to go hand in hand with substance use disorders (SUDs). They stated,

“One has to fight the initial urge to drink and do drugs in the first place. Then once you get clean, the impulse to pick up again is going to come up, again and again.”

There’s often the argument that those with addiction have a “lack of willpower,” and a lack of impulse control could seem, on the surface, just like this. It’s important to note, however, that impulse control has much more to do with a person’s brain chemistry – and while a person is partly responsible for becoming involved with substance use in the first place, it’s their brain chemistry that make them incredibly more susceptible to abusing substances when they may otherwise have not done so.

For example, a study published in the journal World Psychiatry explained that those with “behavioral addictions” – such as gambling – have abnormalities in the reward processing center of their brain. Furthermore, the study emphasized that there are genetic similarities between those with behavioral addictions versus those with SUDs, which only further supports the idea that addiction isn’t reliant upon a “character flaw” – but the commonly asked question of whether or not impulse control comes before addiction is still quite complex.

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior denoted a study that was previously conducted in England; researchers assessed 50 pairs of siblings, with one person in each pair addicted to cocaine and the other showing no history of drug abuse. Brain scans were conducted on all the participants, and researchers found that different sensory mechanisms appeared between siblings’ emotional center and control center in the brain.

Identifying Issues with Impulse Control

There are three main ways that impulse control appears in individuals:

Behavioral symptoms: such as lying, stealing, becoming aggressive, etc.

Social and emotional symptoms: socially isolating oneself, low self-esteem, experiencing drastic shifts in mood, guilt or regret, etc.

Cognitive symptoms: obsessive behaviors, irritability, suddenly entering into rage, difficulty concentrating, etc.

For those with impulse control issues, tension builds up until they feel they can’t resist the urge to act any longer – and once they become angry, use substances, dive into depression or something similar, they experience a brief period of relief. The difficult aspect of impulse, however, is that it comes back – and for those who feel the urge, addiction can easily develop if certain precautions aren’t taken.

According to Very Well Mind, a website that publishes information related to disorders, self-improvement, and psychology, there are quite a few risk factors that can make a person more susceptible to developing an impulse control disorder:

  •    Being male
  •    Having a genetic predisposition towards any type of impulse control issue
  •    Having experienced trauma, abuse or neglect
  •    Exposure to violence or aggression

Furthermore, mental health issues – such as those with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and others may certainly increase a person’s chances of having impulse control concerns.

Recovery & Impulse Control

Impulse control is something that can be worked on over time as a person develops more strategies for managing the urges they experience on a day-to-day basis. Relapse prevention, for example, is a common part of addiction recovery – and it addresses topics like impulse control as a way to help clients find newer and more productive ways to relate to their thoughts and feelings. In many instances, there are people, places and actions that can help a person slow down their thought processes before they act in a way that could otherwise set them back in recovery.

If you’re ready to begin your journey towards healing and restoration, speak with a professional from the Burning Tree today. It’s never too late to seek the help you need.


Burning Tree Ranch specializes in treating chronic relapse in people with chemical dependency. We provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their old patterns of addiction and learn new skills to support a healthier life. Our Dallas residential treatment program is focused on providing premium substance use treatment at an affordable cost. Contact us today for more information.

Shea Barakatt LCSW, LCDC, EMDR Trained

Clinical Director, Burning Tree Recovery Ranch

I have been blessed for many years learning from clients, families, staff and my own personal experiences about the processes that allow an individual the best chances of living a substance-free life. I have always lived my life as an individual who will call it like it is, who is up front, who tells anyone who is inquiring about the no-holds-barred truth of a situation. The truth about this inquiry is that I will not be spouting out long clinical terms that make me look smart because no one will get that. But what I can share is my experience. I can share my experience on the miracles that have happened over long periods of time. I can share my experience working with clients for over a year, helping facilitate families heal, and developing new tools for communication and functionality. Yes, I may have lots of education, but I value my experiences and I love to share with others what I see as valuable.

There are so many treatment centers in the United States that discuss how their centers and modalities are the “best.” There are many great treatment centers out there that facilitate success for many addicts and alcoholics. What I will be discussing is the type of client that cannot stay substance-free but will continue to ride on the circuit of multiple treatment centers, only to seem to fall deeper in their disease, while in the meantime exhausting all financial means for themselves and their family. Their family begs for a solution to the chaos, destruction and the wreckage that occurs in the path of the client. I am referring to the client that belongs in Long Term-Treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines Long Term-Treatment as 6 months or more in residential care. Residential care is where long term treatment is given in a setting where the individual is living at the facility, receiving clinical services and supervised by staff twenty-four hours a day. I will discuss why this is so important for the chronic substance user.

Time- The concept of time is so important. This is the first factor that most clients and their family discount. Most individuals discuss how they must return to work, their family, and their life. The truth is, most of that is wrecked anyway, not to mention possible legal consequences? Most clients that enter Long Term-Treatment have destroyed most of what they deem to be important. This delusion about “saving time” must be smashed. Without recovery, most of what they say they value, and love will be gone anyway if the time is not put into all the processes and experiences necessary for the individual to recover. In Long-Term Treatment, the staff must have time to work with the whole family, not just the individual. A family will send their loved one to treatment to fix the “identified problem,” the substance abuse. Well, guess what, that is not the case. Addiction is a family disease and we must have the time to separate each individual and help them work on themselves first. We then bring everyone back together to work on the family unit. Each individual had been playing a role that was not working. With this disease, the staff needs time to identify, solidify and unify solutions for each individual to help promote change in the family. This is a process and the process can be messy, but if everyone is willing and gets into action, change is just around the corner.

Time is very important to identify and treat the individual. Any co-occurring disorder may continue to precipitate active use. Most individuals that enter treatment have some form of secondary diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, PTSD, etc. This also is why time is so valuable. Most chronic substance users have had multiple diagnoses over the years, and most of those diagnoses have been made while the client was either still using substances or in a matter of days or weeks after abstinence. What we know is that it takes time for the brain to reach some form of homeostasis. There are multiple studies that show it can take anywhere from 9 months to a year for the brain of a recovering addict to reach a baseline. These numbers all depend on the age of the individual, time in active substance use and the substances used. We must first treat acute symptoms for stabilization and then continue to evaluate the client over time to see if symptoms go away after the mind, body and spirit begin to heal. This is vital for an accurate diagnosis and the identification of the correct treatment. The process of medication management, clinical interventions and repetition will rule out what was actually behaviors and symptoms of either withdrawal from substances or active substance use.

Time is important to identify trauma in clients that have had these identified experiences. Many therapists have started using the modality of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing). This modality is very effective when practiced over periods of months in a safe environment such as Long-Term Residential Treatment. EMDR can be harmful to an individual when dealing with complex trauma outside of a safe environment and/or when practiced in a short-term setting. I believe it is unethical to start this treatment with an individual who will be leaving treatment in two or three weeks. There are a lot of memories and there is central nervous system disruption that can occur with this process. Therefore, the client and the therapist will need a long period of time to safely open and close each target to reach healing and a cognition shift. This is done effectively with an informed and experienced staff that can monitor, evaluate and process over time. EMDR is used in outpatient settings with clients that are more emotionally stable and have tools to deal with life on life’s terms in between sessions.

The final elements that demonstrate the importance of time are discipline and repetition. Behaviors and thought processes do not change in 90 days. Clients must have a consistent environment that pushes them to practice the tools learned. A client can be informed and given information. But if the client is not forced to put the information into practice over a long period of time, there may be no change in behavior or shift in thinking. This is vital in recovery. The addicted individual must have new muscle memory to carry out a new way of being in their new life. Change is not comfortable and most change is resisted. I always say the first step to new behavior is being “comfortable” with being “uncomfortable.” When this is acknowledged, new behaviors, solutions, and thinking can be initiated. And all of this takes time.

By: Megan Souther, Alumna

The Problem:

When working in treatment, I’ve seen and heard it all. “Drugs made me feel better at first, and then I felt empty.” “I got sober for a little while, and then the depression came back.” If drugs and alcohol were my only problem, then I would be fixed once I went detox and got it all out of my system. The problem lies in the spirit, mind and body. A spiritual malady is a “disease or ailment.” Regarding alcoholism, it means that feelings have become unmanageable. The unmanageability has nothing to do with the consequences that have occurred due to addiction. As an addict or an alcoholic, I use drugs or drink to change the way I feel. Examples of the spiritual malady are loneliness, depression, irritability, restlessness, discontentment, anxiety, etc.

Addiction is a spiritual problem that no drug or drink can fix. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states on pg. 64 that “Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.” The causes and conditions are those unbearable feelings and those lies we tell ourselves that we think make it okay to get high or drunk. Addicts and alcoholics are unable to see the truth from the false. As an addict, I may think, “it will be different this time,” or “this time I won’t go to jail.” But, addicts and alcoholics use drugs and alcohol to fill a void that only a Higher Power can fix. This spiritual malady demands to be treated. I might treat it with substances, food, sex, gambling, etc., or I treat it with a Higher Power.

There are only two alternatives. One is to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best as we can. The other alternative is to accept spiritual help (pg.25 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous). Most addicts and alcoholics search for that third option, but they will not find it. Once the problem is clear, then the solution is attainable. But it requires action.


The Solution:

An internal problem can be treated with the 12-steps and by building a relationship with and connecting to a Higher Power. The 12-steps are one way that I can work towards my own recovery. Burning Tree is a 12-step program where the clients work the steps and focus on learning to cope with their feelings by building a relationship with a Higher Power. Throughout the Big Book there are promises of how to overcome the spiritual malady. By working the steps, these promises come true. An example is the 9th step promises: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear” (pg.85 and 86 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous). The promises of the 9th step occur when I as an addict make amends for my behavior. But the promises are all throughout the book and occur long before this step. Getting connected to a Higher Power is possible and can create a life of joy and peace. At Burning Tree Ranch, our goal is helping our clients achieve lifelong sobriety and to live happy, useful lives.