Ending the Legacy of Addiction 

Addiction runs in families, of this much we are certain.  While almost everyone has at least one relative that has been touched by addiction, it seems that people who struggle with addiction themselves can usually name a few addicts in their family, and at least one immediate family member.  Because people with substance use disorders often come from families with addicted parents, grandparents, or siblings, people have long assumed that addiction is caused by a genetic predisposition that can be passed down through generations.  This is only partially true. As with many other aspects of genetics and disease, there are many factors that influence whether a person will develop an addiction, genetic makeup being only one of them. By understanding what factors combine to create the perfect storm for addiction to manifest, we can begin to work towards ending the legacy of substance abuse that plagues far too many families.

Everyone reacts differently to drugs and alcohol depending on their body’s natural chemistry.  Just as some medications work for one person but make another person sick, different substances can create euphoria for one person and an unpleasant feeling for another.  In most cases, drugs and alcohol work to stimulate the reward system in the brain so that you receive a rush of endorphins when you use them. Over time, this process creates new neural pathways that encourage you to keep using the substance that gave you that rush, and an addiction begins to take hold.  Scientists theorize that about 10% of the population have an especially efficient reward system in their brain, and these people are more likely to experience addictions and to develop them earlier in life.

It is likely that this efficient neural reward system is a genetic trait just like any other trait we inherit from our parents, and therefore if your parent experienced addiction, it might mean that you are more inclined to develop one as well.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. People who do not have this heightened reward system can still develop addiction just by choosing to use substances in excess over an extended period. These people would not carry the genetic predisposition to addiction and therefore would not pass it to their children.  Adversely, many people who do have the genetic predisposition will never become addicted because they choose not to ever use drugs or alcohol. While genetics clearly plays a role, it can’t seal your fate or the fate of your loved ones on its own.

If you are a parent who has struggled with addiction, it is likely you have spent a good deal of time and energy worrying about your children’s susceptibility to the disease.  For the many of us that were raised by addicted parents, it can feel as if we were doomed by our inheritance, and we are destined to do the same to the next generation. Fortunately, we have a lot more power than we tend to believe when it comes to influencing our children’s future, and preventing the continuance of a familial cycle of addiction.  Environment plays a huge role in a person’s susceptibility to addiction, and living with a parent that frequently uses drugs or alcohol is one of the most accurate predictors of future substance abuse. The best choice you can make for your children’s future is to seek professional help and get sober.  

If you know you have caused your family pain due to your addiction, you may be wondering if the damage on your children’s future has already been done.  While there may be a great deal of healing and making amends that needs to take place, there is also a good chance your relationship with your children and their perception of you is salvageable through recovery.  Seeing someone you love successfully beat addiction is one of the most inspiring things you can ever witness, and by committing to sobriety and holding yourself accountable for your recovery, you will prove to your children that they too can overcome any obstacle.  

One of the greatest advantages we have over the generations before us when it comes to addiction is our access to information.  By educating yourself on the science of addiction and the way it changes your brain, you will not only empower yourself in your battle for sobriety, but also be able to share that information with your children so that they know what to avoid.  By explaining to your children that they may be genetically predisposed toward addiction, you can arm them against the inevitably difficult choices they will have to make one day regarding drugs and alcohol. Addiction does not have to be passed down from generation to generation forever.  We can end the cycle now by first taking care of ourselves, and then empowering our children to make better choices.  

 

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 therefore 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.    

7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is one of the most important parts of addiction treatment. At least half of people with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health issue, and many believe the figure is closer to 80 percent. Issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders significantly increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder. These co-occurring issues must be addressed to give you the best chance of a successful recovery from addiction. Many people are not even aware they have a co-occurring disorder; they may just know they feel bad and drugs or alcohol make them feel better. Discovering and treating underlying mental health issues is crucial to addiction recovery. Although you don’t have to know anything in particular before entering therapy, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you get the most out of your time with your therapist.

Think of therapy as a collaboration.

Therapy is not like bringing your car to the mechanic; your therapist can’t just fix your mind. It’s not even like going to the doctor, to whom you describe your symptoms and receive feedback. Therapy is a much more collaborative process. Your therapist only knows what you share. Your therapist is an expert on human behavior, but they don’t know your history, what bothers you, and what you want to accomplish. For a therapeutic relationship to work, you have to do your part. Think of your therapist as an expert consultant who can help you live a better life.

Set goals for therapy.

If you’re in therapy as part of addiction treatment, your general goal will clearly be staying sober. However, there are many other efforts that might support that goal and give you some indication whether you’re making progress. Try to identify these goals- for example, you might want to feel less anxious in social situations or you might want to have a healthier relationship with your parents. You don’t have to choose one goal to focus on, but making a dream board, or penning gratitude lists can serve as tools to measure your progress. Chronicling movement towards your goals tells you whether or not therapy is working, and seeing your life improve gives you extra motivation to stay engaged in the process.

Speak freely.

Being open is crucial for therapy to work. You have to be honest about what you’re thinking and feeling, and sometimes this is a process. Some things are hard to talk about and you have to work up to it gradually. Typically, your therapist won’t push you to talk about something before you’re ready. However, if there’s something you don’t want to talk about yet, it’s better to say so than to lie.

Therapy is also different from normal conversation in that it’s fine to say whatever happens to pop into your head. Tangents, random associations, and seemingly irrelevant thoughts can sometimes be helpful. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to say before you try to say it. Sometimes our most powerful emotions are the hardest to articulate.

Your therapist is one of the safest people to share your innermost thoughts with, as they are required by law to keep anything you say private. The only exceptions are typically if you plan to harm yourself, others or if there is a child in danger. Another benefit of the confidentiality between a therapist and a patient is a lack of pre-existing bias- you get to tell your story, in your voice.

Do your homework.

Therapy isn’t just about talking to your therapist for 50 minutes once or twice a week. If you really want to get the most out of therapy, you have to make a conscious effort to apply what you talked about. Sometimes this will be open-ended. For example, maybe you’ll realize you’re overly sensitive to criticism so you make a special effort to be aware of that when people give you feedback in your day-to-day life. Sometimes your therapist will specifically give you homework, perhaps something like expressing appreciation to someone important to you or writing about episodes of anxiety. Following through on these assignments consolidates what you’ve learned and helps you apply it to your real life. Even if you don’t get homework, it’s a good idea to keep a therapy journal and write down what you talked about and how you felt about it.

Ask questions.

Therapy is your time and if there’s anything you don’t understand or are curious about, just ask. It doesn’t matter if it’s something about therapy, psychology, your therapist, or your own situation. Any information you get will help you orient yourself. Knowing why you’re doing something can also be motivating.

Use therapy for practice.

Therapy isn’t just a meta-exercise in understanding your own psychological issues; it’s also an opportunity to practice new skills and try things out. Although therapy is a special kind of relationship, at a fundamental level, it’s just two people talking. It’s a safe space to work on some of the things you’ve been talking about. You can practice eye contact, asking questions, setting boundaries, or anything that gives you trouble in everyday interactions.

Enforce boundaries around therapy.

Although your therapist must keep your sessions confidential, you can talk about whatever you want. However, it’s often a good idea to limit what you say to others about your sessions. For one thing, you have no expectation of privacy once you tell someone who’s not your therapist. Since you often talk about deeply personal stuff in therapy, you might not want it floating around. Second, everyone has an opinion. You might end up getting all kinds of unsolicited advice and some of it might undermine your therapy work. If you do talk about therapy with others, make sure it’s with good reason, to people you trust.

 

 

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.

6 Ways Addiction Changes Your Personality

Addiction can affect your life in many ways. It can damage your health, your relationships, your career, and your finances. Perhaps the biggest impact is on your brain. Prolonged substance use changes your balance of neurotransmitters and can even change the structure of your brain. These changes affect your mood, your ability to think, and even your personality. Here are some of the ways addiction changes your personality.

You lose interest in things you used to enjoy.

One of the primary characteristics of addiction is that it becomes the most important thing in your life and everything else gets demoted. Whether you enjoy spending time with your family, playing golf, or rebuilding motorcycles, your other interests will gradually lose ground to substance use. This damages your relationships for a number of reasons, largely because people don’t like being second to substance use. It also means instead of spending your time building relationships, mastering skills, or creating something useful, you’re just spending your time drinking or using drugs. This is unfortunate because much of our identity is determined by how we spend our free time. A person’s job might tell you something about them, but not as much as what they do for fun.

You become secretive and suspicious.

Someone with substance use issues often becomes secretive and takes more care to protect their privacy. They may become less talkative or more suspicious when people ask them questions. They may be wary others are trying to get information out of them, and may spend more time alone, choosing not to divulge where they’ve been or what they have been doing.

There are several reasons for this. First, they are often aware that their friends and family wouldn’t approve of their drinking or drug use. They might not approve of it at all or they might just think it’s excessive. This usually indicates the user, themselves, is aware on some level that they have a problem. Second, they may be using illicit substances or illegally obtaining controlled substances. They may be concerned about getting into legal trouble or getting others in trouble.

You may become depressed or anxious.

Depression and anxiety often occur along with substance use. Typically, depression and anxiety come first, and someone develops a substance use disorder from self-medicating depression and anxiety symptoms. However, addiction can also cause depression and anxiety. First, substances change the balance of your brain chemistry. For example, drinking alcohol relaxes you at first because alcohol enhances the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA and diminishes the effect of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. However, your brain soon adjusts for this change, producing less GABA, and more glutamate. This leads to more feelings of anxiety and agitation when you’re not drinking. A similar change happens with other substances as well.

There are other ways substance use can lead to anxiety and depression. When you’re afraid of withdrawal and you need to find some way to get drugs or alcohol every day, you may become anxious until you can actually meet that need. Also, people with substance use disorders often feel a sense of hopelessness in the face of their addictions. They see how addiction is harming them and they want to quit, but can’t. That constant feeling of hopelessness can lead to depression.

You become emotionally volatile.

Substance use often leads to emotional volatility. You may lose your temper easily or suffer from mood swings. This is often related to the anxiety and depression mentioned above. When you constantly feel anxious, you feel at some level that you are being threatened and are therefore more likely to lash out. This is especially true if you feel like someone is standing in the way of your drinking or using drugs. You feel like drugs or alcohol are basic needs that someone is denying you, so you become aggressive. Many people don’t realize that irritability and aggression are also common symptoms of depression. What that aggression seems futile, it might collapse into sadness or despair.

Brain imaging studies have also suggested that long-term substance use weaken the brain’s prefrontal cortex and it’s links to other parts of the brain, especially the reward centers that are excessively stimulated by substance use. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher functions like self-control, attention, planning, and emotional regulation. When working properly, it moderates the emotional responses generated in the older areas of the brain. However, excessive substance use weakens this area, making you vulnerable to emotional swings.

You choose different friends.

The more involved you get with substance use, the more it changes who you spend time with. You tend to push away the people who care about you and are concerned about your substance use. You also tend to spend more time with people whose substance use habits are similar to yours and people who can help you get drugs. Who you spend time with has a big impact on your values, beliefs, and behavior. Often, our friends’ attitudes influence us in ways we are not aware of. Spending time around other people who drink heavily or have other substance use issues is likely to reinforce your own bad habits.

You engage in risky behavior.

Addiction often leads to risky or unethical behavior. As noted above, studies have found that prolonged substance use impairs your prefrontal cortex, which is involved with planning, attention, emotional regulation, and self-control. It’s also involved with foresight. You’re less able to foresee the negative consequences of your actions. However, people with substance use disorders are typically too preoccupied with substance use to care. Since substance use becomes your top priority, good foresight and planning simply means getting drugs or alcohol efficiently. Since other considerations matter less, even close personal relationships, you may be indifferent to the ethical considerations involved, even perhaps stealing from loved ones so you can buy drugs. What’s more, many drugs lower inhibitions and make you willing to engage in risky behavior, such as sharing needles and unprotected sex.

 

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.

Ever since I can remember, I was a runner. When I was eight years old, difficult feelings would come up and I would pack my little Lion King backpack and go set up camp down the street. Eventually, I would come back after I had calmed down. This was the beginning of not knowing how to deal with what I know now as the ‘spiritual malady.’ That irritability, restlessness, discontentedness, fear and anger would appear long before I used substances. I would run from jobs, towns, relationships, feelings and most of all, rehabs. The problem was that wherever I went, there I was. I couldn’t get away from me.

Past attempts at treatment had been unsuccessful. I would stay removed from drugs and alcohol, but never dealt with the other ways I tried to change the way I felt. I could skate under the radar, say the right things, get out early and would relapse within days.

I desperately needed healthy ways to cope that did not involve a bottle and some dope. I thought Burning Tree would be the same as all my other attempts at sobriety. I arrived terrified to face life without my crutch. I thought that removing the substances would cure my deep desire to flee. What I saw was that my tendencies to run away in other ways still persisted. My feet were now planted, but I still had the heart of a runaway. What I ran away from was God. I tried to control, manage and seek comfort anyway I could in my first few years of sobriety. I did this in unhealthy ways – through men, cutting and my eating disorder. Those behaviors blocked me off from being the woman that I was attended to be.

This time was different. Burning Tree was a place I couldn’t hide. I was in treatment long enough where my true colors came out. I had never been in a place where I could see that all my issues were connected and all stemmed from the same place. I had a malady and that the only solution was a spiritual one.
Even in my recovery today, there have been periods of time where I have drifted away from God. Old behaviors started to return. I told myself so many lies to make it okay. I was falling back asleep. Slowly, I began to shorten my prayer and meditation one day at a time and then stopped meditating all together. I would cut down on meetings. I found comfort in work and men yet again. I was experiencing the pain of self. I am grateful that I had the tools and accountability that I had learned in long-term treatment to bring me back. My friends and sponsor let me know how I was showing up because I couldn’t see it. Now when these issues arise, I can lean in and stand still. I don’t have to run anymore.

When you hear the names, Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Pure Ivory, Bliss, Blue Silk, White Lightning, Cloud Nine, Meow Meow, and Vanilla Sky, you can easily be transported to a place where stress dissolves and relaxation surges through your body.

Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Pure Ivory, Bliss, Blue Silk, White Lightning, Cloud Nine, Meow Meow, and Vanilla Sky are the most common names for a synthetic drug called bath salts. Bath salts have no recognized medical use in the U.S.; hence, it’s marketed on the Internet or sold in the U.S. as a novelty item.

While the names it is marketed under seem pleasant, the smell or aftermath is anything but that. Users describe it as having an unpleasant odor, similar to bleach and/or urine. It’s often a chunky white to light-yellow powder with some varieties being gray or even light blue. It can be snorted, smoked, vaporized, injected or eaten. The crystal-like powder acts as a stimulant, much like cocaine or methamphetamine. It often contains lab-produced chemicals such as mephedrone and MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone). The stimulants can cause paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, insomnia, and even suicidal tendencies.

According to a recent ABC News report, one of the factors contributing to abuse of bath salts may be the restriction of sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine. Evidence and first-hand knowledge from individuals seeking treatment points to many bath salt users being meth and heroin addicts, but substituting drugs due to easier access and availability.

Are bath salts becoming more of a trend in the United States?

The American Association of Poison Control Centers, reports that in 2010 there were 302 calls regarding bath salts. In 2011 poison control centers took 6,138 calls that pertained to the use of bath salts. As of May 2012, they have received 1,302 calls regarding bath salts, which seem to be more popular in people ages 20 to 29.

Arrests and convictions of individuals abusing bath salts are too many to name, but convictions for selling bath salts are just starting. One of the first reported in Texas is Jimmy Wayne Wright, the 67-year-old Odessa man who owned B&L Bookstore. Wright pleaded guilty in federal court to the possession with intent to distribute the drug commonly known as bath salts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Klassen said the man, whose bookstore was raided by DEA Agents on Jan. 31 for possible cocaine charges, also was charged with several counts of possessing cutting agents for cocaine and for possessing multiple firearms as a convicted felon.

Klassen said the bath salts were often marketed as pipe cleaner, plant food and stain remover. It’s also further proof of what many law enforcement agents have suspected for a short time now. Individuals are mixing, cutting, or “lacing,” bath salts with illegal street drugs such as cocaine and meth.

When talking about treating individuals who are addicted to synthetic drugs, such as bath salts, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends detoxification, followed by medication (where applicable) and behavioral therapy, followed by relapse prevention.
According to NIDA, effective treatment must address medical and mental health services as well as follow-up options, such as community- or family-based recovery support systems.