5 Tricks for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Now that the holiday festivities are wrapping up, people across the nation are planning the tradition that comes with every January 1st: New Year’s resolutions.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time for fresh starts and clean slates. People hope to improve or even remake themselves in order to make 2019 better than 2018.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, however, many people kick off the first of January with good intentions and high expectations. After all, self-improvement is a shared American hobby! This tradition is the reason why so many people make New Year’s resolutions in the first place.

How to Stay Strong in Your Recovery

“For addicts, a New Year’s resolution can be especially risky because the stakes are higher and therefore, the opportunity to feel disappointment is greater.”

It’s easy to become discouraged with New Year’s resolutions. How many goals set at the beginning of each year end up forgotten by the time February rolls around?

For most people, it’s easy to become discouraged when they fall short of their goals – be it losing weight, finding a better job, or eating healthier.

But for those who are seeking to break free from the cycle of addiction, New Year’s resolutions can be especially risky. The stakes are higher and, therefore, the disappointment can be greater when the resolution doesn’t work out as planned. This can further exacerbate the conceived negative traits that were trying to be improved upon.

No matter what your pledge, it’ll be much more difficult to follow through if you make goals that, for one reason or another, are nearly impossible to keep. Don’t set yourself up for failure – heed these tips to see your resolutions through this year:

1. Abandon the “laundry list” method of resolution-making

If you have a lot of different things to accomplish, that’s fine – but start off going deep instead of wide. Filter your New Year’s resolution ‘to-do’ list to the fewest, most important ones and tackle those first, instead of scattering your time and energy on a broad range of competing ambitions.

2. Don’t confuse goal-getting with goal-setting

Oaths and promises to yourself are not enough to make a change. Once you have a vision on lock-down, it’s time to create an action plan. However, don’t confuse one with the other, as often many do. Goal-setting means that you’ve decided what you wanted to accomplish, while goal-getting is the “how” of getting to that – the action plan that will let you achieve it.

3. Keep your New Year’s resolution specific and tangible

Setting ambitious resolutions can be inspiring, but the difficulty in achieving them means that your elation can quickly give way to frustration. Set out just to “be sober” or “be healthy”, and you’re selling yourself short.

In health behavior change and maintenance studies, the effects of setting difficult but specific goals lead to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, non-quantitative goals, such as “do your best.”

Vague goals give people too much leeway and lower their motivation to push themselves. For example, if your goal is to quit the bottle for good, give yourself a time-frame of accomplishment, enroll in a program that will help you achieve sobriety within that particular time, and chart your wins along the way.

4. Don’t expose yourself to temptation

New Year’s resolutions are hard enough to abide by, even when they’re made in the right way – so don’t make your job more difficult. Our resolve diminishes the more we’re forced to say ‘no,’ so avoid situations where you have to choose.

5. Keep your friends and family in the know

Whether it’s Weight Watchers or Al-Anon, social support groups exist because having the support of others is really helpful when trying to accomplish a difficult goal.

If joining a group isn’t really your thing, you can still increase your chances of success or reduce your level of stress and anxiety about achieving your goals by telling a few supportive individuals about it.

Ask them to help keep you motivated as you tackle the challenges ahead of you. If you feel comfortable enough, ask them to hold you accountable as well.

Keep these tips in mind when writing your resolutions for 2019, and make this coming year the best one yet.

Life expectancy in the US is dropping for the first time in a century!

For the last 100 years the average life expectancy in this country had been rising, but – for reasons unknown – the upward trend ended in 1999. From 2016 to 2017, the average life expectancy decreased from 78.7 years to 78.6 years – in short, people are not living as long as they used to.

Illegal and improper use of drugs may be a large factor contributing to the decline in life expectancy. Statistics show that, along with suicide, drug usage and related overdoses rates are climbing.
Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s health. These statistics are a wake-up call! We are losing too many people at a very alarming rate.

The demographics of those who are living the shortest lives, however, are surprising. It seems white men and women fared the worst, experiencing increases in death rates.

Meanwhile, drug overdose deaths skyrocketed between 2015 and 2017, particularly for adults aged 25 to 54. Men, in particular, seem to be faring worse than women in this regard.

According to a report by the CDC, suicides rose by an alarming 3.7% in 2017, with a 33% total increase between 1999 and 2017. The gap between rural and urban suicide rates also widened – this geographical disparity also showed itself nationally, with some states showing a significant increase compared to others.

Bringing together the opioid epidemic and the United States’ rising suicide rates, the statistics converge to paint a sad picture of the state our country is in today.

In some cities, already-stretched resources are unable to handle the increases in suicide and drug-related deaths and put the existing infrastructure under even greater strain. The costs in both dollars and human toll are rising dangerously with no end in sight.

The situation is so alarming that Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging more people in the U.S. to carry a drug that can be administered by friends and family to reverse an opioid overdose (Naloxone) and prevent death. The announcement was made in 2018 through a rare health advisory from Adams, the nation’s foremost doctor, and medical analyst.

A CNN article displays how fentanyl-related deaths have doubled in six months, and the CDC expects opioid overdose-related deaths to jump to an all-time high of 49,000 soon.

This is a very complex set of issues, with many contributing factors and no easy fix. However, this does not imply that nothing can be done to mitigate these concerning statistics. As a society, we must do all we can to sound the alarm and tell our friends, neighbors, and families about this silent epidemic.

The data points to the truth: there are too many people feeling alone and hopeless in our society. Time is ticking. In the great tradition of our country and forefathers, we must come together before this crisis consumes more people and more lives.

This is real. This is happening. Keep our nation’s health in mind and help us reverse this negative trend for the greater good.

7 Easy Ways to Recognize and Avoid Holiday Triggers

The holiday season is about to begin! Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away, and soon after comes the rush to find the perfect presents and host the best parties. Autumn colors will change to festive greens and reds, but the holidays aren’t always sparkling and festive.

For people struggling with addiction recovery, with the parties come the judgmental relatives and all-too-tempting cocktails. Not only that, but the financial pressures of gift-giving and even the lack of light can start weighing you down.

This volatile combination of external stressors and mental burdens – including anxiety, depression, and even Seasonal Affective Disorder – make attractive the thought of just one drink.

However, you don’t have to let your holiday problems lead to a relapse. Here are some tips to having a safe, sober, stress-free season!

1. Make a list of potential problems.

What’s scaring you this season? Is it your overly-nosy aunt, or perhaps all the things you need to do between now and the next family party? Or are you afraid that if someone offers you a glass of champagne, you can’t say no? Once you have your list, move on to the next step.

2. Write down potential solutions to those problems.

Break each one down! Come up with a list of prepared answers to common questions to save you the stress of having to answer on the spot. Write a to-do list and try to get a little bit done each day! You can even write down some ways to politely reject drinks if you don’t want to tell people you’re trying to stay sober.

3. Find a support system.

You’re not alone – many people are going through similar struggles over the holidays. Find friends, family, or even online community who you can confide in and ask for advice! You don’t have to tackle everything by yourself. This way, you can have a list of people who can offer advice or some comfort if you’re feeling particularly triggered or upset.

4. Learn the signs of a craving and ways to get past them.

Cravings last approximately twenty minutes. When you feel one hit, find something else to do – going to a quiet room and meditate, for example. Come up with a list of distractions that you can fall back on until the craving passes.

5. Bring your own snacks.

Hunger, stress, and fatigue – all can increase your desire to pick up just one more drink. To help prevent this, bring your own snacks to munch on throughout the gathering; it’ll prevent you from becoming too hungry, and is also guaranteed to be a safe snack for your recovery.

6. Set a budget.

Ask yourself how much you want to spend this season. Budget out the extra expenses, such as gifts, so you have a clear plan when going shopping. Over-spending can strain your finances going into New Year, so preparing as early as possible can help reduce stress and the risk of relapse.

7. Forgive yourself.

Remember, you’re not alone. Struggling with sobriety is natural, and mistakes happen – the most important part is to keep moving. If you take one step back, take two steps forward. Acknowledge your feelings, especially the negative ones. Don’t blame yourself for mistakes, but forgive them and move on.

Prepare for the holidays in advance! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all. Reducing stress during this busy time of year can grant you peace of mind and help you stay on the road to recovery.

If you have any questions, or are in need of assistance, please contact StepHouse Recovery today at (714) 394-3494 or toll-free at (888) 923-7623!

Why We’re Drawn to Celebrities and Addiction


Why are we so fascinated by celebrities? Everyone we know (and even those we don’t) have problems, and some of them involve substance abuse. So why do we clamor to read all about celebrities going through hard times? Is it a fascination with fame? Or some kind of voyeuristic itch we need to collectively scratch?

It seems every time we open our browser there is an article about Ben Affleck dealing with his battle with alcohol, or about a life cut too short, like Amy Winehouse. Even I have to stop and read when one of my favorite musicians, such as Tom Petty, dies of an accidental overdose.

Whatever it is, it can’t be denied that society has a driving need to know about the rich and famous at both their best and at their worst. Maybe it’s some comfort knowing that, at least when it comes to addiction, we are all created equal.

I feel that fame and fortune can be a dangerous trap. Many say adversity builds character – though, I have come to realize this is not true. I believe adversity reveals your true character and its flaws.

If you really want to reveal someone’s true character, see how they treat their fellow human beings once they have a lot of money and power. To see the results of this in action, just take a good look at our politicians.

I can’t say with absolute certainty why so many of our heroes fall prey to substance abuse, but I do know you don’t need to be rich, famous, or powerful to succumb to this epidemic we call addiction. It is an equal opportunity darkness that ravages whatever it touches.

So the next time you are reading about your favorite celeb and their struggle with addiction, please remember that there are also millions of families struggling with the same issue and trying to save their loved ones. Maybe you could take just a little time out of your day and reach out to someone you know that could need some help?

Addiction has reached epidemic proportions in our country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the cost of treating alcohol addiction alone in 2010 was $249 billion.

Addiction is affecting the famous and the not-so-famous, the young and the old. We need to shine as much light on this epidemic as we can, and if that means the use of a little bit of someone’s celebrity status to help spread the word, I am more than okay with that.

5 Simple Steps for Managing Stress

Managing stress is an everyday issue. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a short walk or finding time to sit down and relax. But if you suffer from addiction, stress can trigger urges or, worse, a relapse. How you handle the stress in your life makes a critical difference in your recovery.

Just like with any skill, you must practice and refine your ability to handle stress. More importantly, learn to recognize the warning signs indicating unhealthy coping mechanisms. There are many techniques that can help manage your day-to-day tension, and in this article, we will explore some of them.

Step one: Self-assessment

Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself. Take daily stock of your feelings.  This includes sadness and anger, but also happiness and confidence.

Even if you’re feeling low and don’t even have the will to get out of bed, take a moment to write it down. It is helpful to verbalize your feelings to go over them later, and keeping a record can identify patterns in mood and behavior.

If you have never made a personal journal before, now is a good time to start.

 

Step two: Help someone.

We often wallow in our own problems and blow them out of proportion. To gain some perspective, or simply to have a small way to escape, reach out to others in need.

Volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter. Get out there and contribute to your community. The productivity can help uplift your mood and outlook.

Not only that, but you may end up helping someone else in the process.

 

Step three: Physical Exercise.

Even something as small as a daily ten-minute walk can do wonders on your mood. It has been proven time and time again that exercise comes with numerous health benefits.

It’s not only good for your body but also good for your mind. Consistent exercise, no matter how small, helps reduce stress levels and is a healthy way of coping with long-term stress.

 

Step four: Create something.

If you haven’t exercised your creativity muscles, it’s time to wake them up. Finding a creative outlet can help you relax and may even give you a new way to express how you are feeling.

Contrary to what you may have heard throughout your life, we all have a creative side. If you have not exercised your creative muscles in a while, it’s time to wake them up. Find something creative you enjoy doing – you don’t even have to be good at it. As a matter of fact, it helps if you are a novice in this endeavor.

Here are some suggestions for people struggling with ideas: drawing, painting, photography, music.

There are endless ways to create something, so find a medium that suits you. These are only a few examples. If all else fails, look back at step one. Writing is a creative exercise, even if it’s writing about how you feel. The goal is to find something that helps you relax and explore alternative methods of self-expression.

 

Step five: Be calm and quiet.

Some people pray. Some meditate. Some simply sit still to find peace within themselves. It is important to have quiet time for yourself, especially in today’s busy world.

Every day, make time to turn off your electronics and find a quiet place to sit and be still. Examine your innermost thoughts and feelings. The world can be loud and sometimes hostile, and taking a break from the cacophony of life is a way to relax.

Take the opportunity to find peace within yourself whenever you can. Take deep, even breaths for a few minutes. Clear your mind and become calm.

I sincerely hope these suggestions help you in coping with the stress levels in your life.

 


 

Remember, managing long-term stress is not a sprint but a daily process. Doing even these small things every day can reduce your stress over time.

But remember – when it comes to your health, there is no shame in contacting a healthcare provider for help. While these methods can help you deal with your stress, sometimes things are too much for you to tackle on your own.

If you feel overwhelmed or helpless, you are not alone. There are professionals waiting to help you.

Fortnite, the latest gaming craze, is as addictive as heroin

Over 125 million players have played Fortnite since its launch in July 2017. Playable on multiple platforms, including mobile, and with a free-to-play Battle Royale mode, children and young teens are the game’s biggest audience.

A recent medical study, however, has revealed a shocking truth: that Fortnite can be as addictive as heroin. The game can interfere with a child’s brain development, cause trouble for parents at home, and has even been cited in the UK as a reason for divorce.

What makes Fortnite so addicting?

Many video games incite the release of dopamine when the player accomplishes a goal. This can be solving a difficult puzzle or something as simple as eliminating an enemy. Fortnite’s Battle Royale, which has 100 players build structures and kill others to be the last person standing, launches winning players to the top of the totem pole.

Those players can then brag about their victory to their friends, who, in turn, play more to become better. And, in becoming better, they win more and have more to show off. Fortnite has created communities of children who play together at all hours of the day.

Not only that, but there is an in-game currency that players can use to buy loot boxes. These in-game presents contain randomized rewards, ranging from new outfits for existing characters to better weapons and materials. However, this only applies to the player-versus-enemy mode.

For the player-versus-player battle royale mode, there is a ‘season pass’ system by allowing players to enter two different progression tiers. The premium, paid pass gives many more rewards, more experience, and better items.

Both of these systems encourage children to spend money – sometimes going as far as stealing money from their parents to feed their addiction.

What are the effects of Fortnite’s popularity?

Many horror stories have begun to appear as Fortnite increases in popularity. Some children spend hours a day playing the game. They wake up wanting to play, go to sleep thinking about the game, and talk consistently about Fortnite.

In one particularly serious example, a nine-year-old girl went to rehab for her addiction to the game. She refused to leave the game to use the restroom and ended up wetting herself to continue playing.

Many celebrities and streamers have endorsed Fortnite. Epic Games has even released a $100 million prize pool for Fortnite tournaments, making it explode as the biggest esport in the world. Some universities also offer Fortnite scholarships.

Fortnite is a game that encourages social cooperation, improves spatial and reasoning skills, and even teaches children about teamwork and tactics.

However, its chance-based boxes also encourage habit-forming behaviors, similar to the behavioral patterns of gambling addicts. The more time players spend, the better loot they get – and this reward system seems to keep them coming back for more.

While Fortnite is not the only game that encourages these addictive behaviors, it is the most high-profile among them. As we move forward, it is important to keep a watchful eye on our friends and children – not because video games are bad, but because excessive playing may encourage bad habits. As with all things, Fortnite is best played in moderation.

Why You Should Reach Out to Others

I want to tell you a story about a good friend I used to have named Jessie. When I first met him, he was your typical bright-eyed 9-year-old.

Full of life and curious about the world, he loved to play video games and be with his friends. I knew he came from a broken home and that he sometimes spent time with his father, who did not live at home with him, his mother, and two brothers. But, for the most part, to me, he was a typical child very happy-go-lucky.

Some years later, I learned that he had become homeless and addicted to drugs. I remember thinking that the boy I knew seemed far removed from the world of drugs and dependency. It was odd to me that this is where his life had taken him.

I am ashamed to say that, upon hearing this news, I did not try and reach out to him or his mother. I just went about my life as if I had never met him or spent time with him. I lost sight of the person he was and lost contact with him over the years.

I later heard he had died a tragic death at a very young age. I went to his funeral and paid my respects to his mother and surviving brothers, but it seemed a hollow gesture. I think about Jessie a lot more, wondering why I didn’t reach out to him.

I think to myself, why did I not keep in contact with him just to see how he was doing? Now, it is too late for me to re-connect with Jessie.  I look back and see it as a missed opportunity, but there is a very important lesson to be learned from this story.

Please don’t be complacent with your relationships or your old friends. Take time to pick up the phone – or, better yet, visit them see if they are doing okay. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

If anything good can come from this story it is that this should serve as wake-up call to all of us. I think we all suffer in silence and the world would be a better place if we shared a little more of our pain with each other. So don’t wait any longer – life is too precious and too short.

Take a moment and reach out to someone. It could save a life.

Top 10 Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal often occurs when someone stops drinking after prolonged, frequent drinking. Many who abuse alcohol believe going “cold turkey” – not drinking at all – is the correct way to stop drinking.

It is not recommended for anyone to detox from alcohol at home. Without proper medical supervision, alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous or even life-threatening.

Here are some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

1. Agitation & Anxiety

This can appear as extreme fear and anxiety with rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing. Not only that, but restlessness and irritability are also common.

2. Headaches

Throbbing or pulsating in the head, sometimes accompanied by pain and sensitivity to light or sound. In addition, a ‘tightness’ around the head is also common.

3. Nausea & vomiting

Due to the number of toxins in the body from too much alcohol, the brain and body become confused. Often occurs at the same time as dizziness.

4. Disorientation

Starting 12 to 24 hours after drinking, thoughts and motor functions can be impaired. A danger during this stage of withdrawal is an accidental injury.

5. Insomnia

Disruptions in sleep patterns – not sleeping or sleeping too much – can be brought on by alcohol withdrawal. Keeping track of changes can help one identify side effects.

6. Hand tremors

Indicative of more severe withdrawal effects, hand and body tremors are not to be taken lightly.

7. High fever & sweating

If someone’s temperature is over 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit, they may have a fever. Combined with excessive sweating and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it may indicate professional medical help.

8. Seizures

The warning signs are nausea, anxiety, and blurry vision. Afterward, a person having a seizure may black out and fall to the ground or begin shaking. Call paramedics immediately.

9. Hallucinations (tactile/auditory/visual)

Hallucinations are characterized by seeing or experiencing things that are not there in reality. This includes hearing sounds and seeing foreign objects. This is a severe symptom of withdrawal.

10. Delirium tremens

Extremely dangerous! Delirium tremens is the term for severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal side effects. This includes the above seizures and hallucinations as well as irregular heartbeat and mood swings. If someone experiences this, call emergency medical services immediately.

If you or someone you know is attempting to stop their alcohol use, please call StepHouse Recovery’s welcoming staff at (888) 923-7623 or contact us at info@stephouserecovery.com.

September 10, 2018: National Suicide Prevention Day

5 Steps to Prevent Suicide

Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Since 2006, the rate of suicide has been increasing by as much as 21% for men and 50% for women. In 2016, there was approximately one death from suicide every 12 minutes.

If a loved one is struggling and you don’t know how to help, following these steps may help avert a tragedy:

 

1. Talking about it.

Suicide often has an associated stigma. However, most suicidal people are not ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ – they’re simply people who are hurting. Substance use and mental health disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder often occur in those considering suicide.

People struggling with their health should not be shamed for their pain or have to hide how they feel. Speaking out about the importance of mental health and opening up regarding suicidal thoughts is an important step toward prevention.

 

2. Know the warning signs.

The easiest signs to identify are verbal cues: “No one cares about me,” “I never want to wake up,” or other phrases that indicate hopelessness or worthlessness.

Other risk factors include a history of attempted suicide or childhood trauma such as violence, bullying, or abuse. A recent death or other stressful event – being fired or breaking up with their significant other – can also lead to suicidal thoughts.

Observe their behavior as well. Are they no longer interested in things they used to enjoy? Are they fidgety and anxious or persistently angry and reckless? Dramatic mood changes can be an indicator of a mental illness, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

 

3. Listen and try to understand.

Connect with the person. Allow them to speak their thoughts to you without fear of judgment. Support them by being there and acknowledging their pain.

Express your concern for them! Let them know that you are worried about them and want to help. Show that you genuinely care about how they are feeling. The simple act of saying ‘I care about you’ might not solve all their problems, but it can give a person struggling with suicide some hope.

 

4. Help someone else.

Have them volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup chicken. Maybe even a pet clinic anywhere where they can focus on the problems of others and not their own. It is a productive use of time and can be a much-needed distraction from their own thoughts.

 

5. Find ways to help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

There are also other ways to help a suicidal person:

Seek professional help. The doctor, a mental health specialist, and/or treatment facilities are better equipped to handle a suicidal person and can help start the healing process. This is especially important to treat mental disorders.

Make plans. Discuss what to do if the person finds themselves suicidal and alone. Remind them that they are not alone.

Do a bit of research. Helping a loved one who is struggling can be difficult, but there are many resources (such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention) available for both the suicidal person and their friends and family.

Keep up your support. Even periodically asking “How are you feeling today?” can help. Check in on them or drop by and ensure their recovery continues.