Why Is Sharing Our Story Important?

Something that can be very difficult for people entering treatment for addiction is sharing our stories. In front of other people. Out loud. It is easy to see why it would be hard for us. We have just made the most difficult decision in our lives after what feels like a lifetime of self-combat, and now they want us to tell a random group of strangers our most painful experiences and thoughts? No thanks.

Think again, though. Why are we being asked to do this? Is this going to be helpful to us in some way? Will this help the people listening in some way? Will this help our healing? Maybe there is some method to this madness after all.

Helping Ourselves

It might be that we would rather dig a hole in the ground with a plastic spoon and hide there until this whole sharing thing blows over. However, when we open our mouths and share our experiences, we are actually helping ourselves. Not in the way that grandma told us that if we drank enough castor oil, it would cure our acne. No, this sharing thing actually works.

There is something very powerful about voicing our thoughts. Hearing our own voice say aloud the things we have kept neatly tucked deep inside of us makes them real. It makes us real. They are just things, and now that we have said them, we can let go of the shame and guilt and just look at them like everyone else in the room will: they are just our stuff. Bonus points for sharing them in a safe space like a group in therapy or other meetings, because no one will judge us, either. See, that actually did help us, right?

Helping Others

We. Have. No. Idea. We literally have no idea until someone has shared with us exactly how much us sharing with others can help them. Our sharing validates them in ways that nothing else can. We are all alike. We do not need to feel alone. There are people in this world who have been through similar things as us.

When we share our stories with others, we build a common bond as nothing else could. We help others feel safety, commonality, and unity. We are all part of the same human race. We have all made mistakes, and we are all going through similar things. We are not alone. There is so much power when we share with others.

Finding Our Truths

When we open our mouths and share our thoughts in recovery, we find our truths. We may not be a great public speaker. In fact, communicating publicly may be very difficult for us. But in this setting, it really is the thought that counts, and as we are able to get those thoughts out there, we learn more about ourselves. As we hear the words coming from our mouths, there may be many different emotions: shame, guilt, blame, disgust, self-loathing, embarrassment, and more. But as we speak them, we realize that we have the power to change our future story. We find out more about the person we want to be, about the stories we hope to tell in our future. Sharing our experiences out loud helps us to find our truths.

Healing Our Wounds

When we share our experiences, it has the strange effect of healing. No, not like grandma’s castor oil. Actual healing from the pain that we have kept inside of us. We can speak about our experiences, about our emotions, and we might even emote into a blubbering mess or a raving lunatic while we are at it. That’s okay. That is what helps us to process our pasts and helps us to learn about ourselves and to feel again.

The more we learn about what has caused us to drink or use drugs, the more we are able to heal the pain we tried to numb. When we share with others, it may feel like we are ripping off the Band-Aid to our wounds. But actually, it is more like a salve for our wounds. We draw strength and healing from speaking about our experiences in front of other people.

Empowering Ourselves

Of all of the ways that sharing helps us, the biggest is perhaps empowering. When we share our experiences in a public setting, we own it. Like it or not, we have to own up to whatever has happened. Sometimes, saying it out loud has the opposite effect that we think it would have: instead of embarrassing us, it actually normalizes it. We realize that we are human. Whether it is shame from something that happened to us or guilt from something that we did, we realize that we are human beings and that everyone has a story to tell. This empowers us to keep sharing and keep growing.

There are so many reasons that we share in recovery, and all of them help someone as part of their growth. Sharing helps other people, but it helps us even more. Contact Enlight today and share your way to recovery with people just like you. Call us today at (805) 719-7954 to speak to one of our admissions experts. Someone is waiting to hear your story, they need to hear you share.

No One Wants to Have a Problem, but Do I Have a Problem?

Denial. Blame. Regret. Guilt. Anything to keep us from facing our addiction. If we can hide behind words or emotions, then we do not have to face the facts. We do not have to do anything about a problem we do not think we have, and we certainly do not have to enter treatment if we can blame our behaviors and actions on someone or something else. Five of the most dangerous words for an addict: “I don’t have a problem.”

Denial

We have all seen a young child “hide” by covering their own eyes. Everyone can see that they are right there. Nothing has changed, except for their sweet, naïve perception: ‘if I cannot see them, they cannot see me.’ Denial works exactly like that. So long as we are unwilling to look at the world, we think the world cannot see our problems. That cannot be further from the truth, though.

The child learns quickly to keep their vision clear to see what is really going on and that hiding is a different game altogether. But our minds are not so willing to learn that our habits and behaviors cannot be hidden from others. That level of denial is most damaging to ourselves. Everyone else can see that we need help, but until we admit that, we won’t get help.

Blame

It is easy to blame our substance use on our environment, family or friends, or other external factors. And most of us have had really, really hard lives, to be fair. But we are always going to be held responsible for our reaction to any circumstances, no matter how difficult. If our reaction is to use substances to deal with life, then we have no one else to blame for that but ourselves.

When we blame other people or things for our substance use, we tell ourselves it is not our fault, which artificially absolves ourselves of our responsibility. Without taking any responsibility, we give ourselves permission to use as much as we want. Whatever the consequences of our actions, we simply blame others. Meanwhile, we are hurting ourselves the most.

Regret

Regret begins by one little thought, looking back on something with sadness or disappointment. Our minds naturally start to put that thought on a loop in our minds, and we have more and more regrets until we can no longer even think about anything else. We find more things to regret, adding to our playlist until our minds are filled with negative views of ourselves and our actions.

When the only video we allow our mind to see is regret, we are immobilized to do anything else at all. Feelings of worthlessness become how we view ourselves. If we were not already using substances, now we would want to more than ever. And the cycle just continues.

Guilt
If regret immobilizes us, our guilt sets us firmly in cement. In a rock quarry in the middle of the desert. Locked in place with chains. Guilt keeps us from being happy, but guilt also keeps us from doing anything we should in order to be healthy.

It is the goodness in all of us that triggers a guilty reaction to something we have done. And feeling guilty is meant to push us toward apologizing, making amends, forgiveness, and changing our ways. But when we are using substances, the guilt is often blown out of proportion. It becomes like that dot… when held far away from us, we can see that it is just a small dot. But when we hold it close to our eye, it is all we can see.

Guilt is helpful when kept in perspective. However, when using and abusing substances, it can become another whole monster to wrestle with. It can lead to depression, self-esteem problems, suicidal thoughts and more. Most importantly, it tells us that we are hopeless and helpless, and that is never true.

All of these types of thinking are negative thought processes. They turn our minds on themselves and create endless loops of adverse thoughts and feelings. Not only do they help us spiral downward in our addictions, but they also cause depression and potentially suicidal thoughts. They also greatly impact our self-esteem long term. And yet this is one part of addiction that we can have some control over.

Responsibility

Denial, regret, blame, and guilt all absolve us of the natural consequences of our actions. We can keep ruminating on the negative things in our heads, or we can take a deep breath and try something new. Instead of saying “I don’t have a problem,” we can listen to that tiny conscience inside of us that has been screaming at us, but drowned out by all of the negative thinking. We can listen to that voice, and pick up the phone and call Enlight right now at (805) 719-7954 so we can help you stop the negative thinking and start living again.

How Do I Break the Cycle of Addiction?

Having addiction in our lives is difficult enough. But for some of us, addiction is familial and/or genetic. Meaning that to overcome our addiction, we must also break a cycle of addiction that has been part of our families, sometimes for generations before us. We face changing habits that are both learned and genetic, and changing the way we live despite all of our predecessors who were also addicts. It is an uphill battle that defies our very nature.

All in the Family

As human beings, we naturally gather in family groups. We share our lives, our laughter, and our tears. Unfortunately, sometimes we also share dysfunction. Do we even know which came first, the dysfunction or the addiction? It is a question that may not be able to be answered, but far too often, they are gifted to us as a pair.

We learn by what we see. So if adult family members are seen using a substance or even just the behaviors that go along with substance use, then that is what we see, that is what we learn. We often don’t know that there is a problem, especially as children. If grandma’s breath smells like alcohol and she has erratic behavior and sleeping patterns, we assume that all grandmas do that.

Sadly, in many families, our first opportunity to drink or use a drug is given to us by a family member, too. It normalizes unhealthy behaviors and gives us permission to carry on family traditions that can grow into addiction and destroy our lives. Obviously, this is not the family inheritance anyone would choose to give. But if addiction is in our family, sometimes, the choice isn’t really ours to make.

Family Dynamics

Our families do love us, the best they know how to. But if we seek treatment for addiction, then it may put the spotlight on them to perhaps acknowledge and seek treatment for their addiction as well. So many family members are content in their own quagmire, and are not only going to be unwilling to support us but may actively act against us and our choice to enter recovery.

It is not fair for someone to have to choose between their family and recovery. But all too often, especially when we come from unhealthy families, we may have to make that horrible choice. In the end, we should look at the big picture. If we choose recovery, then we are free to be better people, including being better with our families. Even if we are disowned, we are striking the match to light the first lamp of recovery in what is sometimes generations of addiction and unhealthy living. We can be the example, be the catalyst to change future generations so that this disease of addiction does not destroy the lives of any more of our relatives.

Overwhelming Obstacles

We have an addiction, and we have been through enough to know we want to change. We know our family is unhealthy, and that perhaps addiction is something handed down for multiple generations. This is what we have learned, this is all we know. That makes recovery so much harder. Now perhaps our families have disowned us, kicked us out of the house, or cut us off emotionally. All because we want to be healthy. We might feel more alone than ever before. We might even wonder why we are doing this at all.

These obstacles may seem overwhelming. But they are not insurmountable. If we are struggling with an addiction, we need people in our lives who can support us. Our family cannot, that has been proven, especially if none of them have acknowledged or received treatment for their own addictions. And while we love them, we must be able to love ourselves before we can truly love them, anyway. It is a shame if our families are obstacles. But we don’t have to let them stop us from being healthy.

Awakenings

When we choose recovery over our family, over our genetics, and over our heritage of addiction, we become a pioneer. We are forging a path that none of our ancestors were able to, and we are changing the future of our posterity. If we have to prune our family tree for it to be healthy again, so be it. It is not that we are discarding our families or judging them, we are simply choosing a new path. If we are lucky, perhaps others in our family will see our path and see our happiness, and join us. That is the ideal. But even if we walk the journey of recovery alone, we can know that we are giving our family the best gift we possibly can: life.

Recovery is like a rebirth for us, and it can be like an awakening within our families. Whether or not our families choose to support us or even acknowledge us, we have the power to break the cycle. To learn more about how Enlight can help you write rewrite your family history, call us today at (805) 719-7954.

Co-Occurring Disorders: Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

It is difficult enough to come to terms with addiction in our lives. But sometimes, that is not all that is keeping us from experiencing a high quality of life. Some of us have a co-occurring disorder, also known as dual diagnosis. The most common dual diagnosis is an addiction and bipolar disorder. If we treat only the addiction, then the bipolar disorder will likely impact our recovery and vice versa.

Stigma: A Stumbling Block to Treatment

There is plenty of stigma about addiction. Even in the year 2019, movies, the media, and social media often paint a very denigrating picture of people who struggle with addiction. However perhaps even more crippling is the stigma around mental illness. Even for people who don’t place immediate judgment when we tell them we have bipolar disorder, depression, or some other mental illness, there is little education about mental illness or how to help someone struggling with it. People just don’t know what to say or do to help.

Despite the fact that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that as many as one in five people suffers from a mental illness, there is still more fear than understanding amongst the general public. That changes every time we read or learn more about mental illness, and every time we are willing to speak up for ourselves and our loved ones and educate others. Bipolar disorder isn’t a mark of shame, it’s a serious medical condition that impacts “normal” people like you and me.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the person experiences periods of both mania and depression, or “highs” and “lows.” These periods can last from a few days to weeks, months or even years. There can also be periods of “normalcy.”

Studies still continue as to exactly what goes on in the brain to cause the chemical imbalance which impacts our mood and behavior so significantly. A simple version of what happens in the brain is that serotonin levels are not properly regulated, which then inhibits normal function. Much like diabetes is a disease where so much is impacted by the body’s inability to produce or regulate insulin, bipolar disorder is where normal brain function is impacted by the inability to regulate serotonin.

There are different types of bipolar disorder, based on types of manic and depressed episodes. Everyone is different, some people suffer from chronic and debilitating depression, with only short spells of normalcy or some level of mania. Some people hardly have any depression, others never have a true manic episode, but rather experience hypomania.

Hypomania is a period of time that can span from days to weeks in which the mood is elevated, there is less need for sleep, and these episodes are often filled with high productivity. However, there are often impulsive or risk-taking behaviors, especially spending or unusual sexual activity. However, some people are more irritable and angry when they have hypomania. A true manic episode is similar but more extreme, and often people exhibit a greater distance from reality and there is a higher risk of harm to self or others. For example, some people may think they can fly or do things that aren’t physically possible.

Depression is a little more well known and is more common within bipolar disorder. In fact, many patients are diagnosed with depression only, without realizing that the times that they felt a little too good were actually hypomanic episodes. This is a challenge because treatments for depression can actually worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder. Depression is more than just feeling sad, in fact, many people don’t feel anything at all. It is typically a period of time for more than a few days in which the person feels lethargic, tired, experiences less interest in things, and more. It is a physical condition, not just an emotional reaction to life events, even if some depression is brought on by outside triggers.

How Common is an Addiction and Bipolar Dual Diagnosis?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), up to 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder will develop a substance use disorder in their lifetime. People with co-occurring bipolar and addiction have the additional challenges of being less likely to respond to treatment and suffering from increased bipolar symptoms, such as higher highs and lower lows. Frighteningly, those of us with co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction show more instances of hospitalizations and suicide attempts as well.

The most frustrating part of dual diagnosis is that so many of the symptoms are overlapping, so it takes a trained professional to properly make this diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment. Both substances and treatment can worsen both the bipolar disorder and the addiction, and one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is denial, which makes it even harder to get help.

The good news is that there is a solution. For someone battling on both fronts, there are places who understand and can help with co-occurring addiction and bipolar disorder. Enlight has the experience and support needed to help. If you or your loved one believe that there might be more than just addiction going on, call us today at (805) 719-7954 to speak to one of our admissions experts.