Tag Archives: time

The Problem with Christmas

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All the meetings I have been going lately have shown to prove that this time of year is incredibly stressful. Thoughts of past Christmas’, struggles with expenses and family can really trigger us to want to use. This is the time to be thankful, to be selfless and to spread love, not scream ‘fuck it’ and get wasted. We need to be there for our families, for each other and for ourselves.” -Happy Christmas Eve, Robyn

Presents

Most people know the holidays can be a period of emotional highs and lows. Loneliness,
anxiety, happiness and sadness are common feelings, sometimes experienced in startling succession. The bad news is the holiday blues can trigger relapse for people recovering from alcoholism and other drug addiction. The good news is the blues can be remedied by planning ahead.

Why do the blues hit during this otherwise festive season? Doing too much or too little and being separated from loved ones at this special time can lead to sadness during the holiday season. Many recovering people associate the holidays with memories of overindulgence, perhaps of big benders that resulted in relationship problems or great personal losses.

People experience feelings of melancholy, sadness and grief tied to holiday recollections. Unlike clinical depression, which is more severe and can last for months or years, those feelings are temporary.   Anyone experiencing major symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, guilt or helplessness; changes in sleep patterns; and a reduction in energy and libido, should seek help from a mental health professional.

Whether you’re in recovery or not, developing a holiday plan to help prevent the blues, one that will confront unpleasant memories before they threaten your holiday experience. Your plan should include improved self-care, enhanced support from others, and healthy ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions to achieve a happy, sober holiday season:

Good self-care is vital. Remember to slow down. Take some quiet time each day and work on an attitude of gratitude. Plan relaxation and meditation into your day, even for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Relax your standards and reduce overwhelming demands and responsibilities.

Don’t overindulge. Go easy on the holiday sweets and follow a balanced diet. Monitor your intake of caffeine, nicotine and sugar. Exercise regularly to help maintain your energy level amid a busier schedule. Don’t try to do too much. Get plenty of sleep. Fatigue is a stressor. Maintain some kind of schedule and plan ahead; don’t wait until the last minute to purchase gifts or prepare to entertain.

Enhance your support system. Holidays are a good time to reach out more frequently to your therapist, sponsor, spiritual advisor, or support group. If you’re in recovery, spend time with fellow recovering people. Let others help you realize your personal limits. Learn to say “no” in a way that is comfortable for you.

Find new ways to celebrate. Create some new symbols and rituals that will help redefine a joyful holiday season. You might host a holiday gathering for special recovering friends and/or attend celebrations of your Twelve Step group. Avoid isolation and spend time with people you like who are not substance users. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary temptations, such as gatherings where alcohol is the center of entertainment. If there are people who have a negative influence on you, avoid them.

Focus on your recovery program. Holidays are also an important time to focus on your recovery program. For example, ask, “What am I working on in my program now?” Discuss this with your sponsor.

Release your resentments. Resentment has been described as allowing a person you dislike to live in your head, rent-free. Resentments that gain steam during the holidays can be disastrous for anyone, especially recovering people. The Big Book of “Alcoholics Anonymous” refers to resentment as the No. 1 offender, or the most common factor in failed sobriety.

Holidays may also be a time to evaluate your spirituality and find a personal way to draw support from the spirit of the season. Return the holidays to a spiritual base, and stress the power of unselfish giving.

Recovery is serious work, but it is also important to have fun. Laugh a little and a little more. Start seeing the humor in those things that annoy you. Take from the holiday season what is important for you and leave the rest.

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Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

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“Having only drank for one year of my life, I hardly consider myself an alcoholic. But I know how important it is for me to see it as any other drug so I am welcomed to AA as NA/CA just the same. I wanted to understand holistic approaches to alcoholism just as I understand the addiction. Turns out their not really much different. This blog can help not only a drunky but a junky too.” -Love, Robyn

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Alcohol addiction is a multifaceted brain disorder which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat and why a holistic approach to alcoholism is the prescription needed for craving-free and long-term sobriety

The roots of alcoholism lie in an imbalance or depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain that is caused by the alcohol itself, nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar, allergy, poor diet, hypothyroidism, toxins in the environment, childhood abuse,chronic stress or many of the other things that disrupt neurotransmitters.

However, these biochemical roots affect every aspect of an individual’s life. It alters personality, cognitive functioning and spiritual connections. It impacts the physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual levels deeply.

We’ll call these other issues, secondary contributors to alcoholism. Although they are not the core root, if they are not addressed they have the power to sabotage recovery.

The physical, emotional and spiritual elements are deeply intertwined. The biochemical/physical impacts the spiritual and the psychological and the spiritual affects the biochemical and psychological and vice versa.

When an individual addresses the true biochemical roots of their addiction with a holistic approach to alcoholism, physical healing begins and biochemical repair is essential to success in long-term sobriety. Deep spiritual and emotional healing can’t be complete without it. However, if one only addresses the biochemical and neglects the spiritual and emotional then they are still at risk of relapse or relapse.

The damage that is done on the physical level has a great impact on the psychological and the spiritual. When your brain and body systems aren’t functioning properly, it has a profound impact on emotional and spiritual health which is often exhibited in a variety of negative psychological symptoms.

Incorporating a holistic approach to alcoholism into your recovery plan helps the individual to heal on all these levels and therefore increases the success rates of long-term sobriety quite drastically.

Unique Aspects of a Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

Alcoholism is unique from other diseases in that it often destroys marriages or relationships or alienates family and friends. Family members and friends must often distance themselves from the alcoholic in order to save their own sanity and in some cases protect themselves emotionally and/or physically. When this occurs, the alcoholic is left in a position without much support. For those who stick around, there is usually a great deal of damage done to the relationship and healing is required.

Another unique component to alcoholism, is that after one engages in the alcoholic lifestyle for an extended period of time, it then becomes a learned behavior to some degree. They learn to respond to stress, pain, sadness, anger etc. by taking a drink or a drug. It becomes a habitual response without thought. These types of behaviors must be unlearned and replaced with healthier behaviors. Habits and routines must be broken. A new lifestyle needs to be embraced.

Alcoholism recovery is also unique in that there is likely to be a great deal of shame, guilt and remorse for actions and behaviors that the alcoholic engaged in while intoxicated, which must be dealt with in a healthy manner to keep them from interfering in sobriety.

Depending on factors such as each individuals background and how long one has been living with alcoholism, there can be a variety of other secondary factors that need to be taken into consideration and addressed, such as relationship issues, childhood sexual or physical abuse, impact on marriage, parenting issues and interpersonal skills. Many people who’ve lived with alcoholism for a long time may be lacking in a variety of social skills that are necessary to get through life. These factors will not apply to everyone, but for those who it does, this is where traditional counseling is called for.

And yet another exclusive aspect of alcoholism is that sometimes the individual goes through a grieving period when they begin recovery. Giving up alcohol is like losing a very good friend or a loved one. Emotional support is a crucial for those who have this experience.

With all these different factors weighing in the alcoholism recovery equation, to address only one aspect will not lead to successful long-term sobriety. All issues must be addressed simultaneously or they become possible triggers for relapse and undermine recovery.

A holistic approach to alcoholism may include the following:

1. Biochemical repairs that addresses the physical as well as the psychological:

  • Identify neurotransmitter imbalances and metabolic disorders
  • Nutritional support during detox and later
  • Changes in diet and nutrition
  • Recognizing environmental factors
  • Addressing nutritional deficiencies
  • Individualized diet plans
  • Dietary and nutritional counseling
  • Exercise

2. Counseling, groups or seminars for social and emotional issues:

  • Childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse and neglect
  • Dealing with loss and grief of alcoholism
  • Coping skills
  • Parenting skills
  • Lifestyle adjustment
  • Communication skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • What to do with loneliness, boredom, too much time on your hands
  • Repair relationships

3. Discovering spiritual connections:

  • Developing a relationship with yourself
  • Connecting more deeply with yourself
  • Healing relationships
  • Engaging in spiritually fulfilling activities
  • Forgiveness of self
  • Activities that make you feel whole, complete and connected
  • Deep and meaningful activities
  • Mindfulness based meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Communing with nature

Another very important component in the holistic approach to alcoholism is that treatment is individualized and personalized according to each persons needs and issues.

One person may have many secondary issues while another individual may have none or only one. Treatment approaches will vary to some degree in the biochemical aspect as well as the emotional and spiritual aspects.

Someone who has been drinking for 20 years may have a lot more complex biochemical and social issues than someone who become an alcoholic two years ago after their husband died.

An individual who lived with childhood sexual, emotional or physical abuse or neglect may have more challenges to face than someone who had a loving childhood. Their alcoholism recovery plan would likely include a lot more focus on the counseling aspect.

One person may need a great deal of counseling and training in areas such as communication and assertiveness while others may be quite competent in these areas. Some people may adjust easier to a new lifestyle while another may struggle a great deal. All these details need to be taken into account and adjusted for specifically for the individual.

Take Nine

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Was she foolish? Yes, probably. She came here waiting for the cute guy to appear behind the counter and here he is. Only she’s jacked up on so much caffeine that she can’t count the shots she’s taken on one hand. Surely its her weakness, thats evident. She knows she shouldn’t drink it but every sip is like a surge of such great energy that it lifts her into the air like … Whatever. She just got lost in a song that played in the background. She needs to know what song that was… “Bing Crosby,” mumbles the cute guy when he returned to check. He clearly has no clue who he is. The same can’t be said for her… but it’s been a “Long, Long Time.”

It takes her back.

Arambol Crabs!

A silly crab on the beach of Arambol.

Somehow she is now on the port of Arambol, Goa. Walking with heavy steps on the cool beach to scare away any lingering crabs. She focus’s her gaze on the ground as they pop in and out of the sand. It seems to work so she repositions her head, looking to the sky. Orions belt is shining brighter than she’d ever seen in her life. Right next to it she traces the constellation of Gemini with her fingers— thats her sign. Sighing, she places her hands back to her side, holding her iPhone listening to a mix of Crosy, Fitzgerald and Armstrong. She looks around her; nothing but a vast sea of blackness to her right and glowing spheres marking the vacant huts to her left. The light from the crescent moon sends sparks dancing on the ocean. She smiles. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happier than I am here, alone on this beautiful night. 

She wore a small black dress that was gift given to her the first time she visited Goa. During that stay she had indulged in drugs and sex, more drugs and sex, and endless dancing. Now she came with a different purpose. Traveling with some girls she had met from her school and staying for a week to lay on the beach, eat too much food, watch them shop and talk for hours. They never wanted to smoke up with her but she didn’t really care. They had just left that morning and she moved into a different resort that was far more expensive but far more beautiful. Atman Resort.. When she first saw the place her jaw dropped. Huts built high above the sand, draped in silk sarrees of every colour. She was mystified. She decided to stay one more week before she had to go back home (to Kannur) and start working.

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Outside the hut.

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Inside the hut.

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Porch of the hut.

For months now she had been with the guy she had been invited to room with. It was really all an accident how that relationship happened and it simply could not be ended given all he had done for her and the fact that they were living together. But this didn’t stop her from messaging a guy she had met in high school years before. They talked about everything. She would wait for him to settle into his evening, which was the start of her day, and they would chat for hours. He kept her company. He introduced her to Bing Crosby.

The irony of it all had been that just recently (as we fast-forward to the present), she had had a dream about him. All these months she had completely forgot about him with her head muddled by the disasters that had ensued since she returned. She looked back at everything they had said to each other from the very start. They spoke in dreams, desires and love. They were separated by miles and time. Then she dropped off from communication for a while. Only to pick up again in a scrabble of unclear words that remotely described her life post-hospitalization in India. She was delusional. Yet he had gone along with it. But how could he have known?

She tried to explain to him months later on the phone. He was reserved. Probably in shock.. but pleasant. They talked for a long time, just catching up. Nothing like it was before though. It would probably never be like it was before.

But she could still sit there in the coffee shop, gayly humming the tune to “Long, Long Time.” She mouthed the words as she stared off blindly at the workers behind the bar.

When she was in Arambol by herself for that week, she slept throughout the day to shield from the sun and arose in the evening for drinks, pot and whatever else she could scavenge from the random groups of travelers she found on the beach. One night she set herself down with a few young men from Italy. They enjoyed hearing her stories of Kannur and the parties south of Arambol. They admitted that they preferred the hippy-scene but she tried to assure them of its equally enlightening experience. She began to realize something she had forgotten— judgement.

She had erased all judgement when she landed in India. Never thinking that anyone was better than her or she was better than anyone else. She wandered around the town making friends with everyone she met and never hesitated to think that anyone would only be talking to her because she was a young American girl. Now that she reflects on it, she can see how naive she was. But was it really all that bad? She had been happy not looking so deeply behind everyones motives. It had worked for her at the time. She supposes that this is what might have gotten her into so much trouble. Yet, for some reason she misses those days when she could let her mind drift off and see the world in an elaborate web of technicoloured unity. She reminds herself, this was me in mania.

She never knew she was bipolar until she was diagnosed in India and now that she knows that there is an actual word to describe her abnormal thought process, she feels a little better. Sure, she’s different than a lot of people— although some like to say that ‘everyones a little bipolar’—she at least has an understanding of why. Being bipolar is not some shifting of moods from time to time. Its not to be belittled by anyone who thinks they understand it. They don’t live it, how could they understand it? To her, her disorder was serious. It causes her to come off as something she does not want to portray. It sends her into months of pure joy, verging on insane to spells of deep depression where all hopes are lost and suicide becomes a better answer with each day. She wonders what it would be like to live without fear. Her head is always spinning around such profound ideas that when she withdraws herself to observe her thoughts, all that can rationalize them is her rise into another manic episode… She once sought after that, too. Sometimes she wonders if she is still secretly seeking it even after the fact that she realized it was a bad idea.

She just lets these thoughts go. They can’t govern her life and she can’t be always questioning herself. She tells herself, if I become manic, then I do. If I become depressed, then that’s where I will be. For now, in this moment, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I feel happy. I feel sane. I love myself and my life and I will not let anyone get in the way of this serenity.

She mentions the idea of ‘anyone’ because she saw a pattern. When she is depressed, she tends to push it onto someone. Latch on to them as though without them, she would be nothing. She places utter most importance on their existence in her life and becomes delusional to the fact that they are just another human being—doing their own thing. She is not the center of their universe and they probably (defiantly) don’t want her to be. She has to let go of her possessive thoughts and bring herself back into a reality where it is just her and everything else. I am alone, but I am at peace. I like to be alone. I feel free. I get lost in my thoughts and gaze upon the lake. I wait for the moon as I sit myself under a palm tree. Anywhere I go, there I will be. And everywhere I go, beauty follows me.

 

One Word at a Time

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When I came back from India, where I hit my rock bottom, I wrote some journal entries and some poems. Grant it, I was still in psychosis for a month, so much of my writings are teetering on questionable madness.. but at least I have documentation of my unraveling thoughts. I have spoken to many people who see me in meetings jotting quickly —and mindfully— everything interesting that someone might say. They come to me after, questioning and prodding. “What are you doing? Why do you do this?” Inspiration, I say. For the future. To distract my mind all the while keeping it focused on the purpose of me being here. I reflect on these words somedays, these phrases that are jotted down in a penmanship only I can make out, it lifts my heart.

My journals on the other hand, don’t always do the same. People question me about this too, saying, “I don’t journal. I’ve tried. I just can’t get into it. Where do you start? What do you say?” I simply reply, anything. Everything. Theres no judgement but your own. Its just you and the paper/the keyboard, whatever. You just let your guard down and scream through the only words that come to your mind in that moment. You let it out. You get lost in the present as the words slip out of your hands and manifest themselves in front of you.

I find it healing. I also find it necessary to let go of all the thoughts that collect in the back of your mind. You make them real when you scribble them down. Something tangible that you can reflect on in the future. You start to realize how crazy you are. How human you are. You can map your progress, track your emotions and notice the moments in time that you let yourself fall and the moments you picked yourself up.

Its unlikely that I ever write on a good day. I am far too merry and cheerful and I often think I sound like a idiot. My ambitions are bloated and my head is held too high. I sometimes get scared when I observe this. It makes me think of mania… But its on those good days that I like to spin the clock back and see where I’ve been. Remind myself of the way life was regarded before I woke up with this smile on my face. I can see clearly that all things will pass. There is evidence of my mind when I felt I was stuck. Where time didn’t exist and the idea of life moving on to send me into the unknown was far from my imagination.

Today is one of those days to reflect. Not that I am in the best mood in the world; my thoughts have wandered here and there, sending me on a whirlwind of inspiration and thought provoking questions. After spitting out the ideas that were trapped in my mind (untangling them enough to make sense), I took a break. I shifted my attention to a long lost entry written when I got out of rehab, it read:

 

“Nothings doing it for me; running, Spongebob, Facebook, reading. Nada. Nope. I still feel like a heavy lump sits in my throat, a thousand butterflies wish to come up from my stomach, my body aches, my head spins, my eyes droop lazily on my clean face. I’m at a loss. I’ve been out of rehab for a few weeks now and plans of moving are becoming more official by the second. Halloween comes closer to reality. I just want to move. I just want a job. I want to go to school again. Some grandiose voice in my head tells me to study philosophy and be a professor. Write a bunch of books. Be a success. Be a success? Why am I always wishing for success? I can hardly handle failure. And I am such a great failure. The essence of depression wreaks from my veins today. Taunting me through every controlled breath. Gently caressing me, telling me things will look brighter. Don’t use. Don’t use, I tell myself. Moments like this, these receding moments that have lasted over 12 hours… they are the ones that make me want to use. Make me want to just pass out and sleep to wake up to a new day that has more purpose, more umph in my step. Where are those days? How do they come to me in my life? How do they even exist? I know that they have before, I can remember the ease of those days. Where did they go? What brought me here? I digress.”

Writing

As I sat there and read these lines I saw a glimpse of my past. Grateful to be here in the  future/present. Though I can’t say much has changed. I still get the occasional craving, though I try not to bother my mind when things are working out. I remove myself, not allowing my thoughts to unravel, revealing nothing but increased anxiety. Stop, I say. Don’t go there. You know how you’ll feel when you go there. And surely I do. You do to. You know how it is when your mind gets caught in a single thought. How it spins down, causing you to loose control, throwing you into a black hole. Thats no fun. Certainly counter productive. But its during these times that we have to remember to do only two things. Only these two things (from my experience) seem to work; prayer and journalling.

We need to take a step back from those winding thoughts and give them to our higher power to answer. “This too shall pass,” God most commonly replies. Then we have to let it out. Its no good bringing someone else down by removing them from their busy lives to complain and ramble on comically about nothing at all. At least, thats what we feel in these moments… So, instead of locking it up inside to save it for a rainy day, you got to just write it out and give it to yourself to listen to. Once its all down and you hand hurts from the process, you can read it over. Wow, you’ll think. Thats it. Thats me—right now.

You’ll feel better. Trust me. I know it may seem hard at first. Maybe time consuming. But it really isn’t. Once you lose yourself in the rapid collection of your thoughts, you’ll pull back feeling a weight lifted from your shoulders. You’ll realize that everything that had concerned you in those moments that were just vented seconds ago were actually real. There for you to decode and “digress,” as I say. Its out, your free. Free from those emotions that once felt like they were going to take over and drag you down so low that there would be no way you could get up. The feelings where you felt like you just wanted to give everything up, just to use, now seem like foolish memories. You thank God they’re gone.

I recommend to everyone I meet to journal whenever they are bored, alone or confused. Sometimes I find myself coughing up broken sentences and take those opportunities to write poetry. They don’t always have to rhyme, you know. None of that it matters. You have to keep in mind that these entries are for no one other than yourself. Of course, if your proud of your creation you can always share it, barring in mind that not everyone can or will relate. I certainly keep that in my mind every time I post a blog that is actually written by myself. I have never been trained in the art of English, but I enjoy it. I know that not many people (or no one at all) will actually read the things I put out there. I don’t let that bother me. And you can’t let it bother you. Let any shred of doubt be transformed into emotional release. Because writing is like a form of meditation; you focus your thoughts on present, reflecting on the things you feel and the anxieties that are stressing your mind — then you breath— and let it go; one word at a time.

 

 

Wake Me Up by Avicii

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I may not be an incredibly huge fan of this genre of music but I have to give Avicii credit for producing a great song. The lyrics are inspiring, it reminds me that everything passes and life is an open book. We don’t know the future but we know where we are now. The amazing thing is, we won’t be in this place for long. Time will pass and we will grow, there is nothing we can’t accomplish if we set our mind to it.

Lyrics:

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me

[2x]
So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don’t have any plans

Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life’s a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

[2x]
So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know (didn’t know, didn’t know)

Progress, Not Perfection

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Many of us have a hard time realizing the progress we make in recovery. We often make the mistake of only focusing on the negative outcomes that would occur if we started using again and not the positives that come from never picking up. When we get trapped in the emotions such as fear, we end up getting caught in a black hole of pity. That is no way to live in recovery. We have to remain optimistic and push forward, always reminding ourselves that the future can only get better from here.

Wherever this moment is to you, it was not your rock bottom. Whatever your rock bottom was, even if you didn’t wind up in a jail or an institution, you don’t have to keep at it  until you do. Why go on digging when you can crawl out from this present point? No matter where your life has taken you, it can progress. That is, if you want it to.

As we recover we start to realize how important it is for us to admit complete willingness to the program. Without that drive to let go and let God, to admit our faults and honestly confined in one another, progress may never come. When we can learn to heal ourselves on the inside, we will start to notice our external worries fade away. Opportunities will arise and dreams that were once lost can come true. So long as we trust in our decisions now and know that they will lead to fulfillment in the future, we can do anything we set our mind to.

A mistake we may make is pushing towards a goal that is too big for us while we are in recovery. We have to remember to take it one step at a time and that progress is not perfection. With everyday we can work slow and steady towards our goals, never letting ourselves spin out of control with those thoughts that make us feel so worthless, when we just can’t see how much we have already achieved. Our growth is like that of a tree. We gain strength, build a  a strong and stable trunk (or mind) so we can branch out with courage when we reach out for help and to help. We will progress and we can succeed. The sky is the limit.

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The other day at a meeting, a young man had expressed he was struggling with temptations after 90 days of sobriety. He was scared. He was so afraid of what that would mean for him. His thoughts warped around ideas of disappointment and failure as a father and husband. I turned to him and told him what I mentioned above about the positives of sobriety. Another woman chirped in and said, “As far as I can tell, you won.” The man and I looked at her, he chuckled and smiled saying, “I guess I did.” He won because, just for today, he didn’t pick up. He was able to surf the wave of cravings and just say no. He did it, and so can you and I.

We don’t have to be idles of AA, NA or CA but we can set an example by following the steps and recognizing our achievements. Even the little things– like not picking up today, going to work or having an honest relationship with a friend or significant other–  can open our awareness, allowing us to express gratitude and pride in our recovery.

– Love and light, Robyn 

Addiction and Sleep

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Written for Recovery Magazine on January 7, 2009 by Emily Battaglia

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Individuals who are recovering from addiction often experience significant sleep disturbances. Some of these problems persist only for the first few months in recovery, some for years after abstinence begins.

Scientific studies have recorded the major sleep difficulties experienced by recovering individuals. One small study, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry, found that individuals in recovery may experience problems related not only to actual sleep patterns, but also to their perception of their sleeping patterns. The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, made a thorough evaluation of sleep, sleep perception, and alcohol relapse among 18 men and women with insomnia who were in the early stages of alcohol recovery.

The study also indicated the importance of seeking help for sleep disturbances while in recovery. Lead author Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., a fellow in the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center, commented on the findings:

“What we found is that those patients who had the biggest disconnect between their perception of how they slept and their actual sleep patterns were most likely to relapse. … This suggests that long-term drinking causes something to happen in the brain that interferes with both sleep and perception of sleep. If sleep problems aren’t addressed, the risk of relapse may be high.”

Research has shown that individuals recovering from addiction to substances other than alcohol are also at elevated risk for sleep disturbances. For individuals in recovery, sleep disturbances present a unique problem. Individuals in recovery cannot utilize medicinal aids to alleviate sleep problems without possibly undermining the entire recovery process. Recovery experts recommend some of the following strategies to help individuals in recovery address sleep-related problems:

  • Seek help! Sleep disturbances can be complex and physically devastating. Don’t let a problem that may be outside of your control undermine your efforts at good health and sobriety.
  • Establish a pre-bed routine and follow it each night. This will help to signal your brain and body that it is almost time to sleep.
  • Don’t engage in any sort of stimulating activity for at least two hours before bedtime. This includes any activity that heightens wakefulness, including exercise, high-energy conversations, video games, and other similar activities.
  • Don’t overeat. Overeating, especially at dinner can contribute to difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Don’t do anything in bed except sleep. Watching TV or even reading in bed can send mixed signals to your brain and body. Reserving your bed for sleep will help train your body to go to sleep.
  • Avoid coffee and cigarettes for at least three hours before bed. For some, caffeine may need to be avoided after noon.
  • Try setting aside time each evening to write about your concerns in a journal. This may help you process issues that are weighing on your mind before you go to sleep. Going to bed with an unburdened mind and clearer thoughts may reduce unpleasant or anxious dreams.