Tag Archives: TRIGGERS

Massage and Recovery from Addiction

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“This article was written in 2005 and since then there have been hundred of other studies that have shown the same results: massage helps people. You don’t have to be at a resort or use the excuse of you Birthday to get a massage. The simple excuse of being human is enough. Everyone can benefit from the holistic treatment of massage therapy. And I’m not just saying this because I am a certifiedcpractitioner, I’m saying it because its true. Massage has not only physical but mental benefits as well. In this article you’ll find how massage therapy can help promote a greater sense of well being while in recovery from active addiction. The informat of is backed up by facts that are hard to ignore. You may want to consider taking the money that used to be spent on drugs and alcohol to put towards a weekly treatment. Look for a local massage therapist and ask them about possible discounts that can be given if you schedule a regular session. Let them know your condition and work with them to start your healing process.” -With endless love, Robyn

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Substance abuse is a major public health problem. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs our nation more than $484 billion per year. This includes costs related to crime, medical care, treatment, social welfare programs, and time lost from work.

Comprehensive treatment for the addicted individual is the key to turning this health crisis around. In the October 2003 edition of Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, Joni Kosakoski, BSN, RN, CARN gives us the fuel to propel massage therapists into the realm of drug and alcohol treatment. In her article “Massage: Hands Down, a Treatment for Addiction”, Kosakoski gives us a clear and concise analysis of massage’s benefits for this population and its place in addiction treatment.

Incorporating massage into a substance abuse program is advantageous in all of the stages of quitting an addiction: withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence. The physical, emotional and spiritual components of recovery all can be directly benefited by the healing power of therapeutic touch. The nurturing contact of massage utilizes skin as the translator of the therapist’s intent. Skin, the largest sensory organ in our body, is our primary sense for connecting information from our external surroundings to our internal environment.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has performed scientific research documenting the physiological effects of massage on the body. Kosakoski reminds us of some of their findings on massage such as decreased pain, diminished autoimmune response, enhanced immune response, and increased alertness and performance. These effects appear to be related to massage’s ability to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, as reported by the Touch Research Institute in 2003. Several of the Touch Research Institute’s studies positively document the ability of massage to decrease anxiety, depression, agitation, and cravings.

In order to understand the connection between massage therapy and its benefit in addiction treatment, Kosakoski explains the neurological biochemistry of addiction: “Much attention has been directed to the mesolimbic reward system, the so-called ‘pleasure pathway’ of the brain. The area is activated in part by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for making us feel good when we engage in any pleasurable activity. It is well known that dopamine is significantly involved in addiction and that dopamine levels are lower than average during the withdrawal process and into early recovery until brain chemistry normalizes.”

In 1998, the Touch Research Institute published the findings that a regular massage regimen produced long-term results of increasing dopamine levels. The fact that massage naturally increases dopamine levels, and decreases cortisol levels makes it a perfect addition to a standard detoxification program.

The neurochemistry of an addict takes time to get back into balance, so massage treatments after the initial detoxification phase is crucial. When a person uses a substance to feel good, his/her body stops manufacturing its own “feel good” chemicals, (endorphins), and the substance takes over that task. Therefore, when a person quits using an abused substance, they lose their source of feeling good. Since it takes time for the body to start manufacturing its own endorphins again, this is a challenging interim to endure. This interim is the recovering addict’s most vulnerable time to relapse.

In the 1989 edition of General Pharmacology, Kaada and Torsteinbo of Norway reported on study results that massage therapy increased the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood by 16 percent. The release of endorphins during a massage allows the recipient to feel normal, even fantastic, without the aid of a drug. This can be a powerful, even life-changing experience for the client.

On a physical level, the circulation that occurs with massage is also a desired occurrence during the detoxification process. Therapeutic massage’s invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid allows for a more efficient exchange of oxygen rich nutrition into the body’s tissues, and the delivery of toxic waste products out of the body’s tissues. Kosakoski adds that “All systems of the body function more efficiently with improved circulation and a reduction in tension of the soft tissues and musculature…”

On an emotional level, part of an addict’s recovery process is learning to identify and manage the triggers that cause them to desire escape. Regular massage sessions can aid the client’s awareness of his or her own body, including where and when tension exists. Being conscious of these patterns is a step toward recognizing one’s own resistance, which can lead to healthfully addressing emotions associated with cravings and stress. In addition Kosakoski says that “Emotional release can commonly occur with massage, which provides a safe, non-threatening opportunity to begin the process of recovering long-buried emotions and memories.”

On a spiritual level, the deep relaxation of a massage can provide a still inner place for the recipient to connect with themselves. Being grounded, centered and fully present can be experienced when receiving therapeutic touch from a grounded, centered and fully present practitioner. A recovering addict has a whole new world opened to them when they acknowledge that they can simultaneously be anchored, present, feel good and be substance-free. As Kosakoski explains, “To allow oneself to surrender to the practitioner’s hands — to breathe fully and easily, to acknowledge and receive the gifts of nurturing, surrender and relaxation ….is an invaluable addition to the newly recovering person’s repertoire of relapse-prevention skills.”

Massage has the unique ability to affect all of our layers of being — from the spiritual plane all the way up to and including our body’s chemical composition. In the process of abandoning an addiction, these many parts of ourselves become fragmented. It is merely a matter of time before all addiction and recovery treatment programs recognize massage’s ability to mend the mind-body connection. When that happens, therapeutic massage will be integrated into addiction treatment, and clients will be optimally prepared to succeed in their recovery.

From IntergrativeHealthcare.org

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The Truth About Addiction Triggers

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Earlier I read an article in Psychology Today outlining the so-called ‘truth’ about addiction triggers. The author, Lance Dodes M.D— after bashing current methods of treatment— begins to claim there is a simple recipe to cure the addicts darkest thoughts about using. He gives an example, a scenario of a triggered mind that applies the typical means of coping: distraction. This is something we are taught in most treatment centers and even in the rooms. Busying our heads with thoughts of consequences, positives of sobriety or just ‘surfing the wave’ (that is a common term used to describe a moment of craving that is observed as it passes) are all means of distraction. However, what Dodes suggests is not to look forward. Instead, he wants us to look back.

Reviewing what caused the trigger in the first place can better prepare us for future cravings. Basically, predicting the trigger before it happens. It sounds simple enough! So today I put it to the test. I thought back to every moment within this day and even this entire week where I felt a craving coming on. What had started it? What was I thinking, feeling or doing before my brain let out an intense sense of despair, longing for me to seek out a drug. I came up with this list:

  • I asked someone what drugs were prominent in the area I just moved to… Meth was the answer. I thought, “I have never tried meth before, I should find someone who has meth… Where can I find someone who has meth? I heard it like cocaine x2, I love cocaine!”
  • “I’m completely bored. I have some pills I can take. I’ve been avoiding those pills. No one will know. I’m so bored.”
  • “M.I.A is so amazing. Live fast die young, bad girls do it well! YOLO! Her new album is killer, I should listen to it soaring and take a walk down the highway.”
  • “Ooo. There is so much alcohol here. I bet they wouldn’t even notice if I took a bottle or two…”

As embarrassing as it was to see my thoughts so vulnerable to my feelings and surroundings, it certainly brought light to the facts that my cravings come in waves of curiosity, boredom, and grandiosity. I wasn’t surprised. I began to analyze myself even further, trying to connect these to the steps and the realization of your character defects.

An addicts curiosity stems from their first high. They like this feeling. They think, “what is this? Why do I feel this way? I wonder what other ways I can feel…” Personally, my curiosity goes all the way to questioning what reality is and if it even exists. I could go into all that, but I think you’d rather I didn’t.

Boredom is such an easy way to find a craving. It leads to so much more like isolation, negative thoughts and loss of motivation. When we find ourselves in this place, I find it best to have an escape route. Something that will surely keep you occupied and away from those triggers. Make a list of all the (sober) activities you can engage in while your alone. Heres a few off of mine:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Workout
  • Read (leisurely or texts from AA/NA/CA)
  • Journal
  • Call someone
  • Whatch netflix (put a damn timer on it though!)
  • Cook something complicated
  • Pamper yourself

As far as grandiosity, thats a tough one to break. When I first picked up smoking, I thought I was cool. Every time I snuck out of the house, I thought I was cool. When I stole drugs, I thought I was cool. All the times I did drugs by myself, I thought I was cool. It didn’t matter if no one knew or no one cared, in my mind… I was cool. Its hard to beat that feeling out of your brain! I managed to quite smoking cigarettes after just a short summer of doing it. I picked it up again to smoke cocaine in the most subtle way but I always hid it cause it smelled slightly and I didn’t want anyone to notice (because I hated to share). I dropped smoking cigarettes as my addiction traveled to something new but now that I’m sober, I’ve picked it back up. I have recognized the triggers to my smoking to be not only social but that need to feel cool. Whenever I watch a show or movie and someone is smoking, it seems so delicate yet subtly rebellious. I want to give that off. I want to be like them. Its a horrible way to go about things but I have to admit to my defects of character. I feel better than everyone (especially here in boo-foo Florida)! I think, “I’m from the Chicago, I’ve traveled halfway around the world, I’ve been crazy before, I’ve tripped and dipped in an assortment of illegal drugs, I break the law, I am cool…” Gosh, thats awful! Thats not the way to think! Thats not healthy! Thats grandiose (and a good sign of mania according to my psychologist)… but thats the way it goes.

Certain music or other forms of media can trigger these feelings. Even people that give off that badass aura can make me want to prove my own rebellious past. But its not about my ego is it? Its about my recovery and my sanity. Change the song or station and take pity on the addict that is still suffering. I try and think, it once was you, but you’ve moved on. You don’t have to be that person anymore and when I dig deep down, I really don’t want to. What did it bring me but shifty attitudes, false friendships and power hunger? Thats no good.

Dodes article does ring true to some extent. To another, we may end up seeing everything as a possible trigger and finding that that observation is, in and of itself, a trigger. I could go back and forth all day long, but I think its time for you to take these opinions and reflect upon them and yourself. Leave any comments below on what your triggers are, how their formed and what you do with them! Don’t forget to like our page on Facebook and invite your friends 🙂

– Love and Light, Robyn

The Ultimate Mood Tracking App: Optimism

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“I am completely in love with this app called Optimism. It is incredibly useful for those that are struggling through addiction and co-occurring disorders. It keeps track of everything from sleep to triggers. I remember searching for some type of workbook where I could record my mood and all that nonsense to find patterns so as to prevent mania and depression. This app helps me do that and more! Not only does it just intake the information and allow for extra notes, it literally gives you data summaries over whatever period of time you want. It is simple, thorough and so convenient, I would recommend this for even people that are SANE! Please read the specs below and give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!” -Love and light forever, Robyn

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Optimism is a mood charting app that helps you develop strategies for managing depression, bipolar or other mental health conditions.
*Note: a network connection is needed to use this app.*

The app helps you to:

  • Develop and monitor health strategies
  • Learn the “triggers” of a decline in your mental health
  • Recognize the early warning signs of a decline.

Detailed charts and reports are available within the app or by immediate email delivery. These form a feedback loop, providing concrete starting points for exploring things that are affecting your mental health.
The charts and reports can be invaluable for working with a health professional. They provide a detailed history that is fast and easy to review.
The Optimism app is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The advice of a qualified health professional should always be sought for questions regarding a medical condition.

In a nutshell, the purpose of self-tracking is to learn more about yourself and achieve better health.

  • By using the Optimism apps you can monitor the patterns in your life, to identify the negative influences (or “triggers”) that impact on your health, and the early warning signs that your health is deteriorating.
  • Optimism can help you find the small things, as well as the big, that help you to stay well. It can show you the impact of positive strategies that you adopt on your well-being.
  • It helps you to plan for better health. By bringing together your knowledge of your triggers, early warning signs and symptoms, and wellness strategies you can develop a plan for remaining well. That is the key. The purpose of the software is to plan for wellness, not just keep a record of illness.
  • Rather than be a passive recipient of treatment, or just seek treatment in reaction to a new episode, Optimism can help you to have more involvement in your health and a greater sense of control. In general people achieve better health outcomes when they educate themselves and are proactive with their health.
  • There are many health professionals who love Optimism. By tracking your mental health you can provide your clinician with a precise, detailed history. It removes the problem of memory recall and gives an accurate picture of what has been happening. It gets to the bottom of what is or isn’t working, which helps them to give more relevant, appropriate advice and treatment.

Every person’s illness is different. “One Size Fits One”. For many people treatment is difficult, a slow process, or not entirely successful. Optimism is designed to help increase your chance of success.