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Mindfulness Meditation: How It Helps with Addiction and Mental Health

Mindfulness Meditation: How It Helps with Addiction and Mental Health

Mindfulness is a meditative practice, a moment-by-moment awareness of what’s happening in our environment and within us in the present moment. By focusing wholly on the present, we avoid obsessing on events in the past or stressing about what might happen in the future.

We all have the ability to be mindful. It doesn’t take great skill or a lot of schooling to master. You can do it anywhere, anytime; at work, at home, or while walking down the street. It does not ask us to change who we are.

Anybody can do it, and there are vast bodies of evidence that suggest that it can help us overcome a lot of issues.

Wherever you go, there you are

Addiction, anxiety, and mental health conditions are things that typically take us away from the present moment. When we are in the throes of one of these disorders, we are consumed with trying to escape the present because it represents discomfort, agitation, and pain.

Paradoxically, by focusing only on the present—on the things you feel within your body and what’s going on around you—it is possible to change how you respond to the discomfort of addiction and mental health issues. Learning how to deal with these feelings can encourage a different way of behaving, too. For example, it may prevent you from reacting impulsively to a stressful situation, helping you trade neutral, non-judgmental thoughts for those that trigger addictive behavior.

This principle is the core of mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient meditation technique that goes back thousands of years. Though it is practiced in many cultures and religions, the type of mindfulness used in addiction and mental health treatment is most closely related to Buddhist practice. In this culture, it is described as “paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

In terms of addiction and mental health, the non-judgmental aspect is key as much of the angst we feel is a direct result of a judgment we have made. Thoughts and sensations themselves do not have judgment attached to them. It’s how you decide to respond to those thoughts that create the judgmental aspect.

If you do not respond to those thoughts, if you choose instead just to notice the sensations without any further acknowledgment, you do not pass judgment. Without judgment, there is no need for anxiety, self-deprecating, or harmful thoughts.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Meditation is used by people from cultures all over the world to bring a sense of peace and calm and to improve various aspects of their lives.

There are meditative aspects in many of the things we do every day, from doing the dishes to enjoying your favorite music. In fact, you may already be practicing mindfulness meditation on some level, even if you don’t realize it.

There are many different types of meditation, but mindfulness meditation places a particular focus on the awareness of oneself and the immediate surroundings.

All types of meditation have a few things in common. In any case, the way you approach it is much the same:

  • Find a quiet, calm environment where you are unlikely to be disturbed
  • Settle yourself in a comfortable position, usually seated
  • Relax your body and mind and release stressful thoughts
  • Use deep breaths to oxygenate your blood

In mindfulness meditation, you are also asked to be fully present and aware of yourself and your surroundings.

You will notice your thoughts, your breath, the temperature of the cool air as it enters your nostrils and the warmth of it as you exhale.

Open your mind to accept thoughts as they come to you.

As thoughts enter your mind, as you feel the sensations on your skin and within your body, you will observe them without judging them. You will accept these thoughts, choosing not to linger on them. Your thoughts are neither good nor bad, right or wrong. They simply are.

During this meditation, you will take inventory of each part of your body and notice how it feels, the sensations as the air passes over it, the pressure of the chair beneath you. You will notice the smells and sounds of what is going on around you and, in many cases, the anxiety and worry that you typically experience will ease.

This is the essence of mindfulness.

Our mind, when left to its own devices, will instantly judge a person or situation as good or bad, fair or unfair, important or unimportant. In many cases, this happens so quickly that our responses are reactive and can sometimes lead us down a dark path.

When we practice mindfulness, we do not allow judgment. We can gain perspective on our thoughts and find the freedom to choose how we proceed.

If the concept of mindfulness meditation is new to you, it might be helpful to start with a guided meditation, like this one:

Mindfulness meditation for mental health conditions and addiction

There is much evidence that mindful meditation can help a range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Mood disorders
  • Insomnia

Though mindfulness may not replace frontline therapies for some of these conditions, it can significantly improve clinical outcomes, reduce symptoms, and help to establish coping behaviors that allow other treatments to work more effectively.

One of the other benefits of mindful meditation is that it doesn’t interfere with other treatments and can actually enhance long-term results. It can be practiced at home, at work, or with your therapist. Once you have learned the techniques, you will be able to apply it to any situation, anytime you need it.

Mindfulness for substance abuse and addiction

In recent years, mindfulness training has been studied extensively as an intervention for addictions and addictive behaviors that include smoking, drinking, and various forms of substance abuse.

The outcomes of these studies show that mindful-based interventions (MBIs) can reduce cravings and substance misuse. Better still, approaches like Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention can also work to prevent relapse in the future. Mindfulness staves off destructive thoughts that have the potential to derail your sobriety.

By focusing on the present moment rather than allowing your mind to obsess over a craving, you will effectively, and immediately deflect your response. Continue to practice, and this could be a sustainable method of achieving your recovery goals.

Getting started with mindful meditation

When learning mindful meditation, you may work with a therapist who can guide you through the process. Whether you pick it up quickly or if it takes some time to feel a level of comfort with the process, the results are immediately noticeable. With patience, perseverance, and commitment, the rewards will come. As you become more comfortable with mindfulness, you can incorporate it into everyday life to reduce stress and help you cope with “slippery” situations.

You can begin practicing mindfulness right away simply by taking notice of where you are, what you are doing, and what’s going on around you. The key is to accept these things without judgment and without becoming overwhelmed. If you need a guide, you can find great guided meditations like the YouTube video above, and there are also great apps and podcasts available.

There’s no need to buy anything, and you don’t need a doctor to show you how. Keep in mind that your mind will wander and attempt to hijack your serenity with judgmental thoughts. When these thoughts arise, just go back to your breath; breathe in, breathe out. Just breathe.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness for addiction and mental health, we would love to help. Reach out today to get started.

Music Therapy: The Rhythm of Healing

Music Therapy: The Rhythm of Healing

The idea of music as a healing force is not new. The ancient Greeks put Apollo, one of their gods, in charge of both music and healing, suggesting that there has long been an understood connection between the two. There are many theories as to why music therapy works. Some studies support the idea that music helps the brain make new connections between nerve cells, and helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. Others look at the rhythms of music and feel that we respond to rhythmic repetition, much like our heart, breathing, and brain waves.

What can music therapy do?

The healing power of music is well-documented. It has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and also to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, autism, schizophrenia, and many other psychological disorders.

Additionally, music therapy has been found to improve motor function, communication skills, emotional stability, and the ability to focus. It is considered to be an evidence-based therapeutic approach to mental health treatment, and there are plenty of mainstream studies to back it up.

For example, according to the American Psychological Institute, music therapy should not be thought of as an “alternative therapy” due to the weight of clinical studies that can back the results. These studies prove that music therapy can help patients in the areas of physical health, emotional health, mental health, and also in a social manner.

How music therapy is applied

Depending on the diagnosis and the approach decided on by your therapist, music therapy might involve singing along to music or simply meditating and relaxing as you listen. Various exercises or movements might be performed with music as the catalyst, supporting outcomes that range from improving self-image to improving memory and physical coordination.

Addiction, Drumming and Recovery: How the Beat Brings Healing

At Roots, music therapy not just something we offer, it is woven into the fiber of our program, with several groups a week tapping into the power of music and healing. David Hickman, a UCLA-trained Music Medicine Facilitator, provides a Drumming for Healing group, in which clients are able to use Native American and African drumming rhythms to communicate internal feelings, and support for the peer group. This extremely powerful group has become one of the cornerstones of our program.

Rock to Recovery, founded by veteran guitarist, Wes Geer, employs song writing, and performing and recording as a “band”, to focus on creating a sense of belonging and increasing self-esteem. “…It was when I was in treatment that I realized how much music could help [me] get through those tough emotions that run so rampant, especially in the early days. Being totally sober and dealing with the bottom I had hit, strumming the guitar was the only thing that would bring me peace,” says Geer. The group of professional musicians, who are also in recovery, brings fun into treatment and recovery by offering a natural escape from the fear-based mind.

Music therapy for pain

Music therapy has also proven helpful in managing pain. In one study, cancer patients were split into two groups; one group received talk therapy while the other received music therapy. In the talk therapy group, there was no noticeable reduction in pain, while the music therapy group showed a “statistically significant reduction” in pain scores.

The findings supported the theory that music therapy is a safe and nonpharmacological alternative to pain reduction, even in cases of severe and chronic pain.

Music therapy for depression and anxiety

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy can help patients with a wide range of psychosocial needs. In cases where patients are resistant to other treatments, it has enabled them to develop relationships, communicate emotions, and express ideas that they may not be able to address with words alone.

The stimulation that music provides tends to provoke responses that stem from familiarity, comfort, and feelings of security associated with the music itself.

Drum circle set up for the Drumming for Healing group with David Hickman.

Other mental health outcomes that have been observed through music therapy include:

  • Improved personal relationships
  • Decrease in anxiety/phobias
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increase in verbalization
  • Better motivation
  • Safe emotional release
  • Reduction in muscle tension

In conclusion, music therapy can be highly beneficial in addressing a range of disorders. It is a safe and evidence-based practice that is effective when integrated into a multidisciplinary approach and supporting other modes of healing therapy like yoga, nutrition, and art therapy.

If you would like to learn more about whether music therapy might be right for you, reach out today to get started.

IOP: The Benefits of Long Term Care in Long Beach

IOP: The Benefits of Long Term Care in Long Beach

An Intensive Outpatient Program, also known as IOP, is indicated for a range of reasons, and recommended as the next step after a medically supervised detox, through recovery and beyond. Finding the right IOP in Long Beach is key to success.

For those of us in recovery, IOP helps to maintain a routine. It allows you to continue your therapies on a schedule that, while intensive, is designed to re-integrate, and accommodate a return to normal life, family, and work. When you attend IOP in Long Beach, you will be living in a sober living, or at home with your loved ones and able to start mending your relationships as you participate in treatment on an outpatient basis.

Keeping your progress on track

When you are in a detox or inpatient program recovering from alcohol or another addiction, you are in a safe place where every doctor, nurse, therapist, and counselor is focused on your recovery. Once you have completed a successful detox, you may remain in inpatient rehab, or you could be discharged from the program.

You’re then left with a decision: continue treatment in an outpatient program in Long Beach, or go home?

Going home, while it sounds like exactly what you want to do, is rife with challenges. Unless you are so far removed from the people, situations, and circumstances that you used in, there is a very good chance that you will relapse. Statistically, for individuals recovering from a detox who do not access follow-up care, only 20 percent will remain sober.

How an IOP helps you stay clean and sober

Maintaining your sobriety will be most difficult in the early days, weeks, and months. Sticking to a routine is essential, as is learning healthy ways to spend your time so you don’t get bored, stressed, or depressed enough to drink or use.

You may feel much better than you did before and directly after detox, but your system and your emotional strength are weakened. In any case, “going it alone” is not recommended. While an IOP in Long Beach won’t take care of all your problems, it will help you stay on track with your recovery and give you a safe, non-judgmental place to continue working on what you started at inpatient, and work through challenges with a supportive team.

What happens in IOP?

IOP programs in Long Beach are like inpatient programs in many ways. You will participate in groups, you will see your therapist and doctor regularly, and you will attend support groups outside of treatment, such as 12-step meetings or SMART Recovery.

There will be one-on-one therapy sessions and group therapy sessions. You will attend educational sessions where you will learn coping techniques, relationship strategies, and work with your case manager to help you address legal, financial or family issues, and help set you up for success as you transition back to your daily routine.

We may also be able to refer you to housing programs or help you get back into school. While in IOP, you will have access to a range of supports that can help you rebuild your life.

Ultimately, the more support you have to help you face the challenges of everyday life, the better chance you have of maintaining your sobriety over the long-term. We want you to succeed, and we will give you all the tools you need to do so.

If you would like to learn more about IOP in Long Beach, reach out today.

Medication Assisted Treatment in Long Beach

Medication Assisted Treatment in Long Beach

Recovery from drug and alcohol dependency is never easy, and no one treatment is going to be appropriate for every patient. For this reason, we take an individual approach to each case to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to immediate needs and designed to bring about the best possible results.

Medication-assisted treatment Long Beach

Medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, is just one of a combination of approaches we use in our Long Beach, California Center. To get past the most challenging stages of detox and recovery from opiates/opioids, benzos, and alcohol addiction, medication is very helpful in providing additional support when needed.

Though we advocate complete abstinence and always work toward that goal, responsible use of medications can make a significant difference in recovery. All medications are strictly controlled, monitored, and administered by our doctors to ensure that it is helping and not contributing to difficulties in other areas of treatment.

As a component of a recovery program, MAT is combined with intensive therapy, behavior-based therapy, group therapy, and family therapy, with the ultimate goal of abstinence as soon as the patient is ready.

Types of medication-assisted therapy

There are several types of medications that have been approved for use in MAT. In determining a course of treatment, we take a whole-person approach to ensure that every aspect of recovery is addressed appropriately.

MAT for opioid and alcohol addiction

Opioid MAT can include drugs such as methadone, suboxone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone, but they all work a little differently.

For example, methadone is a synthetic opioid that has long been used as a frontline intervention in treating opioid addiction. The dose is then gradually tapered until there is no physical dependency. Today, methadone is no longer a preferred therapy in opioid treatment as many patients find it as difficult to stop using it as they do the opiates they were addicted to in the first place.

Suboxone or naltrexone are often preferred in MAT as they relieve the symptoms of withdrawal but do not produce the same euphoria that the patient was getting from the drug of choice. This has been found to reduce the risk of relapse, and it helps the patient take full advantage of the therapy they will receive in recovery. Naltrexone is effective in blocking the sedative and euphoric effects of opioid intoxication. Naltrexone has also been effective in MAT for alcohol dependency.

Suboxone is a combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine. While both of these substances inhibit the “high” addicts experience from opioids and alcohol, they still can cause physical dependency. As a result, it is important for us to monitor their use to be sure they are supporting, rather than hindering, recovery.

Accessing medication-assisted treatment in Long Beach

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, we encourage you to reach out right away. Along with providing comprehensive counseling, individualized therapy programs, and medication-assisted treatment, we are committed to helping you find hope as you regain control of your life.

Reach out today to get started. We are always here to help.

 

Anxiety and the Increase in Benzo Use

Anxiety and the Increase in Benzo Use

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are commonly prescribed to combat anxiety and sleep disorders like insomnia. In the last fifteen years, benzo use has been steadily rising, and along with it have come higher death rates, notably when these drugs are used in combination with opiates or opioids.

One in four people who are prescribed benzodiazepines will abuse them

According to a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 30.5 million American adults use benzodiazepines, representing between four and six percent of the population. Of those, about 17 percent overuse, or take them for uses other than they were intended.

A short-term solution

Generally, benzodiazepines are never recommended for long-term use, and rarely without an adjunct therapy, like psychiatric counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy. If taken as prescribed, and only for a short duration of treatment, they help address issues such as anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. They are also used in conjunction with treatment for alcohol addiction to ease tremors and other symptoms.

Some commonly prescribed benzos include:

  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Serax (oxazepam)

Because they are not as strictly controlled as opioids, they are often easy to obtain from a doctor. However, in about 20 percent of cases that result in benzo abuse, users get them from a friend or family member.

Because they are so effective at relieving anxiety, they can become highly addictive, leading some to look no further for a solution to their problem.

Benzo use is on the rise

As life becomes more hectic, fast-paced, and stress-filled, benzos can become a quick fix that eventually turns into a habit. While many doctors recognize that there are many non-drug interventions that can be more effective over the long term, the fact remains that prescriptions for benzodiazepines have doubled over the past 20 years.

Living in the age of anxiety

Anxiety, panic, and fear are very real in this day and age, and not just to those with a diagnosed mental illness. The pressure to perform at work, to engage in social media, or to over-achieve in school can be enough to drive anybody over the edge.

If an individual is not encouraged to seek an alternative treatment, taking a pill now and then may seem harmless enough. If it helps us cope with the constant barrage of noise we are faced with every day, it might seem like a godsend – at least, at first.

Ironically, the symptoms of benzo overuse are much the same as the symptoms for which they are prescribed. Anxiety, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, weakness – all of these can manifest as a result of benzo withdrawal. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and prolonged withdrawal is not uncommon, sometimes years after the drugs have been discontinued.

Getting help for benzo dependency

Recovering from benzo dependence is not something you should attempt on your own. With the right interventions and treatments, it is possible to put it behind you and take back control of your life – and learn how to cope with your anxiety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a benzo dependency, we can help. Reach out today to get started.

Functional Alcoholism: Is There Such a Thing?

Functional Alcoholism: Is There Such a Thing?

Functioning alcoholic. You may have heard the term before; you may even know one. However, there is a great deal of research—both scientific and anecdotal—that refutes the concept of functional alcoholism.

Let’s look at what we know and talk a little about why functional alcoholism doesn’t exist.

What is ‘functional alcoholism’? And is it any less serious?

We tend to think of an alcoholic as somebody who has lost everything – their spouse, their job, their friends, their savings, all gone. But, many alcoholics still manage to maintain a relatively productive life, both personally and professionally. This makes it very difficult to recognize the disease, not only for the people who care about them but for the alcoholic themselves.

This type of alcoholic often has great relationships with their friends, family, and coworkers. They may excel at their job and feel that they are quite successful. Some may be quite successful, which may lead others to overlook the drinking altogether.

He or she may not even drink every day and may instead binge-drink on the weekends when they have less to be accountable for. They may rationalize their drinking with statements like “I only drink expensive liquor,” or “I just drink wine.” They often feel that their drinking, along with everything else in their lives, is under control, when in truth, they are in deep denial.

In many cases, the alcoholic has people in their lives who help them hide their shortcomings, someone who makes it easy for them to evade the negative consequences of their drinking. These individuals, often close friends, spouses, or family members, are enabling the behavior, allowing it to continue and even supporting the idea that whatever the alcoholic gets up to, there will always be someone there to pick up the pieces.

Know the warning signs

If an individual doesn’t drink every day, if they manage to fulfill their responsibilities, and if they hold a position of power, it’s not easy to tell that there is a problem. However, some behaviors paint a telling picture.

For instance, drinking secretly, drinking alone, or drinking in the morning, using alcohol either as a reward or to mitigate stress or thinking that alcohol is needed to feel at ease. Drinking to the point of blackout, forgetting what’s been done or said while drinking, making excuses for drinking, and denying or hiding drinking – these are all clear signs that the drinking behavior is becoming dangerous.

Like any alcoholic, a high-functioning alcoholic often engages in risky behavior, such as driving drunk, promiscuity, and putting themselves or others in dangerous situations. They are also no less susceptible to chronic and life-threatening diseases related to their alcohol use, such as liver disease, brain damage, neural damage, diabetes, pancreatitis, and some forms of cancer. The risk of dying in a car accident, by murder, or suicide is significantly higher, as is the risk of violence, domestic abuse, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, reach out today. Roots Through Recovery offers many treatment options that can help you get your life back on track.