Yoga & Meditation in Recovery
By Dominique Sieglaff, E-RYT 200
In my late teens and early 20s I was struggling. I suffered from anxiety, depression, and the powerful disease of addiction. I gratefully managed to get sober through the 12 Step Program of AA, which gave me a critical foundation for learning how to live sober, and my life improved dramatically. Once the fog of alcohol and drugs cleared, I realized just how deep my feelings of dis-ease ran. Even though I was going to meetings and working the 12 Steps with a sponsor, there were still some emotional and mental issues which for me, the Program really did not address. So I went on a quest. I started reading every self-help book, philosophy book and spiritual book I could get my hands on and stumbled across Eastern philosophy, which included meditation and yoga. These ideas made a lot of sense to me. I wasn’t asked to believe them outright, but instead, much like the 12 Steps; to try these practices, investigate and experience what was true for me. The wisdom of Insight Meditation and Hatha Yoga have greatly enhanced my recovery; and helped me to move from simply living a sober life, to thriving in sobriety.
In his book Recovery 2.0, Tommy Rosen speaks to this point: “If you ask most people in recovery why they stay sober, they will tell you they do so because they have to. Others will say they will die if they don’t. Still others will tell you they aren’t scared of dying as much as living through the pain of addiction… It is very rare to find a person in recovery who can look into their heart and tell you, ‘I stay sober because I want to. I have found true recovery, and I love my life as a sober person. I prefer this state of being to using drugs and alcohol… ‘. That person is rare indeed… If recovery works, you will get an opportunity to build a life so rich that you wouldn’t choose to go back even if you could somehow get away with it.”
There is a lot of medical research now showing how beneficial mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga are for people with the disease of addiction, as well as anxiety and depression, which often go hand in hand with addiction. These practices, strengthen our entire physiological system, reduce stress, elevate mood, settle the mind, and create an overall feeling of well being. I know these ancient practices have changed my life, and brought a tremendous amount of peace, joy and richness to my sobriety.
If you are interested in learning more about using yoga and meditation in your life, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, sister organization to Austin Recovery, offers weekly yoga classes including a “Slow Stretch Yoga for Addiction Recovery Class.” The Council will also be hosting “Compassionate Hearts Yoga & Meditation Retreat” on Sunday, January 25, 2015. For more information, please visit The Council’s events and workshops website by clicking here.
Holidays and Relationships
Written by Lauren Boe, LCSW, Therapist & Coordinator of Treatment Services at the Center for Recovering Families at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston
Now that it’s December, we are thoroughly in the midst of the holiday season – a time associated with parties, family gatherings, and an overall sense of togetherness. For many, it is a time that is eagerly awaited, a time when the love for special people is felt especially strongly and the desire to be around those people is tangible. But what about those who struggle in relationships? What about those who tend to isolate despite a longing to be connected? Or those whose relationships are characterized by conflict that makes spending time together challenging?
I am reminded of the movie Home Alone. Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin, is walking alone in the snow on the night of Christmas Eve and he stops outside a home filled with a laughing, loving family chatting and embracing. He is an outside observer of the merriment inside. Although this is a fictional scenario, the experience may feel familiar if you struggle with the ability to feel truly close to others, even if you have loving family and friends. Holiday festivities can be poignant reminders of feeling on the outside, of being disconnected.
How then can you transition from being an outside observer to being fully present and connected to the important people in your life? Maybe you don’t know how to have intimate, authentic relationships. If only it were as simple as stepping inside from the cold into the warmth of home.
Sometimes, our own best efforts aren’t enough to overcome the challenges that arise and some extra help may be needed. Interpersonal process groups are well-suited to helping individuals work through relationship difficulties.
Everywhere we go, we bring a set of interpersonal dynamics with us. For example, if you avoid conflict with your family, you likely avoid conflict with your friends and maybe even with your coworkers. Of course our interactions vary depending on who we are with and the setting, but the likelihood is that eventually that same dynamic of avoidance will pop up at some point.
So, if we bring these dynamics with us to the majority of our relationships, those dynamics will also be brought into group. The benefit of an interpersonal process group lies in the illumination of what those particular dynamics are for you and in the creation of a space to explore whether those ways of interacting are working in your favor or not. Returning to the example of conflict avoidance, if that is a pattern that fits for you, an interpersonal process group provides a place to practice addressing conflict in a safe environment where you are encouraged to take risks and try new ways of interacting.
The holiday season may be a time of year when we think more about relationships, or lack of relationships, with family and friends but the Center for Recovering Families is available year-round with opportunities for participation in interpersonal process groups. If you can relate to Kevin’s experience of being an outsider looking in or you’re motivated to work on the nature of your relationships, please give us a call to find out more about the options available to you.
For information on the Center for Recovering Families, please call:
Happy Thanksgiving! In the world of recovery, we know how important it is to have an “attitude of gratitude.” November and Thanksgiving are always such great reminders to be grateful for what we do have, rather than resentful of the things we don’t. What a beautiful thing.
The practice of thankfulness can open a door inside your soul which allows light in to chase away feelings of anger, grief, fear, envy and hatred. It is no secret that being grateful, thankful, and appreciative coincides with better mental and physical health and help alleviate symptoms of depression.
Today in particular, we would like to share our gratitude for you: our Alumni and their families, our partners, our supporters, and our staff. Together we do make a difference in our community, one life at a time. We could not each do it alone, and for your part in this circle of recovery and healing, we are grateful. Especially to those who chose to surrender your powerlessness and begin your healing journey with us, we are grateful.
So please, take a moment to consider the meaning of being “thankful” this Thanksgiving and appreciating all of the wonderful things you have in your life and enjoy your many blessings. Feel free to share these images of some of our favorite quotes about gratitude on your Facebook or Pinterest profiles! Let’s spread the gratitude.
Dr. Crystal Collier with our sister organization, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, discusses how the combination of reducing high-risk behavior, providing information about how harmful drugs and alcohol are on the body, and targeting executive functioning skills development is the best way to treat adolescent substance use issues in today’s blog.
Only Half the Equation
Written by Crystal Collier, PhD, LPC-S, Director of the Behavioral Health Institute at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston
Reducing high-risk behavior is only half of the equation when treating adolescent and young adult substance use issues. Interventions that aim to reduce high-risk behavior in youth must include standardized drug testing and information regarding the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs while simultaneously targeting executive functioning skills development. Research shows that adolescents enjoy learning didactic information about the damaging effects of substances but even when this information is delivered by the most dynamic therapist, this intervention alone fails to change their behavior.
No, the reason is not because they are as dumb as a box of bricks as some parents have expressed! Most adolescents and many young adults just do not possess the executive functioning to control their impulses when faced with a tempting situation. Executive functioning is a broad term used to describe the abilities performed by the prefrontal cortex, a part of the human brain not fully developed until age 25. The average 16 year old in the U.S. holds roughly 50% of the adult’s capacity to act in a psychosocially mature manner. Thus, developmental science tells us that parents have scientific justification to serve as their adolescent’s frontal lobe until they have one of their own. This developmental sequence also helps indicate how much control to exert over their lives and how much freedom to allow them to earn.
Just because the average American 16 year old has 50% frontal lobe growth, this does not mean that it has to be that way. While their brain is percolating, parents, clinicians, and teachers have the ability to increase executive functioning on a daily basis! The rate at which the prefrontal cortex creates new connections for executive functioning skills can be increased. The underlying process that governs the growth of neuronal connections is the ‘use it or lose’ principle. The more our youth engaged in skills like problem-solving, decision-making, and impulse control, the longer the chains neurons that correspond to these skills grow within the frontal lobe. If they are not using those neurons, they may be in danger of being pruned away. In their place, long strings of neurons may form for dependency instead.
The scientific literature regarding high-risk behavior prevention reflects that when youth delay drug and alcohol use until age 21, they are likely to never have a problem with addiction during their lifetime. More encouraging, those youth who have a genetic predisposition to addiction delay use until age 21 are 40% less likely to deal with addiction issues as adults. We believe the reason is because they allowed their brains to mature, creating long strings of complex prefrontal cortex connections for executive functioning. This science forms the basis for all of our treatment programs and parent coaching education. Increasing positive reinforcement for executive functioning skills sets the stage for the kind of skills building our youth need when faced with touch decisions regarding a variety of high-risk behavior.
Hollywood Veteran Jeffrey Tambor Helps Raise over $400,000 for Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Houston
The Actor Spoke at Annual Benefit for The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston
Actor and Hollywood veteran Jeffrey Tambor shared his personal story of recovery from alcoholism to a crowd of over 800 on Friday, on November 7, 2014 at Hilton Americas-Houston for The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series’ Annual Fall Luncheon. The luncheon, co-chaired by Christi and Dean Quinn and Andrea and Andrew Steptowe, raised over $400,000 for The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston.
Tambor, who has been performing on film, television and stage since the 1970’s (including playing memorable characters on The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development) considers his greatest honor to be his accomplishments in his recovery. “This disease, there is a misunderstanding, a mishandling, a stigma and phobia. There are lives at stake,” Tambor shared during Friday’s luncheon. “Alcoholism affects lives, not only the alcoholic’s, but the wives, children,” Tambor continued. “This is about saving lives, saving spirits.”
“Jeffrey Tambor shed light on the realities of the effects of alcoholism on the whole family system,” said Mel Taylor, President and CEO, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. “We are so grateful when celebrities like him open up to help bring this disease out of the closet, and show our community that recovery is attainable.”
Luncheon guests included longtime news anchor Minerva Perez as Mistress of Ceremonies, Jerri and Jim Moore, Beth Robertson, Marc Melcher and Anne Schlumberger, Kathy McGovern, Tom Brown of the Hamill Foundation, Rachel and Jeff Bagwell, Jennifer and Joel Moore, Rhonda and Jeff Miller, Bernice and Pat Houstoun, and Brad Lindig. Series Benefactor June Waggoner was also present.
The Council directly touches over 80,000 lives each year through prevention, in-school counseling for teens, outpatient substance abuse treatment for adults, resources for children and family, and more. The annual Fall Luncheon raises financial resources in support of The Council’s commitment to provide best-in-class services for both addiction and mental health disorders while turning no one away. For more information, visit www.Council-Houston.org.
Gateway to Recovery - November 5 & 12, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Gateway to Recovery series provides information on how to detect addiction and what friends and families can do to help those needing treatment. This information series is free and often the first step in helping people find treatment and begin the healing process. Facilitated by Mary Boone, LCSW, LCDC, Gateway to Recovery is held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first and second Wednesday of each month at Austin Recovery’s Center for Recovering Families office (3420 Executive Center Drive, Suite G100, Austin, Texas 78731).* Click here for more information. *Note New Location!*
UT School of Social Work Presentation at Austin Recovery – November 7, 9 a.m. to 12 noon
“Third Stage Recovery: A Transpersonal Approach to the Healing of Addiction” presented by Jacquelyn Small, LMSW
Jacquelyn Small will discuss a paradigm of addiction recovery that describes its first, second, and third stages, and defines the true Self as both an ego personality and a soul. She will offer 12 principles of this psycho-spiritual approach and ways to embody them in one’s life. Participants will be able to describe the basic principles of holistic psychology, utilize the healing process as it develops using this approach, and define the concept of the sub-personality. 3 CEUs available. Click here to RSVP. Presentation is held at Austin Recovery (4201 S. Congress Avenue, Suite 202, Austin, TX 78745).* Click here for more information. *Note New Location!*
Second Saturday Workshop - November 8, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
“Nutrition and Recovery: Deficiencies in Excess” presented by Noel Nelson, BA, MNT
Nutrient deficiencies associated with addiction have a major negative effect on your client’s overall health and their individual recovery process. Nutritional support within the field of addiction is essential. It can decrease cravings, relieve anxiety, and reduce relapse. Looking at nutrients as building blocks for physical and mental well-being can highlight the multitude of pathways that are affected by what we choose to eat. Come see how your client’s ability to make incremental lifestyle changes every day may be enhanced by establishing a new relationship with food. Two hours of continuing education credits are offered to chemical dependency professionals with LCDC, ADC, LMFT, LCSW and LMSW certifications as approved by DSHS and TCBAP. Second Saturday is held at Austin Recovery (4201 S. Congress Avenue, Suite 202, Austin, TX 78745).* Click here for more information. *Note New Location!*
UT School of Social Work Presentation at Austin Recovery – November 21, 9 a.m. to 12 noon
“Medications With a Role in Treatment of Substance Use Disorders” presented by Reid Minot, MSN, APRN
This workshop will include a review of the medications used in detoxification from addictive medications, and those medications that can be used to decrease relapse from recovery. The speaker will address the advantages and drawbacks of the individual medications. He will also examine the role of co-occurring psychiatric disorders in blocking recovery, and the ways that treatment of mental health disorders may be coordinated with substance recovery. Participants will be able to: identify medications used in treatment of addiction to alcohol, narcotics, stimulants, sedatives, nicotine, cannabis, and other abusable drugs; discuss risks and benefits of the individual medications; recognize common patterns in which mental health disorders may undermine recovery from substance use disorders, and effective interventions to address these patterns. 3 CEUs available. Click here to RSVP. Presentation is held at Austin Recovery (4201 S. Congress Avenue, Suite 202, Austin, TX 78745).* Click here for more information. *Note New Location!*
Austin Recovery Alumni Events
Join the Austin Recovery Alumni for fun events and fellowship throughout the week. Events include Sunday Night Alumni Speaker Meetings, Big Book study groups, Musical Journey, skating, hikes around Lady Bird Lake, drum circles, bowling nights, game nights, evenings at the coffee shop and more. For more information, contact Austin Recovery Alumni Services Coordinator Cary Acevedo at 512-697-8513 or click on the Alumni events link on www.AustinRecovery.org.
Volunteer Opportunities at Austin Recovery
Austin Recovery is always looking for volunteers to provide additional support to our clients in residential addiction treatment in the following areas: financial planning, parenting skills, healthy relationships, job readiness/ interviewing skills, stress management, anger management, self-esteem and abuse issues. We also need volunteers for clerical work, yoga, arts and crafts, dance, spa days (pedicures, manicures, hairstyling), recreation and weightlifting. If you are interested or have questions, please contact Austin Recovery Director of Volunteer Services Erika Hagler at 512-697-8537 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cradles Project at our sister organization, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, focuses on the physical and mental well-being of pregnant women and new mothers who may have struggled with substance abuse in the past or present. The Cradles Project provides case management services, parenting resources, and social activities for these women who are ready to begin their road to recovery and become better mothers to their babies. Today, one of the Cradles team members shares what a typical day may look like in her job as a caseworker, and reflects on some of the life lessons she has learned through her clients. She has asked to remain anonymous to help further protect the women she works with.
A Day in the Life of A Cradles Case Manager
As I prepare to leave my office, I perform one final check. I look at the order of clients to visit today and confirm I have their correct home addresses, make sure I have new intake packets, and collect any materials they may need on parenting, domestic violence, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and referral information.
My route on any given day may take me anywhere around Houston – most of my clients do not live close to the office. It can be interesting to drive around and see all the different neighborhoods we have in the city; however traffic in Houston is always an issue!
I never know what I am going to find during a home visit. My clients come from very different backgrounds and ethnicities, have a wide variety of life experiences, and span many different age groups. I have seen teen mothers of fourteen or fifteen all the way up to women in their late thirties or early forties whose baby might their third or fourth child. The women themselves range from naïve and trusting to those who have experienced tremendous trauma and are going to be suspicious of anyone who does not look like them. The question is: How do I engage them?
It will take some time and I always have to be very careful and respectful of their needs. I have learned from my experience not to make assumptions or go in with a preconceived idea of what it is they need or have gone through. I always thought I was very open-minded, however, I have found myself in situations where my clients sharing their lives with me has taught me humility and shown me that I still have a lot to learn.
As I reflect back on the clients I have worked with, there are a few that have impacted me as much as, if not more, then I have impacted them. I always remember the young woman who I thought needed to go back to school to improve her skills and get a better job. She sat there quietly while I reviewed all the information I had gathered for her, and when I was done, she quietly asked me if I could help her fill out her child’s school paperwork. Her focus and priority was on getting her daughter taken care of first, and then potentially to think about what she might need to do for herself.
Another client I came to know worked harder than any client I have ever met, and will stay with me forever. She struggled with several health issues, some fairly significant. Throughout my time with her, she sometimes needed extra support, time, or a different path to achieve her goals. She never let her disabilities stop her, and always approached our work together with an “I will overcome” attitude. She struggled to ask for help, and over time we developed a relationship that allowed us to work together to help access the resources and support she needed to become successful.
Over the many years I have been doing this work, I have seen women become empowered, learn to trust, sometimes relapse, enter recovery, and maintain sobriety. But most of all, I have seen women grow and been witness to their incredible strength and resiliency. Every day as I work with these women, I am reminded of Marion Woodman’s “The Ravaged Bridegroom” quote:
“We have to learn to connect with the primal wisdom that assures us that we are loved, that life is our birthright, that we need not prove ourselves or justify our existence.”
(1990, p. 32)
Today, a couple whose daughter went through our program at Austin Recovery would like to share a bit of their insight about the journey from the point of view of the parents of an addict.
From a Parent’s Perspective
What an educational, tearful, joyous, painful, hopeful, and inspiring journey treatment for addiction has been…and that’s from the parents of the addict! We can’t believe what it must look like from the eyes of the addict. We stand in awe of so many accomplishments by so many.
It has been a long journey for us. From not understanding the disease, through Al-anon to help us understand ourselves, to becoming a part of the Austin Recovery family, all in support of someone so dear to us and for whom we spent so many nights wishing we could take her pain and struggle away or trade places (which we have learned is not possible!) Again, we stand in awe of our daughter’s work, accomplishments, and Program relationships that have been the foundation of success for her.
What we have learned is that success in addiction recovery is not possible without the “want to,” hard work, and commitment of the addict to embrace the Program; without the support of the Austin Recovery “family” of tireless efforts by Austin Recovery personnel and sponsors; and by the grace of the “higher power” for all of us.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is promised to no one. We will always embrace an attitude of gratitude and treasure what today brings, and be grateful each and every day for the Austin Recovery program and family!
A week ago, 225 of us gathered at Riverbend Church for the Friends of Austin Recovery Annual Fall Luncheon. This luncheon is an annual gathering of Austin Recovery supporters and friends for a speaker presentation, while raising funds for Austin Recovery.
Jack Daniel, Board Chair of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, welcomed the crowd before introducing Mel Taylor. Mel Taylor, President and CEO of Austin Recovery and The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, shared agency updates from the past year, as well as exciting news about the year to come. Mel had the honor of introducing our special guest speaker, author, professors, and thought-leader Hamilton Beazley, Ph.D.
Hamilton, who has been involved with both Austin Recovery and The Council for years, is the current Austin Recovery Chairman of the Board. The crowd was moved and inspired as Hamilton shared his story.
After Hamilton’s speech, immediate past Board Chair Patti Halladay continued our tradition of honoring long-time supporter (and former Board member) Edith Royal with a bouquet of flowers. Patti then announced Steve Hicks as the recipient of our annual Edith Royal Service Award. Steve has also been a long-time supporter of Austin Recovery, currently serving on the Board of Trustees. Steve helped co-chair our successful Capital Campaign, and his family’s support enabled us to name our Hicks Family Ranch in their honor.
We are looking forward to our annual Speaker Series Luncheon at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater in May 2015!
Hollywood Veteran Jeffrey Tambor to Raise Awareness about Mental Health and Alcoholism at Houston Benefit
The actor will share his personal story at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston’s Annual Fall Luncheon
On Friday, November 7, actor Jeffrey Tambor will tell his personal story of recovery from alcoholism and a family history of mental health issues at The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series’ 2014 Fall Luncheon to benefit The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. Co-chaired by Christi and Dean Quinn and Andrea and Andrew Steptowe, the event will once again take place at the Hilton Americas-Houston.
Jeffrey Tambor can best be described as a Hollywood veteran, performing on film, television and stage since the 1970’s. While Jeffrey may be most recognizable for his recent television accomplishments including his memorable characters on The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development, he considers his greatest honor to be his accomplishments in his recovery. Growing up in a family with a pattern of mental health issues, Jeffrey not only had to overcome his personal struggles, but also had to watch as the disease of alcoholism claimed the life of his older brother. For Jeffrey, managing his recovery is a never-ending journey, one that can become bearable only with the love, support, and inspiration of others.
“We are fortunate when someone like Jeffrey Tambor opens up about the realities – and tragedies – that go along with co-occurring mental health issues and alcoholism,” said Mel Taylor, President and CEO of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. “The more we talk about it, the more we can reduce the stigma, which will empower more people to seek the help they need for themselves and their loved ones.”
According to a 2009 national study by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 8.9 million adults suffer from both a mental health and substance use disorder. When both the mental health and substance abuse conditions are treated at the same time, outcomes are improved. The Council provides individualized treatment services to every member of the family affected by addiction and other compulsive behaviors in order to address their co-occurring disorders.
Through counseling services and outpatient treatment as well as prevention and education programs, The Council impacts the lives of over 80,000 every year. The annual Fall Luncheon raises financial resources in support of The Council’s commitment to provide best-in-class services for both addiction and mental health disorders while turning no one away. Tables and seats are currently available for purchase at www.Council-Houston.org.