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Guest Blog: Struggles With Food Addiction

Food Addiction

Struggles With Food Addiction
Written by Lori Fiester, LCSW, BRI II, Director of Treatment Services, Center for Recovering Families at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston

It is the time of year when I hear my clients talk about feeling stressed out due to parties, gifts, meeting expectations, traveling, cooking, eating and other holiday and post-holiday activities.  Most clients are focused on keeping sober but more and more, I see my clients concerned about their eating as they begin to get sobriety underneath their belts.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Pam Peeke present her research about food addiction.  It felt like she was speaking directly to me as she described the pattern of eating that I have worried about in myself and have identified in many of my clients. This pattern she described is the inability to stop eating when full or craving foods that intellectually we know are ‘bad’ for us.  Her recent article in the Fitness Journal,  “Food & Addiction, The Dopamine Made Me Do It,” speaks volumes about the new research from the National Institute on Health (NIH) comparing PET scans of those using cocaine to those using food.  They appear to be the same!  She introduced several new words (to me) that really describe how food has risen to this level of concern: hyperpalatables which are sugary, starchy, fatty, and salty foods; Epigenetics which is the study of genes that help us understand how any environmental cue – person, place or thing – can have an impact on how our genes are expressed.  These two words help me understand why, as a society, we have more issues with obesity and that diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases.  We are eating less whole foods, and more sugary, starchy, fatty and salty foods all the while eating to excess.

There are many diets, food regiments and fads out there that can be confusing to anyone struggling with food.  Even Dr. Peeke has her own plan.  My concern is not just the added weight but also how food can have negative consequences similar to alcohol and drug addiction.  I am grateful for the research and the attention that food addiction is now getting, but we still have a long way to go until we know how to treat food addiction across the board.

If you are struggling with food issues, Houston has many resources to assist.  Yale has a free, on-line food addiction scale that you can access by clicking here to get you started.  There are 12-step support groups focused on food issues: Overeaters Anonymous, Eating Disorder Anonymous and Food Addiction Anonymous.  Many reputable nutritionists understand eating disorders, disordered eating and food addiction. Additionally, a handful of treatment centers focus on eating disorders.  The Center for Recovering Families at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston is beginning an interpersonal psychotherapy group dedicated to those suffering with disordered eating or food addiction issues in late February.  For more information, please call me at 281-200-9382.


What Do Your New Year’s Resolutions Say About You?

2015 Resolutions

What Do Your New Year’s Resolutions Say About You?
Written by Elizabeth Devine, M.Ed., LPC-S, Director of Treatment Services, Austin Recovery

According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 48% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Of those 48%, the study found that 8% achieve their goals and about 49% have “infrequent success.” These are not the best odds, and yet, year after year, we have a feeling THIS year will be different. We make the same list again, perhaps on prettier paper and this time tape it to our bathroom mirror. We hope, dare to believe, that we are now more motivated and that conditions are better for us to get organized, lose that weight and save money. There is something magical about taping the list to the mirror, you know.

However, what if the problem is actually the list? Sometimes what is listed is simply an indicator of a bigger, deeper and more meaningful desire we have for our life. For example, what would losing weight do for you? Is it about going up stairs without getting winded and having more energy, or is it really just about being more attractive? If it is the latter, there is great value in exploring why this attribute is so meaningful. If it comes from a place of low self-worth, you may find yourself on a cabbage soup diet, losing that 10 pounds, but still experiencing feelings of not being good enough. Inevitably you will also grow sick of cabbage.

So, how can we go about changing our intentions for the next year? I’ve created a possible plan, but be forewarned, it is not for the weak.

  1. Make your list, the same way you always have.
  2. Take some time and study each item on your list. Ask yourself, “What am I really trying to achieve with this resolution?” Is it about feeling more connected, more in control, more worthy, more secure?
  3. Talk over some of your insights with people who offer you encouragement and support. We sometimes need feedback and input from those who know and care about us to help us make sense of things. It’s like that mole on your back you just can’t see well. It’s a part of you, but you need someone else to lay eyes on it. Do some real work on identifying what you want out of the next year, and, ultimately, your life. Give yourself permission to not complete your list by January 2nd, maybe you take a month or two (or more) to develop your list.
  4. Cut your list down. Often times our list contains items that all stem from the same motivation. Perhaps you discover that your desire to host more parties, fall in love and spend more time with your family is really about wanting to feel more connected to the people in your life.
  5. Once you’ve identified your new, more meaningful goals create small steps that will contribute to progress (not perfection). For example, if you discover that one of your “real” goals is that you want to connect with your family more, one action item may be that you swear off the use of all technology for a 2-hour block of time every day, a time when everyone is generally together.
  6. Keep your new goals at the forefront of your mind. I actually like the bathroom mirror idea. Do what works for you. Put the list somewhere where you will come across it regularly or perhaps commit to reflect on it each night or in the morning. Journaling is another means for keeping ourselves focused as well as develop a greater understanding of our journey.
  7. Identify a date when you will check in on your progress. Set a reminder for yourself that you will assess how much progress you’ve made on June 1st for example. Give yourself the space to re-assess whether your plan makes sense, edit it and/or renew your commitment.
  8. Practice self-compassion. When we try to make real, deep changes to our life, courage and perseverance are always required. Give yourself room to breathe as you try living in a different way. Continue to ask for help and support. In attempting to be different, you likely will feel pulled back into old ways of being and doing and, in your discomfort, discover things about yourself or your life that may be unpleasant. If it were easy to change, you would have done it already. It is also just as possible that you will discover a more fulfilling way of navigating this life and this could be your best year yet.

Good luck working on your resolutions and may you have a very happy New Year!

If you would like to read more on the study mentioned above, please click here:

Guest Blog Post: Reflections During My First Christmas

We hope you are all having a safe and festive holiday season celebrating with your friends, family, and loved ones! Today on the blog, we commemorate the holidays by sharing the reflections of one of our amazing alumna, Stevie R., who recently graduated the Austin Recovery program and will be celebrating her first sober Christmas. Thank you for sharing, Stevie!

Reflections During My First Christmas

Reflections During My First Christmas
Written by Stevie R.

Christmas time for me this year is the first time in 30 years I will be 100% present. Thanks to Austin Recovery, I have learned a whole new way of living. My grateful list is beyond compare. By learning how to work on just me, God has graced me with blessings beyond my wildest dreams. The healing may have started in Musical Journey where God removed any addiction I had left inside me. I wake up every day happy, with no worries and no despair.

My life has purpose now. Working with others and helping them keeps me grounded and aware of that place I don’t ever want to go again within myself. I used to hate being an addict, but now I am grateful for every lesson learned because it has allowed me to become the person that God has intended to be. Therefore, Christmas for me – especially my first Christmas sober – means being grateful for the family I have at home and my new family in the Austin Recovery Alumni Association because they have given me the people that I need in my life to stay connected in the volunteer work that I do for Austin Recovery.

Thank you to Austin Recovery for giving me my life back. I will always be truly grateful and owe you my life today.

What Is Your Wish This Holiday Season?

 What Is Your Wish This Holiday Season

What is your wish this holiday season? Is it for a loved one to quit drinking? For you to find the resolve you need to stop abusing drugs? Austin Recovery is here to help. Just call 512-697-8600 to speak to our qualified admissions team who can answer your questions and help you or a loved one begin the path to recovery.

Many people have great success in finding sobriety during the holiday season. With help, they come to realize that holiday spirit doesn’t have to come in a bottle. The greatest gift you can give this season is the gift of hope for a brighter future for yourself or a loved one. Austin Recovery can help.

Since 1967, Austin Recovery has assisted families who are adversely affected by drugs and alcohol. We not only treat the individual struggling with addiction but also facilitate the healing of relationships between family, friends and loved ones. Our experienced counselors and staff are well-versed in addiction resources around the state from residential treatment facilities to outpatient programs, and our primary job is to help find the best solution for you and your family.

Don’t wait until after the holidays. Now is the time to ask for the help you or your loved one needs. Just give us a call, and we’ll take it from there.

You know someone who needs us. What are you waiting for?

Guest Blog Post: My Life’s Journey – From Addiction to Motherhood and Sobriety

Today’s blog features Yolanda Ross, Case Manager with the Cradles Program at our sister organization, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, who struggled with addiction in the past and has since come to know recovery as she became a mother and ultimately chose a career path in social services. Especially during the holiday season, her story serves as a wonderful reminder for us to reflect on the difficulties we have all come across in our life and to be grateful for the ways in which we have overcome them. Thank you for sharing, Yolanda!

My Life's Journey

My Life’s Journey: From Addiction to Motherhood and Sobriety
Written by Yolanda Ross, LBSW, LCDC-I

My life’s journey has taught me to believe that anything is possible to achieve. Early in my teenage years, I struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, which nearly destroyed my life. Upon entering my twenties and thirties, I made numerous mistakes that resulted in poor decision-making. During this turbulent time, I soon found myself pregnant for the first time and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. From the moment she came into this world, I knew in my heart of hearts that something was dramatically wrong with my child. It was later confirmed that my child had a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which resulted in her having an intellectual disability. With this devastating revelation, I fell deeper into a world of chaos and insanity.

As my life continued to spiral out of control, I cried out to God to help me and on September 12, 2005, I found serenity at a treatment facility that focused on women who were struggling with issues pertaining to addiction. When I achieved three months of sobriety, I enrolled at Houston Community College at the age of 35 and became a star pupil. At the age of 39, I enrolled at the University of Houston (UH)-Clear Lake campus, and my primary goal was to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in the Social Work Profession with a specific focus on Drug/Alcohol Abuse Counseling, FASD Prevention Specialist and HIV/AIDS Counseling. I envisioned myself contributing to the cause of social and economic justice by empowering individuals through the means of resources on the micro, mezzo and macro levels of their lives. Additionally, I am dedicated to the cause of self-advocacy, which could possibly help clients identify various strengths that will build skills and lead to healthy and productive lives.

I currently work for The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston as a Case Manager where I have the unique opportunity to help women with children achieve sobriety and become better parents. I truly believe that I was predestined to be a part to The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston and to work specifically with women with children. I am also a Peer Trainer in FASD prevention education through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) and FASD Center for Excellence. In May of 2015, I will graduate with my Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Houston.

I have been clean and sober for 9 years and as a mother of a special needs child, a grateful recovering addict, a rising academic star student and a woman of great faith, I can truly say without a shadow of doubt, I am a miracle in progress and that my life’s journey is a testimony in which it is possible to change and achieve success in life.

Guest Blog Post: Yoga & Meditation in Recovery

Yoga and Meditation in Recovery

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.



Guest Blog Post: Holidays and Relationships

Holidays and Relationships

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:

Houston: 713-914-0556
Austin: 512-697-8600

Our Thanksgiving “Attitude of Gratitude”

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.

Gratitude 1 - Common Days Into Thanksgivings


Gratitude 3 - Live By Gratitude


Gratitude 4 - Develop an Attitude of Gratitude


Gratitude 2 - Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

Guest Blog Post: Only Half the Equation

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

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

 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

Jeffrey Tambor on Stage 1 (Smaller)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.”  

LJeffrey Tambor with Luncheon Chairs (Smaller)uncheon 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