Man with Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction: Physical Dependency vs. Binge Drinking

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Many in recovery who identify as having had an alcohol addiction have never found themselves physically addicted to alcohol.  In actuality, alcohol is less physically addictive than many other substances, including nicotine, cocaine, and opiates.  However, partially due to the fact that alcohol consumption is so socially acceptable, alcohol abuse is very common.

Alcohol Dependence

When a person becomes physically dependent on alcohol, an alcohol detox will be necessary to avoid potentially serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  Alcohol is a drug, similar to others which are commonly used for recreation.  It is possible to overdose on alcohol, which happens most often to those who are not alcohol dependent.  Due to low tolerance levels, it’s easy for an alcohol overdose to occur when a young person, like a college student, is engaged in rapid alcohol consumption.  In our experience with clients who have developed an alcohol dependency, this is something that took many years of alcohol abuse and eventually led to morning drinking, and a need to consume alcohol in order to function.  In our work, we more commonly encounter those whose lives have become unmanageable without getting to the point of physical addition to alcohol, though we have worked with both.

Alcoholic Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is often overlooked as the early stages of alcohol use disorder.  Binge drinking is the large consumption of alcohol in a short period of time.  A person is at greater risk of alcohol poisoning when participating in binge drinking.  A person’s alcohol limit is usually exceeded in a short period of time, and this can lead to an alcohol overdose.

Do I have an alcohol problem?

Whether or not a person is physically addicted to alcohol is important from a medical treatment perspective; this will play a role in the alcohol detox stage.  But what is often more important to consider is if you or your loved one has a problem with alcohol.  You don’t have to meet a set of conditions to determine that alcohol is problematic.  If you decide that you have a desire to stop drinking, you’ve already decided that a life a sobriety is going to serve you better.  Incidentally, you’ve also already met the only requirement for AA membership- a desire to stop drinking.  Living without substances isn’t a new concept.  According to the Washington Post, 30% of Americans don’t drink at all.  Another 30% have alcohol consumption that is less than 1 drink per week.  So, if you’re a heavy drinker or alcohol dependent, you’re actually in the minority (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/09/25/think-you-drink-a-lot-this-chart-will-tell-you/).  You don’t need to be in the top 10%, consuming 74 drinks per week, to identify a problem and take action!

At Tharros House, we help guide clients to and through their own path in recovery from Alcohol Addiction and Drug Addiction.  We don’t force concepts like the 12 steps, or specific CBT concepts.  Putting every person through the same process to get the same result doesn’t work.  We allow our clients to make choices within their recovery.  Doing nothing isn’t an option, but there are many paths to finding happiness in a life of recovery and sobriety.  Finding that path is our goal for each and every client.

 

Addiction Treatment on Doctor's Tablet

Addiction Treatment

It’s easy to get confused about addiction treatment, particularly for those who are new to the process.  There are many resources, including addiction counseling, addiction therapy, addiction articles, addiction groups, and addiction centers or recovery centers.  There are 3 main stages to the recovery process, which is a good place to start.

Addiction Treatment Stages

Addiction treatment can be broadly categorized in 3 different stages: Detox, inpatient or residential treatment, and aftercare or continuing care.

Detox is the process of freeing the body from the substance and physical addiction.  In most cases, it’s highly recommended to have a medically supervised detox, which means that you’re entering a detox center.  Depending upon the drug and individual’s use history, this process can range from 3 days to a week, or longer.  While some detox centers will introduce some information about recovery, their primary purpose is to detoxify the body, not to treat addiction behavior.

Inpatient or residential treatment is what people commonly refer to as a treatment center or addiction rehab.  Some centers are in hospitals (inpatient) while others are in a residential environment (residential).  Both require patients to stay overnight at the facility and treatment programs range usually from 2 weeks to 3 months, or more.  During this period, patients undergo various forms of therapeutic intervention which can include both individual and group therapies.  The goal is to provide the patient with a foundation of recovery knowledge so that they may continue the process after this initial treatment period.

Aftercare or continuing care is what happens after leaving an overnight program.  This may include some form of structured transitional living (sober living), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), individual therapy, group therapy, and recovery fellowships like AA or NA.  Essentially, aftercare includes everything you do after you leave the treatment center in order to continue your recovery work.

Addiction Services

When someone goes into a treatment facility, they are provided a number of treatment services.  After leaving this intensive treatment environment, it’s important to connect with local services where he or she can continue recovery while transitioning to a sober lifestyle.  Many treatment centers will help find these resource, which are geared to help prevent addiction relapse.

Sober Living is an Addiction Recovery Residence

A sober living, sober house, or recovery residence, is a place designed to provide a safe and supportive community while transitioning from a treatment center.  While many sober living environments accept a multitude of clients with various recovery experiences, most high standard homes will require that every client has undergone some form of primary treatment for addiction.  These homes are designed to provide support and there is a broad spectrum to what they offer.  At Tharros House in Lexington, we offer a highly supportive and structured environment where clients attend morning meetings, participate in sober activities, group equine therapy, and learn life skills through events like our cooking classes.  Tharros House also offers case management to ensure that each client is connected with excellent addiction services and support programs.

Where should I start

At Tharros House, I get many calls from family members of those in an active addiction.  While they are looking to us for their solution, we don’t provide the services that are offered in the first two stages, detox and inpatient or residential treatment.   There are many great treatment centers throughout the United States, many of which cater to a particular kind of client or form of treatment.  Some are 12 step based, others use alternative treatment modalities.

While we are not affiliated with any addiction treatment program, below are some which we recommend for detox and/or addiction treatment.  Please give us a call if you have questions about Tharros House or where to start.  We will be happy to share some resources which may helpful for your particular situation.   You can reach Tharros House at 617-697-1218.

Serenity at Summit (Haverhill, MA)

McLean Fernside (Princeton, MA) and Borden Cottage (Camden, Maine)

McLean Hospital (Belmont MA)

Mountainside Treatment Center (Cannan, CT)

Spring Hill by Sunspire Health (Ashby, MA)

New England Recovery Center (Marlboro, MA)

 

Step by step of getting sober

Getting Sober

I’ve been asked many times; what is the key to getting sober? Here is what I’ve found through my own journey, and working with others in recovery: Getting sober and staying sober works when you find your own path. There is no magic program, key piece of information, or miracle exercise. The events in my life that lead me to use alcohol and drugs to escape are different from your events. While there are probably many similarities in our thinking, the exact way that I got sober probably isn’t going to work for you, and that’s okay. Your path is the way you heal.

Getting Clean is Just the Beginning

Getting off alcohol or drugs is just the first step in recovery. Abstaining from using is critical to do before you can start recovery. You can’t face your feelings and think clearly when you’re using. Going to meetings drunk or high may feel like you’re moving the right direction, but until someone makes the commitment to put the substances down and work on recovery, it’s unlikely that they will have success. However, once the substances have been removed for even a few days, real recovery can start. This is where treatment centers, sober livings, fellowships, and other supports become important. In the beginning, I needed a lot of help getting up in the morning, getting into new activities, and getting active in my recovery. Getting off drugs was just the beginning.

Getting Unstuck

After I put down the substances, I felt stuck. I started connecting to feelings that I hadn’t “felt” in a long time, and I didn’t have a choice but to face them without my drugs to escape. Getting unstuck meant getting healthy. Getting healthy meant finding my path to recovery, something I didn’t really understand when I started to do it.
In my experience, there is a core belief that almost everyone must face when getting back on the wagon. That belief is that they are not good enough, or don’t measure up; that there is something fundamentally wrong with who they are. This is tied closely with feelings of shame and guilt, something that most of us feel in abundance when getting sober. Challenging that belief, and ultimately changing that belief, was a critical piece in my recovery, and I’ve seen that to be true with many others. The path to do that can include step work, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and many other forms of intervention. It starts with understanding the difference between guilt and shame and addressing each appropriately. Then it takes sober time, as we must see and feel evidence that supports our alternate belief.
Getting sober is rarely something that is successful when we try to do it alone. That’s why fellowship and support are so critical. Being alone is something that many of us got used to when we were actively addicted. It became comfortable, in a miserable kind of way. Recovery is done with others, and that can be scary for many who are getting help for addiction.
At Tharros House Structured Sober Living in Massachusetts, clients have the best success when they are exposed to many ideas and given the power to choose their own path to recovery. I believe that you need to identify what is meaningful for you in order to direct your own recovery. To learn more about this approach, please visit www.TharrosHouse.com

Living a Sober Life in Massachusetts

A Sober Life Can Be A Very Happy Life

Living a Sober Life is not a death sentence

I hear many newcomers to sobriety express fears that living a sober life means that the fun and joy in their lives is now going to become a thing of the past.  While most will quickly admit that the “fun” was short lived, soon leading to some brand of misery, it’s not uncommon to feel like we’re going to lose much of what we termed “fun” in early sobriety.  In my experience, and for most who I’ve seen embrace recovery, life just started to get fun when I found my path to recovery.

In the past week, clients of our Sober Living in Lexington MA, Tharros House, have been rock climbing, hiking in the blue mountains, bowling, grilling some great steaks and seafood, learning to cook their own pizza’s, and much more.  But it’s not just the activity that is the fun, it’s the community and fellowship that is often at the center of a good time in sobriety.  Imagine that you get to have fun feeling completely comfortable and accepted for who you are, without having to adjust your mood or behavior with a substance!

Sober Events

I recently heard someone who was having great difficulty with the idea that they would get married one day and that they would not be able to participate in their own wedding reception.  What a reminder this was to me about the fears that my life was going to slip away while I changed into a boring, sober man.  Nothing could have been further from the truth!  Attending and hosting events, parties, and dinners is not a thing of the past.  You get to choose what you want in your sober life.  You are the designer of your life, and in my experience, what I found that I enjoyed wasn’t what I had been doing for so many years!  An event like a wedding can seem like it will be very different without the champagne toast; it is different: you find a different glass to use for the toast, and you gain the ability to engage with others, remember your conversations, and act the way you want to act.  Imagine waking up the day after your wedding and being able to hold your head high when seeing your guests at breakfast or brunch!

Sober and Single

Another common fear that I hear is regarding relationships.  So many of us used substances to help reduce the anxiety around our relationships.  I’ve been asked: How can I date someone if I’m sober?  The secret for me was first learning to become comfortable with who I am.  Dating, while often desired in early recovery, is usually best approached after some period of real recovery foundation.  I’ve seen many people with 6 months to a year of sobriety engage in successful relationships which offered them more than they ever thought possible.  The first several months in recovery are often an opportunity to learn more about who we really are.  With those who have taken the opportunity to be single while living sober for the first year, I’ve seen the best relationships show up.  In my experience, relationships got far better in sobriety.  Women respected me more when I had learned about myself and committed to my sober lifestyle.

Sober Recovery

Whatever your fears about a sober life, remember that the process of recovery is much more than learning how to live substance free.  Recovery is an awakening to who you are.  You get to live a life you design and while changing beliefs and behaviors isn’t easy, the rewards are far greater than I imagined they could be.

If you’re curious about the kinds of activities that you might be interested in doing when living a sober life, we suggest taking a look at Phoenix Multisport, a great organization for those choosing a sober lifestyle.   See what’s happening with Phoenix in  the Boston area here: http://www.phoenixmultisport.org/index.php?&chapter_id=57

Recovery House Covered by Sober Hands

Halfway House vs. Sober Living

What should I be looking for when I search for a halfway house near me?

There are many terms for what are generally classified as “recovery residences”. NARR (The National Alliance for Recovery Residences) defines a recovery residence as a “sober, safe, and healthy living environment that promotes recovery from alcohol and other drug use and associated problems”. However, the use of terms like “ sober house ”, “ sober living ”, and “ halfway house ” can easily cause confusion when someone is looking for a supportive community.

Halfway Questions

The term “Half-way House” is defined by Miriam Webster as “a place where people who have recently left a prison, mental hospital, etc., can live until they are considered ready to live by themselves”. There is an undeniable stigma associated with “ Halfway Homes ”. While the meanings change from one geographic area to another, in general, many people associate halfway support with criminal or severe mental health problems.

Sober Living

Many recovery residence operators are now moving toward terms like “sober living” and “sober house” in an effort to remove any association with the halfway meaning. However, some areas still utilize these terms interchangeably.
In general, I’ve observed that the term “sober living” is more focused on recovery from addiction rather than criminal or mental health issues. While those who are in recovery may have wreckage from their past, which can include criminal activity, this is not the primary purpose for their participation in the recovery residence. As a result, the stigma associated with sober living is far less.
If you’ve been through treatment and you’re now looking for support to help you solidify your recovery foundation, you will usually have more success by looking at recovery residences that are identified as sober livings. That said, there are no set standards, nor requirements, for someone to call their home a sober living. As a result, it’s critically important to ask many questions of any kind of recovery housing option.
Beyond the differences in amenities, there are critical differences in approach (i.e. 12 step/non 12-step), structure, and support services. Some homes will provide support through a single house manager who uses tools like urine analysis and a breathalyzer to maintain accountability. Other programs offer significantly more in the form of peer to peer support, clinical components (licensed therapy), 24/7 staff, transportation, meals, etc. As there are a wide variety of programs, there are also wide ranges in cost. Costs can range from $100 per week to 10’s of thousands per month.

Halfway Recovery

It’s common to think that residential treatment is the biggest priority for addiction recovery. While treatment is important, maintaining a sober lifestyle after treatment can be very difficult without the right kind of help. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to addiction. A program for 30 days, in and of itself, is not going to create sustainable sobriety and a life of recovery. After treatment, you’re halfway there. Recovery includes learning how to manage emotions and difficult situations without reaching out for an escape; that takes time, and usually guidance.

Tharros House Sober Living

At Tharros House, we combine community and aftercare with a focus on cultivating a life that you want to live in sobriety. Learning to leave the drink or drug behind is great. But if you don’t develop a life that you want to live sober, it will be challenging to find happiness and real recovery. In addition to a high standards home, Tharros House provides 24/7 support, life skills lessons, equine therapy, and detailed case management with peer to peer support for each of our 9 clients. Learn more and start developing the life you want to live.
Visit www.TharrosHouse.com