Whisper of Hope

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How do we look at our current situation and see hope? How can hope propel us forward?  When we talk about recovery we are really talking about hope.  We feel like our situation is hopeless, but something tells us it can be better.  We are miserable, depressed, fearful and ashamed, but somehow we grasp onto some little thing that moves us forward and tells us there is something else out there. 

Hope is described as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”.  When we are at our lowest point, this feeling can be faint, barely perceptible and fleeting at best.  We look around and all we see is pain.  Sometimes hope can come in the form of another person, even an unwitting person.  It can be as simple as a smile or a kind word.  It could just be someone who comes along side us and just listens to us.  Maybe it’s a friend we haven’t seen in a while who gives us a hug and says, “Nice to see you!” 

Hope also can come from within us.  It’s that brief moment of clarity that whispers quietly to us and tells us maybe it can be different this time.  It’s not usually loud, no it’s quite the opposite.  During our hopelessness, we get a scampering thought that there is something better in store for us.  It can be drowned out by our fear, insecurity and shame as quickly as it appears.  We remember all the other thoughts of hope we had and how nothing changed.  How we are still the same person, in the same life, with the same problems as we always have been.  How can one feeling of hope make a difference?  How will it be different this time? 

No matter where it comes from, hope is a gift. It’s a life preserver thrown our way when we least expect it.  It’s a flicker of light that fights its way through the darkness to be the spark that ignites wonderful changes in our life.  Just because things haven’t worked out before doesn’t mean they can’t.  Tomorrow doesn’t have to be the same as yesterday.  We can choose to focus on that glimmer of hope we get instead of the thousand negative thoughts that fight it off.  We don’t have to make dramatic strides or heroic movements.  A simple choice to listen, even for a moment, to that quiet, hopeful whisper can make a difference.  Just a few precious seconds away from the drumbeat of negativity in our mind can move us forward.  If the critic in our head can be silenced even for a moment, it can make a difference.  It’s a gift, those subtle moments of peace that flutter by. 

That’s what hope can do.  It can take us just one more step.  It can move us ever so slightly toward a miracle in our lives.  We want the big change, the burning bush, the dramatic rescue.  Maybe we will get that, but we can’t miss the gift of that faint whisper of hope.  Listen to it.  Whether hope comes from another person, or springs up within us, it is what keeps us moving forward.     

 

-Anonymous

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Q&A with Gateway Rehab COE Patient

What follows is a Q&A with the first patient of Gateway Rehab’s Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence (COE).  One of 50 recognized Centers of Excellence in Pennsylvania, Gateway Rehab treats those suffering from opioid use disorder and provides specialized and coordinated care for individuals with Medicaid.

 

What brought you to Gateway Rehab and the COE?  

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m totally clean and sober for 15 months.  I am a miracle.  But my life before entering recovery for the first time progressively fell apart because of my drinking and using drugs.  

I am an alcoholic and drug addict, but I always had excuses for not seeking or asking for help: I didn’t have health insurance, or I didn’t want my employer to know.  But, I finally had the courage and humility to ask my family for help and they were right there for me.  My sister contacted a friend, who contacted Gateway Rehab.  

My memory is a bit hazy about this particular part, but I was admitted into Mercy Hospital in November of 2016.   I am quite certain that it was the Gateway Rehab Center of Excellence (COE) that helped me and my family through this part.  They got me into detox with no health insurance and I was there for I believe seven days.

Mercy detoxed me from the alcohol but not the methadone I was also dependent on.  After detoxing from alcohol at Mercy, a driver from Gateway Rehab picked me up and I was taken directly to Gateway’s detox.  I did not have to arrange any of this myself; Gateway’s COE arranged it all.  

What was your experience like at Gateway?  

So, when I arrived at Gateway I was a total mess, so terribly sick and broken.  I realized I was way worse than I initially thought.  But everyone was so very warm and welcoming, and I remember being told that I was the first patient to go through the Center of Excellence program.  

I believe I was in detox for seven days and then inpatient for almost a month.  My counselor, Mark, made me feel comfortable and not so alone.  Immediately, he suggested a halfway house and I believe, at this time, I was a little resistant.

As the days went by, I was really struggling.  I sometimes shook so much I could hardly feed myself.  I saw Dr. West a couple of times, but I mainly saw Dr. Capretto, who never quit on getting me better.

About halfway through my stay at inpatient, Shannon from the COE came to meet me.  She was pleasant and encouraged me to go to CeCe’s Place, Gateway’s halfway house for women.  I took her suggestion.

It was another smooth transfer to CeCe’s Place, thanks to the COE.  This is where my real healing began.  All of the women there were amazing.  I learned so much about myself in a short amount of time.  Yes, trust me, looking back now, it’s like a blink of an eye and was necessary.  With the help and support of many at Gateway and the women at CeCe’s Place, I learned how to live sober; I surely didn’t know how to before.

I left CeCe’s and went back to Pittsburgh to stay in an awesome three-quarter house.  I also enrolled in Gateway’s intensive outpatient program.  I went back to work, stayed accountable, and shared my thoughts and feelings.  I believe I was at the three-quarter house for six months.  

During this time is when Janice was designated as my personal recovery specialist by the Gateway COE.  She has been undeniably an essential part of my recovery.  She called weekly, sometimes daily, and visited me countless times.  She also helped me with my insurance, to make and get to appointments, and accomplish other things that I haven’t wanted to but had to do for my recovery.  Janice was always there for me and helped keep me accountable.  

What did you learn about yourself throughout this process?

I learned that I have had anxiety my whole life, even as a child.  I learned that I can’t expect people to know what I’m feeling if I don’t tell them.  I learned that I lied all the time, simply because I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words.  I learned that I was in an abusive relationship.  I learned that I have a messed-up sense of obligation that has kept me stuck.  But most of all, I learned how to cope with all of this.  Before entering a life of recovery, I didn’t have one coping skill my entire life besides drinking and using drugs. 

How has your life changed since leaving Gateway Rehab and living a life of recovery?

So, finally, I am out in life all on my own.   Since being back to work, I have received two promotions, an all-expense paid transfer out of state, and a rent-free furnished apartment. I am a productive member of society.  I know … miracle!  

And, through all of this, Janice has always been there for me.  She has visited me three times since I moved out of state.  I have a suspended driver’s license, so, this has been so helpful.  With her in recovery as well, her help is unparalleled.  She has always been and, I believe, will be readily available to me.

I am eternally grateful to Gateway Rehab and its COE for helping guide me through this journey.  The promises are real, and I realize them every day.     

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The HOW of the Program

Blocks spelling HOW   How does the process of recovery begin and work in any 12-step fellowship? This is a common question to those new to recovery and the families of those affected by the disease of addiction, which many see as a seemingly hopeless state of mind, body and spirit.

   Recovery can be defined as abstinence from all mood-altering substances plus a change in attitudes and behaviors. It is written in 12-step literature that a daily reprieve from using drugs or alcohol is dependent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. So, how do we begin to change our attitudes and behaviors, as well as evolve and maintain our spiritual condition?

   A solid foundation is the basis for constructing anything stable and sound, and this is no different to begin the process of recovery using the 12 Steps. Three spiritual principles – honesty, open mindedness and willingness – are indispensable to begin the process and with these, “we are well on our way.” These three spiritual principals form what’s known as the “HOW” of the program: Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness.

   A profound sense of honesty begins the journey of working the 12 Steps. As we begin on this journey, we must first get honest with ourselves and admit that we are powerless over drugs and alcohol. In so doing, we gain the power to incorporate a new sense of honesty with others, as well, and we can consider asking for and accepting their help. The WE, as it is mentioned in the first step, suggests that we are not alone and don’t have to go through anything alone ever again.

   Beginning to believe that there is a way out of the madness of addiction by being open-minded to receiving the help of others and a power greater than ourselves is paramount to the recovery process. Open-mindedness in step two leads us to accepting the self-centered nature of our disease and humbling ourselves to ask for and seek the help of others, as well as a power greater than ourselves, whatever this may be. When we are open-minded to a power greater than ourselves relieving us from the insanity of the disease, we receive hope and begin to believe that changing and doing things differently can lead us away from the painful past we had once experienced.

   Our surrender deepens in step three as we become willing to let go of our self-centered nature and actions to experience the care and will of our higher power. To some, this step may be difficult or complicated; for others, it may not. Regardless, working with our sponsors, we all come to a personal understanding of this step and become willing to continue working the Steps to better ourselves and our spiritual condition. The willingness practiced in this step can provide us with the willingness to handle many other and different aspects of our lives successfully, without using drugs or alcohol.

   The indispensable truths of the HOW of the program lay the foundation for our recovery and a life that is spiritually focused. Working the first three steps is key to begin living a life worth living. 

- Anonymous

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Therapists, counselors should recognize the signs and symptoms of substance use disorder

People trust their therapists or counselors with a variety of problems that arise in their lives. Typically, they share freely about these topics after establishing a supportive relationship with their therapist. However, a patient might also be struggling with a problem that they are less willing to talk about, which is their drug or alcohol use.

   It is important for counselors to be able to identify behaviors and symptoms that may point to the existence of a substance use disorder because these issues can be so damaging to a person’s life. Oftentimes, the problems that bring a person into therapy may be caused or worsened by their substance use and these issues cannot be fully resolved until the substance misuse is addressed.

   There are several reasons why a person may not be forthcoming about their drug or alcohol use. A person could simply be in denial or think they don’t have a problem. Sometimes a person will rationalize and compare themselves to others to justify their usage.  One might say, "well, I have a successful job and a loving family, so, I can't possibly have a drinking problem.” Or another may say, "I just use pills and I've never had an overdose, so, my usage isn't that bad.” 

   Another primary reason is that they fear the consequences of being honest about their usage. Consequences could include legal repercussions, the dissolution of their marriages or relationships, the removal of children from the home, or damage to their careers. In these cases, it is vital to review confidentiality laws with them to mitigate any fear that might be keeping them from being honest.

   Another reason that a person may conceal their drug and alcohol use is the stigma or “shame” of struggling with drug or alcohol use. Even though the medical community agrees that addiction is a disease and not a choice, a person going through addiction issues may still feel like they will face social judgment for getting help. One way to help a person work through this issue is to educate them about the disease concept of addiction and remind them that rehabs would not exist if people could address addiction problems on their own.

   So, what are some signs that therapists can look for in a person who may be struggling with substance use issues? Gateway Rehab uses a biopsychosocial assessment to identify impairments in functioning and to make substance use diagnoses. However, the most basic explanation is that substance use becomes a problem when it causes other problems in a person’s life. Other, subtler, indicators may include:

  • Changes in mood or persistent mood disturbance despite adherence to medication regimens
  • Loss of interest in activities or reliance on alcohol or drugs to be able to enjoy hobbies
  • Changes in performance at work or school
  • Cycles of illness that frequently include flu-like symptoms
  • Fear or anxiety when faced with the idea of “running out” of their drug of choice
  • Resistance to the suggestion of quitting the drug of choice

   Of course, this list is not all-inclusive and symptoms may be different for each type of substance. The reality is that substance use disorders fall along a spectrum of mild, moderate, and severe.  If a client meets only a few criteria for a substance use diagnosis, their usage is mild; their usage is moderate or severe if they meet additional criteria.  For example, a person who has multiple DUIs may have a mild substance use disorder.  On the other hand, a person who has a physical dependence on a substance, has lost jobs, is estranged from family, and/or has experienced overdoses, likely has a severe substance use disorder.

   Ultimately, what’s important is that counselors and therapists recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction so that they can assist their patients in getting the right type and/or level of treatment. If someone might have a substance use disorder, please encourage them to contact Gateway Rehab to schedule a complete drug and alcohol assessment.

 

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The role of medicine in early recovery

   Addiction is a chronic disease and, much like type I diabetes, hypertension and asthma, it is prone to relapse at staggering rates. In the past decade more than ever, addiction treatment centers and the field of medicine have been teaming up to develop the most effective ways to treat addiction and to prevent relapse. Following this trend, we have worked to incorporate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) into our well-established and evidence-based 12-step philosophy.

    In the midst of an opioid epidemic when many of our patients have been through numerous treatment centers, have tried 12-step recovery, residential treatment, and treatment programs offering only medication without success, we had to ask ourselves as treatment professionals, what can we do differently this time to improve the likelihood of our patients achieving long-lasting recovery.

    Our patients are unique individuals and are treated as such by an interdisciplinary team of professionals who understand their illness. Depending on the nature and course of each person’s disease, our team might suggest medication; however, medication is only a small piece of their suggested treatment plan. None of our patients are given medication unless as an adjunct to a holistic treatment plan that consists of therapy, group counseling, case management, and ongoing support. Medication is not and will never be a stand-alone treatment for the disease of addiction.

    We are aware there are varying opinions about MAT. Some believe a person is not “clean” when they are on medications, and others believe we are just trading one drug for another. One of our own therapists, named Joe, is a person in recovery himself and when he became a member of our MAT team he expressed some of these same thoughts and concerns. After five years working with us and seeing our process, Joe will tell you today that he understands our approach. He concedes that “the disease is getting worse and taking more lives than ever, and we have to use all the tools available to get people in treatment and help them stay there long enough to get better.”

    It is our belief that, regardless of medication type, a person will only get better if they engage in treatment and become active members in a 12-step program of recovery. Once a person develops enough positive support and has the skills needed to maintain long-term success and freedom in recovery, then they should no longer need the medication that only aided them to achieve that goal.

    While so much focus and debate can be placed on medications, it is our belief that the primary focus should be on the necessary changes a person must make in order to develop a healthy lifestyle of recovery. With or without medication, the same goal should hold true. Medication only serves to help those who need it to get through the toughest part of their recovery, the beginning, where so many people struggle.

    The path may need to be different for some, but the ultimate goal should be the same: to become free from active addiction and achieve health in body, mind and spirit.

 

Brandon D. Miller, LPCC-S, LICDC
MAT Program Specialist
Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers

Joseph P. Sitarik, D.O.
Medical Director
Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers

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Join the Voices for Recovery

Voices for RecoveryJoin the Voices for Recovery

 

“True love is a love of giving, not receiving”

- Dr. Abraham Twerski

 

    Each year, the month of September is designated as National Recovery Month and this year the theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities.”  The 2017 theme highlights the value of family and community support throughout recovery and invites individuals in recovery and their family members to share their personal stories and successes to encourage others, as well as educate the public about treatment, how it works, for whom, and why. Because these successes often go unnoticed by the general public, these personal stories become the Voices for Recovery.

    Those of us in recovery all know that recovery doesn’t happen alone in a vacuum.   Our disease wants us to shut others out and suffer in silence, only taking from and using others when it serves our selfish purposes.  But we learn rather quickly to welcome, appreciate and value family members and others in our community that were initially and still are supportive of our recovery.  Without our families, churches, judges, therapists, first responders, nurses, doctors and all those who gave us a chance and still lend us a hand, we would still be selfishly silent and not a voice of recovery. 

    Ultimately, we can only keep what we have by giving it away. If we keep selfishly this precious gift of recovery to ourselves, we are certain to lose it.  Recovery is not meant to be inconsiderately kept in a vault, never to be shared; instead, we need to share it freely with others and allow others to share theirs with us.  Ultimately, we need each other – all those who have gone before us and showed us the way, and those who are still struggling and want what we have. We even need those who don’t share our disease of addiction, but love us and want to help make our lives worth living.

    As part of National Recovery Month, the City of Pittsburgh will be holding its second annual Pittsburgh Recovery Walk on September 16.  The Pittsburgh Recovery Walk celebrates the many roads to recovery from addiction and all those who have traveled them. It aims to dispel negative stigma and recognize recovery as a positive force in our community. 

    Likewise, the Gateway Rehab Recovery Community allows all those who have been affected by addiction in one form or another to associate with others to gain support and encouragement, celebrate recovery, and give something back. This Gateway Recovery Community is open to those in recovery, family members and loved ones, friends, treatment professionals, and anyone else who is concerned with or has been affected by addiction. 

    During the Pittsburgh Recovery Walk on September 16, we will have a Gateway Rehab Recovery Community team and would love for you to join us. Registration is free and not only will you receive a Pittsburgh Recovery Walk t-shirt, but you will also get a Gateway Rehab giveaway for joining our team. 

    The Pittsburgh Recovery Walk will be a day to set aside the pain associated with addiction and simply celebrate recovery in all of its forms.  Please consider joining us and walking with the Gateway Rehab Recovery Community. All of us, then, can become Voices for Recovery, bringing addiction out of the shadows, celebrating life and strengthening our community. 

 

 

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The Roads to Recovery ... A Lifelong Process of Discovery Available to Us All

Road to RecoveryWhen first entering rehab, a lot of us think that we just have a drug or alcohol problem but we soon hear from others in recovery and realize that, “drugs or alcohol are only 10 percent of the problem, the rest is you.”

     Recovery from addiction involves the healing of all dimensions of ourselves, not only the physical but, also, the intellectual, emotional, social, vocational and spiritual dimensions of ourselves. Involving an improvement in self-awareness and self-image, we realize and accept gradually that recovery is a lifelong process of restoring ourselves to better health.

     But, while this may sound easy, recovery doesn’t happen overnight and for many of us, it is a tall order. As the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text says: “This sounds like a big order and we can’t do it all at once. We didn’t become addicted in one day, so, remember, easy does it.”

     A simple comparison could be restoring one’s self to health to that of restoring an abandoned house to a livable condition, a process that definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It takes the right tools and resources. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes effort.

     Likewise, recovery takes patience, empathy, forgiveness and compassion. It takes honesty, open mindedness and willingness. It takes loving and accepting one’s self unconditionally. And, it takes dedication and perseverance – not giving up, no matter what, even if one stumbles and falls once, twice or even multiple times.

     Moreover, just like a house, which needs constant upkeep and maintenance, so does our recovery. Without constant attention, our recovery can stagnate and our foundation can crumble and collapse. In other words, “if you’re not working on your recovery, you’re working on a relapse.”

     But, while this process may seem daunting, we learn early in recovery that help and support are readily available.

     Our family and loved ones can be great supporters of our recovery, but sometimes they might not understand this lifelong process of recovery. So, in addition to family and loved ones, 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, can provide a collective strength, encouragement and hope to those in recovery.

     By hearing and sharing life experiences with each other, recovering addicts and alcoholics can learn how to handle life on life’s terms without using. Additionally, 12-step programs provide the opportunity to build new and healthy relationships; to learn new and change behaviors through self-examination and the practice of guiding principles, and; to serve and help others in recovery.

     However, because we all came to a life of recovery differently, and all are unique in our own ways, recovery can never be quite the same for one another – no one way to recover is better than another. And, because it is lifelong requiring constant attention and maintenance, it’s not a race, nor do we ever graduate.

     Ultimately, recovery is a personal, lifelong journey of fulfillment and purpose – discovering a renewed sense of value, purpose and self-awareness. It is available to us all as long as we first have the humility and courage to ask for help, and then stay the course by being true to form – true to others and ourselves.

 

- Anonymous

 

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