My therapist looked at me with kind eyes and said “you are a relational person. There is no need to beat yourself up over that. You are here to learn how to balance the person you are with the person you want to be. That’s all we are doing here.” These words washed over me and provided me with a sense of relief. I knew I was on the right path and now just needed to gain the tools to overcome some of the hurdles. For the majority of my life, I have worked and lived my life for others. [...]
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On a trip to Kenya, I was blown away to find that our interpreter, a man who had lived nearly all his life in China, spoke not only exquisite Swahili, but also perfect English. I asked him how he had gotten so good at both, and he told me that he had decided to spend time where only these languages were spoken, where nobody spoke Chinese, and that it forced him to adapt, to learn and that when he gave himself no choice but to make these changes, they became his focus and his passion, and that he viewed it [...]
Spending time with family around the holidays has reminded me of how much my idea of healthy communication has changed over the years. Dishonesty and manipulation were such a substantial part of my addiction, as I imagine it is with most, and that certainly made most of my relationships toxic. Getting sober didn’t all of a sudden make it simple to communicate in a healthy manner though. Telling people how I felt and what I was thinking did not come naturally. However, I did realize that holding back from telling people what I was experiencing was a detriment. Living in [...]
When I worked in a residential treatment center, it was all too common for clients to band together around their frustrations around the perceived restrictions and rules. After spending many precious hours of group therapy time attempting to redirect engagements centered around these complaints, I challenged the clients to use their negative emotions as opportunities to engage in the process of learning to feel their feelings, slow things down, and consciously choose how to respond. In residential treatment, it’s easy for clients to feel disenfranchised, thus searching for aspects of their reality over which they may exert power - a [...]
Addiction began being conceptualized as an attachment-related disorder as early as 2001. Research in this area gave additional credibility to the community model of treating addictions and has fostered further efforts to be devoted to cultivating effective group therapy and community-based models of care for people with addictions. In short, attachment is an emotional and biological process of being able to connect meaningfully and effectively with other humans that begins in infancy. Every person experiences ruptures to their attachment process which when appropriately repaired provide foundations for trust, resilience, and strengthened connection. Through using, we are treating our attachment wounds [...]
Alpha 180’s owner, Bob Ferguson, often asserts that “people get sober in treatment, but find recovery in community.” This powerful statement serves as the foundation of Alpha 180’s philosophy on young adult recovery. While abstinence in treatment is no small feat, we believe that long-term recovery must involve the realization and pursuit of our dreams. Our goal at Alpha 180 is to inspire transformation in young adult men by engaging them in a voluntary and vibrant recovery community. As often as possible, we avoid mandates and requirements, believing that with appropriate guidance and accountability, young men in recovery will inherently [...]
In developing the Alpha 180 program, we wanted to incorporate effective aspects of various modalities. With a background in traditional residential addiction treatment, I sought to expand my horizons by learning about the methods of wilderness therapy programs that I respect, such as Legacy Outdoor Adventures, Wilderness Treatment Center, and Red Oak Recovery. The latter, an innovative hybrid of residential and wilderness therapy models. Touchstones of a wilderness experience include total immersion in the natural landscape, separation from technology, and use of ritual in facilitating internal transformation. As an aftercare provider based in downtown Austin, Texas, we needed to get [...]
For young adults in recovery, I have noticed an unfortunate, but relatively common pattern: they seek treatment, they begin their recovery journey, they become employed, and then they relapse. I have witnessed this cycle on countless occasions. It is a discouraging and frustrating experience for not only the person in recovery, but also for their loved ones. However, I believe the pattern can change. In my career working as a Case Manager in Higher Education, I have witnessed over and over again how academia has a positive influence on sustained recovery—specifically how it seems to disrupt the aforementioned cycle. When [...]
Trauma is an unavoidable aspect of human life. Lately, its role in the emotional experience, particularly in how it relates to addiction, is becoming increasingly recognized in the collective awareness. Since trauma is not limited to sexual abuse or violence, but rather any experience that overwhelms the emotional system to the point where it cannot reset appropriately, it is not surprising that our culture’s struggles with addiction are spiraling out of control. Effective addiction treatment necessitates the integration of trauma-sensitive approaches. Treatment modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic experiencing, and psychodrama address the adverse effect trauma [...]
Popularized by Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey is a framework said to encapsulate the sequence of a self-discovery. Campbell believed that this cycle was inherent to the human experience and, thus, spanned across time and culture. His system involves aspects such as the “Call to Adventure”, “Arrival of the Helper”, and “Transformation”. At Alpha 180, the students are the hero of their own story of self-discovery. We utilize The Hero’s Journey framework as a model for the recovery process as our students navigate the challenges and temptations of early recovery. Campbell espoused that the human experience involves both “Known” and [...]