I came into recovery with preconceived ideas about religion and spirituality; ideas that I kept close to heart, and identified with. Growing up, I felt surrounded by people who insisted on impressing their religious and philosophical views on me, and it made me unreceptive to spirituality. During my addiction, I cultivated a protective shell that repelled ideas that were not strictly in line with my using activities and ideas, and spirituality was buried far underneath the misery that I was experiencing. I could scarcely even imagine myself feeling supported by a connection with a power greater than myself. Even in [...]
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Is change possible? Of course! Is sustained change possible? That’s a different story. With relapse rates hovering around 60-70%, the outlook for sustained change is bleak (McClellan et. al., 2000). A more astute question might be: are we as treatment providers facilitating sustained change or focusing on clients’ compliance with set rules? It’s relatively easy to change while in treatment. A little motivation coupled with consequences for negative behavior often yields considerable change in the first 30-90 days of recovery. This type of change is called First-Order Change. First-Order Change is defined as “incremental change that is largely dependent on [...]
In my addiction, I was forced to betray my values on a daily basis as an act of survival. I never felt comfortable as the kid who was getting arrested, tearing his family apart, and stealing from friends. Those were some of my actions, but that is not who I felt I was in my heart. The truth was that I wanted love, acceptance, and to be okay with who I was. I was trying my best to get these fundamental needs met the best way I knew at that time. Living in this contradiction may have been the most [...]
Alpha 180 was always about realizing a vision. We believe that through sobriety, community, and purpose, young adults in recovery are capable of achieving anything. We are not about containing the damage of active addiction; instead increasing the upside of inspired recovery. But one short year ago the vision was just that: a vision. Surrounded by our current community of inspired Alpha 180 pioneers, I forget about opening our doors for the Fall semester wondering if the world would buy in to this lofty idea. Faith, fastidiousness, and fortitude were called on as we ploddingly enrolled a small, but [...]
There is an illusion that once our loved ones get sober, things will be perfect. This is generally not the case. The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that the work has just begun. In the chapter, “The Family Afterward” it says, “The family of an alcoholic longs for the return of happiness and security… It will take time to clear away the wreck. Though old buildings will eventually be replaced by finer ones, the new structures will take years to complete.” It will take time to adjust to the changes in a family after sobriety. Sometimes, when [...]
At Alpha 180 we eat meals as a community. Five nights a week dinner is a shared experience with members, staff, and the neighboring community. Universally and generationally, coming together over a shared meal builds fellowship. From Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to the dinner bell ringing at the home on the range–food brings groups together. Before tv, Facebook, and snapchat entered the picture to interrupt this time, simply bringing groups together for a meal would foster interaction. Much of the community-building time of the shared meal has been lost to busy schedules and poor prioritizing. It can be difficult to put [...]
To many young adults, the prospect of staying sober sounds like being sentenced to boredom and missing out. Addiction treatment, justifiably so, removes people from their current environments and focuses on stabilizing crises. Residential programs require focusing solely on establishing a foundation of recovery and educating individuals about the dangers of addiction. However, lasting recovery is about finding ourselves; integrating rather than denying aspects of our true self. In order to find long-term recovery, it is necessary to identify healthy ways to express normal developmental needs. For collegiate-aged individuals, this inherently includes risk-taking and [even] getting in trouble. Denial [...]
Recovery has given me opportunities and the ability to follow dreams that I never thought were possible. In the pursuit of these dreams, I have had to relocate to different cities and states to attain them. The first time I moved was when I had around two years of recovery and I was moving from where I grew up and where I got sober. I was extremely rooted in this area and I was worried about moving to a city where I didn’t know anybody. However, I had been accepted into college and had been given an opportunity to [...]
The holidays can be a stressful time for people in recovery; though with proper preparation and support, they can be profound times of healing, connection, and fellowship. Early recovery is a tumultuous period for most people. It contains many stressful events and episodes of growth and learning. Adding the stress of the holidays to the fragile nature of early recovery can be a dangerous situation. Emotions can run high. Many newcomers will be experiencing the holidays sober for the first time in many years and can be confronted with the reality of broken or damaged relationships, substance using relatives, [...]
Before we start, remember that the holidays have a way of creating higher emotional responses than the average day. For this reason, I encourage you to allow greater compassion for yourself and more empathy for your loved ones. As you begin to think about the upcoming holidays, likely your mind will wander to memories of previous years–years that were less than jolly, possibly even horrific. My intention in spurring your thoughts on past holidays is not to recreate trauma, but to prepare you for the thoughts and emotions that will arise when the holidays hit. These thoughts and heightened emotions will come, [...]