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The Importance of Exercise to Successful Addiction Recovery

Exercising has gone from fad to must-have over past several decades. Constance Ray has written a detailed packed article outlining why keeping fit & health is so important in the recovery process.

When it comes to addiction recovery, exercise is more than a way to pass the time. In the throes of addiction, people use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress. Once those substances are out of the picture, addicts are left without a way to manage negative emotions. Since anxiety can drive a relapse, it’s important that addicts in recovery develop tools for dealing with stress.

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are neurochemicals that induce positive feelings and reduce pain. This makes fitness an invaluable resource for addicts trying to overcome cravings and other physical side effects of recovery. Instead of turning to substances for relief, they can turn to physical activity instead. While it’s a big habit change, it equips addicts with the tools to manage cravings long after they’ve left a treatment program. This is especially true because, as evidence suggests, exercise primes the brain for learning new habits. 

Another reason exercise should be a core part of any treatment program is because, like addiction recovery, fitness requires goal setting and self-motivation. As addicts practice meeting short-term goals in their fitness regimen, they’re developing powerful skills that will aid in recovery success.

However, if left unchecked, exercise itself could become an addiction. Addicts might transfer the problematic habits that led to a substance abuse problem onto their fitness regimen, such as obsessing over exercise, prioritizing exercise over other responsibilities, and feeling irritable and anxious without exercise. For that reason, it’s important that addicts monitor their exercise habits and make sure they’re aiding, not hindering, their recovery efforts.

What sort of exercise is best for someone battling addiction? Ultimately, the fitness regimen you can stick to is the right one for you, but some types of exercise are especially popular among people in recovery.


If you’re new to fitness, running is a great option. It costs almost no money, so you don’t have to worry about paying for a gym membership; new runners progress quickly, so you can build confidence and motivation quickly; and you can do it anywhere, so you can sneak in a run whenever a craving hits. Plus, running is known for producing a “runner’s high,” a surge of endorphins that improves your mood, clears your mind, and quells cravings. Find some running trails near you and start moving forward, one step at a time.

To help keep you motivated, as well as to track your progress, consider investing in a smartwatch or fitness tracker. However, keep in mind that these devices aren’t necessarily the same thing. While fitness trackers tend to focus solely on exercise and fitness routines, smartwatches tend to cover a much broader spectrum, allowing you to do everything from checking emails to texting your friends and family. 


Yoga is an excellent exercise both on its own and as a complement to another training regimen. It develops strength, balance, and flexibility, and is recognized as an effective way to strengthen mental fortitude as participants learn to place mind over matter. Yoga routines range from slow and gentle to fast and intense; find a practice that matches your current fitness level and be amazed as you grow.

A great complement to yoga is meditation, which many people find soothing, especially when it comes to addiction recovery. Meditation, however, takes a lot of practice, especially when you’re first starting out. This is why so many people opt to create a cozy, distraction-free meditation space inside their home to help them get into the proper mindset. All you need to do is find an area inside your home, get rid of the clutter in and around it, and then fill it with decorations that you find soothing, whether that’s a statue of Buddha or relaxing artwork by your favorite artist. The most important thing is to create a space where you feel peaceful and calm.


If you’re looking for an exercise that packs a mental health punch, hiking is for you. Not only do you get the mood-boosting effects of aerobic exercise, but simply being in nature can improve your psychological health and contribute to your recovery. Time spent in nature has been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety, reduce rumination, and improve mood and self-esteem. It’s also a great introduction to fitness for addicts who have long neglected physical health. 

For addicts in recovery, exercise offers a much-needed break from the demands and challenges of everyday life. While incorporating fitness into your daily routine is an important part of making sobriety stick, sometimes a bigger getaway is called for. When your recovery journey starts to feel like too much, retreat to the great outdoors to escape everyday stress and spend time focusing on yourself, your health, and your sobriety.

Image via Unsplash

Constance Ray

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Planning an Intervention

The following article is a from Janelle Cestina who is part of a Community Outreach program. She was thoughtful enough to share the insight regarding intervention planning. there is a link to the full article below.

Enjoy – Frank Say

Planning an Intervention for Someone with a Substance Abuse Problem

Updated: Dec. 6, 2019

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that nearly 22 million Americans over the age of 12 have a substance abuse problem serious enough to require clinical help. That is more than 8% of the population, which makes addiction one of the most prevalent and serious health risks society must deal with. On a personal level, relationships with loved ones can be extremely difficult while they struggle with addiction, and getting them the help they need feels like an impossible task. The same survey estimated that over 95% of adults with substance abuse issues are resistant to treatment and that they “do not feel” they need any help at all. For many people living with a substance abuse problem, an intervention by family and friends might be the only way to shake their resistance and get them the help that may save their lives.

I. The Basics of an Intervention

This guide is for the friends, family members, and other loved ones of people struggling with addiction disorders. Its purpose is to educate readers about what, for many, is the first step in addiction recovery, the intervention. It offers, in an easy to digest step-by-step way, a road map that can help you plan for and conduct a successful intervention for your loved one. Included near the end is a list of helpful resources that can help you and the person you care about, get through every step of the addiction recovery process, and which can remind families struggling with addiction that they are not alone.

Denial is one of the characteristic features of an addiction disorder. People with substance abuse issues frequently deny that they have a problem, as do many of their loved ones until it’s too late. The purpose of an intervention is to pierce the wall of denial and make a substance abuser see the damage their disorder is causing to those who care most for them. By gathering together the family and friends who know the user best, and then by telling the subject about the pain of their addiction and the consequences of continued use, it is sometimes possible to break through. Everything that must be done in preparation for an intervention is directed toward a singular goal: getting the substance abuser to agree to treatment.

II. Step 1: Form a Team

The first step is to put together a team to stage the intervention. The people you choose for this team will all be in the room during the intervention, so they should be very close family and friends of the person you’re trying to reach. A professional intervention specialist can help you plan the details, as well as offer advice about who to include and who should not be there.

As a rule, the people at the intervention should all be people the subject cares deeply about. If someone in your circle is also struggling with addiction issues, it may be best to encourage them to remain away from the intervention. These can be emotional confrontations, and it’s best to avoid distractions and potential arguments.

III. Step 2: Do Your Research

The more you know about the way addiction works, the more prepared you can be to confront a resistant or hostile subject. It also helps to learn as much as you can about the specific drug or behavior (such as gambling or sexual activity) the person is addicted to. Finally, it is also very helpful to learn about co-dependency and the role loved ones play in substance abusers’ addictive behavior. You may also want to read first-person accounts of other families’ interventions, which may give you a better feel for what to expect. Encourage the others on the intervention team to also prepare in this way.

IV. Step 3: Make a Plan

It takes careful planning to put together a successful intervention. Start by coordinating with your team and agreeing on a time and place. Allow for several hours, if needed, on the day of the intervention. Ideally, the whole team can meet before the intervention to go over notes and strategy and chat with the intervention specialist for some last-minute tips.

There is no firm rule for the ideal place to hold an intervention, but it is generally a good idea to choose a neutral location away from familiar surroundings. People with substance abuse habits may have hard-to-predict emotional reactions to their own homes, parents’ homes, or other familiar places. Renting a motel room or other venue may be preferable since the subject is not likely to feel overly defensive or territorial about the space. It’s very important not to stage the intervention in any place owned or controlled by the subject. Highly agitated addicts may try to terminate the intervention early, and one way to do that could be to order the team to leave their home. Since there is no way to refuse this kind of demand on the subject’s own property, it may be best to meet up someplace else.

V. Step 4: Set Realistic Boundaries and Expectations

The intervention is fundamentally a last-ditch effort to save the life of a person you care about who is suffering from addiction. It is important to set realistic expectations for what you hope to accomplish. This should be as specific and easy to define as possible. Usually, the goal of an intervention is to get the person with an addiction to agree to check into some kind of inpatient treatment program, preferably right away. The desire is to get the subject to agree to treatment conditions based on everything said at the intervention, and you should be ready to drop everything and head out to the treatment center as soon as the subject agrees to check-in, even if some people at the intervention haven’t had a chance to talk yet.

Bear in mind that interventions often fail. Addiction is a very difficult disease to work with, and the people living with it are often highly resistant to change, as are many of the people in their circle of family and friends. One of the most effective techniques used to break through to someone in this state is to plainly state how your relationship will change if the person doesn’t agree to get treated. This is almost always followed by a statement of consequences, such as cutting off money, eviction from the house they’re living in, or a complete break in the relationship. Whatever the new boundaries are, it is crucial to the addict’s chances for recovery that these are things you can actually do, so that they don’t come across as empty threats

VI. Step 5: Rehearse

During your preparation for the intervention, try to rehearse your statement a few times. Listen to how it flows as speech, and try to cut out any words or sentences that aren’t absolutely necessary to make your point. Avoid using accusatory language or placing blame during your statement. If something you want to say seems like it could make the person feel attacked or unloved, or if it’s likely to put them on the defensive and make them more resistant, it may be best to either reword it or cut it out entirely. Under the pressure of an intervention, many people with addictions lash out emotionally, often seizing on any opening your statement gives them to change the subject. Try to keep your statement brief and as on-point as you can make it, to give the person as few openings as you can.

VII. Step 6: Hold the Intervention and Follow Through

The most important part of an intervention is the follow-through. Even if the intervention itself didn’t produce the results you hoped for, your willingness to enforce healthy boundaries afterward might encourage a person struggling with addiction to seek help later.

VIII. Resources and Additional Help

  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) leads addiction research efforts in the United States, and it can be an invaluable asset for family members looking for information about substance abuse, especially during the research phase before an intervention.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) operates the 24-hour National Treatment Referral Hotline (1-800-662-HELP), which provides referrals for treatment and intervention services. The hotline does not dispense medical or legal advice, and conversations are kept confidential.

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Resources For those Struggling With Heroin Addiction

One of the most frustrating and disheartening aspects of dealing with Heroin addiction is knowing where to look for reasonable information on where to seek help. Rehab.Help.Org is a community organization dedicated to empowering people suffering from substance abuse addiction and giving them tools and resources to begin their personal journey towards recovery.

Below are two great resource links to information regarding Heroin addiction and rehab & recovery from Heroin addiction


Professional Recovery Intervention and Family Therapy
Addiction Intervention

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A Brush With Life: Art Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Below is an article by Michelle Peterson regarding recovery and Art therapy. Finding multiple paths to sustain recovery is as important as getting to recovery in the first place.  

When it comes to recovering from drug addiction, a person in treatment is usually expected to do quite a bit of talking. Stories are told. Emotions are sorted. And the therapist and person in recovery attempt to sort out the problems that lie behind the addiction in order to help the recover last for an extended period of time. After all, if you don’t solve the underlying problems behind the addiction, it is likely to come back later. However, sometimes this emotional process can be difficult, especially if the stories are painful.


Art therapy allows these emotions to be translated and expressed in a creative and often easier manner than simply telling the story. In fact, there are a number of benefits of art therapy in addiction recovery.


Benefits of Art Therapy


Art therapy is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Art has been shown to improve your overall mood, which can be very helpful for improving the length of your recovery and preventing a relapse. Addictions are tied to mood, which is evident through addictions linked to mood disorders. In other words, if you’re feeling down, you are at a higher risk of relapsing. Art therapy prevents this by raising your mood. And if you’re feeling stressed out about work (maybe you’re dealing with a problematic coworker of an abusive boss) or feeling anxiety regarding your personal life, art can help ease that tension without the need for drugs or alcohol.


Art therapy also works to make the recovering patient more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little. We often don’t know what is going on deep down, and by having a creative outlet to get these hidden emotions out in the open, it provides us with the ability to tackle them.


Another key benefit of art therapy is its ability to provide us with a healthy coping strategy. Some addictions start because substances are being used in order to self-medicate. According to Psychiatric Times, there are usually critical feelings and issues that make a person predisposed to using addictive drugs. Finding another way to cope with these feelings, such as through art, can help treat the underlying problem that originally led to the addiction.


How to Implement Art Therapy


Now that we’ve seen the benefits of art therapy let’s explore how to implement it into your recovery program. According to Verywell Mind, art therapy can be implemented in a number of ways, including drawing, painting, sculpting and music. Basically, anything that includes creative expression can be used as a form of art therapy. While you might be tempted to use a form of art that you are already experienced with, it might be better to start with something new yet easy. If you use a form of art that you are extensively experienced in, you might get bogged down by “rules” and the “correct” way to do things instead of simply expressing your emotions.


Art therapy takes place alongside a trained therapist. Psychology Today explains that the therapist will sometimes simply observe your work, but might ask questions regarding your artwork at other times. The therapist might ask you about your experiences and then provide you with observations. Then, based on your artwork, you can tackle the emotions and experiences brought up together.


Art therapy can be a wonderful supplement to your usual therapy sessions. It provides you with the ability to express thoughts and emotions that you might not be able to put into words while also allowing you to work through them simultaneously. Of course, art therapy is only one part of addiction treatment and really should not be your only treatment. However, when coupled with other appropriate treatments, it can provide a wonderful outlet and supplement to your usual therapy.


Photo Credit: Pexels

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Addiction, Families and Butterflies

Dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction can be a tiring and demanding process. Logic seems to have no place in trying to make sense of your situation and the behaviors of your loved one. What is more mind boggling are professionals, which you seek for assistance, are quick to point out your own motives and behaviors are just as harmful to creating the chaotic situation you have found yourself in.

Wait! What?

Oh, yes. If it’s one thing we in the helping professions know how to do is make people crazy with self-doubt. That is of course you don’t take a swing at us first!

Without tossing around perplexing, clinical terms and their convoluted definitions, I though a better way would be through an allegory. The story below was introduced to me when I first began working with families in an inpatient setting.

Its message is still as relevant today and gives an option to reflect on our own behavior and how it influences others in our lives.

U Recover


A Butterfly Story

Once walking along a path a man found a cocoon which held a butterfly. One morning on his walk a small hole appeared in the cocoon.  He sat and watched the butterfly struggle to force its way through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would unfold and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with its swollen body and shriveled wings in the dirt. It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through that tiny hole was nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Obstacles make us stronger.

You ask for strength and you often get difficulties to make you strong

You ask for wisdom and get problems to solve

You ask for courage and get danger to overcome

You ask for love and you get troubled people to help

You ask for nothing and get everything you need


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