As a newly recovering addict begins to take steps down a new path in life, they may find themselves emotionally and psychologically vulnerable after years of numbing their emotions with drugs and alcohol. Even with all the addiction education and recovery care management resources available, emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to process in early recovery. One of the greatest and most overlooked assets to a recovering addict, or anyone in this world, is gratitude. Maintaining a positive outlook, even in the most difficult of conditions, can mean the difference between having a good day that runs smoothly or feeling like the world is crashing down around you. Here are some basic strategies you or a recovering addict can implement into your weekly routine.
Wake up grateful! When you rise you greet the day, take some time out to pray or meditate and think about someone or something in life that you are grateful for. This really helps shift your perspective and starts to frame everything you see in a more positive way. It isn’t always apparent immediately, but the positive mindset produced by starting your day off right will seep into all aspects of your life. You will start to find yourself more relaxed, resilient, optimistic, productive, social, and even see an improvement in your health and well-being.
Make a Gratitude List
Cleaning up the wreckage of our past can be extremely difficult. Building a new life from the bottom up often means we aren’t left with much to work with, but you can always find something to be grateful for. Most pieces of addiction education literature will tell you to consider writing a gratitude list. Items could include something as simple as the cup of coffee you have to help jump-start your day, or as personal as the loved one who hasn’t given up on you through all the hard times.
Look at What You Have, Instead of What You Don’t
There are billionaires who have everything one could ever imagine in life but still can’t seem to find happiness. There are also people who are just scraping by that have a sense of peace and joy that seems unattainable to those watching from the outside. It’s easy to get caught up in “keeping up with the Jones’”, and after hitting rock bottom it can seem like an almost impossible climb back up out of the hole you dug yourself in. Often, we find we had taken everything we held dear for granted in our illness anyway, and material things never seemed to bring the happiness we thought they would. Though it may feel like all is lost, we find a new strength within ourselves in recovery we never knew previously existed. We can find new qualities within ourselves and new things to be grateful for every day. Take inventory of all the blessings life has bestowed upon you. Stop and smell the flowers a little, take time to notice the little things we take for granted every day. Sometimes you will find something beautiful that used to be overlooked.
In my time in the rooms of AA, I’ve heard it said plenty of times that “a grateful addict/alcoholic will never relapse”. Time after time again I’ve seen this to be true. Gratitude is an essential part of recovery. If you’re currently in recovery and struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, take some time out to count your blessings and find something you are grateful for. Reach out and help your fellow man to get out of yourself and take the focus off of your own struggles. Read addiction education literature to help find ways to deal with a specific problem, and consult your recovery care management team if you have any problems and wish to seek extra counseling.
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Although the opioid epidemic is still unfortunately rampant, another drug has recently popped up on college campuses and popular culture as a whole. That drug is Xanax, a derivative of the housewife drug Valium, first prescribed in the 1960’s. Valium and other similar drugs, belonging to the classification benzodiazepines, have been silently popular since their inception, but have witnessed a sharp increase in popularity quite recently. Benzodiazepines are sedative, anti-anxiety drugs that include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam), of which Xanax is irrevocably the most popular. They are used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. While those are the intended purposes, many users also take the drugs for their soothing and numbing effects on both brain and body; they are also utilized by many millennials as a way to “come down,” after being on psychedelics or uppers.
The Problem With Benzos
Benzodiazepines (also called benzos) are so insidious because of their ubiquity in popular culture and also a benign connotation because of their legality. While many young adults are buying Xanax illegally from friends or drug dealers, the origins of these pills are primarily legal (i.e. people are selling prescriptions they obtained with reported problems as simplistic and widespread as generalized anxiety). There are many pills being sold on the dark web as well, with manufacturers often pressing alprazolam (or other benzodiazepine) powder into casing typical for “bars” (the street name for 2mg Xanax pills popular for their rectangular shape and powerful effects). This is especially terrifying because it is incredibly easy to press more than 2mg into a bar (or to press the bar with laced materials, such as fentanyl), which is an already high dose.
Effects of Xanax
When a large amount of Xanax is consumed, it robs the user of basic mental abilities and motor skills. If you are concerned your loved one is using Xanax, look for vacant eyes, sleepiness, slurred speech, impaired motor skills and vision, reduced inhibition (people high on Xanax will often do or say things entirely out of character, because even normal, appropriate anxiety is taken away when given enough of the drug) and increased hostility or bluntness. These effects are exacerbated when the pill is taken with alcohol, as it is often consumed, especially on college campuses. It is also not uncommon for Xanax to be used as a date rape drug, put into individual drinks or the “jungle juice” buckets and coolers that litter American universities.
Xanax in Popular Culture
So what put it in millennials’ heads to take Xanax in the first place? Besides its incredible prevalence (often, teenagers have to look no further than their parents’ medicine cabinet to try the drug), Xanax has become incredibly popular in television, movie and especially, music culture. Rappers, primarily, glorify use of the drug in songs like “56 Nights,” in which rapper Future claims to have taken “56 bars all in one month.” Rap culture has an undeniable effect on which drugs are used and how often. A spike in codeine, molly and marijuana usage have been witnessed over the past years in which rappers (and their lyrics) have become increasingly centered on said drugs.
Some Celebrities Bashing Benzos
But some rappers, and other public figures, are beginning to publicly decry the drug and and debunk its harmless status. Chance the Rapper has publicly claimed Xanax to be the new heroin and has spoken to the havoc it wreaked in his own life in several songs. Former member of Fleetwood Mac Stevie Nicks is also unabashed in bashing benzos, citing her addiction to Klonopin as the worst time in her life and the reason why she never married or had children and likening her condition while under the influence of Klonopin to be akin to that of a “zombie.” The backlash from these two stars is a humble beginning in battling the drug and its addictive propensities, but it’s a necessary start. Of the 22,000 deaths that resulted from prescription drug overdoses last year, 31 percent of those were benzo-related. Additionally horrifying, is the fact that benzodiazepines are incredibly hard to withdraw from, with effects as severe as psychosis, seizures and death. With that said, if you or a loved one is suffering from benzo addiction, find help immediately and do not try to wean yourself off cold turkey as that may result in severe, acute withdrawal.