Thursday, October 5, 2017

What if my loved one has a drug/alcohol problem?

Drug/alcohol problems are of epidemic proportions in America today.  These substance abuse and dependency issues impact the addict, their entire family, communities and our country in so many ways.

What is Addiction?
Drug/alcohol addiction is the physical and psychological need to continue using a chemical/substance (alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, etc.,), despite it's dangerous or harmful effects.

Some Common Signs/Symptoms of use, misuse, and addiction: 
  • Cravings
  • Tolerance- takes more of the substance to get the desired effect (high)
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms- abruptly quitting or weaning self off causes discomfort and changes
  • Poor judgment
  • Drug seeking behaviors (raiding bathroom cabinet for pills; excessive time/energy finding drugs
  • Financial problems-unable to pay bills due to drug/alcohol use
  • Neglecting responsibilities (work, school, children, etc.,)
  • Unhealthy relationships (with family or friends; conflicts and broken trust)
  • Isolation/alienation from family and/or certain friends
  • Legal problems
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • Increased agitation or irritability
  • Taking high risks (DUI or unprotected sex)
  • Red eyes, dry mouth, dilated or constricted pupils
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased heart rate and/or high blood pressure
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Neglect of hygiene and appearance
  • Failed attempts at stopping drug/alcohol use
  • Depression and/or anxiety
What Can You Do?
  • I can be very helpful to research and become knowledgeable on addiction. You cannot do anything about something you don't know about. Learn more about sign, symptoms, types of treatments, and relapse triggers. Additionally, search for treatment agencies as resources.
  • Practice Self-Care- eat a healthy diet, exercise, relax and breathe. Find a trusting friend or family member to talk to.  Attend a support group at church or a 12 Step meeting like Alanon or Naranon. 
  • Contact a Family Therapist, addictions counselor, and/or seek individual counseling.
Addiction didn't happen overnight and it will not change over night either! You cannot change it, cure it, or control it.  Your loved one must get help for themselves.  You don't have to accept behaviors that are dangerous, harmful, or unsafe however, addiction is a family disease and all involved can benefit from supportive counseling and treatment. It takes time!
Submitted by Pamela K. Williams, MS, LCPC
Breathe OUT to Relax and Reduce Anxiety

Most people know you can relax by breathing differently – or at least they know that is supposed to work. Many have not found breathing very helpful, however, because when trying to alter their breathing to relax, most people will concentrate on taking a deep breath IN.
Breathing in deeply is very helpful because it increases the availability of oxygen in your body. However, deep breaths often do not feel good to those with anxiety because they have been breathing IN but not breathing OUT.
Taking a deep breath without breathing out as long or longer will not ultimately help you relax. Breathing in more than you breathe out much is called hyperventilation and can result in increased anxiety.  In fact, hyperventilating can induce anxiety even when a person had not been feeling anxious at all.
The relaxing, anxiety-relieving part of the breath is breathing OUT. Before taking your deep breath in, try breathing out first. Breathe out with a gentle sigh: Aaahhh…
Now take a deep breath in – your body will fill with air and your muscles will tense slightly to contain the increased air. Next, breathe out slowly, letting all the breath out of your body. You will notice that your muscles relax as they let go of the air and no longer try to hold it in. When you breathe out as long or longer than you breathe in, your muscles have a chance to relax,
There are several exercises that help develop the habit of breathing out. The simplest is called the Four Square Breath:
1.     Breathe in for a count of four
2.     Hold your breath for a count of four
3.     Breathe out for a count of four, and
4.     Hold out for a count of four
Notice that during this exercise, three quarters of the breathing cycle is focused on holding and breathing out, allowing the body to truly relax.
As you become more proficient at breathing out, you can vary and expand the four count breath. Try breathing in for a count of six, hold for a count of eight and breathe out for a count of eight. (You may not have breath left to hold your breath out with these longer counts.)
Other possibilities for relieving anxiety are re-breathing – breathing into hands cupped over your mouth. You can also try breathing out through pursed lips, as if you were breathing out through a straw – or you can actually breath out through a straw!
One of the most relaxing ways to breathe is to let your breath breathe you. When you have gotten very relaxed in your breathing, try letting your breath all the way out and then pause, without taking another breath. If you wait, your body will take another breath for you, without your conscious control. Although it can be difficult to get used to waiting for the breath rather than controlling it, it is ultimately relieving to know your body will take care of you if you let go of control.
All of these breathing exercises take practice and are not likely to work during a panic attack or when you are already anxious if you have not already practiced them. Take some time to practice when you are feeling less anxious. Then when you really need them, the exercises will be available to you to use successfully. Practicing breathing mindfully on a regular basis, even for just a short time, will also help you feel less anxious overall and less prone to panic attacks.
For more detailed instructions for breathing techniques try this psychologist’s website:

Submitted by Nancy R. Soro, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist