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My husband was an addict for as long as I can remember, ever since we met. We were kids then, though, so I really didn’t put any thought into the fact that he was high all the time. Besides, he was only smoking pot. It was the 70’s; everyone was smoking pot.

What I Didn’t Understand

Having started smoking weed when he was in grade school, he never developed healthy coping skills; having never gone through formal treatment, he never learned any. And the faith that saved him didn’t sustain him; it was, instead, like the parable Jesus told about the sower. Some seed falls on rocky ground and cannot root deeply; a few storms come along, and it gets washed away.

For my part, I simply did not have a clue what to expect or how to handle it. Having to learn these things the hard way nearly destroyed our marriage.

The Need To Take Over

When we first started dating, my husband seemed like a pillar of strength, and he was always so supportive of me. But dating and living together are two different things. It was like his brain was stuck in teenager mode, and I felt like if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself. And I quickly began to resent that.

What I should have done is take a step back, take some time for myself, and let the chips fall where they may. But I didn’t know how.

Eventually, I understood that I needed to give myself some me time, instead of taking care of all the responsibilities while he came home from work and flopped on the couch. It’s amazing what you can ignore and how your partner will come to realize, “I guess I’d better start helping out around here.”

Breaking Free From Co-Dependency

In a sick sort of way, I had developed an addiction of my own, taking care of him. I had to accept the fact that I, too, needed treatment if we were going to make this work. I found an amazing support group, and it was so refreshing to have a format where my feelings were validated and I could break free from my co-dependency.

Say Goodbye To Guilt And Shame

When your recovering addict disappoints you, and they will repeatedly, don’t berate them thinking you can shame them into more responsible behavior or make them feel guilty for letting you down. Those feelings of guilt and shame are common triggers of relapse. And the same goes for you. I had to learn to stop beating myself up over my mistakes before I ended up taking over again.

Give It Up

I resented the fact that I couldn’t have a drink or smoke an occasional joint in my own home. It was easier to accept that this was just another area of compromise for a healthy marriage.

Work Together

We can all benefit from incorporating healthy habits into our lives. Cooking, exercising, and enjoying new hobbies together made both of us happier.

Keep Educating Yourself

Life is a learning process for everyone, including addicts and their loved ones.  I focus some of my lifelong education on what can help me to maintain a healthy balance of support and self-love. The internet is just one an amazing resource for that education.

My husband and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Has it been easy? No, but no one’s relationship is all sunshine and roses. The soil has to be cultivated and some rain must fall so that seed will grow.

If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

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Opioids, which include a range of painkillers as well as street drugs like heroin, are among the most commonly abused drugs in the world. With estimates showing that between 26 and 34 million people abuse opioids worldwide, a significant portion of the population is at risk for both abuse and addiction. In women, who account for nearly half of all opioid abusers, health risks are exacerbated by increased exposure to sex work, promiscuity, lack of protection during sex, and eventual pregnancy. Opioid use during pregnancy contributes to further health challenges to both the mother and fetus, often putting both at risk and resulting in an 85% increase in women’s opioid related deaths between 1998 and 2015, or about double that of men.

Understanding the factors playing into opioid abuse, the risks to both the mother and the child, and the efficacy of treatment or preventive measures can help you to determine the right choices for you or your loved one’s health during pregnancy.

Are Opioids Harmful During Pregnancy?

While the vast majority of women using opioids do so with a prescription, following the directions of their doctor, 39.4% of Medicaid insured and 27.7% of privately insured women of reproductive age receive prescription opioids, with 21.5% of pregnant women receiving opioids, and 2.5% receiving chronic opioid prescriptions for 30+ days. While these opioids are still prescribed to women who are pregnant, many also come with contraindications, warning of possible side effects and harm to the infant. At the same time, studies show that even normal use can cause development issues with the fetus, resulting in birth defects, leading to a consistent reduction in doctors offering prescription painkillers to women who are pregnant, even under normal use. In larger doses, opioids cause direct respiratory and physical distress, which can directly harm the baby.

Opioid Addiction During Pregnancy

With millions of people addicted to opioids across the United States, opioid use is a major risk factor to pregnant women. Studies also show that the proportion of women admitted to substance abuse facilities while pregnant increased from 2% to 28% between 1992 to 2012. At the same time, heroin and opioid-related deaths have more than tripled in the United States, as the cost of heroin drops and women are more exposed to intravenous heroin use, which causes an overdose and harmful side-effects more easily than prescription pills.

This has, in turn, led to an increase in harmful side effects to the baby, known as neonatal outcomes, with death, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) or the infant suffering withdrawal, respiratory complications, feeding difficulty, low birth weight, and seizures on the rise. In 2012, nearly 50% of all intensive care unit hospital admissions relate to NAS.

The increasing prevalence of opioid use disorder in pregnant women has led the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to recommend that doctors screen pregnant women for signs of opioid use or abuse. However, the direct recommendations for taking action to prevent harm to the mother or child can vary significantly, as abruptly ceasing opioid use during pregnancy can be as harmful as continued abuse.

Quitting Opioids While Pregnant

While a light or prescription user can likely quit normal painkiller use with minimal or no harmful side-effects, anyone experiencing withdrawal can cause suffer severe side-effects from doing so while pregnant. Women who are physically dependent on opioids (even most prescription users are) put themselves at risk of pre-term labor, and fetal distress or death depending on their level of dependence and the body.

As a result, most obstetricians recommend using prescription medication such as methadone to reduce withdrawal effects and prevent pre-term labor or potential fetal death. These drugs come with many of the same risks as other opioids, including the risk of NAS after birth, but often at a reduced scale. As a result, methadone is not formally sanctioned by the FDA to treat opioid dependence during pregnancy.

Using Methadone and Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Addiction During Pregnancy

Methadone is the most commonly recognized drug for managing and treating opioid addiction in pregnant women. While methadone still has risks over no substance use at all, it reduces risks over heroin or uncontrolled opioid abuse, prevents cravings, and prevents potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms which could harm or kill the infant. Most women are recommended to 10mg-30mg doses, which are stabilized over the course of about a week and then maintained for the duration of pregnancy, typically in an inpatient setting. Women who are very early on in pregnancy may receive different recommendations.

Buprenorphine, a similar drug and the active opioid in Suboxone, is also popular for treating withdrawal symptoms in opioid dependent pregnant women, but methadone is often preferred because it requires women to go to the clinic daily, reduces exposure to the drug, and ensures that daily monitoring is possible.

However, the effects of pregnancy on the action of methadone inside the body are not well studied. Women seeking methadone treatment during pregnancy should seek out inpatient care to ensure constant monitoring to protect their and their baby’s health during the process.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction While Pregnant

If you or a loved one is addicted to an opioid, it is crucial that you seek out help as quickly as possible. Prolonged opioid use can damage a developing baby, causing health problems which will last for the rest of their life. With immediate problems from opioid abuse resulting in reduced fetal growth, premature labor, placental abruption, and potential fetal death, seeking out treatment, and as quickly as possible, is crucial to minimizing or preventing those side effects.

While it is true that withdrawing from opioids can cause problems, the risks are lower than continuing to abuse a substance. Methadone and buprenorphine use can both stabilize the pregnancy to reduce NAS side-effects after birth by reducing withdrawal symptoms and stabilizing opioid levels in the blood, ensures the mother receives better prenatal care, and decreases the risks of other harmful side-effects.

This often means seeking out inpatient care with medical support either in a hospital or a licensed drug detox facility. Many rehab centers offer specific care for pregnant women, who need additional support, more care, and prenatal care to ensure the health and continued health of the baby. Here, the detox phase is the most critical, and should be very carefully monitored to ensure that both mother and baby remain safe while detoxing or switching over to buprenorphine or methadone. Seeking out additional treatment including cognitive behavioral therapy, group treatment such as AA, counseling, and learning ways to manage stress and behavior to reduce the risks of relapse are also crucial to preventing continued abuse during pregnancy. Continued access to relapse prevention and care programs after going through detox is also crucial, and many pregnant women are recommended to stay in inpatient care for 90 days or longer or to move into a sober house after treatment to increase their chances of continued recovery.

Opioid addiction is increasingly common, but if you or a loved one is pregnant and using, getting help is crucial. Most rehab facilities offer some support for pregnant women and some will offer specific facilities catering to the special needs of women at any stage of pregnancy. Most importantly, seeking out help and getting medical care can save both the mother and baby’s life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with Opioid addiction, or you just have some questions, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available today.

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After completing a drug and alcohol detox program, I found myself on a Capitol Trailways bus headed towards those dreaded people, places, and things. I would have rather gone anywhere else in the world than back home, but I had nowhere else to go.

REALITY CHECK

As I exited the bus two hours later at the center city station and made my way through the all-too-familiar streets en route to my apartment, everything was in sharper focus. It was almost jarring, an acute assault on my senses. Seeing everything through sober eyes for the first time in years was frightening.

When I finally closed my front door behind me, my sigh of relief was short-lived as soon as I realized that I didn’t have any food in my refrigerator. I remembered having stashed a $20 bill in the back of one of my cupboards before I left, so I ordered a pizza, ate three huge slices, and promptly fell asleep for the next 13 hours.

ONE MINUTE AT A TIME

After I was all slept out and aching all over from laying in bed too long, I got up and made my way to the kitchen to get a glass of water, only I realized I wanted a shot of whiskey instead.

I knew I needed to refocus, so I took a notebook out of my backpack and began rereading all the notes I made while in detox. I just made it through the past 24 hours sober so I knew I could do it again. I took a deep, cleansing breath and continued reading.

STEP BY STEP

The first thing I noticed was the importance of the first suggestion I had recorded:

  1. Hit a 12 Step Meeting – I knew that going to lots of 12 Step meetings like AA or NA was one of the things I had heard the most, so I figure I would make sure I did this right away. I had my meeting schedule planned out before I left treatment, so I hit a great meeting.
  2. Let Myself Be – I had already given myself as much as I needed of both food and sleep. I had a full seven days before I had to go back to work to focus on my recovery.
  3. Eat Well –  While I stuck with mostly fruits, grains, and lean proteins, I also drank some juices and seltzer water to spice things up. And I had all the water I wanted to drink, which was the best thing for me.
  4. Give Myself the Spa Treatment – I had purchased some assorted bath bombs before I left, so I drew a nice, hot bath, poured myself a grapefruit juice and seltzer, grabbed a book I’d been meaning to read, and soaked until I got wrinkled.
  5. Make a List – After getting through the first 24 hours, I felt clear enough to write down all the reasons I got sober and what I had to look forward to.
  6. Use the Buddy System – I called my bestie for a nice, long, sober chat. It eased my loneliness and gave me something to look forward to as we made plans to hang out together at my apartment for dinner and a movie.
  7. Comfort Food is Okay, too – My little dinner party menu included sandwiches from my favorite sub shop and a big slice of their decadently delicious chocolate cake. Eating regularly is a little more important than maintaining the perfect diet every single day.
  8. Stick With What Works – When I got close to the end of my first week, I made a new list, this one being what choices I made that I enjoyed the most. I then expanded it to include future sober activities I wanted to try.

Remember, your journey of recovery is a personal one, so incorporate suggestions like these into what feels right to you.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for help. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

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If you’re either planning to go into recovery or are in recovery and just entering your journey into being clean or sober, you’ll likely often hear about people having a spiritual awakening. This is especially true if you’re following a 12-step or similar program, where spirituality and religion are embraced as strong factors in addiction recovery. No matter which path you follow, understanding what is meant by a spiritual awakening will help you to realize that recovery means going well beyond simply quitting drugs and alcohol.

While a spiritual awakening will naturally differ for everyone, it’s an important part of moving to a stage where you don’t rely on drugs or alcohol to enjoy life. More importantly, it’s part of the process of learning to enjoy little things in life which you might find boring or irrelevant while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

A Spiritual Awakening in 12-Step Treatment

For the millions of people following some form of 12 step, a spiritual awakening refers to not just the process of recovery but is a necessary step in the journey from being an addict to being in recovery. Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous stated, “An alcoholic is a fellow who is ‘trying to get his religion out of a bottle,’ when what he really wants is unity within himself, unity with God. . .”

Spiritual Awakening is a necessary and important part of recovering from addiction in 12-step, and often one which is the final goal of treatment.

Does Addiction Have a Spiritual Element?

It’s well understood that addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder, with mental and cognitive effects changing how the brain things, acts, and functions. While there are naturally many physical repercussions as well, including trauma and PTSD, damage to the gastrointestinal tract, often lack of sleep and nutrition, and consistent harmful levels of chemicals in the body, the mental and cognitive effects can be more harmful. For example, most substances contribute to a phenomenon known as emotional blunting, where the “high” or the increased levels of dopamine, serotonin, opioid, or GABA receptor stimulation in the brain during the high result in a crash afterwards. Without the artificial stimulation, many people are left feeling bored, restless, or depressed without the drug, which contributes to further substance abuse. Addiction eventually results in a vicious cycle of using substances to create a sense of self and to feel good, where your only goal is to get high again and continue to feel good.

This is naturally extremely bad for you on a spiritual level, even under the modern definition which does not include religion, only the deep values and meanings by which people live.

What is a Spiritual Awakening in Recovery?

Most 12-step groups define a spiritual awakening as the shift away from looking to alcohol or drugs to solve life problems such as stress and boredom and towards actively working to improve, to enjoy yourself, and to create a better life for yourself. While this exact process will vary depending on you, where you started, and how you started, there are often clear signs you are going through or have experienced a spiritual awakening.

Experiencing and Sharing Emotions – Emotional blunting prevents you from fully experiencing or sharing emotions, leading many to withdraw from friends and family or fail to enjoy experiences with friends and family while with them. Many people experience this through increased joy, more expression, an ability to enjoy smaller things, and being less closed off around others.

A Changing Attitude – Many people enter recovery defiant and unwilling to change. Even if you chose recovery for yourself, it’s not something most people experience or accept easily. Chances are you still suffered from the cognitive effects of substance abuse, the behavioral implications of substance abuse, and your health was in bad shape, contributing to anxiety and depression. As your health recovers, you go through behavioral therapy, and you are able to distance yourself from the mental attitudes contributing to substance abuse, your attitude begins to change. For many people, this means you can accept criticism, are eager to share and listen, and are willing to accept advice and help from others.

Improved Outlook – As you experience a spiritual awakening, your perception of yourself and the world around you will change. While this does tie into emotional blunting and chemical imbalances in the brain, it is a process that will change who you are at the deepest level. For example, you begin to recognize what you are good at and why, to appreciate yourself and the work you’re putting into sobriety, and your ability to change. You’ll also recognize that good and bad things happen, you’ll have to deal with them, but drugs and alcohol don’t have to be involved.

Improved Well-Being – During addiction, the chances of you waking up just feeling happy or good would be very low. After a spiritual awakening, it should be normal. The shift from feeling numb and depressed to feeling alive and energetic is one that takes time, but it will happen.

A spiritual awakening is the process of facing emotional and physical truths about yourself, learning, and moving on. It’s not something that will happen overnight, but with time, support from your 12-step or recovery group, actively working on yourself with behavioral therapy and stress management, and learning to move back into life, you will experience the personal journey towards spiritual awakening. Even in 12-step groups, this process doesn’t necessarily have to include God, as many 12-step groups now support your higher power being whatever you like, even yourself and your confidence in your own ability to stay clean or sober. While this often includes God, many people choose to believe in whatever adds purpose, structure, and guidance to their lives, even if that’s their own sense of discipline.

Spiritual awakening is normally the process of moving beyond the person who used substances to live. It often means becoming a new person, because your personality, motivation, and outlook on life will change. The longer you’ve been addicted to a substance the bigger the transformation will be, and the more noticeable it will be. Religion and spirituality can positively affect mental health, especially for recovering addicts who need the grounding and structure provided by a spiritual practice (even if it is just meditation), to figure out who they are and what they want.

No matter where you are on the journey to recovery, getting help is the first step. A good rehabilitation facility will give you the tools and background to recognize and recover from the behaviors and underlying problems resulting in addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and group therapy, alongside complementary therapies like stress management and family therapy, will give you the tools to move forward after detox. And, after you’ve completed rehab, you can easily move into a sober living home or into a 12-step group to ensure that you continue to receive mental and emotional support as you move along your journey to recovery and spiritual awakening.

Millions of people in the United States are addicted to substances, millions more have recovered. You are not alone, and there is help when you are ready to recover.

If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

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Whether you’re very recently sober or well into your recovery journey, facing summer can be a challenge. Most of us look forward to summer as a time to party, drink, and enjoy social events where alcohol is often not only available but considered a necessity. If you’ve built your social and personal life around alcohol, stepping away from it and learning to have fun without alcohol can seem like building a new life, and often because it is.

Alcohol forces you to relax, decreasing your inhibitions, and increases dopamine and serotonin production in the brain. This will naturally make you feel as though you’re having more fun than without. However, the catch is that while you feel as though you’re having a good time, you’re often preventing yourself from doing things you enjoy, making friends, and socializing in a real way.

While staying sober over the summer may seem challenging, you’ll quickly find that there’s a lot you can do without alcohol, and you may even find that you have more fun without. And, while you might feel awkward not knowing what to do or how to have fun without alcohol, it’s as natural and normal as not knowing what to do in a new social situation, because it is likely new or at least the first time in a long time that you’ve attempted it.

Plan Your Time

You’ve probably heard of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired), which includes four states of mind where most people are more vulnerable to relapse. While you likely wouldn’t consider your emotions as leading to addiction, they are very important factors that contribute to your total emotional health and ability to make good decisions. If you’re lonely and bored, you’re more likely to romanticize and seek out substances to make yourself feel better. Planning your time gives you a way to decide what you can do to avoid instances where your mental health could be at risk and to avoid crashes. It also allows you to make choices that consciously benefit your health, dopamine and serotonin production, and overall happiness, which will help you to resist cravings and stay sober.

For example, you can plan outings outside, with daily walks or hikes. Going outside actually works to decrease stress, which will help you to be in the right state of mind to resist cravings. You can also work to develop a hobby based on things you want or used to do. Dedicating yourself to a hobby will take up some of your time to reduce boredom, while helping you to develop mental discipline, self-esteem, and patience – all of which will help you stay sober. What can you do as a hobby? It’s actually up to you, but many people find that doing things with their hands helps with resisting cravings, and can be a tactile way to distract yourself when alcohol is present, you feel bad or ‘down’, or are otherwise in a place where you might easily relapse.

And, of course, you should work to spend time with friends and family, who can help you to have fun and stay happy. If your friends and family still drink, you will need a new friends group, but you can likely easily find sober events and activities if the people you know are not accommodating.

Exercise

Most people don’t think of exercise as a fun thing to do with their time but developing a good habit of daily exercise will help you a great deal. For example, spending 30+ minutes of exercise a day helps to balance out serotonin and dopamine production in the brain to naturally reduce stress. Most importantly, you don’t have to spend those 30 minutes lifting weights at the gym, you could get the same benefits from participating in sports, dancing, doing yoga, or even walking.

Participating in team sports such as football or competitive swimming can also be considerably better for you than working out alone, because you can socialize and enjoy yourself in other ways at the same time. What’s the bottom line? Find an exercise you enjoy if you can, and if not, go for a brisk walk every morning. It will pay off.

Eat Well

Food is an important part of recovery and health and you should pay attention to it. Long periods of substance abuse, especially alcoholism, damage the gastrointestinal tract, cause you to make poor food choices, and may cause you to avoid eating in favor of alcohol. Your body needs micro and macro nutrients to stay physically and mentally healthy. If you’ve been to a recovery clinic, you’ve likely been given some form of nutrition therapy or training to improve your food intake but if you haven’t, you’ll likely have to make considerable changes to your diet.

With 30-40% of all recovering addicts suffering from some kind of eating disorder, and many of the symptoms of nutrient deficiency mimicking mental disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as the symptoms of cravings, it’s extremely important that you eat well. What qualifies as well? You can get specific dietary advice from your doctor or a nutrition, or use the general guidelines offered by government resources such as Choose My Plate.

Stick to Your Recovery Group

Chances are that you moved into a recovery group such as AA or SMART after leaving rehab. If you haven’t, it’s always a good place to start. While many people find recovery or group uncomfortable due to the nature of sharing and being open with a group of people, group recovery programs offer an important form of social motivation which can help you to stay sober. While there are many types of recovery groups, including religious and non-religious, they all offer the same form of accountability, guidance, and support from peers who have similar experiences and motivations. And, if you have a sponsor or a sober buddy to call when you start to experience cravings, you have an outlet to help you stay sober.

Many recovery groups also regularly host sober events and outings, which will give you a fun place to go and things to do when your normal friends and family are drinking.

Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

If you’ve attended rehab and been to cognitive behavioral therapy, you know how your mental state and your behavior will dramatically affect your ability to stay clean or sober. You also know when you’re in a good mental place and when you are not. For example, many counselors say that people generally exhibit signs such as withdrawing from self-help groups, avoiding friends and family, and increasingly isolating themselves before relapsing. Relapse isn’t typically an impulse decision, it usually builds up over weeks while you make choices and decisions that justify your relapse to yourself. If you catch yourself taking steps so that you don’t or won’t feel guilty about drinking, you should likely go back to your counselor, seek out additional therapy, or talk to someone at group. You likely want to stay sober, and keeping that in mind when you’re tempted will help you to remain that way – even when you think you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do.

Staying sober over the summer can be a challenge if you’re accustomed to spending the period drinking or partying, but there is a lot you can do and a lot of steps you can take to keep your mental and physical health where it should be. If you think you need further help, you can always seek out a rehab center to stay for the duration, especially if you haven’t already been to addiction treatment.

If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

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Drug and alcohol abuse knows no boundaries. Even the most loving and supportive families can find themselves caught with their loved one in the downward spiral of substance abuse. It can start with something as innocent as an injury or a surgery, where someone you care about is given opioids for pain control. Some families learn a child or sibling had their first taste of alcohol at a trusted friend’s house, or a son or daughter used a roommate’s prescription drugs to stay awake during finals. No matter how drugs or alcohol found their way in, the right help for your daughter, sister, parent or partner can save her life. But the person struggling with the abuse isn’t the only one dealing with the fallout from addiction. The right support for you and your family can make all the difference in how you cope with this emotional roller coaster.

Addiction and the Family

One of the most difficult things to overcome when dealing with an addicted loved one is the need to protect and help. Family members, especially parents, often feel compelled to make excuses for the addiction as it consumes more of their child. Calling in to work, lying to cover up missing family gatherings, supplying her habit or trying to keep her from using without help are all enabling behaviors. But you can’t control another person’s choices. The only thing you can control is your response.

Image Source: The Oaks Treatment

Enabling only puts off the inevitable “hitting rock bottom” and delays life-saving treatment. According to Karen Khaleghi Ph.D., for Psychology Today, “by stepping in to “solve” the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to change. Enablers help addicts dig themselves deeper into trouble.”

Family Support

Recognizing enabling behaviors and finding treatment for your loved one are just the beginning when it comes to coping with another person’s addiction. Family support groups and counseling services are there to help you walk through the process and heal together. When an addicted loved one enters treatment, family members are often amazed at the relief that follows. This can lead to feelings of guilt because they weren’t able to “fix” an unfixable situation. The emotions that come with having addiction in the family are real and need validating by others who understand. The right therapy can help heal your family while your addicted loved one is in treatment. After treatment, support groups and therapy provide you with the tools you need for healthy communication going forward.

Image Source: Dual Diagnosis

Written by Patti Richards

A writer for Foundations Recovery Network.

If your loved one struggles with addiction, we are here for you and your family. Please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today we are here to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

The post Families Need Support Too appeared first on Lighthouse Treatment Center.

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Whether you’re very recently sober or well into your recovery journey, facing summer can be a challenge. Most of us look forward to summer as a time to party, drink, and enjoy social events where alcohol is often not only available but considered a necessity. If you’ve built your social and personal life around alcohol, stepping away from it and learning to have fun without alcohol can seem like building a new life, and often because it is.

Alcohol forces you to relax, decreasing your inhibitions, and increases dopamine and serotonin production in the brain. This will naturally make you feel as though you’re having more fun than without. However, the catch is that while you feel as though you’re having a good time, you’re often preventing yourself from doing things you enjoy, making friends, and socializing in a real way.

While staying sober over the summer may seem challenging, you’ll quickly find that there’s a lot you can do without alcohol, and you may even find that you have more fun without. And, while you might feel awkward not knowing what to do or how to have fun without alcohol, it’s as natural and normal as not knowing what to do in a new social situation, because it is likely new or at least the first time in a long time that you’ve attempted it.

Plan Your Time

You’ve probably heard of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired), which includes four states of mind where most people are more vulnerable to relapse. While you likely wouldn’t consider your emotions as leading to addiction, they are very important factors that contribute to your total emotional health and ability to make good decisions. If you’re lonely and bored, you’re more likely to romanticize and seek out substances to make yourself feel better. Planning your time gives you a way to decide what you can do to avoid instances where your mental health could be at risk and to avoid crashes. It also allows you to make choices that consciously benefit your health, dopamine and serotonin production, and overall happiness, which will help you to resist cravings and stay sober.

For example, you can plan outings outside, with daily walks or hikes. Going outside actually works to decrease stress, which will help you to be in the right state of mind to resist cravings. You can also work to develop a hobby based on things you want or used to do. Dedicating yourself to a hobby will take up some of your time to reduce boredom, while helping you to develop mental discipline, self-esteem, and patience – all of which will help you stay sober. What can you do as a hobby? It’s actually up to you, but many people find that doing things with their hands helps with resisting cravings, and can be a tactile way to distract yourself when alcohol is present, you feel bad or ‘down’, or are otherwise in a place where you might easily relapse.

And, of course, you should work to spend time with friends and family, who can help you to have fun and stay happy. If your friends and family still drink, you will need a new friends group, but you can likely easily find sober events and activities if the people you know are not accommodating.

Exercise

Most people don’t think of exercise in addiction recovery as a fun thing to do with their time but developing a good habit of daily exercise will help you a great deal. For example, spending 30+ minutes of exercise a day helps to balance out serotonin and dopamine production in the brain to naturally reduce stress. Most importantly, you don’t have to spend those 30 minutes lifting weights at the gym, you could get the same benefits from participating in sports, dancing, doing yoga, or even walking.

Participating in team sports such as football or competitive swimming can also be considerably better for you than working out alone, because you can socialize and enjoy yourself in other ways at the same time. What’s the bottom line? Find an exercise you enjoy if you can, and if not, go for a brisk walk every morning. It will pay off.

Eat Well

Food is an important part of recovery and health and you should pay attention to it. Long periods of substance abuse, especially alcoholism, damage the gastrointestinal tract, cause you to make poor food choices, and may cause you to avoid eating in favor of alcohol. Your body needs micro and macro nutrients to stay physically and mentally healthy. If you’ve been to a recovery clinic, you’ve likely been given some form of nutrition therapy or training to improve your food intake but if you haven’t, you’ll likely have to make considerable changes to your diet.

With 30-40% of all recovering addicts suffering from some kind of eating disorder, and many of the symptoms of nutrient deficiency mimicking mental disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as the symptoms of cravings, it’s extremely important that you eat well. What qualifies as well? You can get specific dietary advice from your doctor or a nutrition, or use the general guidelines offered by government resources such as Choose My Plate.

Stick to Your Recovery Group

Chances are that you moved into a recovery group such as AA or SMART Recovery after leaving rehab. If you haven’t, it’s always a good place to start. While many people find recovery or group uncomfortable due to the nature of sharing and being open with a group of people, group recovery programs offer an important form of social motivation which can help you to stay sober. While there are many types of recovery groups, including religious and non-religious, they all offer the same form of accountability, guidance, and support from peers who have similar experiences and motivations. And, if you have a sponsor or a sober buddy to call when you start to experience cravings, you have an outlet to help you stay sober.

Many recovery groups also regularly host sober events and outings, which will give you a fun place to go and things to do when your normal friends and family are drinking.

Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

If you’ve attended rehab and been to cognitive behavioral therapy, you know how your mental state and your behavior will dramatically affect your ability to stay clean or sober. You also know when you’re in a good mental place and when you are not. For example, many counselors say that people generally exhibit signs such as withdrawing from self-help groups, avoiding friends and family, and increasingly isolating themselves before relapsing. Relapse isn’t typically an impulse decision, it usually builds up over weeks while you make choices and decisions that justify your relapse to yourself. If you catch yourself taking steps so that you don’t or won’t feel guilty about drinking, you should likely go back to your counselor, seek out additional therapy, or talk to someone at group. You likely want to stay sober, and keeping that in mind when you’re tempted will help you to remain that way – even when you think you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do.

Staying sober over the summer can be a challenge if you’re accustomed to spending the period drinking or partying, but there is a lot you can do and a lot of steps you can take to keep your mental and physical health where it should be. If you think you need further help, you can always seek out a rehab center to stay for the duration, especially if you haven’t already been to addiction treatment.

If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

The post Long Days and Nights – How to Stay Sober Over the Summer appeared first on Lighthouse Treatment Center.

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Marijuana is rapidly being legalized around the country, and the globe. With most studies showing that between 52% and 70% of Americans have tried cannabis at least once, and around 44% use it at least occasionally, weed is rapidly becoming mainstream and even accepted. While most studies do show that marijuana is relatively safe especially in comparison to other drugs, its impact on productivity, work safety, and performance are undeniable. In addition, studies showing the real impact of marijuana on work performance and capability are all but unheard of, but you can look at the implications of marijuana use on other factors.

For most people, the largest questions surrounding marijuana use in the workplace include is it safe, does it affect performance, and is it problematic. In most cases, the answers to these questions largely depend on how and when the person is using.

The Effect of Marijuana on Driving and Operating Heavy Equipment

Cannabis use is rising, but despite increased acceptance, cannabis does greatly affect the user’s ability to function. As a result, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration lists the percentage of accidents where at least one driver tested positive for marijuana use at 32%, with 9.7% of all cannabis users openly admitting to smoking and then driving and 50% of those with cannabis use disorder reporting driving while “stoned”.

While not as strong as the link between alcohol use and impaired driving, cannabis has a very clear and linked effect on driving. Many studies also suggest that cannabis increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident 2-fold over being sober. This does translate to the workplace problems when the workplace requires motor skills such as coordination, operating equipment or machinery, or functioning safely in a dangerous environment. Therefore, someone who smokes and is high around equipment could be endangering themselves and the lives of others. Occupations which require driving cars or heavy equipment, busses, or operating machinery are clear examples of when cannabis use could endanger others. However, indirect interaction with machinery or safety protocols could be affected as well, especially if the person’s job requires their speedy reaction in case of an emergency or disaster.

The recommendation is typically that any workplace where operator cognition affects workplace safety should have a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis use.

High at Work

Persons who use marijuana on a normal basis are typically not using at work. Those who do are often suffering from a cannabis use disorder, which lowers their judgement in relation to when it is and is not okay to use. The immediate effects of cannabis often include lethargy, inability to concentrate, and a feeling of being ‘high’ which can impact workplace productivity. In other cases, cannabis can have the opposite effect, typically depending on the strain or type of cannabis being consumed. With that in mind, it’s scientifically difficult to prove that all strains of cannabis have a negative effect on workplace productivity, however, some do.

Most workplaces have a zero tolerance for cannabis used in the workplace except in the case of a medical need. In most cases, states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use tend to treat cannabis use much like alcohol consumption. Most people wouldn’t choose to use at work and those that do likely have a problem. However, use at home with sufficient time to “sober up” before going to work should not affect performance unless the user is chronically addicted, in which case it will affect their performance in the same way being addicted to any other substance would.

Long Term Effects on the Brain

While most casual marijuana users are not addicted and are able to make good short-term decisions such as not smoking at work, cannabis does have marked long-term effects on the brain. The most notable of these is an increase in paranoia and anxiety over time. Unfortunately. many studies are small and either biased for or against marijuana, with competing studies arguing that long-term cannabis users see significant brain structural changes and others arguing that these changes are minimal and return to normal after marijuana use ceases. However, the most conclusive studies argue that effects on the brain depend on the original health of the user, the volume taken in, and the total duration of use. Persons with cooccurring mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are often doubly susceptible to paranoia and other abuse, largely because they are susceptible to abusing any intoxicating substance including alcohol.

The bottom line is that the more and more frequently someone uses, the stronger the impact on their brain and their ability to function. Someone who smokes once recreationally will not likely have any problems, where someone who smokes daily likely will.

Changing Norms Mean Changing Policies

Creating a good marijuana tolerance regulation at work means reviewing existing state policies and laws. For example, some states allow companies to take disciplinary action against users, even when they have a medical use card. Others, such as Arizona do not allow companies to penalize workers unless they were caught using or being high on the job or unless the work association would penalize the place of business for failing to take disciplinary measures. Understanding the local regulations in your state will help you to take and make better decisions regarding a marijuana use or tolerance policy.

This means considering the nature of use (medical, recreational), considering the impact of use, and considering the implications if something were to go wrong.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Cannabis use disorder, or addiction, affects an estimated 8% of total cannabis users (compared to about 9-13% of the population addicted to various substances). Cannabis use disorder or cannabis addiction is defined as the continued use of cannabis despite detrimental side effects including paranoia and impacts to the person’s life, in combination with withdrawal symptoms on cessation of the drug. While cannabis is rising in popularity, cannabis addiction is a serious disorder, characterized by the same mental and behavioral disorders as an addiction to alcohol or heroin. It will seriously impact a person’s ability to do their job well and safely, their productivity, and their interactions with others.

A person with cannabis use disorder will almost always allow it to affect their work performance because they will prioritize using and buying the drug over anything else. This contributes to reduced productivity, showing up late or missed attendance, poor performance, inability to concentrate, failure to sleep properly, and can contribute to theft, smoking or using on the premises, and affecting the safety of those around him or her.

Getting Help

Whether your employee, you, or a family member is addicted to cannabis, it is every bit as serious as an addiction to any other drug. While cannabis is less physically addicting than a harder drug such as opioids, nearly half of all long-term users experience withdrawal symptoms. And many will exhibit seeking behavior, going out of their way or causing harm to acquire the drug, even putting others at risk. However, there is help. Cannabis detox, followed by drug treatment to tackle the behavioral problems and underlying issues behind cannabis abuse will help.

Any long-term and frequent user will eventually be affected by cannabis. In fact, length or duration of use is one of the most common indicators of cannabis addiction.

If your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, it is crucial that you get them help, so they can get their life back on track. Please call us at Lighthouse Treatment Center today. At any time we are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Contact us today to discuss your situation in confidence.

The post Effects of Marijuana Use in the Workplace appeared first on Lighthouse Treatment Center.

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Heroin is increasing in popularity as a street drug and as a lower-cost alternative to black-market prescription pain pills. Recreational users typically inject the drug directly into a vein, resulting in a short-lived but intense high. However, this direct injection puts many users at risk of poisoning, substance toxicity, and damage caused not just by heroin, but also by any of the many substances heroin is cut with.

If you or a loved one is using heroin, it is important to understand not only the risks of the drug, but also the potential side-effects of mixing chemicals and drug adulterants. Because many substances are more harmful, even in small doses, than heroin itself, promoting safety and sourcing quality heroin for users who are not yet ready to seek out rehab is also important.

Why do Dealers Cut Heroin?

While heroin is available relatively cheaply compared to prescription opioids, the drug is often cut and reduced in purity. Dealers pay suppliers for the drug and then cut the drug to increase the volume and therefore their own profits. Depending on the dealer, heroin is cut with substances intended to increase or prolong the high, increase addiction, or simply to add volume without raising suspicion, resulting in many substances of similar texture and quality being used to cut the drug.

In fact, the John Hopkins University researched and suggests that most heroin available on the street is cut with a substance. Depending on the quality and original price, heroin may be anywhere from 3-99% heroin, with an average purity of about 65% in most of the USA, but not actually ‘pure’. With sale prices averaging between $15-$30 per dose, dealers can drastically increase profits by cutting their supply.

While it’s difficult to recognize when drugs are cut with another substance, if you’re using, it’s important to source heroin carefully, attempt to test for purity, and refuse to buy if drugs are a different texture, smell, or color than traditionally. Some substance abuse clinics and shelters will offer training and classes on recognizing cut heroin, not to encourage you to use, but to save lives if you are using and come across heroin cut with dangerous substances.

What is Heroin Cut With?

Heroin is typically sold as a white powder or a black tar-like substance, both of which are easy to cut by choosing substances with a similar consistency or which can be mixed in without changing the consistency.

For example, the most common adulterants found in heroin include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Maltitol
  • Diazepam
  • Methaqualone
  • Phenobarbital
  • Laundry detergent
  • Strychnine (rat poison)
  • Baking soda
  • Sucrose
  • Talcum
  • Crushed aspirin
  • Powdered milk
  • Caffeine
  • Fentanyl / other opioids

Each of these substances can be dangerous on its own, before being injected directly into the bloodstream. For example, a direct hit of sucrose could prove fatal to a diabetic user. Even relatively harmless adulterants like baking soda and powdered milk are less than ideal in the bloodstream. Others, like strychnine, laundry detergent, and fentanyl actively cause deaths.

Fentanyl Fentanyl is often used to increase the potency of heroin, especially over-cut heroin. Unfortunately, with a drug profile strength as much as 10,000 times that of heroin, cutting fentanyl into heroin causes overdoses.

Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen, commonly sold as an over-the-counter pain reliever, is one of the most common adulterants used in heroin. Here, pills are powdered and mixed in, with dealers relying on acetaminophen to act as a sedative, mimicking the high effect of the drug.

Caffeine – Caffeine creates an energy high and can countereffect negative side effects of many drugs. However, it can be dangerous in heroin, because it can mask the effects of an overdose, making it more difficult to diagnose and treat the problem. Some users may also experience heart problems and arrhythmia as well as severe dehydration from large doses of caffeine.

Strychnine – While commonly reported, it is extremely rare for heroin to be cut with strychnine. In most cases, it is in the dealer’s best interest to keep their customers alive and strychnine is a poison. However, if users begin developing signs of poisoning especially massive bloating in the lower body, contact the Poison Control Center

Maltitol – Maltitol is an artificial sugar, used in low-calorie and sugar-free foods. While not particularly dangerous, maltitol can increase blood glucose and is a laxative.

Diazepam – Diazepam or Valium is a benzodiazepine, which typically causes relaxation and sedation. At small doses, diazepam is addictive and tolerance inducing, but at larger doses, can cause overdose, strong sedative effects, loss of motor control, respiratory depression (difficulty breathing), loss of consciousness, and death. However, Valium is difficult to overdose on, and most users have no risk of doing so, even when taking it in large doses cut into heroin.

Phenobarbital – Phenobarbital, commonly sold as luminal, is a sedative used to treat epilepsy and seizures, especially in small children. The drug is used to cut heroin because it slows the activity of the brain, resulting in a decreased level of consciousness. Over long-term use, the drug is significantly addicting, and can create medical risks including respiratory depression, increased risk of suicide, and withdrawal.

Most of these drugs act as mild to strong sedatives, either acting on or alongside the effects of heroin. The goal of most dealers is to give users a good ‘high’ experience, so that they don’t realize the heroin is cut, or so that they get enough of the same experience that they don’t care. For this reason, most dealers will not heavily cut heroin with dangerous substances, which will lose them customers.

Getting Help in Case of Poisoning

If you or a loved one are exhibiting unusual symptoms after using heroin, dial 911 or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Your loved one could be suffering the effects of chemical poisoning or toxicity, or an overdose, and getting them medical attention as quickly as possible could save their life.

Many people are hesitant to call the hospital in case of an overdose or apparent toxicity, because heroin use is illegal. However, your medical professional will not report your using heroin. You are entitled to safely seek out medical care, even for illicit substance use, without fear of reprisal under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIIPA).

If you are unsure of what the user is overdosing on, it may be important to bring a sample of the substance with you to the hospital. Blood tests can take too long to recognize and treat side effects, but samples can be tested for content much more rapidly.

Seeking Heroin Addiction Treatment

While heroin is often cut with substances including fentanyl, sugars, and acetaminophen, heroin itself is often the most dangerous substance. Heroin is heavily addictive, easily causes overdose, deadly withdrawal symptoms, and causes changes to mental and physical health over time. Users are at risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens through shared needles, abscesses, poisoning from adulterants, and often lifestyles resulting in decreasing health over time.

Getting help and seeking addiction treatment will help you or your loved one to recover by offering medically supported detox, assessment and often customized therapy and care, and psychological treatment to help build the coping skills to deal with stress and cravings. Addiction treatment also includes support for stress, trauma, and disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, giving users the tools to treat and deal with not only their addiction, but also the underlying causes.

If your loved one is using heroin, it is crucial that you get them help, so they can get their life back on track. Please call us at Lighthouse Treatment Center today. At any time we are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Contact us today to discuss your situation in confidence.

The post What is Heroin Cut With? appeared first on Lighthouse Treatment Center.

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Recovering from an addiction is a long process which will result in massive lifestyle changes. Many rehab programs offer addiction treatment including nutrition and exercise therapy, working to improve the mental and physical health of patients. But, while this is important for your physical recovery, because many people in recovery suffer from nutritional deficiencies, it’s also important from another perspective. Persons who are addicted to a substance also look to replace that substance and the dopamine and serotonin high that came with it. This leads many of us to excessively indulge in dopamine-high inducing foods including high-fat and high-sugar foods. Being aware of the impact of these foods on your brain and mental health is important as you begin the process of stepping away from chemical dependence and towards a healthy lifestyle. Sugar, while no means physically addicting in the DSM sense, causes similar reactions in the brain to many substances, which can result in food-seeking behavior and incomplete recovery.

Many old-fashioned recovery programs and some 12-step programs actually encourage you to seek out sugary foods. Why? They will help you to alleviate some cravings in the beginning. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems and an unhealthy relationship with food as time goes by. Whether you’re facing these same encouragements or are simply experiencing cravings for sugar, there is a lot you should know about using sugar in early recovery.

Is Sugar Like Cocaine?

Chances are that if you’re in recovery, you may have heard the oft-cited study that sugar has a similar effect on the brain as cocaine. This concept has actually been the focus of many studies, most of them producing the same conclusion. Sugar has a robust effect on the brain, creating the same pattern of changes as many drugs, resulting in a light dopamine high. This explains why many people, even those who are diabetic, often have difficulty in controlling their sugar intake.

That’s important when you already have a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Your brain is accustomed to frequent dopamine highs, and it will continue to crave them. Using sugar to replace your drug of choice will not replace it completely, but it will allow you to extend cravings rather than dealing with them completely – because you’re still using something to get that high. While sugar isn’t addictive in the traditional sense (even the most deprived person won’t likely rob a store to get a donut while they have something else to eat), it will influence how you think and prevent you from completely recovering.

Does that mean you can’t have sugar? Not at all. It just means you have to be careful with your sugar intake and avoid relying on sugar when you begin to experience cravings. If you’re craving something sweet, it’s likely not the sugar you really want. What should you watch out for? If you find yourself eating a large quantity of sugar, binging on sugar, or otherwise craving it, talk to your counselor. If you’re getting your sugar from a source that includes caffeine, expect some withdrawal symptoms if you quit it abruptly.

Should I Use Sugar to Reduce Cravings?

While some schools of thought recommend using sugar to reduce the immediacy and strength of cravings in early recovery, this is a habit that can be difficult to stop. Instead, you’re better off using prescription medication offered by a healthcare professional, which they can control and taper off or reduce at their discretion when you need it. Using sugar to do so simply replaces one type of substance seeking behavior with another, which can be problematic in the long term. If you’re unsure, consider discussing the pros and cons of each option with your physician and counselor to determine the best approach for your health needs. However, in most cases, using a substitute like sugar to reduce cravings only prolongs the cravings rather than allowing you to develop the coping mechanisms to deal with them.

Sugar Has a Limited Nutritional Value

Unless you’re getting sugar from fruit and vegetables, chances are that whatever you’re consuming is limited in nutritional value. That’s important and extremely bad for recovering addicts who often need nutritional therapy as part of recovery. With up to 70% of all drug addicts in recovery suffering from some type of nutrient deficiency, eating healthy and balanced meals is important for recovering your health. This is especially important in the context of long-term drug use, which can cause extreme damage to the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Eating well and avoiding difficult to process foods helps your body to recover before damage becomes permanent.

In addition, nutritional deficiencies overlap with many mental disorders, causing problems ranging from lethargy and depression to anxiety. This, in turn, puts you at a greater risk for relapse. In addition, most sugary foods are primarily carbohydrates with little to nothing in terms of micro and macro nutrients, so they won’t benefit you as you work to recover.

Potential Risks for Persons in Recovery

If you’re in recovery, you face additional health risks. For example, if you have abused substances for some time, you likely have gastrointestinal damage. This increases your risk of problems like hyperglycemia which can result in liver damage or eventually result in Type 2 Diabetes. People in recovery are also especially susceptible to glucose metabolic disorders, which can transform into food-seeking behavior, where you abuse energy drinks, candy, and sweets. While this will never be to the same extent as a drug addiction, it’s still problematic and can cause health, weight, and recovery problems. For example, excessive weight gain due to sugar consumption can put an increased strain on your damaged liver, resulting in further damage or even hospitalization.

Getting Help

If you’ve already been to a recovery program and were not given nutrition training, you should seek out a nutritionist or dietician to discuss your diet and its potential implications on your health. Being honest about your health and your past will help your nutritionist to give you the best advice.

If you haven’t been to recovery and instead went through drug or alcohol detox on your own, you can still seek out a traditional addiction treatment. Most programs work to offer personalized advice and help with science-backed treatment including counseling, behavioral therapy, and nutritional and exercise therapy designed to help you improve your total health. This will allow you to build a foundation which you can use to stay in recovery, to live a fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol and to learn to cope with cravings so that you don’t fall back on using sugar or another substitute.

No matter what your choice, it’s important that you be careful with sugar so that it doesn’t affect your health or your recovery. To learn more about recovery you may contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are here to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.

The post What Should I Know About Using Sugar in Early Recovery? appeared first on Lighthouse Treatment Center.

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