Creative Writing

Art Therapy & Recovery

Art Therapy & Recovery

How does therapy support recovery?

Recovery is a process that takes time, resilience, patience, and support. We understand that recovery is not something that we can do alone. The simple reason is that when we are the cause of our suffering, it is difficult to see beyond what we believe is true. Addiction causes a disconnection from reality, from our minds, and bodies. An effective approach to recovery from addiction includes implementing connections between our thought patterns and behaviors. These connections eventually evolve into new patterns with others and the world around us. 

We can’t create new connections while carrying traumas and beliefs on our shoulders. As a social species, we rely on other human beings for support, guidance, and at the most basic level, survival.

  • Popular therapeutic forms to treat addiction are:
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy
  • PTSD and Trauma resolution
  • Family therapy

Substance abuse treatment centers introduce many people to therapy. A licensed professional help clients work through unresolved emotions and/or trauma. The goal of counseling is to uncover the cause of addiction including family history, traumatic events, and motivations that lead to relapse.

When causes and conditions get identified, a therapist helps people work through them. This is not a task we have to do alone. Therapists focus on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They addressing beliefs and behaviors that are unhealthy. Finally, they introduce new coping mechanisms and behaviors that are supportive. Relapse prevention coaching is another form of counseling offered at NRWC. This technique uses life skills training and holistic tools to help individuals create a lifestyle that is conducive to recovery.

Therapy can help:

  • Resolve emotional and physical trauma
  • Manage stress
  • Address mental health such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
  • Develop communication skills

In addition to individual counseling, New River Wellness Center introduces group counseling to all the clients on-site. This group allows people to share their experiences, feelings, and thoughts with others who are also in early recovery. This practice helps individuals engage in effective communication skills while building trust and community.

The primary text of Alcoholics Anonymous states,

“There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest” (Chapter 5, How it works).

No matter the path to long-term recovery, this statement holds fact along all journeys. Honesty is the most important principle of maintaining a life free from addiction. For many, this ability forms through a supportive community of people in recovery. The willingness to take part in individual and group sessions can be cathartic. Honesty with one person can create patterns that will reinforce sobriety. We find that people who are able to be honest with a mental health professional are on the path to a hopeful and successful recovery.

 

Mindful Eating to Support Recovery

Mindfulness can bring awareness to our eating habits. Awareness of the mind-body lets us understand our reactions to ordinary things. When difficult emotions arise, mindfulness allows us freedom from their control. We learn to turn our attention from cravings to intentions. Mindful eating can reveal the effects different foods have on our body. We find out the internal and external reaction to food and eating. We learn to listen to our body and give it the nourishment it needs.

Mindfulness of eating is one of the practices that are easy to practice daily. Here are some tips on getting started with mindful eating:

“Am I Hungry?”
Like drug addiction and alcoholism, we may sometimes eat to meet an emotional need. Ask yourself, “am I hungry?” This action introduces an awareness of the bodies natural hunger cues. These show up as lethargy, grumpiness, or an empty and grumbling stomach.

If hunger cues aren’t present, there may be an emotional drive to eat. By asking the body, we become aware of trigger feelings. The feelings that drive unnecessary consumption are often boredom, anger, loneliness, and sadness. We begin to eat our emotions, to fill a certain emptiness. Food, drugs, or alcohol will not please an emotional emptiness.

If we aren’t hungry, we practice observing, without judgment, our emotions. This awareness creates the opportunity for us to take responsible action.

Focus on your food
Remove any distractions. Our culture is big on “eat and watch.” We multitask eating and Netflix, music, or social media. Mindful eating asks us to be present and aware of what we are doing. By eliminating distractions and focusing on eating, we stay present in the moment. Distractions create a distance between the mind and body and delay our satiation response. We miss our bodies cues which tell us when we are full, and we tend to overeat.

There is a difference between being “satiated” and “stuffed”. Satiation is the bodies natural response to having enough. It is okay to stop eating when the body feels comfortable and no longer hungry. It is okay to eat again when hungry.

Experience your Food
This is as simple as acknowledging the taste, texture, and smells. Presence and awareness of our food allow us to appreciate and enjoy every bite of our food. We have lived so long disconnected from our minds and bodies. The simplest way to return to our nature is to observe the senses.

Mindfulness of eating can be more challenging when we live with an eating disorder. This practice takes time, patience, and compassion, but it is worth it. Our bodies are part of who we are, and taking care of them is essential for our health.

You Are More Than an Eating Disorder

New River Wellness Center treats addiction and eating-disorders as co-occurring illnesses in both men and women. We do this because we strive to help our clients reach a full state of recovery.

What is an eating disorder?

Most of us are in denial about what is wrong. When we are in denial, we are also in fear. We do everything we can to cover up our actions. Alcoholism and drug addiction work similar to eating disorders: they are used as a coping mechanism.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by abnormally low body weight and drastic attempts to manipulate the body’s shape and size.

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating and may or may not be followed by purging.

These behaviors are a symptom of a psychological or emotional concern. When a person recovers from an eating disorder they are at risk for developing alcoholism or drug addiction as a new way of coping with psychological turmoil. Most of our clients have used drugs and alcohol to support their eating disorder. The effects of substance abuse and a lack of nutrition and health are dangerous.

 

The National Eating Disorder Association states that 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs. Up to 35% of individuals who abused or were dependent on alcohol or other drugs have also had eating disorders. *

 

It is important to understand that eating disorder and drug addiction does not diminish who you are as a person. Every life matters in this world. We approach recovery from all angles to uncover the suffering that is leading to addiction and self-harm. We uncover and discuss the biological structure of each individual and the psychology behind the self-harm and drug abuse. We address social constructs, and standards that inhibit the behavior. Finally, we introduce a spiritual approach to break free from all the causes of the addiction.

The body is a superpower. It has the ability to heal itself, work, rest, and survive. You are stronger than you think you are. The mind has the power to help the body heal. When we are stuck in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors, we prevent healing.

The goal of recovery is not to learn how to control our eating disorders or drug use. It is not to finally lose the weight or satisfy our cravings. The goal is to address the root-cause of our addiction to drugs and eating disorder. We ask what emotional need is satisfied with these behaviors? In doing so, we begin a journey. We learn to:

Listen to our body

Honor the true needs of our body

Learn to understand our feelings

Practice healthy coping tools

Accept ourselves

Love ourselves.

At New River Wellness Center, we strive to address the true causes of the condition. We hope to introduce our guests to a new way of life, one that is free from suffering and addiction. You are not alone.

International Women’s Day 2018

Women face unique barriers in getting help from addiction and alcoholism. There is a stigma that women, especially mothers, “should be stronger than that.” When these standards are not met, shame is created. It leads women to believe that they are bad women or mothers. Shame leaves a deep wound that needs to heal. The homemaker stereotype has never been so damaging. Mothers fear of losing their children to the justice system. The stigma altercates the belief that women who are suffering from an addiction are bad mothers. This is not true. The fear is strong enough to keep women hiding and denying their addiction.

Women face a large self-esteem deprecation. Over years of conditioning, women believe that they are not worth the help. Domestic abuse leads women to misunderstand respect and love.  These beliefs affect all groups of women. As a matter of fact, women of color and LGBTQ community face a higher risk of domestic and sexual violence. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, domestic violence and addiction in women are co-occurring. This includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. It expands into social isolation, emotional manipulation, threats, and depriving women of the dignity they deserve. “Substance abuse has been found to co-occur in 40-60% of IPV [Intimate Partner Violence] incidents across various studies.”* This is a social disease that has permeated the mental health nationwide.

More women stand up and speak out about their abuse, addiction, and recovery. The most beautiful movement is that these women turn around to help the next woman in recovery. In honor of International Women’s day, we have compiled a few words to and from women in recovery.

“This way of life was what I was always looking for all along. I gave up the pain and misery of searching for a solution through drinking. I was hiding from life and postponing pain: it always came back. Recovery gave me relief and the beginning of my life. I’m part of a miracle and I’m grateful. There’s magic in how it works.” -Shelby

“I thought I was searching for happiness. But I was always searching for a relationship with myself. The kind people talk about, its called self-love. I wanted to feel at home in my own skin. After beginning the process of healing from my own version of hell, I began to find peace with myself and the world.  I didn’t know that my hopelessness was what I needed to look for peace with the desperation of a drowning woman. Because of recovery, I finally found a home within myself.” -Courtney

“I had no respect for my body or my mind…I didn’t care I didn’t know. I thought what I was doing was self-love. I had never had it so twisted. I was in abusive relationships, doing things I didn’t want to do… drinking and doing drugs was not the self-love I made myself believe it was. I was destroying my body and my spirit. My first real act of self-love was trying–as hard as it was– to find sobriety. I found more than an ability to not drink or do drugs… I found out what love is. I misguided myself before, and now I am on this journey of truth.” -Virginia

New River Wellness Center understands and respects the needs of women in recovery. That is why we offer gender-specific treatment options. Your recovery can be as safe and supported as you need it to be. Do not be afraid to save yourself. Your life is worth it. You are worth it. We are here to help, and remind you that you are never alone. 

 

Mindfulness & Recovery

Addiction creates a complex disconnection between the mind and body. It separates us from our emotions and inhibits destructive thought patterns such as dishonesty, self-deprecation, resentment and so on. We become addicted to substances that help us cope or escape our problems. The problem gets out of hand and then we find ourselves unable to stop. We may achieve a short period of sobriety. Whether intentional or not, sometimes we cannot stop the obsession over the next drunk or high. Relapses occur when we are vulnerable and do not have the appropriate tools to manage our emotions or thoughts.

Mindfulness is an intentional act of being present in this moment. It is allowing ourselves to feel our emotions as they arise in the body. It asks us to become aware of the thoughts that we create. It is a state of observation without judgment. When stressful or stimulating events occur, that at one point prompted us to drink or use. We ran on involuntary impulses please our thoughts and emotions. For the first time, we can experience and understand the nature of our addiction in its natural form. Awareness of our body, emotions, and thoughts allow us to regain control over them.

Early recovery is not easy. We may feel strangled by thoughts that demand attention, and with no tools to comfort us. Often times, we get bombarded by years of suffering that we tried to bury and neglect. The simple fact is that we never allowed ourselves to truly feel before. Mindfulness doesn’t mean we have to feel the pain at this moment. That’s the beauty of it! We become grounded, aware, and reminded that we are alive okay right now.

These are some tools we practice at New River. People all over the world use these tools, whether they are addicts or not.

Meditation

Mindfulness of breath can reduce stress, anxiety, and restlessness. Breathing is so natural that we live unaware of. We don’t need to control or change it. There are many forms of meditation, a simple mindfulness meditation will suffice:

Take a deep breath, and observe it. For many of us, this is the first conscious breath of the day. Sit in a relaxed position and become aware of your body. Find where you feel your breath the most. You might feel cool air enter through your nostrils. You might feel your chest rise and fall with each breath. You might feel your breath expand the belly. Observe the sensation of your breath. Focus on it for a few minutes.

Yoga and Exercise

Physical motion and intentional breathing work together to center and relax the body. During exercise, our breath regulates and guides our movement. This applies to yoga, boxing, running, martial arts and any other sport. Exercise is useful when we feel restless and constrained by our bodies. We can empty our minds, and put ourselves into our mechanical bodies. When we finish we often feel a sense of relief and lightness.

Eating Habits

Healthy eating habits can clear out toxins from our bodies. Especially when we are new in recovery. Substance abuse and alcohol affect the immune system by reducing our white blood cell count. We are prone to experience illness, fatigue, or physical discomfort. Healthy eating brings back physical clarity and eliminates waste and harmful toxins. When we eat to supplement our bodies with nutrients, we begin to feel and look healthy. The phrase “Healthy body, healthy mind” is real.

Spend time in Nature

Think about the last time you took a walk through the forest or sat by the sea. These natural exposures mirror our own ability to be still, to ravage, to grow, and to rest. There is a Japanese tradition known as Shinrin-yoku, or “Forest Bathing.” It is a therapeutic practice that reduces stress and blood pressure. Forest bathing inspires a positive mood, better sleep, a healthier immune system. It also connects us to the energy force of the Earth and our bodies.

Mindfulness doesn’t come overnight. Please be patient, and compassionate with yourself. The key mindfulness is commitment and practice. Set aside time every day to practice. Seek help from practices or teachers that can guide you through the journey.

 

Limiting Beliefs That We Must Let Go

 

The only real obstacle that stands in the way of our freedom and happiness is ourselves. Through active addiction we try to achieve satisfaction, considering our circumstances. We fabricate a reality and stay stuck on a negative perspective of our experience. We cannot see beyond the judgment which we have clothed our lives in until we decide to do something about it.

Think about your own past, how many times has a similar outcome occurred? Regardless of the people and places, it was Déjà vu.  We ask ourselves, “how could this happen again?”

We get stuck in revolving doors. We continuously make decisions that produced the same results. The scariest part is that we don’t even know it, and we need help to see the truth and break free from our own imprisonment.

Honesty is the first step! These are some of the lies we need to stop telling ourselves:


“If only my parents had done a better job”
Our parents cannot make decisions for us anymore. At one point or another, we must provide for ourselves whatever we needed as children. And what we need as adults to feel secure.

“You don’t understand what I’ve been through”

There are people who have gone through what you have gone through. Our stories may play out differently, but we are all humans living the human experience. Plus, if it has a name, it has occurred before! Look around, and you will find.

“It’s too late for me, I’ve messed everything up”

It is never too late, the fact that we are still alive and reading this page is enough proof. As long as we are breathing, we have a chance to make a difference.

“I don’t deserve to be happy, I am a bad person”
This ends with forgiveness. No one is perfect, and we have all done things that we regret. We have hurt people and ourselves, but we don’t have to do those things ever again. Millions of people have changed their emotions, attitudes, and actions. By the way, you deserve happiness. Who says you don’t? 

“This will never work out for me”

It will never work if you have already convinced yourself it will never work. An enemy to recovery is “contempt prior to investigation.” If you’ve never tried it, and given it all you’ve had, it won’t. But magic happens when we try.

“Just one more time”
We are addicts and alcoholics because one more drink is never enough. We need more, always. Think about how many times you’ve said this to yourself or someone else, only to find yourself on a run again.

Let go of the victim story
This is not meant to minimize your experiences. If you have gotten hurt, wronged, abused, or neglected, it is time to ask for help. The world and its people dominate the addict and alcoholic. It is time to take responsibility for our lives. This can look like taking the dive and seeking recovery. It means allowing others, who have been there, help us out of it. It requires we take our emotions, attitudes, and actions into our own hands and seek to heal from our traumas. We let go of the victim story when we show up for ourselves and heal the parts of us that hurt. We regain autonomy for our lives and take the control away from other people and our addictions. We have an active role in what happens to us next. You are not a victim, you are a survivor.

This is not something we ever have to do alone. As a matter of fact, we can do this with people who have experienced the same thing or understand where we have been. New River is a safe environment that has helped countless people find recovery. It is time to break through our self-imposed obstacles. It does need commitment and effort on our part, but we can recover from a hopeless state of mind and body.

What is Sobriety?

The word sobriety is heavy with expectations that many find difficult. Sobriety is first, and foremost, a choice people make. At one point or another, people choose sobriety to save themselves from the suffering caused by addiction. Many people get defensive when the idea is brought up. Those who suffer from alcohol and addiction cannot bear to imagine a life without the substance because there has been no way of living without it. Eventually, it becomes clear that we have been slowly killing ourselves over time. Our salvation becomes our damnation. Suddenly the one thing that once offered us emotional release only brings pain and consequence.

The literal meaning of the term sobriety is “to not be intoxicated.” In terms of recovery, it is much more than that. It is not a death sentence, it is survival. Sobriety means creating a new paradigm within oneself. It is creating a purpose for life and living in that purpose. It is a commitment to growing in happiness and usefulness to society. It is discovering ourselves and achieving our dreams. Soon enough, the use of drugs and alcohol no longer coincide with our life’s purpose. There are many things that we recover, and some within the first few weeks of sobriety.

Feelings

Early sobriety can be terrifying, especially going through it alone. Not only is every new person confused, craving, and angry, there is delirium and desperation. Stopping the use of drugs and alcohol can be physically dangerous, but it also comes with emotional side-effects. A lot of the time, we used these substances to numb ourselves from feeling and to cope with traumatic experiences. The pain was unbearable and the substance made it bearable. We became unable to cope with the events that aroused these emotions, and the feelings got stuck in our mind, body, and soul. All of a sudden, in abstinence, we are struck with this unbearable suffering where we begin to feel every emotion we have long since tried to bury. This is the most vulnerable place to be, and also very dangerous because here we are most prone to relapse. But if we stick to the commitment, we get to know anger in its true form. We get to experience love in all its glory. The confusion that comes with these new experiences can be uncomfortable. The professionals at New River are trained in supporting and guiding individuals through these confusing stages of early recovery.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Saying no to a drink or a drug can be extremely difficult in the beginning. Often times, we have to fight the will to stay sober because we are still understanding how to implement new solutions into our lives. We have said, “this is the last time, I swear.” But eventually end up back under the thumb of the substance. Sobriety gives us the chance to question ourselves and finally get an answer. We find out who we really are, and why we needed to drink and drug in order to be okay. We uncover our truths and gain the clarity we need in order to deal with life’s circumstances. The first thing sobriety requires of us is that we get honest with ourselves. When we know our truth, we learn to respond in a way that will defend and protect it. This becomes self-confidence, and most beautifully, self-love.

Progress

The scariest idea about sobriety is the one that we have to stay sober for the rest of our lives. “Forever” is a daunting concept for the person who can’t bear the short sober hours alone. Without a solution to our problems, we are left with is confusion and a desperation. Progress comes from our willingness to do what we can to abstain from using. Forever is only one day. The past is gone, and the future has not arrived. One goal of sobriety is to design a new life today, and in turn, ensure a brighter tomorrow. Making peace with our past is challenging, but one that does not have to be done alone. We have access to a supportive community that is willing and capable of helping us work through traumas. All in due time. The beauty of sobriety is that we grace ourselves with time and dedication. These gifts allow us to progress in our recovery and our lives without the pressure of perfection.

Sobriety is a result of consistent, and dedicated work. It can be physical, mental, and spiritual progress. It is part of finding out our truth, what hurts us and what helps us thrive. It is about accepting ourselves as humans with emotions. It is allowing ourselves to feel, and finally, understand why we feel. Sobriety is an effort to be our better selves, one day at a time. We receive the support from people who have been there too. Then, we get to give that support to the person who needs it next. We are never alone.  

Fate or Free-will

 

Most of us struggle with the idea of choice and destiny. These conversations can melt into a controversy about whether we have free-will to create our own lives, or that we are predestined to live a life that has already been decided. Whatever side you may find yourself on, there is something that both ideas do possess. In fact, they may even coincide with each other. Some would say that we are destined to live the life we create for ourselves.

If we have the free-will to become whoever we want, we make decisions and take action in order to commence that existence. In other words, a doctor did not wake up as a doctor. They decided to go to medical school, applied, got accepted and did the intensive work that was required of them. Then they worked a residency, gained on-call experience, and finally were able to reap the rewards of their hard work. That doctor may decide tomorrow to leave the hospital and open a bookstore.

There is an unwavering perspective many people have on fate. Often times we believe that fate demands a result. For this doctor, somehow, someway they will find themselves with a stethoscope around their neck…no matter how much they fight it.

The thing between fate and free-will is the perspective that choice is being taken away from us as humans, and that fate is a non-negotiable contract. The idea that someone or something else is controlling, or making our most intimate decisions, is utterly unbearable for a species that wants to be in control. A common result is that we begin to blot out our own realities in an attempt to defy fate.

Alcoholism and addiction can be a result of our environment, and preconditioned experiences and learned behaviors. They can occur to anyone…that doctor that spent years in medical school could find their experience difficult, and chose to turn to numbing their feelings as an attempt to cope with it.

All the actions people take are a result of free-will. Everyone is destined to choose their own life’s path. The single most important realization any person should have, is that they have the choice to continue suffering, or to crawl out of the recesses of despair woke up in.

Destiny does not have a totalitarian control over our lives. Fear likes to make monsters out of harmless ideas, and fear likes to make victims out of abusive behaviors. Whether you are more inclined to believe in free-will over fate, these two cannot exist without the other.

Alcoholism has become a destiny for a lot of people. It engulfs their lives and personalities to the point where there is little chance in escaping it. Alcohol and drug abuse can become the totalitarian ruler so many of us fear. The addiction is, in fact, scarier than fate or free-will, because it has enough power to take away a person’s sovereignty, leaving many people powerless.

Many people who suffer from alcoholism or addiction never take the necessary steps to free themselves from the bonds that were subconsciously placed around them. Alcoholism and addiction are not a conscious choice people make. No one wakes up and decides they want to become an addict (just like someone does not become a doctor overnight). It happens slowly, over time, through repeated behaviors and circumstances that were, at one point, an act of survival.

The miracle is that millions of people have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Millions of people have been given the chance, the support, and the tools necessary to move forward. Millions of people have been able to change their own lives through their own acts of free-will. They have been able to create a new destiny for themselves.

There is help available if you or a loved one wants it. New River Wellness Center is a professional institute that has been successful in helping people with various addictions, beliefs, and personalities. The staff at New River have been able to arm their participants with new coping tools to engage with life’s circumstances in a productive and healthy way. The professionals can provide both psychological and emotional support that many people need in order to let go of the demons that haunt them. This combination of support and attention will inspire participants to choose a new experience, and a new freedom. Please, reach out if you or a loved one may be suffering from an addiction that is taking away their freedom to choose.