It’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive.
In fact, many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.
Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners.
If you’re beginning to feel as if your partner or a loved one’s partner is becoming abusive, there are a few behaviors that you can look out for. Watch out for these red flags and if you’re experiencing one or more of them in your relationship, call or chat online with an advocate to talk about what’s going on.
Telling you that you can never do anything rightShowing jealousy of your friends and time spent awayKeeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family membersEmbarrassing or shaming you with put-downsControlling every penny spent in the householdTaking your money or refusing to give you money for expensesLooking at you or acting in ways that scare youControlling who you see, where you go, or what you doPreventing you from making your own decisionsTelling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your childrenPreventing you from working or attending schoolDestroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your petsIntimidating you with guns, knives or other weaponsPressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable withPressuring you to use drugs or alcohol
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender.
It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.
Childhood trauma has long been known to raise a child’s odds of developing depression and addiction later on. Now, a small but intriguing new study links these risks to specific changes in the brain, finding that disruptions in certain neural networks are associated with increased chances of substance use disorders, depression or both in teens.
Researchers at the University of Texas studied 32 teens, 19 of whom had been maltreated in childhood but did not have a current psychiatric disorder. The researchers defined child trauma or maltreatment as any type of significant abuse or neglect lasting six months or longer, or a major traumatic experience like life-threatening illness, witnessing domestic violence or losing a parent before age 10. The other 13 participants in the study served as the control group, having no history of major child trauma or psychiatric problems.
All of the teens were followed up every six months for an average of three and a half years. During that time, the authors found that five of the maltreated children and one control had developed major depression and four of the maltreated children and one control had developed substance use disorders. (Two of the maltreated children had both a drug problem and depression.) This meant that nearly half the maltreated children had a either a diagnosable drug problem or depression or both, three times the rate seen in controls.Using a brain-imaging technique that measures the integrity of the white matter that connects various brain regions, the researchers looked for any differences in the teens’ brains when they were first enrolled in the study, before they had developed any psychiatric problems. The scans showed that kids who had been maltreated showed connectivity problems in several brain areas, including the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), which is involved in planning behavior and, usually on the left side of the brain, in language processing.Another affected region was the right cingulum-hippocampus projection (CGH-R). This tract helps connect the brain’s emotional processing regions with those involved in more abstract thought, ideally allowing the person to integrate both types of information and to regulate their response to emotional stress.The teens who developed depression had the most significant reductions in white matter in their SLF; those who developed drug problems were more likely to show greater white matter loss in the CGH-R.
These changes suggest that depression-specific vulnerability may be linked to rumination and processing of language that is focused on the negative, while addiction susceptibility may be linked to an inability to regulate emotions more generally. Because prior studies have found reduction in different white matter regions among maltreated children — and because this was a small study — more research is required before any firm conclusions can be drawn. But the findings do add to the already voluminous literature suggesting that addiction problems have more to do with people’s attempts to manage or flee pain than to their desire to seek pleasure — and that simple drug exposure is not sufficient to trigger addiction.
Understanding how severe stress and trauma can lead to addictions and other mental illnesses should ultimately help lead to better treatments. In the meanwhile, the best prevention is treating all children with loving kindness.
An addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is both heartbreaking and exhausting. Family members are torn between how to help the addict and how to avoid being sucked into the addict’s world.
Here are some helpful suggestions that I have found over the years of working with addicts and their families. I hope they can help you.
Things You Can Do For the Addict
- Educate yourself on addiction and recovery.
- Try not to accuse or judge. Avoid name calling. This is a difficult time for both of you.
- Provide a sober environment that reduces triggers for using.
- Allow the addict time to go to meetings.
- Understand that your lives will change. Do not wish for your old life back. Your old life to some extent is what got you here. You both need to create a new life where it is easier to not use alcohol or drugs.
- Make sure that you both have time for fun. People use alcohol and drugs to relax, escape, and as a reward. The addict needs to find alternative ways to relax, escape, and as a reward otherwise they will turn back to their addiction.
- Do not enable. Do not provide excuses or cover up for the addict.
- Do not shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. People are more likely to change if they have suffered enough negative consequences.
- Set boundaries that you all agree on. The goal of boundaries is to improve the health of the family as a whole. Do not use boundaries to punish or shame.
- If you want to provide financial support, buy the goods and services the addict needs instead of giving them money that they might use to buy alcohol or drugs.
- Recognize and acknowledge the potential the addict has within them.
Things You Can Do For Yourself
- Take care of yourself. Living with an addict is exhausting. You also need time to recover.
- Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, and you can’t force them to change.
- Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. The best approach is to not do things for the addict, but instead to be an example of balance and self-care.
- Being a caretaker is not good for you or the addict. Understand that there is only so much you can do to change another person.
- Ask for help. Talk to a professional. Go to a support group such as Al-Anon. (More support groups are listed below.)
- Do not argue or try to discuss things with the addict when they are under the influence. It won’t get you anywhere.
- If at all possible, try not to be negative when dealing with the addict. That may only increase their feelings of guilt and push them further into using.
The Three C’s of Dealing with an Addict
- You didn't Cause the addiction.
- You can't Control the addiction.
- You can't Cure the addiction.
Soon we will be smelling fresh flowers, cut grass and other pre-summer routines will begin. Spring time is a period of renewal, fresh starts and new beginnings. It prompts us to want to refresh our surroundings and clean up. One ritual we often think of is spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is truly about refreshing and rejuvenating. In addition to sprucing up our physical surrounding this is a time we should also give needed attention to renewing our mental health. Taking care of yourself enhances life in so many ways throughout the entire year. Spring cleaning should take on the role of assisting you in achieving changes that benefit you! Spring cleaning, or the cleansing process, is just as much about the space around us as it is about our mind, body and spirit. Without the later our attempts outside ourselves is limited and often fails to meet our expectations about the mind, body and spirit connection. Having a clear and refreshed mind allows you to focus on a mentally healthier you.
One way to cleanse this area is to create a targeted personal to-do list of what you want to achieve emotionally. Include dream goals as well as short and long-term goals. Make it so that, when you check things off your personal to-do list, you feel good about your accomplishments. Massage therapy can also be effective in treating stress of the mind. This type of therapy often helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress giving you more energy to improve your outlook on life. When we think about enhancing the body we tend to think eating healthy and exercising regularly. Yes, these things are very true and must not be overlooked as essential components to enhanced mental health. Additionally, you may also want to add in other body-enhancing cleansing methods. One way to cleanse our bodies from the comfort foods of winter is to incorporate herbal teas into our daily routine. Herbal teas can provide needed nourishment to our system with their full array of vitamins and minerals. They can also tone our liver, which is responsible for your body’s metabolic functioning. One’s spirit is the fundamental area for cleansing. Ensuring a renewed spirit supports the lasting effects of personal spring cleaning. Yoga and meditation often lend themselves to the cleansing process. Meditation, by definition, can be used to enhance ones personal development. Spending just a few moments each morning participating in these activities can enhance your outlook and achievements throughout the day. In the evening, lighting candles can help you wind down and serve as a spiritual renewal as well. The burning of candles represents the burning away of any negative energy from the day. It represents letting go of any negative thoughts, actions or activities from the day, which will allow you to make room for positive changes and an enhanced life.
Spring Cleaning for Your Mental Health is about cleansing yourself so that you can make way for new beginnings. Mental health is important because when we are distressed, not only is our mind affected, but our physical health is also affected and our spirits are often disrupted. Now is the time to start your spring cleaning for renewed emotional health.
By: Rebecca L. Mitch, LCPC, NCC
Your recovery is going great and you're feeling fantastic when suddenly you're blindsided by a huge life problem - and since the only way you've dealt with life problems for a long time is with drugs or alcohol, eventually that's what you fall back to.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to go down like this...
Once you can accept that problems are coming and that life problems threaten your sobriety you should also accept that improving your drug-free problem solving skills makes a lot of sense - especially since doing so doesn't require all that much effort.
Well, addiction is a brain disease that’s not often reversed with simple determination – in fact, the experts at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) say that learning new skills, such as improving problem solving abilities or communication skills are 1 of 13 essential components of any addiction treatment program.
See how easy it can be to improve your problem solving skills by reading the following 7 step guide to problem solving that is recommended by NIDA as an essential tool for anyone in early recovery.
In Early Recovery? Why Your Problem Solving Skills Might Need Work
- While not everyone in early recovery suffers from weak problem solving skills, many people, especially people with longer histories of abuse, have become so used to 'solving' problems with drugs or alcohol that they no longer have any other practiced skills to fall back on.
- People in the midst of addiction often lose focus on life beyond getting and using drugs or alcohol and so become out of practice at recognizing the physical and environmental cues that indicate the existence of a small problem. As a result, small problems aren't dealt with until they grow into much larger ones. This phenomenon can endure into early recovery.
And for some people, things are even worse:
- For impulsive personality types - People with impulsive cognitive styles are less likely to weigh the possible benefits and consequences of any course of action and these people are at an increased risk to abuse drugs and alcohol and to ultimately develop addictions.
Life Problems - The Facts
Before you get started with improving your problem solving skills, it's useful to consider a few basic truths about problems and problem solving.
- Everyone has problems
- It's normal to feel anxious when faced with a problem
- You have to work at problem solving to be good at it - It requires focus and energy
- Your first impulsive solution to a problem is often not the best solution
In Recovery: 7 Steps to Better Problem Solving
Practice the following 7 steps when confronted with your next problem in life and find the best solution as you also reduce your risk of drug or alcohol relapse.
Recognize the Existence of a Problem
Accept that you have a problem.
Someone may tell you that you have a problem but you often have to rely on clues that point toward its existence, such as feeling worried or angry or depressed or feeling like you can’t handle some aspect of your life.
“I have been feeling really down for a while now…I wonder what’s causing my sadness?”
Define the Problem - Identify the Specific Elements
Very specific problems are a lot easier to solve than poorly defined ones.
- Big problems can seem overwhelming, fortunately, most large problems are composed of a few smaller challenges all bundled together. Break down large problems into their component parts and work on individual solutions for each smaller part.
Think about the specific challenges you face and decide on exactly what you seek to achieve from a possible solution.
Brainstorm for Possible Solutions
Make a list - take a few minutes to brainstorm and write down any and all solutions that occur to you.
- Don't focus in on the most likely solutions, at this stage you're just trying to loosen up the cerebral cobwebs and put down on paper any solutions that come to mind, no matter how outlandish they seem at the moment.
- Think outside the box - how would someone else solve this problem? How have you solved similar problems in the past? Call up a friend and ask them what they'd do in this situation as well as what they think you should do.
- Remember also that you can choose to do nothing at all at the moment.
Think about the Likely Consequences for All Possible Solutions
After you've brainstormed for all your options it's time to start narrowing in on the best course of action.
Beside each possible solution on your list write down:
- The likely positive and negative short term consequences of that action
- The likely positive and negative long term consequences of that action
Choose a Course of Action
Look back on your list to select the best course of action, which should be the solution that delivers a positive outcome at the least personal cost.
Execute Your Decision
Once you've decided on a course of action, execute your decision as quickly as possible.Look Back at What Happened and Learn from the Situation
Afterward, look back at what you did and think about what worked best and about what didn't work as well it could have.
- If it’s still appropriate, modify your solution-plan to eliminate what isn’t working and to maximize what's working best.
- Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes.
For Complicated Challenges, Repeat the Process as Necessary
Complex problems may not disappear after a single round of active problem solving.
This is normal.
If after completing the 7 steps your problems persist, start again at the beginning, looking at how the problem has changed with time and from your problem solving efforts and continue to work towards a satisfactory solution by again using the same 7 step process.
Adults in recovery face many day-to-day challenges, and for those who are parents, maintaining good relationships with children can be both rewarding and daunting at the same time. Addressing parenting issues during various stages of recovery can lead to enhanced quality of the parent-child relationship, especially during adolescence. Research has shown that effective parenting is one of the most critical influences on healthy adolescent development – and for parents in recovery, parenting might be an even more critical factor given children’s heightened risk for problems with substance use.
Parenting issues that appear to be especially relevant to parents in recovery are:Overindulgence as a coping mechanism for guilt
Parents in recovery, just like all parents, should be encouraged to set limits, monitor and supervise activities and friends, and provide a structured environment that encourages responsible behavior.
All parents find it difficult to balance warm and supportive parenting with having to hold a child responsible for his/her behavior. But parents must realize that age appropriate rule-setting and positive discipline are necessary and will most likely lead to better child outcomes in the long-term.
Preoccupation with maintaining recovery
Despite the importance of occasionally making major life changes, parents in recovery should work to ensure sure that changes are handled with care and monitored to make sure children are adjusting well. Moreover, day-to-day issues like arranging for alternative activities for children during the times that a parent attends recovery support services or NA/AA/Al-Anon meetings can sometimes be stressful if not planned carefully. Drawing on help and support from trusted neighbors, extended family members and community support networks is another strategy.
There is no one best strategy for confronting the sensitive topic of past parental absences during the time when the parent was in the active stage of addiction. Many families find counseling helpful to overcome these issues. Ongoing open and honest discussions between parents and children can help as well. Parents need to keep in mind that children differ in their responses to such stressful life events, with some being much more sensitive than others. Also, as children grow older, their capacity for processing information and having discussions about such past events might improve.
Rebuilding trust between parent and child
This process can take a lot of time and work for both parent and child, the latter needing reassurance a parent can be relied upon to be responsible when it comes to caring for a child. Even the smallest demonstration can make a difference, such as being on time to pick up a child from a friend’s house or prompt attendance at a sports or school event. Encouragement from family members, significant others and family friends can help.
From a clinical point of view, there appear to be no clear strategies for helping a child – or recovering parent – overcome the stigma of drug or alcohol abuse. Recovering parents should expect to have to deal with the challenge and focus on the positive aspects of their recovery (for themselves as well as their children) and the new behavior patterns they have or are trying to establish.
Adapted from an article in Counseling Magazine by Amelia Arria, Ph.D. 1 , Jerry Moe 2 and Ken C. Winters, Ph.D. 1, written for the Betty Ford Institute
Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for those struggling with substance abuse and also for their family and friends. From heart-shaped cookies at the local coffee shop, romantic music in the grocery store or dinner specials for two advertised on the bus, it is impossible to avoid Valentine’s Day. This holiday can be a tough reminder of the challenges of maintaining relationships in the face of drug or alcohol addiction. With such positive or painful reminders of past and current relationships, holidays like this one can be a struggle for those in recovery.
Whether it is a joyful day celebrating love or a daunting upheaval of painful memories, there is no right way to celebrate (or not to celebrate) Valentine’s Day.
Connecting With Loved Ones and Addiction Recovery
Since this holiday focuses so much on relationships, try to take the opportunity to declare and reaffirm your love to those around you.
While it’s not necessary to buy anyone a card or a box of chocolates, Valentine’s is a good time to get in touch with the people you care about and who care about you- especially those who have helped you through your recovery. You can do this any way you want: calling them up for a long talk over the phone or giving them a big hug in person are two great and simple ways to show someone you care. On top of this, the best gift you can give to the people you love is to remain sober, or go into a drug and alcohol rehab.Assessing and Repairing Your Relationships after Alcohol and Drug Rehab
Valentine’s Day is not only a good time to connect with people but also to assess how you have related to those you care about over the past year.
Being in a successful romantic or platonic relationship is hard enough without the stress of substance abuse. This is a good time to dedicate time to repairing relationships that were challenged by substance abuse. Drug or alcohol addiction can cause a person to focus only on their own needs and one major step in recovery is to become aware and appreciate the people who love and support you. You can do this by establishing mutual love and respect. Also don’t get discouraged if things do not improve immediately, it takes a long time to (re)build strong and lasting relationships. Be realistic and don’t expect Hallmark moments. If you believe you are ready, reconnecting with loved ones is a wonderful part of addiction recovery.
Talking with a counselor or therapist about relationships can be a helpful for some. These professionals can give a lot of insight into how to mend broken relationships and what to do to make the time you spend with your loved ones so much more rewarding.
Coping with Loneliness for Those in Recovery or in Addiction Treatment
During a holiday that focuses so much on the connections people have with each other it is easy to feel left out if you have been struggling to maintain relationships due to an alcohol or drug addiction. The most important thing to remember on Valentine’s Day is that you are not alone!
Make time to get together with your friends and family on St Valentine’s to avoid feeling lonely, and to make sure you are surrounded by support. This is especially important if you suffering from the loss of a loved one. Try to get together with others who cared about this person. You can talk about how you are feeling, and being with those who cared about this person will help you to come to terms with your loss.
While reflection alone is good as well, this is an important time to seek support from around you. Try to enjoy the winter with loved ones by doing something fun and active outside together. Meet up with friends for a skate in the local rink or go tobogganing! If you are single, why not consider hosting an anti-valentine’s day dinner with all of your single friends?
Above all, the most important thing to remember on this Valentine’s Day is to love yourself!
It’s easy to forget that this is just as important as showing love to those you care about. Spend some time getting to know just who you are. Substance abuse hides your identity and through recovery your true personality will emerge. Recovery, and also the addiction treatment period, can be an exciting time to rediscover past passions and interests. Don’t forget to also love your physical self: exercise one of the best cures for feeling blue, and is great for your heart, the number one symbol of Valentine’s!
Valentine’s Day does not have to be just about romantic love, but love of friends, family and yourself. Not only does Valentine’s Day mark the end of the busy holiday season, but also the coming of spring- a time to reflect on renewal and re-growth. Although the New Year begins in January, this period reflects the start of a time of action after the winter hibernation. Take the opportunity to reflect on the past year and past relationships and get ready to start anew!
Each year, before February even begins, the stores begin to fill up with candy heart-shaped boxes, flowers, stuffed animals, and other Valentine trinkets. For some, Valentine’s Day is a special day to commemorate love for one another, while others find it depressing and heartbreaking, or simply just don’t care. Either way, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to totally suck, especially for those in early recovery. Here’s why.
Have A Happy Valentine’s Day
Letting go of fear of money
Many people in early recovery don’t have that much money to spend, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care. Instead of wasting your money on gifts that the person you love doesn’t need, why don’t you share your love in other ways, like just being good to them, making them something, or just enjoying a special day out building memories. Remember, Love is more about action and not about how much cash you have.
Stop with the pressure of expectations
Each year both men and women stress about what to get their significant other, and in some cases if they don’t get the right thing, it’s somehow interpreted as if they don’t love the other person at all. Then there is the pressure of either receiving or the disappointment of not receiving anything. It’s just a lot of unnecessary pressure that Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about. In early recovery, we have more things to worry about, like first trying to love ourselves. We don’t need any extra stress while we do this.
Love should not be based on one single day
All the love you have and are ready to show should not be based on just one day, and yet, people do it anyway. “If you loved me you would have bought me…” is a statement that I am sure some of you reading this have heard before. Try sharing your love each and every day and you wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of Valentine’s Day to begin with.
Stop focusing on just the “in love” part
Valentine’s Day should be about love in general more than being in love with a specific someone. I think it has been slowly going that way, which is good, because not everyone is in love and not everyone wants to be reminded that they are either still single or going through heartbreak. This is especially true for many who are just beginning to live this life clean and sober. I am not saying you can’t celebrate or share your love, but what I am saying is that you should love yourself and others more with your actions, than with material things on any single day.
For those of you who are stressing over Valentine’s Day, stop worrying. Take this Valentine’s Day as a day to help boost your idea of how you want to love yourself, how you want to be treated and loved by others, and how you can share your love with friends, families, and anyone else that is in your life. Just remember to not base all your love and the love of others just on this one day because giving and receiving love should be done daily.
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Thank you, Silver Lake Support Blog.
HOW STAYING POSITIVE
It's likely our
species survived because of our knack for detecting danger. But our
worry-filled thoughts can present dangers of their own: Thinking negatively can
drag down our moods, our actions and even our health.
Experts say it's
worthwhile—and possible—to learn how to think more positively.
researchers found about the benefits of staying positive:
People who were
pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period
than those who were optimistic
People who kept track
of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical
complaints than others
People who obsessively
repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns—and
their brain activity actually changed too.
WAYS TO STAY POSITIVE
Trying to be
optimistic doesn't mean ignoring the uglier sides of life. It just means
focusing on the positive as much as possible-and it gets easier with practice.
If you want to pump up
your optimism, you might:
about a positive future. The
idea is to envision your goals and dreams come true. Tips include:
o Write about your great future life. Writing
helps you absorb ideas better than just thinking.
o Set aside time so you can go into detail.
Researcher Laura King, PhD, who proved this exercise a great mood booster,
assigned 20 minutes on four consecutive days.
o A variation on this exercise is to imagine
positive outcomes in a particularly challenging situation.
for the silver lining. Looking for the
positive in a negative situation may sound sappy, but it can actually show
great strength. To find your silver lining, ask yourself:
o How have I grown from this situation?
o Are my relationships stronger now?
o Have I developed new skills?
o What am I proud of about the way I handled
appreciating the positives in our lives offers a great mood boost.
To increase your
gratefulness, you can:
a gratitude letter. Researcher Martin
Seligman, PhD, asked subjects to write a letter thanking someone who had been
particularly kind to them and then deliver it in person. The letter-writers
enjoyed impressive positive effects even a month later.
a gratitude journal. Write down anything
large or small that makes you smile, including terrific achievements, touching
moments and great relationships.
your good news. Studies of
people's reactions to positive developments suggest that those who tell a
friend about a happy event enjoy it even more.
Avoid Negative Thinking
If you want to feel positive, it pays to
decrease the downers in your life. With practice, you can resist worrisome
thoughts and perhaps even transform your internal critic into more of a
dwelling on downers. Focusing on
negatives isn't just unpleasant, it also can make you less effective in
tackling tasks you face. In a study of test-takers, those who fixated on
worrisome thoughts performed worse than those who were distracted from their
worries. To stifle your obsessing:
o Ask yourself if the issue is really worth your
energy. Will this issue matter in a year, for example?
o Tell yourself you'll worry about it at a
specific time later. Chances are you'll feel better by the appointed time.
o Instead of just spinning your worry
wheels, try a concrete problem-solving exercise.
unhealthy self-talk. You may have
been running negative messages in your head for a long time. But research shows
that you can learn to shift your thoughts and that, over time, you can
literally change your brain. Consider trying some techniques from
cognitive-behavioral therapy, which works in part by looking at how changing
your thoughts can change your life. Some tips include:
yourself if your negative thought is really true. Are you really a terrible mother if you
didn't make it to the class play? You're probably involved in innumerable other
any achievements that disprove your insecurity. If you think you'll flop at the office
party, remember other social occasions when you were outgoing and confident.
what you'd tell a friend if he was worrying in ways that you are. You'd likely convince
him to wait a bit before assuming the worst.
of all-or-nothing thinking.
Disappointing your girlfriend once doesn't mean you're doomed to disappoint her
all the time.
Reviewed by Sonja
Lyubomirsky, PhD, a University of California, Riverside professor and author ofThe
How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin