Last year we were given the opportunity to attend a state-wide training about the difficult process of navigating addiction. This opportunity is again available, April 27, 2022 from 9am-5pm, because of Governor DeWine’s Recovery Ohio Initiative to anyone interested. Addiction is a disease that can indeed be difficult for families. This training may be helpful. To register and to find out more go to: Addictionpolicy.org
Because I will be retiring soon, I thought it about time to look through my stock of articles, books, and a myriad of paperwork that I have collected over the years. Randomly included in a pile labeled “to be looked at later” was a packet compiled by the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County labeled, Coping with the Holidays and reprinted in November of 2019. I have no idea where I got this from as I live and work in Lucas County. I found this to a bit serendipitous as I had been previously debating on what to write about in this blog as I prepare for the new year.
My last entry outlined some tips for avoiding relapse during the holidays. Today I review some of the tips from the Coping with the Holidays article about being mindful and practicing self-care. We do not all experience the holidays in the same way. For many of us the holidays can be lonely or wrought with some painful memories. It is important to take special care of ourselves today, tomorrow, and yes, during the holiday season.
The article suggests scheduling time to engage in physical activities like a daily walk or other exercises. Meditation, yoga, or an enjoyable hobby was also suggested. Along with that take care of your physical health by balancing the special holiday treats with a healthy diet. Remember to get enough sleep. Taking care of your body, especially if you exercise, practice meditation and activities such as yoga will help in relieving stress. Be mindful of what triggers the stress that can feel unmanageable.
Practicing gratitude is another strategy of self-care. Writing in a daily journal to briefly identify each day a person or event in your life that you are grateful for is an example of how to express gratitude or try to take that a step further and let the people around you know that you are grateful for them.
Another tip is to tune into your feelings or emotions. We can experience positive feelings as well as some negative ones during the holidays…. think about whether you are placing unrealistic expectations on yourself or others. Set goals and plan.
I think the important thing here is to be mindful….of our feelings and emotions, our stress triggers, of the things for which we are grateful. Be safe and healthy during this holiday season. Let people know if you are struggling and let them know what you need. If you are having difficulty and need to reach out you can text 4HOPE to 741741. This is the Crisis Text Line.
I looked online and found an updated version of the article it is titled, Coping with the Holidays and a Pandemic
The holidays are fast approaching and some of us are happily anticipating the smells, tastes, sights, and the sounds of warm family gatherings. For others, the holidays bring about stress that can be overwhelming and therefore, just the thought of holiday can create a sense of dread or concern. Many in recovery may be triggered by the tingling of the senses to relapse. Many of us who are not connected to family or may still feel isolated due to the pandemic quarantines may be venerable during this time. Often people will use substances as a means, although unhealthy, to reduce stress and numb loneliness.
There are many articles on-line that list different tips on how to handle the holidays to avoid relapse. Most emphasize the importance to preplan to minimize risk of relapse. The thing is, all of us dealing with a substance use disorder and those of us who are not, do not need alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs as the main focal point in celebrating the holidays.
So, what does preplanning mean in regards to managing the holidays? First, we must recognize those triggers. For those early in recovery, it may take some time to figure out the places, people, behaviors, and senses that may trigger you to want to use. From there, rate the risks involved in each trigger situation and plan from there.
An article in Every Day Health, suggests to start each day with a plan to avoid relapse. During the holidays plan to spend more time in those situations that create less risk to conjure up your triggers and less in situations where you are more likely to be at a higher risk to be triggered. If possible, drive yourself, the article recommends, so you can control when to arrive and when to leave.
Sometimes we need to change the landscape a bit. Include some exercise prior to or during the gathering and consider engaging in group activities like cards, trivia, or board games. Try to bring the celebration to you so that you can control this environment. If this is not an option, consider reaching out to family to let them know what you need.
Positive self-talk, and relaxation techniques can help in refocusing your mind to staying the course. Certainly, reach out to those people that you have identified as your support. The thing is, we all need each other.
Substance Use Disorder, or addiction is a treatable disease and recovery is possible. Often, however, the process of becoming sober and the journey of recovery can be difficult to understand from the perspective of people surrounding the person in recovery. I think that is what this entire website is about. I found out today that there is a virtual training on November 9, 2021 from 8:00 am -4 pm entitled: A Comprehensive Training on Navigating Addiction. Check out this link to find out more information about the training topics, the sponsors and the presenters: Statewide enCompass Training | Recovery Ohio (brand.live)
I posted information in April about the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) National Prescription Take Back Day and encouraged readers to locate a collection site nearby to rid themselves of unnecessary, unused prescriptions, over the counter and expired medications that may be accumulating in medicine cabinets, night stands, kitchen cupboards, etc. The 19th “Take Back Day”, held on April 24, 2021 at 5,060 collection sites across the United States collected on that one day, 839,543 pounds or 420 tons of medications. Of the 420 tons of medications collected, 43,475 pounds or nearly 22 tons came from the 241 collection sites in Ohio.
I was astounded when I read these statistics from the DEA website. Part of my job is to educate our community about the opioid epidemic we are battling. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we can describe the epidemic as evolving in waves that began with the overprescribing of pain medications and mass amounts of people becoming addicted to these medications and overdosing. I read about the epidemic and have studied the multiple factors that fed into this problem and still, I am amazed at the vast number of drugs that are manufactured and accessible in our communities. Safely disposing of our medications, all medications that are unused or expired is one way to make an impact on the issue of access. If they are out of our homes, they are not available for misuse or abuse…
On October 24, 2021, the DEA will be holding the 20th National Prescription Take Back Day partnering again with law enforcement entities from across the nation. I thought it important to talk about this again. I will be posting, closer to the event, a list of collection sites that will be in the greater Toledo Area. For those that are visiting A Place For Mary from communities outside of Lucas County, you can find a collection site on the DEA website. But, please do not wait if you have medications, particularly unwanted opioids in your home. Take them to a drug disposal box in your area. You can locate one near you by visiting this locater found here: DEA Drug Drop Box Locator
For a local list of drop boxes click here: Drop Boxes for Prescription Medications
Yes, we can make a concerted effort to do our part in safely removing unwanted and expired medications from our homes. The numbers tell me it is so. According to the DEA, the total poundage of medications collected over the years in the 19 Take Back Days from the collections sites across the nation was 14,524.391 or 7,262 tons. For more information about the DEA’s Take Back Day visit: https://takebackday.dea.gov/?src=dea.gov
Today, August 31, 2021, is International Overdose Awareness Day. The underlying theme of this day is to break through the stigma of drug addiction and death by drug overdose. This stigma breeds shame, humiliation, and loneliness. It thwarts those who are deep into the disease from seeking help. It isolates those who are left behind from overdose from finding solace. This is why this website was created. Mary’s story epitomized this stigma.
International Overdose Awareness Day is a day to allow those who have experienced the loss of a loved one from overdose an opportunity to publicly mourn. It is a day to bring awareness, to bring people together to dialogue about the risk of overdose, how to access resources, and how to prevent addiction and overdose. It was initiated in 2001 in Australia by a social worker, Sally J Finn who worked at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne. She addressed the Australian Salvation Army in a kickoff to this day by telling the story of how this day came about.
You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZYi09mc9To
Also, to learn more about International Awareness Day visit: The National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse website.
Harbor’s Heroin Opiate Initiative in collaboration with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library held a book group discussion last month with Author Sam Quinones of his book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. Sam Quinones writes in his book that heroin “thrives in isolation.” The author addressed this in his discussion of the book and referenced the importance of community and human connectedness. We grow and develop through social, physical and emotional contact which are essential aspects of being human. Social emotional supports are vital in the lives of those in recovery. The isolation brought about by the attempt to curtail the spread of COVID 19, has been challenging to all of us and especially those battling Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and those in recovery. I referred to this isolation brought about by the pandemic in a previous post and have been reflecting since that time. This pandemic is uncharted territory. Are we going to face another stay-at-home order? What about the variant strains we are hearing about? These uncertainties and loneliness can compound into some very uncomfortable, stressful feelings. We all need ways to try to connect with loved ones and our support networks during this time. It can be helpful to reach out to help lines that are available throughout the country and in your local communities. Locally, in Lucas County, an Emotional Support Line (419 442 0580) was created as a resource to assist people with their mental health during isolation. For additional information about how to deal with the stress of the pandemic, review this SAMSHA publication.
I know that throughout my life time as a parent and as a professional I have been part of conversations with adults about how to handle” the talk” with their children. What talk? What comes to mind is the, “where do babies come from” talk…when to begin that talk, what to say, etc. As I have seen stigma paralyze the “talks” that we need to enter in with our children around so much more than where babies come from, I realize that parents and those that are raising grandchildren and extended family members may indeed need some guidance on how to have those conversations. It is important to begin to dialogue with our children about many things including drugs, alcohol, dependence, and addiction. It is also important to note that dialoguing about any of this is not for an isolated incident but is a process that continues over time. The State of Ohio’s Start Talking Campaign offers a great tool to assist us in starting those conversations beginning in early childhood and throughout our children’s developmental years: https://drugfree.org/article/prevention-tips
Another tool, that I have used with adolescents as well as adults in helping to describe the disease of addiction, is this video that is produced by the Drug Free Action Alliance.
Sometimes we need more help in offering support to our children. There are grief groups for children who have lost their loved ones to the disease of addiction and there are mental health agencies that provide counseling to children and their parents and/or guardians. Reach out to the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board in your state or county for a listing of contracted services in your area. Harbor is one of those agencies that offer Mental Health Services to children in the Lucas, Wood and Hamilton County areas.
I have delivered hundreds of presentations for the Heroin/Opiate Initiative in the five years as an employee of Harbor. Often, I am asked, “why” or “how” we have gotten to the point where drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio and throughout the U.S. I remember in those early years really struggling to answer those questions because the opioid epidemic is multifaceted and evolved over time. There is no simple answer. I now refer people to read Dreamland…… The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. This book nicely outlines those contributing factors that lead us to this point in history where we are not only battling a major health pandemic, COVID-19, but also a troubling opioid overdose epidemic.
I have read Dreamland many times and have studied its contents. The author presented his book to the Toledo area in October of 2017 in an event sponsored by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Because of our collaborative relationship with the Lucas County Public Library, I was welcomed to host a book group for people who wanted to explore those many facets to this problem. The library, in January, 2020 assisted the Heroin/Opiate Initiative in providing a discussion of Dreamland with the author. That January evening there was a group of people gathered at the library in Sylvania, Ohio with Sam Quinones joining in through a virtual platform. He is coming again to discuss the book with Harbor and the Library on June 24th from 6:00 pm- 7:30 pm live on Harbor’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HarborHelps We invite all of you to join in the discussion even if you haven’t read the book. If you are interested, however, in reading the book you can borrow it from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library https://www.toledolibrary.org/
Sam Quinones’ Dreamland was initially published in 2015. He will be releasing a follow-up book, The Least of Us on October 12, 2021. The Heroin/Opiate Initiative’s staff will certainly be reading this new book and who knows, may just gear up to offer book group discussions about The Least of Us as well. Until then, consider joining in on June 24th.