Tag Archives: life in recovery

Tag Archives: life in recovery


creating art in addiction treatmentJust last year, CNN covered the story of a young man who struggled with alcoholism while in school. He had difficulty coping with his parent’s divorce at a young age and found himself drinking a lot in order to relate to others. Eventually, his parents sent him to a recovery program where he met a teacher who helped him discover his talent for painting. Even though he struggled with relapse and with a traumatic injury after an accident, he pursued his love for painting at an art school. He stated, “It relieves a lot of stress for me knowing that I’m good at something. Someone told me you gain self-esteem by doing esteemable acts. That stuck in my head.”

Addiction recovery is a vulnerable time where self-esteem is refined, especially as many people in recovery feel lost and hopeless. Addiction is often considered a disease of the soul because it takes people away from their true purpose in life and all of those meaningful connections that help them thrive. While not talked about as often, art can be an incredibly transformative process to build that sense of self back up. Consider trying the following projects to do just that:

  1. Collage. Design 2 collages, using whatever materials you can find around the house. On one, create a collage that represents the destruction that addiction brings to your life – on another collage, design your ideal future that’s filled with happiness, purpose, service and hope that sobriety can give you.
  2. Mindful scribbles. Without having any set of idea of what you’re going to draw, start drawing. It could be something definitive or it could merely be scribbles. See where the lines take you and stay glued to the present moment as you’re doing it.
  3. Poetry. Write a poem about what you had for lunch, how you slept last night, what forgiveness means to you or something similar. When you’re done, draw out your poem as part of the background.

In 2014, researchers published a study in the Journal of Addictions Nursing which found that both art therapy and 12-Step programs (such as AA) can provide individuals with the unique elements they need to heal throughout their journey to recovery. Consider incorporating more of these projects into your daily routine – you might be surprised what you find.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. 

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

friends in recoveryAddiction recovery is a lifelong journey that involves different paths for each person, but there is one commonality everyone in recovery must go through: the process of self-identity. Addiction consumes a person’s thoughts, time, finances and more, with no room for self-exploration. The activities that a person once used to enjoy slowly become replaced with pastimes of substance use and relationships built with quality time often become withered as the addiction’s demands continue to be ever-more increasing.

Defining Self-Identity

What is self-identity? The Handbook of Self and Identity states, “Making sense of oneself – who one is, was and may become and therefore the path one should take in the world – is a core self-project.”

Recovery often involves a lot of reflection as a person is now facing a new and very different reality from what they’re used to. It’s a time of change, a time of processing and a time to make better sense of what has happened, what is happening and what might happen to them in the future. It’s safe to say that there no definitive “concept” of who you are, because you’re always growing and changing. As life evolves, so do you – and you learn more about yourself along the way.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, even moving from an identity involving addiction to a new identity of recovery and sobriety can take time. Different characteristics take place within these realms and not just within the individual, but also within society as their new social role changes.

With that being said, there are a few steps you can take as you process your experiences. We’ll take a look at each of these.

Steps to Moving Forward

  1. Awareness
    It’s often the first and foremost difficult aspect of recovery, but awareness is what serves as a catalyst for change. If you are aware of something, you can take additional steps if it’s needed – if not, you can continue on the path you’re currently on. For example, you may have reached recovery because you gained an awareness that addiction was negatively affecting your health, happiness and life. Perhaps friends and family helped you gain this awareness or maybe it was a major event that sparked it. The best way to make appropriate changes in your life is to stay aware – because then you’re able to learn and grow from it.
  2. Creating a Sense of Community
    As we’ve opened ourselves up to awareness and accepting what new information we can learn from ourselves and others, we can start to cultivate meaningful relationships that reinforce the identity we’re connecting with. For those in recovery, a clear indicator of this is to spend time with others who are in recovery or with alumni who have maintained their recovery for many years. Many people find that these connections make them feel like “home” – and that’s where social identity really strengthens.
  3. Exploration
    The process of connecting with yourself and with others is largely based on exploration; it’s these new experiences that we find ourselves sparked with a new understanding, a new idea and a new awareness of what life means to us. Throughout your recovery, continue to push your boundaries by trying different hobbies, practicing different mental health tools you’re learning in therapy, allowing yourself to move forward with opportunities that are good for you and more. It’s when we place ourselves in seclusion that we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow.
  4. Strengthen Your Spirituality
    Spirituality doesn’t have to mean following a religion – it could mean simply giving back to others and practicing kindness each and every day. Spirituality and religion are emphasized in 12-Step programs because it’s found that people’s happiness potential increases when hope, faith and goodwill are present. Dr. Ernie Kurtz, author of Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, explained the intersectionality of spirituality and addiction recovery as this: “The earliest A.A. members, then, discovered that some kind of spirituality – some kind of sense of the reality of some ‘beyond’ – was essential to their sobriety but that another aspect of that same spirituality was acceptance that they did not have all the answers…”

Recovery is Subjective

Of course, each person’s path is different and there are certainly many other facets of recovery that can be considered. A review published in the journal Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy highlighted 76 total concepts that many doctors, therapists and healthcare team members associate with recovery. Some of the top aspects listed were: reduced drug use, practicing relapse prevention, accessing treatment, engaging in private therapy, having good mental health and more.

Over time, you’ll be able to find what recovery really means to you – and that will become one component of your identity. As humans, we’re made up of so many different pieces. While recovery might seem like a major part of your identity right now, you need to remember the most important one of all – that you’re human.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

How Does Spirituality Fit into Recovery?Twelve step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been considered very spiritual in that the steps individuals follow guide them to a stronger connection with God, or to another Higher Power. For many people, this spiritual foundation has provided them with many positive outcomes; in 2016, researchers published a study in the Journal of Religion and Health by assessing the relationship between long term AA members and characteristics of the AA program. They found that feeling God’s daily presence, believing in a higher power as a universal spirit and serving as an AA sponsor all led them to beautiful recovery outcomes. When we talk about spirituality, what exactly do we mean?

There is a distinction between spirituality and religion; spirituality is a general term for having a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, whatever that may be. Religion is a set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas and practices that define the relationship between humans and an all-knowing God or gods. Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism and more are examples of religions, whereas love, empathy, service, gratitude and forgiveness are basic components of spirituality. Each person’s journey through recovery is different, and that journey may include spirituality, religion or both. Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from programs like AA is the sense of hope – the sense that things can get better and that a person does have the support to get them through challenging times.

One person shared the story of how they came to abuse substances after experiencing heightened expectations to succeed in school and work. Here is an excerpt from their story, as stated on DrugFree.org: “I became utterly isolated and life became indescribably dark…I threw my hands up and accepted suggestions for the first time in my life. I prayed to be relieved of my bondage of self and voraciously sought counsel from my newfound support network on how to live.”

Each person may experience spirituality, but the common foundation to it all is finding a purpose in life and building one’s hope for the future. It’s been commonly stated that addiction is a disease of the soul and that’s because so many people are suffering without the love, connection and hope they need.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

seasonal depressionAround this time of year the weather has become crisper, more chilled and less sunlight has set. Daylight Savings Time means that nights arrive earlier and the winter months in and of themselves means darker days are ahead. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately 4-6% of people in the United States. The Northern regions are most likely to experience this since they are further from the equator and while symptoms may vary depending on the person, some common effects are a change in appetite, irritability, isolation, feelings of guilt or hopelessness and physical symptoms, such as headaches.

Those in addiction recovery already experience some of these symptoms due to withdrawal and the overall process of change, but SAD can add upon an extra layer of stress as one navigates the winter and holiday season.


Mental Health America (MHA) states that the reduced sunlight experienced by those in northern regions may experience the following changes:

  1. Circadian rhythm – also known as our biological clock, lack of sunlight could disrupt our body’s system.
  2. Serotonin – sunlight increases our serotonin levels, which are responsible for regulating mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, sexual desire and more. During the winter months, when sunlight is reduced, we may experience a drop in some or all of these areas.
  3. Melatonin – darkness promotes our bodies to produce more melatonin, which regulates sleep. This is a prime reason why during the winter time, we feel more tired and lethargic.
  4. Vitamin D – we get our vitamin D from the sun and this is what gives us strong bones. When less sunlight is available, we may become weaker and more brittle.

Forms of light therapy are best for people with SAD, but in addiction recovery, you may not have direct access to this type of service. In these instances, it’s best to keep your lights on in your room and make sure that you’re getting plenty of exercise. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water and continue socializing with those in your program. Experiencing SAD while in addiction recovery can be challenging, but it’s not something that will make or break you. Don’t give up.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Why Structure is Important in Recovery

When addiction is active, we find ourselves living a pretty constant routine of thinking and acting on our urges. Intense cravings arise, and it feels like we don’t have any other choice than to follow the disease’s demands. Recovery is a complete shift from these lifestyles, which means that major changes must take place. Once you enter a treatment program, you’ll find that it’s time to adjust to a new set of rules and way of living – which means that structure will become part of your day-to-day life. The goal of structure is to help you develop new habits – like eating a healthy breakfast first thing when you wake up, and getting your body used to adequate exercise throughout the week. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) does emphasize that each person’s routines may vary, depending on their needs. Ultimately, it’s about creating a life that’s best for you.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience stated that people in recovery often have trouble learning new, goal-directed behaviors, which is part of what contributes to relapse. It’s a completely different perspective that a person must take in order to start identifying whether their thoughts/urges are just habits, or whether they’re goal-directed. Treatment programs provide structure to help retrain the brain to think differently. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people release old, negative thought patterns and develop newer, more positive and productive ones. This all takes time, of course – but that structure that the therapist and activities provide really pave the way.

Structure also provides an environment where a person can thrive in developing the tools they need to overcome their obstacles. Just as children needs parents and students need teachers, those in recovery need a secure place with structured activities to really feel safe exploring their recovery. One father shared his experience with his son’s addiction via DrugFree.org. He talked about the fact that boundaries, not rules, are critical for those in recovery from addiction. He stated, “Boundaries help direct your universe when the rules do not apply or are not relevant.”

He stated that people need boundaries in order to protect themselves from their own actions, as well as from others. The structure that’s provided in treatment centers is meant to do just this – by establishing boundaries, a person in recovery can begin to strengthen their own. By building confidence in their own ability to implement those boundaries over time, they are likely to experience more success in their recovery.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

How Does Humility Fit into Recovery and 12 Step Programs?

Twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have widely been known to help people realize that they aren’t (nor should they be) in control of everything. God, or a Higher Power, is said to have full reign of what goes on in our lives, and we need to give up that desire to satisfy our ego and just leave it up to faith. It’s hard to do – after all, humans aren’t really comfortable with the idea of only being able to control our own actions. We find ourselves in this repeated pattern of blaming others as if they forced us to abuse substances – but in reality, we are responsible for the actions we’ve taken. Humility is defined by the dictionary as, “A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.”

In 2016, researchers really wanted to dive into 12 step programs, like AA, and see exactly how they set up the stage for humility to take place – because it’s changed a lot of lives, for the better. They found that in AA specifically, humility is broken up into 4 components:

One: Humility as complete defeat before a Higher Power. With this, people must admit their powerlessness over alcohol and their reliance on a Higher Power for further understanding of themselves and their lives.

Two: Humility as accurate self-appraisal. By recognizing the fault in ourselves, we’re better equipped to recognize the power of a Higher Being as needed to create lasting change within ourselves.

Three: Humility of contrition. Individuals must admit their wrongdoings to others and make amends with them – while it’s hard to take responsibility over actions that may seem embarrassing or hurtful looking back at them, apologies help to set the human spirit free.

Four: Humility of a rightly ordered self in relation to God and others. Through programs like AA, individuals are set to place God’s agenda above their own – it takes a certain type of humility to understand that a Higher Power has the answers, not us.

The 12-step program walks us through a journey that involves coming to terms with who we are and what we’ve done and giving up the pressure of changing to God or another Higher Power so that we can focus on becoming a better person and helping others. These perspectives and actions help us change over time, and that’s where many find that their lives have completely transformed.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Women in Recovery: These Connections Could Increase Your Risk for Relapse

There are differences between men and women both in structure and thought process. Addiction recovery is a vulnerable time for either, and relapse is a particularly feared aspect of recovery because it’s often associated with weakness or failure. Despite this falsity, relapse is actually considered a normal part of the process. In fact, it should be perceived as a learning experience, with which a person can gain more insight about what they need to strengthen or change in their treatment, or even what they need to reinforce. Social support is a vital component of recovery success, because it’s what builds up our emotional stamina to push through those hard days – research has shown us that women tend to lean towards social and emotional connections more so than men, which means they can also be highly affected if they connect with people that are not supportive of their recovery.

Residential and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are a bit different in terms of what they offer and the overall environment. With residential treatment, women find that their eating and living quarters are in close proxemics to others. IOPs on the other hand can also allow for connections to be made, but individuals can return home each day after their daily program is over. In 2016, researchers sought to explore women’s connections in substance abuse treatment and how it relates to relapse. They also explored what, if any, differences occur between connections in residential programs and IOPs.

After assessing 377 women for their personal network connections within the past 6 months, they found this compelling insight:

  • Women in residential treatment had more substance users in their network and fewer people in their network who provided social support

It was concluded that these women were more susceptible to relapse because of their lack of personal recovery support connections. People who qualify for IOPs tend to have a stable and supportive home environment and have likely been working towards their recovery for some time – it makes sense that women in residential treatment programs may not have as much support, especially if they’re relatively new to their treatment program. What does this mean for women who are in residential treatment programs? What can they do to reduce their risk of relapse?

Social support is incredibly important, and other studies have shown that reducing contact with people who abuse substances is most beneficial for people trying to recover. Distance yourself. Connect with people who support and uplift your recovery goals. Talk to recovery leaders, and become actively engaged in your recovery program. You never know who may have a huge impact on your journey.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Leadership and Positivity Combined with 12-Step Programs: Creating Change

Some of the most successful people in addiction recovery have gone on to help others. They’ve become leaders themselves – they’ve sponsored, shared their stories, donated time and money to organizations, written books, spoken at conferences – the list goes on. It’s amazing to see just how far these individuals have pushed themselves and overcome their challenges – and it only provides hope to others, so they may follow the same path. No matter where you’re at in your journey to recovery right now, you will find that there are moments in which you’re truly inspired. This is the time to really take a firm grasp on the positive energy that’s building and put it to good use – you may even find others who are doing the same.

In 2016, Mitchell Friedman from the University of San Francisco wrote a research article about his experience with leadership in the 12-step community. He shared the fact that his recovery thus far had given him a lot of wisdom and personal knowledge of himself, to which he was better able to apply to leadership roles. He mentioned a series of factors that really play into leadership, such as:

  • The natural role of becoming a leader
  • Coping and struggling with change when adverse events occur
  • Improving oneself, especially amidst hard times
  • Holding a significant relationship with either real or symbolic “parents”
  • Having role models that one can look up to

Overall, it seems that his leadership and positivity really derived from learning more about himself. Specifically, he stated, “I became more introspective and mindful of how I expressed myself and in turn how I was perceived by others. My understanding of my emotions and skills in managing them deepened, as did my ability to manage the moods and emotions of others.”

With Mitchell in particular, it was well-noted that he was already in the works of leadership before he attended AA. Thus, it could be said that not everyone becomes a leader, only those who have the passion (and knack) for it. Whether you’d prefer to be a direct leader in your community or someone who helps make change happen, you’re doing good. The role you take in the community speaks largely to who you are and what you value, and there is no doubt that your contributions will go unappreciated. Stay positive. Keep pushing forward, and don’t give up.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Why It’s So Hard for Those with Addiction to Recognize the Signs of Addiction

If you have a loved one with an addiction, you may have found that every time you talk to them about it, they seem to deny it. You hear phrases like, “I know I know, I’ll quit tomorrow” or “I can quit anytime I want, it’s not that big of a deal”. They may become defensive or may even make jokes to detract attention away from the situation. No matter how hard you try and tell them that you believe they’ve got a serious issue on their hands, you either get a handful of excuses or worse – false promises of saying that they’ll seek help, attend treatment, etc. – and then they don’t. You may feel like you’ve been let down, and you have every right to be upset about it. Addiction is a disease that affects the brain and thought processes, so it’s important for you to know that your loved one may not purposefully be lying to you – it’s likely just the addiction talking.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as, “A chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions.”

What exactly does this mean? Well, it means that your friend, partner or loved one may not be in the right mindset to be able to acknowledge they have an addiction because, well, that wouldn’t be addiction!

Addiction is a greedy disease, and it always asks for more than a person initially bargains for. It causes people to place the needs of the addiction first above anything else – so admitting that there is a problem would naturally squash the addiction before it had a chance to really take things over, and that would just be too easy. This is what leads people to lie, steal and say mean things even though these behaviors would typically be very out of character for your loved one – because now, chasing the addiction has become #1 priority.

Business Insider also notes that the withdrawal symptoms in and of themselves (depending on which drug, the severity, the person’s medical history and more) can be so painful that a person physically cannot stand to not satisfy the cravings. Imagine an intense itch on your head that only seems to get stronger when you don’t scratch it – with addiction, it’s very much like this. If your loved one won’t admit to struggling with addiction, this doesn’t mean that they cannot seek help. Sometimes it is through the court system, but other times, families can host interventions to help their loved one realize just how much damage addiction is doing to them.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

10 Years Down the Road with 12-Step Programs: A Look at The Journey

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been used by millions of people around the world. Self-help groups provide an excellent opportunity to build support and hear the experiences of others who have gone through similar paths, but what does it look like to attend 12-step programs long term? Do people find success? After all, even once a formal treatment program is over, it’s beneficial to maintain recovery by attending these types of programs. Let’s take a look at some of the projections based on recent studies.

In 2015, researchers from California explored the relationship between 12-step attendance and abstinence. A total of 194 participants were involved in the study, and researchers assessed their progress at the 1, 5, 7 and 9-year intervals of attending these programs. Ultimately, they found that the greater the attendance and participation in 12-step programs during the 1st year of recovery, the greater the chances of abstinence at the 5-year mark. Researchers found that both men and women who attended these self-help groups found that it was easier for them to maintain abstinence in the long run. On one of their primary websites, members share their success stories with AA. Here is an excerpt from one of them: “I first joined the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous when I was 21. I am now 28 and almost 6 years sober, one day at a time.”

In this person’s story, they talk about how they started off in AA feeling broken and alone. They looked around the room at their first meeting and felt out of place. They didn’t feel like the meeting would do anything for them, but they decided to try it out anyways. Once they saw what it was really like, they talked about how scary but real it all was. Sometimes it takes getting out of your comfort zone to place you in a position to transform your entire life – and for this person, it did.

Everyone has their own path to take both in life and in recovery. Twelve step programs do offer a more religious/spiritual component, but it’s often said that addiction affects the mind, body and spirit as a whole. See for yourself if this type of program works for you – you never know, you may find yourself sponsoring someone else as a leader later on down the road.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.


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