“Rimrock is a service to our community!”

Beth K.


Stay Home, But Stay Connected

I am a card-carrying introvert. This surprises many people as I talk and interact with people as a profession, but when I’m not at work, I am a hermit. So you might think that “social distancing” is easy for me (and let me insert this….it is not “social” distancing, it is “physical” distancing….more on that in a minute), but even I am a bit unnerved by how COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on our social connections.

If I hone in on how COVID-19 has specifically impacted my small corner of the world, I feel unsettled and grateful at the same time. I am unnerved to walk into Albertsons and see that there are completely empty shelves; I feel surreal to see a Billings Police Officer patrolling the aisles of Costco; I feel sad for my children and them missing out on their social relationships with their friends at school. I even feel a little sad for my cat who is wondering why all the humans are around her so much…..At the same time I am knee-buckling grateful that I have food and warmth and shelter.

On the professional side, my clients (and coworkers, honestly) are struggling with the looming question mark of when this might end. Several of them have concerns about being able to pay their bills as COVID-19 has impaired their ability to work. Some are struggling to connect with me since they cannot come into my office (even using telehealth, 90% of our communication is non-verbal…those little nuances, tics and inflections that do not transfer completely with technology). Some are early in their recovery and are finding that their continuing support system in the form of 12-step meetings has morphed from being able to see, touch and smell the experience, strength and joy that come from The Rooms to having to rely on a voice over the phone or a small image on a Skyped computer screen.

The truth is, our brains thrive off of interaction from those around us, even for us introverts. From a human development perspective, one of the key ingredients in healthy brain development in infants and children is interaction with other human beings. As tiny humans, infants and children learn communication, empathy, trust and their place in the world based on contact and interface with others. As adults, that scaffolding of personality and perspective continues to evolve and develop. In many ways, our emotional health relies on our connection to others; there is a reason that “solitary confinement” is considered punishment. In order to be healthy, our brain needs emotional interaction and social connection.

The opposite of addiction is connection. When we are connected to each other and have safety and trust we are less likely to gravitate towards unhealthy use of substances. In his book The Social Animal, David Brooks writes “…this is a story of fellowship. Because when you look deeper into the unconscious, the separations between individuals begin to get fuzzy. It becomes ever more obvious that the swirls that make up our own minds are shared swirls. We become who we are in connection with other people becoming who they are.” So how do we continue to be mentally healthy while practicing physical distancing? The obvious answers come to us from technology: if COVID-19 had struck even 10 years ago, we would be struggling more than we are now. Technology has blessed us with being able to hear and see each other from across the world and across the street. While it does not replace the physical connection (see a study by Harry Harlow about infant rhesus monkeys for more on the importance of touch….but that’s for a different blog), technology has allowed us to grocery shop, work and socialize from the comfort (if not verging on claustrophobic) and safety of our homes.

Perhaps the message and silver-lining from all of this (in addition to being an introvert I am also a resilient optimist….give me lemons and will not only make lemonade but also a meringue pie….) is to remember that we are lucky: despite physical distancing we are able to continue to do many of the same things we have previously, just differently. It may also be a reminder to reset and focus ourselves on our family and homes instead of all those other worldly distractions. Perhaps instead of feeling annoyed and frustrated about the chaos of our lives, this is a time to remember what is going well for us. I stumbled across this poem on social media that reflects our current mood and situation:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

            Kitty O’Meara “And the People Stayed Home” (March, 2020)

So, stay home but stay connected. Love your family and be reminded of the good things we do have in this world. Be grateful for the technology that allows us to stay together while being apart. Physically distance while socially connecting. Take care of each other.

References:

Brooks, D. (2012). The Social Animal. Random House; New York, NY.

O’Meara, K. (2020). And the People Stayed Home. Blog: The Daily Round, March 2020.

 

Click here for resources to help you cope with COVID-19.

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Concerned about COVID-19?

All visitation has been suspended at Rimrock due to COVID-19.

Thank you for helping us protect the health and safety of our community.

We recognize the challenges that we are all facing with COVID-19 and we want to provide accurate, helpful information as well as support for those struggling during these trying times. Please read this information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) we’d like to share to provide answers to your questions and help you cope with uncertainty. For help with maintaining sobriety during this time, please read this article from East Bay Times or this LA Times article with information on how to stay connected during this time.

Sobriety in the time of coronavirus: ‘Stay connected, even if remotely’
<READ HERE>

Amid coronavirus, recovery community urges: Even if you skip 12-step meetings, stay connected.<READ HERE>

NAMI (CORONAVIRUS) INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

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Mental Illness and Alcohol Use Disorder

“Stop drinking.”

“You drink too much.”

“I’ll only drink on weekends.”

“I’ll only drink when I’m not with my kids.”

“I only drink beer…no hard stuff.”

“It’s normal to drink.”

If any of these above phrases resonate with you, you may be aware that there is a problem with alcohol. But what if one of the reasons you drink is to deal with an underlying mental health issue? What if the alcohol is only a sign of a different issue? When working with clients that are struggling with alcohol use (or any substance use, for that matter), I frequently ask “Tell me why you drink.” So often, they tell me that it helps them with feeling anxious or stressed or insomnia or boredom. It really isn’t about their drinking, it’s about the inability to effectively manage the underlying uncomfortable feeling—often anxiety or depression that has not been treated effectively (or even recognized).

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 25% of people with a substance use disorder (SUD) also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. What we see in clients, however, is that nearly 80% of people that abuse a substance, with alcohol being the number one abused substance, have symptoms of a mental health disorder and have never been properly diagnosed and treated. It sounds shocking, but let us consider this: many people begin to use and abuse alcohol as a teenager or in their early 20s which is a prime time for the onset of mental health issues. Anxiety disorders (including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, to name a few) are often nebulous and alcohol does a great job of “treating” those symptoms. Worried about what is going to happen at work tomorrow? Have a drink. Stressed out from a long day? Have a drink. Nervous about going out tonight on that blind date? Have a drink. Can’t sleep? Have a drink.

Simply looking at how we treat depressive disorders and anxiety disorders is a big hint about why SUD and mental health so frequently interact. The first line of treatment is often an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor); the common ones are Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), and Paxil (paroxetine) to name a few. These drugs often take weeks to take full effect and they do not work for everyone. Why would I want to wait weeks to have relief of my paralyzing anxiety when I can drink a beer and feel better immediately?

There are three big reasons why we see so many people with an SUD struggling with mental health:

  • There are common risk factors for SUD and mental health (genetics, stress, socioeconomic status)
  • Mental illness may contribute to the development and continuance of an SUD (yes, my Prozac helps with anxiety…but alcohol works much faster!)
  • SUD can contribute to mental health issues: the consequences of SUD (legal charges, financial loss, divorce, separation from family, to name a few) often result in very normal (but uncomfortable) emotions (depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms) that can develop into a full-blown mental health issue. Substances also impact the areas of the brain that help us process and regulate our emotions; if the SUD damages those areas, a person is more prone to developing a mental health problem.

So what to do about this? First, talk about it with a qualified professional. A qualified professional is one that has specialized knowledge about SUD and mental health and is capable of effectively assessing and referring to treatment services. A counselor with an LAC (Licensed Addiction Counselor) after their name is someone with specialized education about assessing, diagnosing, and treating substance use. A counselor with either an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) or an LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor) after their name is a counselor with knowledge and training in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health issues such as anxiety and depressive disorders.

Second, collaborate with a qualified counselor or treatment program to identify treatment goals that meet your needs. This may mean getting on medication or doing therapy or both. It is important that your counselor can help you address the symptoms you may be having and helping to determine if the symptoms are related to the substance use or the mental health (or both). It’s important to have a multidisciplinary team to work with: mental health and SUD are complex disorders on their own. When they are both present, it can be even more complicated. An integrated team means there are a counselor, a medical provider and a provider to manage any psychotropic medications. There may be more people on your team as well depending on your needs.

Third, don’t give up hope! Recovery is possible. It takes connecting with others, willingness to be honest and vulnerable and the ability to change in order to heal. Mental health and SUD issues are seen as primary, chronic conditions that often take a lifetime of management. Like any chronic illness, treatment strategies can vary over time and must be flexible and individualized depending on the need of the individual.

If you are interested in how Rimrock can help you or a loved one start the journey to recovery, we are here to help answer your questions. Our Admissions Department can be reached at (406) 248-3175 or (800) 227-3953. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, we do have staff available anytime to take your call. Contact us today to begin your journey to recovery.

Alcohol, the Forgotten Addiction

Not a day goes by that you open the local paper or watch the news or hear about a crime that was committed related to drugs. It’s a sad reality that unfortunately has become our new normal. The even crazier reality is that in a world where we treat addiction, alcohol remains at the top of the list as the drug of choice for the clients we serve. Wait, what!?! Yep, that’s right, methamphetamines is the number two drug of choice and opioids comes in at the number three drug of choice.

So you might ask yourself, what is the difference between alcoholism and binge drinking? We all know of someone who enjoys “too many” cocktails, but binge drinking is actually not a chronic disease and alcoholism is no longer a term used in the clinical world. Alcohol Use Disorder is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and pre-occupation with alcohol. It’s determined by a licensed clinician when a person is unable to control their drinking due to both physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), over 14 million adults were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder in 2018. An average of almost 8% received treatment. That matches our state statistics of less than 10 percent of those who suffer from addiction who are actually seeking treatment.

We sometimes see our clients who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder to be “high functioning”. They maintain a job, their family, their hobbies … until they don’t. The crazy thing about this disease is that it will eventually catch up with the person who suffers from the illness. We see that they become late or miss work, start to miss out on social activities and tend to isolate, and even start to pull away from friends and family. This is all a part of the disease and the dependence on alcohol.  The hard truth is that this disease not only impacts the person but their entire family.

Alcohol can be a very dangerous substance to withdraw from. Someone who is dependent on alcohol might experience a rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, tremors, seizures, auditory or visual hallucinations, or even delusions. If someone suffers from alcohol dependence the safest option for them to withdraw is in a medical detox facility.

We also know that excessive alcohol use is really hard on the body. Those that use excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of heart disease, liver damage, increased risk of cancer, and mental health issues. While using alcohol a person has decreased inhibitions and may demonstrate impulsive behaviors, motor impairment, memory issues, and concentration problems. This may lead to social issues that include drinking and driving, verbal and physical altercations, and strain on one’s spiritual beliefs.

Families tell us their loved one has “become a different person.” They report that their loved ones who once told the truth now lie. They don’t show up for activities. They don’t follow through with commitments they previously would have never missed. All the while, the person suffering from alcohol dependence has feelings of shame and guilt, continues to drink, and the cycle repeats itself.

So, the next time you open the paper and read about all of the crime associated with meth and the headlines related to opioids, don’t let that overshadow the silence behind one of the most powerful and attractive substances called alcohol. Alcohol Use Disorder is slowly killing our loved ones and impacting their families in a very painful way. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and find help for those who are wanting to change.

If you are interested in how Rimrock can help you or a loved one start the journey to recovery, we are excited to talk to you. Our Admissions Department can be reached at (406) 248-3175 or (800) 227-3953. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, we do have staff available anytime to take your call. Contact us today to begin your journey to recovery.

Ready to Feel Something New?

Using substances or turning to other activities like alcohol consumption, gambling, or binging and purging as a coping mechanism can quickly lead to substance abuse and dependence. People use substances to cope with a variety of things, including stress, social anxiety, death of a loved one, a breakup, or PTSD. Though these substances or activities may temporarily provide you with a real or perceived benefit, continual use of these substances as a method of coping with life’s hardships over time can lead to addiction for some. While many people are able to stop at any time, for others, it can be difficult or nearly impossible without help.

As we become addicted to these substances and activities, it’s easy to become blind to the reality of our condition. Others begin to see us struggle, but often times we fail to see it ourselves. This struggle develops into a co-dependent relationship with our addiction, and when we choose to obtain our rewards and pleasure from chemicals, games, or food, we become victims to our addiction.

Choosing to give up an addiction can be lonely, especially if your addiction has negatively impacted your relationships with family or friends, but deciding to ask for help is just the beginning of a difficult but rewarding journey. By choosing to become completely involved in your treatment process, and entirely committed to personal change, we at Rimrock will teach you about your addiction and introduce you to healthy coping skills and a 12 Step Recovery Program. We will help you make an informed decision about how to change your life and move forward after treatment. Our programs are designed to help you choose freedom over addiction, and to also find a balance in your life and to achieve a lasting recovery. If you are ready to make the change and pursue who you want to become this year, your journey has already begun.

If you are interested in how Rimrock can help you or a loved one start the journey to recovery in 2020, we are excited to talk to you. Our Admissions Department can be reached at (406) 248-3175 or (800) 227-3953. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, we do have staff available anytime to take your call. Contact us today to begin your journey to recovery.