Tag Archive: addiction

  1. Helping Adolescents Heal From Addiction Through Competitive Sports

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    Helping Adolescents Heal From Addiction Through Competitive Sports

    Exercise programs in treatment for adolescents can help them release energy and build better health habits following treatment. Therefore, some form of exercise is generally recommended as an integral element of addiction and mental health treatment. There are many types of exercise that can be beneficial for adolescents.

    Competitive sports such as martial arts can help adolescents gain skills beyond the specifics of the sport. Encouraging adolescents to participate in competitive sports allows them to build a foundation of skills that help them succeed in adulthood. Adolescents who participate in competitive sports such as mixed martial arts (MMA) get exercise while improving other aspects of their overall well-being.

    Competitive Sports in Addiction Treatment for Adolescents

    During addiction treatment, adolescents participate in a variety of different methods that help them heal from trauma, addiction, and mental health disorders. Competitive sports integrate well into treatment programs as a whole. By participating in competitive sports, adolescents learn social skills and improve their self-esteem and mental health.

    Social Skills

    Research has found that one of the many benefits of competitive sports for adolescence is social development. This is a direct result of the social engagement found in competitive sports. As a participant, they are required to learn and practice a variety of social skills with many different individuals.

    When adolescents engage in competitive sports, they learn how to listen and engage in a group social setting. This is particularly helpful in learning social skills as they have to manage conflict with other individuals with whom they may or may not get along. Conflict resolution helps them build relationships with others in treatment. Additionally, it provides them with the skills required to create and maintain long-term social relationships in adulthood.

    Furthermore, competitive sports help teens learn how to both win and lose. Part of competitive sports is learning how to “be a good sport” and support others even when losing. In doing so, they are more prepared for social interactions later in life as there are times in their adult lives when there will be challenges.


    Getting exercise is well known to be very healthy and helpful for adolescents and adults. However, in our current culture, exercise and fitness are often neglected. Competitive sports are an effective way for teens to get physically active. Since these activities are more enjoyable for many adolescents, they also provide a blueprint for healthy habits into adulthood.

    Competitive sports also give teens an outlet to healthily release mental and physical energy. Many teens in treatment have a history of trauma or a mental health disorder that causes them to have deep and powerful emotions. When they participate in competitive sports, they can work through these emotions and channel their energy into something that is not destructive.


    Adolescents in treatment commonly struggle with low self-esteem. Changing the patterns that lead to low self-esteem can help them feel confident in their ability to improve their lives. However, many traditional types of therapy, such as talk therapy, can be hard to get buy-in from adolescents.

    On the other hand, competitive sports are often easier for teens to engage in. By improving physical skills and competing with others, adolescents learn new thought patterns and gain confidence in their ability to improve. This, in turn, can help them in recovery as they are more likely to feel like they can learn the new skills required in treatment.

    Mental Health

    Addiction and mental health are closely linked. An integral part of addiction treatment is to improve mental health. Research has found that competitive sports are an effective method of doing so. Encouraging adolescents to engage in competitive sports will help them heal during addiction treatment by decreasing depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, and difficulties with attention.

    While competitive sports overall are effective at improving mental health in youth, MMA is particularly useful. Research published in 2019 found that adolescents who completed a 10-week intervention including MMA and talk therapy showed improved mental health. The findings indicate that MMA helped teens open up in talk therapy and was a useful activity to include in addiction treatment.

    Competitive Sports: One Part of Addiction Treatment

    Addiction treatment for each adolescent is unique as each individual will need specific treatment modalities. Competitive sports are one option that can improve treatment as a whole. By engaging adolescents in physical competition, the individual learns social skills, gets exercise, and improves their mental health.

    However, competitive sports are only one piece of the puzzle. Adolescents will have the most effective development with the addition of other treatment modalities. By engaging in talk therapy, for example, they can get the most out of their participation in an activity such as MMA during their treatment experience. In doing so, they can work with a mental health professional who can help them learn and hone the skills they are working on through competitive sports.

    Adolescents with mental health disorders and addiction often have an abundance of pent-up energy. Competitive sports, including mixed martial arts, are methods that can help them develop better self-esteem, get exercise, and improve overall health as they release energy as a part of addiction treatment. At Sustain Recovery, we offer MMA as a part of our treatment program. We encourage teens to build exercise habits while learning social skills that will help them improve their mental health and thrive after treatment. Our facility provides programs that are holistic and individualized to help teens heal from trauma and addiction. To learn more about our programs or facility, call us today at (949) 407-9052.

  2. Understanding the Relationship Between Trauma and Addiction

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    Understanding the Relationship Between Trauma and Addiction

    Your teen may have unresolved trauma from as far back as their childhood, whether you knew about their experiences or not. Unresolved trauma can not only become “stuck” and develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but also lead to substance use and abuse as adolescents try to escape their pain or self-medicate. Trauma and addiction have a very painful and complex relationship.

    The Pain Your Child Is Carrying Around

    Whether or not you know about trauma that your child may have experienced at any point in their lifetime, their brains and bodies are likely aware of it around the clock. Sometimes they are not even consciously aware of the actual events; they do not remember, but the pain is always there. When something traumatic occurs to a child, it can be very painful.

    Unfortunately, many children do not tell their parents about some traumatic events, such as being bullied or sexually assaulted. Trauma like these experiences often carries a lot of shame and guilt. Children and adolescents often do not understand that they are not at fault for being victimized or perhaps they do not want to appear weak. Keeping this pain hidden inside can make their burden even more difficult to bear.

    When Trauma Gets Stuck

    When your child does not know what to do with their pain, they could end up carrying it around with them indefinitely. This is what is sometimes referred to as trauma getting “stuck.” The painful emotions surrounding their traumatic experiences remain unprocessed, and just like a splinter embedded beneath the skin, can get more painful with time as the emotions try to come to the surface.

    Why Some Trauma Becomes PTSD

    Sometimes, trauma that is not addressed or remains stuck becomes PTSD. Some trauma can be like a wound that never heals if it is not identified and resolved, and that is exactly what PTSD is.

    PTSD can be very debilitating and interfere with daily life. Your teen may relive their traumatic experiences over and over in their head, triggered by almost anything remotely related to their experience; the experience can be simply re-lived without warning. Other symptoms of PTSD may include:

    • Re-experiencing – flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts
    • Avoidance – avoiding places, events, objects, thoughts, or feelings related to the event in any way
    • Arousal and reactivity – tense, easily startled, difficulty sleeping, prone to angry outbursts
    • Cognition and mood – loss of memory surrounding traumatic events, self-blame or guilt, negative thoughts about self, loss of interest in preferred activities

    Why Is Addiction So Commonly Correlated With Trauma?

    Is it any wonder that with symptoms of long-term trauma or PTSD, an adolescent would want to find a way to try to escape the pain? Too often, those who have experienced some form of trauma look to substances to escape or self-medicate.

    In fact, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, adolescents who had been victims of sexual assault were three to five times more likely than their peers to develop an addiction at some point in their lifetime. That is only one form of trauma, yet it is highly correlated with substance abuse.

    Can Trauma and Addiction Be Treated?

    The good news is that both trauma and addiction are treatable. In fact, they can and should be treated simultaneously. When your child receives treatment for addiction but does not address their trauma, they are almost guaranteed to relapse. As trauma is so often the reason that teens begin using substances, it is crucial that your teen addresses trauma when they are also addressing their substance abuse.

    How Are Trauma and PTSD Treated?

    The most effective ways to treat trauma and PTSD are through therapy. Some of the most effective evidence-based therapeutic modalities, or types of therapy, are:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – a form of talk therapy that allows teens to address the relationship between their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, and in particular, to learn to remove negative thinking.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – talk therapy that focuses simultaneously on acceptance and change, teaching important skills in four main areas.
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – using a physical distraction to allow the brain to reprocess traumatic memories to allow the teen to feel a sense of safety again surrounding these events.

    As your teen engages in their substance treatment program, they will receive both group and individual therapy, and trauma will be addressed to help them heal. Following treatment, many adolescents find success in continued therapy to reinforce their healing and help them move forward from trauma and substance abuse or mental health diagnoses. The most important point to remember is that trauma and addiction need to be treated together to find success.

    The relationship between trauma and substance abuse is painful and all too common. However, even when trauma gets stuck or becomes PTSD and your teen attempts to self-medicate with substances, there is treatment for both trauma and addiction.  Sustain Recovery is very aware of how many adolescents come to our program who have experienced traumatic events, and we use trauma-informed practices to help each teen feel safe as they are in treatment. We believe in an individualized approach to reach each teen at their level and according to their needs. Our extended residential program offers the unique opportunity to allow for more healing than traditional treatment programs and a chance for teens to transition back home in healthy ways. We do not judge or blame or shame; we work to understand where the behaviors come from and why they are there. Contact us today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more about our adolescent substance abuse treatment program.

  3. Deep Cleaning Emotional Baggage

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    Deep Cleaning Emotional Baggage

    When one person in your family is in treatment for addiction, the entire family is in treatment. This process is meant to be a healing process, but before your teen can heal from the behaviors involved in addiction and mental health disorders, they need to heal emotionally. As they are completing an inventory of their life and their problems, emotional baggage involving your family is likely to surface. This is an excellent time for your whole family to deep clean the emotional baggage.

    Finding Those Proverbial Skeletons in the Closet

    Most families have some type of emotional baggage, even if it has been tucked away, like a skeleton in the closet. Even simply the way everyone dealt with a traumatic event, such as the grief of losing a loved one, can create emotional baggage. Something that might surprise you when you inventory your family’s emotional health is that family members often carry different baggage, despite having lived through the same experiences. Everyone experiences life differently.

    Facing Your Teen’s Emotional Baggage

    The emotional baggage your teen may be carrying around may be particularly surprising to you. They may be carrying around pain surrounding something as seemingly innocuous as something you made them wear. Or they may be hurting from words you said about them that you did not know they heard. More than likely, their baggage is more significant than that, especially if they are now acting out and abusing substances.

    However, you need to be prepared for the ugly truth: their pain may have been caused by something you said or did. The relationship between parents and children often creates emotional baggage, especially when communication and healing do not happen spontaneously. Words and actions cause wounds that fester over time when not addressed, and before you know it, your teen is carrying around some serious emotional baggage.

    The Burden of Family Emotional Pain

    No family is perfect but, within each family, certain events can cause pain and trauma throughout the family. A serious illness, loss of a loved one, accident, or natural disaster can create emotional scarring when each family member tries to deal with these events on their own. More harmful are the times when as a parent, maybe you said or did something you regret, or as a child, they caused the family pain and grief.

    All of these experiences add up, and when experienced together, can either be healing or create a heavier burden, especially when no one ever addresses the pain. This can create long-lasting pain on a familial level that can impact each person differently. In the case of your teen, family pain may be the root cause of their behaviors.

    Making the Most of Family Therapy

    The most effective way to deep clean your individual and family baggage is to invest in family therapy. To invest in family therapy, every family member’s time and sincere efforts are needed to invoke healing on a familial level. When even one person is not invested or does not participate, family healing may be thwarted. The pain that exists on a family level needs to be healed on a family level.

    When Do We Need Individual Therapy?

    Sometimes, family therapy alone is not enough. Because each family member experiences life differently, one or more family members may be more deeply affected by the same events. Different personalities also struggle with communication, healing, or simply letting go of the past, too.

    All of these scenarios call for individual therapy along with family therapy to help the individual and the family heal. Your teen will be accessing individual therapy in their treatment for addiction. You or other family members may also need to find a therapist to help you work through the painful emotional baggage that is keeping your family from healing.

    Improving Relationships Through Emotional Deep Cleaning

    As you and your family work through challenges individually and as a family, don’t be afraid to dig deep. This is the time to put all of the cards on the table and go all-in on the healing process. Serious neglect or abuse may require more time and more intensive therapy, but family issues that can be addressed together can be healed together.

    By not holding back, you can lay bare the true underlying problems in communication and behaviors that have been weighing your family down. Just like spring cleaning, the more work you put in now, the more your family can reap the benefits later. By being honest and thorough in your emotional cleaning, you can improve family relationships by developing new communication and family habits. Going all-in on healing equals going all-in on your family.

    This spring, while your teen is in treatment for addiction, do some emotional deep cleaning to remove the baggage that is weighing your family down. By getting to the root of your problems and investing yourselves in family and possibly individual therapy, you can improve family relationships and facilitate family healing. The family is the heart of healing at Sustain Recovery. We know that addiction in the family equates to family addiction – every family member is impacted when one person experiences substance abuse. Our extended residential program allows teens to heal individually and as a family as we gradually re-introduce them into the family setting. We work with teens who exhibit substance abuse and mental health disorders to find the root of their problems and help them heal individually and as families. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for you and your family.

  4. Does Your Child Suffer From Failure to Launch?

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    failure to launch

    Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic began, a high number of young adults still lived with their parents. A study from the Pew Research Center showed that 47% of people ages 18-29 lived at home with one or more parents before the pandemic. In July of 2020, that number went up to 52%.

    This trend crossed all race, gender, and geographical region lines. Eleven percent of these young adults were neither employed nor attending school.

    Younger People Do Not Feel as Much Pressure to Couple up

    Another study done by the Pew Research Center last year showed that many adults have become frustrated and less interested in dating than previous generations. Of those who are not married or in a relationship but want to date, 67% said their dating lives are not doing well. In addition, 75% said finding someone to date in the previous year proved to be difficult. This trend contributes to many younger people not being in a hurry to have their own place.

    Students Often Return Home After Trouble Adjusting to College

    In past generations, the expectation for graduating high school students was that they attend a four-year university. Going back home after getting their diploma was not a given for those going to school out of town. Today’s generation often postpones college plans or opts not to go at all.

    Many young adults who do begin a college career become overwhelmed when adjusting to academic life. The pressures of adult academics, school work, and choosing a career can place enormous pressure on a person.

    Many people who have parents who tended to do a lot for them find it challenging to switch to “adulting” while away at college. Tasks like waking up on time, paying their bills, and doing their laundry can prove daunting.

    Difficulty Learning to Postpone Payoffs

    One of the fundamental truths in life has to do with learning to postpone satisfaction. College students have to wait years before receiving their diplomas. When entering the workforce, they typically begin at an entry-level position. These young adults must learn to work hard before payoffs like promotions, raises, and better benefits start.

    For individuals raised in the age of the internet, this type of patience may not come easily. Their formative years were spent being able to access information immediately. Communication with friends, family, and strangers around the world was just a few keystrokes away.

    Music and movies can be downloaded in seconds. Whatever cuisine a young adult craves can be delivered to their front door in minutes.

    Growing up in a world that does not foster a sense of working hard and waiting for payoffs can have a negative impact on becoming an adult. This trend makes it difficult for many people to have the patience to develop a career that doesn’t provide instant satisfaction and benefits.

    For this reason, many simply do not leave the nest because they don’t have a complete understanding of how the adult world works.

    Addiction and Mental Health Issues Can Contribute to Failure to Launch

    Sometimes a young adult who has no real plan to leave home may be dealing with some very grownup problems. If they suffer from addiction to alcohol or drugs, this likely contributes to a lack of desire to move out and accept more responsibility.

    Young people who struggle to manage their mental health often feel a need to stick close to home. They may be afraid to grow up and live independently due to a fear of their mental health becoming worse.

    These individuals may not fully understand the skills they need to be out on their own. These skills can include budgeting, bill paying, grocery shopping, and cooking. For them, staying home and letting mom or dad stay at the helm feels safer.

    Seeking Help for Failure to Launch

    When a child has demonstrated a clear failure to launch, a conversation with them can start the ball rolling. Parents should let their children know that while they understand they need assistance in changing, they also have to take some responsibility. A parent can offer empathy and make it clear that everyone has to grow up; adulting does not fall under the heading of “optional.”

    Professional programs can address the issue of failure to launch. These treatment programs typically require the adult child attends a residential facility. The program will provide the individual with time away from their parents’ home, providing a needed break for both the child and their parents.

    This type of program teaches young adults basic life skills that take away some of the mystery of being responsible for themselves. They also offer educational and career counseling to help their clients set goals. Sessions with counselors help young people transition into lasting adulthood.

    Parents should look for programs that address any substance use disorders or mental health diagnoses that accompany the failure to launch. The combined treatment modalities of these types of programs help young adults become confident and eager to assume adult status.

    If you have an adult child who still lives at home and shows no desire to move out, you may be dealing with what’s called a “failure to launch.” This condition involves an adult who still lives with their parents and seems unwilling to grow up and move out. They may suffer from uncertainty about how to be an adult, experience addiction, or have mental health issues. Sustain Recovery treats young adults who have demonstrated a failure to launch. We help them develop excitement about growing up, gaining autonomy, and living on their own. We teach life skills, provide educational and career counseling, and offer regular therapy sessions to help young people develop an understanding of their issues and how to resolve them. We also treat addiction and mental health issues. If you need help launching your child into permanent adulthood, call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 to get started.

  5. When Multiple Family Members Experience Addiction

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    When just one member of a family deals with abuse of alcohol or drugs, it takes its toll on the whole family. When more than one family member is suffering from an addiction, it can complicate recovery efforts for everyone involved. Typically, when an adolescent or young adult returns home from residential treatment for an addiction to alcohol or drugs, their recovery often becomes the focus of the family unit. This can prove difficult at times as everyone tries to zero in on how to help the child transition back home, feel supported, and be held accountable for their actions. 

    If more than one addiction exists in the family, it becomes crucial for everyone in the nuclear family to address these issues. The more stable the family is, the greater chance a child has to maintain their own sobriety. While the presence of more than one addiction can initially complicate things, ignoring it will not make the problem go away. Factoring in the addiction of another family member can be a game-changer and ultimately cause everyone involved to decide how best to proceed so that the entire family unit thrives.

    Why Do Multiple Family Members Experience Addiction?

    When it comes to families having more than one member who deals with addiction, no single answer applies to all situations. Multiple studies have been done over the years that show the answer can be at least partially genetic. The University of Utah reports that many different genes can contribute to a person developing an addiction. When people share a genetic history that predisposes them to addiction, they experience an increased likelihood of developing the issue at some point. 

    The home environment can influence a young person who struggles with addiction. If they grow up around one or more family members who struggle with substance abuse disorder, it may normalize the condition for them. A parent or other influential family member who habitually exposes their abuse of drugs or alcohol to a younger person may unknowingly pass on the message that this is normal behavior. The message of “do as I say, not as I do” becomes ineffective. Behavior modeled over a long period makes more of an impact than verbal warnings against it. Even if the relative attempts to hide their addiction and the resulting chaos it incurs, children and teenagers are quick to pick up on the reality of a situation. They often know more than others may think they do.

    Dealing With a Family Member Who Actively Engages in Their Addiction

    A child returning home who has worked hard on becoming sober has their work cut out for them. When they return to living with a parent, sibling, or other family members who are actively drinking or using drugs, a game plan that addresses this should be enacted. This may involve a type of family intervention. This process lets the other family member know that their addiction not only affects their own life but now runs the risk of influencing a loved one to forfeit their sobriety. If possible, separate housing for the child can be established at least long enough to help the young person get to a more stable place in their own recovery.

    If living apart is impossible, establish rules about things like the time the family members spend together. Make it a rule that alcohol or drugs cannot be used in the presence of the child. Sometimes the relative may want to help the younger person but is not willing to address their own addictive behaviors. Asking them to commit to a few basic rules to help their loved one can prove productive and beneficial. You may be surprised at people’s willingness to accommodate the sobriety and wellbeing of young addicted people. 

    When Multiple Family Members Are in Recovery

    Much like being a member of group therapy, having a relative who is also working hard on their recovery can benefit a young person. They can take comfort from knowing someone who understands their situation and the struggles they face. They can even help each other celebrate positive achievements and milestones. Shared family history may also enable the two to do a deep-dive into how addiction has impacted their lives. They can take a look at which family members have suffered from it and which ones may be at risk of developing it. Understanding the family dynamics at this level can prove helpful in terms of personal knowledge as well as discussing that information with a therapist. 

    A family that has more than one member who deals with alcoholism or drug addiction may wonder why this happened. Multiple factors may contribute to the situation, including genetic predisposition and home environment. When a young person returns home from residential treatment for their substance abuse disorder, it can complicate things when other family members struggle with the same condition. Sustain Recovery has extensive experience treating adolescents and young adults who suffer from addiction. Our clients benefit from treatment that addresses their individual needs, including learning to manage co-occurring mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. We also provide schooling to allow them to continue their education. Private and group therapy allows our clients to understand themselves. We send them home prepared to deal with the family environment waiting for them. Call our Southern California location to find out how we can get started on putting your family back together! (949) 407-9052.

  6. Adolescents Need Boundaries

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    Adolescents Need BoundariesWhen adolescents return home from addiction treatment, their recovery is far from over. Although they are no longer in a place where they need 24-hour supervision, your child will still need support in managing their sobriety — after all, recovery is a life-long journey. There will be bumps in the road, but your family will get through the difficult times.

    In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, it’s important to implement boundaries at home that are similar to the ones your child had in residential treatment. Boundaries will help your child maintain a sense of structure in this new phase of their recovery, as well as guide them into making safe and healthy choices as they reintegrate into their social life.

    Boundaries Keep Your Child Safe

    Children learn boundaries at a very young age. They may not know what the word means, but they understand that they must follow directions from their parents and teachers. For example, a mother may allow her five-year-old to play in the yard with a friend, as long as they stay within the physical boundary she has set for them. She explains that they are not allowed to go past the end of the driveway because the street is a dangerous place to play. If they go into the street, she tells them, they will have to come inside. This physical boundary helps keep the children safe from speeding cars on the busy street.

    Even if the boundary is simple, children learn that the rule they must follow is there to keep them safe. If they don’t follow the rule, there will be consequences. As children grow older, their boundaries and consequences are adjusted, but the essence remains. They may not like the boundaries that are set for them, but they should understand that the rules are there for their protection. Even though your child is now a teenager with increased responsibilities, it is still up to you to set and uphold boundaries that will keep them safe.

    Boundaries Help Prepare Your Child For Adulthood

    Adolescents who grow up without healthy boundaries are often not as prepared for adulthood as adolescents who had healthy boundaries growing up. Helping your teenager understand responsibility and consequence is crucial, especially when it comes to substance use. If you’re reluctant to set and enforce boundaries, you’re enabling their negative behaviors and giving them a sense of entitlement. If you’re allowing them to cross a boundary and receive no consequence for their action, they are going to assume that they don’t have to follow the rules.

    This will set your child up for a rude awakening. Once they get out into the world of post-secondary education and full-time jobs, they will likely be caught by surprise when boundaries are actually being enforced. You may have let them get away with oversleeping because of excess substance use the night before, but their boss won’t tolerate it. Setting boundaries now with your teen teaches them that there are expectations they must meet and possible consequences if they cross boundaries. Furthermore, your child will learn that they must set boundaries with their peers as well. The way you enforce boundaries with your child today sets the tone for how they will enforce their own boundaries with their peers tomorrow.

    Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

    Making the boundaries clear when your child returns home from treatment is essential. Sit your child down and discuss your expectations with them. Make sure there is no confusion about what the boundaries and consequences are.

    Let’s start with unhealthy boundaries. It is critical to set boundaries that are firm, but rooted in understanding. You don’t want to be so strict that your child is afraid to come to you when they need support, but you also don’t want to be so relaxed that they take advantage. Other signs of unhealthy boundaries are excusing bad behaviors, putting up with a lack of respect, and making decisions for your child that they are already capable of making for themselves. Furthermore, if you are not enforcing the consequences associated with boundaries, you are contributing to an enabling environment.

    The healthy boundaries that you set must uphold your right to be respected. It’s up to you to explain your expectations to your child and keep your word when those expectations are not met. Fostering a space that allows open dialogue is also important. Your child should feel comfortable coming to you when they need support. Encourage honesty and do your best to be rooted in understanding. Your child’s recovery isn’t going to be perfect — they are going to make mistakes. Creating a space where they feel comfortable coming to you is important. You must, however, still uphold your boundaries and the consequences that come when a line is crossed.


    Sustain Recovery is here to help you set healthy and functional boundaries for your child in recovery. We understand the difficulty that comes with a child returning home from the structure and security of addiction treatment. If you have questions or are struggling with boundaries, Sustain Recovery can help. Your child needs your support to stay on their recovery journey. Try not to get discouraged when a wrong decision has been made. Working together, we can help them get back on track and build a happy life without drugs and alcohol.

    Call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052.

  7. Treating the Underlying Issues of Your Child’s Addiction

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    child's addiction

    Coming to terms with your child’s addiction isn’t always an easy thing to do. You might wrestle with questions or place the blame on yourself. When did the substance use start? Why did the substance use start? What could I have done differently? It’s natural to want to retrace your steps, examine every decision you made, and try to figure out where it all began.

    It’s important to remember, however, that you cannot change the past, no matter how hard you try. The focus now should be on getting your child the help they need to get and stay sober. This process is going to require your family to dig deep and uncover difficult emotions that have been buried for a very long time. Sustain Recovery can help.

    Be Rooted in Understanding and Compassion

    In order to be successful in their recovery, your teenager is going to have to make some major changes. It’s going to take hard work and dedication, but they are going to learn, grow, and find their path on their recovery journey. The same is true of you. As caregivers, you must be ready to support your child when they return home from treatment. This will probably require some changes from your end, too. A good place to start is to be rooted in understanding.

    There are often a lot of deep and painful emotions surrounding substance abuse. You will likely be disappointed with your child, and even with yourself. It’s important to feel these emotions instead of bottling them up and burying them deep inside of you — but you cannot harbor them forever. Start by letting go of any judgment or blame you are holding on to. As you move into a mode of understanding, these emotions no longer serve a purpose. The longer you cling to anger, the farther recovery will feel for your family.

    Instead, commit to being rooted in understanding and compassion. The closer you look at your child’s substance abuse, the more you will realize that substances are not the problem — they are now the solution.

    Using Substances as Coping Mechanisms

    Stress has been known to contribute to one’s susceptibility to addiction, and adolescents in today’s world are not immune to either. In fact, because their brains are not fully developed, they are more likely to engage in impulsivity to help them cope with stressors in their lives. Adolescents don’t have enough life experience to see that their stressors are often temporary or that the impulsive methods they are using to cope have long-term consequences. They often see the world in black or white, ignoring the gray that can give them a sense of clarity.

    When your child is dealing with experiences that are stressful for them, they’ll try to find any way to remove the stressor from their life. Whether it be depression, anxiety, trouble with relationships, trouble in school, or other traumas they have endured, your child will find some way to cope. Unfortunately, they often turn to self-defeating behaviors to do so. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to experiment with alcohol or drugs in an attempt to reduce stress or self-medicate to numb their feelings.

    Over time, as your child learned to cope by using substances, an addiction formed. Their brain learned to depend on the substances to feel better and engaging in substance use was no longer a choice. Cravings and compulsions to use became so strong that not even negative consequences of their substance use was enough to stop them.

    The Science Behind Stress and Addiction

    The more stressors that your child is experiencing, the more vulnerable they are to substance abuse. In a study published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, researchers describe how chronic adversity leads to an increased vulnerability to substance use. The study focused on three primary areas of adversity — recent negative life events, past trauma and maltreatment, and lifetime exposure to stressors. The greater the number of stressors that an individual is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing an addiction.

    It’s important to understand that your child was doing their best to cope with their problems. Although their coping mechanism wasn’t a healthy option, it was the one they chose. You cannot change the past. Instead of blaming them and being angry, it’s your job to now help them get the support and treatment they need for the underlying issues they were trying to cope with. If you allow yourself to come from a place of understanding and compassion, you will give your child the space to begin their recovery with your support.

    Hope for the Future

    There is help out there for your child. It’s important to understand that they need help not only for their addiction, but for the underlying issues as well. Think of their addiction like a weed growing in a flower garden. If you only pull the part of the weed that you can see and leave the rest, a new weed will soon grow in the old one’s place.

    To successfully get rid of the weed, you must remove the roots. If you only get your child help for their substance abuse without dealing with the underlying stress and trauma, there will soon be unhealthy coping mechanisms that show up in the addiction’s place. The key is to treat the underlying issues as well and give your child the necessary tools they need to cope in healthy ways when stress returns.

    Recovery from an addiction is hard work. If your child is returning home from treatment, know that the work is just beginning. No one expects perfection, so stop striving for perfection. Do your best to be supportive and give your child what they need, not what they want.

    Sustain Recovery is here to help you and your child in their addiction recovery. We provide adolescents with a positive and loving environment where they can address their addiction and mental health issues and find the path to sobriety. Any treatment would be incomplete without the inclusion of the families who suffer alongside them, and that is why we include weekly family therapy in the recovery process as well. Let us help your child and your family heal together. To learn more, call us today at (949) 407-9052.

  8. Structure + Support = Success

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    Structure + Support = Success

    An adolescent’s successful recovery from substance abuse must include both structure and support. These things help to focus on the problem (mental illness and trauma) and the solution the adolescent is using to cope (substance abuse). Both structure and support are necessary because the problem and solution are so deeply intertwined. If either of these areas are ignored during the adolescent’s treatment, they cannot be successful.

    In order to help your adolescent client have the best chance at a successful recovery, it’s important to stress the implementation of both structure and support. There are many ways that you can help facilitate this process.


    When an adolescent is participating in inpatient treatment, they adhere to a strict schedule. As they transition away from treatment and return home, it’s crucial that they maintain a similar healthy structure. As humans, we thrive on routine. This is why our brains settle into a habit once a behavior has begun to repeat itself. Our brains jump at every opportunity to create these routines. Unfortunately, our brains cannot differentiate which behaviors are healthy or unhealthy.

    Thus, it takes time and effort to break bad habits — and this is why structure is so important. If an adolescent is left with too much idle time, they’ll fall back into old habits. By having a structure to their day, the adolescent’s brain is working hard to retrain their brain into creating healthier habits. Not only does structure help keep the adolescent out of trouble, it also keeps them focused on their responsibilities and goals.

    As the professional who is currently treating them, you can help your adolescent client form a healthy structure and make sure that they are allotting ample time for their responsibilities and goals. Their biggest responsibility is usually school, so it’s vital to stress the importance of attending school and making their schoolwork a priority. This routine should include waking up at the same time each morning, eating a healthy breakfast, and arriving to school on time. There should also be a set time for completing homework and projects in their schedule.

    Including time for their recovery is also important, such as regularly attending 12-Step groups, attending therapy, or practicing mindful techniques. It’s also important to remember that they are still kids. You should encourage them to make time for play. Whatever they enjoy, encourage them to spend time doing something they love, such as playing a sport, being creative, or spending time with friends. Finding a balanced structure helps them focus on what is important while also giving them the space to be kids.


    An adolescent’s recovery should also include support. Recovery isn’t a one-person show, especially for adolescents. They still rely on their parents for many things while also exploring their independence. Finding a welcoming community can be extremely beneficial for adolescents in recovery. It’s not uncommon for peer support to make a stronger impact with adolescents than support that comes from adults.

    This is where like-minded adolescents of the same age who are also in recovery can be so helpful. A supportive community of adolescents in different stages of recovery can help them all thrive. If your client is newly sober, finding peers who have been sober for a while can be especially motivating. They’ll see all the wonderful opportunities that have been made available for their peers, which can inspire and encourage them to stay on the right path.

    A supportive community can also help with the mental health aspect of treatment. Mental illness and trauma can be so isolating for many adolescents. They feel like they are the only person going through what they are going through, which often leads them to substance use.

    By integrating your adolescent client into a supportive community that has gone through similar experiences, they are able to learn from their peers and feel less alone. They can see that their peers have been successful without substances, so they begin to think that maybe they can be successful without substances, too.


    You can help your adolescent client reach their full potential by including structure and support in their recovery. When you are working with your client to build a healthy and individualized routine, make sure you include all the necessary elements and keep their routine balanced. Focusing too much on substance use means that you aren’t spending enough time helping them work through their problems or giving them time to be kids.

    You can also encourage them to find a supportive community that works for them. Lastly, a successful recovery means that your client gets what they need when they need it, not what they want when they want it. You have the power to help your client transform their life — use that power for good.

    Sustain Recovery is here to help you set your adolescent clients up for a successful recovery. This means treating both the root problems and the unhealthy solutions they have been using to cope. You can do this by encouraging your client to make structure a part of their lives and build a community of support. Over time, the adolescent will learn to go from talking the talk to walking the walk. Sustain Recovery is a treatment facility founded upon evidence-based clinical treatment modalities and best practice principles. Let’s work together to help your clients succeed. To learn more, call us today at (949) 407-9052.

  9. Inspiring Motivation Through Change

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    Inspiring Motivation Through ChangeRecovery begins with change. Somewhere in their life, a person in recovery has decided their habits aren’t working anymore and they need to make a change. This decision is a fundamental component of addiction recovery. Still, wanting to change is much different than actually changing – and many addicts require a lot of extra support to get to the point where they can make active changes.

    What’s more, patients sometimes come to recovery through a court mandate or a parent’s ultimatum. How can a provider motivate a teen or adolescent who doesn’t even think they need to change? Understanding the process of behavioral changes is critical to inspiring motivation in these types of patients.

    Stages of Change

    The “Stages of Change” model was first introduced in the 1970s. It attempted to explain the process of change in humans as occurring in stages and not all at once. So two researchers – James Prochaska, Ph.D. and Carlo DiClimente, Ph.D. – set out to define these stages. They tested and refined the model until it became the most widely-used and accepted model in addiction treatment.

    The model describes the six stages of change as follows:

    • Pre-Contemplation: The person is aware they have an addiction and are aware of its harmful effects. Still, they have little motivation for changing as they view using as more beneficial than sobriety.
    • Contemplation: The person is aware of the adverse effects that using is causing them. They see sobriety as the most effective option – however, they may lack confidence in their change.
    • Preparation: The person acknowledges responsibility for change in their behavior. They may begin developing a plan, asking for support, or building confidence.
    • Action: The person consciously makes an effort towards changing their behaviors. This can include going to rehab or engaging in self-directed change efforts.
    • Maintenance: The person has developed self-control and healthier behavioral patterns. They can maintain these changes with less effort as well.
    • Termination: The person has established full lifestyle and behavior changes. They don’t succumb to urges or impulses and make healthier life decisions.

    It’s important to remember that relapse can occur at any stage in this model. Furthermore, not all patients come to rehab out of their own will. Sometimes, especially in the case of youths, they are mandated by a court or their parent(s) gives them an ultimatum. It is not their internal dialogue that is motivating them – it is their external environment.

    This means they usually enter treatment at Stage 1 or Stage 2. In this case, the purpose of therapy should be developing motivation rather than trying to change behaviors. One way this can be achieved is through motivational interviewing (MI).

    Motivational Interviewing

    MI is a technique in which a trained interviewer becomes a facilitator of the change process and expresses acceptance towards an addict. MI has two primary goals: 1) to increase a person’s motivation and 2) to guide the person towards a commitment to change. MI works just like any other therapy session. A motivational interviewer tries to influence a dialogue towards why the person needs or wants to change. This method can be effective for those who do not voluntarily seek treatment, as the interviewer reflects the person’s thoughts back to them to initiate introspective thinking.

    Empathy is an integral part of MI. It establishes a safe and accepting environment that allows a person to examine their behaviors and talk about their addiction. An empathetic approach to MI involves listening rather than telling, offering sincere compliments rather than criticism, encouraging a non-judgmental collaborative attitude, and communicating respect for the addict. Motivational Interviewing is more successful when there is a relationship of trust between the interviewer and patient.

    Supporting Self-Efficacy

    A person’s belief in their own ability to change is essential in motivation toward addiction recovery. Self-education is one way to foster self-efficacy. Credible, understandable, and timely information helps people understand how their addiction drives some of their behaviors or impacts their life. This gives them an idea of where to start changing their behaviors. They begin to see which actions trigger their cravings the most, or which ones help them overcome their triggers the best.

    There are a few techniques to help support self-efficacy in recovery:

    • Give the patient hope by explaining there is no “right way” to change.
    • Help the patient believe that they can improve by inquiring about other successful changes they’ve made in the past and complimenting their success.
    • Explore barriers that may cause low self-confidence in patients such as trauma or psychological issues.
    • Share examples of others’ success in addiction recovery. No one wants to feel like they are the only one experiencing something.

    Ultimately, teens and adolescents need an empathetic, non-judgmental entity that will help them develop motivation toward recovery. A motivational interviewer becomes this person as they approach their patient with respect and act as a reflector of thoughts and behaviors. It’s also vital that patients understand their role in recovery as an active player – they are responsible for their own success. By supporting them with empathy and education, we can help them overcome their own ambivalence.

    To learn more about motivational-based therapies and how they can be used to foster recovery and improved mental health, contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052.

  10. What is Self Control in Addiction?

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    Is there a way to exercise more self control when in addiction recovery? Are there strategies that an individual can implement to prevent them from relapsing? Yes, there are. There are ways to resist cravings and overcome negative thoughts, and remain in self control when going through a rough patch in recovery.

    How Belief Drives Addiction

    Believing negative thoughts or things can compel substance abuse. If an individual believes that they cannot stop their addictive behavior, or that they have no control over what they do, it is almost certain that they will engage in harmful, addictive behavior. The negative beliefs become excuses. Everyone has voices inside their heads that tell them they cannot do something, or that they cannot stop doing something. It is only true if the individual chooses to believe it. But when the individual practices mindfulness and awareness and tells themselves that they are in total control, their beliefs changes, thus helping them avoid harmful behavior.

    The Difference between Thoughts and Beliefs

    Thoughts are not the same as beliefs. For example, an individual can think all day that they’re a banana, but won’t believe it at the end of the day. Therefore, thinking something and believing something are two different things. When the individual starts believe their thoughts, it makes a difference to their lives. Especially when it comes to addictive behavior, it’s what the individual believes rather than what they think about that makes a difference.

    Changing Beliefs

    Can beliefs be changed? Of course they can be. Individuals change what they believe all the time, when they are presented with new or different information as opposed to what they started out believing. In recovery, the individual must make an effort to start acting in a way that is consistent with different words and thoughts.

    Exerting Self Control

    Outside of emergencies or events that cannot be controlled, it is fair to say that individuals have a lot of self control over what they choose to do. An individual who believes, for example, that not having a drink or a cigarette is more important that having that drink or smoking that cigarette, will choose to do something else, no matter how intense the urge. Self control can be exerted if it is consistent with what the individual believes.

    Tips to Improve Self Control

    1. Planning Ahead – Self control can be strengthened if the individual starts planning ahead for tricky situations, like how to avoid drinking when going to a party. This could mean bringing along a friend to keep the individual focused and in check, or having a response ready when asked about drinking.
    2. Eat – Researchers have found that blood sugar levels can affect the ability to exert self control. Using self control depletes blood sugar levels, so keeping a small snack at hand and ensuring a balanced diet will go a long way towards being in control.
    3. Exercise – This seems to be a cure all. The benefits of exercise are seemingly endless. A healthy body appears to have a powerful impact on the mind. Regular exercise has been shown to improve willpower in all areas of an individual’s lives, including drinking, smoking and drug addiction.

    Sustain Recovery provides a unique approach to adolescent care with our extended residence programs. Adolescents are given the life skills required for their transition to sober living. Contact us to learn about how our programs can benefit you.

The people at Sustain Recovery are truly passionate about their work. They put all their love, energy and spiritual strength in to it. They continue to support me today as I continue my ongoing journey in my personal recovery. I now have over a year of sobriety, my own apartment, a job, true friends and a support network that is always available to me. Although all that stuff is great, what matters most today is that I love myself and have the ability to love others. Thank you to all who had a hand and heart in Sustain Recovery

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