Tag Archive: mindfulness

  1. How to Support Your Child’s Recovery Using Mindfulness

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    mindfulness for the family

    No matter what age group we’re discussing, family and peer support are critical in rehabilitation. This can be said for addiction or mental illness. However, children are at an age when they need tons of support in all aspects. Whether we realize it or not, children appreciate structure in their life, and the most immediate structure they are familiarized with is their home structure. Parental support is vital to your child’s development. They need the motivation to complete treatment and maintain sobriety. Feeling empathy and compassion from their family helps them maintain a sense of confidence and well-being, which will promote success in their recovery.

    Mindfulness Activities to Practice as a Family

    There are quite a few mindfulness exercises to choose from and not all of them work for everyone. Finding exercises that fit your child’s needs is critical. Here are three activities to get you started at home with your child, either one-on-one or as a family.

    Focus on Breathing

    This is a common technique used in the teaching of all meditation. The reason why focusing on breathing is a cornerstone of meditation is because it creates a sense of calm and control. Rather than becoming upset by things we have little control over, we focus our attention on something we can control: our breathing.

    Try creating a time where you and your child practice breathing exercises. Inhale through your nostrils and out through your mouth, trying to fill your lungs as much as possible and emptying until you can’t any longer. Focus on the sensations this creates, whether they are physical or emotional. The more this is practiced, the better you will become at controlling your breathing patterns.

    This exercise doesn’t have to only be practiced in a quiet setting. This method can be used anytime your child feels urges to use or is facing negative emotions. Explain to your child that this can be practiced in places like sitting at a desk in school, waiting in line at a store, or while riding in a car—anywhere that they feel stress is becoming overwhelming.

    Be Still

    In general, we tend to view being busy as being productive. We equate worthiness with what we succeed in accomplishing. Therefore, multi-tasking has become a virtue in our society. But is it healthy to remain busy constantly? No; it simply is not. The practice of mindfulness has always suggested that stepping away from the business of life and to simply “be” is vital to well-being. Science is beginning to suggest this, also.

    The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu asks, “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud has settled and your waters are clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises on its own?” This is an excellent meditative phrase to promote the idea of stillness. The practice of stillness is a great tool for impulse control, which can help your child deal with cravings. Stillness also helps us understand that recovery is not a destination, but a journey. Sometimes we need to be still to see how far we’ve come.

    Stillness can be practiced by watching ripples in the water of creeks or streams, watching the flight of birds in the sky, observing an animal in their moment-to-moment actions. It is the simplest form of mindfulness meditation and can be performed anywhere and anytime necessary. You can practice this with your child by finding a location to sit peacefully. Holding a conversation with each other is not necessary, but perhaps the stillness will open a door for communication with your child about their recovery.

    Practice Loving Compassion

    The practice of loving compassion allows us to reconnect with our humanity. Humans have a natural need for human connection and companionship. Often in addiction, people feel like they have lost connection with their friends, families, and selves. Loving compassion helps your child to learn tools of self-love. This is vital to recovery. With self-love comes acceptance of what is, and through acceptance, we find progress.

    If you feel like you’ve lost connection with your child, practice loving compassion. This will be your opportunity to repair damaged connections between you and your child. This is also a time to show your child you love them and support their recovery. Perhaps it will also build trust as an avenue for more open dialogue about their feelings. Sometimes, telling your child that you support them is not enough—they need to see it, or feel it, to realize it’s there.

    Using language that promotes empathy is key to loving compassion. Talking to your child about the struggles of life is important because we all face them. Using phrases such as “just like me” can create a sense of connection. Your child needs to hear that they have urges and emotions just like everyone else, and most importantly, just like their family.

    While these are the simplest ways to practice mindfulness with your child, they are also the most important. They lead to success in other mindfulness practices. True Buddhist meditation is hard to accomplish when dealing with impulses and stress. Even the Zen Buddhists realize this and formed their type of Japanese zen meditation called Zazen, which is done with open eyes. This type of meditation is designed to give you a connection to your environment. Apply this to stillness and you can see how the practice of mindfulness translates throughout many societies and periods. It translates into recovery, as well. Supporting mindfulness techniques in your child’s recovery is key to their success.

    At Sustain Recovery, we work with you and your child to create a customized treatment plan, founded on evidence-based therapies. To learn more about how meditation and mindfulness can help your child as they navigate their recovery, please contact us today at (949) 407-9052.

  2. Using Mindfulness-Based Treatments in Addiction Recovery

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    adolescent mindfulness training

    Mindfulness is a practice and philosophy that has been used for millennia. Originating in the Himalayan region, mindfulness teaches people to become self-aware. The philosophy teaches that by focusing on moment-to-moment experiences, a person can become aware of their behaviors and emotional reactions. This is helpful because instead of avoiding feelings and urges, a person can name and accept them. Acceptance leads to less self-judgment, and in return, a person has better tools for dealing with cravings or negative emotions.

    Taking part in your child’s recovery is very important. Educating yourself on topics like substances and their effects on children, as well as different treatment programs is vital to their success. While they receive plenty of support from their treatment facilitators, recovery is a 24/7 process. This is why support at home is critical.

    Mindfulness in Youth Addiction Recovery

    Simply put, mindfulness brings a person’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present and is often taught through meditation exercises. There have been many studies on the effects of mindfulness-based treatments in adult populations, but the research of its effects on youth populations is emerging.

    A study conducted in 2009 showed evidence of a positive change in emotional, physical, and behavioral health in children and adolescents. A different study conducted that same year focusing on teens ages 14-18 showed a significant increase in their ability to deal with stress, regulate behavior, and improve their psychological well-being. There are several key aspects of why mindfulness-based treatments are successful when treating addiction in kids.

    These include qualities such as:

    • Reduced impulsiveness
    • Increased ability to accept drug cravings without using
    • Increased perception of risk in drug-use
    • An increased overall sense of well-being

    These skills are essential for helping your child through their recovery process and studies have proven that mindfulness can be used to prevent relapse, as well.

    What the Science Says

    Because mindfulness-based treatment is an emerging practice, there has been a rush by researchers to test its success. While an overwhelming amount of evidence points towards a decrease in drug use, some evidence points to it being a selective treatment; something that is not one-size-fits-all. What research does suggest is that adding mindfulness exercises into a child’s treatment can improve their motivation and decrease their chances of relapse. This can be linked to the patient’s newfound ability to confront their emotions or impulses without judgment and become aware of what triggers their cravings.

    There have been studies conducted specifically on adolescents who are mandated to participate in drug treatment programs. The outcomes are the same. There is a decreased chance of relapse and an increased ability to deal with stressors and impulses. Also, mindfulness practices increase their perceptions of risk from using drugs. Mindfulness works because it presents children with tools they can practice anywhere. Prolonged practice of mindfulness techniques supports long-term success. It provides the child with an internal process of dealing with negative emotions, impulses, or environments.

    Moving Forward

    Researches make a point to discuss a few assumptions about mindfulness-based treatment for youth addiction recovery. First, there is an assumption that counselors and families are interested in applying mindfulness activities to treatment programs. While many programs are being created to combine contemporary treatment programs with mindfulness-based treatments, they are not readily available everywhere. This is something to talk about with your child’s recovery facility. Ask if they are familiar with the practice and if they have any ways of applying it to your child’s treatment.

    The second assumption is that facilities and families have a working knowledge of mindfulness and mindfulness-based treatments. There is no need to be an expert on mindfulness to facilitate the practice with your child. A lot of resources exist online with guides on how to introduce mindfulness to your children and keep them engaged in the practice. This also leads to the assumption that you are willing to take an active role in your child’s recovery.

    The third assumption is that you have knowledge of substance abuse and addiction and their effects on children. Realize that when working with a treatment facility, questions about different types of drugs and their effects will come up. It’s important to prepare yourself by having some knowledge of these topics or knowing where to find it.

    Your child’s treatment facility is a great place to start. Also, many schools have programs on drug education. Talk to your child’s school counselor and ask if they have any literature on common or popular drugs and their effects on children. Remember, taking an active part in your child’s recovery is key to their success.

    To learn more about how mindfulness-based therapy can benefit your child in their recovery, please contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052. Our outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential programs are all built around evidence-based clinical treatment modalities. Our knowledgeable and compassionate staff can help your child begin to lead a happier, healthier life and decrease their chances of relapse.

  3. Mindfulness Therapy as a Recovery Enhancer

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    Mindfulness Therapy as a Recovery Enhancer

    Mindfulness has been used for millennia to foster self-awareness. The idea of mindfulness is that recognizing internal and external influences on negative emotions and behaviors gives a person the tools to deal with them rationally. There is an increased interest in mindfulness-based recovery treatments, especially for the youth population. Mindfulness-based programs have already been successfully implemented in school settings. The implications for its success in addiction recovery are promising.

    Uses for Mindfulness in Recovery

    There is some hesitation in accepting mindfulness as a legitimate treatment for addiction. Even those in recovery are left to wonder how it can help them. Fortunately, research shows that the skills learned in mindfulness-based exercises are long-term and quite real. It can be substantially useful in relapse prevention because it helps deal with urges. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is an emerging treatment focused on preventing relapse post-treatment.

    Skills learned from practicing mindfulness can include:

    • Observation – paying attention to their environment and feelings
    • Description – gaining the ability to describe and recognize their feelings
    • Participation – taking control of their choices
    • Taking a nonjudgmental stance – accepting what is instead of dwelling on what could be
    • Focusing on the moment to moment – living in the moment helps deal with urges
    • Effectiveness – learning what works best for you and doing those things without second-guessing

    Mindfulness helps children become aware when they are acting on auto-pilot; using trait-based tendencies on impulse. They are aware of their behaviors and how they are impacting themselves and others. This is part of the skill of observation. Mindfulness also teaches them that their choices are theirs and they are active participants in their lives. This gives them the self-confidence to make decisions regarding their well-being without doubting themselves. These are all skills that will follow them into adult life and can only benefit them in the long run.

    Techniques for Mindfulness-based Treatments

    There are a few different techniques that can be used to practice mindfulness. These are not one size fits all, so they should be applied with discretion. The most well-known is traditional meditation. This involves sitting in a peaceful place, in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed. The person focuses on their breathing and completely relaxes their body. This is definitely a cornerstone of mindfulness exercises, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone. Many people find it hard to focus on their breathing and issues like anxiety or panic can prevent the relaxation they need. It’s important to find what works best for an individual.

    Yoga has grown in popularity for several uses in the past decade. It’s an exercise that allows an individual to stretch their body and practice breathing exercises. This type of deep stretching and breathing is another form of meditation. This is why yoga is such a valuable tool for those who practice it. In recovery, children need to learn that self-care is important, not just on an emotional level, but on a physical level, as well. Yoga seems to be an exercise that a majority of kids can take part in, unless they have physical limitations. Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all technique.

    Practicing stillness may be the easiest mindfulness technique, because it’s simply taking a moment to be still and experience one’s surroundings. This is a perfect exercise to do in nature or somewhere a person finds peaceful. Stillness can be something as simple as watching the sunrise or birds in flight through the sky. It provides a moment of silent reflection and an opportunity to reconnect with what it feels like to experience life. These are just a few of the techniques to introduce into treatment for adolescents and teens. There are many resources available for those interested in incorporating them into their treatment curriculum.

    Supporting Mindfulness in Recovery

    Professionals are the first line of support a child will likely receive in recovery. It’s vital to foster an environment where children feel comfortable enough to become self-aware. It is a practice that can make them feel very vulnerable, and that feeling can lend itself to harmful urges. Thus, engaging in mindfulness techniques with a child helps build a relationship of trust. Children are also prone to learning through example and not instruction. To see a professional use the same techniques gives credence to their efficacy. It also helps promote acceptance and a non-judgmental attitude.

    Children typically don’t appreciate feeling as if they are the only ones experiencing what they feel. It’s important that they are met with compassion and empathy. Helping them realize that many people struggle through life and they can succeed in recovery is essential. Furthermore, teaching them self-empathy and loving compassion will help them develop ways to better manage their feelings. It promotes self-care which is just as critical in recovery as treatment.

    The bottom line is that children will have to learn a completely different lifestyle and perhaps find a completely different set of friends while in recovery. This can be incredibly stressful, almost earth-shattering for many kids. The structure they are used to is gone and again, they may feel vulnerable. Supporting their recovery with mindfulness exercises will help them deal with these situations not only in recovery, but all facets of life.

    Mindfulness practices can be extremely beneficial for adolescents in recovery. At Sustain Recovery, we often utilize this type of therapy to help youths recover from addiction and lead happier, healthier lives.

    Contact us today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.

  4. Applying Mindfulness-Based Behavioral Therapies to Youth Addiction Recovery

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    mindfulness therapies

    Mindfulness-based behavioral therapies have become increasingly popular in the U.S. school system over the past decade. Many of these programs use the concepts of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of internal or external situations and experiences with an accepting, non-judgmental attitude. This is often accomplished using various meditation exercises.

    Pilot programs in many schools have shown the successful application of MBSR in children. There is a growing interest in applying MBSR to adolescents and teens in addiction recovery programs. Evidence shows that the outcomes are positive in the same way as MBSR in schools.

    MBSR Use in School Intervention Programs

    MBSR is increasingly being applied to different programs in schools throughout the United States. The practice has been successfully applied to behavior therapy, therapy for children struggling with ADHD, and children with learning disabilities. The push towards MBSR began when there was profound evidence of the negative impact of stress and emotional distress on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.

    The amount of evidence promoting MBSR in schools is growing, and many trial programs have already been put into place. This is due to the theory that schools should foster the behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of their students. Educators, administrators, and psychiatrists have collaborated on the best ways to make the learning environment conducive to fostering all of those aspects of childhood development.

    Even so, many researchers point out that the enthusiasm for MBSR in schools overwhelms the amount of evidence supporting it. The increasing number of pilot programs, books, and articles indicate that adding mindfulness into education is received with great interest and is seen as a potentially feasible, cost-effective, and promising approach.

    Some successful applications of MBSR in schools are:

    • Increased focus in children with ADHD
    • Reduction of stress and depression in children with externalizing disorders
    • Reduction of anxiety and stress
    • Increased social skills in children with learning disorders

    Applying MBSR to Youth Addiction Recovery

    Mindfulness exercises are meant to allow a person to confront negative feelings or urges with acceptance without using a substance. The reason mindfulness looks promising in regards to addiction recovery is that the avoidance of negative feelings is an influence of substance abuse.

    Teaching children to accept these feelings and urges with a non-judgmental attitude provides an insight into what triggers these emotional responses. Becoming aware of these triggers allows a person to become less reactionary, which helps with impulse control. This is important when it comes to preventing relapse.

    MBSR also helps children deal with traumas that can be associated with their drug abuse. Whether the trauma occurred pre-addiction, during, or while in recovery, it needs to be dealt with in order to facilitate rehabilitation. MBSR helps a child deal with trauma because they confront it and accept it.

    Acceptance is not the same as approving of something. It’s not assigning a negative or positive quality to the feeling or action. Acceptance is simply admitting what is. Once a child can be honest with themselves about their feelings or urges, they can prepare themselves to deal with them in more effective and healthier ways.

    Again, many pilot programs have been put in place to develop sustainable mindfulness-based treatment programs. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement, or MORE, is a program that incorporates mindfulness-based practices to promote recovery in individuals struggling with addiction.

    The program has shown success in the treatment of alcohol, opiate, and nicotine abuse. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is another successful program in pilot stages that promotes the use of mindfulness to prevent relapse by increasing a child’s ability to control impulses and cravings.

    The Future of Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery

    There needs to be a more substantial selection of studies on mindfulness before anyone can definitively say that treatments based around the concept are in any way superior to others. What the research does suggest is that adding mindfulness exercises into a person’s treatment can improve their motivation for a successful recovery and decrease their chances of relapse. Substantial literature and research is available to make educated decisions on the best way to treat your patients. Mindfulness is not an end-all, be-all. It is just one step towards successful addiction recovery in children.

    The most promising quality of mindfulness-based recovery programs is that there is a vast selection of exercises that can be adopted. This allows a provider to tailor treatment to specific patients. However, mindfulness can also be adapted to group settings. Prolonged use of mindfulness techniques gives children lifelong tools for dealing with negative emotions or urges. This makes success in their recovery even more plausible.

    Interested in learning how mindfulness-based therapy can be a beneficial part of addiction recovery?

    Contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more about how we utilize evidence-based clinical treatment models to foster successful recovery and an improvement in mental health.

  5. Practicing Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

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    mindfulness treatment for addiction

    Mindfulness, simply stated, is the practice of gaining self-awareness. It is derived from ancient trans-Himalayan philosophies of contemplation and cultivation of awareness. Research has shown that frequent practice of mindfulness exercises produce substantial changes in trait-like predispositions to being mindful in everyday life, even without being engaged in mediation. Although mindfulness-based treatment programs are a fresh take on recovery, there is plenty of emerging data to provide evidence of its efficacy.

    Mindfulness’s Role in Recovery

    In recovery, mindfulness allows patients to focus on the present, rather than the past or future. This is especially useful when it comes to dealing with cravings or unwanted thoughts about substances. Rather than avoid the feelings or emotions that come with those cravings, mindfulness teaches people to name and tolerate their feelings. It allows them to take a non-judgmental approach to their habits or behaviors. The practice of mindfulness gives people an insight into how to deal with negative emotions and situations by allowing compassionate reflection rather than reaching for a substance.

    If a patient is invited to a small gathering of peers and they know there is going to be an illegal substance or alcohol there, they may begin to stress. They may wonder if they will drink or they may worry if their peers pressure them, they will cave. How will it make them look to turn anything down? With mindfulness, people can recognize those thoughts as fictitious scenarios.

    They can deal with these thoughts appropriately. This is a moment when patients realize they have a choice. They don’t have to cave to peer pressure; they can choose not to drink. It may help them cope with the realization they have to change their peer group, as well. Mindfulness gives patients the tools they need to be aware of their environmental triggers and how to avoid them.

    Practicing mindfulness also helps patients cope with psychological issues that may have influenced their substance abuse or developed during recovery. Researchers have used MRI scans to monitor the brain’s reaction to mindfulness exercises.

    According to the scans, the grey matter in the region of the brain known for its role in stress—the amygdala—can become smaller after the exercises are performed. The reduction of stress is important in a patient’s motivation for recovery. Ultimately, mindfulness gives patients the tools to properly deal with their emotions and stressors without self-medicating.

    Evidence in Support of Mindfulness-Based Addiction Treatment

    Because Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is an emerging practice, there has been a rush by researchers to test its efficacy. While an overwhelming amount of evidence points towards a decrease in relapse rates, some evidence points to it being a selective treatment, something that is not one-size-fits-all. As a healthcare provider, you know how to make the best decisions and provide effective options for your patients. Thus, mindfulness exercises should be applied with discretion.

    A 2013 study found that those exposed to MBRP showed significantly lower rates of substance use and greater decreases in craving, following treatment. Using MRI imaging data, research suggests that MBRP may change neural responses to the experiences of craving and negative affect, which may reduce the risk of relapse.

    Other research shows evidence that mindfulness fosters a feeling of acceptance and non-judgment towards a person’s addiction. Some studies find that the continued practice of mindfulness gives people an improved ability to recognize and address issues that influence their well-being such as mental illness or trauma. This type of introspective tool supports long-term outcomes.

    A recently published paper suggests that the type of treatment that works for a patient may be influenced by their disposition. If a person already approaches their behaviors and tendencies with awareness, non-judgment, and acceptance, then they will be more successful in mindfulness-based treatment. However, mindfulness can be learned. Someone without that disposition will likely need a more vigorous and lengthy treatment.

    Also, what is going on psychologically with a patient will determine the efficacy of mindfulness-based treatment. Is there trauma that needs to be addressed? Some mood disorders make concentration and self-awareness more tedious for some than others. Anxiety is a disorder that can shatter a patient’s concentration. It’s vital that patients are being treated for these issues in order to ensure the best outcome with mindfulness-based treatment.

    Moving Forward

    There needs to be a more substantial selection of studies on mindfulness before anyone can definitively say that treatments based around the concept are in any way superior to others. What the research does suggest is that adding mindfulness exercises into a person’s treatment can improve their motivation for successful recovery and decrease their chances of relapse.

    This is linked to the patient’s newfound ability to confront their emotions or proclivities without judgement and become aware of what triggers their cravings. Keep in mind, these studies are not only composed of empirical data, but also MRI brain scans conducted on patients after completing mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness teaches people to deal with what is, and not focus on what they think ought to be.

    The more a person focuses on the moment-to-moment aspects of their lives or routines, the less likely they are to give into cravings. They become mindful of their choice and the fact that they hold the key to their freedom, in that respect. Whether you choose to add mindfulness exercises into your practice or not, it’s worth looking into the directions that addiction recovery treatment is going.

    To learn more about how MBRP can help individuals strengthen their recovery and overcome the urge to use, contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052. Through compassionate care, we help adolescents address substance use disorders, as well as underlying mental health concerns. We provide three levels of care: outpatient care, intensive outpatient services or partial hospitalization, and residential or inpatient care.

  6. Staying Mindful

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    Staying MindfulAn adolescent recovering from drug and alcohol addiction who is mired in the skepticism and anger that is typical of the disease might quickly dismiss “mindfulness” as a new age fad that has no value in combating their cravings. Recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism often requires an individual to utilize every conceivable tool to keep recovery on track. Although the concept and practice of mindfulness might seem vague at first, over time mindfulness is one of the strongest tools to avoid relapses and move forward into lifelong sobriety.

    Mindfulness practice teaches a person to step away from their automatic emotional response to situations and instead to evaluate those emotions from a non-judgmental perspective. For example, a recovering addict who is experiencing stress or anger over relationship problems might be tempted to use drugs or alcohol as a salve for those problems. With mindfulness practice, a young adult in recovery will train their thought processes to step away from the immediate stress and to develop a more rational response that does not involve drugs or alcohol. Just as drugs and alcohol will rewire the brain to respond to stress with demands for substances, mindfulness practice can change a recovering addict’s brain to improve logic and reasoning and to create a greater sense of well-being without any substances.

    Staying Mindful

    Mindfulness should be practiced in conjunction with other therapy and group sessions that are part of their recovery programming. Addiction rarely responds to a single weapon. Mindfulness is a strong weapon, but it is not intended as an alternative to regular therapy or group recovery meetings. Addicts who become complacent or who gain a new sense of confidence from a mindfulness practice remain at risk for relapses, even long after their last use of drugs or alcohol. Mindfulness will help them recognize their risk, but it cannot guarantee a positive response in every situation. At those times, group members, sponsors, therapists, and counselors should be contacted to supplement the recovering addict’s response to cravings.   

    A recovering addict can continue to realize the benefits of mindfulness practice long after he has completed an initial detox and treatment, and well into their newfound sober lifestyle. Staying mindful will give them greater empathy for friends and family who are experiencing their own problems with drugs or alcohol. Mindfulness will help connect and acknowledge uncomfortable situations that previously might have been smoothed over with drugs or alcohol.


    Sustain Recovery Services in southern California helps adolescents and young adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction through our extended care services. Our unique program offers practical life skills training like mindfulness to help young people create a comprehensive way of living sober.  Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

© 2023 OCTLC Inc.