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Jennifer Hansen

Addiction Makes You Sick, Not Flawed

By | General

Addiction is an insidious disease that makes people stay in the same cycle for months and even years. One of the reasons addiction is so difficult to overcome is due to the low levels of self-esteem and self-worth that accompanies it. During active addiction, a person is a mere shadow of who they once were or who they could possibly be. As they chase getting drunk or high by any means necessary, they may lie, cheat, and steal from the people they care about the most. As a result of the guilt the person feels, they may try to cope by drinking and using more, thus starting the cycle all over again. Understanding that addiction is a disease is crucial in helping someone you or someone you know get and stay sober.

The Disease of Addiction

Addiction is the only disease out there that makes a person delusional in thinking that nothing is wrong. This is one of the reasons that it’s hard for a person to seek help. Addiction takes over the survival part of the brain, so drinking or using drugs comes above friends, family, finances, career, and everything else worthwhile in life. With years of addiction research, we now understand that the brain of someone with an addiction is biologically different than the average person. Although some people abuse substances to the point of addiction, others were genetically predisposed to developing some sort of addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping or sex.

It’s crucial to understand the biological aspect of addiction because it means that people with addictions are suffering from a sickness, and they aren’t morally flawed. Unfortunately, the disease of addiction causes a lot of immoral behavior, which makes it hard for a person to love themselves because they think they’re just a bad person. But for a moment, think of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Would you get angry at them for having a sickness? Or would you care for them and offer them compassion? This is how people can start developing compassion for the addict in their life as well as how people with addiction can start developing compassion for themselves.

The Debate

One of the reasons that people debate the disease model of addiction is because they believe that it lets the person “off the hook”, but this isn’t the case. When a person goes through treatment, sober living, or 12-step programs, they work on themselves. They start to recognize their defects of character, and they learn healthy coping skills to gradually become the best version of themself. Much like cancer, addiction is a disease that can go into remission and stay gone forever, but for those in recovery, it involves continued self-reflection and work to stay sober and lead a better life.

Learning to Forgive Yourself

As time goes on in sobriety, some people struggle with forgiving themselves, and this is why staying involved in recovery is so important. Those who go through sober living or 12-step programs start to see the value of being of service. By helping others, you’re able to fight the voices in your head that say that you’re not a good person because you’re continually putting good into the world. This is one of the primary reasons why people in recovery end up running sober living homes, becoming 12-step sponsors, or working at treatment facilities, and you can too.

If you’re sick and tired of living the way you’re living, Hansen Foundation can help, so call us today at 609-270-4443.

A Holistic Approach to Wellness

By | General

Currently, there’s a massive addiction epidemic in the United States, and it’s affected many lives in New Jersey. Not only do thousands of people die each year from drug- and alcohol-related deaths, but each death leaves family members grieving. For those who have a loved one with an addiction, it’s terrifying awaiting the day when you may get that call. If you’re tired of having your loved ones worry about you because of your addiction, detox is the first step in recovery, and a New Jersey holistic detox may be the right choice for you.

Why a Holistic Detox?

When people think of addiction, it’s common to think of illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth, but prescription medications are a massive issue. Each year, more people become addicted or die from prescription medications than drugs like heroin and cocaine combined. Medications such as prescription opioids and benzodiazepines can be extremely addictive, and they can take control over a person’s life. This is why it’s important to consider a holistic detox when you’re ready to get sober.

There are many detox centers that focus on Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT), which uses a variety of medications to help you quit using drugs. Although many are safe and monitored by a medical staff, some of them can become addictive. For example, some people become addicted to the medication Suboxone, which is used to help people come off of drugs like heroin or prescription opioids. By going to a holistic detox facility in New Jersey, you can find natural ways to recover.

What Happens at a Holistic Detox?

One of the biggest misconceptions about holistic detox facilities is that they have no medical staff, but this isn’t the case. Holistic detox facilities have medical professionals to ensure that you’re safe and healthy throughout the detox process. When you enter, you’ll go through a full physical and psychological evaluation. If you have underlying medical issues or medical issues as a result of your addiction, medications may be used, but it’s minimal. But when it comes to coming off of the drugs or alcohol safely and comfortably, you’ll find that there are many methods that can be used that don’t involve potentially addictive medications.

Science Backs Holistic Detox

Another myth about detox is that it’s not scientific. The reality is that holistic detox facilities are fully accredited, which means they use evidence-based methods. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself with the right practices like yoga, exercise, meditation, and more. There are also a wide range of natural ways to get through detox with nutritious foods and taking care of your body in other ways. You’ll learn ways to decrease cravings as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. The best part is that many of these strategies can also help keep you sober after detox is complete.

If you’re ready to get sober, The Hansen Foundation is here to help. We’re aligned with holistic detox programs like Enlightened Solutions Detox, and we also offer sober living and rehabilitation treatment. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 609-270-4443.

The Multiple Epidemics of 2020

By | News
The US is batting multiple epidemics – COVID19 and the epidemics of substance use disorder and mental health – both on the rise since the start of the pandemic. As a country, America is facing the potential for catastrophic damage to those not only in substance use recovery but those who are using substances to cope with mental health issues. The Hansen Foundation remains focused on our mission of helping those in substance use recovery. We continue to provide affordable, long-term safe recovery residences, access to treatment, community programs, and the tools needed to lead healthy productive lives for people in recovery. 
COVID-19 IN AMERICA
Stress among Americans has skyrocketed during the Pandemic. COVID-19 has resulted in increased reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder since May 2020 by over 25% compared to the same time period in 2019.  A recent study by the CDC found that 13.3% of adults reported new or increased substance use as a way to manage stress due to the coronavirus and 10.7% of adults reported thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days. There is no question COVID-19 is escalating substance use, creating roadblocks for those in recovery and therefore, increasing the epidemic of addiction.
• Online sales for alcohol increased 243% since states started to quarantine in March. 
• Spirit sales have increased by 75%, beer sales by 66% and wine sales by 42 % compared to the same time period in 2019.
• With the reduction in exports and new travel restrictions, drug cartels are being stymied by reductions in substance supply leading to the use of synthetic or varied potency in drugs leading to overdoses.
• Experts are also concerned that users of illegal drugs could be stockpiling drugs leading to riskier behavior resulting in overdoses and death.
• Reduced recovery support meetings and structure during this time can create feelings of isolation and emotional stress for those in
recovery. Relapse, overdose and death are right around the corner.
COVID-19 AND THE HANSEN FOUNDATION
COVID-19 has presented many challenges for The Hansen Foundation residents. Almost all of our residents were out of work or continue to struggle finding long-term consistent employment.  Some residents did not qualify for government subsidies or unemployment. Social distancing has significantly reduced recovery meetings and some recoverees struggle with online meetings. Reduced recovery support and structure can create feelings of isolation and emotional stress for those in recovery. These feelings can be triggers for relapse as well as for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. 
In a paralyzing, fearful time for many residents, our team of staff members continues to provide mental and emotional support to residents while teaching that hardship can be navigated with determination, commitment to recovery and finding joy in moments of crisis. To help our residents continue on their path to recovery during COVID-19, The Hansen Foundation’s team is:
• Bringing 12-step and Refuge Recovery meetings to recovery houses to maintain recovery programs.
• Giving support to residents with quarantine house events to create a level of social connectedness.
• Providing food accompanied by healthy recipes and cooking instruction. For some residents, food money is non-existent at this time, so supplemental meals are appreciated.
• Working with clients on flexible payment arrangements knowing we will have to absorb the shortfall.
• Providing an opportunity for individuals to regain employment with stable income through job skill training through a variety of programs for those new in recovery and in sober living.
• Recovery Construction – A progressive and individualized program of construction related skill acquisition. Participants learn accountability, teamwork, as well as skill acquisition in focused construction areas and project management. Individuals develop personal interests in the construction field; eventually moving on to full time work within a specialized trade including union placement.
• Solid Roots Employment Program- Enlightened Farm: A transitional employment and mentorship program for individuals new in recovery to gain hands-on experience at Enlightened Farm. Participants learn fellowship, job training, and skills in environmental stewardship while in
sober living.
• Enlightened Café – A job training program focused on developing food preparation and hospitality-based skills.  Participants learn food preparation and safety, cooking and restaurant operations as well as customer service,
problem-solving, communication, organizational and
teamwork skills. 

ON THE FRONT LINES
We know that the commitment of the United States and the international medical and pharmaceutical companies will lead to a resolution to the COVID-19 pandemic. What we don’t know is how many lives will be altered and lost by substance use disorder when that resolution comes. 
Through support in the past, we have provided Resident Scholarships and supplemental needs for our life-saving endeavors…through our Recovery Residences, Enlightened Farm and Enlightened Café.  The mission of The Hansen Foundation is a personal one for our family and thus, we remain committed to helping others during this unprecedented time as well as today, tomorrow and beyond.

OceanFirst Foundation Continues Commitment to the Hansen Foundation

By | News
OceanFirst Foundation has continued their financial commitment to The Hansen Foundation with the second grant award payment in November of $25,000, part of a total grant award of $75,000 over three years. In 2019, OceanFirst Foundation awarded this Major Grant Award to The Hansen Foundation to renovate a property to be used for Recovery Residences called Serenity Houses. The purpose of this project is to provide additional, safe, supportive recovery housing for people suffering from substance use disorder.

 The Recovery Residence project included structural changes, a complete remake of all bathrooms, laundry facilities, plumbing, electrical and HVAC requirements, flooring, drywall and painting throughout.  It opened on June 1, 2019 to female residents based on census needs at the time. Since opening, we have housed approximately 38 women within the ages of 18-25 at this location on their road to recovery.  The average length of stay in our housing is typically 6 -18 months. Our support staff and house managers help our residents learn how to live in our community, work, get their lives (back) in order after treatment. Many residents do not have insurance and if they did, it does not cover housing. So even our low fee of $180.00 per week is not possible without an entry subsidy boost from our scholarship funds for the first month.

 As you can see on the following page, the renovation of the house is transformative….much like our residents as they attain recovery.  At the Hansen Foundation we create safe, affordable, well-designed recovery residences that support every aspect of healing and maintaining sobriety.   There is a correlation between having a holistic home environment and staying sober.  It is the mission of CEO Jennifer Hansen to ensure that everyone that comes into our residences is provided with a strong foundation to build a substance-free life.  When residents live in a space of aesthetic value, they soon learn to value their self-worth.

Hansen believes in revitalizing the community whenever possible, using existing structures as well as repurposing building materials. To carry out the organization’s sustainability model, Hansen focuses on bringing “old buildings back to life at the same time giving residents a chance at life in recovery through employment and recovery skills training.
OceanFirst’s generous gift to support an additional recovery house could not have come at a more critical time. The year 2020 brought us COVID-19 and studies have shown that drug and alcohol abuse and relapses increased as a result of the virus.  What a gift it was to provide additional safe, clean and affordable long-term recovery housing to residents during the most pressing epidemic of our time.  Each changed life is a miracle and we are happy to have assisted by partnering with OceanFirst to bring about the change.
OceanFirst’s generous gift to support an additional recovery house could not have come at a more critical time. The year 2020 brought us COVID-19 and studies have shown that drug and alcohol abuse and relapses increased as a result of the virus.  What a gift it was to provide additional safe, clean and affordable long-term recovery housing to residents during the most pressing epidemic of our time.  Each changed life is a miracle and we are happy to have assisted by partnering with OceanFirst to bring about the change.

Alumni Impact

By | News

In our recovery residences, called Serenity Houses, our support staff and house managers help our residents learn how to live in RECOVERY by helping addicts participate in their community, work, advocate through legal problems, promote healthy and sustainable life choices, reunite with their loved ones and get their lives back in order. Our recovery residence alumni share first-hand how Serenity House has impacted their road to RECOVERY.

TELL ME ABOUT YOU.

I’m the oldest of three. My childhood was good, I was taught right from wrong. I played sports, I got good grades, and everything was pretty normal. Eighth grade was the first time that I tried marijuana. I tried it to fit in and to be seen as cool. Eventually, I tried alcohol and I really liked the affect produced by substances. It got to a point where all other things went out the window as far as sports, my grades, and my family life. I was consumed by drinking and using. When I was 19, my addiction to opiates had gotten so bad that I went to my first rehab. From the age of 19 to the age of 26, I went to three more detoxes and four more treatment centers. Some were long-term and some were short-term. I moved states, I tried changing my friend group, and nothing worked for me. Every time I got out of treatment, I would go home to the same living environment which was toxic for me and my recovery. I was homeless at one point in Camden. I lost my child through DC PNP system. I did an extended stay in jail. My life got unmanageable. When I was 26 years old, I hit bottom emotionally and knew that I needed to find a different way to live. That is when I made a decision to really try to get sober. Not for my family, not for the courts, not for any outside influence… this time it was truly something that I wanted for myself. – Nicole B.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN WHILE AT SERENITY?

I learned a lot of patience and tolerance.  I was one of the older women in the house and I came from being a mother and wanted to do things for everyone. I realized that that’s not what to do.  I had to learn to be accountable and be responsible for my own things. I also learned that I have to be selfish at times and worry about myself, put myself first to stay well. I also learned how to pay bills on time. I always paid you know, but it was robbing Peter to pay Paul. I learned how to pay bills, make my bed in the morning,  simple things that we don’t think that you’re supposed to do.  I learned to get out of bed, just be active and work a program honestly with accountability.  – Shane R.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES IN RECOVERY?

Now I love being part of a 12-step program and carrying the message. I was driving over and thinking why did I get this chance? I was chosen to carry this message…. bottom line. I really enjoy being a part of Enlightened and the recovery community. I do all the things I used to love to do that I couldn’t do because I was always too high or too drunk. I surf all the time, I walk my dog, I clean my house, I pay my bills. I love paying my bills. That’s one of my favorite things in the world because I have money now.
Not a lot, it all goes to bills, but I am happy to pay my bills. Greatest life I have ever known. – Steve M.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TODAY?

Today I am motivated by my desire to just live life and to be happy, joyous, and free. I have to remember that I didn’t get clean to be miserable. I am very motivated by trying to be a better person.  – C.C.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE CONSIDERING COMING TO SERENITY HOUSE?

It’s probably one of your best options to stay clean. They set you up with the tools and everything in life that you would need. For example, they help you if you are trying to find a job, or typing a resume. If you don’t know where to apply, they will help you find those places; if you don’t know how to schedule a doctor appointment they will help you do that too. You need accountability. Every little aspect of staying clean falls into place. I feel like the staff are very caring and I am not just saying that because I’m a staff member now.  People care… from Jennifer Hansen down. – Erin B.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY ABOUT SERENITY?

I would tell them to give it a chance. I was so against coming in and if it weren’t for my house managers and the support of the women I lived with, I do not think I would have made it through early recovery. The staff go to bat for you every single time. The house manager Melissa took me to court to help me sort out all of the warrants I had. She also sat down with my daughter’s father to help us create a plan for our daughter and our time with her. That way, we didn’t have to go through the court system. – Taylor J.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?

It has been five years since I got sober and my life has come such a long way.  Five years from now I would like to finish my undergraduate degree and attain a Masters Degree in social work. I’d like to be working in the recovery field helping others. I would like to be a strong Mom and woman continuing to live this beautiful life that has been afforded. – Nicole B.

Changing the Standards in Recovery Housing One State at a Time – It’s Your Turn New Jersey!

By | News

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a recovering addict is classified as a person with a disability.  Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities must be given reasonable accommodation to live together as a family without discrimination.  If a state does not comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act, the law requires the state to reach an accommodation for Recovery Housing on a case-by-case basis.  In NJ, the only model for recovery housing has been the Oxford Houses; all others are classified as Boarding Homes and are subject to zoning regulations.  This has been the grueling fight of the Hansen Foundation with the Division of Community Affairs in the State of New Jersey for the last
eight years!

Jennifer Hansen encountered the problem first in Absecon where she already had the approval from the Atlantic County Improvement Authority for a grant to purchase a house for sober living, but still needed the Atlantic County Freeholders to sign off on it.  Although the latter did not happen and the grant was pulled due to NIMBY (not in my back yard), the first Serenity House for Women opened with 10 beds in 2007. A second house opened in Pleasantville, Serenity Meadows, with 11 beds in 2008… many lives were changed and women became grateful model citizens.  It was in 2012 when a third house opened, the Randy Scarborough House for Men, that problems with the State of NJ began when a NIMBY neighbor complained to the state and we were visited by a DCA inspector.  He said that we had a well-run house, better than any he had seen, but he declared that we were running a “Boarding House” without a license.  If we wanted to say we would be an Oxford House, he would go away and not bother us.  So why not an Oxford House?  Hansen Foundation wanted to MANAGE the house and provide much needed support for those new in recovery…teaching life skills, direction, providing transportation, advocating for court dates, writing resumes, getting a job…all the things you would need in a safe affordable environment to get yourself on your feet.   Oxford Houses do none of this.  They are democratically run and do not allow for any of the positive best practices and policies that were already implemented and working not only in our Serenity Houses, but in many states across the country.

After receiving a hefty fine (that continues to grow), we had the dilemma:   a legal battle or submission?  For the good of those in recovery, we chose the legal battle.  It is now eight years, we are ten Serenity Houses and we have been in and out of federal and state courts (the state keeps changing attorneys) and the DCA refuses to talk with us “because we are in litigation”.  The fines have been stayed at the moment at $560,000!

Of course, seeing that this wasn’t going to be resolved soon, Jennifer approached our local assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armada to sponsor a bill which would authorize a credentialing body to certify recovery residences which operated under the best practices and guidelines of NARR (National Association of Recovery Residences.  That bill unanimously passed the Assembly last year and was promised to be passed by the Senate until Governor Murphy said he wouldn’t sign it at the last minute.  The bill was pulled and we are now starting again.

It shouldn’t be this hard to help people when we are so clearly doing the right thing.  In 2018, the State of New Jersey created a new level of “boarding house” called the “Class F License” specifically for Recovery Houses.  Instead of implementing any of the recommendations of the Recovery providers, a bricks and mortar bill was created that does nothing to guarantee that “Best Practices” are being employed.

Bottom line, the state does not have anything in legislation that protects residences from unethical practices nor proactively governs recovery residences with legal standards and guidelines.  Recovery residences can either provide a runway to sustained recovery or lead to relapse and possibly death for residents.  The Hansen Foundation is fighting to change current legislation to ensure all recoverees in sober living are protected.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Legislative Help:  Contact your NJ State Assemblymen and Senators and Governor Murphy to support S-9962 and tell them we need quality standards and guidelines as established by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) which is recognized as the Gold Standard for quality by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) and throughout our nation.  To stem the tragic substance use disorder crisis and make New Jersey a model for recovery, we must employ these standards in our State to save and change the lives of our children, brothers, sisters, parents and friends.  (Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (856) 251-8904)

Financial Help: Unfortunately, the Coronavirus cancelled our wildly successful annual fundraising concert.  The foundation is waiting for Governor Murphy to pass the bill that would reverse past legislation that lumps recovery residences together with boarding houses, capping the number of residents in each recovery house. The reduced number of residents resulted in diminished rent revenue of 30% this year. The perfect storm of a fundraising concert cancelled, flexible pay schedules with residents out of work and reduced rent revenue from lower house numbers challenges the Foundation with a financial shortfall this year.  Your continued financial support and in-kind donations continue to make a difference in many people’s lives – we are eternally grateful!

5 Dangerous Myths about Addiction

By | News
One silver lining of the opioid crisis in the US has been to bring the problem of addiction into the open. A lot of people have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic and their experienaces have changed many people’s opinions about what addiction is and who 
struggles with substance use. Along with greater media coverage of the causes of substance use problems, 
attitudes are slowly changing.
 
However, there is still a long way to go and some of the 
persistent myths about addiction prejudice the public against people with substance use disorders and make people with substance use disorders less able or willing 
to seek help. Some common myths about addiction include the following.
 
Addiction Is a Choice

One of the most pernicious myths about addiction is that it’s a choice. This myth is dangerous because it implies that anything that happens to someone with a substance use disorder, whether it’s job loss, divorce, health problems, incarceration, or death, is their own fault. In this view, any sort of punishment is permissible and anyone who wants 
to avoid the consequences of substance use should 
simply quit.
 
In reality, it’s not so simple. While people who use drugs and alcohol typically choose to do so, no one chooses to become addicted. Many, and perhaps most, people who 
develop substance use issues begin using drugs and 
alcohol at a young age, sometimes even before adolescence, when they have little, if any awareness of the 
potential consequences. This behavior is often influenced by dysfunctional family dynamics, peer pressure, or nascent mental health issues, such as ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In short, addiction is typically influenced by forces beyond our control and once we realize there is a problem, it’s already very hard to quit.
 
Addiction Is Caused By Lack of Willpower

Similar to the belief that addiction is a choice, many people believe that addiction indicates a lack of willpower or even a weak character. They think that quitting is mainly about showing a little grit and toughing it out. As discussed above, addiction typically has deep roots, including childhood environment, mental health issues, and genes. People do try to white-knuckle recovery but they typically don’t get very far.
 
In order for recovery to last, you have to get at the underlying causes of addiction. This means treating any co-occurring mental health issues as well as addressing trauma, which is incredibly common among people with substance use disorders. Recovery also entails learning essential skills to regulate your emotions and 
behavior and improve your relationships. It requires a good support system and healthy lifestyle changes too. Most people need a bit of help to do all of this.
 
Once an Addict, Always an Addict
 
You’ve probably heard this saying and it’s problematic for two reasons. First, the language is stigmatizing. 
Labeling someone with a substance use disorder an “addict” is common but also counterproductive. It implies that addiction is the person’s defining–and perhaps only–characteristic. Indeed, it implies they are hardly even a person but rather something more like a drug-seeking missile. Stigmatizing language compounds the shame of substance use and makes it harder for people to seek help.
 
Second, this saying implies that recovery is not really possible, that no matter how much effort you put into turning your life around, you’re always just one drink away from unraveling. Such cynicism about recovery can make you reluctant to even try, much less persist when things get challenging. In reality, people do make lasting change with the right attitude and the right help.
 
You Can Always Spot an Addict
 
We all have some stereotype of someone with a substance use disorder, and while there are probably people who fit that stereotype, it doesn’t even come close to encompassing everyone with a substance use problem. If the opioid crisis has taught us anything, 
it’s that anyone can develop a substance use issue under the right circumstances. While you might 
suspect the guy begging for change under the 
overpass has a substance use problem, you might not suspect the lawyer who lives in a nice house or the grandmother who was in a car accident last year.
 
In fact, people who are professionally successful 
are often just as capable when it comes to hiding 
their substance use problem, at least for a while. 
Sometimes even friends and family don’t suspect someone has an issue. One of the reasons so many misconceptions about addiction persist is that it’s 
a largely invisible problem.
 
Drugs and Alcohol Fry Your Brain
 
If you’re old enough, you might remember the “brain on drugs” commercials of the 1980s. Although those commercials are typically remembered with derision, the idea that too much drugs and alcohol can fry your brain still persists. This can make it hard to recover 
because some people feel like the damage is done, that they’ve ruined their brains, and no amount of effort will make them whole again.
 
In reality, the picture is more complicated. In some 
extreme cases, such as early-onset dementia or 
Korsakoff syndrome, which typically only happens after decades of heavy drinking, brain damage is 
permanent. There is also some debate over whether the structural changes that often occur in your brain after a period of addiction are ever fully reversed.
 
However, we also know that brains are highly plastic, meaning the structure will change, depending on what we ask our brains to do. With persistent effort and the right help, you can train your brain to focus, to regulate your emotions more effectively, to weather cravings, and to feel better overall.
Many of the myths about addiction are the result of victim-blaming while others pass as “tough truths.” However, these can perpetuate the stigma of addiction and make it harder for people to get help. It’s crucial to remember that people with substance use disorders are first and foremost people and that they are often people in pain. What’s more, recovery is possible.
 
At The Hansen Foundation, we know that addiction isn’t something anyone chooses. Few people realize how they got into their particular mess and they rarely know how to get out. That’s where we come in. We use a variety of evidence-based methods to address the root causes of addiction and lay the foundation for a long recovery. To learn more, call us today at 609-270-4443 or visit our website at www.hansenfoundationnj.org.

How You Can Help Reduce the Stigma of Addiction

By | News

Although we’ve come a long way in our views about addiction, there is still a serious stigma attached to it. A 2018 poll by AP-NORC found that while 53 percent of Americans view addiction as a disease that needs treatment, negative views of addiction remain common. For example, 44 percent said they thought addiction showed a lack of discipline or willpower and 33 percent said it was a character flaw. This stigma has real-life consequences, since it compounds the shame people with substance use disorders already feel, prevents them from seeking help, and makes the public prefer punishment to treatment. Although no individual can significantly reduce the stigma of addiction, we can each do our part. The following are some ways you can help reduce the stigma of substance use disorders.

Learn as much as you can about addiction

First, it’s important to learn as much as you can about addiction. You may feel that since you, or someone close to you, have struggled with substance use yourself, then you know all you need to know. While that certainly gives you valuable insight, many people who have been personally affected by addiction aren’t aware of the complex causes of addiction. In fact, addiction science is still relatively new and researchers are discovering more all the time.

 

If you don’t want to spread misleading information, you have to do your own research. You might want to start with overvviews of addiction by reliable sources, such as information available on the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These typically share research-based information, about which there is broad—but not total—consensus. You can learn basic things like the role of genetics, mental health, childhood environment, and trauma play in addiction, as well as which treatment methods are backed by scientific evidence.

Beyond that, there are many good books about addiction written for a general audience. Some good ones include Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz, In the Land of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, and High Price, by Carl Hart. There are also a lot of great addiction and recovery memoirs out right now. These can be especially valuable for people who have never personally experienced addiction.

Examine your own attitudes

In the course of researching addiction, you will inevitably change some of your attitudes, but it’s also important to make sure that new attitudes inform your behavior. For example, you might understand, rationally, that addiction is caused by genes, mental health issues, and so on, and still feel judgmental toward someone with a substance use disorder. Additionally, even if you have struggled with addiction yourself, you may not necessarily have a compassionate attitude toward other people who are also struggling with addiction. In fact, sometimes people in recovery are even more judgmental, especially if they feel a lot of shame about their own substance use. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you need to talk to a therapist to work on your own issues around shame and self-criticism. This will help you feel better about yourself, and it will help you feel more connected to others in recovery.

Use compassionate language

How you talk and write about addiction and people with substance use disorders signals your beliefs and feelings about addiction. Avoid using language that’s judgmental, dismissive, or dehumanizing. Certainly never use derogatory terms like “junkie” or “crackhead,” but also be careful about other labels like “addict” or “alcoholic,” since they tend to reduce a person to their worst quality. Instead, remember that a substance use disorder is a disease and use “person-first language.” So, instead of calling someone an opioid addict, it’s better to say “person with an opioid use disorder.”

Since language is fluid and can be implicitly negative as well as explicitly negative, it may help to adjust your mental model of what someone with a substance use disorder looks like. We all carry some stereotype of addiction and these may not bear much resemblance to reality. Keep in mind that addiction is largely invisible, since many people go to great lengths to hide their substance use issues. When you talk about someone struggling with substance use, you may be talking about a friend or loved one; perhaps someone who is in the room. Always remember that you might be talking about your best friend, your sibling, your child, or your parent.

Call out wrong or misleading information

In addition to watching your own language around addiction, don’t be afraid to say something when you hear others use stigmatizing language or when you hear or read misleading information. Most people who repeat inaccurate information or use stigmatizing language just don’t know any better and are simply repeating what they’ve heard. Let them know—respectfully—that what they’ve said could be construed as offensive and damaging. Correct any misinformation so they can at least not plead ignorance in the future. Even if you don’t change the person’s mind, you might change the minds of some other people in the room or at least expose them to new information. This doesn’t only apply to casual conversation, either. If you happen to see stigmatizing language or wrong information elsewhere, such as the news media or social media, reach out—again, respectfully—and let someone know. Most of the time, content creators want to be objective and avoid giving offense, so you may be doing them a favor.

Share your own experiences with addiction and recovery when appropriate

As noted above, part of the reason the stigma of addiction persists is that addiction is largely invisible, so the the most visible examples of people with substance use issues are the homeless, the unemployed, and the incarcerated. If appropriate, sharing your own experiences with addiction and recovery can put a real human face on addiction. People are typically persuaded by positive examples: both by people who have obvious positive qualities despite their substance use issues and by people who have recovered from addiction. You might be the example that disrupts someone’s negative stereotype. You may also be the example that gives someone with a substance use problem the courage to ask for help.

The stigma of addiction is real and it stands in the way of more people getting help. While you can’t get rid of the stigma on your own, you can certainly do your part. Educate yourself, monitor your own beliefs and language, and correct misinformation when you hear it. At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that people are complex and addiction is just one aspect of a person’s life. Our holistic approach to treatment aims to heal the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483 or explore our website.Examine your own attitudes.

In the course of researching addiction, you will inevitably change some of your attitudes, but it’s also important to make sure that new attitudes inform your behavior. For example, you might understand, rationally, that addiction is caused by genes, mental health issues, and so on, and still feel judgmental toward someone with a substance use disorder. Additionally, even if you have struggled with addiction yourself, you may not necessarily have a compassionate attitude toward other people who are also struggling with addiction. In fact, sometimes people in recovery are even more judgmental, especially if they feel a lot of shame about their own substance use. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you need to talk to a therapist to work on your own issues around shame and self-criticism. This will help you feel better about yourself, and it will help you feel more connected to others in recovery.

Use compassionate language

How you talk and write about addiction and people with substance use disorders signals your beliefs and feelings about addiction. Avoid using language that’s judgmental, dismissive, or dehumanizing. Certainly never use derogatory terms like “junkie” or “crackhead,” but also be careful about other labels like “addict” or “alcoholic,” since they tend to reduce a person to their worst quality. Instead, remember that a substance use disorder is a disease and use “person-first language.” So, instead of calling someone an opioid addict, it’s better to say “person with an opioid use disorder.”

Since language is fluid and can be implicitly negative as well as explicitly negative, it may help to adjust your mental model of what someone with a substance use disorder looks like. We all carry some stereotype of addiction and these may not bear much resemblance to reality. Keep in mind that addiction is largely invisible, since many people go to great lengths to hide their substance use issues. When you talk about someone struggling with substance use, you may be talking about a friend or loved one; perhaps someone who is in the room. Always remember that you might be talking about your best friend, your sibling, your child, or your parent.

Call out wrong or misleading information

In addition to watching your own language around addiction, don’t be afraid to say something when you hear others use stigmatizing language or when you hear or read misleading information. Most people who repeat inaccurate information or use stigmatizing language just don’t know any better and are simply repeating what they’ve heard. Let them know—respectfully—that what they’ve said could be construed as offensive and damaging. Correct any misinformation so they can at least not plead ignorance in the future. Even if you don’t change the person’s mind, you might change the minds of some other people in the room or at least expose them to new information. This doesn’t only apply to casual conversation, either. If you happen to see stigmatizing language or wrong information elsewhere, such as the news media or social media, reach out—again, respectfully—and let someone know. Most of the time, content creators want to be objective and avoid giving offense, so you may be doing them a favor.

Share your own experiences with addiction and recovery when appropriate

As noted above, part of the reason the stigma of addiction persists is that addiction is largely invisible, so the the most visible examples of people with substance use issues are the homeless, the unemployed, and the incarcerated. If appropriate, sharing your own experiences with addiction and recovery can put a real human face on addiction. People are typically persuaded by positive examples: both by people who have obvious positive qualities despite their substance use issues and by people who have recovered from addiction. You might be the example that disrupts someone’s negative stereotype. You may also be the example that gives someone with a substance use problem the courage to ask for help.

The stigma of addiction is real and it stands in the way of more people getting help. While you can’t get rid of the stigma on your own, you can certainly do your part. Educate yourself, monitor your own beliefs and language, and correct misinformation when you hear it. At The Hansen Foundation, we understand that people are complex and addiction is just one aspect of a person’s life. Our holistic approach to treatment aims to heal the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. To learn more, call us today at 609-270-4443 or explore our website at www.hansenfoundationnj.org.

Managing Stress – A Key Element in Recovery

By | General

Your heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes more rapid. Your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is the body’s response to a perceived threat or stress. If you are faced with a physical threat–like fleeing a burning building, scaring away a mountain lion, or lifting a car off a child–the body’s flight-or-fight response can be life-saving. In day-to-day life, however, the stresses we face–deadlines, bills, jam-packed schedules–don’t require the same burst of adrenaline, and yet our bodies respond in the same way. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and a host of other health issues. In addition, we may use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and this use can become an addiction. Part of recovery from any substance abuse problem includes learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

Deep Breathing and Body Scanning

Any number of deep breathing techniques can be used to de-stress quickly and a few are detailed below. For any of these techniques, it helps to get into a comfortable position.

  • Falling out breath: In this technique, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Exhale with an audible sigh.
  • Box breath: To use this technique, inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your breath out for four counts.
  • Emptying breath: For this breath technique, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Release as much air as possible.

Body scan techniques can also reduce stress. To try any of these techniques, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. In the first technique, start at the top of your head and mentally work your way down your body. Notice and release any tension you may be holding in your muscles. You may be surprised at where your body holds tension. In another method, you would begin by tensing up your right foot as tight as you can, hold the tension for a few seconds, and then release. Next tense and release your right calf, then your right thigh, and so on until you have tensed and relaxed every part of your body. In a similar technique, you mentally travel through your body and imagine that each part is being filled with warmth. (Note: These techniques can also be used to help you drift off to sleep.)

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. You can opt for guided or unguided meditation. If you are interested in guided meditation, you can find a teacher or use an app like Headspace, Calm, or MyLife Meditation. If you prefer to meditate on your own, there are many techniques for you to try. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Don’t control your breath, just notice it. As thoughts arise (and they will), notice that you are thinking and let the thought drift away. Another method that some people find calming is breath counting. Count your breaths, going up to 10. Repeat, as many times as needed, until you feel tranquil. You could also try a moving meditation. In a walking meditation, for example, focus on each foot contacting the ground. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice the sensations as your heel hits the ground,  rolls to the ball of your foot, and then to your toes. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to walking. These techniques allow your body to relax and your mind will follow.

Exercise

Exercise, in any form, is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. You could go for a walk or a run, or you might prefer swimming or bicycling. You may enjoy the dynamic of an exercise class. You could take up tennis or golf. Yoga, in particular, is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose, make it a point to exercise several times per week. This will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Nature

Spending time out of doors helps to relieve stress as well. Researchers in the field of ecotherapy suggest that being outdoors can elevate your mood, lower your anxiety, improve your ability to focus, improve your memory, boost creativity, relieve depression and anxiety, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Being outside for 120 minutes a week causes positive changes, and the time doesn’t need to be continuous. So go for a stroll on the beach, take a walk in the park, or a hike in the mountains. Plan a camping trip. Plant a garden. Take your work outside. Bring the outside in by keeping cut flowers or potted plants in the house. Use natural materials to decorate. Plant herbs in your kitchen. Arrange a comfortable seating space near a window with a view. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite outdoor places can help reduce stress.

The Role of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery

By | General

Good nutrition is a vital part of recovery from substance use disorder. Substance abuse frequently leads to poor nutrition because people struggling with an addiction either aren’t taking in enough calories throughout the day or are making poor food choices.

According to David Wiss, founder of Nutrition in Recovery, many people in the West aren’t eating well, either. Part of the problem is the prevalence of highly processed foods, which, he says, is contributing to metabolic disease and may be causing an increase in depression and anxiety as well. Highly processed foods are frequently low in fiber and high in sugar. When a person who has been eating highly processed food enters treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, their primary source of dopamine (drugs) is gone, and post-detox they can gravitate towards caffeine, sugar, and possibly nicotine. “Old wisdom from the recovery community would suggest that a liberalized approach to sweets, nicotine, and caffeine is favorable to help the individual get past the immediate crisis,” writes Wiss in an article that appeared in Psychology Today. However, “New wisdom suggests that this behavior is a form of cross addiction that should be addressed early in recovery.” If you or someone you know is contemplating entering a facility to recover from addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is important to make sure that the facility pays careful attention to nutrition and teaches about nutrition and wellness.

What Should You Eat in Recovery?

In recovery, you are working to heal your body and your brain. Therefore, you want to eat as well as possible. Focus on eating whole foods, defined as “…any fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, or dairy product that has not been artificially processed or modified from its original form.” (US News and World Report, “You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018). Avoid sugary beverages, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, and fried foods. If possible, eat organic food. Organic fruits and vegetables are often fresher and are not grown using synthetic pesticides, which reduces exposure harmful chemicals. Organic farming is also better for the environment in that it reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, and uses less energy. Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts.

Another alternative is to purchase locally grown food. If you buy locally grown food, typically from a farmers’ market of a food co-op, the produce is typically fresher because it hasn’t had to travel as far to get to market. In addition, if you buy local, you are supporting a local small business.

Foods That Improve Brain Chemistry

According to a recent article in US News and World Report (“You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018), there are specific foods that are especially good to eat in recovery because of the role they play in boosting the brain. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feeling good. Dopamine is typically at a very low level in early recovery, which can lead to low energy and motivation, a depressed mood, and substance cravings. Foods that contain tyrosine include bananas, sunflower seeds, lean beef, pork, lamb, whole grains, and cheese.

Eat foods rich in L-glutamine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system. These foods can help reduce sugar cravings, which is important because sugar consumption is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and inflammation. These foods include kale, spinach, parsley, beets, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, papaya, beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Foods that contain a lot of antioxidants also boost the immune system and these include berries, leeks, onions, artichokes, and pecans. Make it a point to eat foods that boost levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that leads to feelings of calm and relaxation. Low levels of GABA can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Foods that have been found to increase levels of GABA include kefir, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes.

Lastly, include foods that contain tryptophan in your diet. Tryptophan can boost levels of serotonin, which is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin helps with sleep and digestion. Foods containing tryptophan include cheese, turkey, lamb, pork, tuna, oat bran, beans, and lentils.

What to Look for in a Recovery Program

Because of the important role that nutrition plays in successfully recovering from an addiction, it is vital to select a treatment program that stresses nutrition. A good program will offer nutrition and wellness counseling and/or education. A healthy diet, focused on whole foods, helps the body and brain to heal. In some programs clients will learn or relearn to cook and to garden. A facility that includes a garden or farm provides many benefits to its clients. In addition to learning how to grow food, gardening offers clients exercise and an opportunity to be outside. Programs that have a farm frequently supply produce for the facility, which can lead to increased self-esteem and a sense of purpose.

In some programs, clients working in groups take turns fixing meals for everyone in the facility. This provides many benefits in addition to learning or relearning how to cook, meal plan, etc. Working in a group builds community and a sense of camaraderie, and knowing that you are responsible for everyone’s meal provides a sense of purpose. The emphasis on nutrition is important as well; as the body becomes healthier, the brain heals. In addition, cooking is therapeutic and can be just plain fun. Because of the importance of nutrition in recovery, eating well becomes an act of self-love and care.

The Hansen Foundation, Inc.
4 E. Jimmie Leeds Road
Galloway, NJ 08205
Phone: 609.270.4443

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