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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Combatting the “I Deserve This” Mentality

The year is 2020, and not much has changed in that we are still constantly bombarded with messages about health, lifestyle, self-care, how to create deep and meaningful friendships and relationships, and how, “with these three simple tips”, we can make parenting look easy. It can feel overwhelming to consider all of the supposedly “simple” aspects of our existence that we are expected to pay attention to in order to create a meaningful life. 

It can feel exhausting to be alive these days, no matter what stage of life you are in. For those who struggle with addictive patterns especially, extinguishing the pull towards drinking or eating or shopping as a means to celebrate our abstinence from that very same behavior is a large focus of treatment. It is not long before this mentality becomes a problematic cycle.

So how do we cultivate motivation, set goals, and reward ourselves in ways that are beneficial to our health, rather than furthering problematic patterns?

Isn’t it a good thing to be proud of yourself?

To some, claiming “I deserve this” Megan Rapinoe style is a battle cry and message of female empowerment to take pride in your hard-won accomplishments. For many, she serves as a model for acknowledging that you can be proud of yourself without feeling ashamed or egotistical. It is entirely inspiring to see a woman confident enough to unapologetically take up space in this world. 

This mentality, however, does not tend to be the end result of someone claiming “I deserve this” in the face of another slice of chocolate cake, or when staring down the untouched drink in their hand. This is simply rationalization and justification at it’s best, and it is important to realize that this constant internal battle will not ultimately lead you down a path of meaning or fulfillment.  

The road towards such entitlement that led someone to that point was likely one littered with deprivation and self-judgment. In this case, the self-judgment may have been thought to be either negative or positive with equally disastrous results, as believing that one’s value grows with each positive step further imbeds the ideology that self-worth is earned rather than innate. 

In addition, a lifestyle focused on deprivation is at the core fixated on harmful rather than helpful beliefs. It is a classic glass half-full or half-empty metaphor in the making. For example, if I am angry because of all the food that is off-limits to me as a result of my health goals, I am going to have a much more miserable time than if I dedicate myself to finding healthy foods that fit the goals and that I actually like eating. 

But shouldn’t we celebrate our accomplishments?

To resist the temptation to indulge in one’s vice after a hard day’s work, and to decide not to stop at the liquor store on your way home from work takes a great deal of willpower. Developing some amount of dedication and determination towards meeting the goals we set for ourselves is no small feat, and of course, it is an enticing idea to celebrate our achievement by making other allowances throughout the day. 

Again, the key to correcting this problematic phrasing is in switching the direction of our attention. Take the following scenarios:
Thought: I deserve this drink because I have been working hard all week long and deserve a break. 
Reframe: I deserve a break and am excited to provide my body with something that will actually refresh me.
Thought: I deserve to drink tonight because I feel lousy, and this wine is going to make me feel better.
Reframe: I deserve to indulge in a mug of tea tonight before bed, to give my body its best chance at a good night’s sleep, and my mind an opportunity to avoid future guilt.

Thought: I deserve this drink because I’ve already ruined what matters in my life and I might as well keep going. 
Reframe: I deserve a fresh start because, despite my past regrets, I have faith that my future will be of my own creation. 

It is not hard to see how easily these thoughts may arise and take over without our attention to capturing and correcting them. Thoughts like these often pave the way for relapse and make the commitment to sobriety a daily test. Of course, paying attention to thoughts like these is a focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as is learning to challenge and reframe them. 

Transitional Living at The Haven

Whether you’re concerned about addictive patterns in your life or have recently completed treatment, it may be important for you to seek the structure that a transitional living community can provide. Contact us today at [email protected] or call us at 1-805-202-3440 to learn more about our program and how we can be a support to you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Supporting a Loved One in Addiction Treatment

The idea of addiction and everything it represents is a weighty topic in our society today. For some, “addiction” wears the face of their best friend, son, or primary caretaker. For others, it is the shapeless, anonymous face that represents ‘all that is wrong in society’. For others still, it is their best-kept secret or the master puppeteer that keeps them silenced and isolated. 

Those who have been caught up in addictive patterns who have chosen to seek recovery often rely on the support of their family and loved ones in order to persevere through the recovery process, and every day thereafter.  It can be challenging, however, to know how to support a loved one in any stage of the treatment process.  

For many of us, it may inspire frustration, or may even spark the idea that those trapped in its cycle need to “get their act together”. Or it may even bring us back to a time when we were young, feeling small and stuck believing that we have no power. 

Remember: Addiction is a Disease

Since 1956, the American Medical Association has adopted a “disease model” as the best way to understand addiction. This arose in reaction to some believing it to be a “weakness of character”. 

Due to this widespread intolerance for individuals who struggle with addiction, so often, the idea that YOU might have an addiction holds such a negative connotation that can inherently make someone want to cower in shame when they recognize themselves within its insidious grip. By its very design, it keeps individuals isolated from those who could offer their help, and stuck instead in a cycle of shame.

However, in the same way in which we would not place blame on our loved ones for their cancer diagnosis, it does not do much good to place blame on those struggling with addiction. 

We can, however, hold them accountable for their actions and set boundaries as it relates to patterns of enabling and codependence. We also must be willing to understand that recovery from addiction can be a lengthy process and in order for it to be successful, it requires participation from both the individual seeking the change and their supporters. 

From the Support Team Perspective

We must ask ourselves as the family or friends of someone struggling with addiction, how can we help and show our support? 

Many times this looks like first becoming educated on the typical methods of treatment for addiction, involving yourself in the process, and seeking your own support system that can help you to also seek new patterns of relating to your loved ones. 

Becoming educated on the different rehabilitation centers (both inpatient and outpatient) in your area or in key locations across the country and the services they offer is important because it allows a realistic picture of what your loved one may require and experience while in treatment. 

Whether this means gathering more information on family therapy, group counseling, twelve-step integration, and any other holistic or experiential elements, this is helpful to know what sort of supports are required in order to help your loved one recover. More importantly, this also helps you to know how, once they’ve returned home, you can help them establish a similar system of supports.  

How to Best Communicate with a Loved One in Recovery

When talking and when listening to your loved one who is struggling with addictive patterns, it is important to approach the situation with the mindset that this person is not acting entirely of their own accord. Their brain’s reward system has been hijacked by the substance or behavior and has reorganized their ability to effectively prioritize the health of their bodies, finances, relationships or desire for a better future.

These are not actions that this person necessarily wants to be taking, and it does not mean that because they make bad choices, that they are a bad person, or deserving of a bad outcome. Those who suffer from an addiction to alcohol or drugs are no longer in control, even if they can see the damage that their actions are having, or have had.

As a supporter of this person, it is your job to provide encouragement. This can be related to their willingness to seek treatment or to participate in a therapy session while informing them that these actions are important, noticed, and appreciated.

Family Integration at The Haven at Pismo

A central goal of The Haven at Pismo is to train family members on how to interact more positively regarding their loved one’s substance abuse, and open the door to having constructive and even healing discussions. The approach we believe is most helpful calls for expressing concern for the person in an empathetic and caring way while avoiding blaming or shaming them. We also recommend working to remain centered with a calm demeanor, even though responses from the person may be unpredictable or hurtful. 
The goal of the most effective approaches in these types of conversations is to create a dialogue. This is not the opportunity to berate the person or to tell them about all of the struggles that their addiction is causing you, however tempting that may be. Rather, time is used most beneficially when we allow them to share their perception of the changes they are seeking and the new life they are creating with the support of The Haven community. Using open-ended questions shows that you are interested in their point-of-view and want to be involved in their recovery process. 

We need to remember that the main thread here in supporting someone in treatment is entering each encounter with an open mind. It is seeing the addiction from a place of concern, but also a place free of judgment. It is holding our family member or friend accountable and placing boundaries when necessary. But, mainly it is being a part of their treatment process and whatever else may arise while on their recovery journey. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Most Important Addiction Recovery Apps

In a new comedy Netflix special, Taylor Tomlinson delights us with her depiction of technology that “the internet is the most beautiful, amazing, disgusting, horrifying thing in the Universe”. Of course, it can give way to mind-numbing isolation and a perfect distraction from life’s difficulties that we’d usually rather avoid, but it can also provide us with innumerable supportive resources to pursue recovery and maintain our health and wellbeing. 
It also exists as a way to take what is learned in session, and transfer it to everyday “real” life. True, meaningful recovery takes place when individuals are able to harness the tools learned in therapy and actively apply them to their mental, emotional, and physical selves. 
The following is a summary of five types of recovery apps that, in addition to seeking treatment in a supportive environment, are important resources for your recovery.

Time Management

The first tool that comes to mind when considering the usefulness of technology are apps that allow us to actually track our time spent online. It is important to check out how we spend our digital lives, and this will likely give insights into areas of concern for you. 

This might be as simple as checking your phone’s built-in screen time tracker (called ‘Digital Wellbeing’ on Android phones) or downloading software that helps you prioritize and keep track of time. 

On both built-in versions of the apps, you are able to set time limits for specific categories or the apps themselves, and once time has run out, they will block further use. For apps that are known distractions, this can be entirely helpful in increasing focus and eliminating distractions.

Additional functions of time-management apps allow you to have a central place to organize and track important events and tasks, and schedule out time for self-care as well. Whether you’re using a task management platform, or simply using the Notes or Reminder apps built-in on your smartphone to take those thoughts from buzzing around and swarming in your brain to a system that makes sense to you. 

Meditation and Relaxation

Meditation is the active pursuit of mindful awareness that seeks to connect the brain and body to bring one to a state of calming peace and awareness of self and one’s surroundings. Meditation and its sister, Yoga, are often recommended or included in holistic treatment programs to help clients access inner strength and a sense of peace. 
However, much like attempting to solve math equations without the teacher present, trying meditation on your own can at first be confusing and frustrating. Meditation apps provide structured suggestions and guided activities to provide support. 
Many different apps have been developed in this space to help those new to the practice:

Books and Podcasts

It’s possible that you still have not jumped on the podcast train, or taken the time to explore what information is available to you online. However, this is one of the best ways to make use of your time, whether you’re on the bus, driving to an appointment, or getting ready in the morning. It may take some time to discover a podcast that you love, but it can be a truly influential experience to sit back and listen to others’ perspectives as they chat on various topics, or to get caught up in the plot of a suspense-filled drama. 
Individuals in treatment who invest in their mental well-being by reading on subjects related to their recovery often find healing in their selections, whether they’re reading for enjoyment, as a means to learn more about a particular topic, or as a supplement to therapy sessions. 


Research on sleep hygiene and its connection to mental health and wellness place it high on the priority list as an area of concern for those in recovery. While the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep is ideal, research indicates that we are rarely truly resting for that time regardless of how long we sleep. Sleep studies suggest that lack of sleep contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, migraines, and difficulty concentrating (just to name very few). 
Using apps like Calm, or others that allow you to tailor your sleeping environment can be helpful in initially falling asleep, where apps like Sleep Cycle will take over and track your REM cycles and wake you in the morning during the ideal time, at your lightest sleep. Other apps built into your phones such as Do Not Disturb and the android equivalent are also important to help build healthy routines around sleep. 

Addiction Recovery Apps

Recovery from addiction requires a great deal of support outside of the time allotted for individual and group meetings. As people and the behaviors leading to addiction change and adapt, so too have the resources that are available to those in recovery. 
Apps for recovery include those mentioned above, as well as tools for peer support, clinical support, educational materials, and interactive check-in and support features to foster healthy personal and peer accountability. Some of these addiction recovery apps may be helpful tools in the journey of recovery.

Recovery at The Haven

Today’s technology has evolved to provide viable resources for those in recovery, although it’s possible that you will need more support than just what these apps can provide. Recovery is a journey best traveled with both internal and external resources, including access to qualified treatment professionals that are able to expertly tailor treatment to meet your needs. If you or someone you know is ready to begin the journey of recovery, contact us today!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

What Do We Mean By “Experiential & Holistic” Approach?

With the amount of misinformation that is available online these days, it is important to be especially clear, and mindful in the ways that we promote our services. From the core of the principles that guide our treatment program, we are born of a commitment to integrity and excellence. We strive to do what we say and say what we do. 

This means that we seek to be transparent in the services we provide, and also to be clear about our definition of the words that seem to be thrown around so carelessly these days. 

What is Experiential Treatment?

At the core of our treatment model, we are concerned with the long-term recovery of those who seek our services. This is inclusive of our belief in helping participants find a comfortable balance in a life reorganized not just around the absence of substances, but also around seeking positive alternative experiences. 

Thus, we use a number of approaches that pull together in a complementary fashion, in a way that you’re able to manage your recovery with confidence long after the “treatment stage” is over. 

In individual therapy, the focus will be on using evidence-based treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. However, those skills learned will only be as helpful as you learn to employ them in real, everyday situations. This is where the experiential nature of group therapy is key, as are other opportunities to take that learning out of your head and move it into your felt experience.

We believe in the power of not only changing through your mind but changing through your physical experiences as well. Thus we use mindfulness and action-based experiences to help the learning translate from within a session into everyday life. 

What is a Holistic Approach?

A holistic approach, as we understand it, is one that attends to the whole person, not just their problematic substance use or other behaviors. Whether in-house or as indicated in an aftercare plan, we address all social and clinical issues. 

For those directly in our care, some of the main ways we encourage whole-person healing includes nutritional counseling, provide access to fitness centers and exercise equipment, and place a priority on yoga and meditation classes, outdoor recreation activities, and acupuncture and massage.

Nutritional Counseling

For many individuals who have become trapped in addictive patterns, the side effects that so often accompany that lifestyle involve not effectively caring for ourselves (nutritionally and otherwise) or making wise choices when it comes to food selection. For the duration of your stay at The Haven, the in-house chef and skilled culinary team will prepare meals and impart their wisdom including which nutrients aid you in your recovery, and which to avoid. 


As one of the most important and well-known determinants of health, physical exercise is not only an essential part of your recovery toolbox; it also lays the foundation for a healthy, post-addiction lifestyle. Learning how to incorporate this into your daily schedule and design a sustainable program that works for your lifestyle is another benefit of The Haven’s holistic approach.

Yoga and Meditation

Body-focused approaches such as yoga and meditation harness the connection between the body and mind to foster emotional and physical health. In the sense that many problematic symptoms can present and become “trapped” in the body, so too healing takes place on the somatic level. 

Outdoor Recreation

As humans, we crave a connection with something larger than ourselves. At The Haven, we intentionally provide regular opportunities for outdoor recreation that actively engage participants on all levels of functioning, in mind, heart, and body. Time spent challenging oneself against the great outdoors is known to reduce anxiety and depression, encourage healing, enhance creativity, and promote gratitude.

Acupuncture and Massage

Stress-reduction is an important part of treatment at The Haven, as is teaching our guests to value self-care. Used to rebalance your body’s energy and communicate with your nervous system, acupuncture and acupressure are age-old Chinese remedies. In addition, massage therapy is known for its ability to relax muscles, improve circulation, and calm the mind.

Holistic and Experiential Treatment at The Haven

Experiential therapies and a holistic approach to treatment seeks to embrace the uniqueness of the human spirit and pair it with the beauty of mental, emotional, and physical wellness. At The Haven, we believe that for problematic thoughts and feelings to actually change, you have to act and behave in a new way so that your brain can experience that change. We utilize these experiences intentionally to provide our clients with opportunities to practice and develop the skills they need related to their individualized treatment goals. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs!