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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Understanding the Mind-Body Connection in Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a unique disease in that it affects us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This means that the most effective treatment for long-term recovery is one that
holistically addresses each of these avenues as an opportunity for healing. 

Historically, substance use disorders have primarily been addressed using therapy and medication, limiting healing to only the mental component. But by expanding our understanding of the insidious nature of substance use disorders not only on the mind, but also the body and spirit, we can experience truly comprehensive healing and sustained recovery.

What does the Mind-Body Connection look like in addiction?

A mind-body connection is understood as the principle that your thoughts affect your body’s functioning and vice versa. A universal example of this is stress: when we are stressed about something we may experience thoughts and emotions related to anxiety and worry, which causes a biological reaction in our bodies like muscle tension, nausea, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, etc. 

With addiction, not only is it a disorder of the brain that affects thoughts and emotions, but continuous substance use can cause numerous harmful effects to the body, eventually leading to the body becoming dependent on the substance in order to function. This exacerbates the mental health symptoms, causing an endless cycle. Often the mind-body connection becomes lost in the addiction, requiring both the mind and the body to experience healing and the connection to be restored. 

What does the Mind-Body Connection look like in treatment?

More residential and even outpatient treatment centers are incorporating practices that aid in the mind-body connection, as well as spiritual practices. Treatment programs can incorporate mind-body activities within their treatment program including deep breathing, guided meditation, or nature walks. Having certified staff trained in various mind-body practices can greatly expand the healing potential. 

This may include professionals trained in:


Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates simple meditation, body posture, stretching, and focusing on the breath to bring peace and balance to the system


Acupuncture utilizes pressure points and can be used to calm the brain and nervous system to achieve balance.

Nutritional Counseling

Paying attention to how you fuel your body is an important step in the recovery process, and guidance in this area is an important part of any customized rehab program. 

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can reduce stress, help with chronic pain and circulatory issues, and even restore hormone imbalances. Massage therapy can also include meditation which improves focus, and increases relaxation.

Fitness Coaching

Exercise is widely recognized as a tool linked to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Caring for your body is an incredibly important way to harness the mind-body connection. 

Small Ways to Increase Your Mind-Body Connection Into Everyday Life


Build a meditation practice by taking 5 minutes when you first wake up, during your lunch break, or before bed. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and set a timer. Begin by taking three, slow deep breaths and when your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Research has shown that daily meditation improves symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Intuitive Eating

One way of building the mind-body connection is paying attention to our nutrition and what we are eating. This does not mean eliminating “bad” foods, but instead being intentional about what foods you eat and how it will affect your mood and body. This also includes listening to your body to determine when and how much to eat.


Daily movement does not need to mean hitting the gym or doing an extensive workout routine. Even just 5-10 minutes a day of light cardio can have significant positive effects on your mental health. This could include walking, gardening, dancing, or stretching.

How does a strong mind-body connection help recovery?

Mind-body practices all have a foundational core of mindfulness, which is built on the idea of being fully present in the moment. 

In addiction, alcohol and substance use becomes a way to escape from reality and numb the present moment. In order to sustain recovery, one must learn to tolerate the discomfort and emotions of the present moment without seeking the familiarity of substances to disconnect.

Mind-body practices foster this awareness, as well as bring healing and peace to the mind to allow difficult emotions to exist and not overwhelm. Thus, healing is in learning to cope through the distress.

In the treatment of addiction, it is found to be most effective when combining mind-body and spiritual practices with treatment specific to addiction and relapse prevention. By utilizing a holistic approach, individuals suffering from substance use disorders are more likely to break the cycle of addiction and truly heal: mind and body, soul and spirit.

Mind-Body Healing at The Haven at Pismo

Throughout our phase program here at The Haven, we implement techniques that are proven to harness the mind-body connection and help you find your way back to wellness and recovery! Reach out to us today to learn more about the programs we offer and how we can help you to renew to your best today!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Setting Boundaries: A Form of Self-Care

 Self-care, which can include setting boundaries, is an important part of leading a mentally healthy life. But unlike more intuitive aspects of self-care like healthy eating and exercise, setting healthy boundaries isn’t something most people understand. For more people to experience greater well-being and fulfillment, they must learn about healthy boundaries” 

-JoaquĆ­n Selva

Boundary Setting is a Form of Self-Care

Personal boundaries serve as guidelines that we create in our lives to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways we desire to be treated by others. Boundaries are basically the rules that we live by in relationship with others, in what we expect from them and what we expect from ourselves. They often include ideas about personal space, whether we feel comfortable in our ability to say “yes” and “no” to requests, and inform our understanding of how much information is appropriate to share with one another. 

Setting boundaries is important because it allows us to communicate our needs and expectations in order to feel respected and supported in our relationships. Boundaries are not universal - they are unique to each of us, as we all have varying comfort levels depending on our personal preferences and histories. Identifying and establishing boundaries can help us to validate our identity, define our distinctiveness, and communicate our rules for what looks like healthy engagement in our lives. 

Types of Boundaries

There are several different types of boundaries including emotional, physical, social, and even digital.

1. Physical boundaries

This includes your need for personal space, your comfort level with touch, and tending to your physical needs like needing to rest, eat food, and drink water.

Examples: “I am not a big hugger” or “Please don’t go into my room without asking”

2. Emotional Boundaries

This is all about tuning into your needs in the present moment, and respecting and honoring your feelings and energy level. Emotional boundaries are important to express so that others have an understanding of what’s going on in your internal world. Equally important is being respectful of other’s worlds as well. 

Examples: “Do you have time to talk? I’m having a tough time and could use a friend” or “When I’m sharing something with you that I’m excited about, and you respond by telling me how it could be better, I feel like shutting down.”

3. Social Boundaries

Your time is valuable, and it is important to protect how it is utilized at work, home, and socially. This involves prioritizing what’s important to you, and avoiding overcommitting yourself. 

Examples: “I can come to the event, but only for an hour” or “Sundays are for family time, I won’t be able to make it”

4. Digital Boundaries

Our relationship with technology requires just as many rules and boundaries in order for us to have a healthy engagement with life. Just as in relationships with other people, this means setting limits with our time, balancing how much we choose to share online, and can even include how much we physically interact with our devices. 

Examples: “I set my phone down an hour before bed” or “We eat dinner at the table, not in front of the tv”

Our boundaries can —and usually do— vary from relationship to relationship. For example, the guidelines for someone’s romantic relationships will most likely be different than the ones expected from their professional relationships. 

Equally varied will be our guidelines for our relationships with our devices, although it is important to consider how we may find it easy to set boundaries with others and difficult to regulate ourselves when it comes to the screen in our hands. 

Breaking Boundaries

If we do not establish or enforce our personal boundaries, issues may arise in our relationships. These issues lie on a spectrum that can range from awkwardness or discomfort (such as a roommate eating your snacks) to abuse and safety violations. When boundaries are ignored, you may feel unsafe, disrespected, and invalidated in your relationships. 

Some common experiences from lack of boundary setting include:

  • Feeling guilty when you say no: Overcommitting or overextending yourself for fear of letting others down can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. 
  • Staying silent: Not sharing your opinion or speaking up when you are uncomfortable may be an indicator to reflect on your values and establish some boundaries. 
  • Lack of privacy: Feeling like you have no personal space and must share all aspects of yourself with your partner/family/friend, etc. may leave you feeling like you don’t have the capacity to be your own person. 

Without clear boundaries of how we expect to be treated in our relationships, lines can be blurred, which can lead to unfulfilling and unhealthy relationship dynamics. 

Life Skills Learned at The Haven at Pismo

Truly, learning to set boundaries in your relationships is an important aspect of your road to recovery. Whether you learn these skills as a part of our life skills programming, or in family sessions with your loved one, The Haven prioritizes teaching you the skills you need to have good self-care practices so that you can renew to your best today! Call today for more information!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Cultural Humility in Addiction Treatment

It is absolutely vital when treating individuals with substance use and mental health issues that the treatment not only respects but also incorporates their unique identities and cultures into the process. If we have learned anything from these past few months of increased cultural tension, it is that our cultural differences are meant to be celebrated, not ignored.

Luckily, in the field of addiction treatment, with addiction as the great equalizer, we have a long-standing history of creating appropriate and accepting places of healing. As diversity is evident among clients, it is important for diversity as a value to be a tenant of treatment and programming. 

Cultural competency has long been considered an important part of incorporating diversity within treatment and organizations. However, the more evolved idea of cultural humility embraces the knowledge and respect of cultural competence, while also inviting individuals to examine their own cultures, identities, bias, and beliefs. 

What is Cultural Humility?

In the 1980’s, cultural competence emerged as a value that companies, agencies, and organizations strove to include in the workplace. 

Cultural competence is defined as “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations.” 

By being aware of and respecting various cultures in the workplace, proponents of cultural competence argued that workers would be more efficient, work together in a more unified way, and have more inclusive policies and procedures. While this helped to stimulate diversity, research has shown that cultural humility is better to reflect these ideals.

Cultural humility is defined by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) as “a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of her/his own beliefs and cultural identities.” 

Cultural humility requires us to examine our own biases or assumptions, actively work to challenge our assumptions about other cultures, and adopt a learner’s stance. By being aware of our own cultures and how that has shaped our values and beliefs, we can better understand the background and context of another’s life.

How is This Different From Cultural Competence? 

While cultural competence was a beneficial start for many organizations to include diversity, cultural humility takes a more person-centered approach. 

Where cultural competence says “I learned about how your culture (often an assumption based on race, or even a visual assumption of race) thinks and feels, therefore I will adapt to respect your culture,” cultural humility says “while I have this knowledge, I understand that you are an individual with complex and unique characteristics influenced by multiple cultures and contexts. Help me to understand you and your culture better so I can best understand and support you.” 

Rather than assuming one’s race indicates a particular culture, cultural humility understands that there is diversity within race, and ethnicity, as well as that culture is not limited to race but also created by communities, family of origin, and experiences.

Why is it Important for Treatment to Incorporate Cultural Humility?

 There are numerous benefits to having treatment centers and programs operate with the lens of cultural humility. Some of these benefits include:

Person-Centered Approach

Engaging in the practice of cultural humility limits assumptions and establishes a person-centered approach to treatment based upon the individual. 

Better Outcomes

By organizations and treatment engaging in cultural humility, the needs of individuals are acknowledged, respected, and incorporated into their treatment plan. This also allows to better incorporate what they learned in treatment into practice since it fits within their cultures and identities.

Diverse Treatment

By practicing cultural humility, an organization understands that they serve individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Therefore practices or modalities that were designed by a majority culture for a majority culture may not be as helpful to those from minority cultures. By understanding this disparity, organizations can make efforts to research and implement practices that are proven effective for a wide variety of clients.

Improved Work Culture

When staff members are trained in cultural humility, conditions are better for the individuals they treat and also among management and staff.

Ways to Engage in Cultural Humility

Cultural humility is a lifelong process that transcends from personal life to professional values and creates the foundation for authentic relationships and meaningful connections. 

The first step to engage in cultural humility is awareness

Pay attention to the beliefs you hold about other people, places, or things and think about where these beliefs come from. Are the teachings passed down through generations? Messages from the media or the community you grew up in? A few personal experiences that caused you to develop a widespread belief? 

Often by being aware of these values, beliefs, and biases, we slow down our thinking- sometimes we aren’t even aware we are stereotyping or believing something that could be harmful to ourselves or others! 

Another aspect of cultural humility is to learn about other’s experiences.

While this often means to listen empathetically to others who are different from you, it is also important to research and educate oneself utilizing the many resources and materials online. 

By practicing cultural humility, treatment centers and organizations are more equipped to meet the individual needs of their clients, provide better outcomes, and establish a diverse, empathetic, and respectful environment.

Cultural Humility at The Haven at Pismo

Here at The Haven, we are committed to working to make ours a treatment environment that is a healthy, safe, respectful, and peaceful setting for you to be able to focus on the hard work of recovery. We truly believe in and follow the tenets of our core values that inspire the work we do with the guests who come to us for treatment. If you or your loved one is in need of a lifeline to get back on the right track, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A First-Hand Account of the Baffling, Cunning, and Powerful Disease of Addiction: The Story of Mary

Right from the start of meeting Mary, you can tell that she is an extremely bright, intelligent, social person. One of the most endearing qualities of Mary’s is her heart to tell it like it is. For all that she’s been through in the past, she certainly has a story to tell.

She’s passionate about sharing her story and helping people find The Haven because in her words:

This is her story:

I’ve had a long career. I have a degree in Architectural Engineering with a minor in mathematics. I was a civil engineer, an aerospace engineer, an architectural engineer, and a computer data scientist.

I did eventually leave that to find something I was more passionate about. I chose to fundraise for local nonprofit charities, like the Women's Shelter, and the 211 helpline. I was adept at fundraising, which is funny because my degree was the opposite. On top of it all, I found that I enjoyed acting. I was both an actor and a model. I spent about 10 years doing community theater at San Luis Obispo, Little Theater back then.

I soon moved into a fundraising role for the theatre, but it was a part of my passion to put on and direct my own annual production. They were called ‘The Legend Shows’ and were well-known in the community. I was well-known in the community.

You can imagine the surprise years later when I got up to speak in front of a local community gathering. Somebody yelled from the audience “Are you doing a Legend show?” And I said to them, “No, I have different news for you today. I'm an alcoholic”.

Everybody in that room was shocked. And I said, “Yeah, that's news, huh?” I said, “And you know what? The Haven saved my life.”

“People need to know this: I'm an intelligent college-educated, smart woman. And I know that it strikes rich, poor, white, black, skinny, fat, young or old. The disease has no boundaries. But if I couldn't figure out how to get help, then the people who don't have the money, who don't have that inquisitive mind to figure it out will surely suffer.”

Down the rabbit hole 

The path that led me to addiction, like so many others, was paved with losses and grief. My career was taken from me, the future of my marriage became uncertain, and all at once, I was thrust into a new reality. Without the certainty of those fundamental pieces of my life, I had no structure and routine to my days but to feel the pain and loss. As they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

I had always drunk, but I was “normal”, able to handle it. However, there is a certain cockiness that comes with age, as I thought to myself, “Well, I’m 55. I've never been an alcoholic. I loved to party and drink, but I’ve never done anything stupid.” I was the person who wouldn't drive while drinking and made sure that others did the same.

But when everything in my life started to fall apart, I forgot those lessons, I self-medicated with booze.

I started thinking, “Well I can have a drink at noon.” Soon it became a drink at 10 and then pretty soon you're drinking around the clock and that’s when the obsession begins. Attempts to stop are futile. It becomes a mental obsession.

I kept trying to get sober and failed many times. Finally, the realization hit that I was making things worse because I was only getting more sucked into the addiction and it was affecting my marriage with my husband greatly: widening the gap between us by trying to hold him close. I found wisdom in the serenity prayer and realized that I couldn’t control anybody but me.

I threw myself into AA. I found a sense of calm. I recovered. Our marriage healed.

But the story was long from over

So, I went for two years with no drinking pretty much on my own. I went to AA meetings, but I didn't go into rehab. And after two years the question in my heart had arisen, as it does for many: "Am I even an alcoholic?”

This disease, they say it’s baffling, cunning, and powerful, and they couldn’t be more spot on.

You begin to have the debate with yourself, “Can I drink normally again?” and seek out the self-confirming evidence from those in your life. You’ll begin to believe that you’re not an alcoholic like you thought, that it was just a situational thing and you’ll be fine. You think you’re okay, and maybe you are... until it catches up with you.

For me, it went fine for about three years, and then I started going down the rabbit hole again because I wasn't working, and again was left with more time on my hands, besides taking on the caregiving role for my ailing father. He was very close to me, my dad. He was an awesome man. A sweet, good guy. And I took care of him until the end.

The day he died, I didn't realize how much it had taken out of me to be his caretaker. I loved him so much. It was so hard to watch him die and to let go, but God granted me the grace to do it beautifully. I kept him comfortable, fed, everything. But I was pretty much taking care of him all by myself.

The day after my dad died, I said: "Okay, I made it.” But the next day I woke up and said, “Well if anybody deserves a drink, it's me”. I should have gotten my toenails painted instead...

Falling back into the trap

I went deep into the gutter. For the 10 days between his death and the funeral, I was completely gone. Every day when my husband left for work, I would walk to the liquor store. I’d stumble in, get a bottle of vodka, walk out, and sit between two cars parked on the street so that nobody could see me. Wedging myself between those two cars with the brown paper bag, I’d chug that vodka. I’d stumble home, go upstairs, chug some more, hide the bottle, and pass out. I’d wake up, couldn’t find the bottle, and do it all again.

I knew I needed help. I stumbled up to the hospital. I told them I'm having alcohol problems and I need help. They would not detox me. I tried everything to get help. I didn't know where to go.  

I'm a white, middle-aged, middle-class, intelligent woman and even I didn’t know where to go.

Finally, the day before my dad’s funeral, after going to three different hospitals, I told my sister-in-law, “Take me to The Haven”.

Recovery at The Haven

It was a brutal detox, absolutely brutal, But I made it through to the other side. After phase one detox, I made it through to phase two- Residential Treatment. I loved phase two.

The food was awesome and they’d bring you breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You'd have counseling. They bring in a yoga instructor twice a week, so you'd do an hour of yoga or they’d bring in a circuit trainer. They had a gym in the garage and you’d do a little weight lifting and circuit training. Once a week, you had a massage in a little room all by yourself. We went horseback riding every night. We went to an AA meeting at a different location so that you got to know all the meetings in the area. And it had a hot tub in the back.

It was awesome. And my husband's insurance covered everything. So, by the end of it, there was a part of me that didn’t want to leave. I've been taking care of men my whole life and I thought to myself “I’ve never been able to focus on myself like this”. For the first time, it's all about what I need.

In my time at The Haven, I learned to reframe my view of addiction, to do some self-analysis and get to the root of why I fell prey, and what was the role I played that I needed to own. I learned that the enemy of addiction is socialization, and by going to AA meetings and being of service to your fellow alcoholics you can take away some of its power over you.  I use whatever excuse works to stay sober. For me, healing was also in learning about my neural pathways. Now I've made a new pathway in my mind, and I’m committed to it.

A powerful enemy

The disease is powerful. It's always ready to take you down. You can be sober for 20 years and it could get you. There was a guy I knew who had been sober for 20 years. He took his car to get repaired. They said it will be ready in 20 minutes. He was relaxed. It was a beautiful day. He went for a little walk, went by a liquor store. He went inside and bought a bottle of vodka. He was missing for a week. 

That was it. After 20 years. That's how powerful it is.

A baffling downfall

There was another lady I knew once who said, “It's the most patient lover I have ever had. It waits forever for me.”

How else do you at 55 become an alcoholic when you've been normal and fine, with no DUIs? I was always a responsible drinker. How does that happen?

The answer: the disease of addiction is wicked. And you will not outsmart it by yourself, I've tried. It can hit you at any time in your life. I was 55 and became an alcoholic. And believe me, if it could happen to me, it can happen to anybody.

A cunning illusion

I now think of it as a monster entity. And if there ever was a devil on Earth or Satan, one of his forms is the disease of addiction.

Even now, I'll sit here some nights after a year sober and I'll say to myself “I could probably have a drink. I'll be fine. We're not going anywhere. Why not?” I always think I could probably do one or two and I'll be fine. And so, addiction is like the little bad devil on your shoulder. It is always there saying “You can do it. You're smart now. You know what to do. You know how to quit.”

But that's my problem, I can't stop. I drink those two glasses. My switch goes on and it’s broken. It will not go off.

Tricks that I learned at The Haven help me to stay sober, after learning about the neural pathways of the brain and when I think about that broken switch inside me. I’ve also learned to think of alcohol as a deadly allergy. It'll kill me if I let it. 

And it sounds dramatic, but the truth of addiction and alcoholism is very simple. I think of it as an entity that wants something from you.  Do you know what it wants? It wants you to lose your job. It wants you to lose your family. It wants you to lose your friends. It wants you to lose everybody. And it wants you to have nothing except it; the bottle of booze, the syringe, the pills, and it wants you to be alone and just be with it. It's very selfish and it wants to kill you. 

That's the bottom line. Getting you alone, have you risk losing everything and kill you.  It may sound melodramatic, but when you're a serious alcoholic or addict, that's it, it’ll stop at nothing.

I’ll say it again, The Haven saved my life. So if you’re lost, unsure of where to go, or see someone you love headed down a similar path as I was, give them a call. They’ll take good care of you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Power of Friendship in Recovery

A Healing Connection 

Research has shown that friendships are integral to our happiness, health, and fulfillment as humans. This is especially true during the recovery journey, which is full of its own peaks and valleys. Having supportive friends throughout the process can lead to encouragement, joy, accountability, and a helping hand when life is difficult. 

Recovery includes establishing healthy patterns and leaving behind maladaptive behaviors. As you embark on this path, it’s critical to surround yourself with supportive, empathic, and understanding people -- people who are aware of, and willing to support you as a person in recovery. 

Committing to sobriety is no easy task, and the encouragement and joy that healthy friendships bring can make sober living that much sweeter.

Benefits of Friendship

Healthy friendships are an essential and critical aspect of our wellness. Studies have shown that there is an association between strong friendships and increased happiness, self-esteem, fulfillment, and sense of purpose. In addition to the emotional benefits, friendship can have a positive impact on our physical health, too! 

Physical benefits

Establishing and maintaining a close connection with others has shown to correlate with living a healthier life. People who nurture strong friendships tend to live longer, recover from illnesses faster, and have lower blood pressure. 

Emotional benefits 

Cultivating a close circle of friends provides valuable emotional and personal qualities and traits. Friendships can help sharpen your social skills, inspire you to reach your goals,  introduce you to new hobbies, and expand your perspective. They can help you define your priorities, hold you accountable, support you through difficulties, and be a source of fun and laughter! 

Friends allow us to combat loneliness, which research has shown to have negative consequences on our well-being. Loneliness can affect our cardiovascular and immune health, particularly as we grow older, which is why creating a community of friends is so important. 

Why Are Friendships in Recovery Important?

It’s clear that friendships are a crucial component of health and fulfillment for everyone. But they are even more important for those who are in recovery

It can be difficult to decide which friendships are beneficial to maintain while living sober, especially those friends that were made while in the height of addiction. The foundation of those friendships was most likely not rooted in connection or depth but rather centered around using substances. Choosing whether to maintain these friendships is a challenging decision, as these friends could be a temptation or distraction for your recovery. 

However, creating new friendships or repairing old friendships provides a sense of support -- not only when it comes to your sobriety, but also in supporting your feelings of confidence, resiliency, and strength as a human being. It’s so important to have this positive community to walk alongside during recovery, as you continue to grow in your identity and re-discover who you are. 

Tips to Have Healthy Friendships in Recovery

  • Avoid old hangouts that could tempt you to begin using again. The Haven offers residential treatment and transitional living to support you in detaching from negative influences and replacing them with positive people and environments. 
  • Find activities that you are interested in. This is a great way to meet new people in a sober environment. Whether you join a sports team, a club, take classes, or volunteer at a local organization, find something you are passionate about that allows you to continue developing yourself while creating a supportive community. 
  • Be honest and authentic. Genuinely communicate with your friends about your struggles and needs. Vulnerability and transparency are difficult, but being honest is a way to develop mutual trust and empathy in meaningful friendships. 
  • Prioritize friends that support your sobriety. Reflect on the values you are looking for in a friendship, and ensure that supporting your recovery is a part of that. 
  • Be a good friend! Friendship is a two-way street, and both people must be committed to the energy and effort required in maintaining the relationship. Ensure that you are being a good friend, too. 
  • Self-care. Continue to work on your own triggers, trauma, and self-concept through therapy and self-reflection. 

Finding Lasting Friendships at The Haven at Pismo

As you walk through recovery and explore finding your new sense of self, committing to cultivating friendships and a supportive community is a beneficial practice to integrate into your life.