What Is An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

What is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is a level of chemical dependency (CD) and/or mental health (MH) treatment that allows you much more flexibility while offering more support and structure than just individual counseling or a weekly group. Depending on your state’s requirements, the insurance company’s requirements or the design of the IOP, you will attend several times a week for several hours each time. For example; many Intensive Outpatient Programs are 3 hours long and meet 3-4 days a week (much more than that is closer to a higher level of care called Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP). Intensive Outpatient Programs are meant to be group-based, led by a professional facilitator and cover an array of topics and issues relevant to each client’s needs at a more in-depth level.


Why Should I Go To A CD IOP?

There are many reasons why IOP can make a big difference in your long term recovery success. Some of the benefits of CD IOPs are: lower cost, flexibility with life (work, school, family, etc), the communal design, structure and more. A major facet, beyond the obvious provision of continued support for someone who needs it – is that is increases the time the individual is engaged in an active and involved recovery system. This is very relevant to long-term outcomes and I mean something very different than just attending a 12 step group. Research has shown for decades that length of time in sustained engagement of a recovery support system is correlated to successful recovery in the long haul.

Residential treatment programs that were 90 to 120 days and much longer have all but disappeared, not because of efficacy but because of cost. Most insurance companies would prefer not to cover a 6 month stay in rehab. Obviously, most Americans cannot pay out of pocket for 6 months of rehab. In order to continue to accept insurance and be accessible to the greatest number of clients, treatment centers (those with integrity and purpose) have had to adjust and now continually strive to deliver as much meaningful and progressive treatment as possible in much less time.


So why does this matter? Because we know and have known that your success is very tightly tied to time and en vitro recovery exposure – and you probably aren’t going to get it all in a treatment center. But – after treatment you can extend this time and improve your outcomes by sustaining your engagement in professional, intensive recovery support such as a CD Intensive Outpatient Program. And even after IOP, continuing with Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery and counseling with a seasoned and experienced professional can extend your immersion in a recovery supportive environment.

Ultimately, you are looking at increasing your chances of success the first time around (I’m assuming you don’t want to keep going back to treatment over and over again). If I ask you to pull the Jack of Hearts of a shuffled deck the chances are slim you’ll get it on the first try. If you’re asked to pull any face card out of the deck, your chances are better than the Jack of Hearts – but there is still a good chance it will take you several tries. But if I ask you to pull a red card out of the deck, you have a much better chance in getting it with fewer attempts than the above two. Recovery takes work and there are many variables, including those in your own unique story, so why would you not want to ensure the best possible chance of your success?


CD IOPs Cost Less than Higher Treatment Levels of Care

It used to be that IOP was only accessed for step-downs; meaning if you were already in a higher level of care like a residential treatment center you could go to IOP after your discharged from residential as a “step down” to a lower (less intensive) level of care. Not so anymore. Now, you can also enter directly into Intensive Outpatient Programs by referral from your physician or therapist. In some cases you can self refer. IOP does not have 24-hour nursing, overnight accommodations, meals, physicians rounding (usually) and so on. It doesn’t require a hospital facility – many are housed in professional buildings and private offices. The overhead is low and the staff expenses are much lower than a hospital – all in all, less costly to run, less costly to you. And guess what, insurance LOVES the IOP option. Most insurance companies know that IOP diminishes repeat hospitalizations (less cost to them) and is less expensive to pay for (again, less cost to them). If you have to pay for IOP yourself, ask about payment plans or discounts. Most programs are willing to work with self-pay clients.


Good CD IOPs Allow for Flexibility

Most of my clients who have gone to Intensive Outpatient Programs were back at work or the university while doing it. It becomes the perfect transition back into “real life living” with support while doing it. In many cases this reduces the strain and stress on the client and their family/employers/etc and this means less anxiety for the client and most likely better focus as well. For parents, the ability to be back at home, or at least engage and be with their children can be a welcome and needed positive in an otherwise difficult period. *One word of wisdom here: don’t be in a hurry to get back home. Sober Living as a transition can be a great help in securing a lasting recovery (I’ll talk more about Sober Living in another article). The excuses are many – but the couple of months that it entails is so much less an intrusion than repeated relapses and re-hospitalizations. The need to really get some solid recovery time under your belt is even more important with children on the line.


Good CD IOPs Are Communal

Using a group design, Intensive Outpatient Programs keep a communal circle going well after residential treatment is over – and unlike basic community support meetings, they have professionals facilitating the process. These two points are important. The old saying “two heads are better than one” is so true in a group process. In a well-facilitated group, members are appropriately bonded and weigh in, both supporting and challenging the views and statements of each other. This level of validation and honesty is not often found outside of these arenas. The seasoned and experienced professional leading these groups is there not only as a guide and teacher, but also to ensure that the personal agendas of other members don’t cloud the issue and that members do not leave with an incorrectly or distorted ideas based on the statements of others. Granted, you need a really good leader and I get to that later on in this article. But one of the risks of many community based support organizations is that there are a lot of untrained self-selected “authorities” who may have great personal experience, but who sometimes don’t realize the transference going on in their relationships with others who may be much more vulnerable at the time.


Good CD IOPs Are Structured

Yes, there is a place and purpose for open, process-oriented group time and that is an important part of many Intensive Outpatient Programs. However, a good IOP will have a concrete, curriculum as its foundation. In early addiction recovery there are many core conflicts that come up frequently for most clients and a lose and unfettered IOP is not likely to cover all of these, leaving some clients without some much needed information and experience when they leave the IOP. Intensive Outpatient Programs that follow the 12 Step model or even another system like SMART, have adopted a well-known structures as their base. They should not however just be a regurgitation of an AA meeting – IOP is a clinical level of treatment and as such should be dealing with many of the emotional and psychological challenges of the recovery journey. (you should not be paying for a copy of what you already get in your 12 Step or support group meetings – if this is the case, talk with your counselor or physician – you may need a different program.)


Choosing the Right CD IOP for You

Here are a few tips to help you find a solid IOP for you or your loved one:

a.   Find out how long the program has been around – or at least the host organization. New businesses have a lot of growing pains and your time in the program should be focused on your growth, not encumbered by theirs. And while you are at it – ask. Call the local council on addiction recovery and a couple of doctors or therapists who actually specialize in addiction and ask them who they recommend.

b.   Find out who is actually running the groups in the IOP. Many programs (hospitals are known for this) assign their interns or least experienced staff to run the IOP. Make sure the program has a seasoned and experienced facilitator running the actual groups in the program. It’s also helpful to ask to see a print out of the curriculum the program follows.

c.   Find a program that is offered at a time you can manage and then commit to it. Most major cities have morning, afternoon and evening IOPs. Pick what you can do, stretch a little if you need to, and then don’t skip or miss. Remember, it’s not just about the content; it’s also about the context – the regular immersion in an intensive, recovery environment.

d.   Get your doctor hooked up with the IOP. Sign the release of information to let the program and your doctor talk openly back and forth. And ask them regularly if they are doing it. Do the same with your private therapist or counselor. Continuity of care is everything. These folks work for you – if they can’t communicate with each other, you’re the one who loses.

e.   Back fill around the IOP. On every day that you are not in IOP you should make a support meeting, see your counselor or some other dedicated recovery support. (and that doesn’t mean you can’t do these things on the IOP days too). We often say that addiction recovery is a life or death matter. Think of the parts of your recovery plan as your breath. You don’t stop breathing because it’s the weekend or a holiday – so don’t skip out on your recovery plan.

f.   Remember this – an IOP is not a replacement for 12 Step Meetings. An IOP is clinical and delivers a very different benefit than 12 Steps. You need both!

g.   If you are in a residential treatment facility your Discharge Planner or Case Manager is responsible for helping you to secure an IOP as part of your Discharge Plan and ongoing recovery plan. Be involved and don’t dismiss the value of well-spent time setting this up. Your life and your recovery are a precious commodity – be smart and invest well in them wisely.

One final noterecovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum – you have to get out there and be a part of a community committed to recovery. It also doesn’t happen in an isolated vessel – that means the whole family needs recovery support, not just the addict. Make sure that as you or your loved one embraces their recovery plan the family and loved ones get support and education as well. Addiction is a disease in more ways than one – if you only treat your hand, the rest of your body will still suffer. Disease destroys the whole system – in this case, the family system. Get the family connected with Al-Anon, a counselor or some other support group. It makes a world of difference.

Ben Carrettin / Live Better Live Now / Houston / Texas



Writer’s Curse – passion, drugs and literature

Writer’s Curse – passion, drugs and literature
by Christopher Flakus

Drugs and literature have been the two great passions of my life. For a long time they were inextricably bound. In my mind, I thought one could not exist without the other. I believed I had found a fierce sense of liberty in using drugs, a certain outlaw status that reminded me of my heroes: guys like Lenny Bruce, Charlie Parker, Hubert Selby Jr, Jerry Stahl, Hank Williams, Sid Vicious and just about every other famous druggie in the long line of famous druggies. I believed that writers who drank to excess and took drugs wrote the most interesting work. Their writing seemed dangerous, immediate, and relevant…or so I believed. In the Beat Poets I found a sense of personal adventure, a daring rejection of the status-quo which made me feel at home. I devoured the works of the beat movement, especially the writings of junky scribe, William Burroughs. Filmmaker John Waters once said of Burroughs, “Sure he romanticized drug use… Did anybody read Naked Lunch and try heroin? Probably.” Definitely, I was one of them. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a great book, or an important book…it simply means, that like all great art, it is not to be read with impunity.


Texas Recovery Support
Texas Recovery Support

My fascination with writers and drugs propelled me through College. I read and wrote voraciously. I drank and used drugs with this same fervor. I often spent whole nights with my coke-numbed nose buried in a book. I often read until the sun came up, my bottle and my bag of dope always by my side. Somehow, I made it through the first few years of School, just barely functioning enough to make my grades (at least most of the time). My Literature Thesis was a comparative look at Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” and Malcolm Lowry’s novel “Under the Volcano.” Both books revolved around tragic alcoholic protagonists. Both books were written by tragic, alcoholic authors. I knew I did not ever want my life to reach the kind of misery that Lowry had endured in writing “Under the Volcano.” Despite myself, I couldn’t help believing that his pain somehow informed him…the book itself was a descent into the depths of addiction, an almost mystical voyage into a boozy heart of darkness. I wonder if I was aware, at that time, that I had already begun the first league of that journey myself.

I started using heroin at nineteen, my freshman year of college. I was mystified by what I saw as a philosopher’s stone which inspired writers since Thomas DeQuincy. I had been a heavy drinker, pot-smoker, pill-popper, and coke sniffer…but heroin was the game-changer. The trajectory of my ever increasing use will be familiar to any addict. I was the “I just smoke it don’t shoot it,” guy. Until of course the day came then I was the, “I only shoot it once in a while, special occasions” guy, until I ended up the “I am hopelessly addicted to junk” guy. My apartment quickly dissolved into the kind of junky squat I had read about, though now that it was real, the shiny veneer drug-use once held for me was quickly peeled off. As it turned out, junkies were not just social iconoclasts and pillars of hip…they were greedy, sick, disloyal characters who turned on each other over virtually anything. I was certainly not above scheming my dope for the day through any number of shady doings. Lying became part of my life, just something I did. It was second nature, as natural as breathing. I lied to myself, to my family, to the few straight friends I had left who were watching my quick descent. Sometimes I lied, just for the sake of the lie.

For the most part, I was a middle-man, always orchestrating buys and hanging around for hours in deserted parking lots waiting for my man. I cringe to think of how much time I rendered utterly useless, smoking cigarettes in my car and compulsively checking my phone every couple minutes to see if he had called or texted. As the Velvet Underground song had clearly warned me, “He’s never early, he’s always late…the first thing that you learn is that you always gotta wait.”

Scoring for a group of junkies was advantageous in that I usually had a chance to pocket either a little extra cash or an extra pinch of dope for myself. It didn’t feel dishonest. It was my finder’s fee.
I went on like this, for years. I didn’t finish school. I worked a string of dead end jobs, almost all of which eventually fired me. I couldn’t manage to show up on time, and when I did show up I was often so high I could barely keep my eyes open.

Things got progressively worse. I lost friends, my girlfriend, a good job, and ultimately my own sanity. The bottom really came flying up on me once I began using intravenous methamphetamine. I was trying to stay off heroin, but unwilling to give up the quest for an immaculate high…my search for alternatives to heroin brought me crashing down. I smoked crack, synthetic marijuana, snorted bath-salts…anything that I could get my hands on. I had an open-door policy when it came to drugs, I simply did not discriminate. If it changed the way I felt, I took it. Within a few months of shooting meth, I was locked in a mental health hospital after a psychotic episode. I had not slept in days, and was hallucinating shadowy figures breaking into my house. I was so


convinced my life was in danger that I leapt out of my bathroom window. I lived on the second story. I plummeted down fifteen feet, crashing into a thorny bush. I spent a month with the loonies in a schizophrenic ward of Houston’s Harris County Psychiatric Center. As soon as they discharged me I was back on the streets and my drug use only escalated. Pretty soon, I was on heroin again, still shooting meth, and drinking from the time I woke up (assuming I had even been to sleep) until I collapsed onto my pillow more dead than alive. I had always been a beer drinker, generally speaking, but now I was onto hard liquor as well and lots of it. I was prescribed a narcotic triumvirate of vyvanse, suboxone, and alprazolam at this time. I swallowed the speed (vyvanse) to boost my meth high, and smoothed it out with downers (alprazolam) and heroin. It didn’t matter to me if the drugs were purchased on a street corner or in a pharmacy. I still see no distinction between street drugs and pharmaceuticals. Dope is dope…the end result was always addiction.

I had been using suboxone as a maintenance program for three years. During that time I would sporadically come off the suboxone and get back on heroin. I would sell my strips to other junkies, turn around, and spend the money on dope for myself. At this point, the writing had been completely replaced by drugs. It felt like I had not read a book in years, and if I had, I either forgot entirely or retained very little of what I had read. Everything in my world existed in the shadow of my junk habit.

I had begun using heroin seduced by the myth that it lead to creative wonders. I began shooting speed, inspired by Kerouac’s Benzedrine-fueled marathon writings and the spontaneous prose of “On the Road.” I foolishly thought that on the right drugs, I would unlock secrets to internal poetry which would have otherwise have been out of my reach. Of course, that didn’t happen. The little I did write was tired and lifeless…more whimper than words.


I am sure I would have died. The way I was using, there didn’t seem to be any other outcome. I had given up hope of ever getting better until another, more violent and unpredictable bout of drug psychosis landed me in jail. My detox was agony. I shivered out the poison on a steel cot with nothing to keep me warm but a thin wool blanket. It was winter, and the air from outside seeped into our 24 man tank through vents along the walls. During the summer, not enough air got in through these same vents and the heat was stifling. During winter, there was no keeping the cold out. Maybe it was designed that way to make it an even more hellish place for us.

My withdrawals seemed to last that entire first month I spent in jail. The first couple weeks I spent in my bunk, just holding on to anything I could. A fond memory, a warm thought, a joke…anything I could cling to in my mind that took me away from where I was and what I was feeling. The third week I started stretching my legs, walking around and getting to know the other inmates I was locked up with. Ultimately, it was these men I credit with my decision to get clean. I had suffered dope sickness dozens of time before, only to slip up and use again. Although this cold-turkey jailhouse detox was by far the most miserable kick I had ever experienced, I knew I wouldn’t stay clean because of it. The other inmates, their stories, and their encouragement…these things provided the springboard I needed, not only to get clean, but to start writing again.

Texas Recovery Support
Texas Recovery Support

The man I call my first sponsor was an inmate named Jonathan, a speed-freak from Dallas. He had been picked up in the Midwest and driven cross-country in a paddy-wagon back to Texas to serve out his sentence. The charges were old, and he had already gone into recovery by the time he was stopped by the police. Jonathan had a certain sense of serenity. He remained calm in his situation. We were all losing our minds with uncertainty, but Jonathan managed to take it all in stride. He conducted his own informal NA meeting in the tank, and I began attending. He would brew a warm coffee for me, and we would spend an hour or two discussing my addiction and potential recovery. The men I met in jail had suffered a hundred times what I had. Many of them were in and out of prison, unable to shake the disease even after years of incarceration. I saw in them the dreadful future that awaited me if I continued to drink and use drugs.

I began reading in jail. A few good friends still wrote letters to me, and bought books online to send to me. I read the Russians, authors I had always wanted to read in depth but was only superficially familiar with. I read Gogol, Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Solzinitsyn, and Dostoyevsky. I also caught up on my Borges, and another wonderful Argentinian author, Julio Cortazar. Their words became my only means of escaping confinement. Dostoyevsky had spent time in a Siberian Prison, and Solzinitsyn’s novel “A Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich” described his life in one of Stalin’s Gulags. I read these stories, not as lofty literature, but as the voices of fellow prisoners whose strength served as an inspiration to get through each long, hard day inside. As long as I was reading, writing, and exercising…keeping busy, staying out of trouble, I felt I was getting somewhere. Would it sound funny to say, I even began to enjoy life again? Even in a place like a county jail in Texas, I was able to laugh and relate to the people around me. There were many dark days as well. There was violence, ugliness, there was abuse of power and degradation…it was still jail after all, but for the first time in years I felt like some kind of man inside.

I was released from jail under the condition that I go directly to rehab. That sounded fine to me. It had been nearly four months locked up, three of which I had spent sober (There was a little jailhouse hooch going around that first month) making it the longest uninterrupted period of sobriety in my adult life. I knew rehab was the best decision, and I arrived at Houston’s PaRC (Prevention and Recovery Center) with a newfound sense of freedom and determination. I made friends quickly. At first, the transition from jail to rehab was a little overwhelming…there was a cafeteria with great food, and snacks, and I didn’t get woken up by guards in gloves shaking down my bunk. Instead I was greeted with warm smiles, could eat as much as I liked, and was welcome to spend time in a “Serenity Garden” where patients congregated to smoke cigarettes and share stories. I found it laughable when I overheard a couple girls over by the salad bar (yes, there was a salad bar!) describing the food as “inedible” and the counselors as “fascists.” Honey, I thought to myself, you wouldn’t have lasted a day where I just come from…

As a pretty staunch Atheist, I was concerned that the 12 Steps wouldn’t work for me. Luckily, I found a very open and understanding environment in rehab, and I was encouraged to take what I could from the program and leave the rest. I do not use a “higher power” in my recovery, but volunteer work (Service Work, as it is called in AA) and helping others is not only a wonderful way to give back to the community, it is also a healing experience which I have found enforces my own sobriety. I forged new and lasting friendships in rehab. So many of the stories I heard so closely mirrored my own. I felt accepted…if anyone had earned their seat, I had. I discovered that for all my fascination with drug literature there is in fact, only two universal stories of addiction: “I used, I got hooked, and I got clean…or I used, I got hooked, and then I died.” Even if the drugs don’t kill you outright…a life spent perpetually addicted is no life at all. And let’s face it, we junkies aren’t exactly known for our longevity.


There are three quotes by great artists who got clean, that have helped carry me through these first months in recovery. The first is by the great Hubert Selby Jr. (Who struggled with heroin addiction and health complications for most of his life, and managed to get clean and even refused Morphine on his death bed) who said, “Once you quit the drugs and booze, that’s when you find out how dark you really are.” This was important to realize, as a writer. I still had a fear that without the drugs, I would lose some of my eccentricity, or edginess. Tom Waits said it best, when describing his own experience with early sobriety: “One is never completely certain when you drink and do drugs whether the spirits that are moving through you are the spirits from the bottle or your own. And, at a certain point, you become afraid of the answer. That’s one of the biggest things that keeps people from getting sober, they’re afraid to find out that it was the liquor talking all along.” The truth is, my addiction punched a great big hole in my creativity. For years I hardly managed to write or perform at all…I used to sing in a punk rock band, I did spoken word, and even appeared on television for Austin’s Poetry Month. That reading of my poetry on TV was a memory I used to cherish, though it brought me great sadness as well during my many years spent isolated and using. I felt I had blown it. It hurt to remember my success, as much as it hurt to realize I had failed.

I have found, the only real way you lose, is if you die. If you are struggling with addiction, keep struggling…there is a nobility in the fight, even the days it kicks your ass. Especially on those days. Which brings me to my final quote, from the author of ‘Permanent Midnight,’ Jerry Stahl:

“This was the history of the world. Recovery and collapse, despair and relief. The dialectic of clean and dirty. Every time is worse than the time before. The bad things come, days and nights and days and nights get so unbelievably fucked up, unbelievably fast, but in the end– if there is an end– everybody’s best self just slogs forward, one stagger, one fall, one day, one ‘what the fuck just happened?’ moment of oblivion and soul-broken joy at a time. All we have to do is not die.”


For the first time in almost fifteen years, I can enjoy life without a joint, a drink, a pill, or a needle in my arm. It has been a decade since I first smoked heroin as a 19 year old freshman poet…here I am now, ex-jailbird writer living in a sober house with eight other addicts. I have been out of jail and in recovery four months…making it nearly eight months since my last taste of dope. I have a relationship with my father and mother. Many of my truly good friends have re-entered my life and seem proud of me. I’m still fighting and the fight isn’t easy…most days it is damn hard. In the end, it is worth everything to me. I finally found my own story, one worth telling, and worth living.


Christopher Flakus / Writer’s Curse – passion, drugs and literature


Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 3

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 3:

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the last three of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

8. Unknown Only Means Opportunity
We hear people reference “being open” to things, changes, possibilities and so on – but I am not sure many of these folks really understand what being open to something means. Yes it means to listen/consider something you typically would not – but this suggests an other or alternative. Being open really means to whatever can be – without necessarily knowing. There is a tendency for us to back-fill an unknown with the absolute worst possible scenario we can and then commit to building a strategy to thwart it. Why expect the worst without any reason, cause or actual information to suggest it? For all the bad in the universe you are aware of – there are mountains more of good that you are not. Allow yourself the opportunity for something new and wonderful to surprise you. Back-filling with assumptions and fear doesn’t protect you – more times than not, it takes from you.

9. Compassion with Community
There is an old saying that goes, “there is no better way to know how much you have than to help someone who has less.” Acts of service are a vital part of our spiritual resilience. Engaging in acts of kindness, with intention, towards others others has an impressive impact on our mood and even our chemistry. Charity and service are also important lessons in character development and I would even say in maintaining it. Join a youth group service day, rally your employer to support staff volunteering for a day at a local food bank, sign up to be a docent at the local museum, zoo or hospital – or go solo and just join the annual beach clean up round up. If you Google “volunteer” and your city’s name – you’ll likely be amazed at what is out there.
True giving, without any expectation, brings back so much to us. Altruism really is more of a lofty goal or ideal – but we strive to be as close to it as possible here. While a part of us knows we will get “good feeling” from giving – make a point to not take other benefit from this. In these efforts there is no place for ego or acknowledgement or being credited in some way. It helps to be anonymous or part of a serving group if possible.

10. Voice Your Gratitude – specific and frequently
At first look this may seem a lot like #6, so bear with me. Scribe and Herald are a bit different in that they focus on a set time and can be alone or with a confidant – this is a more public and shared action. It’s important to get into the habit – really making it a habit – to state and share your gratitude outwardly. Tell your friend how much you appreciate your spouse and how lucky you are to have them. Tell your co-worker about your favorite uncle and what you appreciated about how they contributed to your life. Share with your neighbors or friends how you overcame a major illness or challenge in your life and how you will forever be grateful for it. Sharing our gratitude inspires it in those around us and soon we are all hearing more and more of what to be joyful about instead of complaining about the minutia of everyday challenges. There is a deli attendant in my neighborhood that upon being asked how she is doing always answers that she is blessed and one reason why. She’s got me answering her with one too. (I gotta thank her…and I will this weekend.)
Ideas of entitlement have all but killed off “thank you” in the common exchanges in commerce and community – at least in some areas. But it’s very easy to restore. Thank the waiter – even if it wasn’t the best service. Tip the grocery sacker – something. If you can’t – then reach out and shake there hand and tell them. A bit of personal humility doesn’t push you down – it raises you up. If you know a teacher – any teacher – please, tell them how much we need them and how much they matter. (And if you are a fellow parent – please remember, you are the most responsible for raising your children and you wouldn’t likely raise someone else’s for what a teacher makes!) Look over your day and see the list of people that in some way or action – served you. Commit to letting them know you appreciate them.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 2

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 2

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the second three of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

5. Progress Forward In Steps (one step at a time…)
This takes a bit of focus for some of us and some restraint for others. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the “parts” of a task or intention. Sometimes it’s pulling back on our zeal to “plow forward” and finish. This is not always the best option and when it comes to relationships, health and our own sense of self in the world it’s a surefire way to miss the greatest gifts available to us. Try to segment out the part of the task in front of you – do it well, not perfect – just the best you can at the place you are in your life at this moment. Then breathe, take a moment to reflect on what you accomplished before you move on. Remember, “trust the process – it’s often more important than the progress”.

6. The Scribe & the Herald
Different areas of the brain are in play when you say something, hear something or write something down. And when we learn something through multiple modalities we are often more likely to remember it more easily. Sometimes it may be stronger imprinting from an experience – like remembering the cologne/perfume (olfactory), the song on the radio (auditory) and the warmth of touch (tactile) when you first kissed a partner. Other times it can be as simple as when you learned a list of facts in school by putting them to a tune or rhyme. Whatever the situation – increased fronts is likely to yield increased potential for recollection. So (and yes, I mean “old school” scripting – not typing). If you are open to journaling – great! If not, even a short couple of sentences is fine…and easy to make time for (no excuses). Try getting into the habit of taking a few minutes at the end of the day to write down three things that are unique to that day and that you are grateful – and write that you are grateful for them. No global or general comments, no “carry-over” content folks – “I am grateful for my job” or “dog” doesn’t work here. Specific and unique to the day; “I am grateful that today I met a new neighbor while walking my dog” -or- “…grateful that the solution I proposed at work this morning worked well for the team”. But wait – we’re only halfway there. After you write them down, read them, thoughtfully, out loud to yourself – or even say them aloud with a trusted confidant. Scripting gratitude and speaking it aloud help us to reflect more easily and frequently on those things that we feel good about. Revisiting good, even small ones, more frequently gives us more “clock hours” in a positive frame of mine – this can have a fantastic impact on us – if we just put it into regular practice. (sounds too hard to do? – re-read #3 and #5.)

Local Tip: Wanna experience Scribe & Herald live? – check out the folks at Pink Phurree.

7. Celebrate the wins
It’s important to embrace and celebrate when we do something well – even a smaller success. Pride may be challenging to keep in check but being a little proud of our accomplishments is a good thing. Keep it simple. This isn’t about grand-standing, excess or desire. It’s about the ritual space – the honoring. Host an old fashioned ice cream social and yard game party at your house with friends to celebrate your promotion, take friends to the beach or lake for the day to celebrate your recovery anniversary or start a new tradition: take cupcakes to someone you know as your birthday celebration. Celebrate the successes in your life!
Sometimes the people around us don’t know how to do this. You may have to teach them along the way. Be okay with that – jump in. If habits die hard – then start some new, positive ones. Wear a ridiculous hat to work on co-worker birthdays, challenge neighbors in your apartment to a make-shift annual “grill off” – an architect I know got his entire team to play laser-tag together each time a project was complete. Be creative – think beyond consumption – think new or shared experiences. Celebrating the wins – on top of Scribe & Herald (#6) – can bring you more strength, happiness and resilience in your every day life faster than you may expect.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

 Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 1

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 1

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the first four  of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

1.Take Care of You
This may sound simple enough, but most of us rarely put it into a regular practice. It doesn’t have to be anything big, expensive or time-consuming. Set 20 minutes aside each evening for a walk around your neighborhood (without text/talk), take a class in something new just for fun/fit/relaxation (pottery, painting, yoga) or carry a book with you when you stop for coffee and sit for 30 minutes to read. Be creative as you like or not – but do something other than the “have to’s”, “musts” and typical obligations and roles you exist in.

2. Embrace Purpose
Even when all else seems pointless, mundane, overwhelming and so on – engaging in purposeful acts can make all the difference in the world. Everyone – every one – of us has the ability to help another or engage in some good for the greater community. Small is fine – just do. Help someone from another country learn to read, volunteer at a local church or community center, offer to teach something you know to a local scout troop, sign up as a volunteer at a local hospital. Don’t let physical or time limits stop you – there is always something to offer and a place that can really use your help.

3. Begin and Forever Commit to Believing in Yourself
Your Mental Attitude Will Determine Your Mood Altitude”. Start taking steps to change the way you think about yourself to a more positive and pro-active definition. It may feel odd or difficult – but start to say, out loud, the things you do well and what is just plain great about you. This isn’t about inflating an ego – it’s more the fact that the words we speak, over time, often become what we believe. Chances are there are some negative and restricting messages you have told yourself for a long time now – to the point you may even hold them to be “mostly true”. Think beyond the negative and demeaning limits. And try to make it current and present – keep it focused on what was great about you today.

4. Accept that all things change and this Is Out of Your Control
This is a really hard one for many of us and quite frankly there is a lot here that I won’t be able to cover in this post. Sometimes the urge to control something or someone comes from a place of love and caring and this makes it even more confusing. Relationships, jobs, roles, passions – they all begin and they eventually come to a close. Fighting to avoid that can whittle you down and in fact will begin to hurt the healthy relationships, roles and habits you do have.

Part of mindfulness practice is to embrace and be fully be present, as you are, in this moment. Enjoy your partner today – for who they are and what you share in this moment. Do the best you can in your job today – because that is your commitment to you – and not just for the possibility of a promotion or raise. Play with your kids the games they want to play, watch a show (they like) and talk about it, go for a walk with a friend or meet them for coffee – there are so many ways to enjoy what is here, while it is here. Resolve to be okay with who you are and where you are in life at this moment. There is a lot to be said for self acceptance.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

 Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

Your Sobriety is NOT Recovery

Sobriety Is Not Recovery

by Texas Recovery Support

I still to this day am surprised to discover, that at times, my closest peers in true recovery may not be addicts or alcoholics, but rather cancer survivors, trauma survivors, heart disease patients or those going through bereavement.

Why is this?

Because like it or not; being clean / sober is NOT recovery. Yep, I said it – it’s not. If this statement upsets you – you might want to take a hard look at how your definition of recovery might be impacting your life and the lives of those you love.

Sobriety is only the state or condition of non-use. It is not a state of healing or change. Being sober or clean is essentially a measure of current condition and nothing more. Important? of course it is! But healing and recovery it isn’t. (Meetings are full of people with years of sobriety and not an ounce of recovery in their lives – it doesn’t take long to recognize the ones on a true recovery path.)

Recovery, unlike sobriety / being clean, is an ongoing, whole life philosophy of healing and integrity – in action. It’s easy to forget that recovery is an evolution of healing that is not restricted to addiction by any measure. Notice I said “in action”. True recovery is not just staying sober / clean and going to meetings and talking with your sponsor – you have to employ recovery in your life; the way you engage others at work and in your personal life, the choices you make, the lifestyle you live – and especially the relationships with those you love and care about. Attendance and participation are means to get there – but you don’t “pass the class” for showing up. You have to actually live your recovery – be it addiction, grief, cancer – whatever the dis-ease.

One of the most amazing experiences I ever had was facilitating a recovery group that had both addiction recovery clients and cancer recovery clients in the same group. I will never forget this experience and am incredibly grateful and honored to have been a part of it. As the group moved forward and grew together – each member heard the story of pain and suffering, disease and healing, strength and weakness, fear and courage and so on – of each other member. Soon the “lines” of us and them faded and it became the most grounded and compassionate exchange of honesty and support I have yet to witness. This group raised each other above suffering, shame and terror and moved together to and incredible community – in fact the words “cancer” and “addiction” disappeared and the group on their own used the word “disease” for both.

For me this experience was truly a spiritual one and personally was also an opportunity to truly understand what a disease model of addiction/affliction really is. I have never seen it’s equal in any group since – and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of several amazing healing and recovery communities

My point in all of this? It’s my hope that some of you who read this will be inspired. Perhaps to start a conversation with a friend or family member facing addiction, cancer, death of a loved one or serious illness. Maybe to stand up and talk about the difference between sobriety and recovery in your next 12 Step meeting or support group. Perhaps to start a conversation in your church or temple – or even to re-visit your own definition of recovery.

Whatever you may think or do – consider taking an action to bridge the promise of healing to another person who may be suffering. Acts of service, no matter how small or simple, heal the world and in doing so – a part of us finds peace and promise as well.

Journey Well –


Quick Tip

If you are looking for a sponsor or mentor – ask them how they define “recovery”. If they give an answer relating to time sober or clean – keep looking. A good sponsor will know that recovery is across all facets of our lives.

Authenticity & Making Amends

Authenticity & Making Amends

Making amends – whether in your step work or for anyone out there – is never easy and often made worse by misunderstanding the core purpose of this exercise of self. Although we may ponder what to say, how and when to say it, whether by phone, letter or in person – the truth of the matter is that those details are really not what this is about. Making an amend is about digging deep into ourselves and bringing forth – with authenticity and conviction – a true and heartfelt owning of our own failing, an expression with full integrity and confirmation “aloud” that we truly intend not to repeat it. But here’s the catch: making an amend has zero to do with how it is received. Think about this. If you are in any way leaning towards gaining a positive response from the recipient – then this becomes “for you” not “from you”, and the integrity and purpose are disrupted.


This is really hard for most of us. But good things rarely come easy – and the making of authentic amends is ultimately good for us and hopefully, for those we are making them to. That’s not to say that making the amend to the other person is always appropriate. In some cases – if it will harm or upset their lives more – than I have to ask myself am I creating more good or more despair in this? If you are unsure – talk with your sponsor, counselor or someone you are confident will be objective and honest about it.


Making an authentic amend is an act of true compassion. What I mean by that is that it is about “what is needed” and not at all about “what is wanted”. If desire is part of the equation, you probably need to rethink it. Attachment to an outcome has no part in making an amend.

Authenticity & Making Amends / Texas Recovery Support / Houston, Texas




1) How Young is Too Young ?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2,500 children between the ages of 12 and 17 abused a prescription drug for the first time (2011). And guess what? – the most common drug abused by this group is a pain reliever. (Keep in mind this age group starts in Elementary school).

2) Biggest Killers
Abuse of opiates, depressants, and antidepressants are the top 45 percent of drug overdose deaths, which is more than meth, cocaine, and amphetamines combined.

3) Prescriptive Death
In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that Fentanyl (prescription pain reliever) is thirty to fifty times more physiologically potent that pure heroin. During that year, prescription drug abuse statistics showed that over 1,000 individuals died from Fentanyl abuse.

4) Death Toll
Every day, approximately 100 people die from prescription drug overdoses in the United States. And get this, due to multiple stressors, working, single Moms is one of the highest potential risk groups for a future increase in this statistic.

5) The Real Insanity
More and more people are taking prescriptions for mental / emotional health. A recent study shows that over 20 percent of American adults are being treated with prescription drugs for a psychiatric or behavioral disorder. (And this can support medication dependency, especially in Adults already prone to addiction).


6) Prescriptions As “Kid-Control”
With the increase in behavioral issues in children, doctors are resorting to prescription medication to treat these young children. More shocking is that in recent years Government Accountability Office reported that one-third of all foster children are prescribed at least one psychoactive drug. Many foster children are put on medications such as Xanax, Ritalin, or similar behavior modification drugs.

7) Women On The Move
Usually we think of men being the more common drug abusing gender, but more and more women are getting prescription medications by going to clinics/physicians and with complaints of chronic pain or stress-related issues. Dependency is faster and much more common than most people realize.

8) Is There A Doctor in the House?
In 2012, the Center for Disease Control reported that 7 in 10 Americans take prescription medications each day. Most of these users are being prescribed drugs by their local medical professionals.

9) Pain Management VS Pain Free
The intent of pain management is to reduce pain/distress to a point where quality of life is increased. The trending idea of pain free, while sounding desirable, often comes at a price that actually diminishes quality of life. Ask yourself, “Is it that I can’t feel any pain, or that I can’t feel…anything?”. Some research reports as high as 75% of doctor visits in the US resulting in prescriptions. Quality of life?

10) The Sky Is The Limit
In 2011, 5.1 million out of 7 million Americans who abused prescription medications chose opium derivatives or synthetic opiates as their drugs of choice.


My Community Is My Recovery

My Community Is My Recovery

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “It takes a village” and in our recovery, whether from addiction, grief or other life challenge, the truth of this wisdom is easy to see. By nature, we are communal creatures – we need the support and company of others. Even those of us that rank in the very introverted group – while not being chatty or desiring the “group thing”, we still need connection with others. I’m not likely the first to say that counseling, faith traditions and support organizations like Twelve Steps may not be for everybody. But if you think healing, recovery and growth happens in a vacuum, you’re dead wrong. You may be able to maintain it in the short run, but without a community of support the collapse of your recovery is already assured. Continue reading My Community Is My Recovery