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Alumni Weekend 2019: Food, Fun and Fellowship

Make plans to join us for the annual alumni weekend this September

Continuing an annual tradition, Oxford Treatment Center alumni and their families are invited to a casual weekend of food, fun and fellowship on Sept. 28-29.

For 2019, the main event of the Alumni Weekend will be held at the Old Armory Pavilion, at the corner of University Avenue and Bramlett Boulevard in Oxford. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, alumni and their families will enjoy outdoor games, live music and speakers. Oxford Treatment Center Executive Chef Moulay Elabdellaoui and his staff will serve a picnic of Southern-style cuisine.

“..it’s important for us to host weekends like this not only for our alumni but also for the people who’ve been their support system.”

Operated by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the pavilion is situated beside Oxford’s community garden and public library. Holding the Alumni Weekend picnic at a family-friendly, community location underscores the important role of families in a person’s recovery from addiction, said Brian Whisenant, Director of Community Relations.

“We say often that addiction is a family disease — but recovery involves the whole family, too,” he said. “That’s why it’s important for us to host weekends like this not only for our alumni but also for the people who’ve been their support system.”

On Sunday, Sept. 29, alumni and their families will have an opportunity to return to Oxford Treatment Center’s main campus at Etta between 1 and 4 p.m. Experiential therapists will be on hand to offer experiences in art, music, yoga and equine therapy that those in recovery took part in while in treatment.

“For our alumni, it’s often meaningful to bring their loved ones back to the place where their recovery began,” Whisenant said. “They’ve come this far in their recovery because of the support of their family and friends. Being able to reflect on how far they have come is truly an exercise in gratitude.”

Registration for Oxford Treatment Center’s 2019 Alumni Weekend will open on Aug. 1.

 

Family Programs expand in 2018

Resolutions program now offers family component

Oxford Treatment Center is expanding its programs for the families of those in early recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

The center’s new Intensive Family Therapy Program is now being offered one weekend a month at the Oxford Outpatient Office off Highway 7 South.

The program is for families whose loved one has reached at least 60 days of sobriety through Oxford Treatment Center. It is designed to give them the tools they will need to support their loved one’s continued recovery.

The program also provides an opportunity for families to confront the pain their loved one’s addiction has caused, with an emphasis on families’ own healing and self-care.

Dee Meux, ICADC

“Family members’ own recovery is important, too,” said Dee Meux, ICADC, Family Program Coordinator at Oxford Treatment Center.

“Loving someone who is in active addiction is one of the most painful experiences in the world,” she said. “Family members want to help their loved one, but instead they get drawn into the chaos.

“Learning to effectively set boundaries is critical. It protects the family, while also letting the addict know: ‘The game is over.’”

 

At Oxford Treatment Center, family members come to the Etta campus for a two-day family education program during their loved one’s stay in residential treatment. The program provides families with research-based training on the nature of addiction, its effects on the brain and body, and its impact on family systems.

The new Intensive Family Therapy Program is designed as a follow-up to the education program. Upon therapist recommendation, it is offered to the families of those who have transitioned from the residential campus to Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions program. At Resolutions, people live in supportive housing and begin regaining their independence while they continue in outpatient treatment.

Through the Intensive Family Therapy Program, clients and their families deal with past hurts as therapists guide and facilitate. They also communicate about how their interactions must change to support long-term recovery.

“Clients are more ready to have these conversations with their families once they have several weeks of clean time behind them,” Meux said. “Their minds more clear, and they’re better able to see the havoc their addiction has caused — instead of blaming other people. Hearing truth from their families at this stage can be a powerful motivator to continue in recovery.”

 

Learn more about the programs of Oxford Treatment Center

Are You Loving Someone to Death?

Whether it’s your child, your spouse or your parent, you would do anything for your loved one. And they would do anything for their addiction.

It’s the central conflict that locks so many families in crisis for years on end.

“Being sober and loving someone in active addiction is one of the most painful relationships on the planet,” says Dee Meux, ICADC, Family Program Coordinator at Oxford Treatment Center. “You don’t know what that’s like until you’ve been there.”
When you love someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, looking out for them in what feels like a natural way can actually enable their behaviors.

Here are four ways to know when you are enabling someone’s addiction — and four ways to break the cycle.

 

1. You’re convinced this is your fault.

People in active addiction are typically in denial about it. To stay in denial, Meux says, they minimize, justify, rationalize and blame.

“Enablers believe the blame,” she says. “They believe that somehow or another, this really is their fault. But research has shown that when it comes to risk factors for addiction, 50 to 70 percent is someone’s biological predisposition. That’s why the first thing I tell families is: This is not your fault.”

2. You are financially supporting someone in active addiction.

You would never buy your loved one alcohol or drugs. But paying for cars, phones, lawyers and living expenses allows your loved one’s life of addiction to keep rolling along. It’s one of the most common ways that well-meaning family members enable addiction to continue.

3. You’ve started defining yourself through your loved one.

Their ups are your ups, and their downs are your downs. You realize your own moods are tied to those of your loved one, in a way that keeps you completely focused on their situation. And the only solution you see for the helplessness you feel is rescuing your loved one from trouble, again and again.

4. It’s getting hard to keep pretending that nothing’s wrong.

People in addiction aren’t the only ones in denial. Family members often don’t want to see how bad the situation has become.

“For family members,” Meux says, “the feeling is: ‘I want to love them normally and naturally. Because if I can do that, it means there’s nothing that’s really wrong.’

“It feels hopeless and overwhelming to admit how bad things have gotten. But when people are in active addiction, loving them as if things are normal truly is loving them to death.”

 

Four ways to break the cycle

1. Go easy on yourself.

“I tell families they need to be gentle with themselves, because they’re doing what people do naturally when they love someone,” Meux says. “Of course you want to help them. You want to bail them out. You want to forgive them for the millionth time. You want to believe one more promise. That’s what you do when you love someone — but it’s the worst way to respond to active addiction.”

2. Get educated about what addiction is, and about the power families have.

At Oxford Treatment Center, families of those in residential treatment come to the center for two days of education designed to equip and encourage them. There is also a wealth of resources online and in practical self-help books about how to stop the cycle of enabling addiction.

3. Prepare for your loved one’s response and hold firm.

When you take action to stop enabling your loved one’s addiction, they won’t be happy about it. Typical reactions include becoming emotionally punitive, such as disappearing for a few days and not answering any messages. It can be very difficult for family members to hold firm through the backlash.

“It’s like going through enablers’ withdrawal, as you detox yourself from this relationship,” Meux says. “A young woman in active addiction can be in the emergency room hooked up to tubes and wires — and be able to talk her mother into going into her purse and getting her a couple of Xanax. Stories like that are very common. It becomes an emotional hostage situation.”

4. Invest in your own recovery.

Families need to know they are not alone in their experience. There’s great value in coming together with other families in Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, or in settings like Oxford Treatment Center’s free weekly Family Hope & Healing support groups.

“When you’ve been focused on a loved one whose life is in chaos, it’s incredibly freeing to hear the truth that your recovery matters, too,” Meux says.

“Hopeless as families may feel, they have more power than they know. The more they can surround themselves with peer support and learn from addiction professionals, the more their own hope can stand strong regardless of their loved one’s actions.”

 

Learn more about Addiction & Family Dynamics in the first of Oxford Treatment Center’s new Community Workshop Series.

When Your Loved One Relapses

6 ways for families to respond

A young heroin addict went to treatment and checked out early against medical advice. Meanwhile his family took the opposite route — embracing their own recovery and learning everything they could about how to manage their relationship with him.

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Wayne Raiter, MA, LICSW

When he ended up on the street aain, sick and miserable, he called his family for money. But from parents to siblings to aunts and uncles, no one would budge.

“That lasted about a day and a half, and he was back in treatment,” said family interventionist Wayne Raiter, MA, LICSW. “He did a lot better in recovery the second time. If the family stops supporting the addiction, it makes it much more difficult to sustain the behavior.”

Raiter is the creator of the Systemic Family Intervention Model and is Director of Family Programming for American Addiction Centers. He encourages families to embrace their power and not fall back into familiar patterns when a relapse occurs.

“Statistically, relapse is not an unusual part of the process of recovery,” Raiter said.

“Families need to understand that it’s typical, so that they don’t think once someone goes to treatment they never have to worry again. But ultimately, the relapse itself is less important than how you respond to it.”

Take Raiter’s advice to do what’s best for your loved one and yourself in the event of a relapse.

 

“Recovery is about progress, not perfection.”

— Michael Cartwright, Believable Hope

 

1. Plan your relapse response before you need it

At Oxford Treatment Center, the two-day Intensive Family Therapy Program serves to educate family members about the disease of addiction and equip them to support their loved one in recovery. Through the program, therapists also help families define and express the consequences their loved one will face if they ever use again.

Families shouldn’t wait to plan the specific steps they will take to bring those consequences to bear. Then, make sure everyone in the family understands the plan.

“I always teach families to have a plan for everything — including a relapse,” Raiter said. “You need to know: ‘If this happens, this is what we are going to do.’ That way, you don’t get caught in a reactive situation.”

 

2. Engage your loved one calmly and clearly

If you suspect your loved one is using again, ask. Then be prepared to follow through with your plan.

“Your loved one may lie to you, and you can’t control that,” Raiter said. “What you can do if you suspect they’re using is ask in a nonjudgmental way: ‘Here’s the behavior I’m seeing. It feels familiar to me. I’m not judging, but are you using? And if so, we need to solve that problem — not next week, but today.’”

 

3. Maintain your boundaries

It’s critical to stick by the consequences your family laid out during the Intensive Family Therapy Program. Otherwise, your loved one will get the idea there is room for negotiation.

“If I’m contemplating using again, there needs to be no confusion,” Raiter said. “This is what we’ve agreed to do, and this is what we’re going to do.”

At the same time, he said, be clear that in following through on the consequences you laid out, you are acting not against your loved one but against the addiction.

“Let them know: ‘It’s not about you; it’s about the disease,’” Raiter said. “‘We understand how difficult this is, but we have to follow through with this.’”

 

4. Stay in problem-solving mode

Relapse has the potential to trigger all the familiar old habits that previously fueled compensation systems that weren’t working in the family. Don’t fall prey to panic, or slip back into the hopelessness and helplessness you felt before your loved one went to treatment.

“Stay hopeful and empowered,” Raiter said, adding that focusing on executing your relapse plan will help keep waves of emotion from pulling you under.

“What families often do is respond to addiction with the emotional part of their brain, which has no problem-solving ability in it,” he said. “What occurs is a that you have a family that is competent but can’t access that competency.”

 

5. Tap your support system

If you’ve been through the Intensive Family Therapy Program, you know the encouragement it brings to face a loved one’s addiction with the support of therapists and other families who’ve shared your experience. A relapse is a time to reach out to the support system you have in place.

“You don’t want to get isolated,” Raiter said. “In support groups like Al-Anon, every group has someone who has faced a loved one’s relapse and can talk about that experience.

“It’s also important to communicate with someone who has expertise in dealing with addiction, like a therapist you worked with at the treatment center. You’ll benefit from their perspective, and they can help you stay in problem-solving mode.”

 

6. Isolate the addiction

When a loved one is in addiction, it can feel like the entire family is revolving in an orbit around that person.

“The reality is, the family is revolving around a chemical — an inanimate object,” Raiter said. “If we were to put a chair in the middle of the room, and have a family walk around it and bow to it, how would a therapist observe that scene? They’d think everyone was crazy.

“Families do feel crazy when faced with a loved one’s addiction, because everyone’s revolving around an inanimate object. Ultimately, the stance you take during a relapse is not a stance against your loved one. It’s about refusing to bring that inanimate object back into the family.”

 

Read more — About our Intensive Family Therapy Program

5 Ways to Handle the Holidays

holiday-addiction-article

Celebrating the Christmas while addiction is hurting your family

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Aramy Denley, MS, LPC

hen you have a family member in active addiction to drugs or alcohol, the joy of the holidays is often weighted down with fear, shame and disappointment.

How will your loved one behave when the family comes together? Will gatherings be peaceful or positively explosive? Why can’t your family have a normal Christmas like everybody else?

“The most important thing is just to know that not everybody’s having a perfect Christmas,” said Clinical Therapist Aramy Denley, MS, LPC. “You may think they are, but that’s really an illusion.”

Denley and fellow clinical therapists David Carpenter, MS, LPC, NCC, and Kelly Ferguson, LPC, host weekly support groups for family members of those in addiction and recovery at Oxford Treatment Center’s outpatient offices in Olive Branch, Tupelo and Oxford, respectively. Here are their top strategies for getting through the holidays when you have a loved one in addiction.

 

1. Adjust your expectations

David Carpenter, MS, LPC, NCC

David Carpenter, MS, LPC, NCC

The first step to managing addiction in the family during the holidays is simply to let go of any expectation that things should be perfect.

“Most of us have an idealized version of what the holidays are supposed to look like,” Carpenter said. “Huge spreads of food, ballgames, gifts, and all the things we as Americans have adopted into our culture. However, for the family suffering with addiction, the holidays may have ranged from uncomfortable to traumatic.”

Having a loved one in addiction during the holidays can make you feel isolated. Yet the truth is, you’re far from alone: Addiction impacts one in every three households in America. The other ones have their struggles, too.

“Families just want to feel ‘normal,’” Denley said. “Yet every family is dysfunctional at some level. And when you add addiction and mental illness, the holidays can be like a Griswold family Christmas — minus the comedy.”

 

2. Simplify your efforts

If you’ve been struggling with addiction in your family, you are likely entering the holidays drained and disheartened. You can choose not to go all-out in holiday preparations, but instead focus on maintaining the aspects of the holiday that have the most meaning for you.

“That may mean making the homemade rolls but not the dressing, and not getting out all the china,” Denley said. “You don’t have to make a big to-do and cook an expensive meal. Maybe you can just put out your favorite decorations and listen to Christmas music. What parts of the holiday actually mean most to you?”

 

“The paradox is, the better we take care of ourselves,
the better our loved one will get.”

 

3. Take care of yourself

When someone is in active addiction, they become self-centered to a hurtful or even dangerous degree. Meanwhile, family members susceptible to codependency will live their lives in that person’s orbit, becoming hyper-focused on caring for or accommodating them. It’s not a healthy pattern, to say the least.

“The paradox is, the better we take care of ourselves, the better our loved one will get,” Denley said. Think about what would raise your own spirits during the holidays and act on those ideas. Make a point of not isolating yourself, and take advantage of opportunities to be around positive people.

“Go shopping and get something for yourself that would make you happy,” Denley said. “Or give yourself the gift of therapy. Having a therapist who listens to you gives you a chance to let all the bad feelings and experiences out, so you can start letting some good into your life.”

 

4. Set boundaries

Kelly Ferguson, LPC

Kelly Ferguson, LPC

Afraid your loved one will show up to the Christmas celebration drunk or high? Tell them ahead of time they won’t be welcome if they do. “Having an honest and open conversation with the person in addiction about what is and what isn’t acceptable protects the entire family system,” Carpenter said.

Ferguson said setting boundaries and sticking to them is a key way that family members can motivate their loved one to get treatment for addiction.

“I like the notion: ‘We will support your recovery. We will not support your addiction,’” Ferguson said, adding that the holidays is prime time to practice that approach. “Be positively selfish,” he said. “Protect your home from the chaos that comes with addiction, and do what the family needs to do to be healthy.

“Christmas is a special event, so don’t allow anyone the power to wreck that time. Make their presence conditional on their arriving sober before they can come in the house. Call the police if you have to. Just don’t allow their chaos to affect the family any more than it has to.”

 

5. Confront the addiction

Having a loved one in active addiction can make your holiday party feel like a pressure cooker. Sometimes, though, it can be a good opportunity to let out the steam in ways that bring about positive change.

“For people who don’t see their loved one often, having them home for the holidays can open their eyes to how serious the situation is,” Carpenter said. “It can also be a good time to intervene — to sit the person down when you have the collective family together and say, ‘We can tell things are not going well. We love you and you need help.’”

In such cases, Carpenter said, it’s often a good idea to enlist the help of a professional interventionist or at least a therapist to facilitate an intervention. The typical January uptick in admissions for addiction treatment centers suggests people often resolve to get help during or right after the holidays.

“Part of that is, nobody wants to be in rehab at Christmas,” Carpenter said. “But the other part is they do hit bottom during the holiday season, and this is when the family finally confronts them.”


 

How will you handle your loved one’s addiction this holiday season?

Do you need help knowing how to show love without enabling their disease? Join Oxford Center therapists Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. for Family Hope & Healing, a support group offered at our outpatient offices in Oxford, Tupelo and Olive Branch. The meetings are free and open to anyone who has a loved one in addiction or recovery, regardless of whether they receive treatment at Oxford Treatment Center.

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