How to Avoid Relapse Around Addicted Family Members

When you leave the lifestyle of active addiction, one of the biggest challenges is reconnecting with people from your old life. Many of them knew you when you were using, and some of them might still be using, too. However, what can you do when the person in your life who’s still using is a family member?

Dealing with drug use in your family is always a challenge. Knowing the difference between helping and enabling can be difficult at times. And watching someone go through something as terrible and life-altering as active addiction can cause heartache. However, when you have your own recovery and sobriety to consider, the challenge increases dramatically.

Maintaining your sobriety is one of the most important ongoing parts of your recovery, and it requires continual commitment. If a loved one is using around you, it poses a significant threat to your drug abstinence. Learn more about how you can deal with an addicted family member without relapsing.  

Don’t Accept Drug Use

As part of your relapse prevention plan, you might have set rules and boundaries for yourself. You might have resolved to avoid parties where you know there will be drug use. You may even avoid certain routes that go past some of your old favorite bars.

When you encounter friends and family members who are still in the throes of active addiction, it’s important to have boundaries for them, too. If you live with or spend a lot of time with someone who uses, you should let them know that you won’t tolerate drug use in your presence. If someone uses legal recreational substances like alcohol, you can still tell them that it makes you uncomfortable to be around it.

Setting clear boundaries for yourself removes some of the uncertainty when it comes to certain high-risk situations. It’s easier not to cross the line when the line is clearly drawn. Setting boundaries with someone who is addicted can also show them your commitment to sobriety. In some cases, you may have to cut ties with them until they seek recovery.

Avoid Constant Triggers

Triggers are a fact of life for people who are living in recovery from addiction or other mental health issues for that matter. Some triggers come from inside your own mind and can be difficult to avoid completely. Others can come on suddenly, like when a billboard ad for some ice-cold beer triggers alcohol cravings. While it’s important to learn to cope positively with cravings and triggers, you should also avoid regular sources of triggers when you can. A friend or family member who continues to use around you can cause you to continually cause you to have thoughts and triggers toward relapse, testing the limits of your coping mechanisms.

If you have gone through addiction treatment, you may have experienced elements ofcognitive behavioral therapy at some point in your treatment process. In the cognitive-behavioral model, high-risk scenarios are the first catalyst for a relapse. A relapse doesn’t start with the first time you use again; it starts with the way that you cope with a high-risk situation. If you live with, or if you are always around someone who uses, you are constantly in a high-risk scenario. Relapse is a very real threat to recovery. Like other chronic diseases, addiction relapse occurs in more than50 percent of people in recovery.  

Avoiding triggers might mean distancing yourself from people who are still using. While this may sound harsh, it might be as beneficial to your addicted family member as much as it is for you.

Don’t Be an Enabler

While you were going through active addiction and treatment, your family may have had to learn how to avoidenabling behaviors. Now that you’ve completed treatment, and you’re encountering other people in your life in active addiction, it’s important to learn to avoid enabling as well. If a family member is struggling with active addiction, you, more than anyone, understand what they are going through. You might want to help them, ease their pain, or cover for them.

However, enabling is often defined as shielding an addicted person from a consequence of their addiction. Softening the blows that are coming as a result of their actions and behaviors can prolong the time they spend in active addiction before seeking help. If you’ve set clear rules about being around drug and alcohol use and abuse and a family member continues to break them, one of the consequences of their addiction might be that they see you less often.

It may seem like a drastic move, but if a family member is putting your sobriety at risk, it might be best to remove yourself from those high-risk situations. You can let the addicted person in your life know that you will be there to help them find addiction treatment as soon as they agree to seek the help they need. However, risking your own sobriety to be around someone who is using, may only serve to enable them and risk your recovery.

Continue Your Recovery

Addiction treatment is important in achieving and learning how to maintain sobriety. However, after you complete your addiction treatment, it’s important to continue your pursuit of recovery. People often relapse when they become complacent in their recovery process, and when you encounter high-risk situations like a using family member, it puts a strain on your resolve. However, going to 12 step meetings, connecting with your support group, and connecting with your alumni coordinators, can help heal you on the road to recovery, even as new challenges pop up.

Seeking Addiction Help

If a loved one or family member is ready to address their substance use disorder, you might be able to help them find the right addiction treatment services for their needs. Call the addiction treatment specialists at The Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 or contact us online to learn more about the available therapy options and how you can help your loved one get the care they need. If you are worried that you might need help preventing your own relapse, or if you’ve started to use again, we might be able to help you find additional treatment or aftercare services as well. Call anytime.

 

Positive Thinking: Does It Help Fight Drug Addiction?

Positive thinking is in vogue. With self-help books, motivational speakers, and meditation apps touting the power of positive thinking, you may wonder if there’s something to the “can do” attitude. Does positive thinking really help you when it counts? Learning to think positively may be more important than you might think, especially when you are working toward lofty goals and changes for someone who is in treatment for substance addiction. Some people get their positive mindsets from things like inspirational quotes, empowering music, or even from speeches from videos featured on YouTube.

However, the problem with inspiration is that it’s fleeting. After seeing an inspiring photo on Instagram, the fuzzy feelings will begin to wear off after 10 minutes, and it won’t mean much when you are in the trenches of resisting relapse. Instead, learning how to think positively can arm you to overcome thoughts that may otherwise encourage you to give up or give in.

What Is Positive Thinking Exactly?

Before you consider the benefits of positive thinking in addiction treatment, it’s first important to look at what the term positive thinking actually means in psychology. Psychology professors Michael Scheier and Charles Carver extensively studied the power of positive thinking and wrote a paper in 1993 that described how positive thinking is characterized in psychology.

They said, “…positive thinking in some way involves holding positive expectancies for one’s future.” They go on to point out that expectancies affect behavior, and that your expectations greatly influence your behavior. People tend not to do things when they truly believe they will have a bad outcome.

Expecting positive things will come from your actions won’t necessarily help you achieve success the first time. However, it can help you persist when things don’t go your way. When treatment is harder than expected, when cravings linger after treatment, and if you have to dust yourself off and try again after a relapse, thinking positively that you can achieve lasting recovery can help you keep moving toward your goal.

Marlatt’s Model

In a way, thinking positively is a big part of the cognitive-behavioral model that’s one of the most common types of treatment used in addiction rehab facilities all over the world. Psychology professor Alan Marlatt developed a relapse prevention model that shows the different paths you can take when presented with what he called a “high-risk situation,” or a situation that challenges a person’s commitment to a behavioral change.

In recovery, a high-risk situation could be someone offering you a drink or having a craving after a stressful day at work. A relapse doesn’t start the moment you decide to take a drink or drug; instead, it starts with your response to a high-risk situation. Depending on the situation you’re in, positivity can go a long way in helping you respond in a way that prevents relapse.

In fact, negative emotional states represent the highest rate of relapse, according to Marlatt. Anger, depression, anxiety, frustration, and boredom can often be triggered by negative thinking or a negative response to a challenge in your life.

Effective Coping Skills

Coping is your response to a high-risk situation, whether good or bad. According to Marlatt, your coping response to a high-risk situation is a critical factor in determining the outcome. For instance, if you come home after a long day at work and feel the urge to drink to relieve stress, an ineffective coping response might be to tell yourself that you are too stressed out to resist the urge. Negative thinking leads to poor coping skills and a decrease in self-efficacy, or your level of self-control in high-risk situations.

Positive thinking may facilitate more effective coping skills and lead to a better outcome. As an example, imagine you are at a party, and someone offers you a drink. That would be considered a very high-risk situation. Processing the situation by thinking, “I don’t need or want a drink. I’ve resisted before and I can resist again,” may be a more positive coping strategy. Your resolve is strengthened by a rise in self-efficacy.

Not Giving In to “Stinkin’ Thinkin'”

Stinkin’ thinkin’ is a colloquial psychological term used to describe thoughts that lead you to believe something bad will happen, you will fail, or that you are generally a bad person. In other words, it’s a specific kind of negative thinking that causes stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. One example of stinkin’ thinkin’ is something called catastrophizing, and it also happens to be a clear example of negative thinking. Catastrophizing is assuming disastrous consequences will come out of one, relatively small bad experience.

For instance, if you are late to work, catastrophizing would be to assume your boss will fire you, you’ll fail to make rent payments, and then you’ll be homeless. In your mind, one moment you’re five minutes late and the next, you’re living on the streets. Stinkin’ thinkin’ increases stress, anxiety, and depression, and lowers your self-efficacy.

Positive thinking can help you avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ when a situation triggers negative thoughts. If you employ positive thinking when you are late to work, five minutes late may be just that. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be fired and there is nothing to suggest that it means you will be homeless.

Can Positive Thinking Ever Be Bad?

If positive thinking influences relapse prevention in such an advantageous way, is there any drawback to this kind of optimism? Well, it’s important to note that positive thinking alone may not always lead to positive results in recovery.

In fact, if positive thinking means thinking that your actions will have positive outcomes, there is at least one clear example of an adverse effect of positive thinking. Positive outcome expectancies of negative behavior can actually lead to relapse in some cases. Marlatt notes that some drinkers have positive outcome expectancies for their drinking, failing to see the potential negative consequences.

In the party scenario, when someone offers you a drink, negative positivity (if you’ll excuse the oxymoron) would be thinking, “I can have one drink, and everything will be fine. I won’t go into full relapse.” Some people in recovery report having positive outcome expectancies about trying a different drug, because it wasn’t their drug of choice when they became addicted. It’s important to have realistic expectations and a positive outlook.

Positive thinking can be a vital tool for addiction treatment and recovery, but it’s not a replacement for treatment. If it’s not used wisely, it can even contribute to relapse. The world isn’t sunshine and rainbows. You’ll have to live life on life’s terms, and that may mean you’ll experience stress and disappointments. But positivity means realizing that you are capable of overcoming challenges, not living as if there will never be challenges.

Do You Need Help?

Maintaining a positive outlook is no easy task, especially when battling an addiction. But that’s where The Palm Beach Institute comes into play. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or dependence, call us at The Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 to learn more about your addiction treatment options. You also can contact us online to speak with a call representative to learn what treatment methods work best for you.

13 Signs You’re Suffering from PAWS

The first step in any effective addiction treatment plan is medical detoxification, in which someone is closely monitored by medical professionals as they purge their body of the substances they have become dependent on.

This process involves both physical and mental withdrawal symptoms, which are typically very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Though the length and intensity of these symptoms will vary depending on factors such as the substance they were abusing and the severity of the dependency, the symptoms will lessen and eventually end in the span of roughly two to three weeks.

However, this is not always the case. After someone has undergone detox and the acute withdrawal phase has ended, they may enter a second phase that can last for months or even years known as Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS serves as an umbrella-term for a range of long-term withdrawal symptoms, mainly psychological or mood-related, that persist long after someone has stopped using drugs or alcohol.

Because the mostly mental symptoms of PAWS are harder to measure than physical ones and are largely based on self-reporting by those experiencing them, there is some controversy as to the validity of the disorder. While there has been documented research on persistent and protracted withdrawal in substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, PAWS is not currently recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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What are the Signs of Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome?

So how can you know if you are experiencing Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome? While each experience will vary, which is part of what makes PAWS so difficult to pin down and validate, there is a list of symptoms that are most commonly reported across the spectrum of protracted substance withdrawal. If you have stopped using drugs or alcohol for more than several weeks and are experiencing some of these symptoms, you may be suffering from PAWS.

#1 – Unstable and Unpredictable Moods

One of the most frequently noted symptoms of PAWS, and part of why this syndrome is often mistaken for depression, are major and uncontrollable swings in mood. This can happen intermittently in episodes that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before disappearing again. Sometimes, those suffering from PAWS who are experiencing these mood swings can appear to be exhibiting an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

#2 – Symptoms of Depression

The most affecting of these changes in mood are depressive symptoms, in which individuals experience an extreme and overt melancholy that can feel like an anchor tied around their necks. These symptoms can last only minutes or linger for days, with no apparent trigger behind them. This can be an understandable source of frustration, and even cause a relapse.

#3 – Experiencing Anxiety or Panic Attacks

While depression is at one end of the mood-swing scale, anxiety and panic attacks are at the other. While these anxious feelings can be triggered by cravings and a reduced ability to handle stressors, similar to the depressive symptoms, there is no outside motivator required to cause anxiety or even something as severe as a panic attack.

#4 – Anhedonia

Anhedonia is a term used to describe a condition in which someone has lost, either partially or entirely, the ability to experience pleasure. Anhedonia goes much further than just a loss of interest in activities and pursuits someone previously enjoyed and is often described by those experiencing it as the feeling that their ability to enjoy almost anything has been switched off. A typical symptom of withdrawal, those with PAWS are likely to suffer longer and more extreme bouts of Anhedonia, losing interest in not only hobbies or socializing, but also in relationships, sexual activity, and even basic desires like eating.

#5 – Strong Drug Cravings

Even if it is not the most common, perhaps the most expected symptom of PAWS are cravings for the substance that the individual was previously dependent on. While these cravings will eventually fade in strength, they can still sometimes persist for long periods of time after someone has achieved sobriety. Cravings can be extremely problematic, either serving as a trigger for other symptoms of Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome or putting an individual at risk of a relapse.

#6 – Poor Coordination and Clumsiness

Individuals experiencing Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome will often exhibit a general loss of physical coordination, including dizziness, slowed reflexes, poor balance, and issues with hand-eye coordination. Because of this, they will often be seen tripping or bumping into things, dropping things, or spilling food or drinks. Apart from simply being the manifestation of another PAWS symptom, a secondary reason behind this lack of coordination is distraction caused by comorbid feelings of depression and disinterest.

#7 – Difficulty Falling Asleep

Similar to becoming clumsier due to being distracted by feelings of depression, those suffering from PAWS will also usually have a great deal of difficulty getting to sleep at night. This can be due to feelings of anxiety and restlessness, as well as a lack of stimuli to keep them from focusing on the negative psychological symptoms that are characteristic of Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome.

#8 – Sleep Disturbances

Unfortunately, even once someone experiencing PAWS manages to fall asleep, they’re unlikely to stay that way. Individuals will often have their sleep interrupted, either from withdrawal cravings, unusually vivid and unpleasant dreams, or altered sleeping patterns causing them to wake up for no particular reason. Because of these disturbances, people with PAWS will often oscillate between going as long as several days without sleeping to sleeping for days at a time once their exhaustion has caught up with them.

#9 – Inability to Concentrate or Think Clearly

Similar to the loss of coordination, those with PAWS can have difficulty focusing or thinking clearly due to the distraction from cravings or feelings of intense depression. The lack of sleep can also cause them to struggle with concentration, creating a vicious cycle, as their minds’ inability to focus on something other than the negative feelings manifested by PAWS is part of what makes sleep seem so impossible. It becomes quite difficult to concentrate for anyone experiencing Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome.

#10 – Thoughts of Suicide or Suicide Attempts

If the depressive symptoms of post-acute-withdrawal syndrome have become frequent and severe enough, they can progress to a stage where the individual can begin to have suicidal thoughts or ideations, and may even make an attempt to commit suicide. If this is the case, professional help should be immediately sought to ensure the individual’s safety and help to treat them. Thoughts of or attempts at suicide should always be taken seriously.

#11 – Increased Sensitivity to Stress

As part of post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, individuals often become extremely vulnerable to stress and situations that might provoke feelings of stress. Like a raw nerve or an exposed wound, even the smallest contact with a stressful situation can be enough to overwhelm them and cause an outburst. These symptoms are only magnified by the presence of mood swings and an increased vulnerability to panic attacks.

#12 – Increased Sensitivity to Pain

In addition to becoming more sensitive to stress and anxiety, individuals experiencing post-acute-withdrawal syndrome will also frequently exhibit increased sensitivity to physical pain. While it decreases a person’s capacity to feel joy, PAWS can conversely heighten their capacity for pain, making even the most negligible injuries feel excruciatingly painful.

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#13 – Intensified Emotions

While the symptoms of depression and Anhedonia can make those suffering from PAWS feel numb or empty inside, the other extreme is also possible: namely, an intense overflow of emotional feelings. Individuals with Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome will often exhibit the most extreme level of any given emotion. This can mean becoming overly excitable when happy or excessively confrontational when angry, which can occur in very close proximity to each other if the individual is also experiencing sudden shifts in mood.

Palm Beach Institute Makes Sobriety Accessible and Attainable

When presented with such a formidable list of symptoms, it’s no wonder that the most common question about Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome is how long it will last. While, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer, for most people, Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome will last somewhere between six months and four years.

However, it’s important to know that if you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of PAWS, there is hope. At the Palm Beach Institute, we have many resources available to help individuals struggling with PAWS. If you or someone you love would like a free consultation, call the PBI today at 855-534-3574. Our specialists can help anyone in need find the treatments and programs they need to beat a deadly substance abuse problem. Call PBI to begin the journey to sobriety as soon as possible.

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10 Awesome Sober Summertime Activities

They say that idle hands are the devil’s playground. While that may or may not be true, individuals in recovery are often told to keep themselves busy, especially when experiencing cravings, so that the mind doesn’t become preoccupied with substance abuse. In that way, boredom could even be considered dangerous to those who are still new to recovery and still adjusting to their hard-won sobriety. Although being productive offers feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment, and pride, even individuals in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction need to have a little fun every now and then.

The summer season is ripe with an air of possibility. This probably comes from the experience of summertime during adolescence when a few months of freedom between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next are cherished and exciting in a way that few other things ever could be. It’s the season of leisure, the time to be carefree. The summer is the part of the year where having fun is less an abstract wish and almost an expectation.

Those who have experienced chemical dependency have become accustomed to a very particular and harmful brand of summertime excitement, which is why it’s important for individuals in recovery to plan plenty of summertime activities that don’t require intoxication to be enjoyed. To honor this season of sunshine and adventure, consider these seven ways to enjoy the summer season and make memories that you’ll want to remember.

#1 – Take a Summer Vacation

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For many of us, the summer season is often associated with fond memories of family vacations taken over the course of our youths. The beach is a popular destination for families looking to soak up the summer sun, but it’s not uncommon for some families to take summertime sightseeing trips around the country or even abroad. In the United States alone, there are thousands of miles of beaches on either coast as well as plenty of sights to see like the Grand Canyon, Disney World, the massive redwoods of Washington State, Mount Rushmore, the Florida Everglades, and so on.

If you’re more of a world traveler, historic ruins in Greece and Italy, Big Ben in London, the Eiffel Tower, and the pyramids of Egypt might be more appealing. No matter what location represents the ideal destination, summertime vacations are one of the best seasonal activities; you’ll see so many beautiful places and have so much fun that alcohol and drugs will be the last things on your mind.

#2 – Learn Something New

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Taking the opposite approach as the previous entry on the list, summertime is an ideal season for learning something new. Since many of us will have extra leisure time, taking advantage of the longer days by learning something new is not only a productive investment of time, but it can be a lot of fun too. Consider taking this time to learn a new skill or trade such as sewing or carpentry, or you could learn a language like you’ve always wanted to do, or take a business class so you can learn how to turn your brilliant idea into a thriving start-up, or learn to play the piano or guitar so you can start a band. The sky’s the limit.

#3 – Start or Join a Book Club

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With the advent of social media and things like Netflix and Roku, reading has fallen further and further by the wayside for many people. However, one needs only to step into a bookstore and look around at the millions of books there are at our disposal to see that reading is far from a lost art. In fact, nowadays a number of the Hollywood movies we come to love are based on books, which means that there are a number of books out there that could be your next favorite movie.

Why not just skip the middleman and start reading some books? Studies on the effects of reading have found that there are a lot of benefits to reading books, which includes mental stimulation, stress reduction, expanding and improving grammar and vocabulary, increasing knowledge, improving concentration and focus, and a number of other benefits as well. You can even make reading more of a social experience by joining or starting a book club, meeting with groups of other readers to discuss and share your favorite summertime reads.

#4 – Find Opportunities to Volunteer or Help Others

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Giving selflessly of oneself in order to help others is one of the most rewarding feelings there is. It feels better than any drug, lasts much longer, and doesn’t involve the risk of financial ruin. Many towns have a Salvation Army where altruistic individuals can donate their time and energy to help those in need; it’s also helpful to volunteer for things like soup kitchens or clothing and book drives. For those who don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands, donating unneeded, unused, or unwanted clothes and furniture to places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army can be just as rewarding. There are even a number of websites—such as VolunteerMatch.org—that allow individuals to find opportunities to volunteer right in their own towns.

#5 – Go Solo

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Some of the most satisfying summer activities don’t involve being in a group. One example of an enjoyable solo summer activity is going to the park and enjoying a great book. You can also people watch from a local coffee shop or eatery that has an outdoor patio. Additionally, you can attend free community events, church festivals, or other gatherings solo. Doing so may be a great way to meet new people and make friends.

#6 – Exercise

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Exercise not only provides a flood of dopamine and other natural “feel good” chemicals to the brain and body, it can also be a great way to meet new people that have healthy lifestyles and mindsets. Many communities may have informal running or biking clubs that you can join. If your fitness levels increase, you could sign up for a half-marathon, zombie run, or enter in Tough Mudders. Additionally, you can take advantage of the local scenery by hiking, rock climbing, or even taking your dog for a stroll.

#7 – Get Crafty or Creative

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One of the most time-tested and effective ways to keep busy while having fun is by doing some arts and crafts. Scrapbooking became popular several years back, which is a great activity for those who take or have a lot of pictures and need something other than a shoebox to keep them in. However, individuals who don’t find scrapbooking to be that appealing can choose from a wealth of other options for expressing or exploring one’s creativity, whether it’s in painting, sketching with charcoal, sculpting with modeling clay, sewing quilts or clothes, making collages, refinishing and repurposing old furniture, and so on.

#8  – Check Out Local Concerts and Festivals

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Outdoor concerts and festivals can be dangerous for those in recovery because of the number of people and casual drug use. However, these events can be safe and enjoyable when you attend with others who may be sober or with trusted friends.  Many of the major festivals may have online message boards and, as an option, you may want to organize a group of sober festival goers.

#9 – Make Extra Spending Money with a Part-Time Job

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Maybe working isn’t the most fun or appealing activity in the world, but who doesn’t love extra spending money? Those who find themselves with a surplus of downtime during the summer might consider finding themselves a part-time job, whether it’s their only job or a second job with just a couple shifts each week. Having the extra income means more money for things like going to dinner or the movies with one’s significant other or with friends, being able to splurge on a day at the spa or that tablet computer that’s just gone on sale, or even just saving it for an emergency or a rainy day.

#10 – Join and Engage with Local Recovery Groups

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Recovering from addiction can be a little lonely, especially in the beginning after having to abandon old friends who still recreationally abuse alcohol and drugs and, consequently, would jeopardize one’s recovery. However, since many people have extra leisure time during the summer season, this is a great time to explore local recovery groups in the community and begin making new friends.

This might mean joining a new Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous group nearby, or maybe there’s some other locally-run recovery support group that welcomes new members. Making new friends who are supportive to one’s recovery means having a number of peers with whom recovering addicts can enjoy leisurely summertime activities without worrying about compromising sobriety and recovery.

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs, the Palm Beach Institute can help. We have a team of knowledgeable addiction and recovery specialists who have helped countless individuals recover from chemical dependency, becoming healthier and more productive individuals who can enjoy life while being free from addiction. Call us today at 855-534-3574 or contact us online so we can help you regain your independence.