The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
The term co-occurring disorder replaces the terms dual disorder and dual diagnosis. This refers to an individual who has a co-existing mental illness and a substance-use disorder.Working in the addiction field, we hear the term co-occurring disorder often. We believe that addiction manifests in many ways. We also believe there is one basic body, mind, and spirit holistic solution. Mental illness is broad in scope. It ranges from acute psychosis to multiple personality disorder. Agoraphobia, transient anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD are included. There is no one cure or treatment for all diseases. Similarly, there is no one cure or treatment for all ‘mental disorders’.We have found that most people with alcoholism or addiction, also suffer from some form of co-occuring disorders or mental health issue. Most common are anxiety and/or depression. To a varying degree, they also experience Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) or symptoms consistent with bipolar. Most of these comcomitant problems are manifestations of the underlying major issue, addiction. They also occur in many other non-addicted people. At some point in their lives most people in the Western world experience some of these symptoms at times. It is not necessary, but pretty much inevitable.
The most common ‘co-occurring disorders’ we are asked about is anxiety and depression. Imagine, living in active addiction and not being nervous or depressed! Living in active addiction, or ‘substance misuse disorder’, almost always means a degree of dishonesty and secretiveness. It is impossible to have an intimate real relationship with a person who is actively using. Where there is active addiction, there is a shield of the substance or behavior. Sleep cycles are disrupted, relations are strained, stresses mount. Co-occurring disorders are extensions of, or part and parcel of the disease of addiction.There is a full complement of therapies in play for guests at Serenity Vista. Counseling, music, art, great food, yoga, massage, a great dog, a terrifically beautiful mountain forest setting are just some of them. After the fog begins to clear for guests, then the healing begins. Learning new ways to think and act, and more importantly, unlearning old toxic behaviors and thinking. The person begins to heal in body, mind and spirit from addiction. Inevitabely, it's mental health related symptoms begin to resolve.
A good metaphor is that of a good gym or fitness facility. Many new clients are likely to be overweight. The gym may not promote themselves to be 'weight loss clincs', nor even specifically 'treat' obsesity. But the new client is assessed for level of fitness. They are coached through a tailored rigorous and holistic exercise program. As a consequence, the client will lose weight to a healthier level. Does the gym 'treat' co-occuring obesity? Not really. Not as the primary focus. Does the gym patron who is overweight move towards a healthier weight by following the recommended exercise routines? Absolutely. The same is true of co-occuring mental health issues that are commonly seen in people who attend Serenity Vista. Treatment is focused on the primary issue of addiction. By extension, concommitant mental health issues resolve.
When someone feels anxious or depressed, we talk about it. And not only that, we are able to talk about it in real time. It might be during a ride to the AA meeting or during after dinner dessert. This is another gift of our intimate program. It is full immersion, holistic treatment.We help guests to deconstruct the thinking that fuels their feelings. The AHA moment of amazement happens over and over. It is not unusual to hear great belly laughs from our guests when they can see clearly the folly of their old ideas. “What? I’m not a mind reader? What other people think about me is not my business?”, for example.As the process of recovery continues, anxiety is seen for what it really is. It is usually unfounded fears based on the past or future. Depression lifts as the substance is removed. Especially where chronic alcohol or other central nervous system depressants are eliminated. Thus, people start to feel hope and joy and love. Guests learn life living skills. This includes practicing gratitude and acceptance. They learn to deal with what life presents. And without reacting with self defeating attitudes and belief systems.
Some people come to Serenity Vista on chronic mediation for clinically diagnosed depression. We encourage them to remain on their meds throughout their stay. At the outset, it is 'chicken or egg'. It is unclear whether the depression pre-existed prior to onset of addiction or is a manifestation of developing addiction. Discussion of whether to stay on meds is something that the guest discusses with their own physician. This conversation is best when they return home after their full addiction treatment program. At that point, it becomes clearer as to which came first. Thus, it is easier to determine whether there is a need to continue with antidepressant medication or not.Most ‘anti-anxiety meds’ are a type of benzodiazepines, an addictive family of drugs with their own big problems. Benzos such as diazepam, lorazepam, temazepam, and Ativan etc. are not compatible with treatment. Nor are sedative medications for sleeping. Potential guests fully disclose and discuss all their meds prior to being accepted into the program. There is discussion of co-occurring disorders.
So, the question, “Does Serenity Vista address co-occuring disorders?”, does not have a simple answer. The variety of mental illness is just too great for an emphatic ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Using the fitness facility and obsesity example above, the answer is 'yes'. But not as a primary focus, but rather as an extension of an excellent, holistic program. A program that treats the whole person and all manifestations of the primary disorder, that being addiction. Therefore, common co-occuring disorders such as generalized anxiety or depression, which go hand in hand with addiction, are, for the most part, managed beautifully by recovery at Serenity Vista.
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