How to navigate holiday stress when there are addiction issues. Holidays can be harder. They can be harder when you have an addiction and EVEN harder during a pandemic. Laila gives strategies on how to cope with Holiday stress.
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How you know if you might have an addiction. What are the things to look out for? What is a co-occurring disorder? What are some ideas if you aren’t ready to seek treatment?
Laurie: My name is Laurie Groh. I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies, and I have with me, Laila Wickman. And today, we're going to be talking about Co-occurring disorders. So if it's OK if you could tell us, Laila, if you could tell the audience a little bit about yourself, and then I want to hear, you know, we have some questions for you today and then I want to go into that. So maybe a sentence or two about you or what you've done in the past as far as work experience. And we'll go from there.
Laila: Sure. So I started with Shoreside Therapies a few months ago, and my background includes I received my masters from Hazelton's Betty Ford Foundation, and I worked there for about five years, primarily in the addiction field.
Laila: And during that time, I realized that I needed to get my therapy license because of the reason what we're talking about today, co-occurrence disorders. So it kind of plays into this.
Laurie: So, yeah. So I think a lot of people probably don't know what Co-occurring disorders even means. So would you mind sharing a little bit about what that means?
Laurie: So co-occurring disorders, it's also called dual diagnosis or comorbidity. I have a hard time saying that it's a funny thing. They're all pretty the same thing. They are the same meanings. And it's basically when a person has more than one medical issue going on simultaneously. So in this arena that we're talking about today, if you're having a substance use disorder with drugs or alcohol and also a mental health disorder together, and it's difficult enough when you have one and then you layer on top of that another disorder, it really can be challenging for that individual to live their life. And so that's that's the two of them together. It's just very difficult. And the other thing is, a lot of the time when your mental health disorder symptoms start popping up, your substance use definitely will also increase and vice versa. So it's challenging. It's very challenging.
Laurie: And I would imagine that a lot of times when an individual is starting to feel some symptoms of a mental health disorder that they might cope with using a substance and that might.
Laurie: Right. That might work for a little bit and then stops working.
Laila: Yeah, it is exactly. I mean, it's kind of like you have to have all the anxiety. A lot of people think, well, just have a drink and calm down and that's fine if you're a normal drinker. But if you aren't, that can become a habit and then a problem.
Laurie: Yeah, and I think right now, too, I'm sure you've you've seen all the statistics right now with the pandemic and there's an increase of I think, is it 30 percent like there's this huge increase right now and what even maybe was normal at one point, normal drinking behavior escalates during a crisis that we've never experienced before.
Laurie: And then the isolation adds to it, I'm sure, right?
Laila: Absolutely. I have a friend of mine was telling me about a family member who never drank. And because of that isolation, they started doing happy hours and trying to kill the time.
Laila: And it can be problematic. It can be a problem. Lots of different factors, but yeah. Yeah, it definitely has increased.
Laurie: And so how many people would you say tend to have that occurring disorders or other substance abuse and a mental health issue?
Laila: I would say roughly about 50 percent of people who have a severe mental health disorder are affected by substance use. And it's a lot. And then I think it's like 40 percent of people that drink alcohol and fifty-five percent of people that abuse drugs have one or two mental health disorders going on at the same time. So it's really prevalent. I think that's underreported, too.
Laurie: I am sure that it is right. I mean, I think it's hard to know sometimes what's all happening. Sometimes people just aren't feeling comfortable sharing that there's more going on. Yeah, yeah. So obviously we talked a little bit about substance use disorder, but do you want to give everybody a definition for that as well? Because I think sometimes that can be tricky. We talked about what looks like a normal type of drinking versus when it becomes problematic.
Laurie: Right. So substance use disorders, if it's diagnosed by criteria, basically, and if you have like two or three, you end up having like a mild, mild disorder. And if you have six or more, then it's severe. So some of those criteria include having difficulty with your school or work, having some difficulty. They're having difficulty with the relationships, something with your family, your spouse, your kids. It's just things aren't gelling anymore, you know? And having problems with just daily functioning. Some people have difficulty getting out of bed or taking a shower or feeding themselves. You stop basically taking care of yourself like you normally would. And I think that there's also some physical issues criteria that we look at and number one might be withdrawal. You know, it's different when a normal person goes to a wedding and has a little too much champagne and they feel fuzzy the next day. That's one thing. But when you start having physical problems, which include hand tremors, being nauseous or sick, they're problematic. And that's something that people really need to be aware of. And, yeah, another criteria of tolerance, you know, does it take more for you to reach that level that you're looking for then than you used to before? So you're drinking a lot more. And as the disease progresses, there's actually a thing called reverse tolerance where your body needs less of that substance in order to reach that level because your body's just not working the same way. It's not metabolized that chemical like it used to. So in another way, I think one more criteria, which I think is important, is that people play games so like, well, I'll only drink on Friday and Saturday. I won't work on Sunday, only beer instead of vodka or I'm only going to smoke pot and I won't do Coke. Negotiating and trying to cut back. And that's the big red flag right there to the fact that we look for.
Laurie: I like that you added the last one because I think when I'm working with clients, that's one that comes up quite a bit. And even the question is, do I have a problem or not? And kind of getting in a cycle of that back and forth and our minds are wonderful things, but they give they can play tricks on us, right?
Laila: Absolutely, yes. Yeah. So that denial is a great thing. Yes. It can get us through some things.
Laurie: But when it starts to affect us in the negative way or impacts our life. Right, that's right. The denial doesn't work very well. Right. Something I too I'll tell my clients is it doesn't need to be a problem for you to want to stop, you know, and I'm sure that that's another thing, too, is, is that if you're concerned about it and you're seeing some negative effects, you don't necessarily have to have an addiction diagnosis or you could be on the mild end of the spectrum, like you said, maybe not meeting all the criteria. But if it's affecting your family life, for instance, that's one that comes up a lot, a lot for me in my sessions as other people maybe are affected by it.
Laurie: They might be going to work on time, but not necessarily connecting with the family members, right?
Laila: Yeah. Right now, people say, well, he's a functioning alcoholic. Right. Well. But what does functioning mean? It means that you're able to do the things that you're supposed to do. However, Number one, you're not engaging with your family and friends. You're not engaging with yourself. You're not growing as a person. So there's so many little by little things that we need to be aware of. If we could all catch up before it gets to that point. That would be wonderful. And like I said, denial plays a big part in that because substances are very, very, you know, alluring.
Laurie: Yes. And tricky and tricky and plays tricks on us, that's for sure. So I want to ask another question I think would be helpful for our viewers. And that's besides coming to seek your assistance, what are some other things somebody could do if they're suspecting that they have a substance use disorder?
Laurie: Well, some things that they can do. Number one is to be aware, to get sober. I mean, that's very simple. But if you're working with professionals somewhere along the road, you can get sober without other professionals by doing groups. There are so many groups out there and their mental health groups, depression, anxiety, bipolar groups. There are AA groups and NA groups. For people who don't like that, they could go to a SMART recovery. So there are a lot there's a lot of help out there. Number two is to educate yourself. Education to me is power. The more you know, the better you can help yourself. I mean, if you had a diagnosis of diabetes, you would want to know what do I need to do to better myself? And so education is key. I'm a true believer in education. Learn ways to manage your stress instead of always turning to that to the pill or that bottle. What can I do otherwise? You go for a walk, talk to somebody, do something else, learn how to manage, meditate. There are a lot of resources out there nowadays with the computer. You can do anything. Another really, really important thing, which I'm a true believer of connecting with other people. I think there is a huge, unfortunate stigma related to mental health and with substance abuse, we think that we're the only people out there and we're not. So many people are affected by this. And to be able to share your fears, your stories of the kind of lifts that out of you and you're not alone. Both mental health disorders and substance abuse are very isolating and people tend to be ashamed and have guilt and all that. And they're just sit at home. It gets worse. Finding new meaning in your life. What am I going to do with my time? Because usually you spend a lot of time with mental health disorders, ruminating and just ruminating and playing over things and with substances you end up using, getting your substance, using it and getting over it. What do I do with my free time? How do I structure it? Reaching out to other people is big then.
Laurie: Yeah. Well thank you for that because I think those are all really great ideas and what somebody can do. And there's that idea of the connection I think with the clients I work with.
Laurie: That tends to be one of the reasons for the substance abuse in the first place or substance disorder. And it kind of is the circle of using and then feeling disconnected, feeling ashamed of what happened, and then feeling very alone afterwards, maybe avoiding people and that there's this big circle with it.
Laurie: And when you're feeling more connected, then you're not necessarily feeling the desire to use as much as well. So I agree with that for sure. I think that's really helpful.
Laurie: And so I, I want to talk with you again. I think this is really nice. And I'm hoping that for the next few weeks we can do these Mondays at 11 o'clock and talk about different topics related to substance abuse, substance use, substance disorders, and we'll see you next week. Does that sound OK?
Laila: Sounds great. Thanks, Laurie.
Laila: Thanks, Laila bye.