Four Steps to Support Loved Ones in Recovery on St. Patrick’s Day

 

“Any holiday is just another reason to use.”

 

That’s how many individuals struggling with substance abuse feel—especially with a celebratory holiday like St. Patrick’s Day this week. A large aspect of addiction is the denial that there is any sort of problem, and justification for using can go hand in hand with denial. Just like how someone may go to extreme lengths to obtain their drug of choice, they may also search high and low for any reason that doesn’t just explain their substance use but seemingly legitimizes it. Holidays like St. Patrick’s Day provide a great justification for those looking for a reason to use. When you feel like your substance use is perfectly justified, it gives you a false defense against well-meaning supporters who may question your use. Trust me, I would know.

 

My own justifications for using ranged from dramatic teenage heartbreak to my very serious undiagnosed PTSD from sexual assault. I also confidently felt that, as a 20-year-old, it was a very normal part of the college experience to occasionally miss class because you partied too hard the night before. If everyone else around me was high all the time, then it must be normal…right?

 

When I was studying at Vanderbilt University for undergrad, I knew plenty of individuals who got high to cope with the stress or quickly downed 2-5 drinks for a “pre-game” before heading out to the “real” party on a Saturday night. The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as consuming 5 or more drinks (for people assigned male at birth) or 4 or more drinks (for people assigned female at birth) in 2 hours or less. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) uses a similar definition but extends the time length to be “on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours).”

 

It’s safe to say that I was surrounded by binge drinking and regular drug users while living on campus. Our justification was the flawed philosophy of “study hard, party harder.” American Addiction Centers names binge drinking as a serious public health concern for college students in the United States and states that roughly 40% of college students report binge drinking. Not only did this lifestyle feel normal to me, but the collegiate environment almost encouraged it.

 

Herein lies the danger of engaging with environments that promote substance use, like college parties or holidays. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in those places has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and drugs, but if you are already prone to addiction or actively struggling with your substance use, participating in that type of environment can contribute to your self-justification and continued use. It doesn’t matter if your drug of choice isn’t alcohol and it’s a holiday that promotes excessive alcohol intake—if everyone around you is intoxicated, they typically won’t care or notice what substance has you under the influence.

 

St. Patrick’s Day easily can become an open invitation for addiction to come out in the open, flaunt itself in flashy green garb, and be treated just the same as anyone else at the party. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone binge drinking on March 17th is engaging in their own addictions. Because BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is influenced by multiple factors and not just the number of drinks someone has, someone could technically be binge drinking but not be extremely intoxicated. Some individuals are also capable of binge drinking for a celebratory occasion and then resuming normal life the next day.

 

Binge drinking is definitely a risk factor for developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), but AUD is based on someone’s drinking habits over a certain period of time, not just one holiday. AUD symptoms can include having strong cravings for alcohol, a struggle to cut down on alcohol use, interference with different areas of your life, and using alcohol despite any issues it may be causing with work, school, and/or personal relationships (NIAAA).

 

However, for someone who is in recovery from substance abuse, being surrounded by binge drinking certainly can feel like the old days of hanging out with fellow alcoholics or heavy drug users. The behavior feels eerily similar on days like St. Patricks’ Day, so don’t be surprised if your friends or family who struggle with substance use—regardless of how long they’ve been in recovery—don’t come around for the Irish-themed festivities. Not only do we need more sober community events, but we also need our allies to step up and do more to welcome their friends in recovery to special events and holiday celebrations. Our culture is not friendly or accommodating to those who do not drink in general, but it is particularly challenging for those in early recovery.

 

Here are four steps that allies can take to support their friends and family who do not drink and/or are in recovery on St. Patrick’s Day:

 

  1. Ensure that you have a variety of non-alcoholic drinks at your event. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your loved one what they would prefer to drink and have their special drink on hand.
  2. Consider making your event alcohol and/or drug free.
  3. Be intentional about where you are inviting your loved one to spend time with you. Search for parties and events that aren’t happening at bars. Maybe a band is performing that night or the Zoo is doing a themed event. A collegiate recovery group (like Vanderbilt Recovery Support at Vanderbilt University or Bisons in Recovery at Lipscomb University) may be hosting an event. A coffee shop may be offering a themed St. Patrick’s Day drink that you could both try.
  4. If you are going to an event with them where they may be alcohol or drugs, offer to be a sober companion. When you’re not the only sober person in the room, you feel a lot less alone.

 

In whatever way that you will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today or over the weekend, I encourage you to consider your friends in recovery. They may struggle with holidays like this that center around drinking and feel more pressure than is healthy for their recovery journey. Be there for them.

 

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day TND Style

As we are preparing for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, they can often center around parties, alcohol consumption, and nights out with your friends. Between 2009-2013, we lost 276 lives to drunk driving accidents and that number has only increased over the years. Let’s do what it takes to make sure we don’t lose lives this year because of drinking on this holiday.  Want some ideas of what to do on St. Patrick’s Day that don’t involve drinking? We’ve got you covered!

  • Watch movies involving the Irish: PS, I Love You, Leap Year and Luck of the Irish are some of my favorites! 
  • Get a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. 
  • Learn how to Irish Step Dance.
  • Make a Fun Mocktail

If you are looking for a mocktail recipe, here’s two of my favorites!

Pear & Thyme Spritzer 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp pear puree
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp orange dry
1 tsp thyme simple syrup (see instructions below)
Crushed ice
Sparkling mineral water 

To make the thyme syrup, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 6 sprigs of thyme in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, or until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out thyme and transfer liquid into a jar and let it cool completely. 

Combine pear puree, lemon juice, orange dry, and thyme syrup in glass and stir them together. Fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice and top off with sparkling mineral water. Garnish with thyme sprig and pear wedge. 

*You can get a greener drink based on the color of the skin on the pear. 

Mint Juleps (Nonalcoholic)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp mint simple syrup (see below for instructions)

Juice of 2 large lemons (can substitute with lemon-lime soda)

Ice

Sparkling mineral water

To make the mint syrup, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 4-6 sprigs of mint in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, or until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out mint and transfer liquid into a jar and let it cool completely. 

Combine mint syrup and lemon juice in glass, fill the glass 3/4 full with ice and top off with sparkling mineral water. Garnish with mint leaves and sugar rim. 

Ideas from The MerryThought: https://themerrythought.com/recipes/3-saint-patricks-day-mocktails/ 

How to Love Someone in Your Life Struggling with Substance Use

How do you love the individual in your life struggling with substance use well? How do you love them while still protecting your heart? Valentine’s Day is filled with love and celebrating with friends, family, and romantic partners. Love is in the air – but not everyone is feeling the joy of the holiday. If you have someone battling substance use in your life, today may be another day of questions, worry, or fear – wondering if you will hear from them or how they are celebrating the holiday.

 

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind as you support your loved one in their recovery journey:

 

  1. First and foremost – take care of yourself.

As you already know, your loved one’s substance use disorder not only affects them, but it affects everyone who loves them. Family and friends often place the needs of their loved one above their own. In theory this makes sense – they are the ones struggling with a vicious disease. However, if you constantly neglect your own needs, wants and desires, you will have nothing left to give your loved one. Make sure you prioritize your own physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs.

 

  1. Differentiate the person from the disease.

Addiction is a disease. The loved one grappling with substance use disorder (SUD) themselves are also struggling with the repercussions of their decisions – either now or in the future. This disease results in a distorted value system that desperately wants to support ongoing substance use. It is OK to get frustrated or angry with your loved one. It is OK to limit contact if your loved one is in active addiction. But remember, at the end of the day, the disease is not the same as the human you love.

 

  1. Be careful to not use your love as a weapon.

Loving someone struggling with a substance use disorder can be extremely challenging. You want the best for them and would likely do anything in your power to help them. However, be careful to not leverage your love as a weapon. Saying things like, “If you loved me, you’d quit” is destructive behavior that almost always backfires. Rather, tell them that you want to see them live. Tell them you will support them in their recovery. Tell them they are not alone. At the same time, it is OK for you to set boundaries with your loved one. Remember, you must protect yourself through this process as well.

 

  1. Learn the difference between “helping” and “enabling”.

The desire to help your loved one can be overwhelming sometimes. You probably worry that without your help, your loved one will end up in a worse situation. When your help means you are giving them money, allowing them to stay in your home, buying food for them often, or driving them places – this is often rescuing behavior that enables their addiction. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is stop shielding your loved one from the results of their behavior.

 

  1. Be prepared for recovery support to be a lifelong commitment.

Remember that change is gradual – recovery will not happen overnight. Lifelong recovery has many ups and downs. A multi-year study researching people with substance use disorders  showed two thirds of recovering addicts will relapse within the first year of sobriety. As time continues, the chances of relapse drops. Remember that relapses are not an indication of failure – it shows that they are human and they are trying.

 

Finding the right treatment method for your loved one takes time. Stability in life is difficult to achieve, so try to be patient in the waiting and stay hopeful. Continue to support your loved one in whatever capacity you can! Find comfort in the fact that millions of people who were once struggling with addiction are now living happy, fulfilling, and productive lives! As this Valentine’s Day comes and goes this year, and your loving thoughts are focused on the person battling substance use in your life, keep these tips in mind as you support those in their personal recovery journey.  Groups like Al-Anon (https://al-anon.org/) can be a great tool to support you, so you can, in turn, offer the best support possible for your loved one.

The Black Community and Addiction – Celebrating Black History Month

Since Black History Month was first observed in 1970, it has honored the contributions and sacrifices the Black community has made to help shape our nation. It serves as an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage, adversities, and triumphs that are an undeniable part of our country’s history. During this month, The Next Door wants to take time to emphasize the importance of Black History Month as well as take a closer look at how the Black community is impacted by addiction.

When looking inside the addiction treatment space, there are a multitude of disparities when it comes to substance abuse patterns, medication recommendations, and other treatment related decisions that are often linked to race. In 2016, according to the NSDUH, 20.4% of African Americans aged 18 years and older in the United States reported using illicit drugs in the past year. “This was higher than the national average of 18.2%” (Kaliszewski, 2020).

However, research also indicates that Black people are less likely to have alcohol use disorders. “Alcohol use disorders are less common among African Americans (4.5%) than the rest of the population (5.4%)” (Kaliszewski, 2020).  In the end, drug and alcohol use in the Black community show statistical differences from the rest of the population and often tell a different story than what stereotypes suggest. Knowing substance abuse history, current trends, and reliable data over this topic can help inform treatment centers on best practices when serving the Black community.

Even medications being prescribed to individuals struggling with substance abuse are sometimes influenced by race and insurance coverage. In 2002, the approval of buprenorphine marked a milestone in the recovery community. Buprenorphine made a powerful and relatively safe partial agonist treatment available for the first time in doctor’s offices. However, a retrospective cohort study, published in 2016 examined patients receiving buprenorphine and found that minority patients were much less likely than whites to be retained in treatment for at least 1 year (Volkow, 2019). While the type of medication should be determined by the severity and other characteristics of an individual’s opioid use disorder, a study found that demographics were more often the determining factor.

While these relationships have been heavily researched, discussed, and remedies have been happening with time, that is not what I want to focus on. Instead, I would like to ponder what would happen for our clients when staff, of all races, unite in an intentional effort to lead with love. Imagine what that would look like on a personal level for our clients while they are receiving treatment. It is my hope that every treatment center makes an intentional choice to work side by side each other to ensure quality care for every client.

While institutions and policies have “red tape” and “hoops” to jump through to ensure there is equality for all potential clients – our hearts do not have the same obstacles. Unity does not come easy, unfortunately. It is easy, and sometimes even tempting, to find differences amongst ourselves and others to avoid addressing the reality that we too are one or two decisions away from being in the same situation our clients currently are. But when we can see our similarities, rather than our differences, we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of another person. The simple ability to empathize may just be what we need to create genuine unity.

In Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King reminds his listeners to remain in the “majestic heights” of nonviolent resistance and to not see their white allies as enemies. To bring true justice about, King says, Americans of all races will need to unite and remain true to the values of nonviolent solidarity. In celebration of Black History Month, I want to echo King’s sentiments to encourage everyone who works in the addiction space to fight the battle of equality together. This is the only way we will be able to keep our clients as our primary focus.

 

Meet Mackenzie Meyer – TND’s New Director of the Criminal Justice Division

Please join us in congratulating Mackenzie Mayer in her new role as TND’s Director of the Criminal Justice Division. The Next Door has been committed to serving women re-entering society after being in jail / prison since the ministry came into being in 2004, and that program continues today at our Chattanooga facility.  Since 2010, East Tennessee’s correctional release center is a model program with a return rate of 1% and recidivism rate of only 15% (within 3 years).  As an organization, we are very excited to see Mackenzie shine in this role as she leads this dedicated team and inspires staff and clients. Please enjoy hearing her share a bit more about how she came to know TND and how she has grown while working here!

 

“Hello to all!

My name is Mackenzie Mayer Dickson and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the new Director of the Criminal Justice Division for The Next Door. To introduce myself on a bit of a personal level, I am also an art-lover, avid amateur baker who loves Great British Baking Show, and big superhero nerd. I’ve even been known to play some Dungeons and Dragons upon occasion.

Ever since my early days as a brand-new social work student my passion has been serving marginalized women. A fellow student of mine in my Bachelor of Social Work Program interned at The Next Door in Nashville and as soon as I heard her talk about the life-changing things being done at TND I knew I wanted to work there.

I first began in the Freedom Recovery Community and quickly made my way to the Admissions Office, screening women for residential treatment at TND. As I served in this role, I realized I had a very specific passion for TND’s clients that came from jail and prison. Something about the resilience I saw in these women lit within me a new passion for criminal justice reform.

With that newfound desire to serve women exiting the justice system I jumped at the first job I saw at TND’s Correctional Release Center in Chattanooga. I relocated and enrolled in a master’s program here in Chattanooga and since that day I’ve been committed to providing necessary and life-giving trauma and addiction recovery services to the women who make it to our doors.

I am so humbled and honored to be chosen as the CRC’s newest leader and can only hope and persevere towards filling the very large shoes that will be left by Rebekah Bohannon. I can’t thank the Leadership Team and my fellow CRC staff for taking a chance on me and I will do everything in my power to serve the CRC with everything I have. We have an amazing team here in Chattanooga and I cannot wait to get started!”

 

To read more about the Re-Entry Program in Chattanooga, please visit the Chattanooga page on our website!

2021 in Reflection: Featuring Tambi Swiney

 

Tambi Swiney serves at The Next Door as the Spiritual Wellness Coordinator. She has been a part of the TND since the very beginning – she is one of the original Wild Praying Women who founded TND! Tambi’s patience, wisdom, and hope for this organization have been such a bright spot at TND this year! Please enjoy her reflections over 2021.

 

As I reflect on my ministry at The Next Door during the past year, the word that immediately rises to the forefront of my mind is grief. How many conversations have I had with clients and with staff this year about grief? I couldn’t begin to count them. So many people have lost loved ones this year – many due to the COVID-19 pandemic or the overdose epidemic.

 

Grief and addiction are interrelated. For some people, the loss of a loved one can be a precipitating event – a tipping point when the bereaved turns to alcohol or drugs to comfort or numb themselves. For others who are already living in bondage to addiction, a significant loss can lead to increased abuse of substances. The source of this grief may not be a death. Divorce, estrangement from family and friends, loss of custody of a child, loss of a home, loss of a job – all of these can lead to deep mourning.

 

In the spirituality groups that I lead at The Next Door for detox, residential, and partial hospitalization clients, we regularly focus on grief. Our clients need to be reminded that grief is a normal life experience, and the grieving process is unique for each person. Although denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are common stages of grief, the experience is rarely linear; there is not a set timeline or a one-size-fits-all template for those who mourn.

 

As our clients lean into their newfound sobriety, the intense anguish of grief often takes them by surprise. In the midst of their addiction, they postponed the inevitable; the feelings they once sought to suppress surface with a vengeance in the early days of recovery. Some suddenly find themselves grieving for people who passed away many years ago; their grief is out of sync with that of family members who began processing the loss in real time. For others, the recent death of a loved one imperils their recovery, especially if the departed was one of their stalwart supporters. How can I go on living without them? they wonder.

 

Jamie Anderson’s observations are poignant: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

 

The depth of one’s grief for the one who has died is often in direct proportion to the breadth of one’s love for that person during their life. Grief and love do go hand in hand; life and death are indeed a matched set. I often encourage those who are grieving to look for ways to channel this love that seems to have no place to go. How can they extend their loved one’s legacy? How can they pass on what they have learned from their dearly departed to others? How can they keep the love flowing?

 

In one of his letters to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul refers to God as the source of all comfort: “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4). As I listen to clients and staff share their stories of grief with me, I am able to draw from the reservoir of comfort that God has showered upon me in the past. I know what it feels like to lose someone to addiction. I know what it feels like to mourn the death of a family member to cancer, to lament the loss of a friend to COVID-19. I have grieved deeply. I have also experienced immense comfort in times of grief.

 

During the holidays, feelings of grief intensify, especially in the first year after a death. An empty seat at the dinner table magnifies the loss. Once cherished traditions now evoke sorrow rather than joy. Things will never be the same. Strings of colorful lights do little to break through the darkness of a grieving soul.

 

Yet the season of Advent is a time for remembering that darkness will not have the last word. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; for those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:2). In the prologue to his gospel, John declared, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). God’s light was made incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. This divine light is an eternal source of comfort, one that illuminates our way as we navigate the pathways of grief.

 

On Christmas Day we will celebrate once again the birth of the One who called himself the light of the world, the One who also called us to be the light of the world. We can be a source of divine light for those who are grieving when we comfort them with the same comfort we have received from God.

 

In her celebrated inaugural poem, Amanda Gorman reminded us: “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” May we look for the light in days of darkness. May we find the courage to be the light in times of grief.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4

2021 in Reflection: Featuring Mary Spencer Veazey

Mary Spencer Veazey serves at The Next Door as the Community Outreach and Events Coordinator. She has been a part of the TND team for 11 months and as 2021 is approaching its end, she took a moment to reflect on her time with TND. Please enjoy what she had to share!

 

People always talk about their dream jobs. Some dream of being a doctor, an actress, a teacher, a musician. I wasn’t one of those people that graduated from high school knowing exactly what I wanted to do. In fact, I switched my major 4 times at Auburn. But I always knew I wanted to be in a field that made a positive impact.

 

After graduating from Auburn, I started my MBA program at Belmont. One thing I had been praying for before I moved to Nashville was a mentor. I had an incredible mentor in Auburn, and I hoped to have someone to guide me in my new city.

 

I was so excited when Belmont told me they would pair me up with a faith mentor. I was a little less excited when they told me the person I had been paired with was a man. I was really hoping to have a woman mentor, so I told them I would pass for now if they didn’t have any women mentors available.

 

Months went by and I honestly forgot about the mentorship opportunity. In that same season, someone I loved was really struggling with addiction and mental health. I was over the moon when I heard they had decided to go to a rehab facility. I thought this was going to be a pivotal moment not just for this person, but for the lives impacted by this person as well.

 

And then they decided not to go. I was crushed.

 

But God moved in a way not even a week later that could not be a coincidence. Out of the blue, the mentorship program reached back out and told me they had found me a mentor and her name was Kate McKinnie. They told me she worked for an organization called The Next Door.

 

I googled it as I was curious what this company could be, and lo and behold it was an addiction treatment center for women. I started laughing out loud.

 

I made arrangements to meet with my new mentor and she invited me to come over to The Next Door. I agreed to come over, but I told myself I would not share with her the struggles of my friend who was battling addiction. Wishful thinking on my part because about 10 minutes in to being at The Next Door I burst into tears and told her everything.

Shortly after we met, I began volunteering at The Next Door.

 

I didn’t think I would work for a nonprofit one day. That thought hadn’t really crossed my mind. But then again, I didn’t really expect to graduate from grad school in a worldwide pandemic either.

 

As I began my job hunt, I didn’t think I was going to ever be able to find a job, much less a job that I enjoyed since 2020 was not an ideal time to graduate. But each night I kept praying that God would open the right door. I only wanted and needed one door to open, so that’s what I kept praying.

 

Kate called me one day about an opening at The Next Door. I was shocked because I hadn’t really thought about working there full-time, but I thought this must be exactly what the Lord had in store for me.

 

On December 23rd, 2020, I got a really sweet Christmas gift from The Next Door: an offer to be the new Community Outreach and Events Coordinator. I couldn’t believe it. Not only did God open the right door, He called me to The Next Door. He’s in every detail.

 

The one thing I thought I was going to dread about my job was the fundraising part: asking people for money. But I’m a year in now and I still haven’t really asked anyone for money… instead I tell people about the work God is doing in our ministry and He provides people and organizations time and time again that feel connected to what we’re doing and give to further His Kingdom.

 

I cried a lot the first month in my job. Not because anything horrible had happened at work, I was just heartbroken to see firsthand how desperately women need our services and how addiction treatment is not easily accessible to those who are uninsured and underinsured.

 

There are many clients I won’t forget, but one in particular stays with me. We’ll call her Kennedy. Kennedy was sold into sex slavery by her father when she was 10. Her pimp pumped her full of drugs so she would perform sex acts, so she became addicted at a young age by no choice of her own. Many years later, her and another one of the girls got a hold of their pimp’s gun and were able to run away from him.

 

Kennedy had two kids, but they were adopted out because of her addiction. Her kids’ adoptive parents had told her if she could get clean she could start talking to the kids again in 6 months.

 

So Kennedy came to The Next Door. And we became friends. She would come by my office and chat with me. There were really hard days, days where I thought she might leave.

 

One day in particular, she got into an argument with another client. She raced up to my office, pulled me by the hand and told me I had to take her for a walk.

 

So I did. And by the time we got back to the building we were laughing about the silliest things.

 

Turns out we all have a lot more in common than you think. Sometimes you just need a friend. And I was grateful to have a new friend in Kennedy.

 

Kennedy graduated. I was so incredibly proud of her. But then Kennedy relapsed a month later and we have not seen her since.

 

Sometimes this job tears me apart. You want to fix everything. You want to take every client under your wing, but you can’t. I’ve learned it’s hard for me to leave work at home sometimes because these are people’s lives we’re dealing with. It can often be a life or death situation for these women.

 

I think what I’ve learned this year is that my eyes may be open but I don’t always see. I’m not always listening well. I’ve realized what it means to truly listen, to truly invest knowing it may not always work out the way we want it to. It could end in heartbreak, but it could also be just the beginning of a woman’s lifelong sobriety.

 

The lessons I’ve learned in a year at The Next Door I would not have learned in 30 years somewhere else. The Next Door is where I’ve discovered what grace and compassion look like truly exemplified. Our clients have taught me more than I could ever put into words.

 

Thank you TND for a year I will never forget. I cannot wait for all that is to come.

 

All the love,

Mary Spencer

 

Suicide Prevention Day: Suicide and Addiction

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-34.  The rate of suicide has increased 35% since 1999. (National Institute of Mental Health). The Centers for Disease Control reports that thoughts of suicide have nearly doubled during the ongoing pandemic.

Link to Addiction

There is a direct link between substance abuse and suicide. People with substance use disorders are about six times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. (Psychology Today, February 20, 2014)

Opioid use poses the highest risk. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that “people who suffer from substance use disorders involving prescription opioids may be twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not misuse prescription opioids. Some estimate that up to 30% of fatal opioid overdoses may be intentional as a means of suicide.

Alcohol abuse is also linked to the rate of suicide.  An article in Psychological Medicine said even in the short-term, acute alcohol use may be associated with a greater number of suicide attempts. It estimates that there is nearly 7 times increase in the likelihood of a suicide attempt in those drinking compared to those who did not drink alcohol.

The Next Door provides appropriate addiction treatment services in light of this substantial link.

We know the women who walk through our doors for addiction treatment also are at a statistically higher risk for mental illness and suicide. This is one of the top reasons that we employ trauma-informed therapists, so they can help women with co-occurring disorders develop coping skills and heal from addiction and mental illness.

Relationship to Childhood Trauma

Trauma-informed therapy is a necessity at The Next Door because both substance abuse and suicide can be linked to childhood trauma – or ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) such as child abuse, death of a parent, or a parent with substance use disorder.

Individuals who score high on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire are five times more likely to become alcoholics, and up to 46 times more likely to inject drugs. (The Kaiser Permanente and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.)  Most of these users simply lack coping methods to deal with the childhood trauma and learn to numb the pain with substance abuse. This lack of coping skills is also a predictor of suicidal behavior.

“People with histories of childhood trauma often develop difficulties with managing negative emotion, coping with stress, and maintaining optimism in the face of life stressors,” Lisa Cohen, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, “Impulsivity is a risk factor for all types of reckless behavior, including suicidal behavior,” she added.

Warning Signs for Suicide

The National Institute of Mental Health lists warning signs you can look out for to help someone who is considering suicide. Some of these include:

  • An increase in drug/alcohol use.
  • Change in sleep and eating habits.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or empty.
  • Increase in anxiety and agitation.
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings.
  • Making a will and giving away personal items.
  • Reckless or impulsive behaviors such as risky driving.
  • Researching a plan for suicide or acquiring the means to harm oneself (firearms, pills, etc.).
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Talking about wanting to die.
How to seek help

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency and may be at risk for suicide, help is available 24 hours a day seven days a  week at 855-CRISIS  (855-274-7471) or Text “TN” to 741-741.

If you know a woman who needs not only mental health help but addiction treatment services, contact The Next Door at 1-855-TND-HOPE (863-4673).

Wellness Master Q&A

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Get ready to dive in with Jason Cronan, MS, CSCS, CEP  as he speaks to special guest Morgan Coyner, Marketing and Communications Manager for The Next Door.  Make sure to listen to the end of the podcast because Morgan shares how to recognize anxiety and how to cope with both anxiety and a panic attacks. Listen as Morgan shares her story and how we can keep our mind healthy and free of anxiety.

Nashville’s “The Next Door” celebrates “Day of Hope” today

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Fear and isolation have been crippling for people in recovery during the pandemic.

Wednesday, March 10, “The Next Door” is celebrating TN’s “Day of Hope” to bring people back together, provide resources, and talk about hope found in recovery.

“Recovery, you don’t do that alone. You need community. So isolation for people struggling with mental health and addiction, and need that support, with that being essentially stripped away in a lot of ways has been really difficult,” said April Barnes, the Director of Outreach and Business Development at The Next Door.

That’s why Barnes and the organization are putting together the celebratory event, to lessen the isolation.

“We’re going to have people share their story of recovery and how they found hope, and what that looked like.”

Not only will stories be shared but Narcan training will also be given as Barnes points out, you never know when you may come across someone struggling with addiction and need the life saving medication.

 “There is hope for recovery and even when during a year when we’ve seen overdoses increase and suicide rates increase, and it’s just felt really dark, we just want this day to be about celebration and shining light onto the hope that’s found in recovery.”

The “Day of Hope” even begins at 2PM, in person, at “The Next Door” at 402 22nd Ave in Nashville.

Anyone is welcome to join to share in the hope of recovery and to learn more about addiction.