Taking aim at anxiety

It was a last-man-standing style shoot-off. We went in with five guys, each guy had five paintballs in his gun, and we tackled the biggest course.
The stakes were high. One hit and you were out. It was more like an assassin’s game than the typical paintball free-for-all favored by most.
In the end it was a stand-off between two guys, and one of these guys was out of ammo. The guy who could still take a shot had a reputation for being the most outspoken of our patients, and certainly the biggest and most athletic.
Based on our rules, he had every right to pop the other guy with a paintball, but he surprised us. He knew he had won, but he did it with grace and compassion and a real respect for his brother as a competitor and the game ended without another shot being fired.
A few months before, these guys were complete strangers to each other. But over time, through the battles they’ve waged individually and together against the broken, destructive behaviors of their past, they’ve come to care deeply about each other.
A program like this fosters a lot of unity. A smaller census means the men can’t get lost in the crowd. Personalities stand out.
is a mix of guys with different personalities, socio-economic statuses, and cultural identities. We put these guys in a house together for 90 days where they live together, eat together, cook together, relax together. They’re together through group therapy, and at Twelve Step meetings. By the end of their experience with us they’ve formed their own tribe. They push themselves and each other, they have fun goofing off and working together, and they close out each day significantly more bonded together.
Fellowship like this is vital to a young man’s recovery. It gives him strength, safety and stress relief.
Thinking about the physical and physiological requirements of an activity like paintball—it’s a pretty stressful activity, especially the way we played it. The heat and elevated heart rate of our every-man-for-himself scenario induced a good deal of anxiety, albeit in a safe and healthy environment.
Anxiety is a really normal emotion, whether you’re in recovery or not. It’s connected to our survival instincts; when we find ourselves in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations we might try to make ourselves as small and quiet as possible until we see our chance to make an escape.
The fellowship our patients forge in treatment are the first step towards seeing people as people—sick, hurting, imperfect and also actively seeking progress in recovery.
Hiding behind a cable coil, sweating, waiting for one of your brothers to expose himself so you can ping him with a paintball looks a world away from walking into a new AA meeting where you don’t know anyone. Yet, physiologically, that anxiety is the same.
Oftentimes, newcomers to AA react to social anxiety by shutting down. They stay quiet in the meeting, they don’t make eye contact, and they duck out early. Through the paintball outing, our guys saw that they could feel the anxiety, but take it in stride and focus on doing the next right thing. These guys felt the heat and physical exertion and anxiety, but none of them laid down their paintball gun and said “I can’t do this, I’m out.”
They had something to focus on, a goal and a role to play. They were just as likely to win the game as any of the other guys as long as they did the next right thing. And the reality was that no matter who won, they would celebrate the whole team’s effort right along with the victor.
, because fellowship goes beyond friendship. It means love and respect, regardless of whether you like a person. It means seeing them for who they are, rather than what they are to you. It’s an incredibly strong safety net for young people new to recovery. It assures each of them of visibility, acceptance, and compassion.
Activities like this, and the physical, emotional and mental challenges of all our experiential outings, can teach young men to find their own ways of working through their anxiety—feeling it, accepting it, and being fully present in the moment.
Contact us for more information about our experiential program, call us at 772-245-8345 or email us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

The family experience of addiction

What’s the last thing you think before you fall asleep? What’s the first thing you think in the morning?
“Is he okay?”
The young man in your life might be stealing; being dishonest; getting in trouble at work, school, or with the law; he might be taking risks with his life that result in hospitalization or worse.
As a family member, as someone who loves someone who’s struggling with a substance use disorder, you’ve likely been forced to adapt your behavior to a person who isn’t honest about where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing.
Perhaps you've found yourself playing detective, using technology or social media to track him down. Parents often admit to tracking their loved one’s iPhone twenty or thirty times a day; to combing through his social media looking for all kinds of clues, hints, any indication of where he is and what he’s doing.
Families are stuck in an unending pattern of chaos, forced to respond to life-or-death scenarios in real-time. Hardest of all is that they develop a false sense of happiness in the moments of calm that occasionally punctuate the chaos. When families build an entire code of behaviors around someone they love not dying, not getting arrested, or coming home only an hour late instead of two days late as being cause for celebration, this illustrates a major degradation of where they’re finding happiness.
One of the goals of our work with families is to help them re-adjust their expectations around sanity and happiness; to refuse to tolerate old destructive behaviors and look for real joy and success.
Perspective is one of the biggest challenges families face. Because they have grown so accustomed to accepting pain and chaos as part of daily life, parents especially struggle to see what’s really going on. We help them take a closer look.
It’s real: you really did spend six full hours last week researching where your kid was through a variety of apps; you really spent three hours combing through social media to learn about his friends; you really spent twelve or fifteen hours talking about it with the few people who are still willing to hear you; and yes, you really spent at least three hours fighting about it all with someone you care about.
And on top of all that time you spent searching, fighting, and fearing the worst, you still had to be a parent to your other kids, still had to be a partner to your spouse, still had to show up at work and do your job, still had to grocery shop, still had to walk the dog, still had to show up for your friends.
How present are you for your own life? How much do you have leftover for yourself after exhausting all that time and energy on your son? How kind were you, how patient were you, how resilient were you in all the other areas of your life that deserve your attention too?
In the NA Basic Text there’s a passage about isolation I always share with families. It says “We did not choose to become addicts. We suffer from a disease that expresses itself in ways that are anti-social and that makes detection, diagnosis and treatment difficult. Our disease isolated us from people except when we were getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. Hostile, resentful self-centered and self-seeking, we cut ourselves off from the outside world Anything not completely familiar became alien and dangerous. Our world shrank and isolation became our life. We used in order to survive. It was the only way of life that we knew.”
That’s what isolation looks like for an addict or alcoholic, how might that differ from the isolation experienced by a family member?
When we talk about control and unmanageability, we have to talk about typical patterns of behavior in family members. In adapting to a seemingly endless cycle of chaos, they often create an environment that sustains the addict or alcoholic’s destructive behavior. Even in trying to be ‘nice’—trying to accept a young man’s behavior, give him a break, let him off the hook once in a while—there is an attempt to control in there. There is the unspoken hope that if you can give them what they want, they’ll give you what you want.
We help families see that old patterns don’t inspire new behaviors—that tolerating, accepting, and adapting your life to an addict or alcoholic doesn’t help them, rather it hurts you and the rest of your family.
The goal of treatment is the same for patients as it is for families: to find freedom from the chaos of addiction and build a life that is worth living.
We ask parents to imagine themselves before they had children, before they got married, before they started their career, before they went to college.
Who were you before addiction came into your life?
In that lifetime before now, when you thought about having kids, is this what you imagined?
What would you tell that person now? What would they tell you?
What would you change in your life now to get back to the ideals that you had then?
You’ll never be able to return to who you were before addiction, but for most people living in recovery that’s a good thing. Living in recovery means knowing what you are powerless over, what you cannot control, what makes your life unmanageable, and that there is something greater than you that you can reach out to for help.
Our goal by providing an , and weekly family support for the duration of a patient’s stay with us, is to help families in the same way we help patients: freedom from the chaos and destructive of active addiction, and a chance at a life worth living.
Contact us to learn more about how you can rebuild yourself and your family and give everyone a second chance at a happy, healthy life, call us at 772-245-8345 or email us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

Must-have elements of a continuing care plan

Good clinicians know that good treatment followed by good continuing care has good outcomes.
That seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
One of the most important services a treatment center can provide is a rock-solid continuing care plan. Continuing care is the plan devised by your treatment center’s clinical team that addresses each patient’s specific needs, his relationship with his family, and his post-treatment environment.
At Voyage, a continuing care plan might include a recommendation for sober housing, a collegiate recovery community, or get very specific about contingencies for returning home. We consider his access to a Twelve Step community, familial or financial support he’ll have, and if the environment will suit his academic or vocational needs.
We want to ensure that his recovery environment is supportive of his long-term remission.
Once our clinical team has developed a continuing care plan for a patient, and we’ve got him and his family on board, we plan a visit with him and a family member to the locale that he's going to stay in after treatment—whether he stays in Martin County, returns to his hometown, or goes to a new place.
Our plan for the day includes seeing some of the area, meeting with folks from the intensive outpatient program or sober house we’re recommending, and then checking out a meeting so our patient has a sense of the local Twelve Step community he’s joining.
It’s a great way of diffusing tension and nerves everyone has surrounding what comes after treatment, because together we get to develop a snapshot, a sense of the look and feel of what this young man’s next chapter will be.
What makes these outings even more special is the opportunity our patient’s family member has to see how far he’s come. Gone are the days of reacting to crisis—now their loved one is making good, healthy decisions for himself. It’s a profound moment for everyone.
What makes for a good continuing care plan? Look for these five elements:
1. Holistic clinical collaboration
Our entire comes together weekly to address the most effective ways of ensuring long-term remission which includes treatment and continuing care. At Voyage our clinical team includes our CEO, Chief Clinical Officer, Psychiatrist, Director of Nursing, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and Primary Counselor.
As a team, we address a variety of factors affecting a patient’s needs such as any co-occurring mental health issues, his academic and vocational goals, his family relationship, his recovery environment, and what he likes to do for fun.
The plan we devise must be aggressive in ensuring remission, with equal emphasis on being a plan he’ll want to follow through on. A healthy balance must include challenges as well as joy and fun.
2. Opportunities to practice the plan
During the , we use the first month to get a young man stable in his new routine of healthy attention to self-care. In the second month, we address a young man’s relationship with his family, and host his family at a week-long onsite . In the third month we practice coping strategies and life skills that will support a young man’s stability, wherever his continuing care plan takes him.
This practice in the third month is crucial. With two months of continuous sobriety under his belt, and a newfound sense of community, accountability, and responsibility for self, we give a young man the opportunity to carve out the life he wishes to have. This life should include community and fellowship, achievement and satisfaction at work or school, and consistent sobriety. Our clinical team and counselors facilitate this engaged practice through scenarios in group, weekly family sessions, and experiential outings.
3. Family involvement from the beginning
Parents and other close family members are often the ones most profoundly affected by a young man’s struggle with substance abuse. It is so important that each family is involved with their loved one’s treatment and continuing care plan from the very start.
In weekly family conferences we’ll review our clinical team’s recommendations for a continuing care plan with the family to ensure he has the support he needs and to circumvent any obstacles to the plan.
During Family Program week, many families find that after a month or more of separation from their loved one, they can clearly see changes that have taken place in their young man. We have a chance to come together—patient, family, and clinical team—to discuss and practice coping strategies for the post-recovery environment.
This is especially effective if a family has been attending Al Anon or has sought out therapy to help them along their own journey of recovery. It is much easier to feel hopeful, or to at least be willing to let go of expectations, surrounding a young man’s recovery when the whole family is engaged with recovery.
4. Authentic engagement with the patient
We get very specific and concrete with each patient about our recommendations for continuing care. We devote substantial time to addressing his concerns or objections to the plan—we want the patient to articulate his discomfort with the plan so we can address that discomfort immediately with actionable insights we can practice together.
Sometimes the post-recovery environment looks drastically different from the pre-treatment environment, and that can be jarring. We have found that when there are areas that were causing our patient a significant amount of stress—a work, school or family situation that the patient used as the basis for their identity or self-worth to the detriment of his own health—we’ll give him a bit more time to practice his program of recovery in a controlled environment like a halfway house. Likewise, if a patient came from a situation where he had not done the work he was supposed to do, we feel it’s vital to immerse him in an environment where he must immediately become responsible and accountable.
5. Excellent, clinically-sound treatment
It is so important to consider continuing care as an extension of treatment—not an add-on. Good treatment and a good continuing care plan go hand-in-hand and, along with a patient’s dedication and commitment to his sobriety, can ensure the best outcome possible.
At Voyage, we believe good treatment includes addressing a young man’s sense of self, his family relationships, and his environment. We encourage our patients to rely on each other for strength and support, which prepares them to build vital relationships within their own Twelve Step fellowships once they leave us.
Good treatment disrupts old cycles and helps young men build healthy new ones. It addresses destructive or crippling feelings of fear, anger, guilt and shame by bringing them out into the light, and helping patients learn positive coping strategies. Good treatment also builds upon a regimen of trust, honesty, accountability and integrity, which can help prevent a young man from slipping back into old behaviors. By allowing young men to identify where their vulnerabilities are, they own their awareness of triggers and can make better choices.
Talk to us about where you want to take your recovery by calling us at 772-245-8345 or emailing us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

Who can I talk to?

When you’re the family member of a young person struggling with a substance use disorder, life takes on a very different look and feel.
We call addiction the “family disease” because everyone in the family is affected. Do you feel sad, angry, worried, frustrated, disappointed? Do you feel responsible for the pain your child is in, or guilty about the effect this might have on your other children? Do you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or alone?
These are all normal and natural things to feel, and you may feel all of these things at any given time. You and other members of your family might even have radically different feelings. There are no rules here.
When your son begins treatment at Voyage, he’ll immediately have access to a team of skilled and intuitive professionals.
As the person who has been the most profoundly affected by his substance use disorder, what sort of support can you, his family member, count on when he begins treatment?
Who can you talk to?
As your teammates down this rocky road, the various members of your family all want the same thing: a healthy, happy young man who lives up to his potential. However, the feelings that each of you manifest could be as different as night and day. One of you might feel angry while another feels sad; one may feel hopeless while another feels guilty and resentful. This is an important time to go easy on one another, and might be a great time to find someone other than members of your immediate family to process and talk about what’s been going on with your son.
Our family members and friends want the best for us, certainly. They have likely noticed your irritability, depression, or distance and want to help you be yourself again. Again, there are no rules, but people find that even their closest friends and relatives struggle with how to react or respond the information you choose to confide in them. This is totally normal, but it can be frustrating or disappointing when someone can’t provide the support and compassionate feedback you need at this tumultuous time.
Many family members of someone struggling with addiction find a lot of relief attending Al Anon, Nar Anon, or CODA — anonymous fellowships for the friends and family of alcoholics and addicts. Twelve Step groups can be helpful resources for finding support from other adults who have watched someone they love struggle with substance abuse. Members are invited to share their experiences, their strength and their hope, and you’ll be welcome to share at the very first meeting you attend if you like. These groups cannot, however, provide guidance or analysis of your situation.
If you would feel more comfortable with a personalized, hands-on approach to address your needs and your own recovery, an experienced therapist or counselor might really benefit you. Here you can look forward to professional guidance and personalized support. You’ll be able to share anything you choose with your therapist and they’ll help you analyze it, understand it, and grow from it.
At Voyage, we see the entire family as our patient. We know that addiction touches every member of the family. At the same time that your loved one begins treatment at Voyage, you, as his family, will have the support of our team of counselors. We begin with weekly calls, assignments, and assessments where we can address the particular circumstances and obstacles you’ve been facing.
In the second month, we’ll spend an intensive week together as we complete the at our treatment center in Hobe Sound, FL. This is an opportunity for you to address what has happened in your family, and to learn how to recover from it.
The nature of the clinical work we do with you and your loved one is protected by privilege. We don’t discuss with you the exact nature of our work with your family member and likewise won’t discuss with him the exact nature of our work with you. We’ll allow each of you to heal and recover and grow on your own, and to test the mettle of that growth during the latter part of your son’s stay with us.
Who you talk to and what you talk to them about is entirely up to you. You deserve support. Our team is here for you, your family, and your loved one seeking treatment from day one. If you’re not sure who to talk to or where to turn, we can help you find the right place.
Contact us with your questions or concerns at 772-245-8345 or email us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.