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On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

September is National Recovery Month

Most of us know someone with substance use disorder. Many of us even know someone who has lost a friend or family member to it. It’s a disease that affects people from all walks of life and of all ages.

A disease also known as addiction, substance use disorder is defined as: a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you're addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes.

Some substance abuse disorder/addiction symptoms include the following.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking or using the drug
  • Spending money – even when you can’t afford it – on the drug
  • Using the drug even when you know it’s causing problems in your relationships, or to your physical health
  • Cravings for the drug that are so strong you literally cannot think about anything else
  • Stealing to get the drug
  • Failing when you try to stop using
  • Feeling the need to use the drug regularly, even every day or multiple times per day
  • As time passes, taking larger amounts of the drug to get the same feeling or effect
  • Making sure you always have a supply of the drug
  • Blowing off work responsibilities or decreasing social activities because of your drug use

September is National Recovery Month, an annual observance celebrated since 1989. In September, and throughout the year, Recovery Month spreads the message that: 

  • Behavioral health is essential to health. 
  • Prevention works. 
  • Treatment is effective. 
  • People recover. 

The 2021 National Recovery Month theme, “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community” reminds people in recovery and those who support them, that recovery belongs to all of us. 

We are all called to end gatekeeping and welcome everyone to recovery by lowering barriers to recovery support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening our understanding of what recovery means for people with different experiences.

Mental health and substance use disorders affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, geographic regions, and socioeconomic levels. They need to know that help is available. These individuals can get better, both physically and emotionally, with the support of a welcoming community.

We asked Courtney Hays, Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager II at Arcadia Trails, a few questions about addiction and, more specifically, her role as a care giver. Hays, whose sober date is Jan. 22, 2016, is uniquely qualified to understand sobriety, addiction and what it takes to ask for help. 

Her duties include admissions, acting as a liaison between the sober community and Arcadia Trails, facilitating groups, and aftercare planning. Courtney has six years of experience in case management and addiction treatment. Before joining Arcadia Trails, she served as Case Manager and Court Liaison for Oklahoma County Drug and DUI Court. She is passionate about advocating for her patients, eliminating the stigma of addiction, and assisting her patients with a smooth transition back into their communities.

What is the hardest part of being a caregiver?

For me, the hardest part about being a caregiver is seeing up close and personal the devastation that addiction has on individuals, their families, and their communities. It can be heartbreaking. 

On the other hand, the best part is that I get to witness the healing that comes from sustained recovery. I sometimes receive phone calls from former patients telling me they are back in touch with their children after years of separation or they are mending relationships with their estranged family. That’s chicken noodle soup for the soul.

What is your relationship to the people you care for? 

I see myself as a helper to our patients. I wear a lot of hats at Arcadia Trails. Often, I’m the first person to interact with prospective patients and their families when they are seeking help. I’m involved in the patient’s care from their initial phone call to one year after they discharge. 

Some of my responsibilities include screening and admission, group facilitation, linkage and referral, discharge planning, and follow-up. I have a deep appreciation and understanding of the patient experience. I was in their shoes at one time. I’m familiar with the hard work and commitment needed to start and maintain recovery. Each day I strive to be a role model of recovery for the patients I serve.

How do you ensure that you’re taking care of your own mental health? 

This is a very important question. Often people in recovery believe that being employed in the addiction field will help them maintain sobriety. Often, that's not the case. I think working in mental health and substance abuse means I must work even harder at my own personal recovery. For me to maintain my recovery, I find it helpful to consistently surround myself with friends who are also committed to recovery. 

I think we often undervalue the importance of having honest and vulnerable relationships with people who care about us and want the best for us. I attend recovery meetings weekly to remind myself of my beginnings in recovery. It keeps me humble and firmly planted in my recovery. I also have a recovery sponsor. A sponsor is like a mentor. This person helps guide me and holds me accountable. Lastly, I have an intimate connection with my Higher Power who helps me stay sober and healthy.

How do you make sure you’re taking care of your physical health? 

Our mental wellbeing and physical health are more intertwined than most people realize. If I'm not taking care of my physical health, my mental health is going to suffer as well. I stress the link between physical and mental health in my rehabilitation groups with patients. 

Nutrition is number one for me. When I eat a balanced diet, I have energy throughout the day, and I feel better about myself which builds my self-esteem. Sleep is another priority for me. I learned through a TED Talk by a neuroscientist named Matthew Walker that sleep is your superpower. He said, "Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology." That really influenced me. I try to get eight hours of sleep every night. Lastly, exercise is something very important to me. It can be as simple as a short walk with a coworker during my lunch break. It gives me an opportunity to get outside and connect with nature, and the sunlight gives me a boost of vitamin D.

At Arcadia Trails, an emphasis is on caring for the mind, body and spirit through use of multiple modalities in a program and setting designed to heal. The team at Arcadia Trails is ready to help you take the first step toward recovery. It’s important for anyone struggling with substance use disorder to know the following.

You are not alone. Countless others have stood at this exact same turning point. What’s more, many have recovered.

There is a way out, and we can show you – because many of us have been there ourselves.

This isn’t your fault. Addiction is a disease.

And when you’re willing to go to any length, nearly anything is possible.

 

To start the admission process, call 405.216.2500 or toll-free at 844.817.6685. For general information about Arcadia Trails call, 405.216.2564 or visit the website at arcadiatrails.com

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