Let’s Chat Recovery Lifestyle! Do You Just Live IN Recovery? Or Live an Amazing Life While Maintaining Recovery?

Let’s Chat Recovery Lifestyle! Do You Just Live IN Recovery? Or Live an Amazing Life While Maintaining Recovery?

Welcome Recovery Warriors, Supporters, and New Visitors,

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Now that summer is almost here; many get outdoors, plan vacations, and LIVE LIFE. So, how do you still put your gambling recovery first?

See, there was a time I could never do that. What I mean is, when I was still active in my gambling addiction, it seemed even in the summer or vacation time, it always had to have some form of “gambling venue” or option attached or nearby. How sick is that? It made me begin to think? How do others maintaining recovery from gambling put their recovery first and a balanced healthy Lifestyle?

I felt and have seen my own recovery go through phases as we begin to live life again while keeping mindful of our recovery journey. We don’t “LIVE IN Recovery; we “LIVE LIFE while maintaining it” …I hear too many people who only work 12-Step recovery programs, (no offense) that they only have friends within the 12-step program and leave all other friends behind or only do the 12-Step program activities. That, to me, is not living a well-balanced lifestyle or recovery.

And Those slogans? They never made any sense to me? “Meeting Make It!” No, they don’t. You need to do the work maintaining recovery and a whole lot more. Only attending meetings is NOT going to keep you Bet Free, Clean, and Sober. A few years back, I came across a fantastic article written about these topics and concerns that kind of made my points and made a lot of sense to me then!

I began to put my recovery first and learning to have a balanced lifestyle after reading this article at “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation” Lifestyle Article.

Here are a few areas I’d like to ‘Share and Highlight’ as they are essential while we continue our life-long maintenance of recovery while living a beautiful lifestyle!

Some From Hazelden Article:

“For many addicts of all addictions, our lifestyle blocks our recovery. It is easy to see the problem when we have a terrible lifestyle: living with an abusive partner, hanging out with drug-dealing and drug-seeking friends, or going to bars or casinos to gamble with old friends or to prove that we can have a soft drink among all that alcohol.

Counselors and sponsors tell us that we must leave behind all negative influences to make recovery our highest priority and make Recovery First. But that doesn’t mean all your family, friends, job, and more. Yes, healing and mindful recovery have to come in first place, and yes, ahead of wife, kids, job, and other relationships that we treasure. Part of this decision is practical. If we put recovery in second (or lower) place, we will eventually lose our recovery, as well as whatever it was we put in the first place. ”

“There is also another way that lifestyle can interfere with recovery. Our mistake is taking a good, attractive lifestyle and recovery making it the center of our lives. We require our treatment and recovery goals to “fit into” our lifestyle, and not disrupt it.

“The more attractive our lifestyle, the more likely we are to COMPROMISE our recovery in search of a pleasant and comfortable way of life. Yes, it is a fine line and how complacency can sneak in. If our lifestyle is healthy, comfortable and well-rounded, we take that as a “given” fact of life and then try to accommodate our recovery without disrupting all that’s pleasurable about life” …

“In treatment, this shows up as an unwillingness to spend more than 28 days working on our recovery full time. Patients frequently say they’d love to have additional time here, but something about the home or workplace demands the highest priority instead. Many professionals feel, such as doctors and lawyers, say that they must return to their professional practice right away. Managers and directors swear that their companies could not live without them, and so the patients must get right back to work. Mistake.”

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Having FUN At A Speaking Event 4 Big Jim’s Ride, Phoenix, AZ!

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Look, I love many things in the “real world,” but what have I learned in my time of 12+yrs maintaining my recovery while living a life? “That I love the world of spirituality, sobriety, and being BET-FREE more.” It is no different than having a medical ailment or being a diabetic, as you learn to manage it as you continue living your life. But remember there is a period in early treatment and recovery that needs to be first in order to learn a healthy lifestyle while maintaining recovery.

And why I always suggest to my sponsees or friends who are “stuck and cannot move forward” to maybe work with a recovery life coach or if you are early into treatment and your recovery? Talk about it with your treatment counselor or therapist about “Lifestyle Balance,” so you can be on the right track living live the way it should be, balanced, healthy, FUN and active!

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ME, Hubby, and Mr. Randy Grimes, former NFL Pro in Purple and Dear Friend!

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Childhood Abuse and Trauma Happens. It Happened To Me and It Is My Roots To Addiction … Special Guest Article.

Childhood Abuse and Trauma Happens. It Happened To Me and It Is My Roots To Addiction … Special Guest Article.

Baking Cookies; Confronting Abuse ~ by Amanda Ladwig…
{first published on October 2, 2018} ~ Delight In Disorder
Courtesy of  “Tony Roberts Blog”

 

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One of the many amazing things about truly working through childhood sexual abuse is the act of taking every single thought, and terrible memory captive and watching Christ redeem them. Facing them. Feeling them. Without making excuses. Without placing or taking the blame. The abuse and abuser no longer linger in the darkest parts of your mind controlling or tainting the memories you have.

They are front and center. Begging to be defeated. Every day, and sometimes minute-by-minute, there are battles fought to reclaim simple things, innocent objects, smells, and sounds. Things that may seem trivial to others represent a great victory. That being said, today I fought a battle and won. Today, I reclaimed what should have been a pleasant childhood memory. Today, I ate an Italian wedding cookie and enjoyed it. That won’t mean much to you, but to me, it is a significant victory.

As a little girl, trips to my aunt’s house happened only a couple of times per year. She always prepared special things to eat for our visits. However, we didn’t get to eat until I had spent some time with her brother. It was only then, after being a good girl and “spending time with my boyfriend,” as he referred to himself, that I would have access to my favorite cookies.  It didn’t take long before those cookies became like poison. For the mere smell of almond or amaretto to make me physically ill.

However, after 30 years of hiding all of the sordid details of my childhood. I believe the Holy Spirit, moving, convinced me it was time. Time to bury old demons and the only way I could do that was to reclaim the territory my enemy had taken so many years ago. Cookies.

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My daughter and I baked them together. The house filled with the very familiar and slightly terrifying scent. As I paused before taking a bite, I reminded myself of where I was and the person I was with. I watched my daughter dance around singing about how good it was. I took in that very moment, and I took a bite.

It was wonderful. Not only did it taste good, but I felt strong. As if I was declaring to my abuser “No!  You may not have these cookies!  You defiled my innocence, but you may not steal my ability to enjoy a cookie!” My life is full of moments like that. Every day there is a battle fought and sometimes won. They often go unnoticed by the people closest to me. However, they are mighty victories.

My children will never know that this was an important day for me. That there was a time I considered Italian wedding cookies toxic and terrifying.  They will always enjoy the smell and taste, and hopefully, it will stir wonderful memories.

There are often things we carry from our childhood that restrain our ability to enjoy simple things. It destroys our ability to accept and receive the good things God intended for us to have. Love and intimacy are one of those things. Just as the smell of a particular type of cookie triggered a reaction of fear and shame, the idea of love can seem meant for destruction. Therefore, the very idea that God “loves” us terrifies us. Love to an abuse survivor often means manipulation and pain.

The first, time I heard the verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” my reaction was not joy or amazement. My reaction was suspicion. I wanted to know what He wanted from me. Surely, I now owed Him something, or it was a trick.

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It took me years to begin to understand that Christ chose me; He loves me not because He needs me for anything. He did not send His son to die for me in an attempt to guilt me into trusting Him or doing things for Him. He chose me and loves me because He is God. He is all sufficient.

I cannot reclaim my childhood. I still battle with depression and flashbacks. However, I can now, through Christ, reclaim how I react to things. I can choose feeling pleasure over feeling fear, and I can choose love over hate. I can choose these things because Christ has given me the power and ability. This is part of the freedom found in Christ.

Freedom to love.

Freedom to forgive.

Freedom to rejoice.

Freedom to enjoy a cookie.

Sharing My Recovery Wisdom, Hope, Experiences, and Lessons Learned While I Keep Moving Forward Maintaining Recovery. “Pass It On!”

Sharing My Recovery Wisdom, Hope, Experiences, and Lessons Learned While I Keep Moving Forward Maintaining Recovery. “Pass It On!”

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When we feel like we can not move past speed bumps in our recovery journey, how do we move forward? When do I get some loner time abstinence and then relapse? What if I’m not strong enough to NOT cave into cravings, urges, and triggers? What can I do not to RELAPSE?

All these are excellent questions and concerns we all have or face while maintaining our recovery path. Some can be quick fixes, and some may mean you have more work to do possible within your journey. See, recovery is not only a life long process, and it does come to us in phases. What do I mean by this? We all have the option to choose how we begin to gain our lives back from any addiction.

In doing so, we have choices to pick from a 12-Step Program, or faith-based program, or both together. Possibly a treatment center program along with attending church or a treatment program that comes with therapy or counseling, but, however you feel is right and comfortable for you. Next is doing the “work” that is asked of you while you begin to learn the tools and the skills that may save your life. Next is being diligent in using all the tools you learn. Not complicated. But, still, many can struggle.

Since I advocate much through social media, I see many times disagreements going on by others wanting to force how they recover and has worked for them onto others looking for help or support within recovery from addictions. Or even the never-ending battles I see play out about a 12-Step Program all by itself will work to get clean, sober, or gamble free… That is not the case, nor fair.

I feel, and this is my OWN OPINION, as long as you have the desire to stop any addiction that is making your life unmanageable? Then it should be you alone or your family and yourself to choose what works and is comfortable for you.

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Once you begin, begin to come to terms with knowing there is a lot of recovery work to do in the first few years. Learning and gaining the skills and tools needed to interrupt the “cycle” of addiction is essential and half the battle!

Being educated and informed about some of the roots and underlying issues that had you turn to addiction. Old pain or hurt from other issues like abuse, trauma, etc., all can have us looking for ways to cope and escape those feelings that are still unprocessed — then learning to overcome hurdles or those feelings of being “stuck” not knowing how to move forward maintaining your recovery.

I’ll end with a share of a post that I did on my Recovery Facebook page the other day. It was answering a group member’s concerns about her gambling addiction and having a relapse. It was how I felt after reading questions and felt I wanted to share a little of my own experience in early recovery.

Keep it Honest and Real recovery friends!
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My FB Reply:
“I enjoy belonging to many Groups here on FB and especially my #recoverygroups … I wish there were MORE #GamblingRecoveryGroups …

Because when I read that others are having a “Rough Go” or Struggles, and I read sharings of others, it Hits me HARD …

Here is what I suggested to a new friend who is recovering from OUR #Addiction…
ONE that “Requires No #Substances but is just as DEADLY and Still, such a Silent and Underground #Addiction”… *Cat*

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ANSWER To Her:
“When I read this …It took me back to my own early attempts in recovery, the days of chronic relapses. I sure relate to all you shared and half the battle?? Is that YOU are sharing, reaching out, and being honest and transparent as this #DISEASE most times don’t let you. So Kudo’s to you for DOING SO.

It is NOT YOU -Thinking, it is the disease, the habits of our diseased thinking that are telling you that you DON’T have a problem and you have your gambling controlled.

It is part of the nasty “CYCLE” of this cunning addiction. I worked with a Gambling Specialist after I came out of my 2nd treatment program. IT MADE a world of difference for me and stayed maintaining my addicted gambling recovery from that point on!

The longer you abstain and not gamble? The triggers and cravings DO go away, BUT?

This DISEASE is “Always Lying in WAIT.” (Per the late Robin Williams) …

That is why we learn and use all the tools and skills we learn and use them daily. For me, journaling and writing my Steps and Inner work as a Journal sure will help. Re-working the steps in writing form enables you to “Look Back” and see where you need help in areas and your strong points to continue a “Beautiful Life while Maintaining #Recovery.

That Is IMPORTANT …AS We don’t LIVE IN Recovery, and we maintain recovery while we LIVE LIFE!

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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month and I Do Have Mental Health Challenges While Maintaining Recovery From Addiction. Many Do!

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month and I Do Have Mental Health Challenges While Maintaining Recovery From Addiction. Many Do!

It seems lately, a growing number of people who come into or maintain recovery from gambling addiction, are also struggling with Mental Health. I am one who does, even after years of maintaining recovery. It seems to become the norm. Even those with other addiction types are too, but very prevalent with addicted gambling.

I choose to stay well managed and proactive with my mental health care and take it as a serious part of my overall health. But many times, I hear or read about those who don’t or stop taking their meds or even misuse them. That can be a deadly GAME and adds up to trouble.  I came across an article from “Know The Odds”  which shares about addicted gambling, recovery, and mental health. They are out of New York area.

If you or someone you care about needs help in any area of the US, visiting “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” also know as SAMHSA who is U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and has loads of articles and information to get help with Mental Health and Addiction. There is NO SHAME in doing so and even if you want to be more educated about it. The more we all learn, the more we can shatter the STIGMA.   ~Catherine Lyon Advocate   

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PROBLEM GAMBLING AND MENTAL HEALTH      POSTED ON 
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

There is a strong connection between problem gambling and problems with mental health.  Understanding this connection, identifying warning signs and knowing where to get help is vital to preventing problems and getting support.

Problem Gambling in NY

Nearly 668,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year.  That is a lot of family, friends, and colleagues having trouble.  Problems from gambling can include sleep problems, relationship problems with loved ones and struggles at work.

Each person struggling with problem gambling affects 6-10 of those closest to them.  A study found that 9 out of 10 people affected by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress.

This means that between the people struggling with problem gambling and the people closest to them, nearly 6.7 million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may struggle with mental health issues because of it.

Problem Gambling and Mental Health

People who struggle with problem gambling are at a higher risk of struggling with other mental health disorders. out of 3 gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems. In fact, the majority of those struggling with problem gambling have a lifetime history of mental health problems. In addition to struggling with gambling.

So they may be struggling with mental health problems such as:

  • an anxiety disorder,
  • a personality disorder,
  • a mood disorder, such as depression, and
  • suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide.

According to CEO Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York State, “people need to understand the link between problem gambling and other mental illnesses, and the similarity between a gambling disorder and substance use disorders. This understanding is vital so that those impacted directly and indirectly by problem gambling can appreciate the necessity of treatment.

In most cases, it’s unrealistic to believe that someone suffering from these disorders can recover without help”, said Liebman. “Maintaining this belief can have devastating consequences on those who suffer and their families, including financial ruin and suicide.”

Warning Signs of Problem Gambling

Any problem caused by gambling can be a warning sign of problem gambling.  This is because problem gambling refers to problems in someone’s life that are due to gambling behaviors.  There are many warning signs of problem gambling.

Some warning signs include:

  • Feeling anxious or distressed when not gambling,
  • Struggling to sleep well due to thoughts or worries about gambling,
  • Lying to friends and family about how much time or money spent while gambling,
  • Missing special family events and holidays to go gambling, and
  • Having thoughts of suicide due to problems caused by gambling.

Since there are few outward signs specific to gambling, it’s important to learn as much about the warning signs of problem gambling as possible.

Help for Problem Gambling

There is help and hope, but people may feel hopeless if they don’t know what help is available.

Here are three connections to resources for help.

  • Learn as much as possible about problem gambling.  Check out our resources page and can be found at http://knowtheodds.org/resources/. These resources include eBooks, videos, infographics, and articles. There’s something for everyone!
  • Visit SAMHSA 
  • Find local help by reaching out to your local Problem Gambling Resource Center.  Anyone who calls will be met by a trained professional. This professional will offer a warm greeting, a listening ear, and a list of options for local support geared towards helping those affected by problem gambling.

Like Catherine of “Gambling Recovery Starts Here,” we plan to help share resources during the month of May to raise awareness about Mental Health Awareness Month.

To learn more, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs, and posts on Facebook and Twitter !
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I Am a Childhood Sexual Trauma and Abuse Survivor Maintaining Recovery From Addiction …Helpful Guest Article and by Kristance Harlow 04/22/19.

I Am a Childhood Sexual Trauma and Abuse Survivor Maintaining Recovery From Addiction …Helpful Guest Article and by Kristance Harlow 04/22/19.

Are the 12 Steps Safe for Trauma Survivors?

“When the 4th and 5th steps are done without support for the symptoms of PTSD, they have the potential to retraumatize.

Trauma is a current buzzword in the mental health world, and for good reason. Untreated trauma has measurable lasting physiological and psychological effects, which makes it a public health emergency of pandemic proportions.

Trauma is an event or continuous circumstance that subjectively threatens a person’s life, bodily integrity, or sanity, and overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, intrusive thoughts about the trauma, hypervigilance, and avoidance of triggers which remind you of the event. Substance use disorders (SUD) are frequently co-morbid (co-occurring) with PTSD.

Many people with PTSD self-medicate with mind-altering substances to alleviate symptoms but getting high or drunk only works for so long. Substance use disorders often evolve from using substances as a maladaptive coping tool.

There are many physiological correlations between psychological trauma and SUD. For example, there are similarities in gray matter reduction for both the person with PTSD and the person with an alcohol use disorder. Although the neural mechanisms of addiction in PTSD patients are not fully understood, research has found that in the prefrontal cortex, dopamine receptors may be involved in both conditions.

Memories related to fear and reward are both processed with the help of these specific receptors. It could be that the processing of traumatic memories affects the dopamine receptors, making them more sensitive to reward-triggering substances.

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Sometimes, people with a dual diagnosis of addiction and PTSD find their way to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs are widespread, free, and require no commitment, which makes them more accessible than other types of treatment.

AA’s worldwide membership and lasting existence have caused the program to be of interest to researchers for decades. Previous research has found positive correlations between an AA participation and abstinence. There is less research on how 12-step programs interact with trauma recovery.

Studies on relapse factors have found that common predecessors to relapse in adults include anger, depression, and stress, among others. Recalling traumatic experiences, for someone with PTSD, can cause intense physiological and psychological reactions characterized by these same feelings: anxiety (stress), depression, anger, and frustration. It’s a combination that puts people with both trauma and addiction at a higher risk of relapsing.

Guilt, Shame, and AA

There are two sets of steps in 12-step programs that involve memory recall and direct involvement with others: Steps 4 and 5 and Steps 8 and 9.

Step 4 says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” That step is followed up by sharing that inventory in Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Later, Step 8 says: “Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” To deal with that list, Step 9 directs people: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

The gist with these steps is that they look at both the resentment/anger the person feels towards others (which always involves taking responsibility for a part or all of the event that caused the resentment and anger), and also the “harms” the person caused others. But there is no direct guidance on how to ensure a realistic and safe assessment of past events is made.

The AA book presents this step as if someone with a substance use disorder has the tendency to blame others. People with PTSD are wracked with self-blame, and it is self-blame and shame which fuels many people’s addictions, but shame is not explicitly addressed in the steps.

Guilt is very commonly experienced by people with PTSD. Survivor guilt can be a bit of a misnomer; PTSD develops from situations that are subjectively experienced as traumatic, but these circumstances don’t have to involve death (although they certainly can and do for many people). Simply surviving can feel like something the person is not worthy of. They may feel guilt when they don’t stay in pain and anxiety.

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“Shame is also common in trauma survivors, especially in people who have been sexually assaulted.”

Trauma survivors must restore a positive sense of self to find healing. Judith Herman, the author of Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terrorexplains that “the survivor needs the assistance of others in her struggle to overcome her shame and to arrive at a fair assessment of her conduct.”

It becomes important, as the trauma reveals itself, to see it clearly for what it was so the person can integrate those experiences into their individual life stories.

AA literature is very focused on decreasing ego and on disrupting the selfishness of the person with the addiction. This is not necessarily a helpful baseline for traumatized folks; it can be harshly critical. The feeling of being judged can deepen the rift between the survivor and others.

Herman writes, “Realistic judgments diminish the feelings of humiliation and guilt. By contrast, either harsh criticism or ignorant, blind acceptance greatly compounds the survivor’s self-blame and isolation.”

The primary text of Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book”) suggests alcoholics review their past sexual life when creating a life inventory in Step 4. For the overall inventory, the book suggests that the reader completely disregard “the wrongs others had done” and to look only at “our own mistakes.”

Even in situations where a person caused harm to the reader, the reader should “disregard the other person involved entirely” and find “where were we to blame?” These suggestions can be dangerous for survivors of intimate partner violence or child abuse who have been told that they were to blame for the abuse they suffered.

The book further details what to ask yourself when making an inventory of your sexual conduct:

“Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead?” It is worrisome that a sex inventory is taken to find out how “we acted selfishly” when one-third of women and one-sixth of men have been sexually assaulted or raped.

An estimated half of women who experience a sexual assault will develop PTSD. One study found that 80 percent of women with SUD who seek inpatient treatment have been physically or sexually assaulted and nearly 70 percent of men have experienced either physical or sexual abuse.

How the 12 Steps Can Harm People with PTSD

Because remembering past traumas makes the brain’s reward center more receptive to the effects of drugs, Steps 4 and 5 need to be approached with extreme caution for people who have experienced trauma.

Ideally, these steps jumpstart healing; but when they are done without support for the symptoms of PTSD, they have the potential to retraumatize. As the person shares their trauma with someone else, hopefully, the listener is compassionate and willing to point out where things were not the addict’s fault—at all.

A child survivor of molestation had no agency in the assault, and it is unconscionable to tell that child, now grown, that they need to determine where they were at fault. It is not possible to “disregard the other person involved entirely” when an event only occurred because of the other person. Sometimes we need to recognize this fact and say to ourselves (or hear from someone else): “You had no part in this, you were a victim at that time.”

In Steps 8 and 9 we are to list and resolve harms done to others. If step 4 and 5 didn’t properly address where our fault doesn’t lie, we may be inclined to list abuses and harm done to us as wrongs we did. It says not to make amends if it will cause harm to others, but we need an additional specification not to make amends if it will cause harm to ourselves.

If you owe an abusive ex-partner money, are you supposed to pay them back if you’ve cut off all contact? These are issues that require careful consideration. Sharing both lists with a compassionate person has the potential to help survivors recover. Sharing both lists with someone who is too harsh in their suggestions and assessments has the potential to push those in recovery back into active addiction.
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The care of a loving, compassionate, and knowledgeable supporter, like a sponsor, can help sort out these dangerous triggers. Since such a large percentage of people in 12-step programs have experienced trauma, sponsors should be able to provide trauma-informed care; otherwise, going through the steps may end up retraumatizing their sponsees and leaving them vulnerable to relapse.

Yet, there are no qualifications for sponsorship and no way for someone new to the program to be aware of these potential pitfalls. There are so many variabilities to the 12 steps and how they are implemented.

The way in which someone interprets the language of the steps can change how people understand themselves and their history. Trauma-focused recovery can be lost in the mix and deserves more explicit attention.

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Kristance Harlow is a freelance writer and mental illness advocate. She fights stigma and writes about uncomfortable experiences. She lives in a foreign land with her husband and rescue pups.

Find Kristance on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, or her blog.

 

Things You Can Do to Improve Your Mental Health Today! By Our Guest, Alek Sabin.

Things You Can Do to Improve Your Mental Health Today! By Our Guest, Alek Sabin.

Mental health issues can always be a struggle, especially when maintaining recovery from addiction, and it’s important to note that you aren’t helpless against the chemical problems in your brain. Building strong coping mechanisms and skills to improve your mindset are important stepping stones to a happy and fulfilling life. We know how important self-care is. Having mental health challenges is as the same as well as our overall medical health and well being.

Here are some things that you can do every day to improve your mental health…

 

Pay Attention to Your Diet

 

A healthy diet doesn’t just offer benefits for your physical health—it can help you psychologically, as well. No diet can cure your mental problems, but according to ongoing research, certain foods can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many scientists believe, for example, that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna can improve brain health.

The complex carbohydrates found in whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat pasta, meanwhile, help the body release serotonin. And dark chocolate has been lauded for years for its ability to help the body release serotonin and relax the blood vessels. Eating regularly and never skipping meals will also help you to keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing mood swings. If you find yourself eating too much sugar, here are some sugar free snack ideas for you and your family to help you.

 

Get Regular Exercise

 

While on the subject of creating a routine, it’s a good idea to build some exercise into that routine, even if it’s just a little exercise to get that heart rate up a few times a week. Exercise temporarily raises endorphin levels in the body, making it an instant mood booster.

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And because of the way that your body and its hormones respond to stress during exercise, regular exercise over time can actually increase your body’s overall resistance to stress. And as if that weren’t enough, exercise, of course, has the added benefit of improving and strengthening your overall physique, which is a sure way to build self-confidence.

 

Spend Time with Animals

 

Even if you don’t feel ready to have a pet of your own, you can spend time with a friend or family member’s pet, or visit your local animal shelter, for a natural boost in mood. Animals have a way of showing pure, unconditional love, which could be exactly what a person with mental health problems needs. In addition, a pet can give a person something to wake up for, something to build a routine around, and a companion to depend on. Pets are actually proven scientifically to relieve tension and improve mood.

 

Make a Routine

 

Mental health problems have a way of taking structure out of our lives, causing one day to blend into the next. Creating a routine that includes ample amounts of sleep, and making it a habit to stick to it. can keep you on track and give meaning to each and every day.

 

Plan a Time to Get Away

 

Even if you don’t have the resources to take time off of work and go out of town for a vacation (which, by the way, could offer just the break you need to relieve stress), simply planning a vacation will raise your spirits significantly. According to a study published the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life back in 2010, the largest boost in happiness surrounding vacations actually comes from the simple act of planning the vacation.

So grab a friend and plan an imaginary trip together. And if it seems doable in the near future, go ahead and make it a financial goal to save up for that vacation. Setting goals, after all, is in itself another way to give yourself something to look forward to and naturally heal your mental health.

 

Be Authentic

 

This is much easier said than done, but there is something about getting in touch with your authentic self that builds your self-confidence and boosts mood levels. Try to confide in friends and family members on a regular basis, or try writing in a journal regularly to get your thoughts out on paper.

You might also try meditating, which can help you to track your thought patterns and spend much-needed time clearing your mind of all the everyday stress it is exposed to.
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Enjoy the Sunlight

 

It’s true—spending time in the sun actually aids in serotonin production and leads to a better mood. Make it a point to spend some time each day in the sun, especially during the winter months when serotonin levels are especially low.

In addition, you might consider letting more sunshine stream in through your windows so that you can enjoy the benefits of sunlight even while indoors.

Gambling Recovery Ramblings. It Can Be Challenging In Early Recovery. Nun’s Accused of Embezzlement To Gamble?

I have been so busy of late trying to keep up with where “Big Jim” is and where he is biking to next, that it has been a long while since I shared myself and some interesting news I have found about or read about gambling recovery. A while I added back my recovery blog on two different new sites called Feedspot and Tumblr.

They share my posts on the sites automatic so I can help and reach more people, those struggling with or new to recovery. I blog as well so others know they are not alone recovering from this cunning addiction.

I find many times we all seem to face the same challenges in early recovery from this disease. Even though have been working my recovery for many years, doesn’t mean I don’t forget my own relapses and treatment program “Do Overs”…

I still remember the early days when triggers, urges, and cravings would win over my will and desire to stay in recovery and stop gambling. We never should forget where we were and where we came from in order to enjoy life and where we are today maintaining recovery. 

Here are some Anonymous comments from people who are trying to recover from addicted gambling. I am sharing so that others may know and be informed about how hard it is and the struggles and areas that are hard to come to grips with. It sure does feel like you are “Gripped By Gambling” in early recovery! Also an article about two Calif. Nun’s Steal Money to Gamble in Las Vegas! WOW!

That just shows that when you become a problem gambler, you then cross the line to a full-blown addiction, the disease will slowly progress to the point that when the money runs out? You then steal, lie, and cheat to get money to continue feeding the addiction …

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FEEDSPOT GAMBLING FORUM COMMENTS: How Challenging Staying Away From GAMBLING …
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“I feel the more we openly talk about the hatred for gambling the quicker we can retrain our brains fully into healing.  Gambling causes misery and darkness. There is nothing good that comes out of gambling. Gambling highjacks our brain.

When we win, we lose. We when lose, we lose. We hide, cry inside and kill our emotional feelings to the world. We can not be happy until we have lost it all.

We love the challenge of finding money to gamble with no matter how far behind in life that takes us.  We will not gamble today, we will not gamble anymore.”

ANOTHER:  “I just wanted to express myself that I’m happy you guys are here to give warming messages to make me understand what gambling can do to a person. It took so many years from me even though I’m only 26. I lost so many chances to take boy trips to other countries and build up my life. It feels kinda bad to be so low but at the same time awesome because it gave me life experience.

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ANOTHER:  
I relapsed!  Trigger Warning!

And got lucky. I won a fairly big amount of money for me, especially as a student. I started with a deposit of $100, lost that, then deposited more, and you get the picture. Then I finally won my deposits back and then some. Then lost it all!

I’ve been doing pretty good just staying away from gambling, but I’ve noticed I’ve definitely got an easily addicted mind, be it gambling, snus, alcohol, etc. If I stay away from gambling I’ll use a disk of snus a day, or go out to drink with friends.

Now I’ve once again locked out of online casinos but I always seem to come back somehow, by either circumventing the block or just finding a new casino.

I’ve edited my flair, I had a good run of 155 days clean but now I’m back at square ONE!  Here Is To new beginnings!
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ONE MORE: “I am sick, ashamed, and so disgusted in myself. I have no one to blame but myself. My boyfriend doesn’t gamble, but he does try to see make light of the issue (i.e I’m lucky that I don’t have to pay for rent, etc).

It all started a month ago as entertainment, but I’ve been going every weekend with my boyfriend ever since I had a big win in January. I promised that I wouldn’t become addicted, but that failed.

I got sucked way too into it and figured that I was in too deep anyway last night. To think I could have spent some of that money lost towards something more beneficial, like auto or student loans. I feel horrible.

I’m looking at my bank statement of all the withdrawals I made. I feel like shit. This is totally unacceptable!! I’m going try to put that addiction-feeling towards working on myself. SO wish me luck.

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Showgirls at the Welcome Sign - 8-15-07

Showgirls at the Welcome Sign

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((An internal investigation at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., found that two nuns who worked there misappropriated a substantial amount of money for personal use over a period of years.  ImageCredit Scott Varley/Digital First Media, via Torrance Daily Breeze, via Getty Images))

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Two longtime nuns at St. James Catholic School in Torrance allegedly embezzled as much as $500,000 in tuition, fees, and donations, perhaps spending some of the money on trips and gambling at casinos while telling parents the school was operating on a shoestring budget, officials and parents said.

The figure represents only what auditors have been able to trace in six years’ of bank records and might not include other cash transactions, officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents and alumni at a meeting Monday night at St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach. An audio recording of the two-hour meeting was obtained by the Southern California News Group.

The apparent scandal came to light last week when the church’s small, K-8 school announcedthat it had notified police that Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, and Sister Lana Chang, who both had retired earlier this year, were “involved in the personal use of a substantial amount of school funds.” But the nuns had expressed remorse, and the archdiocese and the church were not pursuing criminal charges.

Kreuper was the school’s principal, and Chang taught there.

The revelation comes four years after a car struck and killed four people as they left a Christmas concert at the church, including a 6-year-old boy.

Michael Meyers, the church’s monsignor, told the crowd of a few hundred people that the archdiocese launched an internal investigation six months ago after the organization performed a standard audit of procedures ahead of Kreuper’s retirement after 28 years at the school.

Around the same time, Meyers said, a family happened to request a copy of a check made out to the school, and the staff noticed it had been deposited in a bank account other than the schools.

That’s when Kreuper became “very nervous and very anxious” about the upcoming financial review and requested that the staff alter records, the monsignor said. Meyers said he alerted an archdiocese internal auditor performing the review that “something was off” and that the auditor confirmed his suspicions.

The archdiocese then hired an independent forensic auditor for a deeper review.

Without the red flags raised by the check, Kreuper’s “strange” behavior and a tip made to an archdiocese ethics hotline, officials said the school would never have known about the problem.

The improper use of the funds had been going on for at least 10 years, Meyers said. The parish and the school have always run in the black, so it appears no one had suspicions.

“The systems that were set up were dividing people, so nobody knew what was happening,” Meyers said.

A retired FBI agent hired by the archdiocese interviewed school staffers and the nuns.

“When he was talking to Sister Mary Margaret, she did acknowledge that she had been taking all the money, so that’s not a question,” Meyers said.

He said no other staff members are suspected of wrongdoing, but a bookkeeper who was unaware of the long-running scheme has voluntarily taken a leave of absence to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

Funds raised by the school’s nonprofit education foundation were not affected, officials said.

Auditors told parents the “long forgotten” church bank account was opened in 1997 and that bank records before 2012 no longer exist. Only Kreuper and Chang knew about the account, they said.

They described a system in which Kreuper handled all checks made out to the school for tuition and fees before handing them over to bookkeeping staff for processing. The principal allegedly withheld some of the checks and deposited them into the other account, endorsing the back with a stamp that read, “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.”

The sisters used a majority of the money for “personal gain,” officials said, though some of it was “recycled” back to the school.

Meyers said the money would have ended up in the school’s reserve funds.

The sisters expressed deep remorse, officials said.

The archdiocese is cooperating with Torrance police, but is unwilling to be a “complaining party,” archdiocese lawyer Marge Graf told parents. She said the decision was made because the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has agreed to pay the school full restitution and impose “severe sanctions” on Kreuper and Chang.

When a parent asked what the money was spent on, the attorney said: “We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips, we do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account.”

The nuns, described by many as best friends, have been removed from ministry, according to a letter from the order read aloud during the meeting. Meyers said they have been moved to separate convents. Church officials did not say whether the order’s restitution agreement hinged on the archdiocese not pursuing criminal charges.

Meyers and other officials pledged to make changes to prevent abuse in the future, noting that new principal Noreen Maricich has implemented an online payment system for tuition that draws funds directly from parents’ bank accounts.

Reactions in the stunned crowd ranged from disappointment and anger to calls for forgiveness.

Many parents were outraged with the decision not to press charges, with some remarking that if the nuns were lay people, they would certainly be in jail. Others called for the restitution to be used to give teachers pay raises and for expenses they said Kreuper claimed the school could not afford, such as awnings for an outdoor eating area.

Jack Alexander of Redondo Beach said in an interview with the Southern California News Group that he and other parents are considering banding together to act as a complaining party to Torrance police themselves. But without cooperation from the archdiocese, he is doubtful the effort would lead to prosecution.

“We were an ATM, and people know it and they won’t ask for justice,” Alexander said.

The approach sends the wrong message to students, he said, that money is more important than morals.

“They are trying to recapture money, not get justice,” Alexander said.

Paul Eakins, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors have not been presented with a case yet from Torrance police. Sgt. Ronald Harris said police will confer at some point with the District Attorney’s Office.

“Our office doesn’t decline to charge simply because the victim’s future cooperation is problematical,” Eakins said. “However, if a victim is not presently cooperating, we may consider that as a factor in determining whether a case can be successfully prosecuted.”

Many in attendance questioned how the school could claim in a parent letter that the embezzlement did not affect the students’ education, and they criticized officials for hesitating at first to reveal the full, six-figure estimate. Some have called on Meyers to resign.

Denise Sur, a longtime St. James parishioner who put four children through the school and spoke at the meeting, said in an interview that she was disappointed that details were not provided immediately.

“The archdiocese and our parish leadership have to be held accountable for the poor process as well as what occurred,” she said.

Tony Liakos, a parent who also spoke at the meeting, said in an interview that the news is another blow to a church community still reeling from that tragic crash in December 2014. It’s a good school, he said, and he doesn’t want its attributes to be overshadowed by these two incidents.

“The biggest thing is I’d prefer to see this not hurt the school more than it already has,” he said in an interview.

Samantha Pierce, a Torrance resident who has attended St. James for more than 30 years and whose son graduated from the school, said the controversy underscores a failure of church leadership. Only a police investigation can be trusted, she said.

“They convicted the sisters before they actually have the facts on hand, that is the thing that disturbed me the most,” Pierce said.

She expressed skepticism that the nuns acted maliciously, even given their apparent admissions of guilt.

Kreuper was known to forgive tuition debt and offer assistance to families experiencing financial hardships, Pierce said, and she took trips to Las Vegas because she visited a friend from a Catholic school where she used to teach.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Las Vegas could not be reached on Wednesday. Kreuper has a past address and P.O. Box in Las Vegas, public records show.

If the nuns indeed misused funds wrongfully, Pierce said she would forgive them.

Other parents said it was well-known that Kreuper and Chang traveled often and went gambling, but that they claimed they have gifted the trips by a rich relative.

“These nuns took a vow of poverty and said, ‘Oh no, we’ve got a rich uncle,’ ” Alexander said. “The rich uncle was the parents of the St. James students. These 2 Nuns Suspected in $500,000 Theft From Catholic School Had a Taste for Gambling, Church Says.”