By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
Finding “balance”…a concept that has been very challenging to achieve over the past year. People who did not have substance use issues before the pandemic, may be questioning their drinking or substance use patterns now. The lack of structure or many changes to individual and family schedules can also add to the barriers in achieving well-rounded attention to all domains of life. The pandemic has provided many excuses for people to utilize maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with stress, boredom, fear, grief and the many other emotions that have surfaced.
In addition, when individuals first get sober it can be hard to change their lifestyle to one that is conducive with recovery. Early sobriety often can mimic a game of “whack a mole” in which the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is under control and then another addictive, extreme behaviors or mental health issue comes to the surface. A part of them may also miss the chaos, drama and stimulation that their using life may have provided. Therefore, they may act out or behave in excessive ways such as over-working, becoming dependent on a romantic relationship, overeating, etc. These extremes have become common over the past year for some without SUDs as well. It is crucial that those in early sobriety do not use this unprecedented time as an excuse to engage in old behaviors or thinking patterns to the point of relapse.
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model has been an important modality of treatment during this time of disconnection and remote care. Currently, people are needing support at home, since that is where many are spending a majority of their time. However, it is easy to have lost equilibrium over the past year- but how can those with SUDs get it back?
The IHAT model offers individuals innovative care and a path towards assessing all domains of life and addressing imbalances. Additionally, many sober individuals may have a co-occurring mental health condition that required treatment as well. While their substance(s) of choice may have been used for self-medication purposes or hid the underlying mental health issue, it inevitably will surface. Comprehensive treatment involves treatment for these underlying conditions and also behavioral changes.
The IHAT Institute is training healthcare professionals to administer this much needed model of care. It is clear that the addiction treatment landscape has evolved as a result of the pandemic, and the treatment options need to respond accordingly.
Those who have longer term recovery generally learn that extremes of any nature—positive or negative are not helpful for recovery. The IHAT Institute is training healthcare professionals to support clients in developing recovery and self-care routines that become a way of life. The following is an exercise that can help you or a loved one to examine “balance” distribution in a variety of areas in life and what areas need more or less focus:
For each category record how much energy and effort you are expending. If a category is not relevant you can write “N/A”. The total should add up to 100%.
- Friendships ___________
- Family __________
- Romantic relationship _________
- Communication _________
- Healthy and regular nutrition _________
- Exercise __________
- Sleep hygiene __________
- Misc (smoking cessation, personal hygiene, etc.) ____________
- Mutual-help meetings (A.A., SMART Recovery, etc.) __________
- Developing a sober network of relationships __________
- Relapse prevention __________
- Therapy __________
- Medication adherence ____________
- Coping skill application ___________
- Putting effort into job, volunteer, academic commitments ___________
- Adhering to routine/schedule (time management) __________
- Religious and/or spiritual practice and exploration (meditation/prayer, etc.) __________
- Application of religious/spiritual principles __________