Hanbleceya is a long-term, residential-like treatment program designed to teach those afflicted with a chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and dual diagnoses, the skills necessary to live a happy, healthy and independent life.
-Former U. S. Surgeon General David Satcher
The holidays can be a stressful time, for sure, as it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Some people think that only people with mental illnesses have to pay attention to their mental health. However, mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. The truth is that your emotions, thoughts and attitudes affect your energy, productivity and overall health. Good mental health strengthens your ability to cope with everyday hassles and more serious crises and challenges. It is essential to creating the life you want. For individuals who suffer from a mental illness, this time of year can be especially challenging. Learning to manage one’s symptoms and maintaining positive mental health is an integral and essential component of one’s overall health. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. Just as you brush your teeth or get a flu shot, you can take steps to promote your mental health. As you read through this edition of our newsletter, we hope you find some helpful ways to manage and promote your mental health while enjoying the season and the new year to come.
Have a mentally happy and healthy holiday season!
Kerry Paulson, Owner/Business Manager since 2005
Mental health and wellness are influenced by a variety of biological, social, physical and psychological factors. Biologically, mental health can be shaped by illness, chemical imbalance, medication and family history/genetics. Socially, the state of one’s support system, work or school environment, the economy, cultural norms and stigma, and housing conditions all contribute to the state of mental wellness. Physically, mental health can be affected by physical activity, nutritional balance, sleep habits and fresh air. Psychologically, mental wellness can be influenced by attitudes, faith, a sense of purpose, humor, etc. As such, developing and maintaining mental health wellness would include efforts in each of these areas: the mind, the community, the body and the spirit.
Whether an individual suffers from mental illness, is strained by a busy work schedule, is dealing with the weight of a personal matter or is tense in preparation for the upcoming holidays, maintaining quality mental wellness requires a holistic approach. Combining self-care efforts in each the biological, social, physical and psychological domains is an important element of balancing the overall wellness of an individual as being healthy in one domain will not make up for a deficit in another. For example, being physically fit does not counteract a lack of social support in the same way that having a rewarding work environment is not enough to manage a biological illness. A mental health “toolbox” needs to contain a number of healthy self-care strategies that cover the mind, community, body and spirit arenas. Please review the section on “Strategies for Good Mental Health Wellness” for ideas and suggestions on how to build and fortify your own self-care toolbox. Happy Health!
~James H. West
Dr. Karlyn Pleasants, Owner/Co-Program Director, a member of the Hanbleceya Community since 1997
My story starts where it ended, in an apartment over skid-row. I was sober yet psychotic, broke and about to have another anxiety attack and psychotic break I had had five times over the last six months. These events had taken me not only to hospitals, police cars, and jail but lately what had steadily and quite sincerely began to appear and feel more and more like hell itself.
I still couldn’t understand why staying on meds and attending 12 Step meetings yet still having monthly binges when my check came in wasn’t working. That sounds silly to me now but even the doctors back then seemed to fall for it.
Thankfully, that day, I did find the clarity to recall where I did stay sober and sane. I’d been there for six months and had been rather well. I didn’t like it but when faced yet again with a trip to actual hell, I had gotten reasonable.
I called my mother for Will’s number (my therapist at Hanbleceya a year prior). With the voices already locked in and the panic beginning, Will thankfully answered. He worked me in to a hospital via bus and gave me an assignment to write a letter to myself describing what things were like for me while I was on the bus. I have since lost the letter but had at that point begun my quest back to Hanbleceya.
Here I am, sitting at a desk, sane and sober over a year since then. No hospital visits, no police or jails and a clear and distinct assuredness that I am not in hell. Sometimes it’s heaven, sometimes it’s a lot of work, but never has it been hell for me again.
Hanbleceya has taught me to diffuse my mind’s tendency towards psychotic delusion through simple steps of recognition and reaching out. I’ve incorporated prayer, meditation and things that work for me and give me comfort and I’m okay today. I’m on the right track, have completed the 12-Steps of recovery, started the 12-Steps of Alanon and even quit smoking. I haven’t had a cigarette in over a month!
Heaven’s not as easy as I always thought it would be but hell is assuredly, significantly worse. I’ll stay in heaven and thank Hanbleceya.
~Ward B, a member of the Hanbleceya community since June 2009Holiday Sobriety: Avoiding Relapse
The holiday season is a time where families,friends,acquaintances and total strangers come together to celebrate life, relationships with one another and the common thread of gratefulness that is central to our holiday culture. Although it may appear on the surface to be a joyous occasion, individuals in recovery can experience some of the most difficult times of their sobriety during the holiday season. There are many reasons that the holidays can be an arduous time for loved ones in recovery, but none more than the multitude of triggers that recovering addicts experience throughout this time of the year. Finances are stretched, tension is high within family systems and drinking is not only acceptable but encouraged during the holidays. The world has not and will not change because we are in recovery, meaning that as recovering addicts we have a responsibility to manage triggers and recognize relapse behavior long before taking a drink actually happens.
Triggers during the holiday time for a recovery addict will consist of things like people drinking excessively at parties, ruminating on “old times,” fear of financial insecurities, long to-do lists and family interactions. Although these triggers may seem normal throughout the holiday time, it is the addict who may turn to substance use to “manage” the feelings and experiences he or she may be having. Nonetheless, 12 Step recovery provides a strong foundation to not only manage, but thrive in situations similar to those described above. The concepts of fellowship, reliance on a Higher Power, group therapy, taking an introspective look at oneself, being of service to and working with others are all magnificent action oriented tools that can be used to combat triggers during the holiday season.
Being new in recovery, there are some definite suggestions that can be made in regards to avoiding and managing triggering situations, in addition to one’s recovery program, during a time like this.
- Avoiding parties that will be serving alcohol or attending these parties, if you must, with another sober individual.
- Write out a plan of what actions you can take when experiencing triggers.
- Have a list of phone numbers of other sober people you can call.
- Attend regular meetings. Many areas have “Alkathons” which are round the clock AA/NA meetings around holiday times.
- Write daily gratitude lists which are especially helpful when a recovering addict is feeling down and depressed.
All in all, the holidays are a wonderful occasion to show gratitude for the things life has provided and for the interaction with other people that make the holiday time so special. The recovering addict must take extra precaution when approaching times like these and accept support from family, loved ones, and friends on their journey in recovery. Being the loved one of an individual in recovery can be especially difficult during the holidays, but with support, love, tolerance and patience, the whole family can enjoy the addict’s sober holiday season.
~Christopher M. Bennett, Assistant Chemical Dependency Coordinator, Member of the Hanbleceya family since 2009