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Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment and Altruism

For the second year in a row, Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment has taken part in the Wonderfund Holiday Gift Drive. The Wonderfund is a private non-profit organization that works on behalf of the children engaged with the MA Department of Children and Families. The holiday drive aims to provide the 53,000 children involved with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) with gifts to open during the holidays. This year, Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment was given the opportunity to help create magical holiday moments for 17 children.

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment and Altruism

Giving Back During the Holidays

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment chose Wonderfund for a few reasons. Through our work, we see first-hand the impact of growing up with a parent who has substance use issues. For many children in DCF custody, their parents suffer from the disease of addiction and lost custody due to not being able to provide adequate care. Children can often be collateral damage on the path of destruction that addiction drives on.

Helping Those in Need During the Holidays

We see the trauma experienced by these children that can lead to a path of addiction themselves well into adulthood. Our team has worked with adults who have DCF involvement and are working towards gaining custody back through engagement in treatment and sustained recovery from substance misuse. In recovery, we talk about active addiction as a full-time job, and combining that with the full-time job of being a parent is often a recipe for disaster.

While many people have negative opinions regarding the involvement of DCF in families’ lives, the involvement of DCF allows parents to focus on their sobriety and learn the skills needed to be a parent. With the help of treatment providers, fellowship, and supportive DCF workers, individuals are able to learn the skills needed to balance being a parent in recovery.

Altruism: Selfless Concern for the Good of Others

In treatment, we often talk about the importance of giving back once we progress in our recovery. Practicing altruism means we develop a loving relationship with life that is not dependent on external conditions. Giving back allows us to offer the same help that has been essential to our own recovery. Altruism can leave us feeling energized and happy because it triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, a natural reward! When we help others, it allows us to express our attitude of gratitude for how far we have come and a reminder of where we once were.

As a team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we find it is vital to practice what we preach to our clients. Altruism is an important value we hold here as a team. Being able to give back to a population impacted by the disease of addiction is important to us. Providing children within DCF gifts for the holidays through the Wonderfund has become a tradition here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment.

From the team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we want to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Please reach out to us at or visit our contact page directly if we can be of any assistance during these times.

Warmest Regards,
Brittany King, LMHC

How to Have a Sober Thanksgiving

How to Have a Sober ThanksgivingGatherings during the holidays, like Thanksgiving can provide an opportunity for family and friends to have a relaxing celebration and fellowship. We can have wholesome conversations, delicious food, and enjoy the opportunity to reflect and share stories about what we are thankful for. For those of us in recovery, Thanksgiving can pose special risks in the form of triggers that can put us at high-risk for relapse.

Avoid a Relapse During Thanksgiving

Big social gatherings can cause anxiety and fear while also bringing up feelings of isolation. By understanding the unique challenges of being in recovery during the holidays and how to respond to those challenges, we can minimize the risk for relapse. Stay on the path to recovery during the holiday with a few helpful tips.

Sober Thanksgiving

  1. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude – Thanksgiving is a time to count your blessings and there is no bigger blessing than being in recovery. Reflect on what you are grateful for and write it down. This is an excellent way to commit to your sobriety in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Sending messages to those who have helped you with your recovery is another great way to express your gratitude. Practicing an attitude of gratitude will allow you to focus on the progress you have made in recovery.
  2. Create Sober Traditions – While actively using, a lot of our traditions get lost, and trying to navigate holidays after years of not being present emotionally, physically, and spiritually can be difficult. Some of our family traditions on Thanksgiving can involve drinking so it is important to think about some new traditions. Creating some new holiday traditions can be a way to celebrate being sober during the holidays. You could create a trivia contest, play a game of flag football, play board games, give back to your community, or create something unique. The goal is to make new, healthy memories with your sober support.
  3. Schedule Self-Care – Holidays can be a time for large gatherings and focusing on giving to others. We know that while it is important to give back to others, it is just as important to give back to ourselves. Scheduling self-care time during the busy holiday season will be important to deal with any depression, anxiety, restlessness, or discontent this time of year can bring. Taking time to give back to yourself can look like meditation, yoga, listening to music, attending a meeting, journaling, or any other self-care activity you enjoy. 15-minutes of self-care per day will make a big difference during the holiday season!
  4. Eat a Well-Balanced Thanksgiving Meal – We know that food can impact our mood, so it is important to eat a well-balanced meal during Thanksgiving. Keeping in mind the healthy eating habits we have used to support our recovery will be vital. Make a point to eat slowly and mindfully, by giving your full attention to your food so you can savor every bite. Make a plate that is full of your favorite entrees and side dishes with appropriate portions. A common mistake we make while planning our Thanksgiving feast is eating on an empty stomach. We will hold off on eating all day to overindulge on our dinner. Remember, that hunger can be a relapsed trigger as it makes it harder to regulate your emotions and control your cravings for drugs and alcohol.
  5. Prepare for Triggers – Planning for our triggers during the holidays will allow us to be better prepared in case we experience them. Identify your triggers: people, places, things, and situations and then identify strategies for managing them. If you are going to a family gathering knowing your family will consume alcoholic beverages, how will you plan for that? You can bring non-alcoholic beverages, ask your family/friends to not drink around you, or identify if it is too high-risk to be around people drinking. Has an escape route planned or a code word for whoever you go out with, so they know it is time to leave? It is a way to gracefully exit a situation that starts to feel like it is too much. Make sure your “toolbox” of skills is ready to go to help you manage any trigger that arises during the holidays.
  6. Schedule your Day – Downtime and boredom can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and restlessness, especially during the holidays. A way to help you avoid excessive downtime is to plan out your days. Schedule each day and what you will be doing throughout each hour to avoid any downtime that can negatively impact your recovery. Self-help groups increase their meetings during the holidays, so it is important to identify meetings you want to go to and schedule them between any holiday commitments. Schedule your meetings, self-care time, social time, and any other important part of your recovery. If you have a schedule to follow, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by the additional tasks the holidays can add to our schedule.
  7.   What to do if your Loved Ones do not want you Home – While the holidays can be a time of joyful celebration, spending time with loved ones, and eating great food, for some of us in recovery, Thanksgiving can also leave us feeling lonely, bored, and sad. During active use we negatively impact our relationships, so for some of us, our families and loved ones may not be ready to have us home. Being alone on Thanksgiving can be an emotional trigger so it is important to take steps and preventative measures to protect our sobriety. The best thing to do when you are alone on the holiday is to try to attend a self-help meeting like AA, NA, SMART recovery, or Dharma Recovery. Opportunities to volunteer are also a great way to give back and stay focused on your recovery. Try to find sober events where other individuals in recovery enjoy Thanksgiving in a sober setting. The app Meetup is an easy tool to find sober events and meetups. The best thing you can do is create a plan to stay busy and focused on your sobriety so that you are not isolating on the holiday.

Have a Happy and Sober Thanksgiving!

Whether you are in early recovery or have years of sobriety, celebrating the holidays can be a high-risk time for relapse. The holidays can bring the opportunity for each of us to appreciate how much we have changed and how lucky we are to be working on our recovery every single day. By understanding the unique challenges of being in recovery during the holidays and how to respond to those challenges, we can minimize the risk for relapse. What will you do to stay focused on your recovery during the holidays?

Happy Holidays,

Brittany King, LMHC

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?

Culturally, the holiday season is regarded as the most wonderful time of the year. From endless Christmas movies with the same cheesy plotlines to social gatherings for work, family and friends, December’s activities are all centered around love, happiness and togetherness. But for many people, that’s not the reality of the holiday season. When you’re coping with a family member who has substance use disorder, recovering from grief, battling seasonal depression or experiencing other negative emotions, it’s not always easy to feel the holiday spirit.

If you feel more depressed, anxious and stressed around the holidays, you’re far from alone. There’s a social expectation to be jolly all month long, but it’s okay if you’re not in the spirit. The more important aspect to consider is how you cope with your emotions during the holidays. It’s less common for people to discuss feelings like sadness, loneliness and anger when the world is supposed to feel like a winter wonderland. But the team at our Greater Boston addiction treatment center wants you to know that there are ways to get through the holidays with your mental health intact.

How to Cope with Holiday Depression

There are a few things you can do to help mitigate sadness and anxiety around the holidays.

Open up about your depression to a trusted friend or family member.

Reach out to someone who is also struggling with holiday depression; empathy and commiseration can do wonders if you’re feeling isolated and alone.

Volunteer at an animal shelter or an organization that helps provide Christmas gifts and meals to local families.

Avoid triggering media like holiday music, movies and commercials. It’s okay to change the channel or radio station.

Allow yourself to set the boundaries to protect your mental health and take care of yourself. For example, attend holiday gatherings but don’t feel obligated to stay the entire time.

Focus on any little moments that bring joy.

Winter Weather Means Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Look around. Most people you see are experiencing seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Less sunlight and colder temperatures lead to feelings of isolation and melancholy, which can make symptoms of depression and drug addiction more prominent. Staying home and spending time alone becomes much more common for people dealing with SAD because it’s cold, dark and snowy outside. This cycle of depression and isolation can be difficult to break, and many people just wait for spring to arrive. SAD affects holiday depression and can increase how much you dread the season and want to disengage with loved ones and the world around you.

New Year, New Outlook
As the year ends, it’s often easier to look back on the past 12 months and see a long list of mistakes you’ve made or actions you’d like to change than reflect on the good memories. You might be feeling end-of-year remorse or regret as you listen to people you’re close to or follow on social media discuss their own successes or positive memories of the year. Many people approach the new year feeling like they’ve failed because they didn’t meet all the goals they set back in January.

Think of the new year as a new opportunity to reevaluate your goals, not a time to beat yourself up for unmet benchmarks. To start, think about what prevented you from achieving this year’s goals and use that insight to inform changes for the upcoming year. Maybe it makes sense to identify smaller steps you must take to reach overall goal, allowing you to create more feasible resolutions.

Loved Ones with Substance Use Disorder During the Holidays
Are you worried about attending or hosting holiday gatherings with loved ones who have substance use disorder? There may be an added layer of stress or concern around celebrations if there’s addiction in your family. It’s essential for you to set expectations and boundaries around drug and alcohol use before or during the events. Once you’ve clearly communicated these guidelines, keep in mind that you’re not responsible for their behavior and shouldn’t blame yourself for their actions.

While you can provide help and support for your loved ones dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, it’s not your fault if they don’t follow through on your requests. If necessary, discuss the expectations you’ve set with another relative or friend who can help you say “no” and stick to the boundaries when it becomes difficult.

The team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is here if you’d like to discuss our Intensive Outpatient Program or other drug treatment options for your loved ones as we move forward into a new year. From outpatient alcohol rehab programs to evening IOP near Boston, MA, there are many ways for you or your loved one to start down the road of recovery today.

Navigating the Holidays While In Recovery

Spending holidays with family and friends in early sobriety can be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences to endure. The holiday season is oftentimes filled with laughter, wine, drinking games, sports, and family traditions. When someone is in recovery from substance use disorder, family and loved ones usually ask themselves the question of should we have alcohol in the house at dinner, can uncles and aunts come over if they like to indulge in wine and drinking games, will my loved one be “triggered” by the holiday because its a day where they are used to being able to drink with everyone else? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions and family should spend their holidays however they feel comfortable doing so while also supporting their loved ones.

Giving Back:
With Thanksgiving approaching, there are a number of different opportunities to practice selflessness and give back to those in need. Holidays are not about the gifts we receive or the sports teams on TV that day but more about being present with family and friends and reflecting on everything that we have to be grateful for in our lives. In order for someone in early recovery to stay grateful, they will need to show gratitude through some form of action. If we give back to people who are less fortunate than us it will help relieve the obsession to use drugs or alcohol. Our illness is deep rooted in selfish and self centered ways. I went through my life expecting things from everyone but not giving anything in return. As soon as I started to shift my thinking towards others and how I could be of service followed by putting in the action to do so, I began to have a complete psychic change in the way I viewed life. The feeling and urges of getting high started to diminish and I had finally done something for someone without expecting anything in return. Altruism is the key to my happiness.

Getting Involved:
How can someone get involved in giving back if they are in early recovery? The best part of selfless actions are that they are FREE of charge. Anyone can call their local church, police station, fire department or coalition to inquire about service opportunities at local food pantries, soup kitchens, hospitals, and homeless shelters. A simple kind gesture can go a long way in someone else’s life. Sobriety will become a byproduct of your selfless actions and you will soon feel true freedom from the bondage of self. Today my life has changed drastically as a result of doing the simple things. I am able to show up at holidays and enjoy the time spent with loved ones, be grateful for the life I have and the second chance that I received while helping to make someone else’s holiday season just a little bit easier for them.