Caregiving Advice For The Holidays

Caregiving Advice For The Holidays

Many of us approach the holiday season with mixed emotions.

Some of us are mourning the loss of a family member or friend. Lots of us are lamenting the upending of family traditions by the global coronavirus pandemic. For many, we still feel the burden of creating the “perfect” holiday celebration.

And, we know that it is especially difficult for those who are also managing the challenges of a loved one’s substance use, addiction, or other mental health issues. Approximately 58 million Americans are living with mental health and/or substance use disorders, and the COVID-19 crisis will likely contribute to growth in these numbers.

Here are some suggestions from The Partnership to End Addiction (DrugFree.org) that may help you and yours manage this holiday season:

  • Decide what you can comfortably handle. Communicate this to your family and friends. Is it reasonable to take on all the planning and preparation of even a small, socially-distanced gathering? Can others help or contribute to tasks?
  • Get rest. The holidays can wear you down emotionally and physically. Self-care may be your best gift to yourself.
  • Count your blessings. It can help to write down what you are grateful for.
  • Recognize your emotions. You do not need to pretend like everything is the same or okay. It is natural to feel many emotions — sometimes all at once.

In South Carolina, 1-844-SC-HOPES (724-6737), is statewide support line for individuals in need of mental health or substance use services.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is a confidential information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is a network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Human connection, particularly during times of stress, is essential. People who never experienced mental illness or substance use disorders prior to COVID may find themselves in a confusing and scary place when these issues arise. Folks who live with these conditions every day may see their symptoms increase or worsen.

The need for support is greater at this time of year than almost any other season. If you are having trouble “going it alone,” we encourage you to find a way to connect with help.

Practicing Mindfulness

We all spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Spending too much time thinking about either can cause anxiety and stress, which can negatively impact your health.

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on at the present moment. When you are mindful of what is going on right now, you are not dwelling on the past or thinking about what could happen in the future.

Practicing mindfulness can lead to lower blood pressure, better sleep, less depression, and a better sense of well-being.

Here are three ways that you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life:

  • When you feel stress or anxiety, focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply through your nose for four seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat at least four times. Focus on your breathing. As you breathe, let go of any thoughts about the past or the future.
  • Take a break, pay attention to the present moment, and what is happening around you. If you are outdoors, notice the breeze, the clouds in the sky, the color of the leaves, or the sounds of nature. Focus on your senses and not on any thoughts that cross your mind. If you are inside, focus on an object in the room. Look at this object (could be a picture on a calendar or an artificial plant) as if this were the very first time that you had seen it. Relax into observing it. Notice the colors and textures of the object.
  • Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and focusing on your breathing. As various thoughts cross your mind, take note of them and name them. If you are thinking about paying bills, stop and acknowledge the thought (such as “Yes, I am worried about that.”) By labeling the thought, you interrupt the feelings of stress or anxiety that arise from the thought. Then, let the thought go and return your focus to your breathing. Start out doing this twice a day for three minutes at a time. Over time, you can build up to longer periods.

Remember that practicing mindfulness is like physical exercise: the more often that you practice, the better that you become at it.

Celebrate With Mocktails

As we all know by now, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Public health officials are advising that we scale back the number of people at our holiday gatherings in order to keep people safe and to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in our communities.

As we plan our much-smaller dinners and holiday parties, we still need to be mindful of the fact that – for many people – holiday spirits do not come from a bottle.

Nearly half of all Americans do not drink alcohol on regular basis, according to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In 2019, 50.8 percent of Americans reported drinking alcohol in the past month (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). In other words, 49.2 percent of people do not regularly drink.

There are many reasons why people chose not to drink.

  • If you know someone in recovery from addiction or who has a substance use disorder, you know that maintaining their sobriety is very important to them.
  • There are other medical conditions that also prohibit the use of alcohol. These include pregnancy, diabetes, digestive disorders, heart issues, kidney problems, and depression.
  • For some people, they take a prescription medication that would otherwise negatively interact with alcohol. Plus, remember that alcohol does not mix well with most over-the-counter cold medicines.
  • Furthermore, many people prefer to serve as the designated drivers for those who do drink or they have made another personal choice not to drink.

Despite their sizeable numbers, these non-drinkers are often overlooked at holiday gatherings where the only truly appealing beverage choices contain alcohol. These non-drinkers want choices beyond soft drinks and bottled water.

Unfortunately, many party planners go through their guest lists determining who prefers what alcoholic beverage.

This holiday season, we ask that you consider your non-drinking guests who still want something tasty but non-alcoholic.

There are lots of festive “mocktail” drinks that will show your guests that you made a special effort to provide beverages that appeal to everyone.

Below are some suggestions for mocktails:

Orange Oasis
1 cup frozen OJ concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup ice
Blend until smooth.
Cranberry Cooler
16 oz. cranberry juice
4 oz. lemon juice
8 oz. ginger ale
Pour ingredients in a tall glass with ice and serve.
Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Sparkling Punch
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
juice of two lemons
juice of two limes
11 oz. sparkling water
Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Pour over ice cubes made of sparkling water.
Orange Fizz
16 oz. orange juice
4 oz. sour mix
8 oz. club soda
Mix and pour in a tall glass with ice.
Garnish with a slice of orange.
New Year's Eve Kiss
Pour 2 oz. passion fruit juice in a champagne flute.
Fill with club soda.
Designated Driver's Delight
8 oz. orange juice
4 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. cranberry juice
3-4 scoops vanilla ice cream
3-4 frozen strawberries
Mix in a blender until smooth.
Garnish with an orange slice and a strawberry.
The Enforcer
Fresh brewed coffee
Whipped cream
Chocolate sprinkles
Sugar cubes
Cinnamon
Pour coffee into a mug and stir in 2 sugar cubes and a dash of cinnamon.
Top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.
Mai Tai
8 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. club soda
4 oz. orange juice
2 tbsp. grenadine
2 tbsp. cream of coconut
Stir to blend and serve over crushed ice.
Frosty Mocha
1/2 gal. chocolate ice cream, softened
8 cups coffee, chilled
1 pint half & half
1 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 square semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Mix ice cream and 3 cups coffee until smooth.
In punch bowl, stir ice cream mixture, half & half, almond extract, salt and 5 cups coffee until blended.
Sprinkle top with grated chocolate and cinnamon.
Mistletoe Punch
1 6-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
6 cups water
1/2 cup grenadine syrup
1 quart ginger ale
Combine all the ingredients, except last two, in a punch bowl.
Just before serving, add some ice cubes and gently stir in the ginger ale.
Garnish with lemon slice and maraschino cherry.

COVID-19: While at home, continue the conversation

COVID-19: While at home, continue the conversation

By Cornerstone Prevention Specialist Betsy Royal

Emergency Alert: GO HOME.

STAY HOME

These are the words that flashed on the cellphone screens of many South Carolinians as the governor’s home-and-work only order came into effect.

For many, home is where we have already been for several weeks now. After three or more weeks out, parents and students alike are missing school. Parents are missing a regular schedule and their students are missing spring activities, events, and mostly their friends. As much as they claim to hate school, it is a student’s refuge, it is their normal. Students spend the majority of their days walking the hallways of their schools under the influence of peers, teachers and administrators.

Typically, this time of year, the halls are abuzz with plans being made for the weekend, prom, graduation and summer vacation. This is also the time of year where we, in the substance abuse prevention field, spend time in schools promoting healthy decision making. We teach students about the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on their developing brain and body. We teach them about the laws surrounding substances as well as consequences they will experience if they break those laws.

Parents have been granted a special opportunity. We have been given the gift of time with our students that we normally don’t have because of the hustle and bustle of real life. Use this time to continue the conversation! Discuss as a family your values and expectations, as well as what they can expect if those expectations are not met. Educating our students in any subject prepares them for what they will face as they grow and mature. In our homes, we need to take time to teach our kids about drugs and alcohol. What effects substances can have on the developing brain and body as well as household and legal consequences of use.

What parents need to know:

• Facts are where it’s at.

Use evidence-based, credible resources to gather your information. On our website cornerstonecares.org/at-home-drug-prevention-resources-for-parents/ you will find a list of many resources that have facts as well as games you can use to make the conversation more fun.

• Different ages need different details.

It is never too soon to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol, but remember, kids process and retain information differently depending on their developmental levels. Most of the resources we share on the link above break the information down into different age ranges.

• Plan ahead.

Make sure you plan for the question – “Well, did you ever?” Many times this question puts a parent on the defensive when it is actually a great opportunity. Be honest with your student but don’t share war stories. Use the opportunity to discuss what the different consequences were or could have been to the decisions you made.

• Share family history.

Science shows that addiction is a result of both genetics and choice. Knowing about a family history of addiction can tip the scales when a student is trying to weigh his or her options on whether to use a substance.

• Make a plan.

Come up with different scenarios with your student and ways they can get out of them. Plan out exit strategies for times when your student is faced with a high pressure decision.

Remember, this pandemic will end at some point and our students will return to school. When they do, they will be faced with the same pressures and curiosities that were there before. Arm them with the knowledge that they need to make the best decisions. Right now it is up to you to continue the conversation.

Recovery Support Resources

Recovery Support Resources

The schedules for many AA, NA, and other 12-step meetings have been disrupted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here are some resources for virtual or online meetings.

Organization / ServicesOnline Link
AA Columbia Intergroup Officehttp://www.area62.org/intergroups/index.php?id=3
WEconnect Recovery (free online support)https://www.weconnectrecovery.com/
Unity Recovery (free online All Recovery meetings)https://unityrecovery.org/ 
Online AA Intergrouphttp://www.aa-intergroup.org
In The Rooms (live video meetings)https://www.intherooms.com/home/live-meetings/
SMART Recovery (online meetings)https://www.smartrecovery.org/community/calendar.php
Grupo de AA por Skype (Spanish-speaking online meetings)https://grupoaaskype.es.tl/
Recovery Chat Roomshttps://stepchat.com/chat/room1.htm
Online 12-Step Meetingshttps://www.12step.org/social/online-meetings/
Lion Rock Online AA Meetings and Support Groupshttps://www.lionrockrecovery.com/online-aa-meetings-and-support-groups
Al-Anon Electronic Meetingshttps://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/electronic-meetings/
Addiction Policy Forum Connections Apphttps://www.addictionpolicy.org/connections-app

At-Home Drug Prevention Resources For Parents

At-Home Drug Prevention Resources for Parents

With schools being closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many parents are looking for resources to foster learning while their children at home. Below is a list of science-based programs and curriculums that children and youth can do to learn more about addiction and the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/lessonplans

https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/

http://forensics.rice.edu/en/For-Educators/index.html

https://bscs.org/resources/educator-resource-center/drug-abuse-addiction-and-the-adolescent-brain/

https://www.smokescreengame.org/

http://www.play2prevent.org

http://www.scholastic.com/drugs-and-your-body/

https://create.kahoot.it/pages/test/dea33ab0-584e-4ed0-9464-5a1ec01b22aa?_=1584372908

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-matters/opioids

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-matters/nicotine

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-matters/marijuana

http://www.epiedmovement.org/drugepi.html

Managing Stress in Uncertain Times

Managing Stress in Uncertain Times

During times such as these, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and confused. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, it is especially important that individuals and families look for ways to stay mentally and physically healthy, reduce stress, and stay connected.

So, how does this work?

First, take care of yourself physically. We have all heard the list of to-do’s by now:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with others by keeping a distance of 6 feet
  • Stay away from others if you are sick
  • Stay home as much as possible

The CDC also recommends that you take a break from reading and hearing about the pandemic to decrease feelings of being overwhelmed.

  • Turn off the TV or computer
  • Sand up and stretch
  • Go outside and get some fresh air
  • Make healthy food choices to keep up your strength and to boost your immune system
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs

Take care of your mental health. This one can be challenging since folks are being encouraged to stay home. Many people are finding that their social connections are harder to maintain. Because staying connected is important to both mental and physical health, it is important to connect with others even if you are not mobile. Call, text, or write a friend and connect to loved ones through social media-remember they are probably feeling as unsettled as you are. Check your faith community’s website for inspiration and encouragement. Plan ways for those in your household to emotionally connect during quarantine such as playing card or board games, watching a favorite movie, or going for a nature walk in your own backyard!

If you are working from home, try to stick to your daily routine. Get up at your usual time, dress, eat breakfast, and make your bed. Connect with co-workers by email or text to maintain a sense of work connection and bonding.

For those in recovery, it is especially important to stay connected to your systems of support. Cornerstone’s Facebook and website (www.facebook.com/cornerstonegema or www.cornerstonecares.org) both have information about on-line resources and meetings that are available. Stay in touch by phone or video chat with your sponsor, small groups, and supportive family members. Stay focused on your recovery plan by staying proactive. Avoid temptations by posting your recovery goals where you see them daily, connect with on-line meetings, keep a journal, or do any of the things that help move you toward your most joyful and healthiest self.

Last but not least, get creative! While quarantining at home is probably not anyone’s first choice, use this time to nurture yourself and your household with meditation or relaxation activities. Learn new skills like gardening, sewing, or baking. Watch instructional videos or make your own and share with others. Ask your family members to vote on a book to read out loud after dinner each evening. If you are still looking for things to do, put on some music and have a dance contest in your living room.

Most of all, keep in mind that we are all in this together. Do not hesitate to reach out for support if you need it or to offer support to someone else.   

Underage Drinking… What Are The Laws?

Underage Drinking: The Facts

  • It is illegal to give alcohol to your teen’s underage friends under any circumstances – even in your own home, even with their parents’ permission.
  • You cannot knowingly allow a person under 21, other than your own child, to consume or possess alcohol in your home or on your property.

What can happen if you break the law

  • You face a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and $1,075 in fines and fees.
  • Your penalties can “stack up,” as you can be ticketed for each underage person you provide with alcohol.
  • You can be sued if you give alcohol to anyone under 21 and they, in turn, hurt someone, hurt themselves or damage property.

What you can do to protect yourself

  • Refuse to supply alcohol to anyone under 21
  • Be at home when your teen has friends over
  • Make sure that alcohol is not brought into your home or property by your teen’s friends
  • Talk to other parents about not providing alcohol at other events your child will be attending
  • Create alcohol-free opportunities and activities in your home so teens feel welcome
  • Report underage drinking to local law enforcement

So Your Teen Is Off To College…

So Your Teen is Off to College…

Ok parents, are you ready for college? Towels and extra-long sheets? Check. Books and pens? Check. Alcohol?  Wait, whaaattt???

While alcohol is probably not on your “to buy” list, it’s often a component of college life many parents don’t consider.  Unfortunately, parents cannot afford to ignore that, for some students, alcohol is considered an integral part of the college experience. So before the list making and shopping, make time to have conversations about alcohol and college life, your expectations, and options regarding alcohol use.

Besides being against the law, alcohol use by youth under 21 carries potential dangers, other than legal, which your college bound teen needs to know. Alcohol is quickly absorbed by the bloodstream and reaches the brain and organs within 5-10 minutes of ingestion. Alcohol affects the part of the brain that manages impulse control, coordination, memory, judgement, and inhibitions. Sound like anything your young adult might need in college?

While many college students make responsible decisions about alcohol, being in a new environment with more freedom and possibly more access to alcohol has the potential to lead to risky drinking decisions. So, what’s a parent to do?

For starters, make your expectations clear. Research indicates that parents have more influence on youth than they think and zero tolerance messages appear most effective in preventing alcohol use and consequences- even in youth who have already used alcohol.

Alcohol use can affect all areas of college life including missing classes, falling behind in school work, unintentional injury, risky choices about sex, and alcohol related arrests or school suspensions. By having regular discussions about potential risks involved with alcohol and other drug use, you can help your teen weigh the consequences and develop strategies for getting out of, or avoiding altogether, risky situations. It’s also a good idea to make sure your teen knows how to get help on campus.

If asked about your own college alcohol use, be honest. Acknowledge risks you took and consequences you experienced. Keep in mind that you want to answer these questions in such a way that there is no suggestion that alcohol use is permissible or expected.

As important as these pre-college talks are, don’t stop there! Keep having regular conversations throughout the college years to demonstrate your interest in your student’s well-being and allow you to look for any early signs of problems related to alcohol. It’s also important as your teen ages to reinforce their understanding of potential consequences they face if they provide alcohol to minors. Your teen may be of legal age, but if they are caught providing alcohol to anyone under 21, they are at risk of legal prosecution.

College can be a life-altering experience. With your help, it can be for all the right reasons!

Tips For A Sober July 4th

Tips For A Sober July 4th

The Fourth of July is right around the corner. Many of us will be celebrating our nation’s independence at family gatherings, community festivals, and other events.  While recovering alcoholics may want to partake in these festivities, the fact that even one drink can trigger a relapse makes it problematic for them to do so.  Nevertheless, there are strategies that those in recovery can implement to ensure that they can participate in the holiday safely and stay sober. Here are a few tips to remember:

  1. Do Not Be Afraid To Leave

Whether you are celebrating July 4th with friends and family or attending a block party, it is quite likely that alcohol will be present. In some cases, watching other people drink can function as a trigger that causes a recovering alcoholic to lapse back into their former patterns. If you find yourself in this type of situation and do not know how to avoid drinking, never feel afraid to just leave. Removing yourself from the setting for fifteen minutes or the rest of the evening can preclude you from making a big mistake. If you want to be different, you have to BE different (particularly in the earliest days of your sobriety and recovery).

  1. Ask For Support

Another great way to ensure that you can remain sober during July 4th festivities is by requesting support. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings regarding the likelihood of a relapse with someone you trust can have a calming effect and help you stay sober. In some cases, you may feel comfortable asking someone to observe your behavior and stop you in the event that you begin to consume alcohol. If you participate in a 12-step program you can check in with your sponsor, before, during, and after the event.

  1. Participate In Sober Activities

If you are serious about your sobriety and you realize that that July 4th festivities could put you in the perfect place for a relapse, consider the value of participating in sober activities.  Ask around to determine whether there will be any sober parties in your local area. You may also want to consider taking the reins and throwing a sober party yourself.  If you are a parent or have children in your life (cousins, nieces, nephews), why not make it about them instead of yourself? Spend quality time with your family members. After all, the smiles on the kids’ faces as they play with fireworks can be so rewarding.

  1. Be Prepared With Excuses

“I do not feel like drinking” should be the only excuse that you will ever need for not drinking.  Unfortunately, it does not always work that way.  Our culture has engrained it in peoples’ heads that something is wrong with you if you do not drink.  If you do not want to blast it from the mountain tops why you do not want to drink, be prepared! Other excuses include: you are not drinking because you are trying to lose weight, you are not drinking because you made a bet, and you are not drinking for medical reasons.

In conclusion, navigating any holiday while sober is a huge point of concern. This is doubly so if you are new to sobriety and have not quite yet figured everything out. With a little planning and preparation, you will be able to celebrate with those you love while staying true to yourself and your goals. Hope you have a safe, happy, and sober 4th of July holiday.  If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse, contact us at 864-227-1001 and let us help you get started on the road to recovery.