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Month: November 2015

I Am Thankful


Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! Of course, since it’s the season of giving and thanks, a blog focused on these wonderful topics feels necessary. There is nothing better in this world than the holiday season, am I right?!

I’ll be honest with you and admit that a small part of me feels so guilty around this time of year. I am fortunate to have a happy, healthy, and loving family to spend the holidays with.  I am always looking forward to the holidays because of how much I enjoy being with my family. The reason I feel guilty is because in my daily work as a social worker I spend time with children who have never celebrated a holiday. Never celebrated a holiday… Can you imagine that? Daily, I spend time with children who have never been given a gift, and do not know how to unwrap a present. I spend time with children who do not know who their family is and have no one to celebrate with. I spend the holidays explaining to children who Santa Claus is because they have never heard of him. I have seen children celebrate holidays in residential facilities and do not have any family come to visit them. I have seen children who do not know where their siblings are during the holidays and are worried about them. I have seen children’s behaviors escalate over the holidays because they do not know how to process the emotions that they are feeling during the holiday season. These children listen to other peers in school talk about their holiday festivities and their families, their new gifts…Can you imagine how that must feel? It is difficult for me to take time off of work to enjoy this special time of year without wanting to take all of my clients home with me! For me, this time of year makes it hard to separate work from home life.

I think it is SO important this time of year to truly think about what it is we are thankful for, no matter how big or small. There is always something to be thankful for. I would challenge all of you to physically write down a list of all that you are thankful for this year. Hopefully you are overwhelmed with positive feelings when you can look at that list and think of how fortunate you are to have countless amounts of wonderful things and wonderful people in your lives! Be mindful of the positive aspects of your life and be thankful for them.

Focus on the beauty of this earth. The sky, the changing of the seasons, the sounds of nature… Be thankful for the beauty that surrounds us every single day, and that we so easily overlook.Think about all the obvious wonders in our lives that we overlook. Focus on those ‘things’ that we forget that we have the luxury to enjoy…Every.Single.Day.

I would also challenge you to do one good deed this holiday season revolved around helping others. It feels SO good to give back and to help those less fortunate than ourselves. If you have children, I would encourage you to get them involved in the season of giving as this time of year can be such a fabulous learning experience for children.
Why is it so important to give back and be thankful this holiday season, you ask? Just remember those children I mentioned above and try putting yourselves in their shoes.

As a social worker we try to make the holidays such an exciting time for the individuals we serve. We try making it special, unique, memorable. This can seem impossible at times, and sometimes I feel defeated… There is truly nothing I can do to make this person feel loved around the holidays. But, I can be there for them and I can give back somehow to make their holiday experiences just a little bit better, a little more meaningful, and help them create moments worth remembering.

I want people to know that lending a helping hand during the holidays does not go unnoticed. It does not matter how big or small your contribution is, you can make a difference. You can help in making the holiday season be positive for those who have never experienced the warm, loving feeling this season provides to most of us. And please, enjoy the holiday season you are fortunate to spend with your friends and family, making memories and eating all those comfort foods…After all, calories don’t count during the holidays, right?!

It feels good to do good for others.

-keep shining, and have a safe and memorable Thanksgiving.

Happy Things Thursday


1. Getting goose bumps when stepping into a hot shower.
2. Receiving surprise letters in the mail.
3. Unexpected work bonuses.
4. Getting to the store register to realize the item you’re purchasing is on sale.
5. Receiving a genuine thank you from someone after you help them.
6. Receiving overwhelming amounts of support when going through a tough time.
7. Free restaurant meals on your birthday.
8. Being a part of a ‘pay it forward’ in a drive-through.
9. Puppies
10. Trying a new recipe and receiving many compliments on it.

Abuse vs. Dependence


There is a lot of gray area and uncertainty when it comes to addiction, and one area in particular is the differences between substance abuse vs. dependence. Addiction comes in many different forms, and looks different for everyone affected. Not only is the person who is addicted affected, but so is their family and friends, coworkers, and everyone they come in contact with. Both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction, regardless of how often or how much of the drug is consumed. The difference between the two relates to the way the addiction affects the individual’s every day life, and how it affects those around them.
This topic strikes a cord with me because of the many former patients with addiction I had the opportunity to work with. Some of those patients would not see binge drinking on occasion, for example, as an addiction. This would make working on a treatment plan for these individuals challenging as they would not view their drug use as an addiction, therefore obtaining treatment felt unnecessary to them. This was always concerning to me because of course I wanted those patients to get better! But, the choice must come from the patient to want to receive the help and understand that there may be an issue to come to terms with. There are many different ways to receive help, and sometimes obtaining treatment from a facility may feel intimidating and foreign. There are many other ways to receive help, and I want people to know that!

Below is more detailed information on abuse and dependence which can be helpful in deciding what type of treatment to utilize or how to ask for help, and having a better understanding of addiction in general.

Substance use that harms you physically and/or your mental health causing anxiety, pain, or sorrow.

  • Ongoing legal problems related to substance use (DUI, paraphernalia…).
  • Continuing to use substances even though it is causing problems in your social  life (canceling plans, arguing with peers, physical fights…).
  • Repeated substance use which affects your ability to complete responsibilities in your home life (spending time with family, getting yard work completed…), affects your ability to work (late, ‘no-show’), or affecting your ability to be successful in school.
  • Repeated substance use regardless of the usage being physically dangerous (drinking and driving, unsanitary needle use…).

A pattern of substance use leading to pain, sorrow, or anxiety if demonstrated in 3 or more points below:

  • The individual often takes the substance in mass amounts, or for longer periods than they expected.
  • There is ongoing, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the substance use.
  • A lot of the individual’s time is spent in activities closely related to substance use or that provide the ability to gain the substance (selling drugs, working at a bar….).
  • Give up or greatly reduce enjoyable social or recreational activities due to ongoing usage.
  • Tolerance- a need for increased amounts of the substance to obtain intoxication or the sought-after affect. Or the substance seeming to be less effective over time with the same amount of consumption. (If typically it would take a person 5 beers to be intoxicated, over time this would increase to 10 beers before the individual felt any effects.)
  • Withdrawal- if the definition/attributes of withdrawal for the specific substance being abused is what the individual’s symptoms are. Or the same substance is taken to avoid/relieve the withdrawal symptoms. (Waking up and consuming alcohol to avoid a hangover).
  • The individual lies about their using or is in denial of their use.

*There are self assessment tools available online to help people determine if they are suffering from either abuse or dependence.
As mentioned earlier, both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction. This is so important to understand when trying to come to terms with addiction and get the help you, or someone you know, may need.

Steps to take to help yourself or someone you know:

  • Utilize an online self assessment tool to gain a better understanding of your addiction.
  • Research research research! There is TONS of helpful information and resources for free on the internet.
  • Tell someone you trust about your addiction. Recovering from addiction is much easier when you have guidance, support, and encouragement from others. It is so easy to fall back on old patterns when you do not gain support and understanding from others.
  • Attend NA/AA meetings in your area (trust me, there are tons being offered daily)
  • Challenge yourself- try to eliminate substance use for a certain amount of time to see if you’re able to accomplish that. With time, hopefully you notice how much better, clearer, healthier, and happier you feel. Setting goals, such as this challenge, is great practice in figuring out what you are capable of accomplishing on your own!
  • Think about how your substance use is affecting things in your life that are important to you. Remind yourself not only to make the change for yourself, but also for the people and things you love.
  • Speak with an addiction counselor or individual therapist (your information is kept confidential). Most addictions are the root of a pre-existing problem such as depression or trauma.
  • Contact local agencies who specialize in addiction to discuss options they have to assist you. Check online to find options in your area.

Please remember that it takes courage to get the help you need. It is no easy task; do not give up on yourself. Most addicts are not successful on their first try, and that is okay! Any amount of time sober is worth celebrating. Be proud of yourself for recognizing there is an issue. Be proud of yourself for attempting to gain education and get the help you need. It takes time, commitment, and motivation to make the change and become a healthier you. We all know change is hard, so if you’re prepared and ready for that you can make this happen!

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. Create a life you can be proud of.

keep shining



Happy Things Thursday


  1. Lazy Sundays
  2. Wearing a new pair of shoes for the first time
  3. Good hair days
  4. Zipping into a pair of pants that have not fit for a few years
  5. Dinner with friends
  6. The smell of supper waiting for you when getting home from work
  7. Receiving a homemade gift from a child
  8. Surprise flowers
  9. Reaching out to an old friend and feeling like no time has passed
  10. Relieving dry skin with your favorite smelling lotion

Happy Things Thursday


  1. Sleeping on freshly washed bedsheets.
  2. Watching people open gifts you purchased for them.
  3. Stepping outside and smelling the air after a rainfall.
  4. Finding money in your pocket that you forgot was there.
  5. Being told ‘I love you’ by someone for the first time.
  6. Getting told that your drink or meal is ‘on the house’.
  7. Hitting all the green lights while driving.
  8. Not setting your alarm clock.
  9. Receiving a compliment you’ve never heard before.
  10. Feeling your skin after shaving.