Categories
Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Trauma

Acknowledging and Honoring Grief

With addiction and mental illness comes something that we often don’t want to look at, whichcommunity-latigo rocks is grief and the deep sense of loss that arrives when we or a family member steps into recovery. Drugs and alcohol and/or mental illness are often viewed as the villains in the aftermath of addiction. But the underlying weight of grief often gets shoved to the side or bypassed entirely.

 

The truth is, grief can be crippling. It can take the wind out of us and make us feel like we’ve landed flat on our faces, gasping for air. When we ignore it, or devalue the importance of the grieving process, we suffer more.

 

Mental illness and/or addiction may have ripped your family at the seams. It may have poked holes in your belief system, and placed a shadow on your hopes and dreams for your family. The truth is, everyone suffers: the one with the disease and the ones close to them.

 

I grew up with a parent mired by the tragedy of her own childhood, which was fraught with a mentally ill mother and a stoic father. Now, I see this same parent as an adult and it affords me the opportunity to recognize the untended grief and loss she’s endured and the great suffering that has resulted. A large portion of our existence in a scenario like this revolves around survival and learning how to endure the shame and fear associated with our circumstances. It’s not uncommon for the grief we feel to be ignored or for us to feel as though it is something to endure.

 

How can we stand tall in the midst of suffering while honoring our grief?

 

Talk about it. Develop a relationship with someone you trust that can help you process your feelings. It could be a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, a good friend. What we hold onto holds onto us. Processing grief is part acknowledgement and part letting go. It evolves and becomes something we can hold with care instead of treating it like a hot stone.

 

Practice self-care. Take walks, meditate, do yoga, surf, get a massage, take a bath. Indulge in yourself. Healing is hard work; it’s important to nurture ourselves in the process.

 

Lean toward your difficulty. As counterintuitive as that may sound, this is ultimately the way out. That which we fear, can hold us back. We have to find a way to feel our feelings, touch our own hearts with kindness and compassion, and begin the process of finding acceptance and letting go. Take baby steps here. You don’t have to take on the high dive just yet.

 

Grief is present all around us. In adolescence, we grieve the loss of childhood and the inference of responsibility. In recovery, we grieve the person we were, the things we missed, and the damage we did. We also grieve the perceived “fun” guy/gal we thought we were. Be patient: recovery will afford you many more fulfilling ways of having fun.  This list goes on, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.

 

My experience has shown me that when I lean toward the thing I fear, the fear lessons. When I acknowledge the shadow side and hold the difficulties with compassion, the light starts to trickle in. I suffer when I turn away, and when I ignore the suffering, it becomes more unbearable.  The work in recovery teaches us that we can walk through difficulties with grace, we can begin to feel our feelings and we can crack open the barriers around our hearts. With our feet planted on the earth, and our minds open to possibility, the plight of suffering has a place to fly free.

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Recovery

We Are Celebrating Chris Shumow

Twelve years ago, Chris Shumow set out to create a treatment culture that cared deeply for both staff and clients.  The Visions Family is lead with Chris as Dad.  Day to day, he is dedicated to making sure Visions is providing treatment at its fullest potential.

 

Chris constantly pushes for what’s best for the kids and their families.  He is still on the frontlines after all these years taking intake calls and welcoming families on campus in their deepest times of struggle.  Chris is dedicated to working hand in hand with his clinical team, always pushing his team to think outside the box.

 

Shumow maintains a strong focus to keep Visions as a strong company, but he never forgets to care for each staff member as an individual.  It is clear to all who surround him that Chris’ top priority in life is to be the best father to his herd of 4 children. Chris often reminds all of us, “In order to provide the best treatment for teens and families, we must first take great care of our staff.”  This is evidenced in Chris’ every action.

 

The staff echoes this sentiment. Please read on!

 

Chris may be one of the most passionate and committed individuals for helping teens and families. Chris skillfully handles challenging situations with a gentle approach and determination to provide the best service to each family. I cannot think of a better person to have in my corner.  – John Lieberman

 

He scared me in my interview 8 years ago.  I’m pretty sure he only took a chance on me because I mentioned something about surfing to which he replied, “Surfers are good people.”  Chris is truly that…a good person.  I am forever in gratitude for the opportunities he has trusted me with.  I still have a lot to learn from him.  – Christina Howard

 

I can’t imagine a cooler boss.  He’s just ridiculously kind, humble, down to earth, and hilarious.  Understanding, generous, smart, the list goes on and on. – Jesse Engdahl

 

I met Chris Shumow some 12 years ago and took a chance with him on a company called Visions. He took a chance on me and I am still here. So, after 12 years I am still thrilled to come to work and I owe an infinite debt of gratitude to Chris (and of course his wife Amanda). Now we are both a bit older and much grayer, but all the more wiser and prosperous. – Daniel Dewey

 

He has always been a caring, interested and thoughtful boss. I feel fortunate. – Noelle Rodriguez

 

You can always count on Chris to tell it like it is, he’s such a great, loyal, humble man. — Roxie Fuller

 

I have learned so much from Chris about the work we do, but nothing resonates more than his insistence on always staying focused on the solution.  The culture we have at Visions starts with him, this whole thing was his idea after all. – Patrick Schettler

 

It has been clear to me from day one that Chris cares about his “kids” more than anything else.  I remember sitting in an office with him and tearing up about one of the clients who had gone off to college. “This is why we do this,” he said.  His commitment to the health and well-being of the clients is why I’m still here after 9 years. – Joseph Rogers

 

I have worked with Chris for twelve years and he always operates with the best interests of our kids and parents in mind. – Bill Hoban

 

Fair, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal, and consistent are just a few words to describe Chris in the workplace.  Who knew when we started 12 years ago with 6 beds and about as many staff that our “vision” would come to life the way it has?  Chris has been on call for 12 of those years answering thousands of calls from desperate families 24 hours a day.  He has become such an amazing leader and really has grown from the “operations guy” to the true CEO he is.  (Although we hate titles!)  He is well respected in the field of addictions and mental health. He is my partner in every way and I am so proud of his hard work. – Amanda Shumow

Categories
Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Insight From Michelle Gross, MA, LMFT

Continuing our week of honoring Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I spoke to Visions’ Michelle Gross, MA, LMFT who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders for over 18 years. Her passion is in treating the eating disorder community both individuals, and their families. Eating Disorder Awareness is something we encourage and support via groups, individualized therapy, and nutritional support. I asked Michelle for some insight into what she tells families with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviors. She says,

 

“When assisting a family who have just learned that their loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, I want them to know that eating disorders are a coping mechanism that tend to occur in individuals who suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Eating disorders numb pain (overeating), release feelings (purging), and create a feeling of control (counting calories). Eating disorders, although not always identical in form, tend to run in families. Family members need to know that the way in which they respond to their loved one is critical to the recovery process; however, they are not responsible for the development of the eating disorder itself. Eating disorders are an illness. Eating disorders are not about weight.”

 

Families who are confronted with this issue have to re-learn how to communicate with each other in a non-triggering way. I recently had to have a discussion with someone about their perpetual food talk and how triggering it was. Every meal was punctuated with negative commentary about weight gain, etc. So, eating with this person was becoming treacherous. Michelle Gross has wonderful insight and suggestions for situations just like this:

 

“It is important for family and friends to know how to be supportive. Unfortunately, the best of intentions to assist the eating disordered individual tend to backfire. Telling an anorexic that recently gained weight: ‘You look so much healthier,’ is easily misconstrued as being told one is ‘fat.’  Attempts to make sure an anorexic eats or a bulimic does not purge, create feelings of powerlessness that intensify the desire to feel in control by minimizing calories or purging.  Innocently mentioning one’s own need to lose weight or recently enjoying a vigorous workout, leave the eating disordered individual feeling inadequate and more dissatisfied with herself.  Loved one’s need to learn the ‘language’ spoken by the eating disordered individuals. Eating disorders are competitive.”

 

And what about triggers? Remember, what triggers one person may not trigger another, but some things are similar across the board. Michelle provides some salient advice here. If we begin to understand the psychological mechanisms of the eating disorder, our awareness and ability to support someone who is suffering increases. By opening our eyes, we can be supportive without judging the individual.

 

Michelle tells us that, “Family and friends also need to learn what triggers or intensifies eating disordered thoughts and behaviors.  Shopping for clothes, going to restaurants, exercising to reduce stress, can all intensify the eating disorder.  Eating disorders are reactive. The more one learns how their loved one’s eating triggers them, the more helpful one can be.”

 

Recovery is a family process, and that includes recovery from substance abuse, mental illness, eating disorders, or processing disorders. Treatment must include all facets of the family system. Learning how to do this is a process and a practice; and as Michelle illustrates, it is not one-sided affair:

 

“It is extremely valuable for family members to be part of the treatment.  Family sessions in addition to the individual therapy offers all members the opportunity to learn how to be supportive, to share concerns in a controlled environment, and gives the eating disordered individual an opportunity to express their feelings in an appropriate way vs. through the eating disordered behaviors.”

 

We need to unite as a recovery community, championing Eating Disorder Awareness Week and encouraging others to do the same. We can facilitate supportive environments and spaces for healing so those suffering from an eating disorder can begin to recover and find freedom from the devastating anguish caused by their eating disorders.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Service Treatment

Visions: We Have Your Back

I go through the news endlessly, looking for things of interest for the Visions community, looking for things that act as a springboard for the Visions’ blogs, or simply reading to stay on top of the myriad things going on in the environment in which we live and breathe. I sniff out science and psychology articles the way some people seek pop culture references. Keeping you informed and in the loop is my priority. At Visions, we see and experience all walks of life and treat a varied population of teens struggling with everything from mental health issues, substance abuse, and psychological trauma, and for that reason, it’s imperative we address a multitude of subjects.

 

We are currently knee deep in the heat of summertime, and for some, that might signify a sense of freedom. For some, it’s a time of leisure, and dealing with “issues” feels like it’s putting a crimp in their style. For others, it’s just a shift in barometric pressure and a change in their work attire. Because we maintain a structured schedule year round, Visions maintains a level of consistency that adds a real sense of grounding for teens while they are learning to navigate the newness of recovery. This provides consistency and structure for our treatment population, which is highly beneficial to their recovery process whether they are at one of our inpatient facilities, outpatient, our Day School,  or NeXT. The goal is to create a safe, therapeutic container for our adolescents and their families.

 

Visions has an incredible knack for providing different psychological layers of support for teens to pass through in order for them to get back onto their feet. What I mean by this is, we don’t just toss them back into the unchartered world with old friends and into old stomping grounds without proper coping skills and tools to manage new feelings and challenges. In fact, we encourage the development of new friends, with healthier habits more in line with a lifestyle in recovery. We provide teens with different levels to walk through and gain success and confidence before moving onto something new. If that means backing up a step or two, then we encourage that and provide sufficient support until the client is established and grounded enough in their recovery to move forward.

 

I marvel at the resiliency in so many of our families. Substance and mental health aren’t easy seas to navigate, but they are not impossible and the Visions team is one that is full of many skilled sailors. Many of us are walking the path of recovery ourselves. It’s imperative that we do stay on top of what’s going on both inside of our facilities and out in the world. If we have our blinders on in any of these places, we become limited in our ability to do what we do best, and that is help those who cross our path. We cannot leave any stone unturned because we never know who might need our help.

Categories
Recovery Service Treatment

Visions Hits Double-Digits: Celebrating a Decade of Adolescent Treatment

This past decade, Visions has set a mission to provide a treatment plan that truly caters to youth and their families. We’ve coexisted alongside a myriad of recovery centers, working hand in hand with them to bring a sense of healing to the entirety of the family dynamic. As we celebrate 10 years of providing treatment, our professional growth, and the program development we’re embarking on, it behooves us to acknowledge and celebrate our treatment team and the culture they have built at Visions.

There is something that lies within every single person at Visions, something which connects all of us in a very unique way. As I’ve sat and pondered what that “thing” is, I‘ve realized it’s the sense of being of service which we all embody. The thing that drives us to get up and “do it again” isn’t the promise of a paycheck or the gratification of completing a task on time; instead, it’s the desire to put forth the effort in watering the seeds of recovery planted at the very beginning of treatment. It’s a continuum, this process, one which starts at intake and continues on to supporting healthy living. There is no “end” to the dedication and perseverance of our team. Selflessness is what I continue to notice about those who’ve been here since the beginning and in those just planting their feet. There is an element of altruism within the team, not forced, just naturally there and engaged beyond any expectations placed upon us by simply being an employee.

Amidst all of the selflessness and service, however, runs an underlying tone of never taking ourselves too seriously.  The team wears their hearts on their sleeves and carries laughter in their hearts. Frankly, we can’t see any other way to show our clients our authenticity.  As we know, adolescence is strife with the mistrust of adults and a deep need for autonomy; having adults who care for them and are willing to share their ability to be themselves while maintaining positive boundaries is crucial. There’s nothing forced about this, and the organic factor allows us to be consistent in our care and treatment. Remember, teens can suss out a fake in two seconds flat…especially when it comes to adults.

The treatment world understands a language all its own.  It feels the pain of the mentally ill, the addict, the depressed, the eating disordered, the anxious, and the suicidal. From our perspective, there’s no judgment, just the sincere effort to help someone heal. There comes a point where the need to “just” be of service ceases to solely focus on recovery and begins to seep into paving the path to living better lives. At Visions, we shoot for the families’ new beginning and aim to be the best examples of recovery, compassion and fun. As Dr. Seuss liked to say, “Fun is good.”