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Breakthrough Ruling on Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Insurance Coverage

Discrimination Through Denial of Coverage

Breakthrough Ruling on Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Insurance Coverage

Health insurance is probably going to be one of the great debates of this period in American history. There is already plenty of contention about how to properly provide coverage for those who need it. Some claim the changes made in the last decade have gone too far. Others argue it has not gone nearly far enough. Healthcare reform is a hot button issue in our world today. Needless to say, a big part of this conversation has to do with parity coverage for mental health. Now a new landmark court ruling is going to make a monumental difference for mental health and addiction treatment insurance coverage.

Simply put, the largest behavioral health care company in America has been denying coverage to some of its most vulnerable members to save money. And now, a federal court decision may put more of a spotlight on insurance companies.

Wit v. United Behavioral Health

The case was brought in front of a federal court in Northern California against United Behavioral Health (UBH). UBH is a company that manages behavioral health services for UnitedHealthcare and other health insurers. The court found that UBH denied claims of tens of thousands of people seeking mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The company was using defective medical review criteria in order to reject claims.

In Wit v. UBH, over 50,000 individuals were reportedly denied coverage based on the flawed review criteria. 11 plaintiffs sued UBH on the behalf of these victims. One victim, in particular, is Natasha Wit. Natasha had been seeking treatment for several chronic conditions, including:

Wit was repeatedly denied coverage for her treatment, despite the fact she did have healthcare benefits that should have offered coverage. Her family ended up paying out nearly $30,000 for treatment. And they are just one of the thousands of families to face the same discrimination.

Looking at the Marks Against UBH

According to recent reports, United Behavioral Health has been failing its members in more ways than one.

Federal courts determined that UBH developed internal guidelines that were “unreasonable and an abuse of discretion” and “infected” by financial incentives designed to restrict access to care for those who should qualify for coverage. Essentially, UBH was manipulating internal guidelines to avoid providing coverage that members had every right to under the law.

  • Internal Guidelines

For many of those struggling with substance use disorder, defective criteria for coverage can equate to a death sentence. When looking over the requirements set by UBH, it is no wonder why the courts say they are illegitimate.

Firstly, their medical-necessity criteria fail to provide coverage to those chronic and comorbid conditions. Generally accepted standards of care state these conditions should be effectively treated, even when those conditions:

  • Persist
  • Respond slowly to treatment
  • Require extended or intensive levels of care

However, UBH set guidelines that only approve coverage for what they labeled “acute” episodes or crises. For example, only individuals who were actively suicidal or suffering from severe withdrawal could be considered for coverage.

In other words, for someone who struggled with substance use disorder or mental illness, you had to be knocking on death’s door to get a chance at treatment. The court found that these guidelines were not acceptable.

  • Levels of Care

Furthermore, UBH fails to use national evidence-based guidelines for covering different levels of care for mental health and substance abuse treatment, such as:

These are guidelines that have been developed by clinical specialty nonprofit organizations.

Additionally, UBH’s guidelines improperly required reducing the level of care, even if the providers who were treating them recommended maintaining a higher level of care. So patients would be removed from more intensive residential treatment programs and pushing into some form of outpatient therapy, even if the specialists argued that they were not ready.

This is a big deal. Most recovery advocates and healthcare providers agree that insurance companies should not be the ones telling treatment providers how to care for their patients.

  • State Mandated Guidelines

Furthermore, some states have mandated specific guidelines for evaluating the medical necessity for behavioral health services. UBH was also found to have violated these requirements for reviewing substance use disorder claims as well.

  • ERISA

The case against United Behavioral Health was filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). This is a federal mandate that governs group health insurance policies through private employers. More specifically, ERISA requires insurance plan administrators to function in a fiduciary capacity when overseeing employee benefit plans. This includes coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

In Wit v. UBH, the court determined that UBH was in breach of its fiduciary duties by developing and employing faulty medical necessity criteria for behavioral health services. Therefore, the court alleges that UBH is in violation of its obligations under this federal law.

What Does this Mean for Addiction Treatment Insurance Coverage?

This case is exposing insurers for refusing care to people at serious risk of death by overdose or suicide. It is important to remember that UBH is not the only insurance provider trying to find ways around federal and state coverage guidelines. Given the nature of these violations, advocates believe that regulators should immediately start examining the market conduct of all healthcare plans across the country.

Judge Joseph C. Spero in Wit v. UBH also points out that the company was circumventing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, also known as the Federal Parity Law.

Parity law actually requires insurers to cover illnesses of the brain, such as depression or addiction, the same as illnesses of the body, such as diabetes or cancer. In his ruling on Wit v. United Behavioral Health, Judge Spero highlights an abundance of evidence that guidelines created by the UBH were designed to diminish the impact of the 2008 Parity Act in order to keep benefit costs down. In other words, it is clear that the company was actively trying to work around federal law in order to avoid providing coverage to people with mental illnesses and addictions.

For those in the mental health and addiction communities, this brings new awareness to the discriminatory practices of treating mental health conditions differently than physical conditions. The new hope is that insurance providers will understand the consequences of discrimination against those who need help. With so much going on in healthcare, the Federal Parity Law must be protected.

Far too many people suffering from mental health and substance use disorders never get the help that they need. The last thing we need in a country devastated by an opioid crisis and rising overdose death rates is to create more roadblocks to treatment resources.

Palm Healthcare Company believes that if our country is ever going to overcome the damage of the opioid epidemic, we have to offer more comprehensive treatment options to those who still suffer. Insurance companies should not be keeping people from the care they deserve. Prevention is important, but we also believe in taking care of those who are already in the grips of substance use disorder by offering compassionate and effective care. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Highest Death Rates from Drugs, Alcohol, and Suicide in U.S. History

Highest Death Rates from Drugs, Alcohol, and Suicide in U.S. History

Two non-profit organizations recently analyzed updated data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol rose by 6% in the year 2017, leading to an all-time high in the United States.

Record-Breaking Devastation

Altogether, drugs, alcohol, and suicide killed more than 150,000 people.

Ever since federal data collection started in 1999, the non-profit’s report claims there has never been a death rate this high attributed to these causes. A spike was observed in the national rate for deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide:

  • Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000 people
  • End of 2017- 6 deaths per 100,000 people

On one hand, this is actually a slower increase than the previous two years. However, the difference was a lot over the average annual increase of 4% since 1999.

Opioid Death Rates

Probably the most obvious reasoning behind this increase would be the ongoing opioid crisis. One of the major contributing factors to the rising rates of overdose death in America is dangerous synthetic drugs making their way to the illicit market.

For one thing, deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, rose 45 % in that time. In the past five years, these deaths have actually increased tenfold. Needless to say, lawmakers and public health officials have been scrambling for years to try and solve the overdose issue in the United States.

Suicide Death Rates

Since 1999, deaths from suicide have increased by 33%. The data for 2017 indicates a significant rise in death rates:

  • Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000
  • End of 2017- 5 deaths per 100,000

This is an increase of 4%, which is double the average annual pace over the previous decade. More specifically, from 2008 to 2017:

  • Suicide by suffocation increased by 42%
  • Suicide by firearm increased by 22%

The highest suicide rates are typically in rural areas, including:

  • West Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Alaska
  • New Hampshire

One thing to point out is that some researchers believe that suicides are actually under-reported. This may be in part due to the stigma surrounding mental disorders, but also largely due to mislabeling the cause of death. For instance, some cases may be recorded as overdoses or accidents that are actually intentional.

Alcohol Death Rates

As far as alcohol-related death rates are concerned, some suspect that higher proof alcohols becoming increasingly popular in the last decade has also contributed to health issues and deaths. In fact, between 2002 and 2013:

  • The amount of how much alcohol Americans consumed only increased by 6%.
  • Estimates to determine how much alcohol is typically drunk have remained the same.
  • Health problems as a result of drinking spiked in the same time frame.

Meanwhile, some drinks have a dramatically higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) percentage. Between 2002 and 2016, the average alcohol by volume grew across the board:

  • Beer ABV increased an average of 2%
  • Wine ABV increased an average of 6%
  • Liquor ABV increased an average of 4%

According to another analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, from 2007 to 2017:

  • The number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased by 35%
  • Deaths among women rose 85%
  • Deaths among men rose 29%

One positive piece of data is that the study suggests teen drinking deaths actually decreased by 16%. Still, alcohol has contributed plenty to the rising death rates.

Addressing Underlying Issues

With the highest death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide in recorded history, it goes without saying that a lot more needs to be done to promote treatment resources and prevention. With the failed War on Drugs has taught us what is not working, many have turned to strategies that focus on the preservation of life more than punishing those struggling with addiction. Harm reduction efforts like naloxone expansion and needle exchange programs have made some real progress. Some have even begun exploring the possibility of establishing safe injection sites.

Additionally, there needs to be more put into comprehensive treatment. Most experts agree there is a need for broader efforts to address the underlying causes of alcohol and drug use, and suicide. Having access to effective mental health care and addiction treatment resources can significantly impact the well-being of those most at risk. Long-term recovery offers those most likely to die as a result of drug use or suicide a way out.

This would also include more funding and support for programs that reduce risk factors. A major aspect of prevention when it comes to substance abuse and mental health has to do with trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Research has suggested there is a notable connection between the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide and childhood trauma.

There were five states where death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide decreased:

  • Massachusetts
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Hopefully, as new initiatives push forward to save lives and offer prevention, we will see more states with decreasing death rates. Overall, we can hope that better opportunities for treatment and support will lead to an improvement in public health. Meanwhile, raising awareness and education are crucial to turning this trend around.

With their highest death rates in history, substance abuse and suicide are some of the most important public health issues facing Americans today. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

6 Family Roles People Use When Coping with Addicted Loved Ones

6 Family Roles People Use When Coping with Addicted Loved Ones

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Most people in the world would say that nothing is more important than family. They say that you can choose your friends, but family is forever. If you subscribe to the philosophy of blood being thicker than water, then it makes sense that when those closest to you suffer, you suffer right along with them. For many, this concept is never more painfully clear than when living with an addict in the family. Even though plenty of people struggling with addiction say they are only hurting themselves, most of us know that addiction is a family disease.

While there are many obvious ways that addiction affects a family, like domestic violence, financial troubles or death, there are also some more subtle consequences. When someone is suffering, their loved ones will often develop specific family roles for dealing with addiction. Depending on the household, and how the addiction manifests itself, some people may take on multiple roles in order to try and create a balance at home. However, many of these family roles can cause adverse effects of personal development over time.

Here are 6 family roles people use when coping with addicted loved ones.

  1. The Victim

Addiction and its effects draw a lot of attention, so it may seem to the addict that the world revolves around them. They take on a victim mentality, often causing others in the family to feel the need to save them, or at least to avoid disturbing them.

The victim is central to all the other family roles that develop around it. As the roles are defined, the victims loved ones unconsciously take on other family roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced.

Although this person’s actions are the key to their own recovery and overcoming the victim mentality, it is important to remember they are not necessarily vital for a family to recover on its own.

  1. The Hero

In the family, there will be someone who tries to be the champion for the victim and the family. This is someone who needs the family to look good, and they will work hard to make it so. The problem with the Hero is that they try to ignore the addiction and its effects. Instead, they want to dress everything up and act as if all is well.

The Hero will present things in a positive manner as if the family roles don’t actually exist. They are often perfectionists and overachievers, who seek to unite the family and offer hope through their own accomplishments. But taking on all this pressure can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for this family member. Very often this is the child of an addict or alcoholic.

If the Hero is able to finally overcome this role, they can ultimately play a crucial part in the addiction recovery process, both for the individual and for the family.

  1. The Mascot

The Mascot’s is often thought of as the comic relief. This is the member of the family who uses humor as a defense mechanism and a distraction tactic. They try to soften the impact of an addicts behavior or ease tensions between family roles through laughter.

On the bright side, the Mascot does bring humor to the family roles people use for coping with addicted loved ones. They have a talent for making others feel better, even in the worst situations. But ultimately, they are also people-pleasers to a fault, which can foster feelings of anxiety.

However, Mascots sometimes make inappropriate jokes about other family members or situations, which can causes friction. They also run the risk of avoiding their own feelings or being inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Sometimes their harmful humor can hinder addiction recovery.

Also, the Mascot is likely to self-medicate as they grow up, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.

  1. The Lost Child

In every family that deals with an addicted loved one, there is usually someone who tries their best to disappear. They are silent, withdrawn, and avoid drawing much attention to themselves from other members of the family. This is the Lost Child.

The Lost Child is typically careful to not make problems. They avoid any kind of conflict, along with conversations regarding the addiction or the underlying family roles that take shape around the victim.

The Lost Child will spend as much time as possible in isolation or away from their family. They are the child who sits in their room playing video games or watching TV for hours without any interaction. The Lost Child will often develop feelings of neglect and resentment, which can lead to depression. They often grow up to have a very difficult time developing healthy relationships later in life.

  1. The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is a problem child. Usually, this is the black sheep of the family who often acts out in front of others. They take on this role, knowingly or subconsciously, to divert attention from the person who is addicted. They rebel home, get in trouble at school, make a lot of noise to mask the underlying issues in the family. Male scapegoats are often prone to violence, while female scapegoats frequently act out sexually.

This person may even adopt substance use in order to run interference for a parent or sibling. They may develop other issues as well, such as eating disorders or a tendency to self-harm.

The Scapegoat covers or draws attention away from the real problem. They grapple with feelings or anger and shame, and they often offer the other family roles a sense of purpose- being someone to watch out for or try to fix.

  1. The Enabler

The Enabler is also commonly referred to as the Caretaker but is always the person who makes all the other family roles possible. Most often this is a spouse, but it can also be a child of an addict.

Caretakers will take it upon themselves to keep everyone happy, believing it is the best way to protect the family. Their mission is to maintain balance in order to make the family look good on the outside. They are notorious for minimizing the addiction, making excuses for all behaviors and actions. They have a knack for blaming everything on something else, without acknowledging the real problem.

This person protects the addict from consequences, while constantly cleaning up after their messes.

Additionally, the Enabler frequently embraces the other family roles when they are convenient for maintaining the family balance. They will laugh at the Mascots harmful jokes, or adamantly put the focus on the Hero’s achievements. They will support the Lost Child’s “independence”, and run interference for the Scapegoat, all while catering to and caring for the needs of the victim.

Functional Dysfunction

At the end of the day, the family roles people adopt as part of coping with an addicted loved one are a kind of functional dysfunction. It is a system that people create in order to survive situations at home that can be toxic and unpredictable. Human beings by nature will behave in accordance with their surroundings. Out of self-preservation, we will get used to unhealthy strategies for dealing with unhealthy relationships. Even if they are not effective, if they help us get by there is a lot of damaging stuff we will get used to.

All of these family roles demonstrate how important it is for families to be supported and involved in a loved one’s recovery from addiction. Because we can see how addiction impacts the family, we know that the family also needs help in overcoming those adversities. Having a recovery program designed specifically for family members and loved ones of people with addiction can make all the difference. Not only does it help the family support their loved one, but it helps the family recover on its own. Family can also play a very important role in relapse prevention. It teaches them what their loved ones may experience during the medical detox phase of treatment. It helps them better understand the science of addiction and the process of recovery, while also showing them how their own behaviors have an impact.

The Palm Healthcare Family Program is all about helping the family come together to face addiction and overcome all the unique challenges that come with it. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone. We want to help your family be stronger together.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Remembering Anthony Bourdain: Cooking, Traveling and Giving Up Heroin

Remembering Anthony Bourdain: Cooking, Traveling and Giving Up Heroin

Anthony Michael Bourdain, born June 25, 1956, was a man with a rich and vibrant legacy. He took us on exotic adventures to explore the world and tried to expand the view of the audience on culinary arts and culture. He was much more to so many than a celebrity chef.

Anthony Bourdain was an author, travel documentarian, and television personality. He used programs like A Cooks Tour and No Reservations to travel across the globe, focusing on the international culture, cuisine, and the human condition. He has sat down for humble lunches with President Obama, and his explosive personality has even been featured in cartoons like The Simpsons and popular FX series Archer. Bourdain has taken us to some of the most secluded corners of faraway places to chat with the locals and enjoy a simple dessert. Anthony Bourdain was widely regarded as one of the most influential chefs in the world.

On June 8th, 2018 the world was shocked to hear that Anthony Bourdain had died at 61 years old. Even more heartbreaking was to learn his death was a suicide. Over the last several days, his passing has sparked a continuous stream of dialog about mental health and the need for treatment resources. Over the years the famous traveling chef fought against drugs like heroin, as well as depression. As we remember who Anthony Bourdain was, and as we call for letting go of stigma and pushing forward with helping those in need, it is important to look at the whole story.

Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain first fought his way up the kitchen ladder in New York to become a long-time chef at Brasserie Les Hallas. Around this time, he wrote his breakthrough memoirs titled Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which took him beyond the cutting boards to carving his way through the literary map.

Part of this first memoir describes the long journey that brought him to become a chef, and a notable element of his story is extreme excursions into drugs, strung out over years. In the book Kitchen Confidential he wrote about his experiences back in 1981 working at a restaurant:

“We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to ‘conceptualize.’ Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Cannabismethaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we’d send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get.”

Later, Bourdain became more open about discussing his drug use. He’d even said some of these problems should have killed him in his 20s. In 2014, he did an episode of his show Parts Unknown that highlighted the ongoing opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. During the episode he says,

“Somebody who wakes up in the morning and their first order of business is (to) get heroin — I know what that’s like,”

Parts Unknown went on to be honored with five Emmy awards.

Eventually, Anthony Bourdain found himself kicking heroin in the 80s in drug rehab. When talking about finally getting clean he said,

“And we’re the lucky ones. We made it out alive. There are a lot of guys that didn’t get that far. But you know, I also don’t have that many regrets either.”

However, he admits to still worked long hours in New York kitchens interspersed with binges that consisted of cocaine and alcohol. Following rehab that Bourdain had cleaned up his act, although he continued drinking alcohol. He later wrote,

“Most people who kick heroin and cocaine have to give up on everything. Maybe because my experiences were so awful in the end, I’ve never been tempted to relapse,”

On June 8, 2018, Bourdain was found dead of an apparent suicide by hanging in his room at the Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg, France. At the time he had been traveling with friend Éric Ripert. Ripert reported that he became worried when Bourdain missed dinner and breakfast. According to the public prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, Bourdain’s body showed no signs of violence. At this point there has been no official word on toxicology tests to determine whether drugs or medications were involved in his tragic death.

Legacy

It is hard to put into words the life and legacy of a man as dynamic as Anthony Bourdain. He wasn’t just a face on TV, he was a voice trying to tell us to embrace more of the delicious variety in life. It is easier to just look at some of his many accomplishments. Bourdain wrote multiple bestselling nonfiction books over the years, including:

  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
  • A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal
  • The Nasty Bits

His articles and essays appeared in many publications, including:

  • The New Yorker
  • The New York Times
  • The Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • The Observer
  • Gourmet
  • Maxim
  • Esquire

He even co-wrote an original graphic novel titled Get Jiro! For DC Comics/Vertigo.

Between 2002-2018 he hosted a number of shows, including:

  • A Cook’s Tour
  • No Reservations
  • The Layover
  • Parts Unknown

He worked on various other television shows, doing everything from judging to producing.

With the sudden news of Bourdain’s death, people from all across the world have paid homage to the man who did so much to try and share the beauty of diversity with us all. In the days following Bourdain’s death fans paid tribute to him outside his now-closed former place of employment, Brasserie Les Halles on New York City’s Park Avenue.

Fellow celebrity chefs and other public figures expressed sentiments of condolence, including Gordon Ramsay and Andrew Zimmern.

Beyond his amazing adventures of cooking in different countries, Bourdain also believed in making a difference for those less fortunate. He championed industrious immigrants from places like Mexico, Ecuador, and other countries in Central and South America.

He became a big advocate in the fight against sexual harassment in the restaurant industry in 2017, calling out other celebrity chefs and people in Hollywood.

Depression and Suicide

Anthony Bourdain had also been open about his struggles with depression. In 2016 he did an episode of Parts Unknown where he traveled to Argentina for psychotherapy. At one point he tells the camera,

“I will find myself in an airport, for instance, and I’ll order an airport hamburger. It’s an insignificant thing, it’s a small thing, it’s a hamburger, but it’s not a good one. Suddenly I look at the hamburger and I find myself in a spiral of depression that can last for days.”

While the passion he had for his work is quite obvious, traveling around 250 days of the year can take a toll. More than once he described his life as lonely. During an interview with People magazine, he said he was living the dream, but admitted that it did come at a cost. That cost may have had something to do with the ups and downs of marriage and divorce he experienced over the years.

Only a few months ago, when discussing his 11-year-old daughter Ariane, Bourdain had said he felt he had to “at least try to live” for her. Although he explained he also felt he did have things to live for. Sadly, it seems that over time, the iconic chef started losing his battle with the feelings he wrestled with on the road.

Anthony Bourdain’s death is another tragic loss in a trend we have seen a spike over the years, including among celebrities. Only three days before Bourdain’s own death, fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life. Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. According to a survey published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Suicide rates increased by 25% across the country over nearly two decades ending in 2016.
  • 25 states have experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%

While Anthony Bourdain may have been clean for decades, there was still pain there. While overcoming drugs may have been a huge victory in his inspiring legacy, other fights can still wear us down.

There is Help

As we remember the incredible impact that Anthony Bourdain had as an adventurer and advocate, we emphasize the importance of supporting those who need it the most. Sadly, we don’t always know when people need help. But we should always work to make sure people know that there is help, no matter what they are struggling with.

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

Anthony Bourdain

June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018

Mental health is an important part of recovery for people who struggle with drugs or alcohol. Fighting depression and suicide prevention means supporting well-being and fighting for mental health support. For those struggling, treatment for mental health disorders and addiction is not always the easiest thing to seek out, but as we as a nation continue to evolve the conversation and raise awareness more people are finding out about the amazing pathways to a life in recovery that are out there. We urge you to seek yours. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, please call toll-free now. You are not alone.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

The 12 Steps of Christmas in Recovery: Step 3

The 12 Steps of Christmas in Recovery: Step 3

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Guess what folks… we are in Step 3 of our 12 Steps of Christmas series! We are happy to share our ideas on how the 12 Steps most commonly associated with fellowships for alcohol or drug addiction recovery can actually be applied to other aspects of life. These concepts on self-awareness, reflection and compassionate action have such incredible value, that formatting them to talk about the stresses of the holidays seems like a pretty good way to spread some Christmas spirit and cheer.

We look forward to reading your comments and seeing what you think can be done to help support people in recovery during the Christmas season! While relapse is always something to protect against, the stress from relationships you may still be in the process of repairing can be pretty intense itself.

The 12 Steps of Christmas in Recovery: Step 3

Step 3: Made a decision to turn your Holiday over to the care of your Higher Power.

Some people are probably reading this one like “PAUSE, we already did the talk about the Higher Power stuff in Step 2, don’t wanna do it again!” So before you get too worked up, let’s just relax. We remind you that this isn’t about trying to sell you on any specific concept of a god, or an established faith, or a belief system. We are not trying to recruit you.

That being said, we will talk about the whole Higher Power business a bit more, but not much.

But first, can we talk about the “French hens” from your true love… I mean, what is so French about them, anyway? Do they eat croissants? Isn’t this discrimination against hens? I demand an explanation!

When we say turn your holiday over to this Higher Power, we are not saying your sobriety for Christmas will be contingent on whether or not you have accepted a certain god into your life. Some people think when we talk about turning control over, it means you get to cop-out and take no responsibility.

Have a little faith in the holiday spirit…

Going back to the beginning in Step 1 of Christmas, we know that things with our families or friends can be unmanageable; meaning we are not always in control of how everyone gets along during the holidays. We are not in control of which uncle starts arguing about politics at the dinner table, or of which aunt decides to try and cook for the first time since that one year that nobody brings up anymore. You can’t control how many pairs of socks you unwrap this year, or how many times you hear the same carols over… and over… and over!

You also aren’t in control of how others may react to your sobriety either. If they are doubtful, suspicious or even overbearing, you cannot change them by force. It might just take some patience and some follow-through. Once we can accept that we are not in control of everything, we can learn to let go and try to have some of that ‘faith’ stuff people keep talking about.

Most of all, you can’t control anyone else’s feelings. In recovery from addiction, we learn to let other people be who they are, and to try to be the best version of ourselves in response. We learn to bring all the joy to the world we can without drugs or alcohol, and let the rest take care of itself.

Like in Step 2, we can either put that faith in a God of our understanding, in a Higher Power or belief system we have, or simply in the goodwill toward others that we always hear about during Christmas time. Just giving up the attempt to control the holidays and allowing yourself to be present in the celebration can make Christmas so much easier.

Control and responsibility aren’t always the same…

The idea that being responsible means always being in control is a foolish way to look at the world. The truth is turning things over helps you focus your responsibility for what you actually can control.

No one is always in control of everything in their lives, even the most powerful and influential people on earth. Sometimes the mistletoe of life catches you off guard. Whether we like it or not, life has a way of surprising us. So when we talk about turning things over to something outside yourself, we mean relinquishing some control, not responsibility.

Of course, you still have to be responsible for how you react, and how you treat others. During the holiday chaos, we can still be considerate of their discretions or even their suspicions of our recovery. It isn’t really the purpose of hour Christmas to win them over. We can simply try to apply all that we have learned and all we are trying to accomplish to show people we care about doing better. We can still set our boundaries and be responsible for maintaining them, even with our families.

You still might find some lumps of coal in the stockings, but at least you know in recovery you are strong enough to take some lumps and keep it moving.

Forget the French hens though, I don’t know if I trust that.

Surviving Christmas with the family sometimes means turning things over and only taking responsibility for yourself. In recovery, you have a new chance at loving your family and friends the way you always meant to. Maybe that means accepting the gift as it is. But if you or someone you love is still struggling during the holiday, ask for help. Please call toll-free now. You are not alone.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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