Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Wisdom of Having a Sponsor

Medication Assisted Treatment patients have not always felt welcome at 12 Step meetings due to a stigma against using a medication to help toward drug abstinence. Therefore, some people who use Methadone or Suboxone feel the need to keep their medication private. They tend to shy away from AA/NA meetings and are not as likely to seek out a sponsor. This podcast focuses on the benefits of having a sponsor. Listen in to people talk about their experiences with sponsors.

Discussion Guide:

Do you participate in a 12 Step program? Do you have a sponsor?

What is the purpose of sponsorship?

What is the difference between a substance abuse counselor and a 12 Step sponsor?

What is the criteria for choosing a sponsor?

Should the sponsor be available 24/7?

Can you have more than one sponsor at a time? Can you change sponsors?

Have you considered becoming a sponsor? Can anyone be a sponsor? What are the characteristics of a sponsor?

Do you feel that your recovery is sufficiently stable to sponsor someone new to treatment?

What do you think the tasks of a sponsor are?

Should a sponsor lend money to a sponsee?

How should a sponsor deal with relapses?

In addition to being a sponsor, the 12 Step program recommends that members do acts of service. Examples of this might be working on committees, setting up the meeting room, speaking about recovery in jails or schools. Have you considered doing some type of service work?

Supplemental Reading:

Questions and Answers on Sponsorship, an AA publication,


Getting Personal: Group Member’s Thoughts

In this podcast group members were each given a card that contains a topic for them to address. Each card is different. The members shared their thoughts and experiences as it relates to the topic. Listen in to the recovery group as they share what's on their mind.

Discussion Guide:

One of the best things about recovery right now

One thing I worry about

What I am looking forward to

What I have learned about how to take better care of myself

How I feel about going to individual or group support or therapy

How I feel about taking medication

People, activities, and/or events that have helped me the most

What it's like to talk about recovery or self-care

Hardest feelings to manage right now

Things that cause me stress (that are not relationship related)

Easiest feelings to manage right now

The tools and resources I find helpful


Should Treatment Programs Enroll People Who Are Not Fully Committed to Drug Abstinence?

Not everyone who seeks substance abuse treatment is fully motivated for drug abstinence. As a matter of fact, only 20% of people who seek treatment are in the action stage of change. That leaves 80% who are undecided or still considering their options. Unfortunately, many programs will not accept them unless they are prepared for total drug abstinence. This leaves them vulnerable to the escalation of their addiction, possibly to the point of death. Ideally, we want more people in treatment than less, and we want to keep them safe. What can we do for these people? Listen to a group of people who have been addicted to opiates discuss this dilema.

Discussion Guide:

Stages of change are pre-contemplation, contemplation, planning, action and maintenance. When you entered treatment, what stage of change were you in?

Have you been denied substance abuse treatment because you were not fully committed to drug abstinence?

Have you been terminated from a program due to ongoing drug use?

Should a program institute restrictions for ongoing drug use, or terminate them from the program?

Have you been denied social services such as a shelter or employment because you are on a medication for your addiction?

What do you recommend to assist people who are in the pre-contemplation and contemplation stage of change?

Supplemental Reading:

Brooke Feldman, When 'All or Nothing' Means Life or Death,

To Stop or Start MMT During and After Incarceration?

It is no surprise that many people who have become addicted to opioids serve time in jail or prison. These same opioid addicts are at risk for overdose death immediately after release. Medication Assisted Treatment greatly reduces this risk. And yet some people make choices that directly put them at risk of death by refusing medication treatment. Why is this? Listen in to a group of recovering opiate addicts discuss the reasons why someone would choose to decline this medication.

Discussion Guide:

Do you know people who have died immediately after release from prison of drug overdose?

Have you been incarcerated? Did the facility allow Methadone or Suboxone administration? Did they provide comprehensive addiction treatment?

If given a choice, would you continue medication assisted treatment while incarcerated? Why?

If you were in a prison based medication assisted treatment program, would you choose to stay on the medication on release, or cease the medication before release? Why?

Supplemental Reading:

Among incarcerated populations, opioid agonist therapy has been shown to reduce the risk of post-release mortality by up to 75%, so why do some patients not want it?

Cognitive Therapy as a Recovery Tool

Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy developed by American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck. It states that thoughts, feelings and behavior are all connected, and that individuals can move toward overcoming difficulties and meeting their goals by identifying and changing unhelpful or inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior, and distressing emotional responses. It is valuable in treating alcoholism and drug addiction. In this recovery group one member shared a distressing situation while we walked through a series of steps to examine her thoughts. As a result, she felt some relief. Listen in to this podcast to see what helps.

Discussion Guideline:

Situation – Describe a distressing situation. What happened? Where? When? Who with? How?

Identify Emotions/Mood – What emotion did you feel at that time? What else? How intense was the emotion?

Physical Sensations – What did you notice in your body? Where did you feel it?

Unhelpful Thoughts – What went through your mind? What did those thoughts/images mean to you? What would be the worst thing about that, or that could happen?

Alternative, realistic thoughts – Is there another way of seeing it? Is your reaction in proportion to the actual event?

What is the best response? – What would be more effective? What will be most helpful for me or the situation?


Thought Record Sheet,


Those Darned Emotions

Relapses are often a result of poorly handled emotions. Alcohol, drugs or addictive behaviors used to provide temporary relief from those feelings, but recovery provides an opportunity to learn new coping skills. Addicts need effective ways of tolerating, managing and making sense of the negative feelings encountered in daily life. Listen in to this group of people in recovery discuss their emotions.

Discussion Guide:

Complete the sentences using the following emotions: Shame, Love, Anger, Sadness, Fear, Grief, Anxiety, Embarrassment

What I learned as a child about (fill in the emotion) is.

How I came to cope with (fill in the emotion) is.

What I now know about (fill in the emotion) is.

How I cope now with (fill in the emotion) is.

Which feelings are the easiest for you to manage?

Which feelings are the hardest for you to manage?

Supplemental Resources:

Communication Technique to deal with intense emotion: (complete the sentence)

1. I notice that (state the facts of the upsetting event in a neutral way).

2. My vulnerable emotion is (state the feelings that underlie anger).

3. My request is (what would you like to have happen in this situation).

The Emotional Barometer, Bright Futures Treatment Center,