National Nutrition Month: Eating right to stay sober
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month, and it’s a great opportunity for us to look at how we plan, shop and prepare the foods we eat each day. Substance use can have a serious and long-term negative effect on our health and nutrition, as it can disrupt physiological functioning and impair the body’s ability to receive proper nourishment.
Alcoholism is the only disease known to affect each and every system and cell within the body. Excessive alcohol use interferes with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients due to damage of the stomach lining and digestive enzyme deficiencies. It can also significantly harm the pancreas and liver, which aid in our digestion.
Opioid withdrawal significantly impacts our appetites. The typical symptoms that are related can also deplete the body of nutrients, cause electrolyte imbalances, and lead to dehydration.
The use of stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines cause a decrease in appetite as well. Long-term use can result in severe weight loss and malnutrition, a suppressed immune system, heart rhythm disturbances, impaired healing of wounds, and more.
On the other hand, marijuana use often increases users’ appetites, particularly for junk food, which typically does not contain vitamins and nutrients essential to our good health. This can also lead to weight-gain and lethargy and a generally unhealthy lifestyle.
In short, substance use can put remarkable stress on our minds and bodies. Proper nutrition can help heal the damage done and increase our odds of getting and staying sober.
Here are a few simple tips to help you stay on track in your recovery and decrease the risk of relapse:
- Eat more complex carbohydrates – These will provide steady, long-lasting energy without the spike and crash of simple carbs. Foods like green vegetables, whole grains and foods made from them, and beans, lentils and peas are great sources of complex carbs.
- Monitor your sugar intake – sweets create a release of dopamine, which can trigger responses and behaviors that are risky, especially for those in early recovery.
- Avoid processed and fast-foods – These lack nutritional value and often contain unhealthy levels of fat and other chemicals.
- Eat more protein and fiber – Fiber helps regulate our digestive systems and helps us feel full, while protein helps build muscles weakened by malnutrition.
- Eat regular, small meals – This helps keep our blood sugar levels stable, decreasing the cravings for unhealthy snacks between meals.
Lastly, GET MORE EXERCISE! Nothing heals the damage done by substance use and poor nutrition better than a regular exercise regimen. A finely-tuned body processes nutrients more efficiently, is less stressed and feels great! Consult fitness and nutritional professionals for the best advice about what works best for you!
Nearly 300 alumni, donors and friends gathered at our first major fundraising event of the year on February 22nd. The beautiful Washington DC Four Seasons hotel played host to our 4th Annual DC Gala, sponsored by the Ashley DC Leadership Council.
The event was a celebration of women in recovery, raising funds for the project to create the new Women’s Solarium at Ashley. This was also our public introduction of new Ashley President and CEO, Becky Flood, who spoke passionately about her memories of Father Martin and about how we are all working together to help save more lives.
Ginny Grenham was presented with the 2018 Michael K. Deaver Award for her selfless work in the DC recovery community. Ginny is President of a communications and public affairs consulting company and works with corporations, government leaders and non-profits, creating innovative strategic partnerships. She is also involved in a variety of civic and community efforts to address mental health and addiction, obesity, and education / the arts, especially for underserved communities.
The Michael K. Deaver Award is given each year to an individual in the DC region that exemplifies the best that a life in recovery has to offer. Ginny Grenham has helped “hundreds and perhaps thousands” find their path to hope and healing and could not be more deserving of this recognition.
In other fundraising news, we are thrilled to announce that our keynote speaker at our 2018 New York Leadership Council Dinner will be legendary pro football Hall-of-Famer and broadcast personality, Cris Carter. Cris is the co-host of First Things First, a sports-oriented daily talk show on Fox Sports 1. Cris speaks openly and eloquently about his personal struggles with substance use, those in his life that helped him turn the corner, and his program of recovery that has changed his life.
The New York Dinner will be held at the Yale Club in midtown Manhattan on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are available now – visit our event webpage at www.AshleyTreatment.org/NY or by email at Development@AshleyTreatment.org for more information.
The Ashley Alumni & Community Services team is planning a number of exciting events in the months ahead, both on campus and in a community near you. A few highlights include:
- Philadelphia area – Tuesday, March 6th. We’re partnering with Victory Bay Recovery Center at their facility in Laurel Springs, NJ for a discussion about Addiction and Mental Health. Ashley staff psychologist, Dr. David Crone will lead the conversation about co-occurring disorders and how to provide the best possible pathway to recovery for those suffering from them.
- Wilmington, DE – Thursday, March 22nd. Join Dr. Aaron Ramirez for his presentation on The Science of Gratitude. Father Martin said, “Gratitude is the golden tray on which I offer to others what my higher power has given to me.” Come out and learn evidence-based ways of how to get rocketed to the 4th dimension of happiness!
Closer to home, our next Recovery Enrichment Day is set for Saturday, May 19th on the Ashley campus. Join AA archivists, Wally P. and Carver B. for “Back to Basics” – a one-day, intensive 12-Step workshop.
For more information on these and all of our events, visit www.AshleyTreatment.org/events
Finally, in a fun and heart-warming story, Ashley is getting some help from a somewhat unexpected source. Students at our local Havre de Grace Middle School have embarked on a community service project and have chosen Ashley to be their beneficiary! The students are holding “Bingo-Night!” raising funds for the Ashley Young Adult Scholarship Fund on Friday, March 16th! We’ll be out at the school supporting the kids that are supporting Ashley, raising awareness and perhaps a little money for a great cause!
March represents the next in a year-long series of articles focusing on the 12-steps. We’re taking one step per month and sharing some insights and experiences to help others with their program, as well as those working with sponsees.
Last month, we discussed Step 2 – accepting that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Now having enlisted some help, we are ready for Step 3:
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Step 2 offers us hope – that there is a way out of the despair, and that we don’t have to go it alone. Step 3 is a transitional step, putting belief into action. Action that leads to change.
The rooms of AA and NA are well-known for widespread, occasionally excessive, use of clichés and metaphors. We plant them, nurture them, and then harvest them at just the right time, to use a gardening metaphor to describe our love of metaphors!
One of my favorites, and one Father Martin often used, is that the path to recovery is akin to driving a car: There are many speedbumps and roadblocks along the way. And one of the most difficult of these to navigate can be our “need to control.” For addicts, control is a survival tactic. Successful recovery is about finding a balance between letting it happen and making it happen. Step 3 doesn’t tell us to quit our own efforts, but rather to let go of the principles under which we’ve been unsuccessful, to seek help and to trust others.
In Fr. Martin’s words, “God doesn’t drive, He provides the maps. We do the driving.” This is the key to finding the Road of Happy Destiny.
There is no “correct” or “proper” way to work the steps. Different sponsors may take different approaches. The key is to find a way that works best for you and leads to long-term, healthy sobriety!
Next month: Step 4 – A searching and fearless moral inventory…!