Battling addiction

MARQUETTE – For those battling addiction, the road to recovery isn’t always a smooth one. To help make the journey easier, counselors at the Great Lakes Recovery Center – Adult Residential Service of Marquette have recently implemented a new “tool box” to cope with stress.

The new approach began three weeks ago and gives residents at the center who are recovering from substance abuse or addictions, a means to combat triggers.

“Many of them have been under the influence for so long… at the center it’s about learning to effectively manage their emotions and actions again,” said Melissa DeMarse, a counselor at the center.

She highlighted some of the activities they offer, which include morning meditation and all-day group sessions such as intensive relapse prevention. The center can house a total of 36 people at any given time, and typically hosts more than 300 residents per year. Often there is a mix of people, ages 18 and up, who come from all walks of life.

DeMarse emphasized that recovery for different people means different things and some come back more than once. To help prevent this, the new self-soothing boxes were introduced.

“What often happens is frustration turns into full out anger or panic and the residents can’t manage their emotions or behaviors. This results in them thinking, “‘I’m going to use so that I don’t have to feel this,'” DeMarse said.

The boxes stem from the self-soothing module taught at the center and focus on mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal communication effectiveness.

More specifically, the boxes are tailored by the residents themselves and address the five senses. Examples given were photographs, old letters or empowering quotes for sight; meditation CDs or recorded voicemails from loved ones for hearing; a rock or meditation ball that individuals can hold in their hands for touch; candles for smell; and a favorite tea or candy for taste.

“It’s almost like a first aid kit for your emotional health,” DeMarse noted. “When they (residents) feel they are reverting back to their old ways, they can use these tools.”

So far, the response has been very positive and many of the residents have been going back to their boxes, DeMarse said.

“Some have pictures of themselves from before they developed addictions. It’s a reminder to them of who they used to be and who they want to be again.”

One resident shared many items in her box and what they meant to her. Among them were photographs of her children, gifts from friends and her key tags from NA to remind her how far she had come. At one point she held up a Christmas-themed sock and said, “This reminds me that there is always magic and to look at life like a child, as if I am born again.”

She explained that she is learning who she is through her senses. The same senses she said she had neglected in the past.

“I can learn to forgive myself,” she said. “I wish I could snap my fingers and have that happen, but it’s a process.”

DeMarse said the residents will continue to add to their boxes, even after they leave. She added that as they re-enter society, it is important that they are not judged.

“All they ask is that we (community) meet them half way.”

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.