Fitness & Wellness in Recovery

Physical Health and Proper Nutrition Are Key Components in Successful Recovery from Substance Abuse


After years of neglecting their health, many of Vinland’s clients arrive for treatment with their bodies in poor shape. A lifestyle of abusing harmful chemicals, involvement in accidents, and poor health choices result in a variety of health problems for many clients. Chronic pain, poor posture caused by bad health and low self-esteem, and high- or low-body weight are common issues facing Vinland’s clients.

The Therapeutic Exercise Program is a cornerstone of Vinland’s approach to substance abuse treatment. The purpose of the program is to address an individual’s poor nutrition and exercise choices, and to teach them effective and appropriate ways to care for their bodies. The main focus of the program is to help clients better perform activities of daily living. While improving a client’s physical appearance is not the main focus of the program, with exercise and postural training, physical appearance does improve.

“Physical health is important,” said Jeff Willert, Vinland’s Fitness & Wellness Manager. “If you feel better physically, then you feel better mentally. People are less likely to go back to using drugs and alcohol if they are taking care of themselves physically.”

Focus on Strengths

Each client receives a therapeutic exercise assessment at the beginning of treatment. The assessment determines a client’s current physical fitness level, providing a baseline for providing treatment and measuring improvements. The assessment measures upper body strength, lower body strength, balance, hand and eye coordination/brain speed, pain levels, body fat percentage, and lumbar extension and flexion to check disc pathology.


“We focus on a client’s strengths, their positives. They are tired of hearing about their negatives. People have more strengths than they realize. ”

Many clients are hard on themselves when they first enter treatment, but Jeff encourages clients not to judge their abilities in the therapeutic exercise center for the first few days.

“We take someone who is broken and we focus on their positives, and then they start to like the way they look and feel.”

Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise is well-known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research also shows that exercise can increase the amount of new nerve connections in the brain, which helps the brain heal from the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse. As the body and mind return to a more natural state, many people in recovery find exercise also helps restore a normal sleep schedule.

“The therapeutic exercise program helps clients find meaning and purpose in their lives,” Jeff said. “It gives them confidence. Boredom is a threat to sobriety, and exercise gives people something to do. They are also more likely to volunteer or find work.”

Nutrition and Recovery

As part of the program, clients learn about proper nutrition. Nutrition is an important component to overall health, impacting a person’s mood, behavior, and mental health. The classes teach the basics of healthy nutrition, how poor nutrition can negatively impact medical conditions, and how to make healthy food choices.

All people who abuse alcohol and/or drugs experience some level of malnutrition. Recovery from substance abuse affects the body in a variety of ways, including metabolism, organ function, and mental well-being. Proper nutrition aides the healing process by supplying the body with the vitamins and minerals needed for energy and to build and maintain healthy organs.

“We are providing clients with the basic information they need to make healthy food choices when they leave Vinland,” Jeff said.

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Fly Fishing with Veterans


John Piacquadio is a chemical health case manager at Vinland Center and the new program lead of the Twin Cities chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

Last winter, John Piacquadio, a case manager in Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program, began voluteering with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), a national organization that teaches veterans about fly fishing. Many of the individuals who participate in PHWFF are dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Thanks to his background in working with individuals facing similar issues, John was recently asked to take over the role of Program Lead for the Twin Cities chapter after the current lead retires.

“There’s something special about the whole process – from learning fly tying to catching fish,” John said. “The process helps people by indirectly working on mental health issues; it helps people talk when they wouldn’t before.”

Before joining Project Healing Waters, John was already fly tying with clients at Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program. Fly tying helps people with traumatic brain injuries work on their fine motor skills and executive planning (by following directions).

“Recreation therapy is so important. People need exposure to alternatives for drugs and alcohol. Fly fishing is great because it is not something you can win. You can never be perfect at fly fishing, but you can see progress.”

According to the organization’s website, the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinic participants ranging from beginners who have never fished before, to those with prior fly fishing and tying experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities. All fly fishing and tying equipment is provided to the participants at no cost. Fishing trips are also provided free of charge to participants.

Project Healing Waters’ St. Cloud chapter was featured on KARE 11’s Land of 10,000 Stories last year. You can watch the video below.

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Save the Date | Give to the Max Day


It’s that time of year again! Give to the Max Day is less than one month away!

What is Give to the Max Day?

Give to the Max Day has become an annual tradition in Minnesota! For 24 hours, people donate to Minnesota non-profits on Last year, people donated $17 million in 24 hours on Give to the Max Day.

Double Your Donation

Vinland is excited to announce that we have received $4,500 in matching grants so far this year! This means that on Give to the Max Day, your $20 donation will turn into $40, $50 will be $100, and $100 will be $200!

MN Vikings Ticket Package

To show our appreciation to our donors on Give to the Max Day, Vinland is holding a prize drawing just for you. Each time you donate to Vinland Center on November 13, 2014 through, you are entered for a chance to win a prize! The prize package includes two Minnesota Vikings tickets for their Sunday, December 7 game against the New York Jets and one $100 Old Spaghetti Factory gift card. You can easily take the light rail from TCF Stadium right to the restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and avoid traffic. The more times you donate to Vinland on Give to the Max Day, the more chances you have to win! Visit our page for more info.

Add $1,000

Every gift made to Vinland Center on increases our chances of winning a $1,000 Golden Ticket – an hourly drawing that adds $1,000 to a person’s donation, randomly selected from donors who gave during each hour of the event.

Add $10,000

At the end of Give to the Max Day, one donation from across Minnesota will be randomly selected for a $10,000 Super-sized Golden Ticket! The more gifts we receive online on November 14, the more chances we have to receive that magical Golden Ticket!

As always, your donation to Vinland Center is tax-deductible.

Mark you calendars and remember to support Vinland Center on November 13! Thank you for your support!

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See you in Duluth

Duluth photo

Vinland will have a booth at the St. Louis County Healt & Human Service Conference in Duluth on October 8 & 9. Stop by our booth and say hello!

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Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 5 to October 11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the first full week of October, people across the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community –


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Expert Q&A: Substance Abuse Treatment and TBI

shattered head

Vinland’s Associate Director Duane Reynolds was featured in the latest issue of The Carlat Report, a monthly publication for all things in addiction medicine. He discussed substance abuse treatment for individuals with traumatic brain injuries in the publication’s Expert Q & A feature. The article is reprinted here with permission.

CATR: How common is traumatic brain injury (TBI) in patients with addiction?

Mr. Reynolds: In the state of Minnesota, where licensed treatment programs are required to submit data to a large registry, 2.6% of clients in 2012 had a traumatic brain injury. That number is probably on the low side. In Kentucky, where there is also mandatory reporting, 32% of clients had a history of TBI when they were specifically assessed using the Brain Injury Screening Questionnaire (Walker R et al, J Head Trauma Rehabil 2007;22(6):360–367). An older review of six studies found that between 38% and 63% of clients seeking substance abuse treatment reported a history of brain injury (Corrigan JD et al, J Head Trauma Rehabil 1995;10(3):29–46). The bottom line is that it’s pretty common.

CATR: And what are the causes of TBI?

Mr. Reynolds: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 2.5 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations or deaths related to TBIs in 2010 ( The top cause—about 41% of cases—was falling. Unintentional blunt trauma accounted for 16% of cases, followed by motor vehicle accidents (14%). Another 11% of TBIs were due to assault.

CATR: Does addiction come before TBI or after?

Mr. Reynolds: It’s well established that addiction is a risk factor for TBI and a lot of people are intoxicated at the time of their injury. There is also emerging evidence that causality cuts the other way—that TBI may increase the risk for developing later addiction (Bjork JM & Grant SJ, J Neurotrauma 2009;26(7):1077–1082). Some of this may be due to acquired problems with executive function, but part of it may also be the desirable effects of the substances themselves. This is especially true for methamphetamine or other types of drugs that give people with TBI the perception of being more alert and more in control.

CATR: Does TBI change the trajectory of substance use?

Mr. Reynolds: Studies have found that substance use decreases, often substantially, following TBI (Graham DP & Cardon AL, Ann NY Acad Sci 2008;1141:148–162). For those who continue to use substances, alcohol and other sedatives typically have a greater effect on a person who has cognitive impairment. They will be less likely to think clearly. Addiction can also get in the way of a person’s recovery from their brain injury. When a person gets discharged from the hospital, they need to be able to engage in cognitive and vocational rehabilitation. All of that is often lost because of drinking and other drug use.

CATR: How do cognitive problems impact patients during addiction treatment?

Mr. Reynolds: Clients with TBI do not do well in a standard treatment program where they are sitting in group sessions that last an hour and a half to two hours. They can’t sit still and concentrate for that long. Cognitively they are unable to track or follow the discussion. They get overloaded and fatigued easily. These clients may have aphasias or other reading difficulties, so the usual techniques like lectures and written treatment plans and assignments don’t do a lot of good. Clients often are embarrassed by their disabilities, too. The more you cognitively try to push them, the more their wheels spin. They eventually say, “I can’t do this anymore,” and they leave treatment.

Young Woman

CATR: How do people with TBI do after completing addiction treatment?

Mr. Reynolds: Although this hasn’t been extensively studied, there are some data from specialized centers. For example, in one investigation, 75% of clients were judged to have a positive substance use outcome at one year (Bogner JA et al, J Head Trauma Rehabil 1997;12(5):57–71). When you slice that number, 50% had varying periods of abstinence and the remaining 25% had reduced their substance use. Here at Vinland, we perform follow-up at six months where we call clients and ask them “Are you sober?” or “Have you reduced your substance use?” About 50% to 60% report that they are abstinent and another 20% to 25% say they have moderated their use.

CATR: What can a standard treatment program do to enhance the experience of patients with TBIs?

Mr. Reynolds: They can conduct shorter group therapy sessions of no more than 45 minutes, use simple treatment assignments, and provide more one-to-one therapy. There should not be a lot of distractions in group rooms and other care delivery areas. Sometimes symptoms of head injury are interpreted by clinicians as resistance to treatment. Frontal lobe disruption can impede planning, implementing plans and goals, and problem solving, which are characteristics of a motivated client.

CATR: What else?

Mr. Reynolds: As I mentioned, clients with TBI often don’t find the group experience to be very beneficial because they become easily confused or flustered, and when two or three people start talking, they just zone out. So there should be more individual therapy with the client. Another thing is to keep assignments and concepts simple. Ask closed-ended questions. Sometimes a person with a head injury just can’t put two and two together and come up with an abstract four. They need very concrete questions and answers. And you often have to fill in the blanks—they struggle to deduce things from what you are telling them. And often there are memory issues. We give people planners and teach them to write down their daily tasks and appointments.

CATR: So individualizing treatment is critical.

Mr. Reynolds: Correct. For example, we had a client with alexia who couldn’t recognize words anymore. The counselor would be writing on a board or showing clients how to do something, but he just couldn’t get it. Fortunately, his receptive language ability to spoken voice was preserved. So, with that client, I sat next to him in groups and told him what we were talking about and sort of translated. This is just a concrete example of a general principle. There are usually ways around problems—it just takes more work. You have to slow it down, spend more time with the person, and give highly individualized care.

CATR: You mentioned that there can be problems with group therapy, which is traditionally the cornerstone of treatment. Should we be doing it at all?

Mr. Reynolds: Yes, but with modifications. We have small groups of perhaps six to 10 people, which is smaller in size than normal groups. And our sessions are only 45 minutes in length, which, again, is shorter than normal groups. We also have breaks between groups for clients to decompress, whereas traditional treatment schedules are pretty full.

CATR: How about the actual content of groups?

Mr. Reynolds: Our approach is grounded in Illness Management and Recovery, an evidence-based approach that has been popularized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( The content is simple and there is often a lot of repetition. For instance, a session may focus on medications. Clients will have a list of their medications and how often to take them. We will discuss medication minders—labeled with the days and times for taking medications—as a way of helping clients become more competent in self-management. Another session might focus on symptom recognition. And so on. At the end of each session, we ask clients to verbalize or write down what they learned. Hopefully, they can identify one concrete thing to add to their toolbox.

CATR: Are there other things that you think our readers should know about treating addiction in people with TBI?

Mr. Reynolds: A client was asked what he thought about his TBI and he said, “You know, they tell me that my TBI is mild, but it’s not mild to me.” That illustrates how this can be a hidden disability. You often can’t tell by looking at a client that they have trouble with numbers, sequencing things, or other cognitive difficulties. And they may be too ashamed to tell you. So it’s important to maintain a high index of suspicion for TBI and assess clients for cognitive problems if you sense something is going on.

CATR: Thank you, Mr. Reynolds.

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A Brief Mindfulness Practice | 3 of 4

Thanks to a grant from the Trust for the Meditation Process, Vinland has launched a web-based video series as a resource for clients to continue their mindfulness meditation practice after leaving Vinland.

Below is the third video in the series, a guided meditation featuring a Japanese flute.

Made Possible By

A charitable foundation supporting meditation and contemplative prayer

Learn more about the Trust for the Meditation Process online at

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