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Recovery is a Total Lifestyle Change

Recovery requires a level of vulnerability that addiction has been trying to bury. It is a total lifestyle change, from ditching unhealthy friendships to healing shame. Vulnerability permits honesty at the most raw level. Its uncomfortable, it can feel painful, and most importantly, it can be life changing. When people decide to give up addiction, they are agreeing to make a major change in their life. The benefits of giving up addiction can be amazing, but you must be willing to, DO THE WORK!

Someone Who Supports/Doesn’t Support Your Recovery

How others can support your recovery include:

  1. Ask for permission before acting.
  2. Listen and validate.
  3. Not making assumptions about your needs.
  4. Take care of themselves.
  5. Engage in sober activities with you.

When someone doesn’t support your recovery, they might:

  1. Interfere with connections to support systems.
  2. Promote substance use.
  3. Cross boundaries.
  4. Not respect your down time.
  5. Encourage extreme or excessive behavior.

Support can be a wonderful thing and in the world of recovery, its NECESSARY. It is important to let your friends or family members in recovery know that you support them through there recovery. Showing them that you support them is vital.

Alternatives to Replace Alcohol

There are many ways to have fun that do not include alcohol. Here are some ways:

1. Embrace Fitness: No hangover, means no excuse not to workout. Set fitness goals to reach.

2. Play Board games: Find friends that aren’t going out to drink and have some fun.

3. Watch movies: Get sucked into a new world and narrative, preoccupy yourself with a long series. Netflix is constantly updated their catalogue of shows to watch whether they be old classics or exclusive premiers.

4. Treat yourself: Alcohol is fairly calorie dense. So why not occasionally treat yourself to keep you motivated.

5. Find New Hobbies and Activities: Finding new outlets and opportunities for fun will help you focus on the enjoyment of an activity without any history of having participated while drinking. Joining a dance class, volunteer organization, martial arts club, or sports team will bring more fun into your life and offer you a clean slate to establish yourself as someone who enjoys these activities but does not drink.

Three Minute Therapy

Anywhere, Anytime Coping Skills

A limit to some commonly used coping skills is that they can’t be used anywhere or at any time.  You can’t whip out your journal in a board meeting or even begin to stretch and breathe deeply while giving a presentation. 

Here are two anywhere anytime coping skills to add to your tool box.  Use these when you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, nervous, or unsure of yourself.

1. Color game – choose a color and count how many objects are within your eyesight that are that color.  Ideally, pick a calming color like blue or green.  

2. The five senses – connect to your sense of taste, touch, see, smell, and hear. Can you rub a soft or rough spot on your clothing? Can you hear the sound of laughter or music? Can you divert your attention to something pleasing?

Why do these work? Both of these skills keep us grounded and in the moment.  We are increasing our awareness of our environment, slowing down our thought process, and regaining control over our breathing and central nervous system simply by having a narrow focus.

A Breathing Skill for Any Age

Snake Breathing: This is a great technique that can be used for anyone ages 0-110.  The goal of snake breathing is to regain control and reinstate homeostasis by activating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.  

First, take a big deep breath, as if you are about to dive down deep in a swimming pool or go under water. Next, purse your lips together to make a small opening. Last, exhale your breath through this small opening so that it sounds like a snake hissing. Continue to make the hissing sound until you have exhaled all of your breath.

Repeat this combination at least three times.  You may feel your heart rate slow down and a decrease in other symptoms related to anxiety or worry.

Active Self Love

Self love sounds like a great concept.  Who wouldn’t want to feel good, to look in the mirror lovingly, and to have unconditional acceptance of their thoughts and behaviors.

Here’s some straightforward yet powerful ways to cultivate self love, right in the comfort of your own home:

1. OWN IT – No one is perfect.  Our mistakes, poor judgment, errors…. whatever you want to call it… can lead to us believing we are those mistakes which breeds shame.  To limit shame and to grow self love, stop silencing your mistakes.  Own them.  And even better, accept them and love them.  Those behaviors are a part of you. Those behaviors are knowledge and experience.  Those behaviors are growth. 

2. SEE IT – go to your nearest mirror and stare at yourself in the eyes. Take a deep breath and keep staring at the beautiful human looking back at you.  Look at all that beauty.  There is no one else in the entire universe like you.  What a treasure!

3. SHARE IT – A favorite quote of many “Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.”  A great expression of self love is speaking your truth, especially when it is hard to do or unpopular.  Speaking your truth keeps your insides matching your outsides. Speaking your truth keeps you authentic and genuine. Speaking your truth keeps self love front and center.

Don’t live a Life of Catch 22

Couple watching the sunset

How to create room for BOTH

Both what? What on earth does that mean? Many times individuals, couples, or families will find they are fighting to choose a side. The context can be different every time.

Who is right here?

What is the real truth?

Should I love them or be upset with them?

Why I am I always giving in?

Compromise feels more like they won.

Relationships won’t work when you are consistently facing these questions and forcing yourself, or others, to choose a side.  We are not one dimensional human beings.  Everything about us is complex – from our respiratory system to our thought process to the roles we fulfill on a daily basis. Why would it be healthy then to respond to our environment with such a black and white approach?

When you find yourself fighting from a boxed in and well defended corner, you have immediately lost the opportunity for growth and closeness. 

This is clear to see in relationships.  We can all picture the last or the most significant conflict we have encountered with someone we love.  

Did it end well? Was each person able to express their side AND listen to the other side? Were you able to clearly articulate what was ok for you and what wasn’t?

OR

Did you scream and yell? Did you shut down? Did you act like nothing happened in the following days? Did you feel awful?

What feels better for you?

Coming from an individual perspective, it may not be as obvious but you probably can relate. 

Did you allow yourself to be upset with someone you love? Did you clearly tell another where your limits and boundaries lie? Did you feel positive about being genuine and honest in your communication?

OR

Do you hold it all in? Do you avoid conflict at every cost? Do you feel guilty and shameful for expressing yourself? Is everything your fault?

Creating room for BOTH refers to you being your most genuine and authentic self every minute of the day. Be kind and patient with yourself. Know you are a complex being who will experience an array of emotions. Accept that your loved ones are different than you. Understand that different does not mean bad.

Use the above healthy questions to guide you in creating a healthy life with fulfilling relationships.

Defining Boundaries

Boundaries

Boundaries.  How often do you hear the phrase “healthy boundaries?” What exactly does this mean? Who determines the boundary? Does the word boundary sound too harsh or safe or scary?

In this week’s support, I thought talking about boundaries would be helpful.  They’re always showing up in my practice – who has them, who doesn’t, and what expectations are attached to them. 

Setting boundaries can be extremely challenging!

Let’s look at what makes up boundaries, what they mean, and the ways they can be helpful or not.

First up – definition.

According to Webster, a boundary is a line that marks the limit of an area.  This is a strong yet simple definition to use as a point of reference. Now break this down a bit and apply it to every day life and relationships and emotions… “marks the limit…” Everyone has limits, right?

At work – Tasks are set daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly because there are limits. Different roles and titles also identify limits. Limits can be defined by location too.

At home – Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, paying bills, relaxing, and watching TV are not all accomplished in one day, and they shouldn’t be. Why? Because there are limits.

With partners, family, children, siblings – One person shouldn’t always be apologizing, or taking the blame, or compromising, or keeping the relationship intact, or checking in, or making sure everyone is ok. Even Superman had his limits. (kryptonite, in case you weren’t sure)

I want you to think about, (and if you’re really feeling it, write down) where your limits lie. What are some lines that you are not willing to cross? What are some lines, or limits, that others have put in place for you? Where do you do a really good job on staying within the limits? Where would you like to see change? 

And if you have a hard time answering these questions, just go back to that strong yet simple definition. A boundary is a line that marks the limit of an area.  Maybe your limit in that moment is to give yourself a break from thinking…

Benefits of Recovery

The initial benefits of recovery include:

· No more hangovers.

· No more withdrawal rollercoaster.

· No more anxiety about where to find the next drink or dose.

· No more hiding alcohol or drug use.

· No more lying to friends, family, and co-workers about alcohol or drug use — if that was happening.

The benefits of recovery can also span the following domains:

1. Family

2. Social and civic functioning

3. Physical and mental health

4. Legal status and involvement

5. Employment and school

Recovery is the period of time that begins after an individual with an alcohol or substance use disorder takes proactive steps to restore and repair the harm caused by their time in active addiction. They may enter treatment for alcohol abuse, opioid addiction, or a problem with other illicit drugs. They may go to community support groups or begin recovery on their own: whatever the case, when they take that step, that’s when recovery begins.

That’s when things begin to change.

And as you’ll see, that’s when most things begin to change for the better.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of recovery, check out this article. This article, and the information cited above, were written by Christopher Johnston, MD, ABAM, the Chief Medical Officer for Pinnacle Treatment Centers, a leading drug and alcohol addiction treatment provider.

Making the Most of Relationships

You know the phrase “Relationships Take Work” but what does that mean specifically for you and your partner?

Every relationship has its unique challenges.  Maybe addiction or infidelity are a challenge for you.  Maybe its direct and in the moment communication or managing finances.  Maybe external factors get in the middle, like careers and in-laws and children.  

Whatever it is, these challenges make it hard to invest in our relationships.  They make it hard to move close to our partner, listen and support them, and be vulnerable and honest.

Ironically, investing in our relationships (and ourselves) is the exact remedy for these challenges.

Do you remember when you first met your partner? How exciting it was to receive an unexpected call or special surprise? How nice it was to hear they are thinking of you?  How good it felt to return those sentiments? 

During that time, would you also say you were being pretty good to yourself?  It was important impress this person, to be deeply connected to them, so you made sure you put your best foot forward.

Why did that stop?  When did it become too hard to invest in ourselves and in our relationships?

To help you get back on track, here are some ideas and tips to make the most of your relationship:

  1. Pick one thing that you can do every day that makes you feel good. Drink plenty of water, move your body for 30 minutes, listen to a motivating podcast, cook a healthy meal, read a funny novel.  Do one thing every day that makes you feel good.  It will not only relax you, but it will increase your ability to tolerate stress, execute patience, and give you a little feel-good dopamine release.
  2. Look for opportunities to turn toward your partner.  Pay attention to all the times you may roll your eyes, sigh heavily, or mumble some not so nice words under your breath.  Imagine every time you do this a little brick is placed on the wall that is building between you and your partner. Instead, use this as a chance to strengthen your relationship.  When you want to sigh heavily, you may choose now to say “I’m not understanding your choice.  Can you tell me more?” When you mumble under your breath, perhaps “It may not have been your intention, but that hurt my feelings” would work better. When you reach for the phone to text a friend to complain, I would imagine “I need your help right now” would go further.
  3. Find time to wow and woo.  Remember those first several weeks or even months of dating, when everyone was out to impress and win over one another? You can still make that happen! Leave a note of appreciation, pack a lunch, make a random call during the work day to let your partner know you are thinking of them, laugh and have fun together. Here is a list of 50 ways to show you.
  4. Create deep and meaningful conversations.  Some couples enjoy listening to podcasts and discussing their thoughts, others prefer to have conversation prompts (answering thought-provoking questions), and some prefer to watch moving films together and then analyzing.  All of these activities enhance your relationship by creating a connection, spending time together, and challenging your way of thinking and communicating. Its impossible to know every single thought your partner has so why not take advantage of these new ways of relating. 

If you are reading this list and saying to yourself, this is easier said than done OR my relationship is nowhere near ready for this OR I don’t even know if I want to make the most of my relationship, its ok.  Every relationship is unique and moves and grows at various speeds.  Use this list to help yourself set goals instead.  Perhaps your goal is to invest in yourself over the next 90 days.  Maybe its to talk with a professional to see if you can build enough trust in your relationship to turn towards your partner.  If you are not in a place to take action, start by creating a vision for your relationship.