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Posted by on in Drug Addiction
Addiction is the great equalizer.
 
Why? Because it cuts across every demographic, psychographic and geographic profile that there is. It hits rich and poor, young and old, black and white, big and tall, skinny and fat. It doesn't care how educated you are or what you think about politics, music, or sports. It doesn't care  what your profession is. Addiction cuts across America and the world. As addicts we all have the same traits. Just as my dog wags his tail because because he's a dog. So we addicts behave in certain ways, very distinguishable and identifiable ways,traits and characteristics, because we are addicts.
 
Addiction attacks the top executive at a Fortune 500 company, a housewife,  bus driver,a teacher or student and brings them all to the exact same point. A point of desperation, a point of severe suffering , a point where they know their addiction has entrapped them and is out of control, even if they won't admit it to others, or even themselves.
 
Like a small army of ants can bring down even the strongest and largest buildings that were thought to have such great foundations. We watch as they come crumbling down . The same is true for the addict, addiction eats away at the very core of a persons mind, heart,emotion, soul, body and being. The end result is always destruction.No matter how much they did or what drug they did. The addiction had the same effect on everybody. It destroyed them. And that is why it's the great equalizer.      
 
Do you need a reality check?
 
How many times have you heard that phrase, "you need a reality check?" That usually means we think that somebody is involved in delusional thinking. That they don't see the truth, facts and the actual circumstances that are happening around them. Thus their definition of reality is not only inaccurate and perverted, but the saddest part is they really think it's real. Now the Russian philosopher Dostoevsky  stated and argued that 2+2 = 5 if indeed that is your belief.  In essence stating that people create their own reality. From a philosophical standpoint we may be able to embrace that concept of thinking. However from a reality standpoint, it just doesn't work. Here's why. Let's assume my perception of the speed limit is it should be 100 miles an hour. So I believe that is the speed limit and so I went 100 miles an hour. When the flashing red lights appear in my rear mirror and the police pull me over and write me a ticket for speeding, regardless of what I tell them my own reality is, they will tell me the reality of the world. So therefore the reality of society and circumstance and law is a reality under which we are all bound by.
 
The addicted person often lives in a world and mindset governed by, and created by, their own definition of reality. Which is usually quite different than their friends, family, society and the world's definitions. The addicts definition of reality is that he can do whatever he wants to make himself feel good at the expense of anyone else. The addicts definition is, we always put our own self desires ahead of anybody else's, regardless of the consequences to other people. As long as we get what we want then nothing else matters. That is truly the reality of the addict. Whether they have consciously chosen to embrace it, or their addiction has overcome them and put them in that position and perception of reality, that is what they think and what their actions are based on. Would it be logical for a person to continue using drugs and alcohol to the extent that it causes him to lose their job, their drivers license, their family and eventually wind up in jail, or dead. Obviously if you were asked that question on an exam, you would answer 'NO" that's not logical, rational or a good idea, and its a terrible perception of reality to have. Yet that is exactly the perception that the addict has. So yes oftentimes the addicts thinking is delusional and above all they need a reality check.
 
However many addicts are in denial. They refuse to accept the world's reality and insist upon accepting and implementing their own warped, perverted definition of reality which justifies them getting anything they want, anyway they have too, at any cost, no matter who they hurt, and blaming everyone else for their circumstance and situation except themselves. Their reality also includes  thinking that the only place they can be accepted, feel-good,  and get relief and escape from the worlds demands, obligations and requirements is by using drugs or alcohol.
 
Now the good news. Oftentimes in recovery the scales come off the addicts eyes and by learning new information and by gaining new knowledge and by having a spiritual awakening, the addict actually sees the reality of life as it truly is. They come to learn to accept themselves for who they are and what they are and see how they can be better and live joyfully and function in the world as it is, instead of creating an alternative addiction world, where they survive miserably until they die or go to prison. So the good news is there's hope for every addicted person. I have learned never to give up on anyone. As God has shown me many miracles in the lives of addicted people who I thought were beyond help and hope.  God showed me no one  is beyond help or hope as long as they are still breathing. Our job is to make sure that when the addicted person seeks help, there's qualified help and information available to show them the way and the path to a better life. We do that by teaching them what their options to recovery are and connecting them with the people who can walk them down the path of success.
 
The great news is that there is a recovery program available for each and every addict that can bring them out of their addiction into the free, joyful, happy life God intended for them to have. So a suitable recovery program is also a great equalizer. It works for all addicts, if they are willing to embrace it, regardless of how long they have been addicted, how much they have used and what they have used.
 
 
Addicts create their own reality.
 
We know that because of their addiction, most addicts are unable to deal with the demands, pressures and obligations of life. So in order to cope and to satisfy the desire to have what they want, when they want, no matter who it hurts, addicted people create their own reality. In this world they are obligated to no one but themselves. They are right about everything. Everyone is wrong about anything that relates to them. Everyone else but them, is to blame for their troubles.
 
They attempt to keep their emotional state and mood at a constant high level by continuing to indulge in their addiction. Thus they continue to use drugs or alcohol and have come to the point where they are dependent on the alcohol or drugs to elevate their  mood to an acceptable or  “bearable” level. The addiction has taken control of them and very often they will engage in risky, certainly detrimental and sometimes criminal behavior. For instance, missing appointments and not showing up for work is common. Blowing off obligations and responsibilities to family and friends is common. Not taking care of their physical health or appearance is common. Spending excessive amounts of money and time indulging their addiction is common. Stealing and lying are also common. The addiction now owns them and controls them so that the only time they can feel calm and in control is when they are indulging in their addiction. The fact of the matter is their lives are spinning out of control and they no longer have control. Yet that is the irony and insidious nature of the disease, it distorts reality completely for those under its grip.
 
The addicted person’s reality is focused and anchored upon making sure that they are able to indulge their addictions at any and all costs, including physical, financial, spiritual, emotional, and relationship costs. Usually addicted people will suffer in every one of those areas as a result of their ongoing addiction. The sad reality that they are trapped in their addiction is now very clear to the addicted person however, usually, they will ignore this fact and continue spiraling downward in their addictive behavior. They are now literally engulfed by the addiction. It has become the only way of life they know, it is their default survival mechanism. It is what they live for and what they mistakenly believe is the only thing that gives them pleasure, control or peace. In fact they have completely lost touch with reality and their addiction has completely overtaken them. As sad as it is, this is an often necessary step to the recovery process. It is our hope and desire that we see the addicted person “hit bottom” as soon as possible, so that they have felt enough pain, and are willing to do what it takes to begin the recovery journey, which is the ONLY WAY to get back their true life and break free from the bondage and prison of addiction.
 
 
Clear Signs Of Addiction.
 
There are clear signs of addiction that are reflective of the addictive personality... one of them is the addicted person's indulgence in their addiction of choice whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling or other addictive behavior. These behaviors are indulged in by the addict in order to escape the painful realities of life that cause the addict unhappiness. These are the same realities of life that someone who is not addicted would have no trouble handling, being a part of and enjoying. But for the addict, the everyday responsibilities and circumstances that make up "daily living" need to be avoided at all costs.
 
So the addicted person creates their own reality, their own world, where they are in charge. Their own world where there is no perceived and no responsibility. They create this only and often by indulging in their addiction of choice. Much to the dismay of family and friends, who see their life spiraling downward, the addicted person continues to indulge more and more in their addiction. We know that our bodies build up tolerance to addiction of choice. So that it takes up more of the drug,  or more alcohol or more gambling, for their addictive behavior to provide them with an acceptable amount of "relief" from life's issues.  Thus we see the alcoholic drinking more, the drug addict using more and the gambler gambling more. The tragic thing about addiction is that even though they use more they are unable to have the addiction make them feel as good as they did when they first started indulging their addiction, because now the addiction is no longer pleasurable, but in fact very painful to the addict themselves. It is painful emotionally, spiritually, physically, psychologically and affects every aspect of their life.  They are addicted… and they are unable to break free of this addictive behavior without embracing a recovery program. But first and most importantly they need to hit bottom. To come to the point in their own life where they are willing to accept the help that is available to them, that can show them the way,that can break them free of addiction.
 
The key to it, which is one of the great tragedies for loved ones of addicted people, is we can't choose it for them, they have to choose it themselves. They have to hit bottom and be willing to turn around and want a different way of life and be willing to do what it takes to get it. The better life is there...it exists…there is a road map and path to it through many suitable recovery programs. However the addict himself must choose to recover. I join you in praying that time has come for those you love who are struggling with addiction.
 
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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Obviously the first key to recovery is admitting you have a problem. People who do not think they have a problem will not seek help. However the first phase of recovery, (after you have admitted there is a problem) is to focus on a few primary areas. First, make sure that your primary concern is abstinence, not using drugs or alcohol. You have to focus on the things you need to do to make sure that you do not return to old behaviors and triggers that cause you to use drugs and alcohol again. In addition, we want you to start to get educated and gain new knowledge of what addiction is and the effects it causes. Knowledge is power, knowledge is wisdom, with knowledge comes understanding and the ability to change. Then we also want you to begin to learn refusal and coping skills, so you can use these skills to learn to deal with the stress and situations around you that previously had you running to indulge your addictions. 

The first phase of recovery can seem overwhelming, but in reality it is not. Just think of it as if you were learning a new language and you heard these foreign words the first time. Of course they seem foreign to you at first because you don't know what they mean or how to use them. It's the same with addiction recovery. Yet as you go and learn, you become familiar with the meanings of the words and you gain understanding. Soon you are speaking a new language, in our case living a new life of recovery. It becomes a natural, reflex action. Then you get all the benefits from it!  

The beginning  of the recovery journey (Phase 1 as I like to call it)  is an exciting phase for those hungry and broken and seeking a better way of life, because they want the information, knowledge and tools necessary to overcome their addiction. For those who do not want to deal with their addiction problem and have not or will not admit their addiction is a problem, Phase 1 is often difficult and full of conflicts, because they are still resisting getting sober. They have not let go of their addiction, they had not surrendered it, it still controls them and they still wish to indulge in it. 

It’s not enough to tell addicts that recovery is a better way of life. We must show them how it works. Just as it’s not enough to tell me the computer is a good tool and can make my life easier. You have to teach me how it works for me to get the full benefit of it. It’s the same with recovery.

Now remember, you can have all the information and knowledge you need, but if you don't use it, it's worthless. You get no benefit from it.  So the bottom line is it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. I will often tell addicted people I am helping that they shouldn't make any promises to their loved ones, friends or employers regarding their stopping their addictions. Why? Because those promises carry no weight anymore. The addicted person has made many promises and has failed to live up to most, if not all of them. Their friends and loved ones and families won’t believe the words anyway. What the friends, families, and loved ones will believe, is seeing a changed life, based on the new actions and behavior of the addicted person. 

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Even when I was in the absolute worst stage of unabashed drinking and irregular, unhealthy eating habits, very little if anything could have pushed me to seek recovery any sooner than I did.

Those who love me worked tirelessly in the effort to convince me I needed help.  Each gesture or suggestion was met with resistance, denial and deflection.  Those caring and compassionate individuals had all but prepared themselves to receive the dreaded phone call I’d finally succumbed to the disease of addiction.

The more people tried to persuade me of my destruction, the more my distance from them widened.  I wasn’t ready to stop.  I liked being able to decide for myself when, where and how much I engaged in what I believed was pure merriment.  I’d perfected my silent rationalization to slip into the haze of too much alcohol with little food. When I was in the state of nothingness, life’s emotional ups and downs didn’t matter anymore. I cherished my ability firmly and sternly control what I put my mental energy into and what was erased. As long as I kept my booze supply up and my weight down, all was well in the world.  And oh boy, did I love the “high” I felt when the deception, manipulation and lies all fell into place.

Until they didn’t.

When I finally found myself sitting across the desk of an intake counselor at a substance abuse treatment center I still was clinging to the belief I could one day drink again and eat as I saw fit.  I vividly remember the woman asking me how much alcohol I drank each day and my response of “oh, not that much” was quickly deflected when she held up my liver count report. I just wasn’t ready to stop believing I could run the show and direct the participants.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not."

Alcoholics Anonymous, page 34, More About Alcoholism

Of the many internal rearrangements I experienced as a result of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the most profound was in how I understood the disease.  This shift was a direct result of being able to align the experience and pain of my repeated relapses with the explanation of the disease in the first 63 pages of the Alcoholics Anonymous text book (with the help of a terrific teacher).  Ideas and concepts I had held for decades about the nature of alcoholism were rendered embarassingly inaccurate.  Many of the AA sayings  I had chanted effortlessly for years (just don't pick up the first drink!) suddenly felt like codependent sloganeering.

Had you asked me several years ago what the difference was between a drinking problem and alcoholism, I would have likely responded "not much."  Try to explain it to me?  I'd have politely nodded but dismissed you as someone with way too much time on their hands.  I simply was not there-- I had double digit sobriety, a good life and the assurance that by keeping my memory green about where alcohol had taken me, I'd never drink again.  I've since learned that alcoholism is cunning and baffling; it can also masquerade as sobriety.  In retrospect, I was unaware that the very proclamations I valued as manifestations of my sobriety were really untreated alcoholism.  And it was biding its time, trying to find another way in.

But back to the point of the post-- what's the difference?  I see it this way:  the person with a drinking problem should stop, and usually can.  The person with alcoholism must stop and cannot.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

I made the tactical error this afternoon of revealing in an AA meeting that part of my first step experience was the realization that many of the AA slogans I'd been mindlessly repeating for over a decade were completely at odds with my new understanding of my condition.  I call it a mistake not because I regret saying it, but because the rest of the meeting became an impassioned defense of AA sloganeering.  As a friend pointed out afterwards, I had inadvertently provided the red meat that our fellowship often prefers over a discussion of recovery.  My bad.

The point I had tried to make was that once I'd conceded to my innermost self that I was powerless over alcohol-- that I had no effective defense against the first drink-- expressions like "Don't Drink And Go To Meetings" and "Just Don't Pick Up The First Drink" rang incredibly hollow.  I just couldn't line them up with what I was reading in the AA textbook.  I mean, how can I understand that alcoholism is a disease of insanity, that we experience strange mental blank spots where we inexplicably pick up a drink again, and then appreciate the wisdom of "Think The Drink Through?"

Unfortunately, though, my point was lost.  No matter how I choose my words-- and admittedly, I sometimes choose badly-- when you suggest that the tools people have used for eons to not drink don't really work with alcoholism-- you're in for a long hour.

My issue is not with slogans, per se-- I'm all for whatever helps someone get through the day.  But the problem as I see it is the slogans have overtaken the program of recovery-- they are the only tools we offer in many AA meetings.  I'd have less of an issue with them if they were presented as a nice complement to the actual program of recovery-- the steps.  The slogans are garnish-- pretty, but largely inedible.

Cross-posted at Thump.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AA's failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith."

Bill Wilson, AA Grapevine, April 1961 "The Dilemma of No Faith"

Cross posted at Thump.Increase

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IncreaseI stole this Nikos Kazantzakis quote from the Facebook page of a Thump fan, Robi Carlson, because I love language that challenges conceptions of spiritual power.

"The Great Spirit does not toil within the bounds of human time, place, or casualty. The Great Spirit is superior to these human questionings. It teems with many rich and wandering drives which to our shallow minds seem contradictory; but in the essence of divinity they fraternize and struggle together, faithful comrades-in-arms. The primordial Spirit branches out, overflows, struggles, fails, succeeds, trains itself. It is the Rose of the Winds."

In order to be willing to believe in a power greater than myself, I needed to set aside all of my ideas and concepts about "God."  I wiped the slate clean, even of the word "God." My conception of a higher power could not be tethered to human expression, not because I was special or intelligent, but because all language and expression carried some baggage, and I needed to be free of that.  It was the only thing that would work.  I needed to experience a power greater than myself, not define it.

Cross-posted at Thump.

 

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

In some ways the Law of Attraction is Positive Psychology meets Metaphysics.  Positive Psychology states if you have a positive outlook, you will have a happier and more fulfilling life.  Studies in Positive Psychology report certain strengths and virtues enable individuals to thrive.  For example, emotions such as zest, gratitude, hope, and love are the most strongly associated with a satisfying life.

The Law of Sobriety is a program of seven steps that can be combined with twelve step programs or utilized on their own not only to assist in living a life clean and sober, but to live a life that has purpose and meaning.  It is about being called forth to do what you were put on this planet to do.  The seven steps include:

Finding Your Purpose with Intention

Living a life that is true to your Values

Living a Life of Authenticity

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