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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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Tagged in: 10th tradition 12 step 12 step recovery AA abstinence accurate self-appraisal action program action steps addict addiction addiction help addiction memoir addiction recovery Addiction Specialist addictive behavior addicts affected affirmations Alcoholics Anonymous answers anxiety anxiety and recovery ask for help Asking for help attitude of gratitude awareness balance being a loving mirror being a loving person being of service Big Book Caring for those who still suffer co-addiction co-occurring disorder compassion courage dealing with a using loved one depression discomfort drug abuse drug addiction emotional management emotional maturity emotional regulation emotional sobriety emotions faith family recovery fear first step goal setting goals gratitude gratitude journey Guest Blogger guilt healing HELPING OTHERS higher self inadequacy inner satisfaction intervention inventory letting go Life Challenges life on life's terms literature memoir mental health mindfulness mindfulness and recovery Motivation My Story openness positive energy program of recovery recovery recovery talk relapse prevention Resilience right action right intention self care Self Love self-compassion self-confidence self-esteem self-help self-honesty serenity shame sobriety sponsor stepwork struggle substance abuse suffering suffering addicts Support surrender tenth tradition thinking thinking errors Trying to save a Life turn it over twelve step recovery twelve steps Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions twelve steps of aa twelve traditions twelve traditions of aa why i used drugs
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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

In early recovery, I was often told, “Trust me, you’ll feel better soon”, or, “I know this is hard, but I promise, you’ll feel better soon.” I lived by those words.  I was so shaky, ashamed and scared. I felt awful.  I desperately hoped the non-stop physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual suffering would stop.  I wanted so badly to feel better, physically as well as emotionally. I tried each and every day to focus on those words of reassurance and deny what I thought and felt inside.  I held tight to the recommendations of my recovery role models, the encouragement from my friends and family outside the rooms of recovery and my own willingness to get better, hoping eventually I’d feel better.

And eventually I did, but not in the way I had expected.  What began to happen was I started to feel my feelings better.  I started to feel happiness better, I started to feel anger better, and I started to feel sadness better.

Although this sounds like a play on words – feeling my feelings better - the point is, in order for me to experience healthy recovery I had to allow myself to actually feel what I had long been trying to deflect, change or control.

For example, during the Christmas holidays my emotions would always kick into overdrive.   No matter what age I was, I would become completely nostalgic.  I’d think about stringing the lights with my dad, hearing my grandfather whistling a holiday tune or sitting at the top of the staircase with my brothers and sister waiting for my Dad to tell us Santa had arrived.  I’d get excited to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my family or maybe catch an old Charles Dickens movie by myself.  As I got older the holidays stopped being those experienced as a child.  They became strung by addiction instead of lights and wrapped around bottles of wine with little food instead of gifts presented with love.

I won’t lie, those first few winter holidays in recovery were difficult.  I couldn’t stop focusing on how sad, angry and frustrated I felt for all those Christmas and New Year holidays lost in the blur of addiction.  In those early recovery years I had difficulty fully embracing the magic of the season.  To be honest, I really wanted nothing more than to get through the series of events, wishing they would just be over.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Developing skills to manage your emotional states is crucial if you want to develop long-term sobriety.  While the initial phase of recovery is often met with a 'Pink Cloud' or Honeymoon period, it is very likely that once the newness of recovery wears off the newly sober addict or alcoholic will encounter depression, mood swings, confusion, memory loss and an inability to regulate their emotions due to brain chemistry that has yet find homeostasis.  In this article I offer concrete and specific ways you can approach your "emotional mess" and posit solutions for managing feelings that are distressing to you.

If we take the position that addiction is largely the result of brain chemistry, it makes sense to me that we would approach a medical problem with a medical solution.  Make an appointment with your medical provider to discuss the possibility of being assessed for anti-depressants.  The effect of chemical use tends to create an experience where your world can feel very small.  I suspect this is due to your brain's inability to produce the required brain chemistry for normal cognitive and emotional functioning. A lack of the appropriate neurotransmitters can make you feel like you don't have the needed emotional bandwidth required to face the day-to-day challenges.  Utilizing the available pharmacology and today's research can go a long way in helping you develop a sense of ease in your recovery.

Developing skills to reframe what you are thinking is crucial if you want to stay sane.  One of the biggest lessons we learn in recovery is that we need to come to a place where we don’t personalize everything. There's a host of information available on the web if you'd like to do further study, but I would like you to consider the following ideas:

1) Take responsibility for your distress.  While negative events happen, it is important to realize that you are only responsible for your part in the situation.  Make an effort to talk to a trusted friend to get clarification on your part in a situation as well as where your responsibility ends.
2) Remind yourself that you cannot control the timing, the outcome, or how you, feel. You are only responsible for what you think.  By focusing on what you think you can change how you feel.
3) Try to see the good in every situation.  My grandparents lived through four years in a Nazi concentration camp.  When something negative happened to my grandmother after she and grandfather were released from Auschwitz, she would talk about "seeking the gift" in every situation.  She suggested there were three reasons people were unable to seek the gift: 1) the problem (or opportunity) doesn't come wrapped in the package you're used to seeing, 2) sometimes the opportunity doesn't happen on your time table, and 3) sometimes the problem doesn't happen for us, it happens for someone else, and we are merely the conduit.  My grandmother made sure that every time I was upset that I remembered that a gift existed in every situation

Realize that bad stuff happens.  My wife has Cancer. I do not see this as karma nor do I believe that 'everything happens for a reason'.  I see 'everything happens for a reason' as a trite way to wrap your brain around something you do not understand.  My wife has a family history of Cancer on both sides of her family.  It was very likely that no matter what she did, she would have contracted this horrible disease. I do not spend a lot of time thinking about why bad things happen, they just do.  Recognizing that bad stuff happens regardless of what we do or believe lets me remember that bad stuff happens, and it's okay

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