Addictionland - Addiction Recover Blog
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....
There have been many times in my life when words or phrases came to mean something other than what many understand them to mean. Off the top of my head I can think of a few examples.
My husband and I communicate in ways often causing our friends to do a double-take and wonder what in the world we are talking about. For example, I might be in the living room doing something and yell down to my husband in the basement to bring me “that thing next to the big thing.” Seconds later he hands me exactly what I needed. We share a language created during our many years of living together.
Another opportunity to share a unique means of communication is in the work environment. When I was still active in the corporate world, my team of many years knew exactly what each other needed or what we meant by a simple nod of the head or a raised eyebrow. We had spent hours together creating, editing, masterminding and learning to trust one another. In all that time we eventually understood things without needing to say a word. When we were in situations where verbal connection wasn't an option, those non-communication actions spoke volumes. I was somehow comforted by this; feeling a sense of security knowing I was part of something uniquely special.
When I was drinking and rarely eating, there was a lot of conversation in my head which was uniquely special for me too. I never shared these ongoing internal dialogues with anyone because I couldn’t explain them. I had a difficult enough time myself just trying to understand how and why the subject matter would roll back and forth like a pendulum. One moment I’d be justifying my irrational behavior and the next I’d be mentally berating myself for having such thoughts.
I carried on with this silent metronome of conversation for years. I was absolutely certain if anyone else could hear what I heard, they’d consider my train of thought not only foreign but nowhere near normal....
I am honored to be the December Expert particularly because this first day happens to be my birthday. Yet the date does not mark the only time I was shifted from a place of comfort to a visceral shock to the system.
I’ve been given the most precious gift of life three times. I was physically born in December of 1961, almost died in 2001 and then tested fate again in 2008. The 46-year journey was a roller coaster of addiction, emotional chaos and nonstop searching for a way out.
Although I can't remember the first few celebrations of the date I entered this world, all accounts indicated they were joyous, happy and fun. I’ve been told people poured attention on me with beautifully wrapped boxes to open and cards read by others with messages for a future far better than their own.
Staying sober requires that we develop skills that further long-term abstinence. While there are many ways to achieve recovery, I would like to discuss Mindfulness as a tool that has been valuable to me and a host of clients I’ve worked with over the last 28 years.
Mindfulness is a concept that talks about the practice of focusing your attention and awareness based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness continues to be taught independently of religion.
My sense is that while Mindfulness is a relatively new approach to addiction recovery I have found this concept to have merit. It’s very likely that you’ll find this approach does not conflict with your current program of recovery. I quit using alcohol and drugs over 33 years ago and feel like incorporating the practice of Mindfulness has been very helpful in various parts of my sobriety…..and my life.
While I am certainly not an expert I would like to give you one way to practice mindfulness.
Perhaps you’re at a stage in your recovery where urges, cravings and addictive impulses overwhelm you. Perhaps you feel anxious more than you’d like, or perhaps you’d simply like to add another tool to your toolbox. I sense this method might be helpful to you. I like to explain Mindfulness by way of the acronym S.O.B.E.R:...