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Addiction & Recovery – Family

Tips and coping strategies from week 5 of the Addiction Recovery workshop with therapist Nicki Line.

Family

Here are a few concepts that may be relevant to some of your experiences.

 

Differentiation of Self v Fusion

Differentiation of self– The ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still remain independent in your thoughts, feelings, and emotional functioning. People who are well differentiated from others are able to face difficult, emotionally charged problems, and not feel compelled to preach about what others should think, feel, not rush in to smooth the problem over immediately, and not pretend to be attached emotionally.

Fusion– This is essentially the opposite of a well differentiated self.  People who lack differentiation typically set aside individual choices, thoughts and feelings in order to achieve or maintain harmony in the relationship system (this can be a family system, friend system, etc). Fusion occurs when people form intense relationships with others, and their actions depend largely on the condition of this relationship at any given time. When experiencing fusion, an individual’s decisions largely depend on what others will think and how others will react, and if the decision will upset the intense bond of the relationship. People who are not well differentiated may feel that everyone in a relationship system needs to think and feel the same way or else the bonds will be broken. So either they must mold themselves to fit others, or pressure others to think feel and act the same way they do.

 

Transgenerational Trauma

We briefly discussed how trauma can be passed down through our families. Here is a brief overview of transgenerational trauma in families if this feels relevant to you, or you’d like to look more into it.

Transgenerational trauma refers to trauma that passes through generations. The idea is that not only can someone experience trauma, they can then pass the symptoms and behaviors of trauma survival to the next generation, who then might further pass these along the family line.

Transgenerational trauma can negatively impact families as a result of:

  1. Unresolved emotions and thoughts about a traumatic event
  2. Negative repeated patterns of behavior including beliefs about parenting
  3. Untreated or poorly treated substance abuse or severe mental illness
  4. Poor parent-child relationships and emotional attachment
  5. Complicated personality traits or personality disorders
  6. Content attitude with the ways things are within the family

 

Family Genograms

We discussed that not only trauma, but certain patterns of behavior and interaction can pass through families and influence families. One way to take a closer look at patterns in your own family is to construct a family genogram.  A family genogram is structurally similar to a family tree, but it includes information about relationships, interactions between family members, mental illness, substance usage, and more information.  We typically take a look at three generations using a genogram.

 

Here is a guide on family genograms:

https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-guide/genograms

Addiction & Recovery – Daily Gratitude & Positivity

Tips and coping strategies from week 4 of the Addiction Recovery workshop with therapist Nicki Line.

Our brains are hardwired to find the negative in our lives. It is a survival mechanism to find the threats. But we can do a few small things daily to help rewire the brain to find more balance.  We can do this by taking note of some positive things in our daily lives and practicing gratitude daily.

Here are some prompt ideas for positivity and gratitude. We can practice by daily journaling, acknowledging these things with another person, or simply answering these prompts to ourselves!

What made you smile today?

What went well for you today?

What made you laugh today?

Did you accomplish something today?

Did something go better today than it did yesterday?

What are things you are grateful for?

Did you see someone else do something good for someone today?

What gave you hope today?

Did you have a moment of peace today?

What made you feel good about yourself?

Who is someone you are happy to have in your life?

What do you enjoy about your work?

What is something that makes your life easier?

What is a part of your daily routine that you enjoy?

 

Here’s a bit of information on the benefits of gratitude incase you’re interested:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#30cf8fb7183c

https://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/

If you are interested in a daily guided journal for gratitude here are some options from amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Gratitude-Journal-gratitude-mindfulness-productivity/dp/108063133X/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=daily+gratitude+journal&qid=1586183145&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzSzIxU0xQNkhCWFlJJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMTQ2MDEwMzdNQ0YyVURZS05YTyZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwOTE0MzgwMUtQT0s0TU5aOFkyQiZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Days-Start-Gratitude-Cultivate/dp/1976436184/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=daily+gratitude+journal&qid=1586183159&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUE3TFZWWVFQMTE3OFgmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTA5MDg5MjgyRzRSVzhMMFNXWldaJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAzOTM1NzUyMUk5QlpFVlM1VklIJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

 

ROLES IN THE ADDICT FAMILY

The addict

The Enabler- The enabler is the family member who steps in and protects the addict from the consequences of their behavior. The motivation for this may be to protect the addict, or to reduce anxiety, or avoid conflict within the family system.

The Hero- The hero is the family member who attempts to draw attention away from the addict by excelling and being exceptionally “good”. Through their own achievements, the hero tries to bring the family together and create a sense of normalcy. This role is usually taken on by the eldest child, as they seek to give hope to the rest of the family. Unfortunately, a driving need to “do everything right” tends to put an extreme amount of pressure on the hero, leaving them highly anxious and susceptible to stress-related illnesses later in life.

The Scapegoat- The scapegoat is just what you would expect: the one person who gets blamed for the whole family’s problems. This role tends to be taken on by the second oldest child; they offer the family a sense of purpose by providing someone else to blame. They voice the family’s collective anger, while shielding the addicted parent from a lot of blame and resentment.

The Mascot- The mascot tries to deflect the stress of the situation by supplying humor. This role is usually taken on by the youngest child. Providing comic relief is also the mascot’s defense against feeling pain and fear himself.

The lost child- The lost child role is usually taken on by the middle or youngest child. They’re shy, withdrawn, and sometimes thought of as “invisible” to the rest of the family. They don’t seek (or get) a lot of attention from other family member. Lost children generally may put off making decisions, have trouble with forming intimate relationships, and choose to spend time on solitary activities as a way to cope.

 

GROUNDING TECHNIQUES

Here are some ideas for grounding techniques:

  • Hold a piece of ice and focus on the sensations
  • Put a handful of salt in your mouth
  • Sour candy such as war heads, sour patch kids, etc.
  • Place your head in a bowl of cold water.
  • Rub some scented lotion on your hands, focusing on the way it feels and smells as you work it into your skin.
  • Use a water mister to spray your face and/or chest.
  • Pick a hand and tap each finger with your thumb, starting with your index finger and continuing down. Go back and forth until you feel grounded.
  • Keep a bead, pebble, stress ball, a small piece of cloth, or another object of your choice in your pocket and roll it around in your hand(s) when you need to get grounded. You can also use a bracelet or necklace.
  • Run your hand slowly and gently over the carpet or the fabric of a piece of furniture or clothing and notice how it feels when you rub it in one direction versus the other.
  • Put a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Experience the texture, flavor, and feel as it slowly melts.
  • Stretch your arms up over your head as high as you can, then out to your sides, finally pulling your elbows back as far as you can behind your back. Repeat. Think about your muscles flexing and feel their strength.
  • Hug your favorite stuffed animal, a comfy blanket, or a pillow.
  • Take off your shoes and push your toes into the floor or ground.
  • Bite into a lemon or take a sip of lemon juice.
  • Find something in the room that starts with A, then B, then C, and so on.
  • Count backward from 100.
  • Put on your favorite song and really concentrate on the words, the music, and the way it all makes you feel.
  • Write how you’re feeling in a journal that’s designated for grounding and use your favorite pen. Notice how the pen feels in your hand and the smoothness of how it writes on the paper.
  • Play a game on your phone or computer.
  • Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply until your lungs are full. Slowly exhale through your mouth until your lungs are empty. Repeat, concentrating on the feeling of your lungs expanding and contracting.
  • Pull a mental picture into your mind of your favorite place and imagine you’re there. Think about what you’d be doing if you were really there.
  • Go outside and smell the air or the flowers, trees, or leaves.
  • Jump up and down.

Addiction & Recovery – Boundaries

Tips and coping strategies from week 2 of the Addiction Recovery workshop with therapist Nicki Line.

Quarantine

If you are having to stay home during this time, the isolation and idleness can be a trigger for mental health problems.  Here are some ideas of emotion focused coping activities you can engage in during this time if you find yourself triggered to engage in an unhealthy coping mechanism, or simply with some time to fill:

  1. Exercise
  2. Write in a journal
  3. Draw
  4. Listen to music
  5. Take a bath
  6. Play with a pet
  7. Spend time in nature (with social distancing!)
  8. Clean the house (or a closet, drawer, or area)
  9. Read a book
  10. Meditate
  11. Use aromatherapy
  12. Facetime a friend
  13.  Cook a meal
  14. Engage in spiritual exercises
  15. Practice breathing exercises
  16. List the things you feel grateful for
  17. Color
  18. Garden
  19. Do yoga
  20. Use progressive muscle relaxation
  21. Give yourself a pep talk
  22. Watch a movie series
  23. Invent a new game
  24. Look at pictures that remind you of the people, places, and things that bring you joy
  25. Take care of your body in a way that makes you feel good (paint your nails, do your hair, put on a face mask)
  26. Use a relaxation app such as Calm
  27. Go for a walk
  28. Use Netflix’s social feature to watch a movie with friends
  29. List your goals for the next month, the next six months, the next year
  30. Call the people you are grateful for and tell them why
  31. Learn a new skill via youtube

 

Resiliency & Coping strategies

Coping skills can lead to resiliency. Coping skills allow us to successfully get through tough or challenging experiences. Each time we have a bad experience, and we successfully get through it unharmed, we learn that we have the ability to face the challenge. Having this happen repeatedly builds resiliency and trust in ourselves. When we confront our triggers, with the help of coping skills rather than avoiding them, we build resiliency as well.

Here is a great resource for building new healthy coping skills:

https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/coping-skills-addictions.pdf

 

Here are some resources about resiliency:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201802/three-simple-ways-enhance-mental-health-resilience

https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-activities-exercises/

 

Importance of boundaries

Boundaries are SO important in our lives. They set the stage for healthy relationships of all sorts, including healthy relationships with ourselves. Setting boundaries and maintaining them can be a difficult task so here are some resources on setting and maintaining boundaries in our lives! Remember, setting boundaries and doing what you need to maintain them is not rude or selfish. You are teaching people that you respect yourself, and simply asking them to do the same.

https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/healthy-boundaries-tips.pdf

https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/setting-boundaries.pdf

 

Locus of Control

External locus of control= People with an external locus of control generally believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces, for example luck, fate, the actions of others, etc. They feel little sense of empowerment to make changes in their lives.

Internal locus of control= People with an internal locus of control feel that they can guide and direct their lives, and feel empowered to make positive changes.

Here are some blogs/  resources about cultivating an internal locus of control:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/cultivating-an-internal-locus-of-control-and-why-its-crucial/

https://www.verywellmind.com/develop-an-internal-locus-of-control-3144943

 

Social Media

We live in a social media driven world, and many of us depend on social media for work. So cutting out social media may not be feasible for all of us. However, what we can do is be more intentional about the way we use social media. This can be another example of setting boundaries. Each of us has the ability to decide and control what types of media we allow into our personal space. We can block, unfollow and mute any media that isn’t serving a positive purpose in our lives via informing us in a factual relevant way, inspiring us or motivating us. We can follow more people that inspire us, build our self esteem, motivate us, make us laugh, and give us some relief from every day life. Try to limit your social media exposure in general, and with the time you do spend on social media, make decisions about what type of media you want to influence your life. If a certain person or page consistently evoked negative emotions in you, take note! Maybe it’s time for an unfollow. This isn’t rude or unfriendly, it’s a form of self respect and asserting your right to control the things that influence you. Set those boundaries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links shared in the group:

https://recoverydharma.org/

https://instagram.com/clementinemorrigan?igshid=crmn7r98dotf

https://reason.com/2020/03/18/the-earn-it-act-is-the-new-fosta/

 

Addiction & Recovery – Codependency

Tips and coping strategies from week 1 of the Addiction Recovery workshop with therapist Nicki Line.

Codependency: The Drama Triangle

 

Victim; The stance of the victim is “poor me”. Victims see themselves as victimized or powerless. They can deny responsibility for their negative circumstances and deny possession of the power to change those circumstances. A person in the victim role will look for a rescuer to save them (and if someone refuses or fails to do that they may perceive them now as a persecutor.) Victims typically have difficulties making decision, solving problems, or understanding their self-defeating behaviors.

Rescuer: The stance of the rescuer is “let me help you!”.  Rescuers work hard to take care of other people. Rescuers may need the help of other people to feel good about themselves, while neglecting their own needs.  Rescuers are codependent in terms of needing a victim to help, and they can often feel guilty or badly about themselves if they are not actively rescuing someone. Rescuers are also considered enablers because they remove responsibility from the victim to manage their own problems. Rescuers can find themselves overworked, burnt out, and often can begin to feel resentment festering.  Often this resentment can shift a rescuer into the role of a persecutor as they feel/ express things such as “ You don’t care about anything I do for you and you never do anything for me!”.

Persecutor: The stance of the persecutor is “it’s all your fault!”.  Persecutors often criticize and blame the victim. Persecutors may use threats and criticism to keep a victim feeling oppressed.  However, their criticism usually does not help or solve any problems.

* In a codependent situation, an individual can play all three of these roles at different points in time.

 

Codependency: The Empowerment Dynamic (TED)

The empowerment dynamic is the positive alternative to the drama triangle

Creator: Alternative to the victim. A creator is focused on a desired outcome, and sets goals that propel them towards their desired outcome.

Coach: Alternative to the rescuer. Uses compassion and questions to help guide a creator to developing their own vision and plan of action. Instead of stepping in and taking over as a rescuer may, a coach uses encouragement and support to help a creator put their plans into action.

Challenger: Alternative to the persecutor. A challenger is focused on learning and growth. They hold a creator accountable, but consciously builds them up and encourages them to keep moving and stay accountable to their goals.

 

Self Soothe Kits

Try to include something that engages each of the five senses. Some examples:

Sight: A postcard of somewhere you feel calm/ safe or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Photos of your favorite people. Affirmation cards.

Touch: slime or silly putty

Sound: a playlist on your phone with calming music

Taste: chocolate, citrus tastes, sour candies.

Smell: scented lotion or oils

 

Grounding Exercises

54321 Technique:

  1. Acknowledge 5 things you can see
  2. Acknowledge 4 things you can touch
  3. Acknowledge 3 things that you can hear
  4. Acknowledge 2 things that you can smell
  5. Recite 1 thing positive about yourself.

.

Breathing Exercise

Square breathing:

  1. Slowly exhale all your air
  2. Gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4
  3. Hold in for a count of 4
  4. Gently exhale through your mouth to a slow count of 4
  5. Pause and hold for a count of 4
  6. Repeat

 

Useful Resources

 

The power of TED -Book by David Emerald Womeldorff

 

Brene Brown The Call To Courage- Netflix special

 

Brene Brown various Ted Talks about vulnerability – available on YouTube

 

The Body Keeps the Score- book by Bessel van der Kolk

Life & Sex-Work Has Led Me To Sobriety by AnnaTame

Ever since I hit the end of my elementary school years I started smoking cigarettes. Very shortly after that, it carried onto marijuana, (which I don’t believe is a bad drug or addiction) and then I was introduced to heavy drugs along the way such as MDMA, LSD, Mushrooms, Cocaine, etc. At the time I was in my early high school days when this happened so I was very unaware of a lot of things about drugs in general compared to now. Although, even at the time I was doing these drugs I didn’t care too much about it because it became an escape for me and a way to have fun with my friends.

Fast-forwarded to years after high school, something very traumatic happened to my health. At the time right before this happened I was still smoking daily A LOT, drinking alcohol and doing quite a bit of psychedelics almost every weekend. I was in college for a short business-related program so the partying was normal, but I was like that even before. Being high all the time became normal to me.

I won’t go into depth about what happened to me, but let’s just say it seriously opened my eyes to how important health is, how unpredictable life is and that taking care of yourself is needed a lot more than we think. It wasn’t even just the drugs though, it was everything. My mental health and the way I was dealing with personal issues for years were not helping me.

I’m not here to tell people how to live their lives, we are free to do what we want and indulge in what we want as well. I’m just here to share my story to hope it’ll be somewhat relatable at least or eye-opening. I can only speak from my own experiences so I know that overdoing it could have dire consequences.

This experience forced me to quit bad habits that were unhealthy for me. I stopped smoking, drinking and doing other drugs altogether. Then once I was feeling a bit better I tried to go back to my same ways and my body was rejecting it. So I made a choice to just stop doing everything. That has lasted years. I haven’t smoked at all or did any of the drugs I listed above since.

However, the drinking was still something I could do in moderation, and started back up again afterward. This lasted up until last year around May. I’d use any excuse to do it. But whenever I used it when I was going through something bad, it never made anything better in the long-term. A bit before this I started seeing a practitioner, going to therapy to better understand my thoughts and kept bettering my diet. So naturally, I just decided it was time to either stop or cut down.

I haven’t had a drink in about 10 months now. If I make it a few more months it’ll be a full year. I have never in my entire life since I was addicted to anything substance wise been sober for that long, ever. Will I drink again? Perhaps. Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know my boundaries now from with myself and what isn’t healthy so if I do decide to I’m hoping it’ll be under control or in moderation. Being honest is important because we’re all human here. All I know is that I have cut down on A LOT over the years on a lot of unhealthy things and that’s something to be proud of.

As “corny” as it may sound, all of those things have highly improved my life, and not only that but entering the adult industry has vastly helped me grow as a person and into my sobriety. I may have stopped using years ago, but when I was coming more into myself sexually, it has made me a better person. I started to tap into doing things I’m good at: connecting with others, making a space that’s non-judgemental to be in for both parties and to just be free. Sex work has given me that and I’m very grateful because of it. Whenever I think of wanting to use again, I think of how far I’ve come and how much better I’m off without it.

Without going through these changes, I wouldn’t have changed my lifestyle and found a job I’m passionate about. I love being a sex worker and being one and remaining under control with my unhealthy addictions is saving my life. I’m here to tell you first-hand that although my traumas led me to tough experience(s), it brought me right here. To becoming a healthier person through sobriety and finding sex work unexpectedly as a healthy way to make a living while expressing myself for who I am.

So to anyone who got this far here, this is only a small glimpse of my life experiences and if you knew every detail you’d know how resilient I am. However, I’m just another person who has gone through trauma and addiction but is still here living my life. More importantly, living it better than I could have ever thought was possible.

Written by AnnaTame
Follow AnnaTame on Twitter @annatame69

My Story by Kena Love, with advice from therapist Nicki Line

I’m one of the many people who follow your tweets on twitter and I just had to write ya a quick email in regards to addiction and sex work for myself. See unfortunately they both go hand in hand. I can’t do dates without being high. And now I get paid to had sex just to support my habit. It wasn’t always that way. At first it was a high in itself to be wanted so badly by men who wanted to pay big $ to fuck me. But when my friends realized what I was doing I began to hate myself a Lil bit more every day. First came opiates but when I take them I can’t get turned on/wet/ or cum at all. That’s when I was introduced to meth. First time I did it I was hooked. I fucked for hours . My orgasms were amazing and all I could think about was getting that next on hit and dick.

Hello Kena,

I agree with you that the sex industry does have a high rate of individuals who struggle with addiction in one form or another. Let me start my response by defining addiction as I understand it. Addiction is an obsessive compulsive out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences for self or others. Under this definition any behavior can be an addiction whether it is sex, shopping, food, or substances. While reading your email the stages of addiction and the cycle it can keep a person in comes to mind: initial use, abuse, increased use, dependency, and relapse. You describe “at first is a high … to be wanted so badly by men” which started the process of looking for an outside person or thing to regulate an internal issue. It felt good and distracted from other feelings in the initial stage. Then you started to have an internal conflict of your work and self-worth, to numb those feelings you started taking opiates and the opiates numb feeling as well as your body. Continuing to search for an external cure you tried meth which gives you a feeling of euphoria and increases sexual desire which switched your reward center in your brain into overdrive. This is where you need to increase your use to get the high or reward you felt the first time; which will never happen because you have already experienced it once. Now you are used to the combination of work and meth and you are dependent on them to function “normally.” I imagine it is hard to working without the meth and when or if you try you crave the substance which leads someone to relapse. You are correct in that it is a cycle and it is a cycle anyone can break if they learn and use new tools in recovery. Recovery is not easy and requires a person to develop new coping skills to use instead of the obsessive compulsive behavior. I will go into more detail about all of the topics I have touched on above in the Pineapple support group on Sundays. I hope you keep fighting for yourself.

Sincerely,
Nicki Line LMHC CST

Acknowledging my Addiction – by Rogan Damiana

Addiction has affected me in some way my entire life. Starting with family members who had problems with addiction to my own issues with substance control in my adult life. I didn’t used to think I had a problem. Drinking was a massive part of my social interaction. Alcohol allowed me to be “fun”. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t drink during the day; I wasn’t missing work or life events. I just partied hard when I did socialize until the partying turned into an every evening event.

I would immediately start drinking most nights when I got home from work and continue until I could no longer stay awake. Binge drinking was something I had heard of but was not associating with myself.

This destructive path of using binge drinking to cope with my complete unhappiness with my life finally culminated in a very nearly successful suicide attempt in April 2018. I had decided I was done trying and overdosed on my anxiety meds plus a gross amount of alcohol. I will never forget the jarring feeling I had waking up in the ICU, then reading my discharge papers detailing my overdose. It was in that moment I knew I had to change my destructive behavior.

The sense of comfort alcohol provided was false. It was wrecking my body physically and causing more stress mentally than it was relieving. I had allowed alcohol to bring out the worst of myself, hurting the people around me who loved me. The amount of money I wasted on numbing myself is staggering. I can think of so many more meaningful ways I could have used that money. Getting unstuck from negative thought patterns like that has helped me to move forward.

Staying sober from alcohol has not been easy but forgiving myself for the mistakes I made helps with the process. We can not change the past. I can’t take back the hateful words I used or actions I took out of anger with myself. The effects of my actions will always be.

For me recovery is changing the way I live. Through therapy and my small circle of support, I work consistently to change my thinking. The biggest challenge I have faced in this process is liking myself. Redirecting my perspective to acknowledge the positive aspects of my life and accomplishments helps combat the negative self-talk. When I start to get overwhelmed, I remind myself that I am doing everything possible to fix my life and that change takes time. There is already a noticeable difference in how I handle adverse situations that come up. Instead of immediately intoxicating myself to avoid dealing with the negative, I think through what actions I can take to make things better.

My social life has changed considerably since stopping my alcohol use and I have learned to be ok with that. Watching people I used to spend a lot of time with drift away has been hard. I hold no bad feelings towards this, relationships shift and change all the time. While being around others who are drinking is not a trigger for me, I have found I do not enjoy those environments anymore. I don’t hold that in common with those people that were in my life previously.

I also found that I had to strengthen my confidence in letting people know I do not drink. While to me it isn’t an issue that I don’t drink, I have received a variety of reactions when telling others. When I started this journey I would feel uncomfortable turning down a drink when offered because of the follow up questions that frequently followed. The well meaning “oh, one drink won’t hurt”, “but you’re so fun when you drink”, and my least favorite to deal with the misguided pity responses. In my ideal world just saying no would be enough. When pressed I generally reply with “Alcohol and I do not agree anymore” and leave it at that. I still go out; I still like to see live music and art shows. Now I do it without masking my anxiety with alcohol. I take a minute to go outside if the crowd is overwhelming. Also, allowing myself to be ok with

leaving an outing earlier than others helps so much. I enjoy myself and when I’m out of social energy it is time to go home. Putting my health and well being first felt weird in the beginning, but soon became a habit I don’t even notice anymore.

Addiction looks and feels different for all of us. It is a very personal issue to deal with. I hope sharing my story and how I handle this continuing journey will bring some hope. It is possible to survive after addiction and while it isn’t always easy, keep going. There will still be days that suck and challenge you. Every small change you make to create a better life for yourself will pay off. The proof I have to offer is myself. I am still here, still breathing, still trying, and succeeding. I hope this gives you the energy to try too.

If you would like to contribute to addiction month, please submit your article or video to contact@pineapplesupport.org

Submissions can remain anonymous.

5 Things to Remember in Early Sobriety

Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST

So here you are in early recovery. You’ve decided to get sober, and you’re feeling okay most days. You know that the tough times are coming, and early sobriety isn’t easy. Here are the five things to remember in early recovery to help you stay sober.

1. Fill your downtime
Especially in early recovery, it can be hard to have downtime. Your substance use consumed your time, and now that your sober, what will you do with the extra time on your hands?

Avoid idle downtime by filling your schedule with things to do. Whether it’s visiting friends, going to a 12-step meeting, or working on your to-do list, don’t sit around aimlessly. Your addiction is wanting you to give it an excuse to use, which can be avoided by staying busy.

2. Get back in touch with your hobbies
Many times in active addiction, it’s easy to lose touch with the things you use to enjoy doing. Now that your sober, you have more time to enjoy hobbies or things that interest you.

If you are struggling to remember what these are, think back to what you enjoyed doing growing up. Did you play video games, draw, or play the guitar? Have you wanted to try something new like painting, yoga, or getting a pet? Try making a list of things that interest you and pick a new one each week. Hobbies will help you find enjoyment in the little things that you use to not have time for.

3. Get active
Your body wants to move, and being active in your sobriety is a great coping skill. Your brain used to be stimulated by substances that released feel-good chemicals, and now that they are not triggered, you’ll need to access them through exercise.

Sure, you can’t 100% simulate the high you received from your substance of choice, but being active can access the same area of the brain. Have you ever heard of a runner’s high? It’s the feeling you get after running that makes you feel like you are on top of the world. Find some form of exercise or physical activity that you enjoy.

4. Find your triggers and how to cope
Everyone has different things that trigger them to one to use. Whether it’s people, places, or things, you need to know which ones to watch out for in your recovery. Make a list of things that make you want to use your substance of choice. No matter how small or large they are, add them to the list.

After you have listed your triggers, then identify a coping skill you will use with each of them. For example, going into a particular place where you used may be a trigger for you. One coping skill is to avoid the location for a while, or you will have someone who supports your recovery with you when you go there. Knowing your triggers and how to cope with each of them will help you stay sober.

5. Surround yourself with support
The more supportive people you have around you, the better chance you’ll have in early recovery. Whether it’s friends, family, a sponsor, or other sober people, remember that you are not alone.

You will feel like you’re the only one, so avoid being alone and isolative. Force yourself to get outside and around others. Challenge yourself to reach out to one person each day, even if it’s only a few minutes. Doing this will keep you in the habit of staying connected.

Recovery from your substance of choice is hard, but you’ve done harder things in your life. Your sobriety will be challenged daily, so you’ll have to recommit each day you wake up. As time goes by, it will get easier, but you’ll need to stay focused on doing what’s right for you and not those around you.

Taking it one day at a time can be too difficult, so break it down to one hour or one minute at a time. Your future is worth it, and you can’t have it while you are in active addiction.

How do I know if I’m an addict?

The word “addiction” is a strange one. It’s thrown around everyday speech like it’s a normal everyday occurrence. We’ll hear people say, “Oh, I’m addicted to Netflix” ….. “I’m so addicted to chocolate / buying shoes”….and so on and so on. But we shouldn’t really be saying that, because addiction in its most serious forms is a silent killer, and a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual illness, affecting every part of our being – and our loved one’s too.

So how do we know if we’re an addict? Surely everyone is addicted to something, and if everyone is doing it, then it can’t be that bad, right? Hopefully this article will give some insight as to how to recognise some of the lesser known signs of addiction.

Primarily, addiction is about consequences – the results of our behaviour. The World Health Organisation recognises addiction is “continuous use despite negative consequences”.

We can trick ourselves into thinking, “well, I didn’t hurt anyone, so what’s the big deal? No negative consequences for me”. But challenge yourself to consider your emotional consequences – shame, guilt, self sabotage, anxiety, depression. Do these things keep happening after you act out on your addiction? Then it’s a consequence. What about the consequences on your family and loved one’s? What would they say about your addiction?

Are you keeping it secret? That’s a consequence. When we really take a fearless, moral inventory of our behaviour, it requires us to take a long hard look at ourselves and can reveal uncomfortable truths.

Amongst recovery circles, there’s a saying, “secrets keep you sick”. Often that’s the pull of addiction – it becomes a secret. Thrilling at first, then as it progresses (and it will because that’s the very nature of addiction) the secret becomes bigger and bigger, until it becomes too big to share.

Denial and comparison are two other things to look out for with our addictive behaviours. These two keep our addiction secret. We’ll often hear people say, “well, I can’t be an addict, because I only do it on the weekends”. But addiction is not about quantity, it’s about the effect that it has on your life and the lives of those around you. There is always a cause and effect to all of our behaviour – even if we don’t know the people who are involved in our acting out.

When we start to look out for our own individual signs of addiction, we’ll often find that the slippery slope to addiction starts with us reacting to the same triggers, whether that’s a person, place or thing. But one thing which is common to all addicts is the sense of wanting “MORE” and not hearing that self-regulation button of stopping. And that’s the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results.

Hopefully this article gives more of an insight rather than a directive as to where you’re at with your own journey of addiction. Remember – if in doubt, speak it out. There is always someone who has been on a similar journey. Promise. X

 

Written by Camilla Simpson