Categories
Recovery Self-Care Service

Being of Service: Self-Care is Still Imperative

Boundary
Boundary (Photo credit: castle79)

When being of service becomes a source of obligation and stress, you’re not really being of service to anyone. If anything, you are causing harm to yourself and denigrating the purpose of service work. The steps are in order for a reason, right? Learning to love ourselves before we can wholeheartedly love others has to become part of the cornerstone of our recovery. We do the steps and “leave no stone unturned,” looking at our actions, the actions of others, our responses to them, how they effect us, how we react, and so on. We uncover and discover as much as we can, including some things that catch us by surprise. When we are brand new, the familiar adage, “fake it till you make it,” can certainly be applicable especially when you simply need to get out of yourself by being of service. At the same time, if you find that you have dedicated yourself to helping others and “faking it” to the extent that you, yourself, are being neglected, it’s time to pause.

 

As much as we ran away from ourselves via drugs, alcohol, food, sex, video games, social media, we can also do the same thing in recovery by overextending ourselves in our service work. We can do too much and place ourselves at great risk for doing too little for ourselves. At some point, we have to stop and feel the feelings of whatever it is we are trying to escape. We are, as they say, “as sick as our secrets.” Within each of us in recovery potentially lies the hurt child seeking solace, safety, love, and protection. As we begin to be of service to ourselves, we can be of service to that side of us that is hurting and hiding in the darkness. We can ultimately learn to be gentle with ourselves , which will allow us to be gentle with others.

How do we do this?

  • Ask for help.
  • Get a sponsor
  • Find a therapist
  • Create a network of other people in recovery with whom you can relate, be honest, and have sustained emotional safety. (Fellowship)

Set healthy Boundaries.

Physical and emotional: Think about boundaries as a “property line.” Read what Positively Positive has to say about this. It’s fantastic.

Creating healthy boundaries will help you set guidelines for people around you that tell them what is acceptable to you and what is not. There are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, both different but both invaluable to self-esteem building and self-care. You don’t have to agree with everyone or have him or her agree with you to be liked.

Do the work

  • Work the steps.
  • Start a journal.
  • Go to meetings
  • Take commitments
  • Do the deep, therapeutic work provided by your therapist.

Being of service is our ultimate goal. We need to be able to give back what has been so freely given to us. That is step 12, after all. In the process, however, we must maintain healthy boundaries and a sense of self-care.  Remember, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes, however it’s not ok if we put on our trainers and run from our feelings. Allow someone to be of service to you. You deserve it just as much as the next person.

 

Categories
Recovery Service Treatment

Chloe Huerta: Assistant NeXt Manager

Chloe Huerta is one of our amazing alumni who came back and joined the Visions’ team. In 2010, Chloe brought her engaging personality and compassion to our residential facility as a Program Aide; Chloe has since become the Assistant Manager for NeXT, our Gender-Specific Extended Care program and is working toward her CAADAC.  Chloe always makes me smile whenever I see her. She’s funny, incredibly positive, willing to learn, always filled with gratitude and is a remarkable young woman. She has made it her mission to give back to the community that helped her find her way during her youth. We are tremendously grateful to have someone like Chloe as part of our team.  Her relatability, understanding, and kindness are an integral part of who she is and what she brings to the Visions family. Thank you so much for all you do, Chloe! Read on for the amazing staff comments about you and your awesomesauce:

“She is a miracle. A completely different human being than the girl I first met here in treatment. Incredibly proud of her and amazed at the level of joy, compassion and optimism this young woman displays and shares with our residents.” – Roger L’Hereault

 

“Chloe Huerta is an amazing example of fun in recovery and not taking life too seriously! Chloe always has a positive attitude and keeps the clients excited about their new life. Chloe is one of the most caring people I know – her genuine personality is recognized by clients and staff alike. Chloe is able to hold boundaries, express needs, and hold others accountable yet is also able to have respect from clients. She’s amazing.” – Ashley Bolen

“Chloe is a rock star! I had the pleasure of working with Chloe when we first opened up the Extended Care house and together we managed to make it work! I think the best part about her, other than her upbeat bubbly attitude, is her ability to roll with the punches and take things as the come. (There was a lot of that the first year!) She has strong passion for helping people and I feel she truly cares about the young teens we work with. It’s a pleasure to work with her and she brings a lot of fun to the table too!” – Jennifer Garrett

 

Chloe!  You have come such a very long way, and we are so proud of your journey!  Chloe is a Visions’ alumni who came to work for us as an overnight PA.  She moved to days and was eventually promoted to Assistant Manager of the Extended Care program.  She has helped so many girls with their early stages of recovery because she truly relates to their struggles and issues.  Chloe is in school for her counseling certificate and is one of our brightest stars.  We are grateful for her work ethic and her ability to show up “no matter what.”  We love us some Chloe!!!  — Amanda and Chris Shumow

 

No staff blog would be the same without our 10 questions. As I thought, Chloe doesn’t disappoint:

1: What is your Starbucks order?

 Iced  Dirty Chai or Iced Green Tea (no water)

2: Sand or Sea? Why?

I’m afraid of sea creatures but I love being in the ocean

3: Favorite literary character?

 Pippi Longstocking

4: Are you following your dreams?

I have a lot of dreams but I’m on the path to following my current dreams.

5:  What is your greatest joy?

Spending time with my younger brother

6: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Floranopolis, Brazil. It’s supposed to be beautiful, I am obsessed with the culture and a few of my friends live there.

7: If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

Hellen Keller!

8: Cake or pie?

Cake–pie is for Thanksgiving.

9: Dogs or Cats?

I’m all about the pups! 

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I’ve always wanted to give back to the people who saved my life. I looked up to the tech, counselors, and therapists when I was a resident and I hoped to help someone at such an important time in their life.

Categories
Addiction Eating Disorders Recovery Smoking

Eating Disorders: Using Smoking As Weight Control

Smoking cigarettes in adolescence has always been considered a pathway to coolness, or a way to fit in. For a time, smoking began to be considered passé, but amongst teens in recovery, it still holds the mythical status of cool and is often key to fitting in. So much so, kids who want to quit or who don’t really want to smoke may even start smoking E-cigarettes in an attempt to reach the same level of cool. (It is just vapor, right?). I digress. For girls who smoke, there may be another reason behind the nasty habit: presumed thinness, or a path to thinness. Some assume that smoking is also the answer to hunger pains and subconsciously satisfy (albeit temporarily) the desire for food.

 

In their working paper titled “The Demand for Cigarettes as Derived from the Demand for Weight Control,” Stephanie Von Kinke Kessler Scholder and John Cawley found that “among teenagers who smoke frequently, 46% of girls and 30% of boys are smoking in part to control their weight.” We see this behavior all the time within our recovery community, particular among those suffering from and beginning to recover from eating disorders. For some, the idea is that it’s far easier to go smoke than to eat lunch. We are highly aware of this predilection amongst our eating disorder population and we take great measures to stop these behaviors in their tracks. Some of which include supervised meals and several focus groups dedicated to eating disorder recovery.

 

But what about someone struggling with an eating disorder who is not in the safe, healing environment of a treatment facility? What if they are on their own, doing the dance of recovery solely through meetings and fellowship? Will they notice their use of cigarettes to stifle hunger pains? More than likely, they will not. I remember being new and bragging that I was surviving on a diet of coffee and cigarettes, ever chasing the goal of “perfection.” At the same time, I also had a raging eating disorder, consuming my thinking and vision. I was clueless. It took me years to learn to recognize that smoking was a key to assisting me in my process of acquiring thinness.  In fact, one of the fears when I quit smoking was the presumed assurance of weight gain.

 

As always, one of the first steps to recovery is asking for help. This is not a feat that comes naturally to an addict or alcoholic. We are accustomed to “doing it all ourselves.” Still, going to meetings, getting a sponsor, finding a therapist, all of these things can help us begin the healing process. Beginning the process of digging deeply and getting to the root cause of whatever is causing you to harm yourself with addiction, starvation or binging, or binging and purging is crucial. We cannot recover alone, nor can we stop the insanity of our addictions without asking for help.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Trauma

Trauma and Getting Triggered: Keeping Ourselves Safe

(Dark into Light via saritphoto)

I’m concerned for the survivors of sexual trauma and abuse, and the potentiality of getting triggered

simply by watching the news, or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter feeds. I’m wary of the media and the backlash from the recent Steubenville rape trial. It’s easy for that trauma to rise, presenting itself as fury and heightened emotions. It’s easy to slip back into the story of your own trauma, reliving moment-by-moment that which haunts you.

Signs of being triggered can include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling emotionally numb or closed off
  • Avoiding certain areas, or subjects
  • Anxiety: tightness in the chest or throat, feelings of panic, et cetera.

Sometimes, we can feel tempted to continue to watch the news or read the feeds despite feeling triggered, believing we “should” be able to watch these things and be ok. It’s in the past, after all. Right? Wrong. The trouble with trauma is this: our bodies can’t always tell the difference between time and space. When we get triggered, we are often thrust back into that moment of trauma, sometimes too fast to stop ourselves. Over time, and with deep work, we can learn to recognize our bodies’ signals and responses to a trigger and take steps to stop it in its tracks or at least hold a safe space for it to just “be.” EMDR, DBT, CBT and TF-CBT are all useful therapeutic modalities for treating trauma. Additionally, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices are helpful in getting the “issues out of our tissues” as Tommy Rosen likes to say.

If you find that you are getting triggered from newsfeeds and current events, please:

  • Unplug
  • Step away from technology
  • Talk to someone and ask for help.
  • Surround yourself with safe people.
  • Take a lot of deep breaths.
  • If you practice yoga, this is a good time to get on your mat. A gentle practice of breath and movement can guide you back to the present moment.
  • Be of service. Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action.

Yes, it can be tremendously debilitating when a trigger occurs, but you are not alone. There are people around you who will help you without judgment. You are safe now.

Categories
Recovery

Serious to Silly: Finding your Funny Bone in Recovery

Do we have to stop being silly just because we’re in recovery?  I think not!  In fact, our mental health just might be at stake if we get too serious!

Things we do need to be serious about:

  • Our sobriety
  • The 12 Steps
  • Our speech: is it helpful or harmful?
  • Our actions: are you being selfish, self-centered, greedy, or manipulative?
  • Our health: are you taking care of our mental and physical health?
  • Asking for help
  • Developing self-awareness
  • Self-care

But here are some things where being silly, play, lightheartedness can be invited in:

  • Creativity
  • Exercise…outside…in the mountains, or at the beach. In fact, learn how to do something new, like stand up paddle boarding, and bring your sense of humor with you–you’ll need it!
  • Look random things during your day that bring you joy and share them with others.
  • Games: grab a yo-yo or try to walk a slinky down some stairs. Remembering how to be ridiculous is truly liberating.
  • Have a Game night. Seriously a night hanging out with friends, some coffee, and a silly game like Balderdash can be hilarious.

Getting sober, managing mental health issues, learning how to be comfortable again or for the first times in our bodies is hard work. It’s scary, emotional, and intense. When we get lost in the intensity, and lose site of our light side, recovery can feel overwhelming.  This is where finding humor, laughter, and fun can act as a release valve we so desperately need.  Keep it simple never sounded so good!

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Eradicating Jealousy

Jealousy is the creep that hangs out in the back of our minds, chiding us when we are confronted with something we believe should be ours, be it a thing, an experience, or a companion. Jealousy is the one holding us back from enjoying what we do have, celebrating what others have and the joy that they experience. Jealously casts a shadow on our mere presence on this earth and impacts our ability to engage with the world in a way that is helpful or kind.  Jealousy can lead us to resentment and relapse and because of its complexity, jealousy is an equal-opportunity villain: it effects men and women alike and gets particularly loud when there is a perceived threat to a coveted relationship or thing.

 

A way to counteract the negative effects of jealousy and envy is to engage in the practice of sympathetic joy. In other words, find joy in someone else’s successes and accomplishments. This is not an easy feat, especially when you find yourself being suffocated by jealousy and envy on a regular basis.  It eats at you, infuriates you, and makes you self-righteous and sharp tongued. This, my friends, is where sympathetic joy is imperative. It is the act that will save your ass in the end. It’s the act that asks you to set aside your ego and be happy for someone else, despite the ache and fury within yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to throw the person a party. But it does require the elimination of gossip and character assassination.

 

When we are in the mode of jealousy, we are in the perspective of self-centeredness. We cut ourselves off from others, leaving us with a constricted, limited existence, which ultimately has no room for a sense of openhearted joy. It is, in a nutshell, a joyless state. When we are outside of jealously, a sense of belonging and communion can open up.  We open the possibility of freeing ourselves from the state of bitter resentment that will otherwise control our lives and lead us back to the drink or the drug.

 

The world is a huge place, and we cannot expect to be the director, producer, and actor for the entire production of life.  Learning to share the stage helps us to let go of our egos, and loosen our reins of control. It is possible to learn to celebrate those who reach emotional success before us or by responding with delight rather than jealousy. We are all in this together, after all, and it is to our benefit to walk this path with as much love and kindness as possible.

Categories
Recovery

Aleksandra Petrovic, LMSW — Trauma Specialist

Aleksandra Petrovic, LMSW, is a trauma specialist, coming to Visions via New York where she worked with underprivileged children and their families. Aleksandra’s work led her to a hospital outpatient program for dual-diagnosed adolescents, which used DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) as their primary modality of treatment. Continuing to help underprivileged youth, Aleksandra went on to work at a state-run adolescent recovery center with children ages 5-16 who had been shuffled through the foster care system until they could no longer be placed due to their behavior. Aleksandra earned her B.A at Columbia University, double majoring in psychology and French literature, with a minor in neuroscience. She went on to earn her masters degree in social work at Hunter’s School of Social Work in NYC.

Aleksandra has completed her training in EMDR at the EMDR Institute under its founder Francine Shapiro. She uses EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing) and TF-CBT (Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) regularly when working with clients and their trauma(s).

EMDR is a

“one-on-one form of psychotherapy that is designed to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to improve overall mental health functioning. (via SAMSHA)

TF-CBT is a

“psychosocial treatment model designed to treat posttraumatic stress and related emotional and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. Initially developed to address the psychological trauma associated with child sexual abuse, the model has been adapted for use with children who have a wide array of traumatic experiences, including domestic violence, traumatic loss, and the often multiple psychological traumas experienced by children prior to foster care placement.” (via SAMHSA)

Aleksandra will use TF-CBT by having a client paint or write their story several times until there is a full range of emotions expressed. The repetition of reading and writing eventually desensitizes the severity of the impact of one’s memories. Aleksandra also uses Internal Family Systems (IFS) to help her clients safely access their trauma, helping them “go back” into the traumatic scene and “save” their younger selves. Processes such as these require a commitment to doing difficult work, but they are worth the efforts.   Deep trauma work employed in the modalities Aleksandra uses is extremely beneficial for treating trauma in adolescents and helping them process their trauma in a safe, therapeutic way.

Aleksandra uses the treatment modality most beneficial to her client’s needs whether it’s EMDR, TF-CBT, IFS, writing, movement, or art. Her approach and style are right in line with the Visions’ holistic, client-based approach to adolescent treatment. Her work with the kids at Visions is very individualized–Aleksandra first focuses on building a rapport with the kids, and creating a trusting, safe environment for them to express themselves. When she treats trauma, she assesses where the client is emotionally, whether their trauma was chronic or an isolated event, their awareness surrounding their trauma, if it is repressed or glaringly present, and whether or not there are any psychological issues like mood disorders, depression, or mania present resulting in a dual diagnosis.

Aleksandra has taken her own trauma recovery and transformed it into a path of being of service to adolescents struggling with their own deep traumas. She believes that treating trauma is a crucial step in working on one’s recovery from addiction, eating disorders and other mental health issues. Aleksandra recognizes the influence of major and minor traumas as often being the underlying cause of substance abuse and self-harming behaviors.  We are so fortunate to have such a compassionate, caring trauma specialist as part of our clinical team at Visions Our clients now have access to trauma treatment in both our residential and outpatient programs, as we recognize the deep impact unresolved trauma has on one’s recovery.

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Scott Davenport — Residential Counselor

Scott Davenport started working as a Program Aide in 2010. His dedication and willingness to learn has led him to become a Residential Counselor, the position he holds now. As such, Scott is working more directly with the clients, and bringing his cool sense of calm energy into everything he does. Scott has this wonderful ability to connect with the clients on a very real level, especially since he was once a client himself. His innate gentleness and kindness make him easy to talk to and extremely relatable. Scott is an extremely consistent and dedicated member of the Visions team—he’ll show up for anything he’s asked to do, and is always intent on doing what’s right for the clients.

 

 

One of the things I really appreciate and respect about Scott is how thoughtful he is in regard to what he says and how he mindfully interacts with those around him. He doesn’t say anything unless it necessary or true, making him someone worth listening to. Because of that quality, Scott is a really skilled listener. In the time I’ve known Scott, I can tell you that he is one of those people who means what he says and says what he means. He is kind and gentle but understands the need to hold firm boundaries with the clients. The kids in our programs are lucky to have him in their lives and so are we.

 

Read on for some particularly kind words from some of the Visions team:

 

“Ah Scotttt! I love Scott! It’s like all of the good things in life got together and said, ‘HERE YA GO! ENJOY!’ He’s a great person to be around and on those days at Visions when everything is chaos, he is just serenity incarnate…to me and Aleks at least.” – Janette Duran

 

“Scott is one of my favorite heroes.  He is a gentle soul, well-liked and respected by the kids and his peers. Also, if you don’t already know this, he is an artist extraordinaire.  I have an original Davenport hanging in my studio.  Thanks Scott, you are the best.” – Susan “Art Lady” O’Connor

 

“Scott is definitely the calm in the storm.  His kindness combined with his dead-on assessment with what’s going on with the clients makes him great support for both the kids and his co-workers!!” —  Katie Mason

 

“Scott does a great job with the kids, very calm and patient.” – Bill Hoban

“Love the guy; effortless person to work with.  I think this is in part due to Scott being a mindful practitioner of the team approach. It’s really an equal two-way street with him or a live-and-let-live-through-mutual cooperation kind of vibe.
A grounded, consistent and calming force he is. Yes, that last sentence sounded like Yoda. He’d dig that, I think.” – Roger L’Heauralt

 

“Who would have ever thought that the young man seeming not to pay attention when he was a client at IOP would turn into one of Visions’ brightest stars!  Scott is such an amazing mentor for our clients.  His steady, patient and quiet way adds a feeling of calm to the days that seem so hectic.  He has truly grown into an amazing employee, friend and man in the time that we have known him.  Scott has stepped up into the large shoes Brian left when he moved to Latigo and has not missed a step.  He is always thinking of the clients’ best interests and will show up for any crisis or for a skate!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Our staff blogs wouldn’t be the same without some insight from those we’re honoring. Of course we asked Scott to answer our 10 questions, and of course, he answered them with the same thoughtful, mindful qualities we can expect. Read on:

1: Favorite movie of all time?

Alien

2: Who is your hero?

My Dad

3: Last book you read?

Neuromancer by William Gibson

4: If you could have been any person from history, who would it be and why?

MLK – He stood for so many important, great things.  He made a profound difference for our country and for humanity without using violence or hate.

5: Best late-night LA haunt?

I don’t have a lot of late nights.  Favorite morning place – sitting outside in the sun with a cup of coffee.

6: Do you sing in the shower?

Yes, I always have weird songs stuck in my head first thing when I wake up in the morning.

7: What is your most memorable skateboarding story?

I think I hit my head once but I don’t remember?

8: Describe yourself in 3 words.

Generous, optimistic, honest.

9: What inspires you?

Beautiful places, animals, morning, good people, hard working people, funny things, being outside.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I love the people I get to work with.  Visions seems to have a unique way of helping teenagers without being cutesy or treating them like children, something I really needed and appreciated when I was a client.  I was always treated with respect and compassion and was usually guided by positive examples rather than told what to do.  It is something that has stuck with me that I would like to give back.

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Recovery

Body Image and You: Stand Up to Your Inner Voice

#EDAW13 #LoveMore

In honor of NEDA‘s annual Eating Disorder Awareness Week or EDAW, I had the opportunity to speak about body image and photography at Cal State Northridge. Conversation is a huge part of my photographic process and a key component in working with people.  It’s not uncommon for me to hear self-deprecating commentary from photography clients about their perceived weight issues, body expectations, body shape, size, imperfections, et cetera. We are never exactly where we think we should be, right? In those moments where we are particularly vulnerable (in front of a camera, for example), why wouldn’t we talk about how insecure we might feel? After all, we are inundated with manufactured “perfection” in advertising and media on a daily basis. I find it an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to use these moments to be of service as a body image advocate to honor whomever I’m photographing in order to create a creative partnership. In those moments, we can quiet that angry inner voice of delusion.

 

Recovery asks us to be of service. In my own recovery, I try and bring the energy of service work into everything I do: to love others, even when loving them is difficult. To love myself, regardless of my own perceived imperfections. Eating disorders and disordered eating both have this in common: body image issues. If anything, it is a side effect of being a human being in a visually saturated world, but it doesn’t have to become a necessary evil. There is a way to challenge the negative body image messages we encounter in our everyday lives. Changing your body image means changing the way you think about your body.

 

Start from within:

When you wake up, set an intention to say 3 nice things to yourself throughout the day. Write those things on post-its if you need to and stick them where you won’t miss them.

 

Change negative perceptions to those of acceptance and positivity

Silence your inner critic. Begin to recognize that A: you are not your thoughts,

and B: feelings aren’t facts.

When you hear that negative self-talk revving its engine, try and counteract it with a positive comment.

 

How do we learn to love ourselves when what we see is distorted?

We see reflections of ourselves wherever we go: shop windows, bathroom mirrors, dressing rooms, elevator doors, brass coverings, and random reflective surfaces. Our reflections are everywhere, but are they really a true reflection of us? Most often, they are not.  Many professionals are talking about “Mirror Fasting.” In this practice, you are asked to “fast” from looking at your reflection.

Try this: Make a decision to stop looking at your reflection for a day. See how you feel. Add another day. See how you feel. Women and men who do this tend to have an increase in self-esteem, and a more positive image of their bodies. What we see is not always reality when it comes to mirrors; when we suffer from body dysmorphia, what we see really becomes skewed. Kjerstin Gruys, a 29-year-old sociology graduate student documented her yearlong Mirror Fast in her blog, Mirror Mirror…Off the Wall. In that process, she learned to love her body. I’m not asking you to skip mirrors for a year, but perhaps trying it out for day or a week, noting the emotional effects would be beneficial.

 

Body image issues are something many of us face. Even in recovery, even knowing what we know about the negative factors behind a poor image of self, we struggle. But with what we know, we have to find the temerity to stand up to that inner bully and put a stop to the barrage of self-deprecating chatter. Today, I stood up to that voice and looked in the mirror and said, “You are magnificent.” It felt incredible.

Helpful reads:

How Yoga Changed My Mind (And My Relationship to my Body) by Melanie Klein

Starving for Connection by Chelsea Roff

Voice in Recovery