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Mindfulness Recovery

Benefits of Practicing Wise Speech Toward Others and Ourselves

Wise speech is a foundational piece in our recovery, particularly as we work to mend our LiveGrowrelationships with others and ourselves. It requires that we make a conscious effort to shift our perceptions about what we want to say versus what we need to say. As we begin to shift toward healthier, and more mindful communication, we create opportunities for healthier and more productive relationships with others and with ourselves.

 

 

We may find ourselves in direct contact with a difficult person–perhaps someone who has been known to trigger your anxiety or propel you into a state of dysregulation. But you’re tired of that rollercoaster ride of emotional uncertainty. You want change.

 

 

I once heard someone say, “Words are bullets.” It made me pause. I remember being stunned by the deep truth in that statement and it has stuck with me ever since. In a way, it was the tipping point for my own work around wise speech. The practice of being wise with my words started with me recognizing the need to pause before saying anything and the reality that just because someone else is using harsh language doesn’t mean I have to as well.  I use the following phrases now when I find myself in a difficult situation, perhaps one that is heated or potentially triggering. Try asking yourself the following as well:

 

Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

 

  • Is it true?Be honest. Is what you want to say true and honest?
  • Is it necessary? While something may be true, do you really need to say it? Out loud? Will it positively impact someone’s life? Or will it ultimately create harm?
  • Is it kind? This is the icing on the cake. If something is true, and perhaps necessary, but its underpinnings are mean, omit it. Seriously, just don’t say it.

 

In the 12-step model, particularly in step 10, we are asked to continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it. This step asks us to investigate our actions and remedy them appropriately and immediately to ensure that we haven’t caused harm, or increased someone’s suffering based on our negative and often selfish actions. This inventory process encourages our accountability: when we are honest in our inventories, we stay honest within our communities. In the Refuge Recovery model, the practice of wise speech asks that we abstain from lying, divisive or malicious speech, gossiping, and abusive or hateful speech–period. In other words, practitioners are encouraged to work on this behavior as a daily part of their recovery practice. It takes the practice of inventory further, and raises our consciousness around our own behavior.

 

Simply put: If it’s not nice, don’t say it.

 

Practicing wise speech also applies to the way we speak to ourselves. You know, the idle internal chatter that tells us we aren’t good enough. Think of it this way, if we spoke to others the way we speak to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends. Some examples of negative self-talk include telling yourself:

 

  • I’m not good enough.
  • Why bother, I’ll fail anyway.
  • No one cares.
  • I’m fat.
  • I’m a waste of space.
  • I’m not pretty enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I am not good enough.
  • No one likes me.

 

The list goes on and the damage this commentary elicits is great. The reality is, these thoughts aren’t truth; they are a manifestation of a skewed perception of one’s self. The work here is to begin to shift those negative perceptions toward a more positive refrain. We have to have the courage to begin to unravel the root causes that created this commentary in the first place. The “old tapes” of abuse arise when we are under duress, stress, or lack of sleep. We can then look at this as an opportunity to care for ourselves in a way that may feel foreign so we can shift the paradigm of negative self-talk toward positive and supportive self-care.  The phrases, “Is it True, Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?” are relevant here too. I also like to encourage the simpler version of these questions,: is it helpful or harmful. I find that this is a phrase easy to access for adolescents and kids.

 

The practice of wise speech is two-fold: we have to speak kindly to ourselves and treat ourselves the way we want to be treated; we have to be mindful of the way in which we speak to others. If we strive for perfection, we will fail. The goal here is to do your best. This is really about creating a heightened awareness, giving life to that 10th step and engaging in a tangible mindfulness practice. The more you are aware and conscious of your actions, the more likely you are to change. And remember, no one is perfect. We are all a work in progress. The goal is “progress, not perfection.”

Categories
Recovery Service Treatment

Being of Service and Finding a Sponsor in Recovery

Being of service, requires a commitment to compassion and an ability to have firm boundaries.  Within the realm of the 12 steps, service work is imperative.  The formula, if you will, is Unity, Service, and Recovery. All three of these support each other. Without unity (fellowship), one is apt to isolate; without being of service, the tendency is toward selfishness. That said, without fellowship, and service work, your recovery becomes less stable. We need to support each other during this endeavor of healing and remember that recovery is not a lone-wolf venture. This is where sponsorship and mentorship come in.

 

Sponsors or mentors are there to guide you on your recovery path and they will always encourage you to be of service. They are there to take you through the 12 steps (or 4 noble truths of recovery if you are using the Refuge Recovery model), and to support your recovery. This also means they will hold the line when there’s resistance. Sometimes, this means hearing something you don’t want to hear, but the intention of a sponsor is to facilitate awareness around your recovery, not to co-sign negative behaviors.

 

Keep these things in mind when you are looking for someone to sponsor you and make sure they are:

 

  • An individual of the same sex. Yes, you can have a sponsor of the opposite sex, but it’s more beneficial to you and has less potential for complications if sponsorship is gender specific.
  • Someone who has what you want. I’m not talking cars, finances or partner, but someone whose spiritual life and sense of self is something you can strive toward or which you admire.
  • An individual whom you can trust. If there’s any reluctance, look to someone else.
  • Find someone whose actions reflect his or her words. A sponsor who functions under the guise of “do as I say, not as I do,” is not the one for you.
  • Someone whose recovery inspires you.

 

When you find someone you want to work with:

 

  • Call them, even when you don’t need anything. If you don’t have that relationship developed, you won’t call them when things are tough.
  • Be consistent. Remember the lengths you would take to use? Apply that same sense of urgency to your recovery.
  • If you think you made the wrong choice, realize it’s ok to move on. It’s your recovery, not theirs.

It’s helpful to remember what y our sponsor/mentor is and what your sponsor/mentor is not:

 

Your sponsor (is):

  • A guide
  • Spiritual
  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Tough when necessary
  • Works a program

 

Your sponsor is not:

  • An ATM
  • Your therapist
  • Your parent
  • Your best friend
  • A guru
  • Your lawyer
  • Your higher power
  • Perfect

 

If you are looking for a sponsor or mentor, keep this in mind: Finding the “right” sponsor/mentor may take time. If you are struggling with untreated mental illness, your sponsor should ultimately ask that you seek professional help.  They are morally obligated to do so. The relationship of sponsor/sponsee is one that will follow you through your sobriety and recovery.

 

Sometimes, you may come across someone who needs a recovery program but sincerely struggles to relate to the theistic practices of the 12 steps. I’ve had the honor of working with a couple of women who required the use of alternative language and while the steps are still applied and used to create a foundation of recovery, the use of intentions and meditation, breath and body awareness is also used to enhance recovery support.  Being of service is the one thing that is a through-line, regardless of program.

 

Over the last several years, there has been a groundswell of people in recovery seeking alternative recovery tools. Noah Levine, founder of Against the Stream aptly responded to this with Refuge Recovery.  This particular model “is a community of people who are using the practices of mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness and generosity to heal the pain and suffering that addiction has caused in their (sic) lives and the lives of their loved ones.” In essence, they have embedded service work into their recovery model in an influential way.

 

The act of looking at ourselves honestly and learning to sit in the discomfort of our feelings and emotions is transformative. Being of service allows us to get out of ourselves and into action. One thing that transcends all modalities of healing is this service work. There is always a way to recover and to be of service; sometimes it’s easier than others, but the key is not to give up. Reaching our hands out to help others demonstrates that our suffering is not unique to us–we all suffer, so why not help each other out?

Categories
Addiction Mental Health Recovery

6 Signs Your Bad Luck Isn’t Bad Luck At All

English: black cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all have had our share of bad luck, but for some of us, we need to really take a look at whether or not this is bad luck at all or if our drinking and using is getting in the way.

Let’s break it down:

 

1.    You seem to have a lot of bad luck involving the law.

 

You are chronically pulled over for traffic infractions or for looking suspicious; your parking tickets are piling up in your glove box, or every time you walk into a store, you are shadowed by security. Police officers always have it out for you, right? No. Typically speaking, our questionable actions draw negative attention. As we come into recovery and start looking at these actions of ours, we will often find that the “bad luck” around the law dissipates. When we start doing the recovery work set out for us by our sponsors, mentors, counselors, and therapists, our outlook changes and so does our luck!

2.   Relationships never work out.

 

You fight with your parents, your teachers, your friends and it starts to feel like no one likes you. Sound familiar? Everyone around you is annoying, or maybe they “just don’t understand.” When we are in our disease, we are prone to pushing those who are close to us away. Resistance to change or hearing the truth prevents us from having solid relationships. I have worked with women whose go-to is to do everything in their power to push me away: yelling, defiance, and insults. As a sponsor/mentor, I have learned to maintain strong boundaries while remaining unwavering in my support. Often times, the desire is to push people away because letting them get too close is terrifying. Fear of abandonment or of commitment is a powerful tool of resistance. There is a fear of vulnerability, but vulnerability is what allows us to work through that fear. This is a good place to take contrary action.

 

3.   There is always something that causes you to be late or not show up at all.

 

There was traffic or you woke up late or “something came up.” There is ALWAYS something that prevents you from being on time, or you change plans at the last minute, or you simply don’t show up at all.  A lot of the times, this self-sabotaging behavior is precluded by a fear of commitment or a desire to go where you think the “party” will be (again, fear of commitment).  Have you ever accumulated a series of “maybes” so you could see which invite was the most fun? Making a commitment and being responsible sometimes means missing out on something that is interesting to you. In recovery, we learn to do what we say we will do, even when something better comes along.  Taking a commitment at a meeting teaches this really well!

 

4.   You have a hard time keeping a job, or maintaining commitments at school.

 

You got fired again? Glee club has had it and finally kicked you out? Coach has benched you for the rest of the season this time? Time to look at your actions to see where you are falling short.  The truth is people aren’t out to get you; self-sabotage is the culprit here.  We have to begin the process of looking within in order to figure out what drives our negative actions. Addiction and untreated mental health is often times fodder for the persistent sense of ill-will and inconsistency.

 

5.   Your teachers seem to be out to get you, conversely, so do your parents.

 

No one is really out to get you. Addiction likes to pin us in victim mode, telling us time and time again, “the world is out to get us,” “if only people understood me,” et cetera, et cetera. Take your power back and get to work so you can take responsibility for your actions! The 12 steps, a meditation practice, yoga, therapy, being of service: all of these things teach you to identify the truth within, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.  Your parents and teachers have your best interests in mind, eventually you will too.

6.   Car trouble is your middle name.

 

Does this sound familiar: It’s always breaking down, or you never have gas, or the tire is flat, or there’s a boot on it because you forgot to pay all of your parking tickets (see #1). When we stop taking responsibility for our actions, and rely on fate or magical thinking to make things better, things inevitably get worse. We can’t think our way out of difficulties; we have to take the appropriate actions to climb out on our own. So, start paying the parking tickets when you get them (I still have trouble doing this!), fill up your tank when it’s half full, check your tires and service your car.

 

I’ve learned that the most difficult part of putting on your big-girl panties is…putting on your big-girl panties. The rest is pretty easy. You know what? Taking responsibility and doing the work actually feels good. So does dropping the weight of chronic having bad luck.

Something to ponder: When we do esteemable acts, we garner self-esteem; when we take responsibility for our actions, we lower our stress and garner respect from those around us; when we ask for help, we find solace in community. No one said recovery and change would be easy, but fear and resistance generate the difficulties you most often have. You can do this, one breath, one step, one positive act at a time.

 

Categories
Recovery Self-Care Service

Being of Service: Self-Care is Still Imperative

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
Adolescence Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Recovery Spirituality Therapy Treatment

Recovery: Redefining Normal

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stepping onto a path of recovery and beginning the removal of toxicity from one’s life is an arduous, often painful, but beautiful process. But I like to believe that some of our greatest lessons come from our difficulties. Those are the times that provide us with the most insight into what is actually going on with us. Take for instance your relationships with others. Is there a pattern? Have you continued to add links to an unhealthy chain be it consciously or subconsciously? Are you happy?

When there is a history of toxicity in one’s life, particularly when it’s introduced at an early age, what is considered “normal” tends to become skewed. For example, someone raised in a home with an abusive parent may inadvertently seek out relationships with similar personality types. This isn’t a conscious act but rather a direct result of being taught how to be in this world through violence (emotional, physical, visual, etc.). It feels familiar and therefore “normal” to be around toxicity. The question is, how do you break the chain? How do you make new, better choices that are healthy and nurturing?  How do you place yourself in environments that celebrate you for who you are instead of those that persistently denigrate you?

The 12 steps are a brilliant start. They allow us to begin the process of unpeeling the layers of the onion by asking us to turn our eyes inward and check out what’s going on in our minds and in our hearts. That oft-dreaded fourth step tends to help identify a pattern, particularly if we are honest with ourselves when we write it.  Personally, I’ve always liked that process because it feels like I’m stripping the layers of emotional dirt off of me. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. Frankly, it hurts like hell to look at ourselves and at our lives with a magnifying glass, but dang it, it’s liberating. You just don’t need to carry that stuff around anymore. Twelve-step work is just the start. If it were only that easy, right?

Taking a clinical approach is incredibly beneficial, especially when dealing with trauma, addiction, and mental-health issues.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), to name a few, are invaluable tools to help identify the psychological triggers and hooks we have embedded within us.

But you know what really seals the deal for me? Creating space for Spirituality. I can’t emphasize enough how invaluable it is to develop a spiritual practice. It is the very thing that will feed your soul. No, I’m not selling you religion or a canon of idealized thought. I am, however, urging you to find the calm in your breath, the grounding notion of having your feet planted to the earth, and the healing weight of your hand on your heart. You can break the chain of abuse. You can shut out the tapes that play in your mind, telling you you’re a piece of crap, a failure, not enough, stupid, fat, ugly, useless. You can take your power back. It takes work, but it’s worth all the sweat and tears. Trust me. Be patient. Understand that this process of recovery takes time. Nothing and no one is perfect.

I’ll leave you with this. I was involved in a series of abusive relationships growing up. I was doing the same thing, expecting different results. I eventually discovered I was continuing the pattern of emotional denigration established in my childhood and nurtured in my adolescence. When I finally smashed through that chain several years into my recovery and only after working tirelessly with a therapist, meditation, yoga, 12 steps, I was free. This doesn’t mean the trauma or triggers went away. It means I finally learned to identify them, and have garnered tools to help me respond to them differently. When I met my husband, I quickly discovered he was different. For one thing, he showed me unconditional support, which I hesitated to believe was true. It took me almost two years to accept the fact that I had, in fact, broken that chain and was capable of having relationships that were built on trust and respect. I realized I could believe someone; something this traumatized gal was never able to do. This was proof that I had redefined my “normal” and surrounded myself with a healthy, loving new family. In fact, I redefined my response to the world and its triggers, not just within my family, but also in my life. Ultimately, I took my power back. You can too.  You just have to do the work!

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Acts of Kindness

I came across a beautiful article written by Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of “Be the Change” in which they call for a “Revolution in Kindness.” Their article expressed the need for compassion and kindness and asks us to change our actions. It really made me think about recovery and how we so often come into the rooms bereft of problem-solving skills, angry, and hurting, and lashing out.

Most of us come in as the antithesis of kind. The change we experience in recovery is profound as we learn to transform our programmed responses to people, places, and things. Truly, these new actions do require a sort of metamorphosis. As we begin the recovery process, we are choosing to cease fighting. We admit we’re wrong, we admit powerlessness, and slowly, we begin to learn how to function gently and with clarity.

It’s tough to admit we’re wrong, especially when we are attached to the context of the situation itself, and even more so when we’ve invested so much energy in our anger and its corresponding story. But wouldn’t it be liberating NOT to fight–to admit that you are (gasp) wrong?! Sounds crazy, I’m sure, but think about it: so much of our conflict is created because our egos command us to prove we’re right (even when we’re not!). We often fight to the point of ending friendships, both personal and professional, but in the end, our fight means nothing at all.

The 12 steps ask us to give up our ego and self-centered behaviors. By demanding honesty in our inventories and actions, we are propelled to adopt a more altruistic approach to the world. We make amends for our actions, righting the wrongs we’ve caused, and we learn to stop the harming behaviors that got us here. This also means approaching our difficulties with kindness instead of closed fists. When we change our actions, we ultimately have a chance to end the incessant violence permeating our lives: the bullying, school shootings, hateful speech, drug and alcohol abuse.  Ed and Deb Shapiro said, “Kindness is completely revolutionary: it will change each one of us, it will change others, and it will definitely change the world.” What a wonderful reminder, then, to take responsibility for our actions and point less fingers at those around us. The world can be a sticky place, so why not begin to unstick it with small acts of kindness and compassion? Try it: One kind act, one day at a time.