Categories
Holidays Recovery

Staying Sober on Labor Day Weekend

It’s Labor Day weekend, the first holiday of the school year and the one that indicates the hibiscus©saritzrogersreal end of Summer and the transition toward Fall. Labor Day represents the culmination of Summer barbecues, eating al fresco, long days and warm nights. Stores already have Halloween swag for sale and it’s still August! I wish I was kidding.

For addicts and alcoholics, long weekends tend to mean parties. But as the path of recovery becomes your own, the meanings of holidays change. They become opportunities for making healthier choices, having sober fun, and making long-lasting connections.

Still, for someone new in recovery, holidays might be overwhelming. Holidays may be the first relatively unstructured time for the newcomer fresh out of treatment, or it may be reminiscent of times past where things went awry. The reality is, recovery requires a shift: a shift in social circles, life choices, and a shift in how we represent ourselves to the world. Gone are the days of calculated debauchery and lost memories.

Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track this Labor Day weekend (and any holiday weekend from here on out):

  • Get active: Play in the surf, go on a hike, or a long bike ride.  Firing up those endorphins is good for us and positive for our mental health.
  • Go to extra meetings; There are meetings going on at all times of the day—early morning to the infamous late-night meetings.  Often times, there are marathon meetings on holiday weekends.
  • Stay in contact with your sponsor and actively engage with your recovery support system
  • Be of service! Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action. At 21 years sober, I spend more of my time being of service than I ever did. It keeps me present, engaged, and out of my head.
  • Host or attend a sober event. In sober living? Maybe your house will be up to the task of making an in-house sober fun day – BBQS, pool party, et cetera.
  • Engage in a contemplative practice: yoga or meditation. Yoga and meditation are both a direct route to self-care. They cultivate the engagement of the breath, which helps us stay in the present moment. They both ask that we are present: not in the future and not in the past. This, in and of itself, is profoundly self-regulating.
  • Say “No” when and if you need to. Remember, “No,” is a complete sentence. If something doesn’t feel right to you, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s a boundary and good practice in recovery.
  • Ask for help: You cannot do this alone. Understanding that asking for help is a learned skill, practice whenever you can.  If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone. Work with moving against the discomfort of asking for help – it does not imply weakness, but rather, tells those around you that you are courageous.

And most of all: have fun this Labor Day weekend. Like Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once said, “Fun is good.” Try to find joy in the little things: a cuddle with a dog, a great cup of coffee, a cool dip in a pool on a hot day, the majestic cloud formations, a sunset, or whatever strikes you. There are nuggets of goodness everywhere. And if you have trouble finding something joyful, do yourself a favor and jot down 3 things you’re grateful for. It will help you find your way. Have a safe and sober weekend

Categories
Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care

Visions Team Building

Visions has always recognized the need for staff team building. They understand from personal experience how intense it is to work in this field. Working in treatment, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our jobs and our purpose as treatment professionals. We strive to be the best, but in order for us to do that effectively, we must also care for ourselves. Visions fosters this self-care state by creating and encouraging team building activities for the staff, understanding that we are not going to be any good at caring for anyone if we don’t take care of ourselves first.  Airline attendants tell parents to use the oxygen before they administer to their children in an emergency. The same thing applies to us: we need to feed our minds, bodies, and spirits before we pass it on to others. Otherwise we risk working with a dry well, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

Recently, Visions gave the staff a respite from the day-to-day rigmarole and took us on a team building  “Glamping” trip. I had no idea what Glamping entailed but I have to say, it was a welcome surprise. It’s camping with the comforts of home: beds, heat, running water, and a spa for those interested in a more luxurious stay. We stayed in gorgeous cabins nestled in a canyon by the beach where there was no shortage of wild animal sightings: owls, bats, deer, llamas, goats, skunks. There was even a camp cat that hung around and nuzzled up to a few of us! It was pretty amazing. Most importantly, it was a rejuvenating trip, and a perfect outlet for team building.  I only wish more of us attended.

For two days, we got to hang out in a non-professional setting and let our hair down. We were given a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other on a different level, which helped foster trusting, open relationships within the staff population.  Some folks hung out on the beach or in the water, some played bocce ball, a spontaneous football even broke out at dusk at one point which was pretty insane to watch.  Most of all, there was a lot of laughter and good-spirited jabs floating around. It was clear that this diverse group of people care deeply about each other and about those they care for. Our differences are viewed as strengths and most importantly, we are encouraged to be just as we are. What an amazing gift! We are a family at Visions, that much is clear. And what a wonderful family to be a part of.

 

Categories
Recovery

Back to School: Let’s Get This Party Started!

School has started, though the remnants of the Summer heat are still lingering about. It’s also prime time for the first of many anticipated school parties! For the newly sober, and even for those with a little time under their belts, this might be a source of contention or stress. So, how DO you participate while staying safe and sober?
For starters:
  • Bring a friend with you that has your best interests in mind. In other words, someone who isn’t on the fence about you being clean and sober! 
  • Arrange for your own transportation so you don’t have to rely on someone else if you want to make a quick exit. 
  • Have a plan, and give yourself an out so you don’t get stuck in a bad situation.
  • Call your sponsor and let your sober network know what you’re doing: Share your plan!
  • Communicate with your parents and let them know what’s going on.
  • Concerned there won’t be any non-alcoholic beverages? Bring your own! 
The trouble with school parties is, often times they’re organized with this idea that getting wasted is the end goal (I’m reminded of Superbad here, despite it’s over-the-top depiction of adolescence!). If a school party falls into your weekend plans, go with a good head on your shoulders and a positive plan of action. Walking a sober path is a learned skill, but it’s not impossible. It takes time to develop positive patterns of behavior while still maintaining our social status amongst our peers. Sometimes, it’s a matter of educating those around us; sometimes it’s about walking away and starting anew.

Sobriety will teach you that fun doesn’t have to include a blackout and a night praying to the porcelain God. Nor does it have to include glib confirmations of the night’s events from friends the next day. Eventually, taking responsibility for your actions will be the de rigueur choice rather than fighting to maintain an old ideal. At some point, you might even discover that you are pretty darn fun all on your own, even whilst pumped up on silliness with a water chaser. 
Categories
Adolescence Feelings Recovery

Fear and Loathing in Sobriety

It’s not every day that we voluntarily pay money to walk in to a place of horror and experientially tread through our fears. However, this past Saturday, we hosted our annual Knott’s Scary Farm event, wherein we did just that. Truth be told, it’s a popular event! I’m not sure if it’s a teen thing or a personality thing, but some folks just love to be scared! The thing is, we’re all scared of something, right? For this event, it might simply be things jumping out at you, for others it could be coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and for some, it’s monsters in general. The tagline at Knott’s Scary Farm is “All You Fear is Here,” and boy, do they keep their promise. They have a foggy Ghost Town, where you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and is home to growling monsters, including the notorious Sliders (monsters and clowns that literally slide on their knees and hands out of nowhere to scare you!); they have CarnEVIL, where clowns and vaudevillians haunt your walk; and then there’s Necropolis, the city of the undead, filled with vamps galore. There’s sure to be at least one thing at this metropolis of fear that will make your blood run cold.

So, how do you deal with your fears when you’re there? If running and screaming makes the monsters chase you, then what would happen if you turn and face them? Our minds feed into our fears, making them appear to be intangible and often times providing us with a sense of unmanageability. In sobriety, addressing our fears can be a challenge and one we invariably shut the door on–fear of the fear, if you will. We drank, used, starved, stuffed, cut, punched, et cetera, as a means of chasing our fears away, but the truth is, they never really went anywhere.  So, when these clowns (yes, I have an epic clown fear) came bursting into our personal space, I decided not to run, or scream, but to turn and face them. Some of the kids even began mimicking their movements and growls, and each time, the clowns or monsters inevitably took their “scare” elsewhere. In fact, some even had conversations with us. Granted, they were still frightening to look at, and having them come sliding out of nowhere was still an effective fright tool, but disempowering their ferocity made them significantly less scary and made the fear manageable. Yes, that’s right, manageable!

This type of situation presents us with a wonderful metaphor for confronting our fears, though. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my sobriety is that if I shine light into the dark corners and look at the very thing that is frightening, I discover the shadows are just that: shadows. No, it doesn’t invalidate the genuine fears that exist, but it certainly shrinks their size and makes them a little easier to manage. In the case of Knott’s Scary Farm, fortunately, we don’t have to face bloody clowns and monsters on a daily basis, but if or when we do, being mindful of how we respond and monitoring our reactions will hopefully make us less of a target. It can also make for some interesting albeit peculiar conversations with the creatures of the night!