How Kindness Can Support Our Recovery

A simple act of kindness can go a long way, especially for those in recovery. No one comes Blossom©saritzrogersto treatment because their life was in order or because they are doing well. They come here because they are suffering, because they are emotionally lost, and some might even say broken. Over time, I have chosen to shift my own perspective and ceased to use the word “broken” in reference to recovery. Instead, I use injured. I find it more akin to supporting the healing process as it facilitates a more profound perception of ourselves as we grow and change. Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing and author of “In an Unspoken Voice,” says this about trauma and healing, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not however, have to be a life sentence.” Stepping or falling on the path of recovery, tired, injured and overwhelmed, recognizing the light representing the possibility of healing can be profound, especially as we grapple with the necessary changes required to get sober.

This is prime time for kindness.

Imagine coming into treatment terrified, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what the outcome will be. Imagine someone witnessing your feelings and sense of overwhelm, validating you and encouraging you to have your own experience. Imagine someone looking at you with kindness in his or her eyes, offering empathy rather than judgment. Imagine feeling heard and being seen in this way. These are the very things that can allow our hearts to soften just enough to let the light in.

Doing the work required in recovery requires courage. It requires that we delve into the innermost parts of ourselves with a sense of curiosity, bravery, and kindess. It’s not comfortable looking at the causative factors of why we were using drugs and alcohol in the first place. When one is in a nurturing, safe environment where healing is cultivated and encouraged by support staff and skilled clinicians, change begins to occur. Even when there is resistance!

As sobriety takes hold, and clients begin to practice being of service, kindness acts as the through line. It is through small acts of kindness that we can begin to see that we are not the only ones suffering, nor are we the only ones having the experience we are having.

There is a wonderful Buddhist story about a grieving mother named Kisa, who lost in the depth of her grief, was unable to reconcile herself with the loss of her son. She begged and pleaded for help and began to go mad in the process. She asked the Buddha for help; The Buddha told her that if she wanted to make medicine, she would need mustard seeds, but the caveat was this: she could only gather mustard seeds from a home where no one had died. Through her search, something happened to Kisa: She discovered that she was not alone in her suffering and in her grief but rather in great company. Not one home was without loss. While she came back empty handed, she found herself feeling less alone. Risa’s suffering was met with kindness, empathy and understanding. The emotional shift for her was profound; her healing could truly begin.

I like this story in relation to recovery because often times, there is a perception that our suffering is unique. We inevitably discover that our suffering is, in fact, in direct alignment with our community. Though our experiences are our own, the resulting dissatisfaction is universal. Through connection and acts of kindness and service, we can walk this path as a community seeped in healing and encouraging change.

Communication Holidays

Valentine’s Day: Love and Kindness For All

Valentine’s day:

It’s the day to celebrate love and joy, and connectedness, not just a partnership with another human being.

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Maybe you’re single, or you just broke up with someone, or heck, you’ve been together with your Valentine for several months or years: can you honor your heart? Can you be of service to those around you, calling everyone your Valentine? Today, in Huffington Post’s “Good News” section I came across this post about students leaving random love notes around for people to find. I was inspired by their kindness and ability to care for others. It is a wonderful way to be of service and it got me thinking about all of the things we can do for each other, like:

  • Pay for the person’s lunch behind you in line.
  • Leave a kind note for a friend.
  • Pick a flower and hand it to the first person you see–just for the heck of it.
  • Compliment someone without expecting something in return.
  • Cook a meal for someone.
  • Write a card for no reason.


These are just a few ideas, with the through line being kindness, which means, “The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to express friendliness, generosity, and to be considerate. And perhaps it will inspire you to carry those actions throughout the rest of the year.  Here’s an inspiring quote from Mr. Rogers, a man whose kindness was a visceral part of who he was:

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”


Oh and one more thing, as if Mr. Rogers wasn’t already inspiring. Check out this video of a 29-year-old woman who was born deaf but hears sound for the first time after receiving cochlear implants. Grab a tissue; Her joyful, awe-filled reaction is remarkable!! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!




Adolescence Holidays Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Service Spirituality Teen Activism Wellness

Resolution, Schmesolution: Create a New Year Theme

© 2013 sarit z. rogers — all rights reserved

It’s that time: New Year’s Eve celebrations are upon us! For many, it’s the time of year often met with party plans and resolutions. Parties and resolutions together sound like a juxtaposition and affect some legitimate irony, but nevertheless, they go together for most people every 31st of December. However, if you are in recovery, have clearer eyes and hopefully a wiser mind, things might look a bit different during this time of year.


There are several articles offering tips and guidelines for setting up the “perfect” New Year resolutions, 0r embarking on a New Year cleanse, or signing up for a New Year workout plan. The one thing all of these have in common is the idea that you can and will actually commit to changing a bevy of major things just because it’s the New Year. Sadly, many fail or abandon those impassioned resolutions after a few weeks. One article in particular stuck out to me. This article suggests creating a theme for the New Year rather than a resolution. A New Year’s Theme! That is right in line with the New Year Intentions I have suggested in the past. Both of these, a theme or an intention, are something that can easily be created, worked with and maintained throughout the year. Rather than seeking perfection, or a grand, finite accomplishment, a theme or intention allows one to slowly change behaviors and invite the possibility of more long-term, sustainable changes.


What might your New Year’s Theme or Intention be for 2014?


Kindness: The wonderful quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You can choose to practice random and not so random acts of kindness throughout the year. Make it a year of being kind when you might otherwise be gruff. Invite some personal curiosity and investigation about what it might be like to respond to difficulty with kindness instead of anger or fear. It’s an interesting one to work with, but everyone can be kind and deserves kindness in return.


Mindfulness: Also looked at as keen “awareness,” mindfulness is an astute awareness of reality and the present moment.  It is an acknowledgement that things are just as they are in that moment. If you make mindfulness your New Year theme, perhaps you will begin by investigating the contemplative practices of meditation and yoga. Or perhaps it might mean choosing not to use your cell phone when you are walking around and instead bringing your awareness to your surroundings and becoming more present. It might mean driving without the radio on, or not always having your cell phone nearby. It might mean eating dinner without the television on so you can be more present with your family. Remember, it is not about perfection; this is a practice.


Wellness: If you are desirous of changing your health or the way you eat or the amount of activity you engage in, this is a wonderful theme. You might do this by ruling out meat for one day a week, or by eating more greens. You may choose to limit your caffeine, or cut down on your cigarettes or vape pens: eventually you may even quit! You can increase your wellness, that healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, even if you start small. In fact, small changes over a long period of time have a longer lasting effect.


Movement: Increase your physicality in 2014. You can start with walking more or riding your bike. If you usually drive to the corner store or to a meeting that’s only a mile away, try riding a bike once a week! The more you do ride your bike or walk, the more it might become a habit. Honestly, there’s no concrete rule about how long habits take to form or break. Instead, look at this as small opportunities for personal change.


Service: Make 2014 your year of being of service! Take a commitment at a meeting and keep it for a year. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Volunteer at an animal shelter once a week. Find a cause you believe in and get involved in raising awareness about it. Being of service is the fulcrum of recovery; “We can’t keep it unless we give it away” is one of the most-often repeated sayings relating to being of service. Write it on something you can always see to remind you to get out of yourself and into action.


No matter your theme or plan, the New Year is a time of reflection and growth. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past year so we can grow into the new one. May you ring this New Year in with self-care, compassion, kindness, and great joy. We wish you a wonderful New Year celebration and look forward to celebrating and growing with you in 2014.

Feelings Holidays Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care Stress Wellness

Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.


How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.


Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:


Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?


Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).


1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.


2. Buy a homeless person a meal.


3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.


4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.


5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.


6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.


Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.


Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.


These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.


So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.



Holidays Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism Wellness

Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.


What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.


Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:


By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.


Practice Joy:


Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.


Practice Gratitude:

Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.


Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.


Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!


Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

Addiction Mental Health Recovery

Are We Quicker to Judge Than We Are to Love?

Whitney Houston - Concert in Central Park / Good Morning America 2009 - Manhattan NYC (Photo credit: asterix611)

I wasn’t planning on writing about the death of Whitney Houston, because I try not to saddle up to the hyperbole surrounding celebrity and their downfalls. However, as news of her death began to unfold, what I noticed wasn’t kindness or compassion in the public’s reaction and commentary, but an uncensored, callous backlash referencing her addiction. Mind you, the cause of her death is purely speculative at this point–the negative comments began without evidence of an overdose or confirmation from the medical examiner. Makes me wonder, would this commentary be the same if she’d had cancer? I don’t think so. Why? Because cancer is a disease without stigma.

Addiction is just that: a disease. When we talk about diseases, we talk about things we can understand: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and so on. But when addiction is spoken of, it’s often considered a poor choice someone is making. No one consciously chooses to become an addict. Addiction is a disease, just like any other, but unfortunately, it comes with the stigma of oft-repeated failures and sullied reputations.

What I’m talking about isn’t really Whitney Houston and the tragedy of her death, but about addiction and recovery and all of the mixed-up perceptions that come along with it. Can we, with all of our amends and life changes recreate our image in the public sphere? What about the private sphere?  Or will we always remain the person who “can’t make a good choice.” In cases like this, it would appear that no matter what we do in our recovery, no matter how long we stay clean and sober, if something goes wrong, drugs and alcohol are the first accusations that come to mind. But I call foul, because I know far too many people with long-term recovery who have turned their lives around and become outstanding, respectable human beings.

Addiction doesn’t give a hoot if you’re rich, poor, famous, infamous, fat, thin, talented, ugly or beautiful; all it cares about is sinking its hooks into you. Where addiction differs from other diseases is in its effect on those who come in contact with it: families, friends, classmates, teachers, fans, or the cat pouring your coffee at Starbucks. There’s no doubt it’s a selfish disease, but it still requires compassion and kindness. When I first got sober, I was a bit screwball—my sober big brother loves to tell people I was feral—but ultimately, the thing that kept me coming back wasn’t judgment, it was kindness. When I heard “Let us love you until you can learn to love yourself,” I thought it was hokey. But you know what? It worked a hell of a lot better than damnation and shame.

So, whatever took Whitney, be it drugs or some anomaly with her health, perhaps we should honor her for the woman and legend she was rather than berate her with misunderstood perceptions of a disease. Reverend Al Sharpton echoed this sentiment when he said, “Don’t remember the rumors. Remember the voice God gave this lady and she gave that voice to the world. (She) was an international icon. Whatever she did was on the front page. Don’t delve in the mess. All of us have some mess.”


Remember, though our past may have influenced the way we see the world, it does not define us unless we allow it to do so. In recovery, we do have a choice: we can choose how we interact with the world and how we engage in the present.



Love this from Voice in Recovery: Whitney Houston’s Death and Addiction Stigma 


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