Removing oneself from the isolation of overwhelm and exhaustion and stepping into vulnerability is part and parcel to taking care of our own needs. It’s not necessarily a sign of strength to strong-arm our way through our difficulties; however, we often get stuck in this idea that we have to “soldier on,” regardless of our own immediate needs.
Emotions come in waves. They can be placid waves or they can feel hurricane-like in their strength. It’s ok to fall apart and feel what we are feeling. It’s how we heal, how we lean into the shadow side, and how we traverse the difficult path of getting the help and support we need.
For some of us, we were taught early on that asking for help is a good thing. We were shown by example that it’s ok to take breaks to nourish our mind, body and spirit. We were shown that by engaging in acts of self-care, the ability to show up for others is greater.
Many of us have had different experiences and were shown that asking for help is a sign of weakness. The indication here is to place others first and do what we need to do for ourselves later. In a worse case scenario, “later” ends up being in the ER with symptoms of hypertension, a heart attack, or a stroke. Not taking care of ourselves sends the wrong message to our loved ones.
Self-care, asking for help and developing resilience are healthy practices for everyone. They are not limited to someone in recovery or someone who has experienced difficulties. If we engage in these practices and teach our loved ones to do the same, self-care and asking for help become second nature.
What is resilience anyway?
Simply put, resilience is being able to recover quickly from difficulties—to “spring back into shape.” More definitively it is,
1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
Resilience isn’t something we are born with – it is cultivated through the development of self-regulatory and self-management skills. The more informed and aware we become around our feelings and needs, the more we cultivate and develop resilience. We become skilled in the ways we work through our difficulties. The more we are fortified (by self-care and asking for help), the easier it becomes to “spring back.”
Resilience is fostered by:
Having healthy and close relationships with family and friends
Having a positive view on yourself and and confidence in your abilities – Yes, you are enough.
When someone suffers from mental illness, there is a deprivation of the joy and emotional wealth that’s present when there is ideal mental health. Mental illness can drain our joie de vivre, and make for a muddy emotional existence. Relationships with loved ones tend to be difficult, and there tends to be a propensity for loneliness and isolation. Worse yet, when mental illness is left untreated, the toll it can take on the one suffering and their loved ones can be taxing and sometimes devastating.
Some types of mental illness are more straightforward in their treatment: anxiety and depression, for example, are often treated with various modalities of psychotherapy and balanced with medication. Personality disorders are complex and there are some instances where the patient doesn’t recognize their illness despite their deep suffering. The work involved in treating all mental illness requires a nexus of therapeutic support and a desire for positive change from the patient themselves. The question many have is, Why are personality disorders so challenging?
Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters:
Cluster A personality disordersare “characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder
Cluster B personality disorders are “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Cluster C personality disordersare “characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for all types of mental illness; the most efficacious modality is determined by the needs of the client. Findings show that DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) in particular is the most effective therapeutic treatment for personality disorders and bipolar disorders. Other effective tools used in treatment may include:
MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)
To date, the FDA hasn’t approved of any medications to treat personality disorders. However, medications are often used to treat symptoms that are detrimental to the individual’s recovery. Medications like:
Antidepressents: for depressed mood, anger, irritability, mood swings, impulsivity and hopelessness.
Mood stabilizers: to even out mood swings, and to reduce impulsivity, irritability and aggression.
Antipsychotic medications (also known as neuroleptics): if symptoms include losing touch with reality (psychosis), and sometimes anxiety and difficulty with anger
Anti-anxiety medications: For anxiety, agitation or insomnia. Note, in some cases, they may increase impulsive behavior and are avoided with some personality disorders.
Treating mental illness requires the cultivation of balance. Participation from the client, a cohesive treatment team, and the correct combination of medication can create the desired environment of mental health. It takes work, dedication, and a willingness to unveil one’s difficulties in order to create a healthy shift toward mental health. I have experienced the shadow side of untreated mental illness with family members who are unwilling to get help. It does, in fact, take a toll on everyone involved. I have learned that one of the key pieces for my own recovery is developing clear communication skills, creating firm, compassionate boundaries, and building consistent program of self-care. Families struggling with mental illness need to ensure that their own wells are filled, that they are getting their own needs met, and that they have a community of support around them.
Koreema Walden is an MA, MFTi, CATC IV and has been part of the Visions treatment team since 2013. She is an active member of the treatment community and served as a therapist in the drug rehabilitation/homeless program at the Veteran’s Administration prior to coming to Visions. Additionally, Koreema is an education advisor at her alma mater, Antioch University. She runs groups and Visions and also sees clients individually using her honest and compassionate approach.
Koreema is seriously funny. She brings a sense of adventure, honesty, and joy into her work. She is relatable and compassionate toward the adolescents she works with and she is a wonderful addition to the outpatient team. Koreema she fits right in at Visions. She is a pleasure to work with and is someone who is respectable and forthright in her work. Koreema is a hard one NOT to adore.
The staff thinks highly of Koreema; check out what they had to say:
Koreema continuously has a high level of positive energy, and is fantastic at motivating just about anyone! – Ashley Shortridge
In the time I’ve know Koreema, I have felt nothing but love and support from her. She has an amazing energetic spirit that everyone can pull from and always brings strong, honest advice to the table. It has been a pleasure working alongside such an amazing person. – Nick Riefner
Koreema, our baby of the bunch. She has been a wonderful asset to our outpatient team. Koreema’s strengths lie not only in her ability to assimilate into a new, fast-paced environment but also a keen sense of how to connect with an adolescent milieu. We are lucky to have her and look forward to her continued growth at Visions. – Fiona Ray
Of course we asked Koreema 10 questions. Read on!
1: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you come close?
There wasn’t a job that I wanted, but I had role models. My maternal grandmother was a business owner and a fierce one! She had her real-estate license and was trained to do income taxes. She owned a clothing store, was raising some of her daughter’s children and was fiercely independent. She was also kind and supportive (financially and emotionally) of others. I think I wanted to be like her: a woman who was independent, self reliant, self-assured, strong, and brave. I thought that’s what women did and how they were. Have I come close? I think I’ve learned over time that there was no reason for me to do everything on my own.
2: What are you most proud of?
I was the first person in my family to graduate with a BA and a Masters Degree. My mom drilled in my head that the way to a better life was through education. She always told me education would be bring me freedom and would be something that nobody could take from me. This is something a lot of women still don’t have in this day and age: The opportunity to attend school and be free.
3: Cats or dogs?
Neither. I’m not a pet person at all. I have a child and changing his diaper was bad enough!
4. Would you rather watch Sherlock or Doctor Who?
Who is Doctor Who anyway? Honestly, neither. Now if you ask me about music, I’m so in. Music cleanses my soul, my mind, and my heart and it tells me a story.
5: What is the best part of being a parent? The most challenging?
Best part of being a parent is seeing my son’s brain and his mind take off. Every day, something that is old to me is taken as new to him: Words, places, books, history, people, etc. I find such delight in seeing him experience the world. What is most challenging is that every day isn’t awesome; some days are better than others and some days we disagree on things. I have to remember he has a mind of his own, I can’t control it or him 24 hours a day.
6: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Both!! I get up around 6:30/7am, or I can stay awake till 12/1am.
7: What Muppet are you?
I’m a mixture of Scooter (he was behind the scenes conducting everything) and Animal (he was loud, crazy, out of control needs to be tamed). Good thing I’ve gotten a little older.
8: What makes you laugh?
Friends, Family and Comedy movies. I love to laugh.
9: If you could go back in time for a day, what and where would you go?
I would be a little girl at my grandmother’s house running around on her property and hanging out with no cares or worries in the world!
10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?
Because I like Visions’ philosophy and the work that we do. Working with teens is not easy (I was one). I get to come to work and be inspired, learn from fresh eyes, and be a part of an amazing integral hardworking team. I feel that Visions and its team work extremely hard at what they do. It’s enjoyable because everyone is supportive of one another and we work as a team.
Nick Riefner is one of our beloved Recovery Mentors. He has been with Visions since 2011. Nick spends his time at our Residential and Outpatient facilities, carrying with him a sincere, honest dedication to working with teens. Coupled with his passion for being of service, his genuine kindness and a commitment to quality care, Nick is someone to celebrate. He’s playful when he needs to be; he’s serious when he needs to be, and he has a keen ability to relate to the clients in a way that they can genuinely relate to. Working with teens is an adventure; Nick is skillful at navigating the terrain with a sense of humor and relatability. Nick not only cares for the teens he works with, he shows the same level of compassion for those he works with every day. For Nick Riefner, helping others is more than a job; it’s lifestyle.
Check out what some of the staff had to say when I asked them about Nick:
“It is an absolute honor working with Nick. I met him when I walked into Latigo for my first night shift and he immediately made me feel comfortable. There’s just something about him- everyone loves him. I’ve learned a lot from Nick and so have the clients. He’s a prime example of what recovery looks like.” Ashley Harris
Nick is an amazing recovery mentor because of his passion for his work and ability to relate to clients. He openly acknowledges that recovery is a day by day process, which helps clients see the silver lining of their storm cloud. – Corinn McWhinnie
The moment I met Nick I knew he was special. He is a calming, kind, and supportive soul. One of Nick’s best qualities is his ability to level a room with his passion and sincerity. Nick truly has what it takes to work with teens. Every day when I get to work, Nick is right there checking in to see if I need any help. I feel honored to work with such a great guy whom I trust and depend on. – Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D
“Dude… that’s gnarly bro”!! When talking to the kids about an issue that they are having a rough time with in their lives. And that language the kids get, they 100% relate to what Nick is saying and he is being genuine and real. – Koreema J. Walden, MA., MFTI
And last, but certainly not least are Nick’s answers to Visions 10 questions:
1: Sand, Sea, or Surf?
2: What made you decide to work with adolescents?
I decided to work with adolescents because my journey and experience began when I was an adolescent.
3: Would you rather be Gonzo or the Cookie Monster?
Cookie Monster all the way.
4:What is your favorite way to give back?
My favorite way to give back is listening to someone who needs to be heard or who wants to be heard.
5:Who inspires you and how are you like them?
Who I am inspired by would definitely be my co-workers. I strive to carry out the same love and compassion given to both myself and the residents in my personal life on a daily basis.
6:Would you rather have Morgan Freeman narrate your life or have Chuck Norris narrate your life?
7:A nice cuppa tea or a locally sourced pour-over?
Locally sourced coffee for sure.
8: What superhero power do you have?
My secret super power is I can instantly make roller skates appear on whomever I want.
9: What piece of advice would you offer someone scared and newly sober?
I would suggest they embrace the possibility that change might be a good thing and to learn how to start embracing love. Especially for themselves.
10:Why do you choose to work for Visions?
I choose to work at Visions because I feel the care given to clients and the dedication to seeing they are set up for a successful life are amazing. Most of all, the care for given to each other not only as coworkers but as family can’t be found anywhere else.
Recovery can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but what it means when you are talking about recovery from addiction and mental illness is complete abstinence. You can’t dabble here and there. An alcoholic can’t smoke weed, and a pothead can’t drink; a heroin addict can’t have a drink now and again and an anorexic or bulimic can’t go on juice cleanses every so often. They just can’t. It’s not wise action or safe behavior. It’s also not indicative of abstinence.
Being sober and in recovery means:
You don’t drink or use drugs. Period.
You eat mindfully and healthfully if you are recovering from an eating disorder.
You have a recovery program that you are a part of and that you continue to participate in: 12-step, Refuge Recovery, Al-Anon, et cetera.
You are of service to others.
You are seeking mental health care if you need it.
You are getting help from someone who has been doing this longer than you have and are on a recovery path that you admire.
You learn to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
Your relationships are stable or are becoming more and more stable as your recovery time increases.
If you are required to take medication, you do so under the care of a physician who is aware of your addiction history. You can’t go rogue here.
Recovery is one of those things where there really is no grey area. You’re either in…or you’re out. When we come across someone on the slippery slope of relapse or in the full swing of addiction, what we may find is a chorus of denial and accusations of judgment. An addict certainly doesn’t want to hear that they are slipping down the rabbit hole.
The delusion of addiction tells them that they are just fine.
What can we as family members and loved ones do?
We have to maintain strong boundaries. If we are in recovery ourselves, it’s a good time to reaffirm our own programs, and ensure we are staying grounded and that our needs our met. Remember that in order to help others, it’s important that we help ourselves first.
We may need to reach out to therapists and arrange an intervention for our loved one, or we may need to make that phone call to a treatment facility to get our son or daughter into treatment.
No matter what the next step is, we must make sure we do it with firm boundaries, compassion, and love in our hearts.
The suffering involved in untreated addiction and mental illness is great. Dysregulation is common, along with anger, resentment, and a feeling of isolation. Family systems often start to show signs of wear, if they weren’t already. Addiction doesn’t magically appear! It’s important that the family is ready and willing to begin the work of recovery as well and come to accept that it’s not just the addict in the “hot seat” of recovery.
Self-care is one of the most important things we learn to do in recovery. When we drink and use, or when we suffer from mental illness, we look for outside sources to self-soothe. Our internal resources are often verboten to us; they are either non-existent or significantly unsafe. The recovery process helps us cultivate that inner resource, where we become able to self-soothe, and take care of our own needs without sacrificing our well-being.
Occasionally, one of our alumni writes guest posts for us, sharing what it’s like to be a young adult in recovery from mental illness and addiction, and how she is learning to live fully. To every woman I work with, I encourage self-care. To every newcomer I meet and extend my hand, I encourage self-care. This young lady really breaks down some of the necessary components of finding and cultivating self-care. I’m honored to share her voice:
Personal or self-awareness is essential when acknowledging and learning about yourself. Recognition of your needs is the first step. Second would be to put those things into action. In dealing with physical needs you must first distinguish the basics.
Sleep is essential for all humans; it plays a major role in ones emotional state. Exercise also has a sizeable portion in a healthy life. Staying active is vital in maintaining ones physical health. Whether it be a lot or a little, it is incredibly important. Keep in mind that exercise of any kind releases endorphins in the brain, and this is equally significant in supporting and preserving a healthy emotional state of mind.
When it comes to both of these forms of self-care, moderation is imperative. Where sleep and exercise are helpful and quite necessary, too much or too little of each of these things are not. Too much sleep may indicate a person who is suffering from depression. Sleeping the day away could be a direct result of trying to hide or suppress feelings. Sleeping too little could also suggest that a person is overworked or even depressed.
On the other hand, exercise, while very important, should not become your main focus. If exercise becomes an obsession, this could be viewed as a type of disorder (specifically having to do with your health concerning your weight and appetite). And exercising too little may force you to become sluggish and will not help your healthfulness.
Hygiene and nutrition are two more exceedingly important factors to be aware of when handling self-care. Hygiene goes without saying, but nutrition is something that many either do not take into consideration at all, or become preoccupied with. Overall, physical needs transfer to emotional wellness when you begin to take your health and wellbeing into your own hands.
For emotional security, taking pride in yourself is crucial when working on self-care. Doing things for you should be your main priority. As my mom often says, “You cannot help someone else without first taking care of yourself.” Happiness comes from doing what you love, so pursue hobbies that you find joy in and take pleasure in. For me, that means going on a bike ride, playing the drums, taking photos, and writing. It took me a long time to find things I genuinely liked. For some people, they have known their whole life and even turn it into a profession. Others may pursue their passion as a hobby and many people have yet to find out what they love to do. Even if you don’t really pursue something, there are plenty of things that you can do to have fun and enjoy yourself.
Some other activities one can partake in are singing, dancing, taking a drive, or riding a train, taking a bath, going to the beach or for a swim, getting a massage, or even being of service to someone else in some way.
Doing kind things for other people is probably one of the most helpful things you can do for you. Helping others encourages you to get out of yourself.
Acknowledging my own specific difficulties and balancing love and patience for myself with gratitude and recognition for what I already have is a critical balance. For example, I personally struggle with manic-depression, or Bi-Polar disorder. This means that taking my medication for the mental illness that I face is a fundamental and key part of upholding and literally balancing my life.
Reaching out to others whether it is a friend, relative, or a therapist, is a productive way to take care of your mental state. Checking in with someone to not only talk about your struggles and/or triumphs, but also about theirs, is a great method when encouraging self-care for you and others. For those of us in 12-step programs, calling a sponsor and going to meetings is a positive way to turn your frown upside down. Relating to another person is almost always helpful when you are struggling with something. Going to a meeting can get you out of your head and into the open arms of a fellow 12-stepper.
Many people believe that spirituality plays a large role in turning one’s attitude around. I believe that no matter what religion you practice, faith you believe in, or Higher Power you trust and respect, you can find self-care in spirituality. My teacher, and someone that I look up to and greatly respect likes to approach every situation with a level of compassion that is almost unheard of. However you practice self-care, do it kindly, but whatever you do, get into action.
Refuge Recovery was birthed in direct response to the clear need for a viable, non-theistic approach to recovery. Noah, feeling disconnected from the 12 steps’ theistic philosophy, found deeper relief within the 4 Noble Truths and the 8-Fold Path of Buddhism. Many members of Against the Stream who were talking about similar difficulties pursued similar conversations. There was a need to shift the paradigm of 12-step recovery and open the door to an alternative path. Refuge Recovery doesn’t ask anyone to shift a belief system, nor does it require anyone to believe in something. It simply asks that you “trust the process and do the hard work of recovery.” You also don’t have to be Buddhist to participate.
The Four Truths of Recovery are:
1: We suffer due to our addictions and the general difficulties of being human in this world of constant change and loss.
2: Craving is a natural phenomenon; it is not our fault, but we are fully responsible for our healing and recovery.
3: We can fully recover and enjoy a life of sanity and well-being.
4: This is the path to recovery: the Eight-fold Path.
Refuge Recovery begins with the First Truth: addiction creates suffering. Understanding that addiction always creates suffering is crucial. Suffering is craving the next drink or drug. Suffering is the idea that you can’t get enough; Suffering is the loneliness and shame and isolation. Suffering is the desire for more pleasure and less pain, which we persistently seek in our addiction. Suffering shows its face in a multitude of maladaptive behaviors. Understanding this first truth and then accepting it as reality also means accepting that drink and drug aren’t an option any longer. Recognizing the multiple layers of suffering is encouraged through inventory work: “Without full acceptance and disclosure, recovery is not possible. We cannot skip this step; we must be thorough in our inventory process.” (page 6, RR)
The Second Truth asks you to do another inventory, this time seeking clarity and acceptance around the causative factors behind your craving. “The addict is not at fault for the root causes and conditions that lead to addiction, only for the habitual reactive patterns that perpetuate it.” (page 11, RR) More often than not, someone suffering from addiction is suffering from deep pain and dissatisfaction in their lives. Perhaps there is abuse, and drugs and alcohol help numb the pain; perhaps there is neglect, and drugs and alcohol make you forget. The reasons and root causes are many and they are varied, but they all lead to the same place: suffering.
The 8-Fold Path of Recovery directs us toward maintaining safety and creating a refuge from addiction. The Eight-Fold Path of Refuge Recovery is:
1: Understanding: We come to know that everything is ruled by cause and effect.
2: Intention: We renounce greed, hatred, and delusion. We train our minds to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with non-attached appreciation.
3: Communication/Commmunity: We take refuge in the community as a place to practice wise communication and to support others on their paths. We practice being careful, honest, and wise in our communications.
4: Action/Engagement: We let go of the behaviors that cause harm. We ask that one renounces violence, dishonesty, sexual misconduct, and intoxication. Compassion, honesty, integrity, and service are guiding principles.
5: Livelihood/Service: We are of service whenever and wherever possible. And we try and ensure that our means of livelihood are such that they don’t cause harm.
6: Effort/Energy: We commit to daily contemplative practices like meditation and yoga, exercise, and the practices of wise actions, kindness, forgiveness, compassion which lead to self-regulatory behaviors in difficult circumstances.
7: Mindfulness/Meditations: We develop wisdom by means of practicing formal mindfulness meditation. We practice present-time awareness in our lives.
8: Concentration/Meditations: We develop the capacity to focus the mind on one thing, such as the breath, or a phrase, training the mind through the practices of lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness to cultivate that which we want to uncover. (pages 24-26 RR)
What Refuge Recovery does is encourage practitioners to lean into their discomfort, investigate it, notice its impermanence, and begin to let it go. It encourages a deep shift in one’s relationship to suffering, creating an element of space around it, and it provides a unique ability to begin to care for your own suffering with compassion. Ultimately, we learn that we are not our suffering.
Refuge Recovery asks practitioners to know and understand that everything has a cause and effect and to take action to shift toward making better, wiser choice. Our actions are never without a reaction, good, bad or indifferent.
Refuge Recovery has been a deep, grounding cornerstone of my own recovery for the last 6 years. It has profoundly shifted how I view my own difficulties and allowed me to come to a deep understanding of how to hold my pain with compassion and approach my difficulties with kindness. It’s exciting to see this work come to fruition and to have been involved in the Refuge Recovery movement since its inception. I have been fortunate to witness the efficacy of Refuge Recovery for those who are just getting sober and for those with long-term sobriety, proving to me that this method works. It’s also been a wonderful alternative for clients struggling with the 12-step model; these same clients have embraced the Refuge Recovery process, finding relief from their suffering and formed a solid foundation of recovery and service.
There are regular Refuge Recovery meetings in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Oklahoma City, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Nashville. See HERE for a complete list with times and locations. If one isn’t in your area, you are encouraged to start your own. You can download meeting formats and Refuge Recovery inventories and meditations at RefugeRecovery.org. In addition, BLVD Treatment Centers is offering the first Refuge Recovery track for adults in treatment. There is also a Refuge Recovery sober living that has recently launched, that is has created a sober living environment in coordination with the Refuge Recovery Model.
It’s Father’s Day weekend and we want to honor some of the fathers we have here at Visions. Stepping onto the path of recovery includes working with dysfunctional root systems, which includes parents that aren’t emotionally and in some cases, physically there for us. However, the recovery process also presents another opportunity: The chance to view others in a positive light, and to be able to look at some of the men in our lives who are good and present fathers with what the Buddha calls sympathetic joy.
Our founder, Chris Shumow is a great example of this. I often look toward Chris with great admiration and hope, excited to see a man who has not only turned his life around in terms of recovery, but who has taken the helm of parenting and gone to great lengths to be an amazing father. It’s a relationship he treats with deep respect, humor, love, and joy, and it’s an incredible thing to watch.
Our Director of Operations, John Lieberman, is another dad that has transcended that which we assume parenting should be. John is a wonderful example of what it means to be an engaged, supportive father. He’s also a grandfather, and I have to tell you, seeing him talk about and rave about his granddaughter is remarkable. He’s also playful in a way that makes anyone around him know that he is a kid at heart.
Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, is not only a seasoned father, having a burgeoning adult under his wing; he is also a new dad. There is something really beautiful and gentle about Daniel’s disposition. He’s accepting and kind.
There’s also Mason Rose, one of our Recovery Mentors and father of a young daughter. We were able to watch Mason’s metamorphosis from young man to father, and it’s been really inspiring. Vito Romani is another one of our amazing young dad’s! He and Mason both grace Visions with regular visits from their little ones. There really is nothing like seeing these young, proud papas with their daughters. And John Johnstone, one of our Recovery Mentors is one of the most dedicated dads I know. He is willing to talk about the tough stuff, show up, love unconditionally, and maintain a sense of humor. That’s inspiring!
Last, lets not forget the role of the step-father: Joseph Rogers, Education Coordinator stepped into the role of fatherhood over 6 years ago and has been able to navigate the treacherous waters of forming a partnership and taking on part of someone else’s role with great kindness and compassion. I can say from watching this one up close and personal that the role of step-parent is often the role of the real parent, and taking that on is a challenge. It’s been really inspiring to watch Joseph do this in the way that he has.
The role of a father is not always easy, but we are fortunate at Visions to have a group of men in our midst that consistently show up for their kids. These men show up in the same way to our clients, showing them that the father role has the potential of shifting toward love and acceptance. Father’s day can elicit a varied set of emotions for our kids and for us as parents. They can range from untended loss, or expectations, abandonment, and deep grief rising internally around parents that were never available for us, be it physically or emotionally. The recovery piece is finding our voice amidst that loss. Sometimes it wobbles. Sometimes it screams. But it’s there, waiting to come out. Knowing and working with good men in our recovery can help heal that wound and allow us to experience sympathetic joy instead of anger and resentment.
Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen. You are truly an inspiration.
What is evident in any recovery practice is the encouragement and urging to be of service. The call to be of service starts in treatment and continues into aftercare and beyond. Service work is a foundational piece in recovery, and it is something that provides a salient way to recognize we are not alone.
Often times, someone comes into recovery with a sense of feeling alone, unheard, empty, vulnerable, and emotionally and sometimes physically shattered. Parents and loved ones are often worn down from the negative impact of their child’s poor actions and disruptive behavior that resulted from their addiction and untreated mental illness. Essentially, the entire family system is dysregulated. Coming into treatment or walking into a 12-step meeting means learning to recognize this in order to begin the work of putting the pieces back together.
We talk about being of service a lot in this blog and at Visions, whether it’s at our residential, outpatient, or extended care facilities. We understand that being of service creates a sense of self-worth; it takes us out of ourselves and allows us to see that we are not alone, illuminating the fact that others are suffering too.
When we struggle with our emotions, and our fears loom over us, it feels overwhelming. It can feel like you are standing in the shadow of a great mountain. And if you are in the midst of this alone, it’s even more overwhelming. When we reach our hand out to someone else, we take a step out of that shadow and out of the mindset of self-pity and self-deprecation. We allow ourselves to help others and in the meantime, our own hearts begin to heal. Being of service shows us the way to compassion and kindness and encourages selfless acts.
Take a commitment at a meeting
Offer to drive someone home whom you know always takes the bus
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Say yes when someone asks you for help (within reason, of course)
Take the trash out or wash the dishes…without being asked
Reach your hand out to someone newer than you in recovery
Addiction is a disease of loneliness. We isolate when we get high, we isolate when we drink, and we isolate when we are depressed or anxious. Being of service shifts that isolation into inclusive action. It allows us to be a part of instead of apart from.
Memorial Day holiday weekend, and holidays this time of year, tend to bring up an image of BBQs, beer and parties: Lots of parties.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is emblematic of the beginning of Summer, despite it being a about honoring those who died in active military service. When you’re an addict or alcoholic, however, most holidays take on one meaning, and one meaning only: a means to getting high. But when you come into recovery, the meanings of holidays need to change. They need to evolve into opportunities for making healthier choices, sober fun, and creating positive memories.
In the newness of recovery, however, a holiday weekend can seem overwhelming, perhaps daunting. The thought of suddenly having to shift perspectives, change social circles, and ultimately change how we show up on our lives is tough. I challenge you to shift your perspective and begin to look at holidays as an opportunity for self-care.
Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track on any holiday weekend and also take care of yourself in the process:
Go outside! Take a walk with a friend or go on a hike;
Go to extra meetings;
Call your sponsor;
Be of service some examples of being of service are:
Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.
Give a homeless person a meal.
Volunteer at an animal shelter.
Offer to help an elderly neighbor with their groceries.
Take a commitment at a meeting
Host or attend a sober event. For example, have a BBQ at a park – do silly activities like 3-legged races, water balloon fights, or tug of war.
Practice meditation or yoga – both are a great means of self-care and they do wonders to regulate your nervous system;
Don’t be afraid to say “no.” 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: One of the hardest lessons to learn when we get sober is that we cannot do this alone. Asking for help is a learned skill for a lot of us. If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone.
And last but not least, Don’t forget to have fun. Find the joy in the little things: the light on a flower, the smell of the ocean, the sand between your toes, your friend’s laugh, a great cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, or a great movie (or one so bad that it’s good!). Have a safe and sober weekend!