Categories
Depression Feelings Mental Health Recovery

How Do You Overcome a Fear of Happiness?

Do you suffer from a fear of happiness?

Grumpy Cat (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Now, that may seem like an odd question but it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, we fear happiness because we don’t think we deserve it, or because we chalk it up to being something for those “other people”—the ones who “have it all” or so we think.  A fear of happiness may also be a residual effect of systemic trauma and abuse, which subversively sends us messages to say we don’t deserve happiness. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone to feel unworthy of love, joy, serenity, wellness, and safety when they enter recovery. It takes a community of consistent support, via clinicians, peers, and family to be able to transform the attachment to misery.

 

It’s easy to get stuck in what is familiar and therefore comfortable. Conversely, it’s incredibly difficult to confront that perceived comfort to ask yourself if you deserve better. According to a recent article in Scientific American, Paul Gilbert, a psychiatrist at Kingsway Hospital in England, and his colleagues found that “a fear of happiness correlates highly with depression—but that the dread manifests in numerous ways.” Paul Gilbert goes on to say, “Some people experience happiness as being relaxed or even lazy, as if happiness is frivolous and one must always be striving; others feel uncomfortable if they are not always worrying. It is not uncommon for people to fear that if they are happy about something, it will be taken away.” Research is showing that there is a correlation between a fear of happiness and a decline in mental health. Avoiding happiness can lead to depression. Findings have shown individuals with a major depressive disorder are apt to repress any emotions associated with positive or negative stimulus more than a healthy subject would.

 

Take the Quiz: Are  You Afraid of Happiness?

 

One of the interesting things I’m seeing in this research is the urging for clinicians and clients to work through the fear of happiness as they would any other fear. Much like anything else you are afraid of, overcoming that fear takes a process of taking consistent baby steps. In the case of happiness, learning how to experience glints of happiness and or moments of pleasant emotions is an essential component in finally discovering the ability to be happy.

 

I also want to acknowledge there are some who view happiness as a luxury—something for those who don’t have as much to suffer from. This is particularly the case when happiness is directly associated with “stuff,” ie., having a smart phone, a fancy car, that guy or that girl, the “right” clothes, or being part of the popular crowd.  When we attach happiness to things, what we may find instead is disappointment. Here, happiness isn’t so much feared as it is resented.  Working on that resentment is a different process and one that still requires unpeeling the resentment piece by piece to get to its core. The fact is, we all deserve to be happy.

 

How have you overcome a fear or resentment of happiness?

 

 

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Self-Care Wellness

3 Things in the Way of Asking for Help

Help! (Photo credit: Rainier N.)

Is asking for help a challenge for you or someone you love?

 

We often create more suffering as a result of our desire to control the outcome of a situation versus lessoning our suffering by asking for help. Frequently for those in recovery, whether from substance abuse, mental illness, or a combination thereof, asking for help is a learned skill. It’s something that is derived from doing step work, working with a therapist, and going to process groups. Sometimes asking for help requires that we confront the very thing we are struggling with: ego.

 

What does not asking for help look like?

 

1. Loss of Control. Assuming that one will lose control of a situation if they ask for help will inevitably create higher levels of stress. The fact is, we cannot do everything ourselves, at least not efficiently or without risk to our mental health. In our efforts to be in control, we end up feeling out of control and overwhelmed.

Ask yourself: “Would I rather do several things that are mediocre or one or two that are phenomenal?”  Or “Would it be better for me to do a little bit less but with more awareness and less stress and more effectively?”  I have honestly found that slowing down and asking for help increases one’s efficiency and lowers stress.

 

2. Fear.  Fear is another component in one’s unwillingness to ask for help. It could be a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being viewed as less than, or a fear of failure. We can turn our backs on fear or we can face it. In order to healing and evolve in our recovery, the only way out of this mess is through it. Think of it this way, the shadow on a wall is far larger than the person or thing making the shadow. That shadow tantamount to your fear: far larger than what is creating it. Asking for help is liberating. You are good enough; you are not a failure.

 

3. Perfectionism. “It has to be perfect!” “If I don’t do it, then it won’t be done ‘right.'” Does this sound familiar? You know how to do what needs to be done, and you can do it “right,” or faster than anyone else, right? Wrong. This sense that something won’t be done correctly unless we do it ourselves is a lie we tell ourselves to justify our inability or fear of asking for help. I am a perfectionist, and I can tell you, this character defect gets in my way more often than not. It is the “shadow” I work with when I struggle with asking for help. What I have started to learn is that perfection is in everything: it is in the flaws, the nicks, and the wrinkles. Embracing that has enabled me to ask for help.

Whether you are the control freak, in fear, or a perfectionist or a combination of all three, take this opportunity to pause and take some steps toward change. There is no reason you should have to do everything on your own, or from fear of judgment. With each new venture is an opportunity to do it with less suffering, and less drama.

Remember:

1: It’s ok to “not know.”

2: Perfection is a perspective.

3. Letting go is liberating.

4. Asking for help leads to self-care.

5. You cannot do this alone.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Mental Health Parenting Recovery Therapy Trauma

Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

© sarit z rogers

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.

 

In a therapeutic environment such as Visions, we address more than substance abuse and mental illness; we are facilitating the excavation of trauma and creating safe boundaries. It’s important to maintain awareness around our own sense of boundaries and how execute them. Asking ourselves these questions and contemplating the answers through talking to our peers and writing them out will help you discern where you may need some work, and where you are strongest:

 

  1. What does it mean to set boundaries?
  2. Is it hard to say “no”? If so, what does saying “no” feel like?
  3. How do I feel when my boundaries are crossed?
  4. What is my reaction internally and externally?
  5. Am I afraid to set boundaries? Why?
  6. What is my history around setting boundaries?

 

As clinicians and teachers, it’s imperative that we know and understand where our weak spots are so we can work on them. For some people, it’s not uncommon to wait until someone pushes us to our edge before we set a limit. The desire to please others or to be liked plays a part here, and our own backgrounds and upbringing will also effect how we interact with others. Perhaps we come from a family where hugging and touch is part of the norm. It may be natural for us to reach out and hug someone when they are suffering, but it’s not always appropriate.

 

Hugging a client may be a violation of a boundary, but if the client has been traumatized in some way, they may not know how to set that boundary. Likewise, if a client persistently tries to hug you, you have to maintain a firm boundary so they learn to understand what is and what is not appropriate. I was volunteering at my son’s school recently, and a kid came up and hugged me, not wanting to let go. It was a child I don’t know and it was a clear violation of my boundaries and the school’s rules. I gently moved away and held a boundary with this child until he moved on. Teens look to us as examples to learn from and to emulate. If we don’t show strong, safe boundaries, they won’t be able to either. Understand that the boundaries we create encourage freedom to be who you are while creating a safe container for healing and recovery.

Respecting boundaries applies to parents too. If the family dynamic has been compromised, parents have to work to rebuild a healthy and safe family structure. Creating solid boundaries is key in that process. Adolescents love to push buttons and stretch boundaries; they are smack dab in the center of their individuation process. That doesn’t mean you, the parent, have to give in. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence, and when it’s said with certainty and conviction, it makes all the difference. A wishy-washy, non-committal “no” may as well be a “maybe” or a “yes.” Poor limits leave room for negotiation where there shouldn’t be.

We all have a part to play in creating safe limits whether we are parents, teachers, or clinicians. Kids, in their infinite wisdom and testing behaviors, demand strong limits, whether they admit it or not. Boundaries create safety. They provide defined parameters in which to develop and grow. So as much as a teen may push, inside, they really do respect a firm “No” and a defined environment.

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery

Gratitude for the Thanksgivukkah Holiday

Thanksgivukkah? Yes, that’s right, there’s a rare convergence of two holidays happening this week because of a rare occurrence in the lunarsolar Hebrew calendar, whose dates reflect the moon phase and solar times of the year. I am definitely intrigued by the meshing of Thanksgiving and Chanukah and have been creatively thinking of culinary ways in which to blend the two. Pumpkin-pie cream-filled donuts and latkes are definitely entering this once-in-a-lifetime menu of obscurity.

 

Thanksgiving and Chanukah are holidays that encourage togetherness, and for both of these celebrations, gratitude is the main dish served. Additionally, these holidays invite the possibility of family gatherings. For some, this is exciting and long awaited; for others, it’s tantamount to walking into Mordor. Honoring either of those situations, and the feelings and sensations that arise is going to be key in navigating the holiday.

 

If you are freshly in recovery from mental health issues or substance abuse, and your trauma is in your face, being gentle with yourself is going to be imperative. Honor what you need, how you feel, and create some healthy boundaries for yourself. If going to a particular family member’s house is too triggering, see if you can go to a friend’s house or maybe invite friends over and make your own wild adventure of a meal.

 

If you are the parents of a child in treatment and this is your first holiday together, try to come into it with an open heart and mind. It won’t be easy for any of you, but there is a clear opportunity to create healthy, healing familial change. Both holidays are tied together with the idea of unity, togetherness, and community. Taking baby steps to develop new traditions can be eye opening and fun.

 

We are all grateful for something. Start making gratitude lists and checking them twice. Gratitude lists can be simple, complex, silly, or serious. Gratitude is gratitude and Thanksgivukkah is a perfect opportunity to get grateful.  Chanukah celebrates the miracle of light and the miraculous fact that a day’s worth of oil lasted for 8 days. Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest. Both of these conjoined make for a celebration of epic gratitude. Yes, epic. Mixing traditions and discovering their similarities is pretty darn cool.

 

So, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week or Thanksgivukkah, use it as a time for reflection on community and gratitude. You never know what nuggets of wisdom or moments of awakening and change will arise.

Categories
Adolescence Anniversary Blogs Recovery

Angela Carrillo, Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator

We’d like to welcome Angela Carrillo to the Visions Family as our Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator. Angela brings over five years of clinical outreach experience with her, having successfully extended her reach to the fields of substance abuse, eating disorders and mental health within the treatment industry.  She is an active member of the Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment (WAAT) and the Los Angeles International Association of Eating Disorders (IAEDP LA). We feel fortunate to have someone so passionate and dedicated to recovery as part of our treatment family. She wears her passion for recovery on her sleeve, peppered in joy and enthusiasm for life.

 

Angela was in the US Army for four years, stationed in West Germany. She joined with the desire to change her life, which ended up being part of her path to recovery. She went on to win an award for soldier of the year in her division and was awarded an army commendation medal. Angela eventually came back to the States where she worked as a paralegal for several years. We are grateful she evolved into the recovery maven she is!

 

As Visions’ Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator, you will see her at local industry events; she will represent Visions’ continuum of care in Brentwood and Santa Monica. Please contact her to tour our Adolescent Extended Care—NeXT, Outpatient Counseling Center, Day School, or Young Adult—LAUNCH programs.

 

When asked why she chose to work for Visions, Angela said,

 

“The work that Visions does and the way they do it supports everything I believe about recovery. Everybody gets to be exactly who they are, from the clients to the staff.  Structure without conformity enhances an individual’s path in recovery.  When authenticity in an individual is supported, creativity and individuation occurs which is empowering for clients and staff.”

 

She’s definitely our kind of lady. Welcome to the VTeam, Angela! We are thrilled to have you here.

 

Angela Carrillo: acarrillo@visionsteen.com, cell phone TBD.

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Service Teen Activism

Teen Activism: Mutt Match LA

Lulu via @saritphoto

Activism is something that has informed my life since I was a teen. In recovery, activism has been something that has allowed me to soothe my soul and be of service on a deeper, more profound level. Activism has allowed me to step out of myself, opening my heart and invoking deep intentions and inspiration to work with not only my shadow side but also the shadow side of others.  To truly be of service is to allow yourself to hold space for others regardless of the depth of their suffering, finding a way not to take things personally but to instead be a beacon of altruistic light.

 

At Visions, we have been encouraging our teens to take an activist stance as a way to be of service. For example, over the last year, we have sponsored dog adoptions for Mutt Match LA, a “non-specific breed rescue committed to Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-homing of abandoned, homeless and unwanted dogs.” Jesse Engdahl has been a huge source of encouragement in this regard, showing up the first two Saturdays of every month on behalf of Visions with alumni and current outpatient clients alongside him.  It has proven to be a wonderful way to give back to the community.

 

Animal rescue has been an activist cornerstone for the Visions kids. It’s something that’s always touched the hearts of our teens; in fact, my dog, Lulu, was a rescue from one of our alumni!  There’s a visceral sense of being of service when you are active in the process.  Suffice it to say, helping helpless animals feeds the soul.  I asked Jesse about his experience in taking the kids to Mutt Match, and he said, “The kids stay really engaged caring for the dogs.  Walking and feeding the puppies offers a really easy way to be responsible and be of service. They love it. They get to be at Visions with a bunch of puppies!” What’s not to love, right? Puppies and dogs love you regardless of your fashion sense, weight, or financial status. They just love you and want love in return. What a cool way to be of service!

 

If you are an alumni and interested in getting involved with the next Mutt Match LA adoption event, you can email Jesse. The next Mutt Match event is THIS Saturday, 10/12,

 

This is the first of many blogs inspired by activism. The possibilities are endless! If you are interested in sharing your experiences with activism or want to share some ideas with me, please email me directly at srogers@visionsteen.com. Your stories and experiences bring hope and inspiration and I would love to share them.

Categories
Recovery Self-Care Wellness

Cold Season: Invokes a Deeper Need for Self-Care

Folks, it’s cold season and that means now’s a great time for some extra self-care. The changing of the seasons always brings about a higher chance for allergies and colds and even the flu. With a few self-care tips, we can slow down, lessen the severity of, or even prevent a cold. Keep in mind that colds are airborne, so it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. We can, however, bolster our immune systems in the following ways as a preventative. Check it out:

 

  • Lower your stress. Start with taking more walks, taking time outs in situations that overwhelm you, or saying no more often. When we push ourselves beyond our bounds for long periods of time, our nervous systems get taxed and that will have an effect on our immune systems. Self-care is imperative, especially as a means of overcoming chronic stress.
  • Sleep! If you are sleep-deprived, your immune system gets stressed out, which increases its vulnerability to stress, illness, and burnout. They say no less than 6 hours a night and no more than 8 is a good start. Sleep helps your body function optimally.
  • Eat more antioxidants, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. With the accessibility of so many healthy food options, eating wisely and sustainably is easier than it once was. Nourish yourself with sustaining foods like hearty soups– chicken soup still has magical qualities when you feel a cold coming on!
  • Smoke less, or don’t smoke at all.  Smokers, you are at high risk. Smoking damages the lining of your nose and throat, eliminating the protective barrier, which is there to prevent infection. As a result, smokers get more upper respiratory infections than non-smokers. Those frequently exposed to second-hand smoke will have similar vulnerability.
  • Wash your hands. A lot. Remember how I said colds are airborne? Well, doorknobs, railings, shared computer keyboards are places viruses like to hang out.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Drink a minimum 8, 8 oz glasses of water a day. Some say, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Your total intake of water will vary based on activity levels, etc. But the base rule is that minimum. Water moistens the respiratory tract and helps it do its job. Drink up!
  • Be kind to yourself. Getting sick is not an opportunity to beat yourself up.
  • Ask for help. Time to call in the troops and tap into your resources.
  • Stay at home if you get sick. In this case, sharing is NOT caring.

It happens: we get colds. We are in shared spaces at school, work, and home, and this doesn’t include all of the public places we traverse during our days. Invoking a sense of self-care and having a heightened awareness of how to do so will benefit you in the end. You may prevent a cold, lesson its intensity, or brave the misery with more compassion than you thought possible. Taking care of ourselves is another piece to the recovery puzzle.  Be well!

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Bradley Allenstein, MA, MFT-I

Bradley Allenstein joined the Visions family in 2012 as an MFT Intern. He recently completed his MFT hours under the supervision of the wonderful Heather Colligan. Brad brings incredible passion and enthusiasm to his work with families, adeptly applying a family systems approach to treatment, facilitating the processes of reconnection and healing. He is kind, approachable and earnest in his desire to help others. Brad is able to relate to the clients on a visceral level, sharing his love and excitement about sobriety and recovery, inviting others to embrace the full life that sobriety provides. He fits in perfectly with the Visions family, seamlessly balancing the need for brevity and jocularity. I forgot to mention his remarkable sweet tooth and penchant for hats. Thanks for everything you do, Brad, we are grateful to have you in our midst.

 

More love from the staff:

 

“Brad is an amazingly passionate and inspirational person. He loves helping others and using his personal growth experiences as a springboard. He also happens to be most entertaining as well and is able to laugh at himself, which is an important attribute in our line of work. And don’t even get him started on the topic of cupcakes…!” – Heather Colligan

 

“From day one Bradley jumped in with both feet.  He’s a true Vision’s team player, with a good mixture of humor, passion, and therapeutic skills.  He’s a great role-model for recovery, and a good listener (yes, you read that right, he can listen too!).” – Katie Mason

 

“Brad is an abundance of energy and great at verbally wearing kids down when needed.” Bill Hoban

 

“I really think Visions should pay for genetic testing…Brad has to have lineage to the Keebler Elves…I’m not sure anyone loves sweets more than him.  Brad’s passion for the work he does at Visions oozes out of him without any effort.  His enthusiasm for recovery is linked to every thought he shares.  He is a perfect fit in the Visions family.” – Christina Howard-Micklish

 

“Bradley joined us last year and seamlessly worked his way into our hearts…and stomachs! (His sweet tooth matches my own)  His compassion, dedication to our families and good humor makes him an integral part of our Visions family.  Brad can reach clients and share not only his experience, strength and hope, but his professional point of view as well.  Our families, and our program are better with Brad on the team!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

 

And what would a staff blog be without 10 questions? Read on:

 

1: Three words to describe yourself, go:

Talkative, verbose, and chatty.

 

2: If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which would you give up?

Hearing. See #1

 

3: If you could spend the day with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Katie Mason, because she is constantly reminding me of what I need to work on as a therapist /human being/man.

 

4: What inspired you to work with teens?

When I was 17 years old, a substance abuse counselor helped me turn my life around. He became my hero and inspiration ever since.

 

5: Sand or Snow? 

Sand.

 

6: What is your favorite hat style?

Guess.

 

7: Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles? 

My mother’s house. Her cooking can’t be beat.

 

8: One thing you can’t live without?

The sound of my own voice.

 

9: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you come close?

A mime, but I couldn’t stay quiet long enough so I decided to become a therapist.

 

10: Why do you choose to work at Visions?

To carry the message and help kids realize that sobriety is not a death sentence. Being sober is not the end of the party. It’s just the beginning.

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Mental Health Recovery Service Treatment

Celebrating Amanda Shumow!

It’s hard not to get excited about Visions when you talk to Amanda Shumow. She is passionate, dedicated and inspired by the Visions’ staff, the clients, and the work as a whole. Amanda Shumow is the co-founder of Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers. She holds a Master’s Degree in psychology, a CDAAC, and she is currently working toward her Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD).  Her dedication to furthering her own education is matched with her encouragement of others to do the same. Everything Amanda does is in the best interest of helping teens.

 

Amanda initially worked with adults in treatment at Promises, but she quickly realized she wanted to direct her energies toward working with kids. It became clear to her that what she had to offer adults was much different than what she could offer kids. Amanda said, “When I was a teen, if someone had asked me ‘Do you have a problem with drugs,’ I would have said, ‘yes.’ I wish there was something like Visions when I was young.” It was this realization and awareness that drew her to work with teens and start building Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers with her husband, Chris Shumow.

 

She is the mother of four amazing children, wife to Chris Shumow, and deeply involved with all aspects of what makes Visions tick. When I asked Amanda about the Visions culture, she said, “We are humble about a lot of things we do, but we are not humble about the staff. We have the best team. The Visions culture is like nothing else. If people love what they do, they do whatever it takes to make things work. Everyone here has deep dedication.”

 

When I interviewed Amanda for this piece, the conversation we had was rich with passion and love for what everyone on this team does. She said, “We provide a high level of mental health care: for example, we’ve recently integrated DBT training for all staff. Don’t underestimate someone’s magic.” She’s right. Yes, we encourage fun, and revel in team building activities, but we are deeply serious about the level of care we provide our clients. We understand the need for jocularity, because nothing opens the heart like a healthy belly laugh, but our foundation is built on recognizing the intrinsic value and need for deep work.

 

I asked Amanda to name some of the things she really loves about the Visions culture and the team she’s help build. She said, “Having things like Glamping – that’s bonding. I have found a place where people fall in love with the work they do. It’s also where the ‘least likely to succeed’ come back to work, and that’s inspiring!” She shared this quote from a client, and frankly, I think it sums up the magic that Visions holds, “This is the first group of people who loved me because they want to, not because they have to.”  Amanda, you are the matriarch of a magnificent program, providing a gift of hope, healing, and love.

 

Read on for some quotes for the staff.

 

“It’s hard to be in a bad mood around Amanda. Her energy is contagious in every way. She’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, I can only hope to a little bit like her. She’s taught me so much about working in this industry and more importantly how to maintain a sense of humor and not lose yourself. She’s our fearless leader and we wouldn’t change it for anything!” – Ashley Harris

 

“There are so many great things to say about Amanda but I guess to keep it short and sweet and not go on and on and on I would have to go with this…. From what I have been blessed to experience with Amanda is that she is a very kind and generous soul. Always willing to help out and do what she can for others even with a full plate of her own. She is truly the best boss I have had the pleasure of working for. She’s always there to support all the staff in crises mode or silly mode. She keeps the work environment safe but most importantly fun!! She is an inspiration and a role model.”  Jennifer Garrett

 

“Amanda is a rockstar!! She has such a wonderful personality that draws you in.  She knows how to talk to the residents in a relaxed manner while still holding boundaries and keeping them in line. She has been a wonderful and understanding employer and to me that is so important!! How she balances running Visions and raising her 4 children I will never know.” Amy Lawhorn

 

“I think Amanda’s greatest gift to Visions families and staff is her realness.  She has the unique ability to turn a serious work related question into a “your mom” joke, and it never gets old.” Patrick Schettler

 

“I love this woman for so many different reasons.  She is a genius to start.  Her brilliant ideas start out as giant dreams that come true because of who she is a human being.  Amanda’s core beliefs in hard work, family and fun are just a few building blocks she has implemented into Visions’ moral code.  As a woman who gets to work for a spectacular woman I am grateful for her leadership inside and outside the office.  Her passion for impromptu dance parties reminds me of the meaning of life.  Amanda is all business with a gigantic heart that will never grow up!” Christina Howard

 

Amanda may be the most intelligent person I know. Being around her quick wit, incredible memory, sincerity, fun and compassion makes everyone want to be the best they can.  A constant reminder that there are authentic, good people in the world. – Mie Kaneda

 

It has been my pleasure to have worked with Amanda for almost twelve years. She is always an abundance of energy and highly unpredictable but consistently keeps the best interest of our kids in mind. – Bill Hoban

 

1: Roller skates or blades?

Skates!

2: In three words, describe your passion for kids:

Love, laughter, hope

 

3: If you were in the circus, what would your specialty be?

Napping

 

4: Favorite song…ever.

Could not even begin to list them, I have one for every genre in every decade…seriously.

 

5: What do you do for self-care?

Watch really, really bad reality TV and go to Vegas as much as possible.

 

6: What is your greatest accomplishment thus far?

My family and my relationship with my husband.

 

7: What makes your heart sing?

My kids, slot machines.

 

8: If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Nelson Mandela

9:  What makes you laugh?

My kids, and everyone at work. I have a pretty adolescent sense of humor and so does everyone we work with, so it gets loud and crazy sometimes.

10: How does Visions Inspire you?

Everyday in every way. From kids to staff, we have daily moments that connect us and drive me to do better and do more. Almost every decision we (I) have made in the past 11 years has been inspired by Visions!

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.