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Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Wellness

Emotional Sobriety: 5 Tools For Self-Regulation

Angry Kid (Photo credits: Giphy)

What is Emotional sobriety?

Is it perfection? Is it always feeling good or being happy, or optimistic? And what happens if you don’t meet perfection, or you have a bad day, feel anxious, angry, sad, or gasp, pessimistic?

 

Emotional sobriety is the ability to self-regulate– to self-soothe in times of duress. It is not a call to perfection. For an alcoholic, addict, or one with fragile mental health, learning to self-regulate is a foundational tool for their recovery and something they begin to learn in treatment. Therapists and counselors work tirelessly to encourage clients to begin the process of looking inward, learning to nurture themselves and hold space for the difficulties human beings often face.  Emotional sobriety is something that forms after the first stage of sobriety is attained. With it comes the ability to be present for your emotions and the ultimate goal is to become nonreactive. Sometimes, that may mean sitting with the discomfort of your emotions until they pass, and that isn’t easy.

 

Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D, author of Recovering Spirituality talks about Emotional Sobriety with uncomplicated clarity. In her Psychology Today blog “Stop the Self-Diagnosis,” she says, “Emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being ‘happy, joyous, and free’ all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like.” You can enjoy the rest of her article here.

 

Here are 5 tools for self-regulation that can help you with attaining Emotional Sobriety:

 

1. Take a time out: Walk away, take 10 breaths or 20 if you’re still heated. Do some work to ground yourself and come back to your body. When we are not regulated, we tend to be outside of our bodies, placing our hands to our bellies, or on the ground or on something solid can help remind us to be present.

 

2. Meditation: I often suggest that one practices what are called the brahma viharas (a Pali word–the language of the Buddha–which means “heavenly abode”): they are often referred to as the heart practices in Buddhist meditation. They include: Metta (lovingkindess), Compassion, Forgiveness, and Sympathetic joy  and Equanimity (the ability to be like a tree in the wind: fluid and non-reactive to the “weather.”).

 

3. Yoga: Yoga can be a workout or it can be what it was meant to be: a moving meditation. Trust me, if you are not breathing, and focused, you will fall over in your tree pose. Yoga will allow you to learn to recognize your reactions to discomfort and respond to them differently.

 

4. Take a walk or go on a hike: Just moving our bodies can help us calm down. A walk around the block can make sometimes get you out of your anger and despair.

 

5. Stop the negative self-talk: This one is tough. We tend to berate ourselves on a regular basis, “ugh, I’m so dumb,” “I’m fat,” “I can’t do this.” I could go on and on. Think about it this way, would you say that to someone you love? I didn’t’ think so.

6. Find and work with a therapist if you need to. A skilled clinician can facilitate a path to self-discovery, healing, and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist; if anything, it’s mental health insurance. Being human is tough work!

 

I leave you with one of my favorite stories, applicable to Emotional Sobriety and the work it requires to obtain:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

Which wolf are you feeding?

Categories
Events Recovery

ICYPAA 55: Phoenix, Here We Come

The 55th ICYPAA Convention (International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous) is happening and it’s in Phoenix, Arizona this year! ICYPAA is an annual gathering for young people to celebrate and honor their sobriety. Over the years, we have seen an increase in the numbers of young people coming into recovery. ICYPAA has been a consistent resource.  ICYPAA provides a huge pool of experience, strength and hope for young people, allowing a safe space for those walking similar paths and trying to better their lives to be amongst their peers in a fun, entertaining, spiritual, hopeful way.

 

Being of service is something you can do no matter how long you’re sober: it can be a day, months or years. It simply doesn’t matter. Putting your hand out and helping someone else gets you out of yourself.  Being at an ICYPAA convention is a neat way to approach fellowship and service work because you’re in a huge container for the process to unfold. You are essentially hanging out with other people for an extended period of time, and all are on the same path. It can be a truly wonderful experience. But nothing says it better than this:

 

“ICYPAA and its attendees are also committed to reaching out to the newcomer, and to involvement in every other facet of AA service. ICYPAA participants can often be found serving at the national, state, area, and group levels. Newcomers are shown, by people their own age, that using AA principles in their daily lives and getting involved in AA service can have a significant impact on a lasting and comfortable sobriety.”

 

I got to spend some time at our Day School, and the kids were abuzz with excitement and anticipation about the weekend ahead of them. The members of the staff that are going are excited too. Sober conventions are an experience! When I asked Will, one of our tutors, about his thoughts and expectations venturing off to ICYPAA, he said,

 

“I’m just as excited for the road trip as I am for the actual convention. This will be my first conference, so I don’t quite know what to expect. My plan is to go to the meetings and interact with as many people as possible. I think that people from other parts of the world have a different perspective on sobriety. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s point of view.”

How amazing is it to get to experience the world with open eyes, and an open heart?

 

It looks like this is going to be an amazing weekend of sober fun, meetings, and support. From what I hear, it’s also monsoon season in Arizona, so it will be hot, muggy, rainy and absolutely beautiful. Life is infinitely better when you can be present for it!

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcoholism Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery Treatment

Resolutions: One Step at a Time

Resolution (Photo credit: vpickering)

So you made resolutions to stay sober in the New Year, now what?

Like most of us, you made a bunch of lofty resolutions, some of which may seem daunting and unattainable when looked at with the eyes of reality in the cold of January.  Maybe the hangover of the holidays made you realize you need to listen to that inner voice telling you this isn’t how life is supposed to be, and maybe, just maybe you need to get sober.  Perhaps you’re thinking, “How am I ever going to be able to live without drugs and alcohol? How can I learn to be comfortable in my own skin?”

 

Fortunately, the world did not end this past year, instead we have an incredible opportunity to create our own metaphorical “calendar” wherein we can make healthier, saner choices for the years to come.  This isn’t a calendar that includes doomsday prophesies and holidays sponsored by a beer company.  This is a calendar that celebrates caring for ourselves and healing our relationships.  From here on out, we have the chance to make every day a step closer to being the person we are capable of being, potentially making those resolutions become reality.

 

So, how do we go about doing this? I recently tweeted about an article from the Huffington Post that listed some suggestions for spiritual success as a foundation to our resolutions—the suggestions mirror much of what we talk about in our blog and were nice to see out there in the digital ether. I thought some of them were worth reiterating here because these practices and ideologies are key in supporting our recovery and enriching our sober lives. We have to start somewhere, right? This is how we do it!

 

  1. Make the decision to care for yourself and get sober.  You don’t have to live in misery anymore. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s not has difficult as carrying the shame and guilt associated with our using behavior.
  2. Seal the deal and make it public.  Tell the people who care about you the most. That means people OTHER THAN your using friends.
  3. Find a sober community that supports you: 12-step groups, meditation groups, mental health support, or all of the above!
  4. Practice asking for help: this will save your bum more than you know. It’s amazing when you eventually realize how much easier things are when you don’t have to do them alone!

 

Remember: no more doomsday prophecies be they spiritual, metaphorical, or literal. We can do this recovery thing…one step at a time!

Categories
Adolescence Recovery School Self-Care

It’s Cool to Go Back to School: Sober

As summer fades, we begin to feel the pull of school and all that it entails. Walking into any store right now will confirm this, hook, line and sinker. Target has their entire back section stocked to the brim with back to school supplies. Seriously. It’s happening right now and we can’t avoid it. It’s time to wipe the sand from beneath our feet and get ready to rock our backpacks once again.

Often, the dilemma for those who got sober or stayed sober through the summer break is this:  How do we navigate going back to school without getting sucked into the rabbit hole of drugs and alcohol, or stress and anxiety, or all of the above? Is it even plausible to keep our old friends or is moving on safer? Will we still be hip or cool now that the crutch of a bottle or a pocket full of pills has been removed? For some, yes, it’s possible to go back into those spaces without falling down, for others, perhaps not. The answers to these questions are really contingent on the individual. Just as addiction and mental health don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all category, neither does recovery. There are definitely some suggestions that might help you find the way to your own answers and help you get back to school using a safe, sober strategy.

  • Make sure you are going to meetings. Now, more than ever, you will need the security and support of a recovery community.
  • Do you have a sponsor? If not, get one, stat. If you do have one, make sure you continue to work with him or her and continue to check in on a regular basis.
  • Ask your school advisor or counselor if there are any sober clubs or groups at your school. You are more than likely not alone in your recovery.
  • If there isn’t a sober group or club at school, start one!
  • Make new friends. Some of your old ones may, in fact, have to go. It’s for the best anyway. You are on a new path now.
  • Stay connected. There’s nothing worse than finding oneself in a situation where you feel emotionally alone and unsupported.
  • Ask for help–no matter what. It is not a sign of strength to suck it up; it’s a sign of strength to ask for help. (Took me forever to “get” this one!)
  • Get excited about school and about learning in general. You are feeding your brain, after all.
  • Make school your full-time job, in other words, give it 100% of your energy.
  • Keep your sobriety your priority and make school your driving force.

Don’t forget to have fun! Life is so much better when you have a sense of humor.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alumni Guest Posts Recovery

Alumni Post: What I’ve Learned About Myself in Treatment

submitted by Grayson

I have learned a lot about myself in treatment so far. I have learned that I have a lot of insecurities about myself and that was a large factor in why I was using drugs. I was using so much because I didn’t want to feel anything at all. I didn’t want to think about if people liked me or didn’t want to be around me, so I would use drugs to drown out those thoughts.

I know that a big reason why I feel like I can’t talk to people and have conversations is because I basically forgot how. I was isolated for so long and didn’t have conversations with people for such a long time that I forgot how to and what to talk about with people. But what I’m realizing now that I’ve been sober and in treatment is that it’s really not that hard to talk to people and to meet new people. I have also learned that there is a lot to like about me, which I haven’t thought of in a long time, and it feels good.

I have seen how fun life can be while being sober. I have not thought in a long time that I would go a day without using, but that has changed. I see how drugs have affected me physically. I never really thought that I looked any different because of drugs or while I’m on drugs. But I can now see how much of an effect it had on me physically. Since the day I got here, my face has changed a lot. I see the picture they took of me on my first day, and I look so much healthier now that I’m sober. Also my attitude has changed a lot since I’ve been sober. I think much more highly of myself, my ability to talk to others, my ability to talk in front of groups, and the way I look at myself. I do not plan to ever use drugs again in my life. I have realized that I have such a strong addictive personality, and when I use once I won’t stop.

This place has had a great impact on my life and the way I look at life. I have realized that life can be an awesome experience when sober, much better than when using. I want to continue the way I think about myself and my outlook on life.

 

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Self-Care

Holidays and Self-Care

Agni Yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is having learned the many ways in which we can care for ourselves. We typically come to recovery via hard emotional and/or physical bottoms. In other words, we have often lost our asses in the process of trying to stay afloat. So, when we get to a place where we are being taken care of, we soon discover we are also learning to take care of ourselves.

When holidays are bestowed upon us, there is a great opportunity to invoke a sense of self-care. In the past, holidays often meant alcohol-filled parties or BBQs filled with some sense of debauchery or another.  With the air of recovery about you, better choices are possible. This isn’t to say that gain perfect judgment—we don’t. We are human, after all. But the chances of us doing something good for ourselves are much higher than they used to be.

Overwhelmed by this? Try one or some of these things to give yourself pause:

  • Take 10 deep breaths.
    • Try one of my favorite calming techniques: Breathe in for the count of 5, breathe out for the count of 6. Do this 10 times! If you can, increase the #s, always making the outbreath longer. It naturally calms the mind and resets the nervous system.
  • Get outside! (We tend to deprive ourselves of good ol’ Vitamin N-ature!)
  • Yoga;
  • Take a nap;
  • Read a book;
  • Go to a meeting;
  • Be of service. It will change your life.

Share with us: What do you do to take care of yourself in recovery?

Categories
Recovery

Boo! It’s Hallow’s Eve!

Ah, Hallow’s Eve, the one day during the year where one can don masks, dress like anyone

Image via Wikipedia

or anything they want, and of course, eat lots and lots of candy. To celebrate this phenomena, there are parties galore, some of which happened this past weekend, and some that will occur this evening. Here are some reminders for party savoir faire:

  • Bring your own drinks if you’re concerned that there won’t be any non-alcoholic treats for you.
  • Make sure you have sober friends with you or are surrounded by people who respect your sobriety.
  • Let your sober network know where you’ll be.
  • Does your destination have a high-relapse factor? Rethink your plans. Maybe there’s something else you can do instead.
  • Have fun. Sobriety doesn’t mean you get to lose your sense of humor. Trust me on this. I act silly all the time, and I’m in my sober teens!
  • Have a plan. Parties and social events aren’t the time to try flying by the seat of your pants. When confronted with temptation, we’re not always skilled at making the best choices.

Most important thing of all? Have a good time. Sure, the times of trick-or-treating may be in our recent past, but dressing up and laughing until your belly hurts is never out of style.

Categories
Recovery

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

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

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

School: Getting Back in the Groove

Even without addiction issues, going back to school can be a bear. Going from middle school to high school is a huge shift, but more often than not, you’re not away from home. However, the shift from high school to college can be huge, especially if going to college means living on your own. All of a sudden the safety of any parental input (no matter how annoying it may be) is gone–trust me when I say this, you’ll eventually miss the family dinners you fought so hard to get out of.
There are a few things to keep in mind when going back to school, particularly when most schools and colleges are starting and our nerves are shaking. If we’re newly sober, then the heat is really on, particularly when we’re going back to our old stomping grounds.
  • Stay connected with your sponsor and others in sobriety. 
  • Set firm boundaries with old friends that may be weary of the new you. If they want you to “hang out” like you used to before you “went away,” say no. Real friends won’t try to drag you down. 
  • Maintain open communication, not only with your sponsor and friends, but with your parents and therapists as well. Recovery is a net: if you weave a wide enough web, you are more apt to create an environment of emotional and physical safety. 
  • Develop a healthy exercise program. Sometimes, a good run or a long bike ride can clear a muddled mind. This is a great area to create a buddy system. If you don’t do it one day, you didn’t fail! 
  • Make realistic goals. You don’t have to do everything at once. 
  • Remember to be kind to your body: just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you can start poisoning your system with junk food. 
  • HALT: never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired 
  • Show up no matter what. You’re not only showing up for others, you’re showing up for yourself and your sobriety.
The reality is, school can be frightening: the newness, the change, and the idea of venturing into the unknown. Taking things one breathe at a time is key to survival. Sleep is your friend, cry if you need to, and ask for help. Everything is going to be okay!Resources:
Angels at Risk
Categories
Addiction Alcoholism Recovery Spirituality

I’m Powerless, Are You?

Image via Wikipedia

When I think of the phrase “I’m an alcoholic,” I often think of Popeye and the fervency behind his frequently uttered catchphrase: “I yam what I yam.”  When admitting to being an alcoholic, you’re taking the first step towards admission of powerlessness. It implies an understanding that in claiming that label, one is willing to look at the mind-body connection to their drinking and using. According to the 12 and 12, “Admission of powerlessness is the first step in liberation.” It is the way those of us in 12-step recovery begin to build the foundation on which our sobriety will steady itself; it is “the firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.

I recently had an opportunity to do a workshop on addiction and pain with a Tibetan nun by the name of Chonyi Taylor. It proved to be a fascinating experience, particularly since there is a burgeoning movement to blend Buddhism with recovery. One of the things that really resonated with me during this workshop was the perspective she shared regarding addiction being a habit.  Chonyi said, “Addiction is a mental habit in which there is no conscious control, which gives short-term pleasure and long-term harm.” Being able to look at my own addiction patterns as habits, and discovering that I can systematically break them by admitting powerlessness and renunciation, is incredibly helpful. Because, frankly, as addicts and alcoholics, we have terrible tendency toward getting stuck, reacting and responding to our triggers the same way over and over again. In essence, we have developed habits. We repeatedly meet negative experiences with the desire to get drunk or high. When we get sober, sometimes the habit of seeking numbing pleasure continues, often presenting as promiscuity, gambling, eating irresponsibly, et cetera. By admitting we’re powerless and that our lives are unmanageable, we are given our first opportunity to free ourselves from our negative, addictive, habitual behaviors.

No matter how you look at it, the message is this: we are required to admit powerlessness, renounce negative behavior(s), write moral inventories, and develop a spiritual path paved with honesty and service work. I’d rather have the opportunity deconstruct bad habits so I can build new, healthy ones, wouldn’t you?