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Archive for March, 2013

Substance abuse recovery is really about life changes. Going from a life dependent on a substance to dependent on the self can be stressful.  However, developing a positive attitude toward recovery can go a long way by reinforcing the purpose for quitting addictions. If you are a person or know of someone who is suffering from addictions here are 5 positive ways quitting affects a person.
  1. It increases control over your life. When a person makes a conscious choice to stop using drugs or alcohol it helps to empower them over the substance. It signals to themselves that “I can do this and I am doing it.” Recovery takes effort and discipline and will be challenging at times. Keep the recovery in perspective by developing a healthy perspective of self-worth.
  2. Fewer job problems. This benefit comes from not calling in sick, being late, having mental issues with memory and processing information. Mental fog is often a problem for people who are struggling with addiction and comes at a price of lost job performance. Missed work is often the result of dealing with hang overs or wanting to isolate with their drug of choice. So the benefit of not using is increased performance, being on time and not calling out. Over time the mental fog should lift after the substance has been stopped being used.
  3. Better health and restored balance. Substance abuse releases dopamine into the brain that signals “I feel good.” Over time it can get burned out losing the sensation of being able to feel good anymore which is also known as tolerance. The abuser will notice that no matter how much more of the drug they take, known as “bumping,” doesn’t work anymore because the dopamine has been all used up. When a person stops using the dopamine is allowed to return to normal levels allowing the brain to improve functioning. Other health benefits can be exercise, more sleep and an overall general sense of feeling better with improved self-esteem.
  4. More Financially Fit. One of the biggest assets for someone struggling with addiction is cash flow. If the money is flowing in then the drug can be resourced. If the money stops then finding a solution can be a real problem. Usually the resource is found by manipulating other people or finding a codependent partner to lean on . When the addiction stops then the money stops flowing toward the addiction and goes toward other things.
  5. Respect. Family and friends will notice the change, especially if the addicted person has been struggling for a while. Usually the first improvements they will notice is increased mood and an change of attitude. When a person feels they have put the worst behind them and have a healthy outlook on life it transcends to the body and presents itself in a positive way. The ultimate respect will come from the self, self-respect. The biggest thing a person who struggles with addiction is to get out of a shame based mind-set and adopt the mind-set that they have beat something that at one time seemed bigger than they are.
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Stress! Just the mere sound of the word can conjure up feelings of uneasiness just knowing there is something tied to it that is unpleasant. So let’s take a minute to examine the word and find a way to fight stress with S.T.R.E.S.S. Stress is often unavoidable in life so like many other things it cannot be fully eliminated but it can be managed effectively if appropriate steps are taken.

Stress is a natural reaction to a perceived threat, fear and excessive worry. If it goes on too long and turns into chronic stress it can begin to impact our overall health both physically and mentally. Below is acronym for S.T.R.E.S.S. on how to help manage it and make life a little bit easier. While it may be impossible to eliminate stress altogether, getting a handle on it can be a good start.

SSlow Down. Don’t try to do too much too fast. A great stress producer is trying to do too much in too little time. Take smaller steps and just do one thing at a time to get the pace to slow down. The idea is don’t bite off more than you can chew. If your life seems overwhelming it might be time to throw some things out, delegate responsibilities and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and colleagues to lighten the load.

T.  Task Management. A technique for managing tasks is to sit down the night before and write out a list of 10 items to get done the following day. Don’t fret if all of the tasks are not finished. Additional stress can often be created by trying to achieve unrealistic self-induced demands. Have a stop time and let it go and let the remaining items roll over to the next day. Do not add 10 more to it; let it be part of the next 10 items.

R. Relax. Find a way to relax by creating a distraction. After the task list has been put down for the day find something else to do, for example; read a book, journal, call a friend, go for a walk, go fishing, spend time with a pet, or meditate on God’s word. Creating a distraction from what is racing through our minds removes the burden of those things. Christ gave us a great example about worry and over thinking things in life in Matthew 6:25-34. Basically the idea is to let yesterday go, tomorrow has enough problems of its own and just focus on today.

E. Exercise. We don’t all like to do it but exercise can be a great way to get away from everything and it releases healthy feel good chemicals such as endorphins. Get creative as sometimes going to a gym can get monotonous. Walk, ride a bike, rent or borrow a kayak and spend part of the weekend out on the water. Exercise doesn’t have to be about getting on some machine and hammering out some routine, it can also be fun and relaxing.

S. Source it. Find out where the stress is coming from and deal with it at the root source. Ask probing questions about the validity of the stress such as what purpose is it serving and what can realistically be done about it. What is going to be achieved as a result of stressing? If it can be realistically changed think of ways to change it (think management) to reduce the stress.

S. Serenity Prayer. Sometimes the serenity prayer can be a real sanity saver in the long run. To be able to accept the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. Those things in our lives that cannot be changed lift them up to God. Christ says His burden is light. Offer up the stressful things to God and let it go.

The idea with managing stress is to manage it rather than it managing us. When we become subjected to things in life that creates stress we take on unnecessary worry, doubt, fear and the feelings of loss of control in our lives. Take a look at the big picture, slow down and think about ways to reframe how your life is being lived out.

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addiction“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Addiction has a strong pull on the human psyche and in a lot of ways is like an emotional manipulator. Those who are caught in this affliction often testify that the pull of wanting to return to their drug of choice is stronger than their ability to overcome it. Addiction manipulates the pleasure center of the brain known as the limbic system which is a primitive part of the brain that is responsible for the feel good chemicals. This is accomplished when drugs manipulate the release of dopamine; a neurotransmitter that is responsible for producing pleasure, euphoria and controlling emotional responses, to basically feel good.

Manipulation in the brain is like a false positive; to feel good means one must not feel good, right? So if a person wants to feel better they must medicate, because, they don’t feel good. The problem with this theory is there is a lie involved. The quote at the beginning of this article gives an example of how there are two ways to be fooled, to believe the lie, or to think the truth is a lie.

This is the very nature of addiction; it is about living a lie. The addiction lies and seduces the user into believing that the substance is the answer for the pain they feel. Pain is there for a reason, usually emotional; to signal that there is a problem. To simply drown it, shoot it, snort it or swallow it is a short term solution to something that needs to be addressed on a deeper level.

Often when a person tries to move away from the drug and begin to face the deeper emotional problems they are experiencing some obstacles can arise, often in the form of the truth of what is being medicated. These obstacles are part of the denial process of trying to move away from dependency into independence. Independence is about being able to stand without using a coping mechanism to manipulate dopamine into feeling better. In this process the addicted person may begin to struggle with really wanting to give it up. They are afraid to leave the false reality of the safety and comfort of the drug that they have come to believe in. Here are a few of the common obstacles faced with addiction and alcoholism recovery.

Denying the Truth

Denying, or denial, in a nutshell is saying “I don’t have a problem.”  Someone who wants to recover admits there is a problem and takes steps to take care of it. Being hooked on a substance is a lot like being in a bad relationship. Like any good lover, the substance makes them feel better and is more important than regaining their dignity. The addicted person does not realize they deserve a better life.

Rationalizing

This voice says “I deserve it! I have earned it for whatever reason, xyz…” To put it bluntly, rationalization is about making an excuse to use and looking for a reason to pick up. This can also be an area where a person in recovery will test themselves to see if they are truly recovered. “I’ll just have one and prove to myself that I am no longer addicted.” Unfortunately this test rarely passes with positive results.

Intellectualizing

Intellectualizing addiction is about coming to a conclusion about how it all came about and this knowledge is going to be used on how they are going to outsmart the problem. This is not about facing the issue; this is about circumventing it and looking for a work around to real recovery.

Blaming

“I’m the victim of things that happened to me in my life, if it weren’t for these awful things that happened to me then I would not have this problem.” Okay, let’s go back to reality, not believing the lie. Blaming others or holding others responsible for the addiction will go nowhere. The decision to pick up and use is always the choice of the user. The old cliché about anger can be applied here “drink the poison and wait for the other person to die.”

The bottom line for addiction and recovery is about getting real that there is a problem and making a choice. It’s a matter of motivation. The addicted person has to make the choice to recognize that they have a problem and make a stand against it. There is no doubt, it is hard, it takes effort, it is a battle and it is not easy, but it is possible.

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It may sound contradictory for an angry person to be more assertive, however being more assertive can help release built up anger. Anger is a normal emotion and we all experience it at one time or another. However there are times when we have a tendency to hold things in regarding issues in life such as a perceived injustice or the lack of boundaries. When anger goes unexpressed for too long it can turn inward manifesting into resentment and compulsive behaviors. It is not uncommon for anger held on to for long periods of time to turn into depression. Other symptoms of mismanaged anger can be strong use of sarcasm, isolation, substance abuse, relationship problems and a general sense of the loss of self. Anger manifested outward is much more obvious. It appears as rage, directed at inanimate objects, road rage, yelling or becoming abusive toward others.

Since anger is a common emotion the idea of dealing with it is not to eliminate it, but to learn how to manage it. One common way is to learn how to be more assertive which is different than being aggressive. Being assertive is about expressing thoughts and feelings toward someone else in an open manner that fosters dialogue. Being aggressive is about dominance and trying to control someone or a situation in a more hostile way, usually as a monologue directed at someone. When anger becomes such a problem that it has a strong negative effect on others, or leads into self destructive behaviors then it may be time to get help.

How Assertiveness Releases Anger

In a metaphorical sense, anger directed at us is like a balloon being filled with air. Destructive anger is like the balloon that has been filled to its breaking point and then it explodes. With constructive anger, the balloon takes in some of the air, and then some of the air is let back out releasing the tension and preventing a blow up. This is the idea of being assertive, we do not take and take until we explode, we breathe in and breathe out. This is the boundaries part where some assertiveness training could come in handy on learning how to be more expressive with others. This often takes a little practice and getting used to if  being assertive and expressing yourself is something you are not used to. It follows the old cliché along the lines of “it’s not necessarily what we say, but how we say it” that matters. What will happen over time is this constructive outward flow back toward others provides a sense of empowerment and well being that relieves stress, anxiety and most importantly anger.

If you find yourself struggling with trying to manage the more destructive anger and wanting to react in a negative way there are a few techniques that you can use to help. The first is to ask yourself what you are reacting to and what exactly it is that is pressing your buttons? Once this information is realized then begin to challenge it by asking how important it is to react this way, or are the feelings appropriate to the perceived threat? This can be a lead-in to the next thought challenge by asking “am I over reacting to something? “ Other thought challenges include looking at how a situation is perceived, assuming the worst or thinking that someone meant harm when they really didn’t mean any harm at all. Think realistically, what outcome will my anger have on the situation?

When all fails and the anger still cannot be resolved, get away from the source of the anger, think blue for calm, breathe in and out slowly while counting to 10 or 100 if necessary. If you are able to get outdoors such as a park or lake to take a slow walk then even better. Remember, this is about managing anger.

Being assertive with others and expressing our thoughts and feelings can go a long way in preventing tension and anger from building up inside. Nobody wants to be the balloon where we take it all in until we explode. Allow yourself to breathe your thoughts and feelings with others through effective dialogue. You just might be surprised how much less anger you have as a result and how much better you feel about yourself as a person.

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