Friday, November 20, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pitfall in Recovery: Cognitive Distortions

Written by  on September 12, 2013

5 common cognitive distortions
Your Way of Thinking Affects Your Recovery
In recovery, you have to make changes in your life to be successful. You adopt a structured routine in your life, start exercising and eating healthier and talk about your feelings instead of keeping it all in. But one of the biggest changes you must make is the way you think and this is a hard thing to do. There are traps that you set for yourself without even realizing it! Knowing how to spot these mental traps can make a difference in your addiction recovery.

5 Common Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions or inaccurate thoughts cause trouble in your life and your recovery. Identifying these faulty thoughts is the first step toward changing the way you think.
  1. Black and white thinking: This type of thinking is common in addiction and a danger for your recovery. Realize that you will make mistakes and you won’t be perfect at everything. Sometimes situations and outcomes won’t turn out like you expected. That’s OK. Not all is lost.
  2. Jumping to conclusions: This type of thinking occurs when you have gone ahead and come up with a conclusion before all the facts have been revealed or letting other people react. This shows that you are not listening or are not being patient for others to respond.
  3. Catastrophizing: Expecting the worst case scenario to happen breeds anxiety and negativity, which causes problems in your recovery.
  4. Overgeneralization: This is when you come to a general conclusion based on one situation or experience. If you overgeneralize, you run the risk of things not going as you thought, which can  cause anxiety and negative thoughts.
  5. Filtering: This occurs when you focus only on the negative aspects in a situation and filter out all the positive aspects. Focusing on only the negative aspects colors your whole frame of mind and causes more anxiety.
Getting rid of these cognitive distortions takes time and practice. Over time, you won’t fall into these mental traps and rational thoughts will happen automatically.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"In Recovery" vs. "Recovered"

One person I had this discussion with said that she could recover from a bullet wound, but that would not mean she was bullet proof. My answer is that she never was bullet proof.

Are you in recoveryRecovering? Or are you recovered? What is the difference?
According to, a concordance of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the word “recovered” appears 20 times in the first 164 pages, the heart of the book that remains unchanged since 1935 and the section that is treated by adherents as gospel. However most people, myself included, use the term “in recovery." This is one of the oldest debates in the recovery community. Many will dismiss it as semantics; and perhaps at the end of the day it is; however the concepts behind it are worth examining.
There are many compelling arguments on both sides of this debate. Paradoxical as ever, the Big Book goes on to say on page 85 that “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” And this idea of being cured seems to be central. If one is recovered, or cured, does that mean he can drink or use normally? An old AA joke goes, “If I could drink normally, I would get drunk every day.” We have constructed lofty and elaborate definitions of recovery, designed to be all-inclusive and inspiring. The basic definition, however, is simply a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. The word “normal” is loaded and problematic in the world of recovery, as is the wordcured. Pax Prentiss of Passages Malibu, who disavows his previous status as “addict” and promotes the Passages “cure” is the subject of ridicule in many recovery circles. Why is his claim so audacious, and why does it draw such vitriol? Upon reading his book, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure: A Holistic Approach to Total Recovery, one discovers that the “cured” person still can’t drink or use, and still works on the same things that other people in recovery work on (albeit in a more luxurious setting). The difference is simply the language that is used. The Passages program has chosen to remove one more aspect of stigma from their depiction of recovery. Sure, Pax relapsed, but so did millions of others. He is reviled because he dares to claim the prize that we all covet!
One person I had this discussion with said that she could recover from a bullet wound, but that would not mean she was bullet proof. My answer is that she never was bullet proof. Why does being recovered have to mean that we are superhuman, impervious to drugs and alcohol? The idea that being “cured” or “normal” means being able to use without consequence is perhaps a fanciful and revealing error in thinking on the part of former addicts.
Many of us have a superstitious prohibition on the past tense recovered because, after all, what happens if we relapse? No one wants to have to explain that. So, just in case, we leave open the possibility, and instead describe recovery as a lifelong process, a struggle, a fleeting and fragile state. We sell ourselves short to avoid embarrassment. We are taught that, as soon as we think we’ve got it, we are the closest to losing it. What a mindf#ck! Unfortunately, some do relapse; but imposing this self-fulfilling prophecy on every person in recovery creates second-guessing and self-doubt that many are better off without. When the legion of Narcotics Anonymous, the original outcasts of recovery, exclaim, “We Do Recover” and then the newcomer learns that it is "Just For Today," what message does that send? Do we recover or not?
No one is bulletproof. No one is impervious. And, as we in recovery are so fond of pointing out, no one is normal. We are all people; nothing more and, I maintain, certainly nothing less. Whether one defines recovery in terms of spiritual enlightenment or simply a return to normal functioning; a restoration of sanity or a new brand of eccentricity; whether recovery for you means abstinence, maintenance, or harm reduction: the assertion that you must live forever in a purgatorial state of recovery is stigma at work. Recovery must be fully attainable; it must be claimed, and owned, without strings attached. Just like any prize, it can also be lost; but perhaps if we could possess it, even for a short while, its allure would hold us longer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mindfulness Meditation in Recovery

Using Mindfulness in Recovery from Addiction
When people are in the early months of recovery, they often experience a kind of mental fuzziness. They may struggle to think clearly as their mind adjusts to life without substance abuse. This is also a time when their emotions are erratic. Those who fail to cope with these challenges in early recovery are more likely to relapse. Mindfulness meditation can be a great tool at all stages of sobriety. It gives people more control over their emotions and increases mental clarity.
Mindfulness Meditation Defined
Mindfulness involves purposely paying attention to the present moment. It also involves being aware of thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they occur without being carried away by them. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental form of observation.
Mindfulness is known as sati in an ancient Pali (a language from India). It is a key tool for Buddhists who are trying to reach enlightenment and involves three elements: awarenessattention and remembering. The individual needs to be aware of the object they wish to focus on. They then need to focus their attention on this object and remember to keep it there.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness has been traditionally been of interest to people following a spiritual path. In recent years it has become also popular with individuals who would not be considered spiritual seekers. This is due to the growing interest in the following health benefits of mindfulness meditation:
* Mindfulness increases a person’s ability to manage stress. This is because the practitioner will be focused on the present and without worrying about the future. The individual becomes more aware of the tendency of the mind to anticipate future problems. Once this tendency is observed, it becomes easier to manage. A number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness as a means to stress reduction. Stress is a contributing factor in many mental and physical diseases, so increasing a person’s ability to cope with stress is beneficial.
* People who practice mindfulness appear to suffer from less anxiety.
* Mindfulness is also believed to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of depression. It works by allowing the individual to become free of their usual negative thought patterns.
* When people are mindful, they become far more aware of what is happening in their body. This means that they are able to notice the warning signs that arise when something is not quite right in physical or mental functioning. It allows the individual to take action to remedy a situation long before it becomes a noticeable problem.
* Mindfulness may increase a person’s ability to deal with pain. This is more easily explained by using the Buddhist metaphor of the two arrows. When people are hit by an arrow they will experience pain and discomfort. They will usually make things worse by allowing their mind to go into panic. This is like being hit by a second arrow, because it doubles the amount of discomfort they experience. An individual who is skilful at mindfulness will be able to avoid this second arrow.
* Mindfulness may enhance the body’s ability to fight off disease. It has been demonstrated that high levels of stress damage the immune system. This makes the stressed person more prone to illness. Those who regularly practice mindfulness should benefit from a much stronger immune response so they can more easily ward off invading infectious agents.
* People who practice mindfulness meditation are far more aware of their own thoughts. This leads them to make much better decisions. Those who are dealing with muddled thinking tend to make poor decisions that can negatively affect their life.
* Those individuals who are mindful begin to see that emotions are transitory in nature. They come and go. Strong emotions are easier to manage when the person knows that they will pass.
Mindfulness Meditation in Addiction Recovery
There is substantial interest in the benefits of mindfulness for people recovering from an addiction. Those who become sober need to face many challenges, and any tool that can help them do this is of great value. These are some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation for people in recovery:
Early recovery is like an emotional rollercoaster. By practicing mindfulness, the individual will feel more in control and better able to deal with the highs and lows.
* Cravings usually continue to arise in recovery. Mindfulness allows the individual to observe such thoughts without being carried away by them. People learn that they are not always responsible for their thoughts, nor do they have to be a victim to them.
* People who practice mindfulness will be better able to spot the warning signs that they are losing their hold on recovery. This way they will be able to avoid a relapse.
* This practice makes life in sobriety far more enjoyable. The individual is able to get pleasure from even the simplest things.
* Those who practice the technique find it easier to manage their interpersonal relationships. This is particularly important for people in recovery, who may have many damaged relationships and need to tread carefully.
Types of Mindfulness Technique
In order for people to develop a general level of increased mindfulness in their day-to-day life, it is beneficial to establish some type of formal practice. Almost any activity can be used for increasingly mindfulness, so long as the individual is able to devote their full attention to it. Here are some of the most common activities:
Traditional meditation, in which the individual focuses on their breath or a similar action. In Buddhism, there are ten recommended objects that people can focus on.
Moving meditation such as Tai Chi or yoga can be used to develop mindfulness.
Mindful eating involves paying complete attention to the process of eating. This technique can be particularly useful to people who are trying to control their weight.
Walking meditation involves giving full attention to the process of walking.
Mindfulness of Breathing
Mindfulness of breathing is one of the most effective techniques for developing mindfulness. Every human breathes so there is no need to need to buy any special equipment. There are different ways of practicing mindfulness of breathing, but it is best to start off with a simple technique. These are the steps of mindfulness meditation:
* Sit comfortably with the back straight. It is not necessary to sit in the lotus position, as sitting upright in a chair will do.
* The meditator begins by taking a couple of deep breaths to relax their body.
* They then allow their breath to return to normal and should not try to control it in any way.
* The goal is to now to simply observe the breathing. This involves being aware of the sensations caused by the breath as it moves through the body. People may choose to label the effect that breathing has on their body by silently repeating rising and falling.
* The mind will regularly wander away from the breath, which is normal. The job of the meditator is to continue bringing their attention back.
Things to Consider When Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
Here are just a few of the things that people should consider when practicing mindfulness meditation:
* There are many books, videos, and audio materials dedicated to mindfulness practice. These resources can be helpful but the technique is quite a simple to learn. The real difficulty is putting this knowledge into practice. Reading books on the subject can just be a way to avoid being mindful. Unfortunately, it is not possible to benefit from mindfulness by just thinking about it.
* It is best to set aside a daily time of formal meditation. This can begin at 20 minutes per day and build from there. Those who are especially busy may find it easier to split this into two ten-minute sessions.
* New meditators can become alarmed to discover just how much mental chatter goes on inside their brains. This distraction can make it difficult to remain focused on the present. Some people assume that this means they are no good at meditation, but it actually means the opposite. If they hadn’t attempted to be mindful, they would not have noticed the insistent chatter that going on in their head.
* When the meditator notices that they have become lost in thought, they should not become angry. Instead, they should focus on feeling happy that they noticed their own lack of focus. It is a good sign.
* It is recommended that people find an experienced mindfulness meditation teacher. There are many interesting paths to take in this practice, and it is easy to get lost without a guide.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oct 30th Daily Meditation: Truth

“The truth that makes men free is for the most part
the truth which men prefer not to hear.”
Herbert Agar

I spent thirty-five years of my adult life running from the truth. It wasn't until I came to OA and began to work through the Twelve Steps that I had enough emotional support to turn and face the truth. What is my truth? I am a food addict.

Once I was able to face and accept that truth, surrender to my Higher Power was immediate. At long last I was free of cravings, free of bingeing, and free of obsessive food thoughts. That freedom allowed me to work toward the goal of becoming the person I had always wanted to be.

The way I see it, I can be an addict in recovery or I can be an addict in hell. I choose recovery.

One day at a time...
I will seek the truth in my life by working the program of recovery.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Learn How to Stop Drinking | 5 Steps Towards an Alcohol-Free Life

Alcohol is a legal, easily accessible substance and is often a major presence in many social settings.
Temptation and peer pressure play a strong role in alcoholism, making the journey to overcome this particular addiction long and often difficult. Overcoming alcoholism requires commitment. In addition, there are a number of steps one can take to achieve sobriety and happiness.
  1. Prepare for change. Once a decision has been made to get sober, clear and realistic goals should be set. Overcoming alcoholism can be a difficult task, especially if lifestyle changes are not made to support sobriety. One major component of quitting alcohol is ensuring that those around you are aware of your newfound commitment. This includes setting boundaries and expectations. It is important to garner help and support from loved ones through the recovery process. Separating yourself from those who enable you and your addiction is also extremely important.
  2. Achieve sobriety safely. Depending on the duration of time in which you’ve used alcohol and the amount of alcohol consumed, you may have become physically dependent on it. In this case, achieving sobriety is not just a matter of quitting . Instead, quitting alcohol includes withdrawal symptoms that may be potentially life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms may begin to manifest within hours of being without alcohol and can last for days. Be aware of common withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, shaking, nausea and sweating. Also, be aware of more severe symptoms such as fever, hallucinations and seizures. Depending on the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you may require a medical detox to safely abstain from use.
  3. Plan for triggers. While you are working through recovery, it is important to remember that you will experience triggers and cravings. It is critical to begin developing healthy coping mechanisms for the triggers that may have previously driven you alcoholic behavior. By doing this, you will have a better chance of avoiding relapse. Triggers can include anything from people and places to stress. Practice saying “no” to social situations and peer pressure that may discourage sobriety.
  4. Get support. Regardless of the path you choose in achieving sobriety, it is important to have support along the way. Recovering from addiction with others can make the process easier. Whether it is through building a sober social network, relying on friends and family or engaging with a recovery community, people can provide encouragement and much-needed guidance that is critical in recovery. Joining recovery groups and attending meetings can provide great benefits. Recovering with others who share similar experiences can make the process less isolating.
  5. Consider treatment. In addition to support groups, professional treatment may be necessary. Alcohol rehabilitation programs physical, mental and emotion support. Quitting alcohol is more than the physical act of not drinking; it is a lifestyle change that requires commitment. Treatment centers can also provide support if you struggle with a co-occurring disorders that fuel addictive behaviors. Receiving treatment for mental health disorders simultaneously improves the success of alcohol rehab and greatly reduces the likelihood of relapse.
There are a number of reasons to quit alcohol and live a sober life. In addition to the physical and mental benefits of living a sober life, sobriety can improve your relationships with others and heighten your quality of life. If you are considering quitting alcohol, there are a number of resources available to assist you in the process. The most important piece of recovery is understanding that it is lifelong process and you may experience setbacks. If you experience relapse, it does not mean you’re a failure or that you will never achieve your goals. Relapse is simply an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and recommit to your goals of achieving sobriety. Regardless of the recovery path you choose, it is important to reduce temptations while committing to living an enhanced, sober life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Managing Love In Recovery: 5 Ways To Make It Work

Written by Lindsey Glass
Romance is tricky for everyone. But for people in recovery from any kind of addiction, some extra tools for managing feelings and behavior can be extremely useful.
Here are 5 ways to apply principles of recovery philosophies and programs to foster healthy, romantic relationships. And they're not just for people in recovery. Anyone would do well to consider them.
1. Be Clear About Your Needs And Expectations From The Beginning. 
This is not to suggest you ask for someone's tax returns, medical history and intentions about the future on the first date. But establishing ground rules for how you will behave to each other will set the tone from the beginning. For example, my friend Kate likes to be picked up for a date and is a vegetarian. But when she started dating her last boyfriend she didn't ask him to pick her up and didn't make her vegetarian needs known. After months of not having anything to eat on the menu, and traveling solo to dates she finally said something to her boyfriend. By then he didn't feel he needed to pick her up or change his eating habits. While it would have been nice if he'd adjusted his behavior because she asked him to, he wasn't totally at fault because she hadn't told him it mattered to her.
2. Be aware of your behavior.
Part of learning how to live in recovery is being able to be self-aware about your behavior. How do you appear to other people? How do you sound to other people (particularly when you might be irritated)? And how do your moods affect other people? The key to sober reference is being able to look at what's going on, see your part, and be informed about how you think, act, or react, so you can adjust in the future. My colleague John became aware in his sobriety that the mean tone he heard his father use towards his mother when he was growing up is the same tone he used towards his wife when he was angry. Once he realized, he nipped it in the bud quickly because he knew the damage it had caused his mom and him.
3. Be vigilant about your recovery routine or needs
It is said in recovery circles that nothing upsets the balance more than romance and finances. Now, more than ever, you're going to need your emotional sobriety to handle romance bumps. So this is not the time to start skipping meetings, yoga, or church. Whatever keeps you calm and happy is more critical than ever. My friend Janet actually doubles her meetings and work out schedule when she's deep in a relationship. She says she can't take the chance of letting her jealous nature take over and between the meetings and the work-outs she keeps her mind and her temper in check.

4. Keep Family Out Of It
I'm close with my family, but that doesn't mean I should be discussing every detail of my relationship with them. Family members see things in a protective way. Once they get an impression about your partner, it's very hard to change their mind. My friend George has a protective sister, Ally. Every time George tells Ally about the bad behavior of this girlfriend, Jen, Ally inevitably gets in a fight with Ally. Then Ally and George get in a fight. And everyone suffers. Lessen the drama, George! Talking to a sponsor or an impartial friend would be much a safer thing to do for everyone involved.
5. Give Them Time
Patience is not the greatest virtue bestowed on people with alcohol or addiction problems. There is a huge desire to get what you want or know what's in the future. Control isn't possible. Forget about it. The cooler you are the better it will go. My friend Keith constantly asked his girlfriend, Marty, where they were headed. He was ready to get married but Marty wasn't. The pressure of his asking over and over eventually tore them apart. Marty later told Keith she did want to marry him, but his inability to stay calm made her think he wouldn't be a good life partner for her. Marty was super relaxed, and she was concerned he'd be pushy about everything. Turn things over and let them go. Don't stress yourself or your partner. With time the end result is better. As my mentor used to say, fast on, fast off....