Category Archives: Lifestyle Changes

Self Compassion-Heal Yourself

by Kristin Meekhof* EDITED
After a loss in your life because of death, a breakup or even giving up your addiction there is pain. Your level, including anxiety, may actually increase as time passes because you are coming to terms with all that is broken. Unfortunately, a reboot isn’t available. The life you once had no longer exists. It is important to feel self compassion – heal yourself.
In understanding grief or loss, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger and frustration. When working with these feelings associated with loss, practicing self compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. For the purpose of this piece, I am defining self compassion as this: the act of practicing loving kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.
Five Ways To Practice Self Compassion After Loss:
1. Journal Writing: This technique allows you to become transparent with yourself and show your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself. Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, see the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical with yourself.
2. Soften The Critical Inner Voice: Speaking to yourself with a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your words. You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking.
3. Forgive Yourself: Mistakes both big and small happen. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help you cope better. And if you can’t forgive yourself for everything, then try with a small piece and forgive yourself for this.
4. Make Modifications: After a loss, you are not 100 percent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small changes to your daily tasks and schedule. For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well. You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period.
5. Reach out: Grief is not a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare. While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for help can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration. You may also need to seek professional mental health treatment to help you cope with your bereavement.
Remember that practicing self compassion isn’t natural post loss. Unfortunately, there is not a set time frame for recovery. Your life sustained a severe complex fracture. Give yourself permission to be sympathetic to your own pain. Give yourself grace.

Can I Stay Away From The First Drink?

The first question I have to answer is; Can I stay away from the first drink?

“So, it seemed to me the answer to this thing lies in do I believe I’ve got it and do I believe it can kill me? If the answer to that is yes, then it doesn’t matter a damn whether it is a physical disease, a spiritual disease, an emotional disease, a mental disease, or a combination of all of them. The fact remains I’ve got to buy whether or not I think it is a killer disease. If the answer to that is yes, then comes the last question, and that is … Would I rather live than die? And, if the answer to that is yes, then you’re finally up against it. You’re up against will I, can I, stay away from the first drink? Can I stay away from the first drink? I had answered this many, many times before and so have all of you. We’ve all stayed away from the first drink for varying lengths of time. I stayed away once for a year and-a half with no trouble at all. So I knew I could stay away from the first drink.”

“I separated the state of sobriety from the state of my soul, from the state of my health, from the state of my finances, from the state of my job, from the state of my love life, if any. I separated it from the state of everything. I simply made up my mind that I would rather live than die, and if I had a disease, I would have to stay away from the first drink, and I knew that if I took all this other stuff from it, if I took the “be a better person” business off of it, I would be able to do it. That night I made a very simple decision and I now know it was the first authentic, 24-carat decision I had ever made in my life, because the minute I made it, I knew I’d be able to do it.”

By Allen Reid McGinnis
The Rest Of Your Life

Promises To Self

My Promises

I promise myself: Promises
To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
To talk, health, happiness and prosperity for all to every person I meet.
To make all my friends feel that there is something important within them.
To look at the sunny side of everything making my optimism my truth.
To think only good thoughts, to work only on good deeds and have only good goals.
To not regret the mistakes of the past and go forward creating a future of hope for all.
To wear a cheerful face and smile at every living creäture I encounter.
To give so much to improvement of self that I don’t have time to criticize others.
To be aware of worry, fear and anger but let the Spirit of my Soul shine and dominate the present.

Mindful Meditation

This practice of Mindful Meditation is a breathing meditation. We focus on breathing not because there’s anything special about it but because that physical sensation of breathing is always there. Throughout the practice, you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, and sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. If you’re distracted the entire time and come back just once, that’s perfect.

1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable place you can support for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like, or leave them open and gaze down toward the floor.

2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out”, or any mantra that suits you.

3) Many times over, you’ll get distracted by thoughts or feelings. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or end thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.

4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.

5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.

6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.

7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.

8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best you are able. As hard as it is to keep up, that’s all that there is to it. Come back over and over, without judgement or expectation.

9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.

Ending America’s Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Putting politics aside, this is a comprehensive plan that needs bipartisan support. If you agree then contact your representatives on all levels and ask for their help. We can help end America’s quiet opioid addiction epidemic.

Governor Peter Shumlin began his remarks at the New Hampshire Roundtable on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic by describing a phone call from Hillary Clinton a few months ago. According to Shumlin,“I figure it’s gonna be another politician talkin’ about how great they are.” But Clinton surprised him: “When I go to New Hampshire, when I go to Iowa, something strange has happened…” Clinton was told story after story about the “quiet epidemic” that had not even been on the table when she last ventured out as a candidate. She heard from families who were unable to help their loved ones and law enforcement officials who knew they couldn’t arrest their way out of the problem, so Clinton “resolved to do something about it.” She called the right person: Gov. Shumlin has been working to reframe the public debate around addiction for years. For the past two years he has dedicated his State of the State Message entirely to the topic of the heroin crisis in Vermont. Under his guidance, the state has implemented programs to address the complexity of addiction that have been imitated by states across the nation. Shumlin was struck by Clinton’s humility and patience, “She did what a lot of politicians aren’t very good at–she listened. For a second I thought she’d hung up.”

Clinton placed Shumlin’s advice amongst the advice of many others, and four weeks later “out came a policy” that the Governor believes, “if implemented, will give us the help from the federal government that we need to finally take this battle on and treat it as a disease and not a crime.” The plan would allocate 10 billion dollars to tackling America’s deadly epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, and would address the following five points: Criminal Justice Reform, Treatment and Recovery, First Responders, Prescribers, Prevention.

In a statement about the indiscriminate reach of the epidemic, Clinton wrote: “Substance use disorders are a problem that touches Americans everywhere, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns, and from our richest enclaves to our poorest neighborhoods.”

I. Criminal Justice Reform

Governor Shumlin has visited treatment centers, jails, and detoxes all over Vermont to speak with those who have been impacted by the epidemic: “there are stories that make you want to sit down and cry,” he said. When he asked what kind of response was needed, “they told me that we were doing almost everything wrong.” Like most criminal justice systems across the nation, Vermont’s was slow and ineffective, especially when it came to dealing with drug-related crimes. Vermont has worked to try and turn the moment of arrest from a tragedy into an opportunity: “when your busted, when you’ve bottomed out, when the blue lights are flashing–that’s the most likely chance that we have to move someone from denial into treatment.”

Third party assessors are stationed in every county in the state and when someone is arrested, these experts determine whether the person needs treatment by asking: “is this someone that will hurt you or is this person more likely to hurt themselves?” Today, people who would have been arrested are told that if they participate in the “Hub/Spoke” treatment initiative with the wrap around services: “we’ll stick with you. You’ll never see a judge, you’ll never see a criminal record, you’ll never see a court.” And it’s working on all fronts, “they’ve got hope, they’ve got a job, they’ve got life and they’re getting back with their families.” Vermont has saved 50 million dollars since implementing the prison diversion program.

Clinton intends to “end the era of mass incarceration” by prioritizing treatment over incarceration for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. In order for this to happen, greater collaboration and coordination must be fostered between public health and criminal justice institutions “to ensure continuity of care for those who suffer from substance use disorders.”

II. Treatment & Recovery

Gov. Shumlin introduced the second point of Clinton’s plan by talking about when his father, who is now deceased, was first diagnosed with lung cancer: “Why is it that when my dad is diagnosed with a cancer that’s created from behavior that we all know isn’t very smart—smoking—that we say ‘we will do everything we can to keep you on this earth as long as we can and you will not stand in line,’ but if you’re addicted to opiates, we say ‘get in line, we might serve you sometime—usually sometime later.”

Clinton’s plan involves building out more treatment centers, matching participating states 20/80 in federal funds, abolishing lengthy wait-lists and ultimately treating addiction like any other disease, “stop the discrimination—line up.”

Clinton’s plan makes sure that “everyone who needs support has access to continuing treatment.” This emphasis on continuity is key due to the fact that many treatment methods are too short-lived to be effective.

III. First Responders

Clinton’s plan ensures that states have adequate funding to get and dispense life-saving tools such as naloxone to anyone who wants it and that first responders are trained in proper practices.

IV. Prescribers

Clinton’s plan ensures that licensed prescribers meet training requirements and consult a prescription drug-monitoring program before writing a prescription for controlled medications. “Let’s make sure that we enhance the database so that we stop pill shopping across borders,” said Shumlin, “and doctor abuse, where folks can go in and line up this stuff, FDA approved Oxycodone and the rest, put it in their pockets, and keep getting more of it, with no questions asked.”

V. Prevention

“Let’s change the attitude about the disease. Let’s get rid of the stigma.” Clinton’s plan defines Substance Use Disorders as chronic diseases and insists that they be treated as such. Clinton emphasizes the importance of empowering communities to design their own “evidence-based programs tailored to their communities.” Such programs would focus on engaging adolescents through education and early intervention programs.

Dual Diagnosis and Addiction

Research shows that most people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The technical term for this is dual diagnosis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Among the 20.2 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.”

Proper treatment for mental illness involves professional therapy, not just coping skills. At the end of the day, the question is, Do you want to cope with your issues or heal them?

Combining Coping Skills for Addiction and Therapy

Dual diagnosis treatment isn’t about choosing between coping skills and therapy. Rather, it’s about combining the strengths of addiction coping skills and therapy to promote recovery. It’s about using a holistic model of healing, one that integrates all four levels of self:

  • The physical level (what we do)
  • The mental level (what we think and believe)
  • The emotional level (what we feel)
  • The spiritual level (who we really are)

In true dual diagnosis addiction treatment, trained clinicians use evidence-based tools and approaches to empower people to both encounter and heal their emotional wounds.

Emotional wounds are like physical ones in that if you open up a wound, it is important to know how to close it back up properly! Trained therapists can help individuals to close those inner wounds with love, compassion, and expertise.

In the process, people tap into the power within them and redirect it for good.

They learn to stop abusing themselves and begin to make self-honoring choices.

They start to counsel themselves and work through the issues that arise when they return to their normal lives.

The aftercare from treatment to normal living requires structure and discipline.

The Rest Of Your Life offers complete lifestyle changes for relapse prevention.

Addiction Recovery and Therapy

The following is an excerpt from The Clearing.

Why do I keep feeling this way? Why can’t I get over it already? Why can’t I make the changes stick? I’m worried that I’ll start using … again.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts flash across your mind, then you’re familiar with the struggle to sustain positive behavioral change through addiction recovery. You may believe that you need more willpower or personal strength  to stay clean and sober.
But what if the problem isn’t your personal determination at all? What if your prior efforts to heal didn’t work because you only learned a handful of coping skills for addiction when what you really needed was therapy to discuss the underlying issues driving your behavior?
This article will clarify the difference between therapy and coping skills, discuss their roles in traditional addiction recovery programs, and explore how a more integrative approach can promote lasting recovery.

What are Coping Skills for Addiction?
Coping skills for addiction are the techniques we use to handle life’s challenges and navigate difficult situations.
Though the term tends to have a negative connotation, the reality is that coping skills – or broadly speaking, behavior change skills – are a necessary part of life.
For example, if you’re trying to stop drinking, it makes sense to avoid your favorite pub by taking a different route home from work!
This is a positive coping strategy.
There are many good mental health and behavioral change strategies, including:
• Meditation
• Exercise
• Relaxation, and
• Self-care
That said, problems arise when people have a disability addiction take a solely coping-skills-based approach to more complex problems. In colloquial terms, they put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole and say, “All fixed!”
For example, people often use negative coping skills in times of extreme stress. They may use drugs and alcohol, or self-harm, or work to exhaustion.
These negative coping skills represent attempts to manage pain without addressing the real cause of the suffering.

What is Addiction Therapy?
Addiction therapy involves sessions with a trained therapist who treats mental and emotional health issues. There are many treatment modalities, (approaches) and no one modality resolves every addiction issue.
Different modalities work best for different issues, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. There’s no one magic bullet approach that fixes everything; on the contrary, the most effective treatment integrates several approaches in a holistic, personalized way.

12-Step Programs and Approach to Recovery
At present, most addiction rehab programs use a 12 Steps approach. However, since therapy is not part of the 12 Steps tradition, many people don’t receive the individualized treatment they need for addiction recovery.
To be sure, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step groups have created a culture of steps, rituals, slogans, meetings, and sponsorship that do help some people to replace their dysfunctional habits with positive ones. Many people have attained sobriety and sanity this way. Those who can make it work have become beacons of light for their peers.
However, many other people struggle with this approach. They go to 12 Step programs because they are accessible, familiar, and popular.
Yet many report that they don’t feel heard and that the moralizing lectures and repetitive meetings aren’t helpful.

Addiction Therapy: The Missing Piece in Residential Rehab
The 12 Steps were developed as a grassroots program, and in this capacity they’ve helped millions of people find community and sobriety. However, 12 Step programs were never intended to be an alternative to addiction therapy.
As such, the amount of counseling that participants receive in 12 Step-based residential rehab varies tremendously. While some 12 Step-based rehab centers do give significant time in therapy, many others do not. Instead, they rely on daily 12 Step meetings led by laypeople.
For some, this is enough to effect change. Yet others are left feeling as though they’ve failed because they weren’t able to “work the program.” But what if the real problem was that the program didn’t provide support for their mental health issues?
Even the 12 Step programs that do offer a professional addiction counseling tend to rely on behavior change and coping skills alone. However, this is an incomplete approach because it doesn’t address the core mental and emotional issues present.

12 Step Programs and Professional Therapy, as well as private work with an Addiction Recovery Coach (not the same as a sponsor) are all beneficial solutions to staying in recovery. Explore a multi-faceted  approach for your life.