Another year is coming to an end. For many people 2017 was an emotional rollercoaster. If you happened to enter into a recovery program this year you certainly know what I mean. Drug and alcohol abuse tears families apart with unrelenting voracity. The healing process can be unpredictable and painful. However, as sobriety takes hold emotions start to calm and a new perspective takes shape. Finally, those who have experienced tremendous fear, anger, and anxiety can begin to be grateful for a new lease on life.
means that those who are affected by addictions of any kind tend to have a pessimistic and hopeless outlook. A change in thinking can begin to
melt away the negativity that keeps people stuck in destructive patterns. When someone is a
ble to take a step back and be grateful for a new opportunity to change,hope is reinforced. A family in crisis desperately needs to see the possibility for life to improve. There are simple ways to begin to shift into an attitude of gratitude.
A Simple Exercise
One way to begin to shift into gratitude is to start focusing on it. For example, take five minutes every day to write five aspects of life for which to be grateful. This gratitude list can be something to look forward to each day that can have a significant impact on someone’s way of thinking. The person focused on gratitude will seek more situations to build the list. It certainly accomplishes more to think about what is good rather than to obsess over all that is wrong. Granted, we need to be aware of problems in order to find solutions. Denial is never healthy. But think about how much easier it is to remember what is wrong. Coming up with a list of items that elicit a feeling of gratitude may require some effort but it is certainly worth it.
On behalf of the entire staff at Insight I would like to wish you and your family a blessed 2018! Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.
In order to stay sober, an addict must identify the ways drugs and alcohol make his or her life unmanageable. Without this admission, progression into the following steps is impossible.The acceptance that drugs and alcohol either created or magnified problems provides the proper foundation for moving forward in the program. For parents there is a similar need to determine how the pattern of addiction has created unmanageability in their lives. An addict creates much destruction in his wake and family members are inevitably affected. With the identification of these issues comes the opportunity to truly change. The beauty of twelve step recovery is that it provides people with coping tools to let go of negative patterns and replace them with more effective ways to cope. The primary theme that runs through the twelve steps is the recognition of the need for a relationship with a Higher Power.
There Is A God and It Ain’t Me!
Most people with drug and alcohol issues suffer from insecurity and low self-worth. This negative self perception is often compensated for by an overblown ego. It can be difficult for an addict or alcoholic to admit there may be any kind of power greater than him or herself, much less a benevolent being who genuinely cares for his or her condition. When this person has either moved away from any religious or spiritual background, or has no familiarity with spirituality at all, believing there is ” a Higher Power, expressed through love that can help restore us to sanity” is a bit of a stretch. Because this concept can be so complicated, finding a simple way to deflate the ego while finding hope is vital. This usually begins with some form of connection with the love and compassion of family and friends.
Life Beyond Addiction
Twelve step recovery is spiritually based. In early recovery everyone affected by addiction, both the abuser and loved ones, are encouraged to develop some sort of understanding of a Higher Power. This isn’t meant to answer deep theological or philosophical questions. The point is for those harmed by this terrible disease to realize they are not alone and that there is a solution. There are many in recovery who choose to deepen their spiritual life in many different ways. This should be encouraged. Some decide that what they identify with in early recovery is enough. Either way, if the person working a program is able to find a way to recover, they are a success. Don’t be afraid of the spiritual part of the program, in fact keep it very simple. Any good spiritual tradition is built on a foundation of Love. That is exactly what to look for because where there is love, there is hope.
Modern society is not necessarily conducive to a sober lifestyle. Drugs, alcohol, and gratuitous sex have been pervasive for a while now. The more ubiquitous hedonism has become, the further people have gotten from living by fundamental spiritual principles. When seen from a religious perspective, many people identify less and less with any religious or spiritual denomination.To some this represents a form of liberation. In reality, more people who suffer from addiction issues appear lost.
For many years it seemed that religious, and other, institutions tried to motivate behavioral change through fear. This was partially as the result of a misunderstanding of addiction, particularly with young people. For someone who is abusing drugs, alcohol, or any other form of instant gratification, fear is a poor motivation. An addict or alcoholic knows exactly how to change the way he or she feels and can do so immediately. Fear may work for a short period of time but it rarely lasts. Those who abuse chemicals need a way to create real and permanent change.
For an addict the desire to experience immediate pleasure takes precedence over delayed rewards that came from emotional maturation and spiritual growth. In the age of blind consumerism it is difficult to convince someone to take the necessary steps to truly work through a challenging situation when there is a pill, person, or product to remedy any pain. Young people are as susceptible to these messages as adults. Any real transformation begins with the acknowledgement of the problem followed up by the acquisition of real emotional and spiritual coping mechanisms.
Psychological well-being requires effort. Spiritual fulfillment involves sacrifice. Personal connection depends on the willingness to truly listen. How often do people shy away from any semblance of personal responsibility?
When a person is afflicted with an emotional or anxiety disorder her issue can manifest in a number of physical and spiritual ways. Alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, cutting issues, eating disorders, and several other physical problems are clearly rooted in an inability to appropriately deal with emotions. In order for the recovery process to begin the physical concerns must be addressed. Therapy is vital for the mental health of the patient but a spiritual solution is also critical. People need hope to get well. No matter how effective a physical plan may be, there must be the promise of a better life.
We live in a culture today that celebrates physical well being as the ultimate sign of health. From diet phenomenons and trendy exercise programs that promise you your “high school waistline” to the ubiquitous material excesses of today’s world, there are constant reminders of the push to be physically superior to others. Our culture is “keeping up with the Joneses” on steroids. The obsession with vanity is a great example of an out of balance sense of priority. While many around us lose weight, develop muscle, and get “just a little tuck to hide the crow’s feet,” families are falling apart at an alarming rate. Adolescent insecurity no longer ends in the senior year of high school it seems to extend to the 40s and sometimes 50s. As long as men and women are hyper focused on the condition of their (and everyone else’s) bodies at the expense of their emotional and spiritual health emotional disorders will continue to skyrocket. Balance isn’t always easy but it is certainly necessary.
The challenge we all face as human beings is coming to terms with what is ultimately most important. In this regard no one is perfect and nobody has all the answers. What is clear is we all need an opportunity to take a step back from the minutiae of day to day life to assess our spiritual condition.
After decades of changing treatment approaches and the continued deepening of drug and alcohol abuse, professionals still struggle to find effective techniques for helping addicts and alcoholics. The medical approach utilizes drugs to combat the physical addiction. “Harm reduction” has also increased in popularity. Many of the medicines used do provide a short term solution. In fact when giving a prescription a doctor or psychiatrist will often make it very clear a drug is “non-addictive.” The problem for a person with a drug or alcohol problem is that if given the opportunity to use a drug as an aid, the addict will become dependent on the chemical rather than seek a holistic solution to his or her problem.
The substance abuser is at risk of believing the drug is the solution. Anything an addict takes has the potential to tap into the addictive personality. An addict or alcoholic wants to feel immediate relief. How comfort is achieved is irrelevant to a person in pursuit of a quick solution. When someone with a drug or alcohol problem begins to heal he will give credit to whoever or whatever provides the perceived solution. This perception is dangerous when it involves drugs. If an addict is convinced he is better through medicinal means, he will rely on the chemical crutch. This creates true addiction. Reliance on a substance to establish change sets a person up to believe that transformation is impossible without the assistance of a drug. The non-addict is at risk as well. If the non-addict relies on a drug, even if it is “non-addictive” he or she will be less likely to resolve the emotional issues causing trouble. The drug removes the impetus to change; i.e. the anxiety. The spiritual solution, finding a connection with God, is not always the easiest or most comfortable answer. However, combined with physical and emotional recovery, it is the most permanent.
Addiction recovery needs a broad approach. An addict is sick emotionally, spiritually, and physically. In many ways the psychiatric and medical field still misunderstand addiction. After decades of changing treatment approaches and the continued deepening of drug and alcohol abuse, professionals still struggle to find effective techniques for helping addicts and alcoholics. The medical approach utilizes drugs to combat the physical addiction. Many of the medicines used do provide a short term solution. In fact when giving a prescription a doctor or psychiatrist will often make it very clear a drug is “non-addictive.” The problem for a person with a drug or alcohol problem is that if given the opportunity to use a drug as an aid, the addict will become addicted regardless of the physical definition.The individual believes the drug is the solution. Anything an addict takes has the potential to tap into the addictive personality. An addict or alcoholic wants to feel relief. How comfort is achieved is irrelevant to a person in pursuit of a solution.
When someone with a drug or alcohol problem begins to heal he will give credit to whoever or whatever provides the perceived solution. This perception is dangerous when it involves drugs. If an addict is convinced he is better through medicinal means, he will rely on the chemical crutch. This creates true addiction. Reliance on a substance to establish change sets a person up to believe that transformation is impossible without the assistance of a drug. The non-addict is at risk as well. If the non-addict relies on a drug, even if it is “non-addictive” he or she will be less likely to resolve the emotional issues causing trouble.
The spiritual solution, finding a connection with God, is not always the easiest or most comfortable answer. However, it is the most permanent. The continued societal denial of God will create more disillusionment, confusion, and hopelessness. If people continue to believe that a drug, money, or other excesses will provide real relief, society is doomed. Medicinal intervention can open the door to changes in behavior. Far too often the sole focus is on behavior changes alone.This gets confused with real transformation. Eventually the drugs stop working. Sadly,today’s common solution is to simply change the drug. Rarely are people encouraged to seek deeper answers. For real resolution to emotional issues use the three legged approach:
The Physical: make the necessary physical changes to improve well-being
The Emotional: find someone with whom you can share what is creating emotional discomfort
The Spiritual: recognize that there is a deeper meaning and purpose to life and that you are loved and supported
With a degree of willingness to change and a thorough approach a person can successfully deal with substance abuse and other emotional issues. People need not struggle alone.
If a recovering alcoholic isn’t taught how to appropriately manage her emotions or given better tools to express herself, she will be seen as having unsolvable problems. In a recent conversation with a person in recovery I was able to point out some very simple facts. This person had shared that she walks around with a feeling of anxiety in the pit of her stomach most of the time. As we spoke about this feeling more, she recognized that when she experienced major changes in her life the feeling is more pronounced. Sometimes she is aware of the change taking place; like getting married, becoming pregnant, changing jobs, or moving and sometimes she doesn’t see the transformation until much later. Either way, what she wants when experiencing these emotions is understanding, validation, and (most importantly) love. She walks around with the unrealistic expectation that if she feels a certain way that something must be wrong. I compared this to recovery from alcoholism. I asked her a series of questions:
Do you believe you are an alcoholic? She responded “yes.”
Do you think this is a permanent condition? “Yes, of course it is. I cannot imagine ever being able to drink normally.”
Every once and a while are your alcoholic thoughts or fantasies more difficult to deal with than at other times? She answered, “Of course.”
So there are times that you are more drawn to alcohol, that the lifestyle seems more attractive, that you just want to get into trouble, or drown your sorrows or celebrate your successes with a drink? “Yes.”
Can you always pinpoint why you are thinking this way “No, sometimes it just pops up for no reason.”
But this doesn’t scare you because you know how to deal with your alcoholism, right? “Exactly. If my head is running I know exactly what to do. Call someone, go to a meeting, write, pray or all of the above!”
Would you agree that these are spiritual tools? “Yes. God as I understand Him can restore me to sanity every time.”
Since you found these solutions to your alcoholism, have they ever failed? “No, never.”
Why do you see your other emotional problems as being significantly different? Why do you think that if you ever feel anxiety that it must be because of something you are doing wrong? “I don’t know, I guess I have always believed that if I have intense fear or anxiety that there must be something wrong with me.”
If you have thoughts about wanting to drink does that guarantee that you will get drunk? “No, that’s ridiculous.”
Does it mean that you are doing something wrong? “Not necessarily. Obviously if I am not taking care of myself, my alcoholic insanities will be stronger but sometimes the thoughts just come up.”
So if you have some simple tools to deal with alcoholism that you know work and you realize that your alcoholism will probably always be with you, why wouldn’t the same tools work with your anxiety?
My point is that spiritual tools will work. In this simple conversation this person was able to clearly see that the feeling in the pit of her stomach that sometimes comes up with no warning does not indicate that she is somehow broken. She recognizes that this may be something that surfaces from time to time. But if she is able to distinguish between the feeling and the reality she will find peace of mind. The feeling may be attached to nothing. It may because of a significant event. Either way if she is able to talk about it, pray about it, and go about her business she will be able to let it go. Not only that, she will be able to provide validation to others who may feel crazy. The more people are convinced that thoughts or feelings of discomfort indicate that they are somehow flawed, the more hopeless our world will become. Most of what every person works through on an emotional level have been issues for many years. That is not the problem. The problem is when people aren’t given solutions that allow real change.
The problem is emotional, the solution is spiritual. Most issues human beings suffer from are rooted in some form of emotional dysfunction. In drug and alcohol treatment the substance abuse issue is in some ways the easiest to deal with. Once an individual is able to abstain from any and all mind-changing chemicals he can begin to see the extent of damage caused in his life. The real challenge for a drug or alcohol abuser is taking the necessary actions to clean up the wreckage of the past and build a new life rooted in fundamental spiritual principles. This won’t happen if the addict isn’t sober and the addict won’t stay sober without changing his life.
It has become common for people to grow up in broken homes. It can sometimes seem a rarity for a child to have a parent at home. Many adults seem to rely more on strangers for the upbringing of their children than on themselves. What is at the root of emotional dysfunction? Do we really need to ask that question?
How many kids are exposed to, and become regular consumers of, pornography before reaching a reasonable level of maturity?
How many kids begin using and abusing drugs and alcohol in their early teens?
How much is God or spirituality discussed in the home?
How much time does the family spend together?
These are all vital questions that must be asked in order to accurately assess any emotional disorder. Without all the information it is impossible to appropriately treat anyone suffering from any sort of deficiency in coping with life.
Spirituality can be a difficult topic of conversation. However it is something that must be discussed when seeking meaning in life. For those dealing with substance abuse the willingness to delve into spiritual health can make the difference between long term recovery and failed attempts at sobriety.