How do you speak to yourself…?

quiet-your-mindIf I spoke to the people in my life the way the voice in my head talks to me I would surely be friendless! It came as a real “aha” moment this morning while working with my personal coach, that I am just downright mean to myself.  I suddenly began to understand why it is that I am unable to achieve certain seemingly simple things in my life… I fail to action so that the nasty little voice in me can shame and guilt me for NOT achieving something as “easy” as going to the gym after a 12-hour working day.  It’s the same voice that chatters away to me when I am unable to resist the chocolate cake, but is oh so quiet when I do succeed in a myriad of other things during the day or the week.  It sits silently by when I receive praise, waiting to pounce at me with some derogatory afterthought as to how I could have done better.

It’s not a kind and loving voice, it’s harsh and critical, echoing failures, but never sharing triumph.  I thought about where it was born while I was working through my realisation this morning, and came to the conclusion that I may never know, but it is time to do something about it.  The most humbling part of the experience was not that the voice was there, but that I’d recognised it so often in my coaching clients, yet failed to hear it for what it was in me…Limiting in its beliefs, stagnant in its mindset and cruel in its choice of language.

It’s the part of me that never truly celebrates all the wonderful things I have achieved, but rather looks for the cracks.  It slides through my mind like volcanic lava, burning the positive thoughts to ashes and leaving nothing but destructive ideas and feelings in its path.  It’s just always been there…the never good enough in me.  It doesn’t speak up when I am feeling grounded and empowered, but waits for a moment of uncertainty when it can lash out with its vicious self-deprecations and taunts.  So although there is a certain curiosity as to where it came from, I am choosing to focus on “retraining” my voice.  Sending it out into the world of gratitudes, teaching it to be softer, kinder and more self-loving.

Because the sudden and profound awareness that it exists and the nastiness of its existence has been a dramatic shift for me today.  I suddenly feel a little more deserving of personally affirming myself.  Because after compliments do come my way, the voice shrieks…and it’s not a display of humility but an inability to be able to practice humility.  There are plenty of areas of life that I have succeeded.  The mere fact that I have been in recovery for this long surely deserves to be celebrated.  My few, but wonderful friends speak of many years of love and connection and deserve to be heard.  Living courageously is where I want to be moving forward, my own voice my biggest fan.  The one that is as fiercely loving and compassionate with me as I am with others…

I feel that through this deepened understanding of self today I have truly stepped into a new dimension of myself and it’s a place I want to slowly explore.  Building on the tools and resources learned to this point, shaping the future of my life with a gentler set of words and ideas.  Rather than the river of fire that burns and destroys, I want the recesses of my mind and soul to be a gently running stream of mindfulness and conscious awareness.  Ever present in my own set of positive beliefs and candid encouragement, I suddenly understand the real work that lies ahead of me and I feel blessed, grateful and truly grounded.  Tonight the soft whispers that drift through my mind are light and ethereal, like mischievous nymphs seeking adventure, and their gentle laughter soothes my soul.  Tonight I feel as though I have started to find my way in the world, with nothing but the truth of who I really am to guide me, and I feel at peace.

Til next time,

Sober Something

What Does Recovery Mean to Me?

hardshipsoften600There is so much debate about recovery these days…is it abstinence or can it be moderation management?  Does these use of medications such as methadone and suboxone mean that you are or aren’t in recovery?  Does using prescription or over-the-counter medication containing “banned” substances count as a relapse?

I think about this often as a person in long-term recovery and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have an answer for anyone else but myself.  I spent my first three or four years in recovery mainly not drinking…I don’t really think I was growing though.  If I  look back on that period of my recovery I don’t really think there was much of a change in my behaviour.  I continued to react to the world and the people in it in a largely  unhealthy way; I avoided difficult emotional situations and I think I spent a lot of time hiding from myself.

And then one day I started to really explore what recovery meant to me… I started reading, learning and expanding my knowledge.  I began to question my beliefs around addiction and what it meant to me to be in recovery.  I reevaluated my value system and what was important to me in my life…and then I started to see real change.  I begun to understand (for myself) that recovery wasn’t about whether I was checking the label of each and everything I put in my mouth as to whether or not it contained any alcohol or potentially addictive substance, but rather how I was growing and developing in my life.

What I began to realise was that hiding in dark corners at parties and get togethers in fear that someone may offer me a drink and then question my refusal, wasn’t me getting well…  I needed to take personal responsibility for my life and start doing some work.  It was the stage where I started to formulate what recovery means to me…  It wasn’t solely about whether I used drugs and alcohol in ANY form, but rather how I saw myself.  And suddenly the haze started to lift for me and it wasn’t about saying no to my addiction towards alcohol (and one or two risky associated behaviours), but rather saying yes towards my life.  And it was at that point in my recovery that it all started to make sense to me.

There was NO point sitting around and feeling that I had been dealt a dud hand, but rather that I needed to make the most of the hand that I had been dealt.  Everyone in active addiction and recovery has a story as to what brought them there, and none is less or more tragic than the next, just relevant to the teller.  So I actively began working o my recovery and stopped focusing on my substance abuse.  I started to look towards a bright, exciting future where so many things suddenly became possible, rather than lamenting the fact that I was “unable” to take part in a round of tequilas, a champagne toast or a seat at the wine tasting.  My vision started to broaden, my horizons started to look clear and inviting, and I stopped feeling like the awkward kid at the party who was desperate to fit in.

I started celebrating my clarity, exploring my possibilities and being grateful for the little successes in my life that I had long taken for granted.  I cherished early mornings, long lazy weekend afternoons free of hangovers, and I looked forward to guilt-free Monday mornings.  I stopped screening my calls, started practising gratitude and embraced the idea of personal, emotional, mental and spiritual development in a myriad of forms.

And then I knew what recovery meant to me…and I have known ever since.  To me it doesn’t mean passing on the delicious home-made tiramisu, but it does mean being honest with myself.  It means spending time on the things that are important to me, but also remembering the importance of others in my life.  It means owning my part in any situation (good or bad) and remembering that I don’t always get it right.  It means spending time with myself, constantly evaluating what I did well and what I can do better, and then using those learnings to improve on how I did things yesterday.  It means listening, watching, reading, exploring and investigating and it means NEVER getting complacent.

But these are my learnings and they have taken years to evolve and develop.  I don’t have the same beliefs around recovery as even some of my colleagues in the field of addiction, but as a Recovery Coach it is my quest to hold the space while others come to their own conclusions about what their recovery means to them and then walk beside them as they figure it all out…just like I did for myself.

Til next time,

Sober Something

I didn’t say it would be easy…I said it would be worth it!

worth it not easyI went to a funeral a couple of weeks ago…and since then I have been experiencing a certain amount of frustration as to why people don’t seem to want to take personal responsibility for their recovery!?  So I have found myself vacillating between anger and minor irritation as to what it is that makes people hand away their personal power at the first given opportunity?

Moving between blame and justification for a slip or a relapse, but seemingly unwilling to take the steps towards personal responsibility, many of my clients seem to be living in some sort of recovery no man’s land…  Not quite in the culture of addiction, but neither firmly standing in the culture of recovery.  It’s almost as though they are waiting to be handed a magical “cure” for their “illness”.  Since I don’t really believe in the disease model of addiction, seeing it more as a social disorder, I don’t believe that we are sick!  I don’t believe that addiction always wins…and I certainly don’t believe that anyone other than us has the capability to “fix” our lives.  Of course I believe in support in numerous forms, whether that is mutual-aid groups, therapy, counselling, coaching or faith-based guidance, but I do believe that ultimately the responsibility for our recovery lies firmly in our hands.

So I ask myself the following questions:

  • Did I follow my recovery plan today and replenish my #RecoveryCapital
  • Did I strive to be a better, more fulfilled person than I was yesterday?
  • Did I practice mindfulness and spiritual principles?
  • Did I use my personal tools and techniques to deal with difficult or stressful situations, so that I responded as an adult, rather than reacting like a child?
  • Was I aware of my triggers and did I use my learned skills to deal with them?

Sound like hard work…?  Well, in early recovery it certainly was, but as time passes these processes and practices become less conscious and more natural.  Not unlike learning to play a musical instrument, speak a  new language or play a sport, the brain and the body take time to develop new thought and behaviour patterns.  Treatment may  be necessary to deal with the symptoms of heavy substance use and the withdrawal, but this is just the beginning of the road for those of us who choose recovery.  The time spent in a clinic or treatment facility needs to be supplemented through aftercare and maintenance programmes, so that the learnings introduced in rehab are practiced and reinforced  over a longer time period.

We need to develop daily routines and practices that support a life of recovery and wellness.  Constantly making choices that exclude the use of substances to deal with life, work, relationships, family, finances…eve fun!  It’s about making choices that support recovery rather than simply allowing the memories (and associated dopamine rewards) of using to take control!  It’s conscious awareness of what’s good for us and conscious avoidance of what isn’t!  Drugs and alcohol are NEVER going away, families are always going to be emotional minefields, jobs and finances are probably going to be the cause of stress at some point, so the thing to do is to develop a set of tools and techniques that ensure that we are empowered enough to deal with these issues in a mature, grounded way.

Life doesn’t miraculously become easier in recovery…in fact sometimes the opposite is true, because sobriety is ordinarily full of technicolour emotions that have been dampened and pushed down for years!  People expect miracles from their loved ones post-treatment, because now that the evil substances are no longer in the picture surely life should be perfect?  The fact is that there is plenty of work for everyone in the family to do now that their loved one is free of substances.  And there is always the chance of a relapse, because that is the unfortunate nature of addiction.  But simply giving into the idea that we are sick and cannot control our lives and recovery doesn’t resonate with me…

It would have been so much easier to go to my client’s funeral with half a dozen Xanax in me…maybe a couple extra in my pocket just in case I felt anything like sadness or anger for his untimely death!  And then a vodka or twelve to get through the rest of the day because it feels crap to feel crap!  But those are the choices of my past.  My present reality at times involves difficult situations, raw emotions, complicated relationships and stress in a myriad of forms , but my choice every day is to get up and action my recovery plan which simply put is this...I am a survivor who takes responsibility, is accountable and practices a set of spiritual principles so that I can sustain my recovery and in so doing continue to live a life of fulfilment and purpose.

I don’t for one minute say that this is easy and I have the humility to know when I am doing well and to be aware of when I am not achieving what I set out to do, but it’s a whole lot better than the alternative which is “just one more” of whatever it is…and a life that would unravel as surely the level in the tequila bottle dropped.  So I know the difficulties and the challenge faced by my clients, and I understand that it is their journey not mine, but I can’t help wanting for them what I have, and sometimes that shows up as frustration I guess…  And I never said it was going to be easy, I said it was going to be worth it!

Til next time,

Sober Something

May Your Choices Reflect Your Hopes…Not Your Fears

May-your-choices-reflect-your-hopes-not-your-fears.-Nelson-MandelaI have been blessed with over eight and a half years of sobriety, but although life has been far better since I stopped drinking, but it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.  My last post focused on “Recovery is not just abstinence”, but I do need to emphasise that for me, abstinence is the gateway to my personal recovery.  I have dipped my toe in the AA waters (although not for long) and  I agree that we are powerless over our disorder, but only once we take the first drink (or whatever our drug of choice is).  As to managing my alcoholism I am completely in control…because up until the point I chose to pick up, all the power lies with me.

Not everyone I work with agrees with me on this point and I have been questioned about my ideas more than once, but I stand firm in my beliefs that I am the one in control, until I chose to relinquish it to the illness that lies quietly dormant within me.  And in order to keep it there I work incredibly hard to live a life where choosing to use is at the cost of the life that I have worked to achieve.  Of course there are times when the thought of a drink to get through a particularly stressful situation, get over a bad week or just to escape from the relentlessness of reality, feels like a good idea, the easy way to take the edge off.

It’s far more challenging to understand the cause of the stress and the frustration, practice spiritual principles like patience, acceptance, honesty and courage to unpack and process an event or series of events, and then to work through them fully conscious and aware.  And then to openly and honestly communicate our needs to the people in our lives, without scaring them because we are having a bad day…and could potentially be on the verge of a relapse.  A relapse takes time…a return to old, destructive behaviours that have negative consequences on our lives and those of the people around us.  I believe that picking up the addictive substance is one of the last things that happens in a relapse, a well-researched element of the chronic recurring disorder of substance abuse.  I don’t  believe that we can simply blame a slip or relapse on this, but need to be willing to take full responsibility for the management of our lives and substance abuse.  It’s not enough to glibly blame a relapse on the fact that we have an addiction, but learn to become aware of our actions and choices that might end up in us relapsing.

It is my responsibility to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, as well as my social and spiritual life, so that I am operating from a place in my life where using alcohol to cope, overcome my problems, celebrate or check out for a while is just not a feasible option.  I have to continue to empower myself in whichever areas of my life might still be lacking…and not for one minute think that I can use for any of these reasons and then be able to stop!  Believing that is for me evidence of a return to denial…I tried it previously and it ended up resulting in a five-year relapse.  That’s a proper return to old, destructive behaviour with ongoing negative consequences, losing my business and all my self-respect being top of that list.

So everyday for me is about continuing to create and develop a life that trumps the life I had when I was using alcohol to quiet my fears of rejection and being left out.  It was also how I  knew how to cope, overcome stress and have a good time.  But over the years I have learned to find healthier ways of doing this.  It hasn’t been effortless, and there are still times when I get it horribly wrong when it comes to trying to figure things out in my personal and professional life.  But at least I am in a sober state of mind to deal with life, rather than sleep walking through it with either a lack of conscious awareness around what is going on in my own life or desperately trying to “fix” the situations I have created when handling them drunk!  I wake up to the same challenges that were in my life before, but through hard work and ongoing personal development I have learned to deal with them differently.

I am constantly striving to be a better personal than I was yesterday and I believe that is my personal goals, dreams and aspirations towards which I am working, along with understanding my values and working diligently with my personal spiritual principles that keeps me in the driver seat when it comes to my addiction…I don’t refute the idea of powerlessness, I just believe that in recovery, as in life, everything comes down to the choices I make and until that point I have the power to keep my life fulfilled, purposeful and sober.

Til next time,

Sober Something

Recovery is NOT Just Abstinence…

imagesOne of the very first questions I ask my clients when we start working together is “What do you understand about the idea of recovery?”  The answers vary, but most of them tend to talk about abstinence.  And for most people recovery does mean abstinence, but #RecoveryIsNOtJustAbstinence!  In my opinion, recovery certainly involves “STOPPING”, but in just “STAYING STOPPED” without the necessary personal growth and development, is extremely difficult if not impossible.  I speak to numerous people who talk of “white knuckling” their recovery for years and years, feeling lonely and isolated, almost hiding from the temptation that the outside world holds.

And the mere fact that I am working with these individuals normally means that they have had some sort of slip or relapse that has caused our paths to cross.  When we start to introduce the idea of #RecoveryCapital to our clients at The Foundation Clinic they are almost relieved to hear that life needn’t be all about trying to embrace sheer focus and willpower to overcome and manage their substance abuse disorder.  Recovery is about living a fulfilled and purposeful life, creating and building upon the emotional, mental, spiritual, social and spiritual resources in their lives.  Life and recovery become interchangeable, as we explore values and spiritual principles, equip clients with simple, practical tools for overcoming triggers and urges, goal set and action plan, and start to understand and embrace adult emotions.

Recovery is not about putting life on hold while we learn to deal with our disorder.  It’s about building a life that doesn’t leave space for the use of drugs and alcohol.  It’s about developing a healthy lifestyle and a positive self-esteem that makes us feel worthy of fulfilling personal and professional relationships.  It’s about a change in mindset, seeing the obstacles in life as a set of exciting challenges and opportunities for growth, rather than a set of potential pitfalls.  It’s about changing our negative self beliefs into those which support and assist us in life (and recovery) instead of negative thoughts, beliefs and actions ultimately leading to those very same negative self-fulfilling prophecies.  And it’s about self awareness and pursuing a conscious, present-focused existence that ensures we are living to our highest personal values, achieving the aspirations that we set out for ourselves and are intentionally pursuing through well-laid out action plans.

Recovery is not simply about putting down the harmful substances and then pretending that they don’t exist.  Recovery is about wanting and needing more from life, so that we are not restricted in our choices!  It’s about consciously and practively creating and developing the skills and the resources to go after a life that we believe we are worthy of…not being limited and imprisoned by drugs, a fixed mindset and a set of negative, limiting beliefs. #RecoveryIsNotJustAbstinence…#RecoveryIsLife..

For more information about Recovery Coaching and the development of #RecoveryCapital, please feel free to contact me | leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za.

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Now that I’ve stopped…how do I stay stopped!?

rope_bridgeI originally wrote this post for The Foundation Clinic, but wanted to share it here on my personal blog.  I hope you enjoy the post.

I meet so many people who have stopped!  Stopped drinking..stopped using drugs…stopped addictive behaviour…and they truly want to stay there.  But there is a vast divide, the Grand Canyon of good intentions, that separates wanting and doing.  I want to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, is a far cry from attaining that life.  It’s a great start, but in between the wanting and the doing is where the real work lies.  Who doesn’t want mature, healthy relationships with their spouse, kids, family and friends!?  A great job that you look forward to, even on a Sunday evening!?  Meaningful interests, hobbies and pastimes, that bring fun, adventure and balance into the everyday!?

There are not a lot of people who I  know that don’t want these (and more)…yet talking about something and actually doing it are extremely different!  So how does one bridge the divide and start to achieve these ideals?  A good place to start is reevaluating one’s values…those things that get me (and you) out of bed in the morning.  What feeds your soul, and makes you come alive?  What makes the hours of the day slip away unnoticed?  For me values are quite different from principles…  I don’t get out of bed to be honest and live with integrity, but rather to pursue my work as a Recovery Coach, spend time with my partner, study and live courageously.  My principles of honesty, integrity, courage and compassion (to name but a few) come into play as to how I undertake to live to these highest core values.

So in order to get from where I am at any present moment, towards where I want to be, takes practising my principles…and there are a couple I find extremely challenging.  Especially patience, forgiveness, acceptance and tolerance (of myself and others).  But armed with my little bag of principles and clear in my values, I take the initial steps towards closing the gap between wanting and doing.  Somehow, just this personal awareness and understanding of what guides my personal compass towards where I want to be, gets me that little bit closer.  Of course I need to be crystal clear in what it is that I am striving for…and I have to be extremely honest, willing and open about whether this is realistic and achievable for me, as well as the opportunities and obstacles that may exist!

So knowing my values, practising my principles and setting SMART (specific-measurable-achievable-realistic-timebound) goals are some of the ways that I managed to move from being stopped to staying stopped.  I also came to understand that stopping was not enough…I needed to build up a set of resources, #RecoveryCapital, that would support me in quest to stay stopped!  I needed to find activities, pursuits, undertakings, interests, hobbies (still battling with that one), and relationships that were supportive of me in recovery.  Because if recovery was going to be less exciting, fulfilling and meaningful than active addiction, what was the point?  And initially it was less exciting, less fun, less invigorating than drinking, dancing and general inebriated adventure.  But slowly, a step at a time, the journey started to unfold for me some of the greatest joy, love and fulfillment I had ever experienced.

The little things started to have more meaning than I could ever imagine…living in my integrity and showing up when I said I would show up was so much better than I believed it would be.  Being present in relationships and noticing what was going on with my loved ones has brought me countless blessings over the years.  Getting to know (and  love) myself, is one of the most fulfilling relationships I’ve ever had.  And it all starts with just a couple of practical, little actions.  The changes don’t happen overnight, the relationships don’t miraculously fix themselves from one day to the next, but armed with just a few tools, a whole lot of awareness (achieved through complete honesty with myself), a set of clear goals (even around what I wanted from my personal relationships), I have managed to walk across the bridge between stopping and staying stopped.

And there have been days when the bridge has been nothing more than some rope and some shaky planks, and others when it’s metal and concrete.  But I keep my focus firmly forward, not letting the past pull at my ankles like terrifying trolls that live on the river banks.  Because one of my biggest learnings has been that hanging onto the traumatic events of my past does not serve me.  I have taken the time to learn from them, but then I have thanked them for their teachings and laid them down along the road, so that they cannot sabotage me or what I want from my life.  I have stayed stopped by learning to say yes to certain people, places, thoughts, beliefs and parts of self and no to others.  I am not perfect, I don’t always get it right, but I have the conscious awareness to know when I am slipping into self-defeating thinking.  And that awareness is like a razor-sharp knife I use to cut the sneaky tendrils of guilt, shame, fear and blackness that sometimes endeavour to envelop me.

And so I continue to be vigilant as I move from being stopped to staying stopped, always equipped with by bag of tools should I need to mend part of my bridge, fortify an area of weakness or build up my inherent strengths.  It might just mean stopping and looking at the view from a different perspective, giving my values a good shake up, reevaluating my goals and action plans, or simply enjoying the slight swaying as life continues to become more fulfilling, exciting, purposeful and adventuresome than I could ever imagined before I stepped out of the mist, took my first step onto the bridge and started to narrow the distance between wanting and doing.

If you are interested in the tools I have learned, and share, as a Recovery Coach, please contact The Foundation Clinic for more information about our treatment and recovery programmes. You can call on (011)728-9200, email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za or fill out the form below and we will contact you!

For more information about Treatment and Recovery Programmes visit www.thefoundationclinic.co.za

 

What do I choose!?

Sometimes life is extremely challenging and there are times when it’s particularly difficult not to curl up in a ball under my duvet and hide from the world…but then I would not be living the learning that I encourage my clients to practice in their lives.  Because recently i have had a really tough run of events that didn’t result in me having a drink, but did find myself slipping back into those nasty thought patterns that ruled my life while I was drinking!  The woe-poor-victim-me way of thinking that never amounts to anything good.  I have found myself throwing a self-pity party or two that were among my finest…  The beauty of this situation though was my awareness of my behaviour and the consciousness of what was going on.  So rather than staying entrenched in these thoughts, words and deeds of all-consuming abjection, I utilise the tools that I have at my disposal to check myself and my unhealthy thoughts.

Instead of getting sucked into the misery vortex, I has to start thinking about my thinking and I dig into my bag of spiritual principles, and decide how to proceed.  I am not for one minute saying that this is an effortless transition, but by applying what I know to be effective, I am able to direct my thinking in a healthier, more empowered way and start to make plans for how I am going to move forward.  Being told by a radiologist that they have found a lump, while my wonderful partner is at home nursing a broken hand, driving a borrowed car while mine was having the clutch replaced and not having the funds to pay for the biopsy, all made me feel like the universe was conspiring against me…and I slipped right into “my addict” way of mentally processing the situation.  It hasn’t been a great year with my boyfriend’s mother and best friend dying, my best friend losing her baby just before he was due to enter the world, coupled with endless financial stresses and all those annoying little things that seem to be constantly happening.

So when I realised that although I wasn’t using like an addict I was thinking like an addict , I decided to get really serious with myself.  And that doesn’t mean berating myself, telling myself to pull myself together.   This is when I really need to practice the principles of self-love, patience and acceptance.  I have been through a lot this year, and I need to be gentle with myself at times.  So instead of chastising myself for slipping, I have given myself the space to process what it’s all about.  I have spent a couple of weeks dancing in and out of fear and anger, even sadness, but I have been aware of my feelings and understood that even though they might not feel good, they are necessary in order to move forward.  Just because I work with chaos, crisis and conflict on a daily basis in the substance abuse treatment and recovery world, doesn’t mean that I am a guru when it comes to dealing with my own upsets.

What I do know now is even when there is huge uncertainty, I need to practice (not just talk about) gratitude, humility, patience, acceptance and compassion.  That I need to be conscious of my thinking, and if necessary express my fear, sadness and anger in a mature and adult way so that they best serve me and those around me.  I have turned not to run from my emotions, but to work through them with the principles I am developing and strengthening in my life.  It’s one thing to know I need to be honest about how I am feeling, but another thing to practice this essential principle (whether or not one is in recovery)…  I can talk about being patient, but how can I truly implement this and other truths into daily life.

I chooseBut I am learning through practiced awareness, consciousness and mindsight to be in control of the things I can control, and in the situations I have no control over, I do have the choice as to how I show up in these  instances.  I have a choice of how I practice and apply my learnings, and I have a choice as to how I respond to the situations that come my way.  I may not always appreciate what is happening in my life, and it might be scary and overwhelming at times, but  I do have a choice at how I look at these events and whether I approach them as an empowered woman’s thinking or that of my addict…  And although there are many things I have no choice or control over, these are a few of the things that I do!!

For more information about Recovery Coaching and living a purposeful, fulfilled life in recovery | (011)728-9200 | leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za 

From a Culture of Addiction to a Culture of Recovery | Train 1,000 Recovery Coaches!

Working in the emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially and physically rewarding, and equally demanding, world of substance abuse, addictive behaviour and mental health disorders means that my life is filled with purpose and fulfillment.  Yet as blessed as I am to have found a career that feeds my soul, there are of course ongoing challenges.  South Africa has a chronic addiction problem from the streets of Soweto where “nyaope” is rife, to the upper class suburbs where benzos and cocaine are the drug of choice.  The use of “tik” (crystal meth) which has devastating physical, mental and spiritual effects on users is not confined to a single cultural, ethnic or socio-economic group.  And let’s not forget alcohol, which in my humble opinion is the “gateway drug” because I don’t work with too many people who didn’t meet their true love in their drug of choice without a booze-filled night or two.  The list goes on and I could continue to talk about the drugs, the chronic problems and the hopelessness of the situation or I can start to look at it from a different perspective!!

So I position myself as a Recovery Coach assisting people to move from a culture of addiction to the culture of recovery.  And part of the work that I do is assisting in the training of other recovery coaches.  Our aim is to train individuals and groups to empower themselves, their families, organisations and communities to become part of the solution to the SA Addiction Crisis!  Instead of trying to solve a problem that is far beyond our reach, we chose to focus on teaching and coaching using forward-focused and solutions-driven tools and techniques to shift people into a new mindset.  By looking at things from a different angle, we offer clients the option to start moving towards their imagined future, not languishing in the past.

I have been to a couple of events lately which were supposedly recovery-orientated and all I heard was people talking about the problem, firmly entrenched in the culture of addiction.  There were vague glimmers of hope, but mostly people caught up in the gory details of their addiction.  The message was along the same old lines of just say no (if you don’t want to end up like me)! What I believe is that people in South Africa need to change the language that they are using around recovery.  Because the “War on Drugs” has long been lost and the costs are still being tallied.  We as a country don’t have the financial resources to  fight the drug lords, police the lolly lounges, rid the streets of sellers, but what we can do is create #RecoveryCapital which are the internal and external resources required to support people in their recovery.

Rather than spending money fighting a losing battle, isn’t it more productive to start to develop resources that are aimed at assisting those who are ready to move into a culture of recovery!?  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on developing centres that are safe places for those in recovery to spend their time once they have chosen to embrace recovery!?  Because if we are honest, what is there to support a person who has given up their “best friend” and now has to start to feed their soul with new, recovery-orientated activities.  It’s no good simply telling people to stop using and doing, what we need to do is to offer replacements so that people aren’t enticed back to using because they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT) or simply bored and looking for something to fill the time which takes care of these physical needs or makes them feel stronger, sexier and smarter.  Able to work longer with less food and very little spiritual or emotional fulfillment!

So one of the approaches from SHARP Recovery Solutions is the training of 1,000 Recovery Coaches over the next two years!  It’s a lofty goal, but the benefits are enormous.  Recovery Coaches are trained to support individuals, families, organisations and communities to start building up the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and social resources through supportive, accountable relationships.  People are equipped with tools and techniques that help them to start to rebuild their lives, both personally and professionally and really embrace what it means to be in recovery.  Because there is an enormous difference between abstinence and recovery the way I see it.

Because empowering people engenders a culture of hope, honesty, integrity and courage (to name but a few of the spiritual principles on which recovery is built).  Offering solutions, rather than simply regurgitating the same drug-addled language about addiction, is about moving through goal-orientated planning.  It’s about offering alternatives and it can all start with just one courageous conversation with a Recovery Coach!  Someone who doesn’t want to look to the past, but chooses to look towards the possibilities that lie glimmering on the horizon.

For more information about Recovery Coach Training and Funding, please contact Leigh-Anne Brierley | (011)728-9200 | leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Check out “Train 1000 Recovery Coaches”

Check out “Train 1000 Recovery Coaches” on Indiegogo http://igg.me/at/sharprecoverysolutions-1000-coaches/shre/12235108

Addiction | An Equal Opportunities Disorder

Addiction can be a very lonely place, shadowed by shame, guilt, fear anger, sadness and not a whole lot of joy!  The stigma that exists around addiction does nothing to support individuals, families, organisations and communities faced with the mental, emotional, social, physical and spiritual challenges that this presents.  And all too often those with substance abuse, addictive behaviour and mental health disorders are seen as somehow less than everyone else.  I can personally vouch for the fact that none of these issues are moral ones.  Addiction can stem from four primary causes, which are:

  • Chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Unresolved issues of guilt, shame and trauma
  • Inability to change current situation
  • False belief system

So initial use often results from an individual’s inability to cope in a healthy, productive manner.  And what starts as a way to deal with life’s pressure may become a habitual pattern, beginning with use and progressing to misuse, abuse and dependency.  And then the theories, ideas and models abound around whether or not addiction is a disease.  What starts out being fun, free and fanciful – something to take the edge off life – often ends in isolation and loneliness, where obsession and the single-minded value of using or doing is what governs one’s life.

But from where I work as a Recovery Coach, it’s not about what caused the addiction as much as how one wants to move forward.  It’s a quagmire, and while acknowledging the victim it is my primary focus to support my clients as they create #RecoveryCapital to develop their survivor.  Recovery Coaching is not a “fix all”, but rather an adjunct service that can be used to help a client plan their recovery and wellness journey, and then develop actions to move themselves towards their envisaged future.

It takes a strong, courageous person to acknowledge their addiction and take the first step in their personal journey.  Addiction treatment and recovery is something to be celebrated and honoured, something for the individual and their loved ones to be proud off.  Millions of people across the world’s regions and cultures, ethnic, language and socio-economic groups are afflicted by what really is an equal-opportunities disorder.  The challenge facing all these people is to unite in supporting, loving and reconnecting with themselves, their families and communities.  That we treat one another as whole, complete and capable, rather than broken and weak.  Because isolating people is not going to help them get well!!

The addict’s larger circle is as always affected by the substance abuse and addictive behaviours.  And it is equally important that their close family and friends don’t forget about themselves to save their addict.  Rebuilding trust, learning to practice patience, tolerance, forgiveness and integrity are all effective ways to heal relationships.  Learning to communicate effectively with others and laying down strong, healthy personal boundaries are all solutions-driven approaches to starting to live a constructive, fulfilling life.  Learning to express the mature emotions of anger, sadness, fear and joy in a way that serves and empowers, are highly useful tools that can be learned in treatment and recovery programs.

Education, personal development and spiritual growth are all facets that can be expanded and developed as one progresses through recovery.  It’s about developing new though patterns, developing new behaviours and being mindfully aware of our thoughts.  There are various options around treatment and recovery, from inpatient treatment to outpatient programs.  One of the most important elements lies in the personal relationships that develop between the patient, the addiction professionals and the family unit.  So explore all the options that are out their from counselling, to therapy and recovery coaching, along with exploring what you can do to #feedyoursoul in recovery.

For more information about treatment and recovery solutions, please visit www.thefoundationclinic.com or call us on (011)728-9200 for information about our various programs.