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

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

 

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

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.

Pursuing Purspose | Zanny Collings

He died, after years of depression, drug abuse and multiple suicide attempts…he died. The last attempt was successful.  How my heart bled for a chance to see him again.  To hear his voice and to see him smile, but all that gripped my heart was the memory of the deep sadness in his eyes.  My beloved uncle, who was like a brother to me, was gone.  I remember the sleepless nights and the nightmares, the stories told about how it wasn’t the first time he had tried to kill himself.  I had tried to make sense of what had happened, tried to put the pieces of his puzzled life together, just so I could understand why he could no longer live in this world.

There were others after him.  And their stories of hopelessness and a life of pain, ending in death, haunt me to this day.  Their cries for help reverberate in my soul.  I need to help them… but how?  I had become a lost soul myself; bad decision after bad decision had led me down a path of self-destruction.  Even in those moments of hopeless despair, I could hear the cries for help.  They were everywhere.

First, I needed to deal with my own pain; I was empty.  Empty from living a life filled with meaningless endeavours.  Suicide of the soul. Abused self.  Diagnosed with depression on so many occasions, I needed to move beyond the dysfunctional patterns I had created in my life.  Healing was necessary for the once confident young girl who believed that she had the potential to make a difference in the lives of others.

I made the first step and found my healing at the feet of my Maker.  Who better than Him to fix what was broken and restore me to what he had created me to be?  The process of healing is never easy though, it takes a series of hard decisions and difficult life choices to undo a lifetime of dysfunction.  The second step was to find a place where I could learn and equip myself with the skills and knowledge to effectively do the work I so long to do.  God then placed on my path people who inspired and guided me on my quest.  Some do not even realise how their lives of selflessness has helped me realise my dream, day by day.  It’s funny how when we align ourselves to God and accept that we need Him that things start coming together in a way that is beyond our own understanding.

I say this because, a month ago today I would have never imagined myself in Recovery Coach in Training.  I was happily going about my life doing the best I could to pursue my purpose, when I received a friend request from an angel.  This angel had come to revolutionise myself and she did not even know it .  A few interactions later, I was accepting to do the course that was to take place the very next weekend, at the cost of?   Merely volunteering my time to helping others; I could have jumped right out of my skin!

So there I was the first night of Recovery Coach Training at SHARP Recovery Solutions, anxious but excited that I was granted the opportunity to be a part of an amazing community of individuals and organisations whose sole purpose was one of healing, restoration and wellness.  God was smiling down at me.  My life would never be the same again.

The facilitator was amazing, along with his sidekick angel.  Anyone who comes into contact with them will agree with me when I say that their passion for what they do is inspiring.  The sacrifices they make to serve makes this cold, dark world a better place to live in every day.  Needless to say, that first night left me reeling.  I was a heap of mixed emotions after interacting with an array of characters and concepts, not to mention a few curveballs to throw me into a tailspin of what I can only express as ‘whoaaa!!’.

I went back the next morning with only a few hours of sleep and a burning desire to push through.  Did I mention that I am 8 months pregnant? Oh yes, by the way. LOL!!  The timing is amazing, but Lord knows I would much rather pursue than back down and allow another life into this world without a concerted effort on my part to bring things full circle…I’ll definitely be blogging about this at a later stage!  So there I was continuing my training, and boy was I in for a ride.  Nothing short of informative, the informal interactive style of teaching kept us all on our toes.  With every laugh, cry and awkward pause there was a massive download of knowledge and life experience that no amount of lecturing could ever buy.  I was in my element!  And could not wait to come back for more.  No amount of exhaustion was going to keep me away, not this girl!

EmilyMy kokorozashi was awakened!  My life’s purpose was becoming more than just a feeling, it was becoming something tangible.  How could I not pursue this avenue of learning and use it to improve the lives of others?  After all these years of searching and wandering I have stepped into what could turn out to be the greatest resource in fulfilling my purpose.  By week two, which has just passed, I experienced a greater sense of direction, a higher level of understanding.  It was as if God spoke through my facilitators and classmates, their experiences and courageous sharing had added fuel to the simmering fire inside of me.  I saw and felt an overwhelming love, not the selfish kind that we have become accustomed to but a love that has no boundaries and knows no end. It breaks down walls and nourishes the soul, leaving only vivid traces of the pain that once lived behind those walls.  These people, this place, this community, was the epitome of selflessness.  I love them so much!

My most earnest prayer is that God will grant me the grace to continue in the pursuit of my purpose.  May my newfound friends never lose their passion and may every endeavour be a fruitful one.  That every person who crosses our paths will experience only love and a sense of hope for their futures.

I am Zanny.  Checking out Purpose Driven!

For more information about Recovery Coach Training, please email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Why is early recovery so difficult?

I was  asked to do a guest post for Addictionology earlier this year on why people find early recovery so difficult!?  It really didn’t take me too long to think of a multitude of reasons, myself having white-knuckled my early recovery some years ago.  In my opinion, being clean and sober is not the same as being in recovery.  Simply abstaining without changing one’s behaviour patterns, developing effective coping mechanisms and growing mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually means we are not growing as a person in recovery.  Because I think that this is an incredibly important issue, I have decided to re-post the article here in an attempt to highlight how finding purpose and fulfillment is essential to long-term recovery and wellness.

Moving from the culture of addiction to the culture of recovery is a challenging journey that requires physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual recovery capital to ensure that we have the resources to support us in our recovery.  In order to fill the void that is left by abstaining from harmful substances and behaviour, it is important that we start to develop tools and techniques that aid our recovery.  By giving us the objectivity of “mind sight” to be able to observe our feelings, thoughts and behaviour in a potentially harmful situation, we are better equipped to develop new thought patterns, so that we are able to overcome early-stage cravings and urges.

By understanding the importance of spiritual principles and determining what our personal values are, we can start to feed our souls.  Instead of pursuing destructive behaviour patterns that are prevalent in substance abuse, we should try and develop healthy pursuits, explore new interests and identify which elements of our lives need to cultivated.  People in early recovery often experience difficulties because they are not prepared for the feelings of loneliness and emptiness they experience because of they have lost their “best friend”.  According to psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, people in recovery go through the stages of grief, like those experienced when losing a close friend or family member.  People will most likely experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance during the process and may be unaware that we are actually grieving.  Again, by understanding and acknowledging our situation, we are able to more effectively deal with obstacles we may confront in the early stages of our recovery journey.

Personal learning and self-development will ensure that we are more empowered, moving towards a life of purpose and fulfilment in the later stages of recovery.  Goal setting and action planning are skills that can be consciously developed to aid forward movement in recovery.  By joining a Recovery Wellness Program clients are encouraged to design their own recovery plan and identify and capitalise on their personal strengths, while be aware of areas of weakness and possible obstacles that might jeopardise their early recovery.  By engaging in adult education in an environment of positive psychology, solutions-driven coaching and peer support, one is given a safe environment to explore recovery in an honest, empowering program.

Til Next Time

Sober Something

FOUNDATION LOGO (COLOURS)2

The Foundation Recovery Wellness Program is a 21-day program that aids recovery, by developing the survivor in each client, exposing clients to information about recovery (rather than focusing on addiction), and giving each client the opportunity to grow and move forward in a supportive, caring space.  For more information on The Foundation Recovery Wellness Program, please visit www.thefoundationclinic.com or contact Leigh-Anne (082)442-5710 discuss your options.

When I is replaced by we…

When I is replaced by weIt’s been a while since I posted!  Namely because the start to this year has been nothing sort of hectic and not quite what I was hoping for when the the New Year clock struck twelve, but we forge on with hope and fortitude.  I also migrated my blog to a new ISP and I’m really hoping that the people that have been reading my blog won’t get lost in the transfer.  I’m eternally grateful to those that do read my posts and always hope that my musings bring you some sort of personal comfort, insight or ideas.  My hope is that through my recovery journey, I am able to aid and inspire others.  Like I’ve said before this is not an easy road to walk, but like anything that challenges us, the rewards are rich.

Today I want to talk about the ideas in the Huffington Post article, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think“.  I’m not going to dissect and critique the article, but I want to talk around the theme of “connectedness” that Johann Hari discusses in his article.  What I will say is that the article is nothing short of outstanding and it’s wonderful how many people have become engaged in discussion since its publication.

For too long addiction and substance abuse disorders have been viewed as a moral failing on the part of the “addict”!  The idea of “Just say no!” has perpetuated the idea that people who develop substance abuse disorders are somehow morally challenged and that they should simply choose not to take part in this type of behaviour.  After all, if you are strong-willed and righteous there can be no debate when it comes to the question of using a substance (illegal or otherwise).  But the truth is that in trying to find comfort in loneliness people (like the isolated rats discussed in the article) we are drawn to behaviours that synthetically feed our souls.  So that when there is emptiness, a lack of fulfillment and undetermined purpose, individuals can be drawn to that “cocaine- or heroine-laced water bottle”.  And in modern society the substances are not just illegal street drugs, but often medications subscribed by qualified medical professionals to “get us through this rough patch”!

Sleeping tablets, anti-depressants and mood stabilisers are prescribed freely and are just as addictive as coacaine, heroine and methamphetamines.  And let’s not forget alcohol, which can be purchased on every other block.  And because of feelings of isolation, a lack of self-worth and the inability to connect with the people around us, we are drawn to something to help us feel a part of things.  A moral failing?  I think not.  But definitely an indication of the society we live in.  When surrounded by others many have never felt so alone or disconnected from the 7 billion people that occupy the planet.  And like the rat separated from the the others, we are drawn to something that will ease the emotional trauma that we are experiencing when cut off, whether literally or figuratively.

And it can be hard to find our way back from that place where we are alone and scared, but it’s not impossible.  By reaching out and slowly reestablishing the relationships with ourselves and others that led to that initial isolation, we are able to rediscover our purpose.  By determining our values and the spiritual principles that guide us, it is possible to live a healthy and fulfilled life in recovery. Substance abuse needn’t be a stigma that you carry around with you, the definition of who you are, it’s simply a part of your life’s journey.  Through learning, education and peer support you can move forward with clearly established goals and plans, supported by those around you.  The way I see it is that no one is meant to journey life alone…it’s just not how it’s meant to be.  But through a variety of social, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors we are often secluded, even hidden in plain sight.  By stepping out of the darkness of solitude, we can continue our wanderings.

Recovery Wellness Coaching is a powerful aid for reconnecting with ourselves and others.  It presents us with the opportunity to excavate our true purpose, find fulfillment in our lives and move forward with personal insight and emotional connectivity.  Understanding that we are not your substance abuse disorder and developing tools and techniques to create our personal vision, set goals and develop action plans makes recovery coaching an empowering choice.  Too often we get lost in the quagmire, forget who we are and what we want…becoming so caught up in what’s going on around us that we end up losing sight of ourselves, somehow becoming inadvertently separated in all the chaos.  Recovery Coaching has the immense power to help you rebuild the physical, emotional, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of your life so that you are truly connected to yourself and those around you.

I know that it’s done wonders for me and the people that I work with…so if you are interested and would like more information about Recovery and Wellness Coaching please contact me to explore your options.  Because “When I is replaced by we even illness becomes wellness”.

Til next time

Sober Something

What’s Your Reaction?

Response v ReactionThe Silly Season is approaching and that means that there will be triggers aplenty for anyone – whether in recovery or not!  Because everyone is triggered by situations all the time.  It’s just how we cope with it that varies.  Unacknowledged triggers that aren’t dealt with are more than likely to turn into urges and those are a whole lot more difficult to deal with.  When we are triggered by what’s going on around us (good or bad) we immediately start to react rather than thinking and if this happens an Amygdala Hijack occurs.  This means that instead of thinking clearly and rationally with the executive decision-making part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, we use the primal part of our brains to decide on our course of action.  Basically we react to the situation using the last stored memory in the Hippocampus, and if the record of experiences tells the amygdala that it is a flight, fight or freeze situation then the amygdala triggers the HPA (hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain.  That’s the scientific explanation and it’s all a little complex.

The idea is that we return to the last stored set of memories and we use these to respond to the situation.  So however we dealt with these triggers previously will be our “go-to response”.  The idea is that instead of simply reacting to a situation and allowing ourselves to be hijacked by the primal part of our brains, we actually take a moment to create self-awareness around the situation. Instead of freaking out when a family member pisses you off, and diving into the nearest punch bowl, the idea is to take a moment to think things through. As individuals with substance misuse disorders, our knee-jerk response to highly-charged situations is most likely to use!  Our brains have learned that when we are threatened then we indulge in destructive behaviour.  But we can retrain our brains to respond rationally rather than to simply giving into the trigger, allowing it to become an urge and possibly allowing this “hijack” to be an easy excuse for using or doing!

Triggers are everywhere…it’s what we do about them that determines our continued recovery!  After time there is every possibility that new thoughts and behvaiours are in place, so that when your annoying _______ (insert family member here) starts to tick you off your reaction/response isn’t determined by the primal part of your brain, but with the area that is able to differentiate between conflicting thoughts, determine future consequences of current activities and exercise social control.  Sure it’s tough to start with, but the more thinking that occurs when one is triggered, the easier it becomes to get out of that freaked out state and move forward, without resorting to harmful substances or behaviours to cope.  Because drugs, alcohol and certain behaviours, whether bought legally or illegally, are all ways of dealing with pain.  And pain comes in different forms, whether emotional, mental, spiritual or physical.  And when we are in pain we often want to medicate, rather than look for healthy pain management options.  We want the instant gratification of a “quick fix” rather than sticking to our long-term recovery and wellness plan.

And part of the long-term solution is learning to look at what causes us to be triggered and developing strong, adult coping skills to move forward without resorting to destructive reactions, whether these be substances or behaviours.  And when the entire family (or parts thereof) is together over the holidays, possibly spending more time than normal together, there is a high likelihood that there is will challenging situations… I only have to think of what it’s like when my family is together to imagine the plethora of emotionally-charged interactions that can occur.  But by taking a moment, maybe a few deep breaths, and trying to think  calmly about what is going on, rather than slipping off to the nearest bar, is a far better choice (with a lot less fallout!!).   By considering what it is about the situation that is causing your brain to want to want to resort to primal thinking and fight, flee or freeze, you’ll be in a far more empowered position to make decisions around what’s going on.

Little by little we can start to add new memories to the hippocampus so that our new set of stored (automatic) memories about dealing with potentially harmful situations are based in healthy, well-thought out ideas and coping skills.  And this can be done consciously by putting new actions in place when the family holiday becomes less than relaxing.  Instead of resorting to habitual patterns of behaviour, new thought patterns are developed.  And next time that trigger situation arises, your new, healthy thought will be what you pull up.  Of course this is a conscious exercise initially because you might find yourself denying the thought or bargaining with the idea.  But I know from personal experience that being brave and courageous in these situations rather than giving in to the short-term relief of old practices, is going to bring far more joy in the long run.

Stop, think and decide what has caused the trigger.  Don’t let your amygdala hijack the sensible, thoughtful part of your brain that can help you make grounded decisions about the outcome of something.  Resorting to flight, fight or freeze  probably won’t serve you tomorrow and there is every chance that if you give into the triggers and urges, you could wake up in the morning with a whole lot of feelings that you don’t want.  And of course there’s the consequences of your actions too.

Developing healthy, enlightened thought patterns based on new experiences and learned coping skills, is a proactive method of dealing with those unwanted (and often unavoidable) triggers that crop up in our lives, no matter what time of year.  Stop, think and respond…and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Til next time,

Sober Something

Recovery Resources | Recovery Coaching SA

Recovery Resources | Recovery Coaching SA.

Free Introductory Consultation

If you are looking for alternatives to traditional recovery methods, have you considered coaching as part of your sustained sobriety and continued wellness plan?

I offer a free introductory consultation to determine whether you would like to pursue a series of coaching sessions as part of your recovery plan.  There is no obligation if you decide that coaching does not resonate with you, but I encourage you to explore all your options especially if you have received treatment and are looking for a forward-focused, practical and empowering approach to long-term recovery.

Please feel free to call me (078-938-0045) or email me (leighanne@recoverycoachingsa.com) to book a FREE session and learn about the empowering nature of recovery coaching.

 

A Cookie-Cutter Cure…

There’s something that I really want to talk about today, and I fear that isn’t going to win me a popularity contest in the world of recovery.  But sometimes it’s important to speak up on issues that have such an impact on our lives and those of the people that we care about and love.  Over the past few months I have been working at SHARP Recovery Centre in Johannesburg, co-facilitating a Recovery Wellness Group.  It’s a new approach to recovery in South Africa, working with people in a place of wellness rather than treating them as ill and destined to a life of misery because they are afflicted with a disease, but I talked about this at length in my last post “What if I fall!?”  Today what I would like to talk about is the general lack of concern that recovery professionals seem to have for their clients.

Of course I am not throwing a net over every single recovery worker or treatment centre in the country, this post is about my personal experience, the people I have been working with and what I have seen in my time in the industry.  What strikes me most is that people in recovery who I talk to, tell me about how they are made to feel like just another bed filler in the treatment centres they have been, with seemingly little concern as to their true mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  And if they relapse and return to for another round of treatment all the better, because there is no discount for returning customers.  It’s almost as though it’s lucrative for the clients to stay “sick” because what organisation doesn’t like loyal, repeat customers.  Rather than supporting clients through treatment and developing effective, individualised aftercare plans, clients are returned to the “real world” in a highly vulnerable state, normally told to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, and then left to their own devices until the “pink bubble” they are living in pops and they are faced with difficult situations, triggers and urges…and no real coping strategies to deal with them.

Following their time in treatment facilities clients bemoan that they are subjected to the same ideas, theories and programs over and over again.  The fact that this recovery regimen didn’t work for them the last time is often put down to the fact that they didn’t do the work, because if they had they wouldn’t be back in treatment.  The client is viewed as flawed and broken, but what I am saying is perhaps it’s the system that needs to be re-evaluated.  Because if making someone do weeks and weeks of step work and search for their Higher Power was really that effective, surely people wouldn’t be constantly walking through the “revolving day of recovery“.  What people in recovery need during and after treatment is not someone judging them and waiting for them to slip up, but people who support and honour their recovery work and the path to recovery that they choose to take.  I want to see the people that I work with grow, develop and succeed in their lives, not be a long-term source of income for me.  After completing a series of coaching sessions, I want to see them take the tools, strategies and techniques they have learned and apply them to their lives.  And though a set of plans, goals and life strategies may work for one client doesn’t mean that they will work for another.

Where one person may choose to put a heavy emphasis on personal development, another may choose to attend a mutual-help group.  A sponsor may resonate with one client while rebuilding a spousal relationship may be more important to someone else.  Dictating what someone has to do to achieve long-term sobriety seems laughable to me, especially since I failed miserably in the traditional recovery arena.  Chastising me for being unable to find my Higher Power simply pushed me to find a different approach to my recovery and in doing so I began to question how one approach can be seen as applicable to every person with a substance (or behaviour) abuse disorder.  The people I meet in recovery couldn’t be more different and so we as recovery professionals need to be prepared to tailor-make systems and plans that are as diverse as the clients that we serve.  Clients shouldn’t be viewed as a payday who can be treated with a one-size-fits-all recovery plan, because that’s the easiest option for us!

The field of recovery should be client-centred and driven by the individual needs of the people that we are assisting.  Dictating recovery policy to someone who has a substance abuse disorder (SAD) and more likely than not a very strong adapted child in their egoic makeup, will most likely lead to rebelliousness and disobedience (even in adults).  I believe that it is our responsibility, since we have chosen to assist people with SADs, to take the time to really get to know our clients, to explore their options together and then to give the client the support that they need to live their recovery in a practical, forward-focused, solutions-driven way.  Surely our aim should be to empower individuals so that they go out into the world and live a purposeful, fulfilling life, not replace one dependency for another (no matter how much healthier we believe it to be).  Rather than becoming reliant on a program or a person, my focus is to assist a client to get to a place of growing personal power, so that they become equipped with the life skills to move confidently forward in their recovery.  I have no desire to see anyone fail, but should they trip occasionally I see my purpose as being to give them a hand up and then set them on their way again, not rub my hands together as they generate another income stream for me.

I think that we need to consider that a “cookie-cutter cure” for substance abuse disorders doesn’t work.  And like so many other industries we need to put the client at the top of the planning model and develop strategies that are uniquely designed to consider their requirements, not simply “enforce” a top-down system on them that may not address their specific character, culture, socio-economic situation, personal desires and professional aspirations.  We need to listen to the clients and find out what they want, even if you consider addiction to be a disease.  Even a cancer patient is given options when it comes to their treatment.  Treatment and care at any stage of  substance misuse and recovery needs to be a place where people feel heard and supported, not disregarded and stigmatised.  Of course these are my opinions formed over my years in recovery and now recovery coaching, but for me the client is the centre of the model and everything after that is decided in an accountable, collaborative relationship where trust, honesty and many other spiritual principles govern the direction that their personal recovery plan takes, which should be as unique and special as they are.

drseusstodayyouareyou

‘Til next time

Sober Something