Want a chocolate? Have a chocolate!

7d84351a5a087979f963de66e36d18fe.jpgAnd who would be surprised if I said that the biggest challenge in my recovery recently has not been relationships (although there have been a few major changes there), work (also a stressful, chaotic space at the moment), or my personal growth and development (the Enneagram work I am doing has been enormously grounding), but rather my health & fitness…AGAIN!

I was looking back through my posts and in “It’s not the substance that’s the problem…” I talk on this very issue with such hope and optimism.  At the time I was on a very extreme medically-assisted diet, and I was doing great!  I was on the pink cloud of weight loss and completely unconcerned about how I was going to sustain the drastic, low-calorie approach with daily supplements and self-administered injections…I really had no intention of thinking it through as the kilos dropped off.  Which is not unlike the same phase that many of my clients go through in early recovery.  This is great!  I feel great!  Everything’s great!  BANG!!! I just ran into a wall.  And surprise, surprise that is exactly what happened to me.

I had a bad financial run at work, the injections, weekly consultations and supplements became too expensive, I was battling with the 650 calories a day and extreme hunger and I just became plain miserable.  On top of that I was “not allowed” to exercise and I’ve never needed much encouragement to avoid the gym.  Needless to say I relapsed into old behaviours, and about 14 months later I had regained the 15 kilograms I had lost and a couple extra.  So there I was back in the same place, feeling guilt and shame, battered self-worth and considering myself a complete failure, with a cupboard full of clothes that didn’t fit properly.

And so began the process all over again…  I don’t understand the science of nutrition or what’s really going on with my metabolism, so I once again I deferred to an expert.  Motivated, willing and more than a little desperate I booked a series of appointments with a dietician.  I mean, after all, I have been on Weigh-Less, Atkins, Scarsdale, low-fat, high-protein, no-this and no-that diets, with more than a few medical diets, and a period of starvation, so I thought I’d try something new.   But at the end of the day it’s all exactly the same…a completely unsustainable approach to eating that fills my kitchen and bathroom with another set of ingredients, most of which I am not particularly enamoured by, and a stack of supplements, vitamins and concoctions that  don’t come cheap.  And after weeks of minimal weight loss, I am left feeling despondent and frustrated, with the implied narrative that if I had more willpower and discipline, I would be doing much better, “But don’t worry just try harder this week!” Try harder than what?

And of course, the determination that was there in the beginning starts to rapidly wain and I still cannot fit into my clothes (or afford to buy new ones).

By December 2016 I was so fed up with empty promises and weight-loss failures, I was more than ready to throw in the towel completely and work my way towards a size 20.  But then something amazing happened…  A client that I had  been working with offered to help me, by looking at everything food, nutrition, diet and exercise from a completely new perspective.  And instead of telling me what to do or how to do it, he simply explained that there was another way!  And then he started to work with me in an open, honest accountability partnership.  With the use of “My Fitness Pal“, weight and measurement tracking and certain targets around nutrition, we began the process.  And instead of being prescriptive and authoritative he began coaching  me around the emotional, physical and mental aspects of healthy diet and exercise.  The diet is a calorie-controlled diet, but with the use of technology the process has become remarkably simple and sustainable.

Want a chocolate?  Have a chocolate!  Just remember that it means you might have to eat smaller quantities of your other food during the day.  So it’s about sometimes being able to have that little treat, without feeling guilty about “cheating”, while at the same time starting to develop a really healthy mental and emotional relationship with food.  Instead of seeing food as good or bad, it’s simply food, with a certain amount of calories, carbs, protein & fats.  Either I have the available calories to eat it or I don’t.  It’s been a liberating few months, coupled with almost daily exercise as I am coached and educated around nutrition and exercise.  Not once have I been sent to the treadmill for an exhausting 45″ power walk, but have had the opportunity to do short(ish) workouts using weights and machines.

The results have been amazing as the centimeters have started to fall off, my clothes have been brought out of the “skinny clothes” cupboard, and I have a completely different sense of self.  I feel more intentional, self-assured and grounded as my body awareness deepens.  I am not constantly obsessed by what I can’t eat and am now working with myself from a space of compassion and self-love.

And as I go through the process, once again I see how without the right environment & resources, it’s really challenging to get well and stay well.  The right  kind of support system plays an essential role in recovery and wellness, because getting healthy is one things, staying healthy is something else entirely.  Education and understanding are proving to be invaluable tools for me, rather than simply being handed a formula and told to stick to it.  Being given a degree of flexibility and not being told to give up my daily cappuccino has been revolutionary.  There’s balance and accountability, and I am starting to see exactly how essential these are to me in most areas of my life.

So, instead of feeling stressed and deprived, I feel grounded and supported.  Rather than feeling judged and criticised I am feeling accountable and responsible.  And unlike all the other times I have felt self-loathing and shame about previous failures, I know feel understood and personally empowered.  I have been given the space to get honest about my relationship with myself around food, body image, health and fitness and it’s been a game changer.  Knowing the power of the coaching model it’s actually not that surprising really, but as with anything else that we want to change, it starts with an honest conversation and a willingness to make the necessary changes to move forward in life.  And for that I am extremely grateful to Alex.

For more information about Alex Campbell Transformation, email alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com or visit Alex’s Facebook page.

Check out “Train 1000 Recovery Coaches”

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

What is #RecoveryCapital?

#recoverycapitalAs a person in long-term recovery as well as a coach that works with individuals and groups around substance abuse and addictive behaviour disorders, I sometimes find the amount of ideas, thought, theories and models around addiction and recovery somewhat confusing!?  And the thing that I find the most overwhelming is that there seems to be way to much vying to be right and not nearly enough time taking the individual’s needs, wants and ideas into account when addressing their personal addiction journey.  Add a giant spoonful of guilt and shame on the part of the substance/behaviour abuser into the mix and it gets really messy and complex.  And don’t forget how much the average person on the street likes a neat little diagnosis so that they can put everything into some sort of perspective, and it gets even more complicated in my opinion.

The truth is that there are many reasons for addiction such as unresolved issues of guilt, shame and trauma, inability to change current situation, a false belief system and chemical imbalance.  So that’s what gets people into addiction where we develop habitual thought and behaviour patterns around using and doing, which we can justify and explain away for a while, but then inevitably things get bewildering and we decide to make some changes.  Whether this involves attending a 12-step meeting, entering a treatment program, making an appointment with the family doctor or visiting a recovery coach, we begin to realise that our lives are a little less stellar than we imagined they would be!  And those are all great steps to take in order to move from a culture of addiction into a culture of recovery.  By getting honest, open and willing we can begin our recovery journey.  But that’s just the beginning and too many people believe that 28 days in a treatment program, a couple of months in a fellowship or a prescription from their doctor is going to change everything.  The truth is that getting clean is one thing, staying clean is another.

The biggest challenge is making lasting changes to our thoughts and behaviour.  Learning new, healthy coping techniques, which don’t involve self medication, setting SMART goals and developing action plans to move forward in life.  Because often it’s safe and easy to stay where we are, doing the same things that we have always done, talking about what we don’t want to do or be.  It’s a lot harder to start to determine what we do want, where we want to go and how we are going to get there.  Just ask yourself this simple little question, “What kind of man/woman do I want to be?”  Think of what values and principles you want to develop, how you want your personal and professional life to look and where you are going in your life?  It’s probably not as easy as you initially thought it might be!?  And what do you need to get you to this life that you have envisioned!?

That’s where #recoverycapital comes into the picture.  These are the personal resources that you (not me) have at your disposal in order to support you moving forward in your recovery.  What do you need socially, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually to support you in your recovery and wellness?  Rather than thinking of what you don’t have, think of what you do have and what you could potentially have, to move forward in your life.  Imagine what you want to move towards and what you can capitalise on to help you get there.  Too often I hear the words “I really don’t want…”, but I believe that by simply reframing this into the positive statement of “What I really want is…” we are instantly in a different mental space, shifting our thoughts from the past into the present and future.  Isn’t it more exciting to think of the infinite possibilities that we can create in the present, rather than the guilt- and shame-laden thoughts of the past.  Instead of looking over our shoulders at what we are trying to leave behind, think about creating a new, exciting existence to move towards.

Everyone’s #recoverycapital is unique and personal!! Where my physical #recoverycapital might include long walks on the beach and a healthy eating plan, yours might be mountain biking or martial arts, with plenty of sleep and really great sex. Spiritual #recoverycapital is equally as diverse including faith-based activities for some to 12-step meetings, meditation and modern-day spiritualism for others.  Studying and education can be a form of mental #recoverycapital, as can reading, travelling or taking up a new hobby.  Socially, spending time with family and friends, joining a sports team or a book club, and doing volunteer work can be a resource to support your personal recovery.  We can also build emotional resources through personal development, being part of a support group, spending time pursuing healthy lifestyle choices or signing up for courses and workshops in areas of personal interest.  The idea of all this is that there is not just one thing that supports us, and so we need to explore and develop resources in all these areas of our lives.  Too often we become over focused in one area, but neglect the others.

In the work that I do, one of my primary areas of focus is to assist individuals in creating and developing their #recoverycapital inline with the personal resources that they have at their disposal.  It’s an exciting process that encourages one to explore different possibilities and ideas on how to empower one’s self and be proactive in developing what you need to achieve those dreams you have, achieve those goals you have set and become the person you want to become!

Til Next Time,

Sober Something

For more information on #recoverycapital and living a life of fulfillment and purpose, please feel free to contact me | leighanne@recoverycoachingsa.com | (082)442-5710 for a free introductory session.

 

It’s not the substance that’s the problem…it’s the behaviour!

She decided to startI don’t know if what I’m about to put out into the public domain is a good idea considering the work that I do as a Recovery Coach, but I’ve discovered that the more I embrace my recovery principles such as honesty, integrity and authenticity, the more I grow as a woman and a coach.  Very recently I began working at The Foundation Clinic on a more full-time basis, which means I am able to commit myself whole-heartedly to working within the area of substance abuse and addiction recovery.  Around the time that I was winding things up with my previous employer, making decisions and setting some goals for myself I decided that I was going to tackle my personal health and wellness issue of being overweight.

It’s something that I have battled for years, yo-yo dieting my way through my twenties and thirties and never managing to maintain a healthy weight for too long.  The last time I was happy with my body I was literally starving myself due to stress and anxiety, and even though I was in recovery from alcohol abuse at the time, looking back I realise that I was still trapped in an addictive behaviour pattern.  So my obsession became my weight, rather than alcohol.  Periods of bingeing followed by periods of abstinence, mental and emotional obsession, guilt and shame around my habits and feeling completely out of control…  I’m talking about my relationship with food, although it is identical to my previous relationship to alcohol.

So while getting clear on my professional goals, I decided to spend some time looking at my personal goals around health and wellness.  I’d spent the year going to the gym on a regular basis, and that hadn’t made much difference to my figure, I’d also tried various approaches to weight loss only to get despondent and throw it all in…supplements, eating plans, advice from friends, all seemed to be useless.  So I elected to get professional, medical assistance with my weight loss.  I wasn’t looking for another healthy lifestyle plan, I was looking for a weight-loss solution!  The interesting thing was even though I coach in substance abuse recovery, especially around changing thought and behaviour patterns, I am a little embarrassed to admit, that I hadn’t seen the similarities in my behaviour and habits around food!!

It was eye-opening!  I have triggers that cause me to eat!  I obsess about food and am secretive about my eating habits.  I eat in a binge-like fashion when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT) and then feel guilt and shame around my lack of control.  And it was in that instant that I took responsibility for me patterns and started to think of myself with a behaviour/substance use disorder around food.  Perhaps I’d been arrogant to think that I had changed my thought patterns and behaviour to such an extent as to set me apart from my clients that are doing exactly the same around their own substances.  It humbled me enormously and made me more empathetic and compassionate as to their personal journeys.  The difference this time though was I was immediately able to draw on a variety of coaching tools, development techniques and goal setting practices to get me moving forward immediately.

Rather than languishing around in a victim mentality, with the child-like emotions of guilt and shame, I started to employ my recovery principles and personal values to start goal setting around my weight-loss.  I got very clear on my reasons for my actions and made myself accountable to myself and a couple of other people around these.  It was empowering to take responsibility for unhealthy behaviour and thought patterns around food, and begin to move forward towards my solutions.  I have been honest and open about my problem with food, and it feels cathartic and enlightening to move through the fear and the sadness around my previous failed attempts at weight management.  I’ve realised that all I need to do is apply the same techniques in this area of my life as I do with my substance abuse recovery.  I haven’t experienced the previous trauma associated with  dieting, I am motivated and determined to reach the goals I have set up for myself.

I feel empowered and healthy, and it’s a really great place to be.  With the weight shedding, through not only an eating plan, but a completely different attitude and outlook to what I have chosen to do, I am becoming the woman I have always believed I could be…and it’s not only about my body, but also my spirit and my mind.  I did realise that I need to be careful of falling into addictive, obsessive behaviour and thought patterns, even though I haven’t touched any alcohol for more than seven and a half years, because it’s not the substance that’s the problem, it’s the behaviour!

Til next time,

Sober Something

For more information about recovery coaching in the areas of substance abuse, stress and burnout, food and eating disorders, diabetes, and co-occurring disorders, please visit www.recoverycoachingsa.com 

#YellowRibbon | 26 June 2015 | #BreakTheSilence | #BreakTheStigma

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For more information email info@stopdrugs.co.za

What if I fall!?

As you may have noticed from my posts, I truly believe that I am living my purpose by “paying it forward” and aiding others on their journey through recovery.  And it’s incredibly rewarding work walking with someone as they grow and develop, and begin (re)finding their personal power.  Coaching in the realm of recovery is truly remarkable and over the last few months I have seen incredible transformations in a few of the people I have been blessed to work with.  But of course there are also tough cases that don’t always end up the way I hope, but that cannot detract from the forward-focused, solutions-driven nature of the work I am doing.  Yet, the mainstream approach to treatment and aftercare in South Africa is based on the 12-step program and the idea that addiction is a disease.  And there are parts of that theory that I can relate to, especially the fact that genetics can play a large part in whether or not someone has a tendency towards substance abuse.

What I cannot buy into is that we are “sick” forever, never free of the malady of addiction.  I have met brilliant people in my life who are afflicted by substance abuse, but are smart, funny, educated, wonderful people that do not deserve to be simply labeled with the term addict.  And lets face it, it’s a stigma!  But substance abuse disorders are not all the same and even the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) places them on a continuum from mild to severe.  So throwing everyone into the addict pot does nothing to aid the healing process, but simply labels people based on an outdated and destructive stereo-type.  And in this model sits the traditional treatment and recovery approaches, wherein people are made to believe that sick they are and sick they will stay.  But each person I meet in recovery is so much more than their disorder and when participating in coaching within the paradigm of wellness and positive psychology, it is amazing to see how people embrace their recovery when they are internally motivated by the knowledge that they are in a place of wellness.

By focusing on what is right, rather than what is wrong, people make enormous, visible progress.  By visible I mean going from hopeless to optimistic, unemployed to actively seeking employment or back in the work place, healing mentally and physically, being present and conscious in their personal relationships and not living in constant fear of relapse!  It’s an incredible process to be part of because the decisions are made by the client and the short-term strategies and long-term objectives are developed by the individual.  The coach simply holds a safe space and uses powerful questions to guide the client towards their truth.  So instead of living under the cloak of addiction, clients are encouraged to embrace their wellness and recovery and move forward.  Dwelling in the past is not encouraged and neither is wallowing in the hopelessness of the disease model.  Because in my opinion if you focus on the negative aspects and the constant possibility of relapse, well you probably know where I’m going with this thought…  I’m not saying that relapses don’t occur, but by giving clients practical skills, tools and techniques to walk the road to recovery with confidence and self belief, relapse isn’t the focus of recovery, rather something that might happen.  And like any challenge in life, if it does happen it is not because the client is weak and sick, but rather there is a need to refocus, reevaluate and redefine what is required to overcome this setback.

We all stumble on life’s journey, but living in a place of guilt and shame is not productive or fulfilling.  Determining practical steps based firmly in the mature emotions of joy, fear, anger and sadness and not letting the childlike emotions of guilt and shame attach themselves to our experiences,  is a primary focus of recovery coaching.  By learning to acknowledge how we feel by checking in with ourselves and others and expressing our feelings, is an adult approach to life.  Feeling sad or angry does not need to be negative when the reasons behind these emotions are addressed and understood.  Fear is a protective emotion and joy cannot be sustained indefinitely without the other emotions being part of the balance.

By being present, conscious and adult in our feelings and determining actions and plans that work for us, we can live in a place of wellness and choose how we wish to be seen.  I sure as hell don’t think that we need to be stigmatised but the term “addict”, because we are much more than that and can never be defined by a single word.  So in closing I’d like you to take a few minutes and decide who you want to be, free of the addict label.  What are your desires, dreams and passions?  What drives, motivates and inspires you?  Who are you?

what if i fallAs for me, I’m Leigh-Anne.  Coach, educator, dreamer, partner, lover, friend, sister, daughter.  I am an empowered woman who is passionate about the work I do and aiding others through helping them to discover their own purpose, values, dreams and aspirations.  And I am filled with gratitude that I have got to a place in my life where I truly understand my own value and purpose.

Til next time,

Sober Something

What is Recovery Coaching?

Since returning to South Africa a couple of months ago I have made my focus the development of my Recovery & Life Coaching business (Recovery Coaching SA).  It’s an exciting adventure to build a dream and be able to start a vision from scratch.  I’m constantly being presented with new and amazing opportunities as I continue along this road of personal and professional discovery.  A couple of days ago I completed my first magazine article which will be appearing in a new South African publication, “Addict”, in August.  I’m constantly meeting new people who are passionately dedicated to aiding the recovery of those battling with the disease of addiction.  It’s a wonderful experience to see how many people are truly dedicated to trying to assist people and work with them to empower individuals.

I am a passionate advocate of the Recovery Coaching model as a path towards sustained sobriety.  It’s about working in an accountable partnership with the person in recovery to develop a personalised recovery plan.  By focusing on long-term goals and developing short-term action plans to get there, they are encouraged to follow their own truth on the road to recovery.  Recovery coaching is not about telling, advising or leading.  It’s about creating a safe space where we can find the answers to our questions and then follow our own authentic road map to recovery.

And each plan will vary according to who it is developed by.  As a Recovery Coach it is my job to support the choices that a client makes for their own recovery, after all we are the experts on ourselves.  By helping identify and overcome internal and external obstacles blocking their path, challenging faulty thinking and assisting the development of new and productive thought and behaviour patterns, the client is supported in their recovery process.  It’s not an easy process, but if it is addressed in a forward-focused, solution-orientated way, we are personally empowered to strive for long-term wellness and balance.  By building recovery capital in various areas of life, those in recovery strive for a richer, more balanced and holistic life.  It’s an ever-changing, unmapped adventure, shifting and developing as we progress through the various stages of recovery.

What may only seem like a distant possibility in early recovery may seem evermore achievable when one moves into middle-stage recovery.  And when in late- or maintenance-stage this ideal may be assimilated into the person’s daily life, with focus having shifted to new goals or aspirations.  The aim of Recovery Coaching is long-term, sustained sobriety, but it does take into account that relapse is a reality in the process.  Being aware that this can happen, clients are asked to identify personal triggers, internal and external obstacles and bring these elements into their conscious awareness, as a means to being more prepared and better-equipped to deal with them, and thereby minimise the effects that they will have on a potential relapse situation. Hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness (H.A.L.T) are also important issues that should be addressed through the coaching process, because they too are potential relapse triggers that should be avoided (or minimised) as mush as possible.

But if relapse does occur, and let’s face it the stats are not at good, then there is a plan in place to deal with this as effectively as possible.  One that can help us move on, refocus on our long-term goals and get back on the road!  It doesn’t advocate any fundamental weakness on the part of the person for relapsing, it doesn’t mean that the person isn’t committed to their recovery, it simply accepts that addiction is an ongoing battle and that compounding on the guilt and shame that already exists does not help get over the relapse event.  We are human and if we stumble in every day life there is every chance that we are going to trip a couple of times in recovery, but rather than plummeting back into active addiction, choose to move forward from this point and not spend endless hours lamenting the mistake.

Recovery coaching is all about moving forward, focusing on what we want to achieve and where we are going. Rather than spending time rehashing the past over and over again, caught up in the stories of our active addiction, it’s about taking strides to where we want to be.  In my mind it’s far more productive and empowering to look towards the outcome we are trying to achieve than constantly talking about where we went wrong and how terrible life was.  Having made the decision to take control of our lives, there is far more to be gained by putting one foot in front of the other, with our eyes fixed on the horizon.  The past cannot be undone, we cannot shake off this disease we have, but we can own our truth and become the navigators of our lives.

Because progress in recovery, no matter how slow and small, is still far better than any form of addiction.  There may be times when the going is tough and you are filled with self-doubt, but learning to deal with our inner obstacles and build on our personal visions, will take us ever closer to where we want to be.  And life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~ Maria Robinson

Keep focused on your ending and what you want the story of you life to be.

‘Til next time

Sober Something