Education is a Weapon!?

I spent three days at the end of last week at recovery coach training at Sharp Treatment Centre which was an interesting and fulfilling learning experience.  As a certified life and recovery coach I am extremely interested in new ideas, tools and techniques that I can add to my coaching toolkit, and this weekend was no exception.  Learning and education are very high on my hierarchy of values, and I have done a lot pf personal work recently on determining exactly what it is that drives and inspires me and I am particularly interested in the work that Dr John Demartini does in this area.  So any chance I get to personally educate and empower myself I accept with huge gratitude.

The learning aside at for the moment, what really resonated with me over the few days was the need for a new approach to substance (mis)use disorders and aiding individuals, families and communities in their plight around the use and misuse of substances.  The shame, guilt and stigma that envelopes people caught in the cycle of substance and behavioural issues is nothing short of overwhelming.  Yet the traditional approaches to treatment and recovery seem to be having very little effect on the problem, which also includes the ineffectiveness of the state to help treat  citizens.  Instead of receiving treatment for use of illegal substances, individuals are receiving prison sentences and the penal system in this country is in my opinion doing nothing to rehabilitate anyone, but rather reinforce the behaviours and dependencies that led to the sentences.

So what is needed is a huge shift in how addiction and substance abuse is viewed and treated.  And this is Recovery Coaching fits in as it is a forward-focused and solutions-driven approach to uplifting individuals and communities, without simply labeling people as addicts with an illness who are doomed to a life of misuse, periods of sobriety and ultimately relapse into active addiction.  Since Recovery Coaching exists in a place of wellness, advocates of the methodology believe that substance misuse disorders can be overcome and that wellness can be maintained thereby empowering and enriching people’s lives.  Through education and learning, individuals are able to live productive lives filled with meaning and purpose, free of the yoke of addiction and all the societal beliefs and stereo-types around it.  Recovery Coaches don’t treat addiction, they aid wellness and help their clients develop plans and strategies to reach personal and professional fulfillment.  Through self-development people in recovery are able to help themselves and in the process have a positive effect on others.  Because the truth is that all we are able to control is ourselves and our own lives, but by moving away from destructive behaviours and thoughts, we move into a place of personal independence and interdependence, and away from co-dependency, blame, shame and guilt.

By starting with one person, ourselves, we can start a ripple effect that will move steadily outwards to our families, friends, communities and eventually the nation as a whole.  By talking, educating, sharing and inspiring others to take a different look at what Recovery Coaching can bring to getting and staying well, rather than wallowing in the darkness of being an addict forever, small steps now can lead to enormous long-term changes.  No, it isn’t something that happens overnight, but the more passionate people that are introduced to the powerful nature of coaching recovery within a place of wellness, the more momentum there is to be gained.  I truly believe that we are on the verge of an immense paradigm shift in the treatment and recovery world, and I am excited and inspired to be part of the move towards a new solution.  So in closing I would like to leave you with these words from Nelson Mandela,


Til next Time

Sober Something

Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.

It’s not often that I have the time (or the inspiration) to post more than once a week, but the devastating passing of Robin Williams gave me much cause to pause and think over the last few days.  Something that seems prevalent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is how many truly unhappy people there seem to be in what can only be described as a fish bowl.  But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder why should celebrity pain and suffering be any more tragic than the garden-variety kind.  I’m not for one moment trying to marginalise the grief that many people must be feeling around the death of such a beloved star, but every day there are people living lives of quiet desperation and I only wish that the public’s attention wouldn’t shift quite so quickly from the issues that these people’s deaths raise.

Whenever someone famous meets a tragic end there is a short-lived focus on the issue that was the root of their demise.  Whether that be drug addiction, like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger, or alcoholism which took Amy Winehouse or those suffering from a co-occuring disorder such as seems to be the case in so many of these untimely deaths.  Pills washed down with vodka to overcome sleeplessness is probably not the most holistic way to rest.  But whether the disorder is in the realm of substance abuse, mental challenges or a combination thereof, attention on the subject is ever so short!  Outpourings of sympathy, righteous indignation over the epidemic of addiction and then a silent retreat until the next person falls prey to something unnatural.  I understand that it sounds like I am advocating capitalising on death, but if the celebrities of the world have so much influence in life, then surely their battles  can help others find answers and paths to mental, emotional and physical recovery.

It also made me wonder why people in the limelight are celebrated so much for their attempts at recovery while the average man on the street is not given quite as much support.  Actually there is still some sort of lingering stigma attached to treatment (in a variety of forms) when it comes to us normal lot.  While celebrities are applauded for their efforts to get clean and sober a lot of us are trying to side-step the truth about our addiction and recovery.  And I’m not talking about shouting it from the rooftops, just being able to comfortably state in certain situations that you are in recovery.  However, I do think more influential people should start talking out about their addictions and lead the charge in throwing off the cloak of anonymity.  I’m not saying we should all go around declaring our challenges in inappropriate places.  I definitely don’t go around introducing myself as an alcoholic, but if the subject comes up as to why I don’t drink, I am don’t make a big fuss of it and simply state that I am in recovery.  Subject closed and moving onto those yummy little mini quiches at the cocktail party.  But I do believe that it is time for people to stop feeling so ashamed.

Maybe you did bad things in active addiction, but there are politicians and business people who ruin the lives of hundreds and thousands of people on any given day and sleep just fine at night.  Again, I’m not condoning their behaviour, but what I am trying to say is that there are more shameful things in life than having tried a substance at some point, and for whatever reason, become a chronic user of it.  No one wants to be an addict!  No one aspires to suffering from a mental disorder!  I don’t think the same can be said of people that actively exploit and harm others.  Your recovery is as important and significant as any world renowned star!  You’re as valuable to the people who love you as the multitude of fans that still weep at certain rock stars gravesides.

So even though you may feel a little sad when someone like Robin Williams takes his life, spare a thought for the millions of people that are in similar situations.  The man on the street corner begging for change to fuel his habit might just have taken a slightly different course in life to the mega star drying on at an exclusive five-star treatment centre.  Addiction and mental disorders are not picky, they’ll take whatever they can get, so take a moment and honour yourself and your recovery journey (even if it’s been a bit of a stop-start process).  You’re as much of a star in someone close to you’s eyes as those fallen stars are to their fans, and possibly more because they have the privilege of knowing and loving you.  And in closing today remember, “Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.”

Don't judge  my path

‘Til next time

Sober Something



What the forgiveness?!

I have spent the last two days completing the theoretical component of my Recovery Coach certification and something came up in the material that I thought truly merited a little consideration.  I’ve touched on it before in previous posts, but never really delved into it too much.  However, I know that it is something that us addicts find ourselves dealing with, especially during early-stage recovery, and it’s anger.  Yup, that nasty little master that pops its head up and makes itself known at all sorts of times.  Sometimes in the most warranted of situations and sometimes for no seemingly sensible reason at all!

There are still times that I can get incredibly angry, but I have learned to avoid triggers that make me upset and I am very aware of situations that likely to wake the beast in me.  I’m not saying that everything that makes me angry is related to my addiction and that there is no place for healthy expressions of disapproval.  What I’m getting at is that senseless rage is not a healthy or constructive part of recovery.  Of course there are things that make me mad, people that push the wrong buttons, injustices that leave me seething.  The anger I am referring to is that which I experienced when I was in my first months (even years) of sobriety.  It’d come out of nowhere, provoked by something innocuous and would erupt suddenly and violently within me.

It could be something as minor as someone pushing in front of me in a supermarket.  Instead of a simple “excuse me”, I would stand and fume – there was not always an immediate outwards display of the emotion.  I’d spend the rest of my time in the queue plotting against the perpetrator, letting the dark emotions build inside me over the next few hours and then something would undoubtedly bring it spewing out, like toxic waste directed at someone I really cared about.  Alternatively it would see me alone at home, crying and raging at the injustices of the world, bemoaning the plight of the exploited masses or the raping of natural resources.  It was never well directed, it was never dealt with in a mature adult fashion and it was most definitely unhealthy!

I realise now that learning to express our unhappiness or discomfort in a healthy way in early recovery is an essential part of sustained sobriety (or abstinence) from the substances and behaviours that we are partial to.  Because anger ignored and unaddressed is a surefire way to relapse!  I couldn’t see at the time that my anger was residual, caused by issues that I hadn’t faced when I was drinking, but had built up over a period of years.  Anger, according to some experts, is also there to cover up our innermost feelings of shame and guilt that have become entrenched in us during our active addiction.  It’s seen as a character defect that develops along with others such as perfectionism, an all-or-nothing grandiosity or being a manipulator, to name a few.  These defects develop to protect denial, which in turn protects our innermost shame and guilt over our addiction.  It’s an intertwined set of internal and external triggers that can bring our anger to light, but it’s going to come!

What we need to do is find ways to heal ourselves, at the same time as learning to deal with these feelings of rage.  Letting go of the anger, denial, shame and guilt are all essential parts of getting well.  Addressing the causes of these emotions plays an important role in our personal recovery journey.  It’s not going to be the same for everyone and there are different paths to letting go of these feeling, we just need to find the one that’s right for us.  It might be therapy, mutual-help groups, coaching, meditation, personal development or exercise.  It might be finding a hobby or a past time that moves us towards a place of forgiveness and inner peace.  And forgiveness of self for past mistakes goes hand in hand with getting over our innate anger (in my opinion).

I don’t think we can successfully walk along the Recovery Road, without being honest with ourselves as to what caused our anger, letting go of denial and getting over our guilt and shame.  It may seem like a tall order, especially at the beginning, but there is no time frame in which we are required to achieve it.  As I faced these elements in my personal journey, dealt with them and left them lying on the side of the path, the more deep and satisfying my recovery became.  Of course I still get mad, but my anger is not senseless and inexplicable!  And of course life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

bad days