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

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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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 

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

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For more information email info@stopdrugs.co.za

If You’re Not Growing You’re Dying…

If you're not growingLife has been extremely hectic and I realised that I haven’t posted for an exceptionally long time, so I have made time this morning to sit down and catch up a little and do a little self reflection at the same time.  And the idea that has kept coming to me over the last few days is the idea that “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”.  It keeps coming back to me in my personal and professional life, and has made me think deeply about my own growth as well as the growth of my Recovery Coaching clients.  You may believe the statement to be true or may refute it wholeheartedly, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.  Because would you rather be living a life of stagnation and mediocrity, or do you want a life of purpose and fulfillment.  I can honestly say that the more I do to push myself and grow, the more satisfaction I get from my life.  And as a coach in the field of recovery (from addiction and substance abuse) I see incredible development in the individuals who dig deep to discover what they want and how they plan to achieve it.

So ask yourself the questions, “Who am I?” and “Where do I want my life to be in [three] months?”  The truth is that a lot of us don’t really know who we are or what we want.  We get so caught up in just getting by and staying on top of things that we forget to dream and aspire!  Sadly we also tend to lose touch with who we are and the things that feed our souls.  This is especially true for people in early recovery!  Through the compulsive cycle of using or doing, people have forgotten what makes their heart sing, what values drive them and what principles guide them.  It’s ever so easy to sit around and pay lip service to principles like honesty, integrity and tolerance that are identified as an essential part of the recovery journey, but it’s completely different (and often pretty challenging) to actually incorporate them into our lives and use them to aspire us towards our goals.

Understanding and determining our values is also difficult, but essential.  Especially since during active addiction our one true value is often our substance of choice.  It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and determines the course of our day!  And that may sound uncomfortable and even irritate you, but the truth is that in active addiction we are driven by our behaviour patterns and habits.  The challenge in recovery is to develop new ways of doing things, and retraining our brain to respond differently to life events that would of sent us into the arms of our addictive substance or behaviour.  So the way I see it recovery is about growth!  It’s about deciding where you want yourself and your life to be in the future and then developing action steps to achieve this.

Recovery capital is essential in the journey.  Whether this be in the physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual sphere it’s important to determine where you have resources to support you in your recovery and where you may need to build your capital.  And everyone’s recovery capital is different!  Where one person might choose to attend NA/AA meetings as part of the spiritual/emotional capital, another will identify that team sport serves and supports them in the same way.  And this is illustrative of the idea that every individual needs to determine their own recovery plan, that is as unique as they are.  Because my dreams and aspirations are ever so different to the next person, so to will be my recovery.  So in Recovery Coaching we share tools to support individuals’ recovery, but it is up to every person to determine what they need and want moving forward in their lives.  As a recovery coach my role is to challenge my clients to understand where they are, and support them in their journey to where they want to be, whether this is personally or professionally.  And during this process to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions.

So recovery is about growth for me!  It’s about solutions-driven, forward-focused movement that is driven by principle and guided by spiritual principles.  It’s about creating a life that is determined by purpose and feeding one’s soul with activities that bring joy and fulfillment.  Every step that we take towards the life we dream of is growth…and is exciting and stimulating.  I use these practices in my own life and the more I do, the richer and more incredible my life becomes.  I continue to learn and develop personally and professionally as I strive to incorporate principles into my life, live by my values, excavate my dreams and build plans to achieve what my heart desires.  And at the centre of all this is continuing to build my recovery capital so that I have the resources and support to move towards my aspirations.  Because I honestly believe that “if you are not growing you are dying.”

For more information on Recovery Coaching please visit http://www.recoverycoachingsa.com or email me on leighanne@recoverycoachingsa.com

Til next time

Sober Something

Challenge and Change…The Chaos of Recovery

CHALLENGE AND CHANGEOne of the recurring themes in the recovery coaching work that I do is that people think that once they have undergone possible treatment and are now working their recovery, that life is going to be easy.  That everything is miraculously going to get better, that relationships are going to mend and that life is suddenly going to be everything we dreamed of…  The truth is that things are going to get a lot better, but this doesn’t happen overnight and there is no Recovery Fairy that waves a magic wand and fixes everything that was broken.  Recovery takes hard work and dedication to the recovery plan you have decided on for yourself.  Once you have identified the emotional, physical, mental, social and spiritual recovery capital that you need to support you in your journey, and been equally honest about your recovery liabilities – those things that are likely to be detrimental to our recovery.

I can vouch for the fact that recovery is a wonderful journey, but like any adventure there are obstacles and challenges along the way.  As we grow and develop in all areas of our lives, the people closest to us may be confused and unsure of the changes that are taking place.  They may feel vulnerable and “left out” because they don’t understand what’s happening to the person who has for so long been unwell.  Their role in the relationship changes and they may not want or enjoy the new place in our lives that they now occupy.  You may not need them as much…asking them to help you out, fix your mistakes and pick up the pieces as you did in the past.  So even though you are well and growing as an individual, they may feel confused about where they fit into your recovery.  So rebuilding your relationships requires applying the spiritual principles such as tolerance, patience and acceptance.  You may need to practice accountability, forgiveness and love as the people in your life find their place in your recovery space.  It’s not always easy as there may be issues of co-dependency in your relationships, where others are reliant on your substance abuse disorder to define their role in the relationship.

So as you change, grow and develop without them, there is a gap between you.  And this is just one of the challenges of recovery.  Because besides the fact that your friends and family might not understand the changes that you are undergoing, you are also faced with having “lost your best friend” and feeling an unbearable emptiness.  A void that you need to learn how to fill with new, healthy past times and activities.  Exploring what feeds your soul can be exhausting, but the end result is that your life can be filled with meaning and fulfillment.  That you start to live with purpose, pursuing your goals with determination and authenticity.  But these goals don’t determine themselves and purpose doesn’t drop into your lap just because you have decided to work your recovery.  Soul searching with honesty and willingness can be oh so draining, but as you start to (re)learn and (re)discover what drives and motivates you, you will begin to live with a vigor and passion that has been lying dormant through your active addiction.

Whatever your recovery choices are, by moving forward and focusing on the future, rather than wallowing in the past, you will begin to find a new rhythm to your life.  Initially recovery may seem like a lot of work, devoid of any fun and enjoyment, so be sure to reward yourself for the work that you are doing!  My clients often find recovery overwhelming, all work and no play, so to speak.  I believe that it is crucial to take some time out and “pat yourself on the back” for a job well done.  I encourage them to spend some time thinking about healthy activities and events that will bring them a sense of excitement and pleasure, that are inline with their recovery goals.  Perhaps that means a day at the amusement park, a weekend away, a new outfit or pair of shoes, that book or movie they’ve been dying to get to or a relaxing afternoon at the spa.  The choice is yours, depending on the type of activity that brings you enjoyment.  What brings happiness to one person is totally different to that of the person sitting next to them in a Recovery Wellness Program, at an AA or NA meeting or in a treatment program.  The challenge is to find those things that bring a smile to your lips and a glow to your core.

Just remember that everyone’s Road to Recovery is unique.  The successes need to be celebrated and the tests along the way can be triumphantly overcome with learned tools, techniques and recovery capital.  So don’t despair if you are finding your recovery a little chaotic or a touch arduous, there are people to support and guide you through these trying periods.  If you are interested in more information about Recovery Coaching and learning about how to develop recovery capital and spiritual principles and tools and techniques for  living a fulfilled and purposeful life in recovery, visit http://www.thefoundationclinic.co.za  or contact Leigh-Anne (082)442-5710.

Til next time,

Sober Something

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

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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.

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

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

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,

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Til next Time

Sober Something