The Therapeutic effects of writing during addiction recovery by Helen Freeman

The Therapeutic Effects of Writing during Addiction Recovery

Sadness, anger and pain: these are three emotions that can overtake body and mind during the challenging process of addiction recovery. Sadness because we can suddenly realise the magnitude of the things we may have lost along the way (friends, our workplace, vital family relationships). Anger because it can be hard to forgive ourselves for hurt caused to ourselves and others. Pain when we admit that there are many things we may have to say goodbye to in addition to drugs or alcohol, when we commit to recovery.

Top rehabilitation centers across the globe are waking up to the utility of ‘holistic’ therapies for recovery. There has been a tremendous upsurge in yoga, Tai Chi and mindfulness meditation – all of which help the person in recovery to keep the mind ‘in the here and now’, safe from the type of negative, cyclical thinking that can sometimes result in relapse.

Writing, too, has proven to be a powerful aid during recovery. One study by researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles, found that writing what we feel actually reduces the intensity of our sadness, anger and pain. The secret lies in the effect that labelling emotions has on our brain. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, showed that when we label an emotion – for instance, by using the word ‘angry’ to describe a photograph of a person with an angry expression, there is a decreased response in our amygdala (a section of the brain which is responsible for detecting fear and preparing the body for an emergency).

By contrast, when we simply see a photography of an angry face but do not label the emotion conveyed, there is an increased response in the amygdala. In the study, 30 participants were shown photographs of people with different facial expressions. Beneath each photo there were two adjectives – for instance, ‘disappointed’ and ‘frustrated’. The participants were asked to pick one of the adjectives to describe the emotion expressed.

The researchers noted that it was important to use the process of journaling, to label our emotions. By writing down our negative feelings, we overcome them naturally, without forcing ourselves to be falsely positive. One of the study authors noted, “In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses.”

How, then, should we start using a journal during recovery? There are many different types of journal we can start, each of which has its own purpose. We might keep a diary, for instance, to write down the events of each day – the ups and downs, challenges and unexpected joys. In this case it is important to write down how these events and experiences made us feel. To add a mindfulness equation into our writing process, we should also try and label how we feel at the moment of writing, to enjoy the stress busting effects of mindfulness.

Some persons in recovery use an evening reflection journal, which also lists important events of the day, but suggests ways in which outcomes may have changed, had we thought about a person or situation differently, or behaved in a different way. This type of journal reaps the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – which centers on the important relationship between how we think, behave and feel.

Gratitude journals are a particularly positive way to approach the process of writing. Every evening, list down the things you are grateful for, good things that have happened during the day, any acts of kindness you have received. They are a great way to stay focused on the many good reasons to stick to your resolve, to not give in to temptations to drink or use drugs.

Those who are competitive by nature, meanwhile, might like to start a goal-focused journal. Here, the aim is to jot down specific goals and to take note of the steps you are taking to achieve them.

To get the most out of your journal, it is important to be constant. Find a nice, quiet spot where you feel comfortable; play inspiring music while you write and make sure the lighting is conducive to creativity. Try to set aside a time for writing every day and spend at least half an hour on this activity. Every week or two, read past entries to see how you have progressed and to analyse valuable information such as possible stressors, triggers for relapse, and positive experiences.

Article kindly contributed by Helen Freeman

The role of self sufficiency

THE ROLE OF SELF SUFFICIENCY

Success: When AA was first launched, the ideal of the self-made person was often exalted. Certain outstanding individuals seemed to have achieved amazing success entirely by their own efforts. In the drive to be such a self-made person, AA co-founder Bill W, was swept away in a torrent of alcoholic grandeur.
We know today that there’s no such thing as a self made person. We all need each other, and at various times we would have been lost without assistance that was generously and freely given. Everyone has had such assistance at one time or another. We are not, entirely self-sufficient.
The true role of self-sufficiency is to use our talent and opportunities wisely and beneficially in cooperation with others. Our own success in whatever we do will be enhanced as we continue to acknowledge our need for others.
Throughout the day, there will be many times when I need the help of others, and many times when others will need my help. I will give and receive help gratefully.

From: ‘Walk In Dry Places”.

A Time for learning

A TIME FOR LEARNING

“When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” Life’s lessons often come unexpectedly. They come, nevertheless, and they come according to a time frame that is set by our Higher Power. As we grow emotionally and spiritually, we are readied for further lessons for which teachers will appear.
Perhaps the teacher will be a tragic experience, a loving relationship, or a difficult loss. The time of learning is seldom free from pain and questioning, but from these experiences and what they can teach us, we are ready to learn. As we are ready, they come.
For life has much to teach us, just as we have much to learn. We need to learn patience, for the learning and growing process is usually slow. WE need to learn tolerance, for we are being taught that it is more important to understand than to be understood. We need to learn self-respect, for only when we have learned to love ourselves better can we love others better.
We are learning that there is a right time for all growth, a right time for all experience, and the right time may not fit our timetable. What does not come our way today will come when the time is right. Each day we are granted just what is needed. We need not worry about the future. It will offer us whatever rightly comes next, but it cannot do so until we have experienced those 24 hours before us.

Powerlessness and unmanageability

“WE ADMITTED THAT WE WERE POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL/ADDICTION….”
This quotation is the first half of the first step of the 12 Step Recovery Programme and contains the crucial term–POWERLESSNESS. Understanding and accepting that one is powerless is the key to recovery from alcoholism and active addiction. What does the term powerless actually mean? It means different things to different people and it is vital that everyone finds an understanding that they find meaningful.
Powerless means that the addict/alcoholic does not have the power to control this using or drinking and that once he starts, he will continue until interrupted or incapacitated, one has the choice to start but not to stop.
Powerless has something to do with unpredictability. The addict or alcoholic cannot safely or accurately predict his behaviour once he has had his first drink or drug despite his best intentions, resolutions or the promises he has made to himself or any other interested party.
Thirdly, being powerless to do something implies willpower alone is insufficient to achieve that end. Promising to stop drinking or using, as most of us did countless times, implies that by harnessing the power of the will, one intends to stop. The alcoholics track record shows conclusively that promises to stop, based on willpower alone, are futile.
Finally, being powerless over something does not mean that it cannot be done. Powerlessness implies that it cannot be done on one’s own but may be possible with help from some other source. The power of the group appears to be greater than the power of the individual.
Staying clean and sober hinges on accepting one is powerless over one’s alcoholism or addiction. It has nothing to do with willpower, promises, or attempts to exercise more control. In fact, powerlessness defines the addict or alcoholic and is the very feature that separates addiction from social and recreational use.
“that our lives became unmanageable…..”
This quotation is the second half of the first step and introduces the concept of unmanageability. What does this mean? It is many things to many people. The word should be seen as a broad term used to describe the myriad of problems and complications encountered in the life of an alcoholic or addict as a result of drinking or drug using. Unmanageability is the word that describes the quality of your life just prior to asking for help.
Unmanageability can be easily categorized into personal, emotional, financial, domestic, social, professional, moral, legal, medical, spiritual. The list is as long as all the aspects of our lives, because the damage from our addiction has infiltrated and affected every aspect of our being-the material world, the emotional sphere and the spiritual realms.
Unmanageability should be seen as a consequence and not as a cause of addiction. Most alcoholics or addicts continued to justify much of their using or drinking on the grounds of their unmanageability but this only allowed the addicted to deteriorate and the unmanageability to escalate.
Life was pretty unmanageable for many people long before they picked up their first drink or drug and will continue to be unmanageable long after they have had their last. However addiction only compounded any existing problems and created new ones in the process. The addict or alcoholic comes to see this addiction as the solution rather than the cause of unmanageability.
Getting clean and sober doesn’t guarantee that all the problems in our lives will disappear and that life will become manageable again. Many people are discouraged in early recovery when things are not instantly perfect. However, the likelihood that things will get worse is diminished.
Most people who require treatment for alcoholism or addiction have become masters of manipulation and deception but in reality are pretty unskilled in the art of normal living. Learning to make one’s life manageable again is a process that requires honesty, open mindedness to new ideas and a willingness to try new ways and is the very substance of recovery.

Honest Open Minded and Willing * H O W *

HONEST OPEN MINDED AND WILLING = H.O.W

I would like to share something that has freed me from bondage of self and allowed me to know serenity. It is something that I have heard time and time again in meetings, but didn’t really pay much attention to unless I was absolutely dying inside.
When I was so miserable inside myself (even in recovery) that I couldn’t stand to live in my own skin, when suicide became an option, I would finally turn to my Higher Power. I would get some relief from the pain. But for some reason, after I began to feel better, and I always did, I turned back to Self and inevitabley I ended up in misery again.
What was it that kept me from continuing on that spritual path? Some say it is because I am an addict; and I am, by virtue of that fact, selfish and self-centred by nature. But did I listen? Nope! I had to learn it by experience, my own experience.
I am a great one for taking surveys. I got into the Programme and began immediately asking people how they “did it”! What did they do to not only stay abstinent but live a happy life? That’s what I wanted for me.
Every one of the people I talked to are on an active and ongoing “spiritual path” of some kind. Some go to shurch regularly and some don’t. Some meditate and pray a lot; some read pages 85, 86, 87 and 88 in the Big Book every day; some do other things. But they all continue an active and ongoing search for information relating to their own HIgher Power. They are all Honest, Openminded and Willing.
Why have I ignored this cliche in the past? I don’t know. But I do know that since I have kept up my own ongoing spiritual journey, my life has improved. .My world could be crumbling around me (and it has) and it doesn’t seem to affect my serenity level. It only inspires me to do more.
I took an inventory on all this, and I found that my spiritual quest was very sporadic. When I put it down for a while, I was miserable. When it became the most important thing in my life and the most constant thing in my life, I became happier.
The Fellowship is a huge part of my spiritual path, because it not only offers me new information and understanding, but it allows me to share it with others.
From “Stepping Stones to Recovery”.

Attitude of gratitude

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE

For the greatest pleasure, we have to pay the greatest price. Gratitude.

In order to connect with God, you have to learn to appreciate all the good He has done for you. That means giving up the illusion that you alone are responsible for your achievements. It’s all a gift from God. Just as every stroke of Picasso’s brush has his signature on it, everything in this world has God’s signature on it. We have to learn to appreciate it.

If you make the effort to appreciate the gifts God has bestowed upon you, then you’ll have such a keen awareness of God’s presence that everything you do is accompanied by a sense of His love and guidance. You’ll be overwhelmed above and beyond any other pleasure possible.

In fact, this is the ultimate goal for which man was created. We were put on earth in order to overcome the illusions and use our free will to build a relationship with God. He could have made robots, but God doesn’t want that. He wants a real relationship — which means we have to choose it.

Why is gratitude such a difficult awareness to sustain? Because a human being’s ego always craves recognition and independence. We balk at the concept of indebtedness. We prefer to believe we’ve done it ourselves!

Another counterfeit of first class pleasure is thinking that someone or something else is providing for our needs. If you think your career or your lover is the bottom line that will fulfill your needs, then you are mistaken. Because all those things can disappear. Only God has absolute power and only God is Eternal!

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/5-levels-of-pleasure.htm

Reflections of self

Reflections Of Self
We Are All Mirrors For Each Other

When we look at other people, we see many of their qualities in innumerable and seemingly random combinations. However, the qualities that we see in the people around us are directly related to the traits that exist in us. “Like attracts like” is one of the spiritual laws of the universe. We attract individuals into our lives that mirror who we are. Those you feel drawn to reflect your inner self back at you, and you act as a mirror for them. Simply put, when you look at others, you will likely see what exists in you. When you see beauty, divinity, sweetness, or light in the soul of another, you are seeing the goodness that resides in your soul. When you see traits in others that evoke feelings of anger, annoyance, or hatred, you may be seeing reflected back at you those parts of yourself that you have disowned or do not like.

Because we are all mirrors for each other, looking at the people in your life can tell you a lot about yourself. Who you are can be laid bare to you through what you see in others. It is easy to see the traits you do not like in others. It is much more difficult to realize that you possess those same traits. Often, the habits, attitudes, and behaviors of others are closely linked to our unconscious and unresolved issues.

When you come into contact with someone you admire, search your soul for similarly admirable traits. Likewise, when you meet someone exhibiting traits that you dislike, accept that you are looking at your reflection. Looking at yourself through your perception of others can be a humbling and eye-opening experience. You can also cultivate in you the traits and behaviors that you do like. Be loving and respectful to all people, and you will attract individuals that will love and respect you back. Nurture compassion and empathy and let the goodness you see in others be your mirror.

People Pleasing

SHOULD EVERYBODY LIKE ME?

When people say they are people pleasers, they’re acknowledging that it’s also a problem.
It’s a problem because it reflects a desire to have everybody’s acceptance and approval-to be universally liked. But from what we know about human relationships, this is not possible. No matter how hard we work to be pleasant and likable, some people may still detest us for reasons we cannot understand. When that happens, we should not blame ourselves or step up our efforts to win them over. Our best course is to be cordial to them and to avoid giving offense in any way, while accepting the fact that they do not like us.
If our own behavior is mature and reasonable, even the people who don’t like us will at least respect us. That may be the best we can hope for, and it is certainly far better than shameless people pleasing. In the end, people pleasers don’t please anybody and, as a famous comedian notes about himself, they “get no respect.”
I’ll try hard to be pleasant and cordial to everyone I meet today. If some people do not respond in the same way, I’ll accept this without feeling hurt or betrayed.

The 4 R’s

R R R R

Rest – This is one of the hardest things for me to do, as evidenced by this post at 11:00 PM on a work night. I find that I don’t need a ton of sleep every single night, but 4 out of 7 nights, I really need my 7-8 hours of sleep to feel completely refreshed and recharged. Your mileage may vary, but 7-8 hours should be enough. One thing that I find really hurts me is oversleeping to try to catch up. These 10 hour power snoozes don’t help, and in fact they end up making me more tired than before. I’ve found that focusing on the 7-8 hours is enough for me. You’ll find your sweet spot, and once you do, do everything you can to stay in it!

Reflect – I find that taking the time to reflect on what’s happening in my life every few days helps me keep things in perspective and stops negative thoughts before they get out of control. Contrary to what some think, my life is not perfect, I have bad days too. I just try to make time to think about why they’re bad days, and try to make sure I keep those things out of my life as much as I can. Of course some days are easier than others, but taking the time to reflect will at least help understand how you’re feeling, and hopefully why you’re feeling that way. It takes practice, to be sure, and it’s worth it!

Read – I read as much as I can, some for pleasure, mostly for self-improvement. I couple this with some reflection time, and I find that this is some of the best part of my day. You don’t have to read a novel to get away; find a blog you enjoy, an online newsletter that pumps you up, or just an old e-mail from a friend. Think about the words and really immerse yourself in whatever you’re reading. It will help you de-stress and re-charge!

Relax – We all relax differently, some by reading, some by reflecting, some by resting, and some by doing something altogether different. Whatever you find is your most relaxing thing, or is your most relaxing place, make time to do this or get there at least once a week, and you’ll notice a difference in your energy level.

Phil Gerbyshak leads a team of IT help desk professionals in Milwaukee, WI, and finds that sharing his knowledge is a crucial component in his success as a leader and as a person. Phil’s personal philosophy is paraphrased from Tim Sanders’ fantastic book Love is the Killer App: “Share your knowledge, your network, and your love. The rest will follow.” Read more of Phil’s ideas at http://makeitgreat.org

Self Pity reading by Mitzi Chandler

Do you ever get the blues? No, I give them!

Self-pity stifles. It’s like holding the brake down while trying to move forward, going nowhere fast.
A person stuck in this gear finds solace in making others suffer with them.
Self-pity is an attitude that makes growth impossible. Until we can accept that it isn’t what happened to us, but what we do about it, we will wallow in past grievances and create new ones each day.
We deserve better. Why be our own worst enemies? Why stay bogged down when there are better ways to deal with pain and disappointment?
It is scary to give up this defense and face what needs to be faces in ourselves, but it is better than singing the “Poor me Blues”.

I will stop dwelling on the misfortunes in my life and see what I can do about them.

Taken from Gentle Reminders for co-dependents