Friday, December 12, 2014

Step Back from Your Addiction and Toward What Really Matters to You

Two essential processes can foster recovery from addiction: stepping back from the cravings and hopelessness associated with addiction and stepping toward what really matters to you. 

How to take a step back from your addiction.

I like the way Ekhart Tolle suggests doing this. When you start to feel a pull, say to yourself,

"There is that voice in my head telling me I can't pass up this opportunity... and here I am standing back, listening to that voice, watching it. 

Or perhaps, 

"There is that voice inside me, telling me that I'm a loser because I gave in again... and here I am standing back, listening to that voice and watching it."

Don't just wait until you get feel susceptible to urges or to guilt. Practice at least once a day stepping back from the voice inside your head and listening to it, watching it. You'll notice that it tells you all kinds of things: That you're a failure in some other aspect of your life. That you should withdraw from situations where you don't shine. That your efforts are futile. That other people are leaving you out of something important. 

Once a day--or perhaps a few times--step back from your mind see those thoughts for what they are: not realities, thoughts.

How to take a step toward what really matters to you.

Pick something off your value menu and do it.

To create your personal value menu, 1) identify some of your values and 2) brainstorm brief actions you can take that are consistent with those values.

1) To identify a few of your values:

Consider what makes you you. Are you caring? Enthusiastic? Clever? Passionate? Those are some of your values. 

What are the key elements of those activities you find deeply satisfying? Do they enlist your creativity? Is it the rewarding interactions with other people? Is it the solitude? Novelty? 

When your life is over, what will look back and be very glad you did? Scratch your kids back at night? Work hard to support your family financially? Sing in a choir? Serve soup to the homeless or serve in your church? Care for that feral cat in the neighborhood? Make delicious food to feed your loved ones?

Come up with just a few answers to these questions, and you've identified some of your values. 

2) Now, brainstorm to identify three activities you can do at almost any time that helps shape your life in a way--even if only in a very minuscule way--that is consistent with one of those values. 

One of Heather's values is generosity--she wants to be a kind, caring, loving person. One activity on her value menu is sharing eye-contact and a smile with someone. If she finds herself getting sucked into a dark, downward spiral as she sits at her desk in a middle school advising center, she will look for a chance to catch the eye of one of the students who seems to need it and smile at them.

One of Rodney's values is physical fitness. If he finds his energy sagging and his vulnerability to relapse heightening, he'll take a 2-minute walk around the complex where he works. 

One of Greg's values is family recreation. In a spare moment he may quickly check out one of his favorite travel blogs or mentally plan a family activity for the week like roasting hot dogs in the backyard fire pit. 

One of Celeste's values is peace. Since a messy office interferes with her inner peace, one of her quick value activities is to take one piece of paper on her desk and do what's needed to get it off her desk: put it in her "to do" stack, her "future reference" file, or throw it away.

Once you have listed three brief value-oriented actions you can take in the heat of the moment, your value menu is complete. Treat it as a working list, and occasionally add a fresh item to the list to replace a familiar one once it's gotten stale.

How to put these into practice:

At least once a day, take a minute or two to step back from the mind and put into words what it's saying to you at that time. Then consider the three items on your value and do one of them. 

Let me know what you discover as you put this one-two recovery punch into practice in your life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

All Because He Had the Guts to Get Real with Her

Chad had a regular porn habit from age 13 to 31. Eventually he got into strip clubs and erotic massages. Off and on throughout that entire time he tried to quit acting out sexually, but never could stay away from it for long.

After two decades addicted, Chad's been sober for just over a year now. When I asked him what has helped most, he identified some key fundamental changes:

  • He has deepened his connection with his values, goals, and sense of purpose in life. When temptations hit he has a distinct sense: "That's not me to get involved in that stuff anymore. That's not where my life is going." When he feels the draw of temptation, he turns his attention back to what he's trying to accomplish in life.
  • He no longer spends time roaming the internet. He uses it for a specific purpose and then gets off again.
  • He has worked to develop a some helpful ways to manage his stress. When he's not able to wind down at night, he will use one of the relaxation videos he found on YouTube. When he's confused or weighed down with burdens, he writes in a journal. When he gets anxious and sick to his stomach, he practices a mindfulness meditation technique. 
  • He has made a real effort to stop objectifying women. He looks them in the eye. He considers who they are as individual human beings with thoughts and feelings of their own.

Despite how much the above changes have helped, he claims that one final, key change has made the biggest difference of all:

One year ago Chad opened up in total honesty and got his wife, Samantha, involved in his recovery.

Here's an example of how it goes for them these days:

"At work I took a quick lunch with a buddy. As we chatted in the break room, on the TV screen behind him there was a scene of a woman taking her shirt off. Combined with all the long hours I've been working, that made for a rough day. I noticed a heightened susceptibility. It felt like my mind was weaker and I was less able to hold my focus on work tasks.

"I called Samantha and put it out on the table. It helps to talk to her about those kind of things. She was understanding. She appreciates it. It helps her to feel included.

"In the beginning I really had to face down my shame in order to bring up something like that. It's become routine for us now though. The moment I talked her about it, things shifted. It was like the temptation was neutralized in some way. The wildfire was stopped in its tracks and it didn't spread anymore.

"It was so hard to start letting my wife into my thoughts. I was accustomed to hiding not only my actions, but my temptations and cravings. But communicating about it has definitely had a positive influence on our relationship. We're more connected. I'm no longer keeping those walls up. We're in it together, I'm not grappling with this alone anymore. It's an 'us' thing now."

Even now that Samantha knows everything about him, she still loves and supports him. In fact, they're closer than ever. His transparency has elicited her support, and her understanding makes it easier for him to open up.

I can see the difference this has made in Chad. He carries himself with more dignity. Instead of hanging his head, feeling like a terrible person with a shameful habit, he seems to see himself more as a respectable guy who's dealing with a fairly common struggle. His sexual issues no longer define and isolate him. They're something he's learned to manage--with the help and support of a loving wife.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How He Helps When Her Wounds Get Reopened

She tried to call him on his cell phone, but he didn't answer. It was 4:30 Friday afternoon. She tried again, no answer.

An old familiar sick feeling swept over her.

Emily pinched her eyes closed, trying to ignore the tidal wave that had just swept her up. She dialed the number of his desk phone. With a lump in her throat and her heart pounding, she waited. Dennis picked up after two rings.

"I've been calling you. Why didn't you pick up?" She was doing her best to sound calm.

His stomach dropped. He looked down at his phone. "Sweetie, I don't show any missed calls." He braced himself.

Talk about bad timing. He was heading to South Carolina on business the following Tuesday and still had so much to do to get ready. He had been planning on leaving the office around six. But now, who knew when he'd get out of there? This could take hours. Even worse, it could ruin their weekend together. 

But Dennis also knew that this was an ordeal of his own making. He settled in for the process. He reminded himself, "This takes her right back to when she couldn't reach me before. She thinks I'm involved with other women again." 

Instead of accusing Emily of overreacting and throwing up his hands, he sat and pondered the reasons her worries were justified. He coached himself through it: "I need to be humble and patient. Eventually the truth will win and she'll know that I haven't gone back off track. But right now she's upset, she's doubtful." He reminded himself what he'd been reading in Philippians: Don't worry. Pray. God will provide what's needed. 

"I can't explain why the call didn't ring through," he said, "but... I'm sorry you have to feel this way because of my old behaviors."

"I was doing fine," Emily said. "But now I can't stop shaking."

"Oh, Sweetie," he said. He cried for her, for what he'd put her through.

Later he thought, "I've spent three years in therapy trying to get to where I can do that: open up, try to understand where her feelings come from, receive them. Mark's been reminding me that for our relationship to heal, I need to show up so that she has someone who's THERE to bond to. No matter where we are, even if it's in hell, if we're there together and there's understanding and closeness, we're still connected. And that's what matters most, being together through it all. If I hang in there and stay with it, we can get to the point where that closeness matters even more--and carries more weight--than all the hell I've put her through."

They talked for 45 minutes. 

Later, they spent the whole evening together and had a good time. 

In bed, with the lights off, she said, "It made a big difference, the way you handled it when I called. You didn't get upset. You didn't raise your voice. You didn't defend yourself." During the call she could tell that he stayed tender and connected to her throughout. When his voice cracked and she knew how distraught he was over it, she'd realized that she wasn't going through it alone. She didn't have to go through that hell alone anymore. "If you can keep reacting this way, we'll keep working through whatever comes up. We'll make it."

Hearing Emily say that meant more to Dennis than anything. "We will make it," he promised. "No matter what comes up, we'll work through it together."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trade Your Addictive Ritual for a Healing One

After struggling for days to resist the impulse, an addict shuts the door to his office. His heart pounds as he enters a search term into the internet browser on his phone, launching yet again into the ritual of his addiction. 

A ritual is a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order that we follow regularly and invariably. Our addictions owe some of their potency to their ritualistic nature. Instead of simply doing nothing when we're tempted to act out, it can be easier to abstain from our self-defeating ritual if we put in a positive ritual in its place. The following is a guest post by my friend, Jason Webb. Some of my clients have tried the practice he prescribes and found it to be helpful. 

We need to be in the right state of mind to be truly effective and to avoid problems. It is too easy to fall into anger, impatience, compulsions, hurry, apathy, etc. To avoid those, we need to be in a state of mind that is more centered, gratitude-based, in the moment, confident, in-tune with divinity, and open. 

There are lots of techniques to change your state of mind, like meditation, affirmations, etc., but they seem to only get you part of the way there and each take time. It turns out that many of them can be combined into a prayer of about 2 - 5 minutes and you can end your prayer in a wonderful state of mind that makes it much easier to be patient, warm, persuasive, caring, thoughtful, careful, etc. and to make better choices in general.

The prayer starts with getting in a comfortable position where you can take deep breathes and have some privacy.  It is hard to be in a good state of mind when you are in pain or discomfort. I sit cross-legged and it seems to work well. Then close your eyes so it is easier to focus on how you feel.

Take a couple of deep breathes, in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you breathe out through your mouth make a little sound that feels natural. I will usually make a "ooooh" sound naturally.  The "ooooh" sound is usually associated with stress, pain, etc. How you feel impacts your body and vice-versa. I am also usually a little hunched over, too.  This is a position of stress, too.  How I comfortably sit and the breathing sound I make tells me a little about how I am feeling deep inside.

Use your body to help feel a little better. Change the natural sound to a more confident sound.  "Ahhh" is usually a good confident sound, so I use that. Change your posture to a more confident posture. I pull my shoulders back, sit a little straighter and move my head and arms so that I am facing the world. I do that until I start to feel more confident and strong.  It usually takes several breathes.  I also notice that when I am feeling confident and strong, I can pause for longer between breathing in and out with more calm. This also floods your brain with oxygen and we want your brain to be active for what comes next.

Then, connect with your feelings and with the moment by focusing your attention on the physical sensations you are feeling in a specific part of your body. I usually pick my big toe unless some other part is distracting me with pain or some other strong sensation. If I have a hard time focusing my attention, I will touch my toe and maybe rub it slightly until I can focus on it. I do that until I feel like I can focus and not be easily distracted. The more focused you are during the prayer, the more of an impact it will have for you.

When I feel ready, then I start my prayer and I speak out loud for the whole prayer (normal voice). Any words that you say or think will impact you, but spoken words are more of an impact. I invoke Deity and ask that my word will be heard. You can invoke the divine however you want, even if you are an atheist. 

Current research shows that there are parts of our brain (I call them the "god-seeking" parts) that regulate how we handle contradiction, disappointment, lies, paradoxes, unsolved problems, the unknown, etc. and that seems to be a major driving force in our drive to religion (e.g. why do bad things happen to good people, what happens after we die, how do I know that I should marry that person, should I take a risk and start this business, how do I deal with this diagnosis from my doctor). It also is how we can adapt to almost anything that life throws at us without going to a "blue-screen of death" like computers will do when stuff doesn't make sense. This part of our brain influences what we believe about ourselves and our situation in life. Also, these parts of our brain have many more connections and brain cells devoted to them than the rational parts of our brain and they are more directly connected to our feelings and the unconscious regulation of our body. Whether you believe in God or not, this is a powerful and important part of your brain that finds divinity/mysticism to be useful, so even if there is no God, it is helpful to access that part of your brain by seeking the help of something beyond you. Doing this will wake up that part of your brain and let it pay attention to the rest of the prayer. If there is a god, then all the better.

I then check how I feel.  If I have medium or stronger feelings, good or bad, I talk about them one at a time (if not, I skip this part). I will first explained what happened to cause the feeling (be specific).  Then I will explain how that made me feel.  Then I will talk about the need that was not met (or was met) by what happened to cause that feeling.  Doing this will reduce the effect of your negative feelings and increase the effect of your positive ones. Here is an example of me having two feelings and going through them one at a time:  I came home late last night after working hard all day and was excited to have some fun but when I got home then things were a disaster. That made me really frustrated and I still feel that way now. I need fun with my family and when I didn't get the fun, that made me frustrated. Also, this morning I woke up and didn't have a headache. That made me happy. I usually wake up with a headache and I need to feel comfortable, so waking up in a comfortable bed free of pain made me happy. 

Next comes gratitude.  Say, I am grateful for .... Pause between each one and get a sense of what you are really grateful for.  Don't just go through a list of things that you usually say.  Have it be based on your feelings right now. Do it until you feel like you are done.  Don't feel like you have to be grateful for your kids, spouse or job just because you should be. Only express gratitude for things that you feel grateful for at that moment.  If you can't think of anything, then sit there quietly until you can.  If that gives you feelings, then talk about your feelings. People who are grateful are happier, have more hope, are solution oriented, willing to take more risks, more fun to be around, etc.

Next comes your future self. Pray that you will be the things you want to be.  Phrase it in a way that allows you to say the phrase "I will ..."  Try to feel that way or feel what it would be like to be that way as you say each thing.  As an example, I say, "Please bless me that I will be fun today, that I will be careful of other people's feelings, that I will find joy in the moment today, that I will help others, that I will prosper, that I will be clever, that I will make good choices today, and that I will be a good parent."  I pause a little between each one and try to feel that as being true. This helps you remember who you want to be and helps your attitude be pointed in that direction.

Next comes everybody else. All the research I've seen says that people who are truly happy are those who lose themselves in something else or someone else, usually in the service of others. So now we want to turn our focus outward. I will pray for people that I know.  I will say things like: "Please bless soandso that they will be safe on their trip; please bless my children that they will learn good things, please bless that I will be able to find clever solutions for the needs of my customers; and please bless my customers that they will find the things that they need to be successful." This will turn your attention away from yourself. Also, since the things you are now praying about are usually things over which you have little to no control, without the divine it is not logical that your words will have any meaning. This is illogical and inconsistent with a godless reality. That strongly activates the "god-seeking" parts of your brain to help cement the good that your words have been doing for you. There is a lot of research that shows that the human brain will do almost anything to make the world make sense to it, so by saying these things that don't actually make sense in the context of a prayer if there is no divinity, you call on that ability. Doing so turns your attention to others, away from yourself, and bring the power of your subconscious to bear on everything that you have said and done in the prayer.

Then I close the prayer and get up.  I'm done and I usually feel very centered, calm, and positive for a several hours.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Wives of Porn Addicts Wish All Church Leaders Knew

In the midst of dealing with her husband's sexual addiction, Cynthia held onto the hope for recovery and healing. In the process of working and struggling and growing, she's met many other amazing women in the same situation. With their help, she compiled this list of insights that may benefit ecclesiastical leaders and the women they're helping:
  1. We are simply devastated. 
  2. We need to know about our husbands’ actions so that we don’t blame ourselves for whatever feels wrong in our marriages. 
  3. We also need to know of our husbands’ actions to help protect ourselves, our children, and our homes. Keeping someone in a relationship under false pretenses represents exploitation. 
  4. We will not get over it quickly. We would if we could, but it will take time and effort to find our way back to emotional health. 
  5. Our husbands’ lies have harmed us at least as much as the actual betrayal. 
  6. It is hard for us to reach out for support. 
  7. We need support. 
  8. Other women who have been in our shoes can provide vital support. 
  9. Our bishops may be the first people we reach out to after discovering our husbands’ addictions. It may be hard for us to trust Priesthood holders since our husband has held the Priesthood in our home. If we feel invalidated by our bishops, it will be so much harder for us to reach out for further support. 
  10. We may need ongoing support from our bishops. It may be hard for us to ask for this ongoing support. A little bit of reaching out and following up from our bishops may go a long way in helping us not feel overlooked or forgotten. 
  11. We did not cause this and we cannot cure it. 
  12. In most cases we have done nothing to bring this situation into our lives. It feels so unfair that we have no choice but to deal with it. 
  13. We are baffled that we ended up here. We have tried to do all the things that we thought would bring us our happy eternal marriage. This is the last thing we expected. 
  14. We may feel cheated that we ended up here despite doing everything right. 
  15. Our husbands do not act out with pornography and masturbation because we give them too little sex; they will not stop acting out with pornography and masturbation if we give them more sex. 
  16. We are in no position to be asked to give our husbands support. If anything we need their support to come to terms with what they have done. 
  17. The best way for us to support our husbands is to hold them accountable. Being asked to “forgive and forget” too early will hurt us both. 
  18. The best support we can give to our husbands is a healthy wife. We need to do what it takes to find our way back to healthy. 
  19. Despite our best efforts, our marriages may not survive. 
  20. Most addicts lie or minimize when asked about their addictions. Their bishops are not likely to have heard the entire story from our husbands. 
  21. Many of our husbands will continue to act out and to lie to us (and to their bishops) after their initial meetings with their bishops. It may not be appropriate to encourage us to trust them yet because they may not be trustworthy yet. 
  22. Even addicts dedicated to recovery tend to relapse several times before achieving lengthy sobriety. 
  23. We need to set some boundaries with our husbands to protect ourselves from ongoing harm. 
  24. We need to eventually forgive our husbands. We may not be capable of forgiving them as early as we may be asked to do. We will do our best to leave a place in our hearts for forgiveness to come. 
  25. Forgiveness does not mean tolerating harm. 
  26. Our husbands have most likely been trying for years to overcome their addictions by fasting, praying, reading their scriptures and attending the temple. These are vital components in their repentance and in building their spirituality. In most cases our husbands need more help than this to recover from addiction. 
  27. Our husbands are incapable of giving up their addictions if they keep them a secret. 
  28. Trust and forgiveness are not the same thing. We will probably forgive before we trust again. Trust needs to be earned once it has been lost. 
  29. If we are asked to make changes to help our husbands overcome their problems, and they don’t change, then we feel like we didn’t try hard enough or lacked faith. It may increase our shame. Only our husbands are responsible for their own behavior. 
  30. Letting our husbands off the hook too easily may decrease the urgency they feel about getting help. 
  31. We feel really ashamed as well. We feel embarrassed that we married someone with this problem, or that we didn’t see it sooner. 
  32. We may feel that if we were prettier, smarter, or more “something,” they would not have this problem. This is not true. In almost all cases, they were addicted before they ever met us. 
  33. We feel alone. We feel like no one else has this problem. 
  34. Isolation compounds our pain. 
  35. Our husbands have not been good husbands. They have been selfish and lacking in empathy. Addiction results in other bad behaviors that have been harming us. 
  36. We need to know what resources are available to help us. A bishop who is familiar with this problem and what these resources are could go a long way to helping us feel better sooner. 
  37. Our husbands’ actions in no way decrease our own worthiness. 
  38. We may want and need increased access to Priesthood blessings. Our husbands may not be worthy to give those blessings, and even if they are, they might not be the ones we want to ask to give them to us. It may be valuable to have our bishops help us identify who we can ask when we need this particular type of help. 
  39. We value our anonymity. We would appreciate our bishops encouraging discretion in anyone who may realize we are meeting frequently (e.g. executive secretary). 
  40. We want our bishops to not be afraid to admit what they don't know. They can ask us what they can do to help us. 
  41. We would like our bishops to not assume they know everything they need to know on this topic. Be open to good information. 
  42. We have experienced trauma because of our husbands’ betrayals. This trauma is not an indicator that we are not using the Atonement. 
  43. We should not simply replace all negative thoughts with positive ones. That shows denial of the impact this problem has in our lives. In order to heal from these difficult emotions, we need to allow ourselves to feel them. 
  44. We most likely need outside help to recover, just like our husbands do. Good counseling and regular support group meetings can help us tremendously. 
  45. We will not automatically get better when our husbands stop acting out. Our progress may actually lag behind theirs. The history of deception keeps us from being able to trust that we are now safe, even if they say that they have not relapsed in a long time. 
  46. Many marriages that fail from this problem actually fail because of the continued lying more than the continued acting out. 
  47. If our husbands have been caught instead of voluntarily disclosing, they may not actually have any desire to get better, no matter what impression they make. 
  48. We need help regardless of our husbands’ desire for help. 
  49. We may need help remembering that we have worth as individuals, no matter the outcome of our marriages. 
  50. This addiction has caused us to doubt ourselves, our own intuition and the guidance we are receiving from the Lord. We need you to support us as we seek for our own answers from the Spirit and make our own choices going forward.
  51. Extreme emotions are normal in our circumstances. We should not feel ashamed for feeling them.
Many thanks to Cynthia and the other women for sharing these insights. Are there any you would add?

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Mountain and the Meadow of Addiction: The Rewards of Persisting in Your Recovery Work

The author of this guest post is Trevor Earl, a very perceptive and talented therapist working in our South Jordan office. You can contact him at our office (801-255-1155) or email him at

Growing up on the foothills of Mount Timpanogos provided me with immediate access to a forest playground for hiking, camping, four wheeling, and experiencing adventures. I have done multiple activities on this mountain, and it has been the source of some of my most cherished memories. I have hiked the face. I have explored Battle Creek and Dry Canyon as well as summited the mountain directly in front of Mount Timpanogos, known to locals as Mount Baldy. During the course of these adventures I was challenged, but eventually I achieved my goals.

However, there was one hike that always got the best of me. This was my journey that I always failed to complete. It was my hike to THE meadow. This meadow symbolized more than a hike to me. It was something elusive that I was not quite able to figure out. I knew that I could get there, but every time I started to hike to it I was derailed, frustrated, and eventually gave up.

This is similar to the situations that people have faced in their battles with addictions. Whether these addictions are to drugs, porn, gambling, cutting, or something else, there is a common bond that most addicts share. This is the bond of having this one thing that they cannot quite conquer, despite being able to succeed in other aspects of their lives. It does not make sense why they cannot kick this “bad habit,” and the more times they fail, the more they suffer the consequences, and the more they doubt their abilities to succeed.

One day I decided enough was enough and that I was going to get to that meadow. I got a hold of one of my friends, we packed up some essential items to take with us on the hike, and we started the journey to the elusive meadow.
Now there is one thing you need to know about me—I am terrified of bears! And it just so happens that at the beginning of this hike there is a giant sign that says, “BE BEAR AWARE.” This caused me to have feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and fear. Not only did I have this hike to go on, but in the process I might become lunch meat for an animal that could overpower me at will.

After struggling with an addiction for an extended period of time it seems like there is always some kind of “bear” that gets in the way of recovery. It feels like it is something bigger than one could possibly fight off if they had to encounter it. The worst part is that it is often early in the recovery process that one starts to detect signs of something they are afraid of. Like the BE BEAR AWARE sign, it causes feelings of helplessness, self-doubt, anxiety, or self-defeating thoughts.

The good news is that despite encountering this BE BEAR AWARE sign I could still see my meadow, my objective, my goal, and I continued to trudge along. Shortly after the sign, it came time to veer off of my normal, designated path, and start to trail blaze. You see, there was no path to this meadow. I also had never been able to get there. I was going to have to get there by trailblazing and by keeping the meadow in sight. I quickly found out that this was easier said than done.

Much like veering off of a beaten path to get to a meadow, when individuals attempt to conquer an addiction they need to step into an unknown. Whether the addiction serves as a way to avoid or deal with tough emotions, to excite, to help relax, or to connect, breaking this routine will require an individual to try something new, or step into the unknown. One of the keys to recovery is having a “meadow” (values) to be fighting to get to. Values that can help them work through the unknown to keep working towards a goal that they have in mind.

As I continued my hike I ran into different obstacles. Shortly after I started trail blazing I came upon a wasp nests that I had to navigate through. Then there was a rock slide that I had to cross over. And then I had to crawl on my hands and knees for approximately a mile, under scrub oak. At times I lost sight of the meadow that I was hiking too. It seemed so distant and so unattainable. There were times that I could barely even see the sun because the scrub oak was so thick. It was at these times that the temptation to quit and turn around was the most influential. I wondered if this was really worth the effort, and if not getting to the meadow was really such a bad thing.

Often when facing an addiction, people face these same thoughts and similar obstacles. As they are constantly being bombarded with cravings, triggers, doubts, and at times broken relationships, they may question if is it really worth it, or if their addiction is really that bad At times these obstacles become so thick that it is difficult for them to see what is really worth working for, or what they value.

Eventually I made it to the meadow. Remember my friend that I set out on the journey with? He made it too. At times he was there to encourage me, or remind me of my goal. At other times it was just nice to have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Mostly it was having someone’s support so I did not need to make my journey alone.

This is where therapy comes in play. Therapy is to help someone navigate through an addiction. A therapist can help someone that is struggling to find a “meadow” (value) to go after and discover what makes them truly want to get better. They can then help facilitate the creation of a plan to help the client remember what the desired outcome is, despite having obstacles appear that will cloud their view. A Therapist can also help the client come up with ideas to help work through feelings and thoughts of anxiety, helplessness, and despair.

Perhaps most crucial is that a therapist is there as someone who has seen others get to their meadows, and while each journey is unique, they can help a client prepare for and navigate through unanticipated obstacles that most people suffering from an addiction will unavoidably go through on their trail to recovery. They can help provide you with the essential items needed to make it over the rock slides, under the scrub oak, and past the bear on your way to your meadow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't Relapse! (But if You Do...)

Here are 3 tools I often give clients as a packet to complete as soon as they can after relapsing. Some people just use one; others find it helpful to do all three. They can help you break down your last relapse, see it more clearly, and give you some good momentum for preventing the next one. 

Here's an even better idea: why wait for a relapse? You can also use them to get back on track after a close call! 

Give these exercises a try and let us know if they help.

Exercise #1: Retrace Your Steps

Use these codes to categorized each numbered item in the sequence: H = What Happened, D = What you Did, T = What you Thought, F = What you Felt emotionally, B = What you noticed in your Body

1. What I ended up doing... D:

2. and before that...

3. and before that...

4. and before that...

5. and before that...

6. and before that...

7. and before that...

8. and before that...

9. and before that...

10. and before that... (continue as long as it's meaningful...)

Sample Retrace Your Steps from Derek

1. What I ended up doing: D: Looked at porn on my phone

2. and before that... F: Was tempted to find porn

3. and before that... F: Overwhelmed, worried about how behind I am on school assignments

4. and before that... H: Weekend ended

5. and before that... D: Watched a lot of TV

6. and before that... D: Put off doing my homework

7. and before that... F: Frustrated that the essay isn’t perfect, can’t seem to get some of the wording up to my satisfaction

8. and before that... D: Worked on my essay

9. and before that... F: Excited, enthusiastic

10. and before that... T: I’m determined to get better grades this semester

(Before completing this exercise, Derek would have never suspected that being determined to get good grades would be a part of the sequence that led to his relapse.)

Exercise #2: Mental Redo

Part A. At what point(s) could I have changed courses? What could I have done different?






Part B. Mentally practice 5x interrupting what I actually did and taking the path(s) above instead.

What do you notice as you mentally run through taking these other, better courses?

Exercise #3: Letter to a Friend

Imagine one of your friends just did what you’ve done and has the exact feelings you do right now. Write them a note, starting with “Dear ________”. Offer encouragement, your perspective as an outsider, and anything else that will help them to keep the problem in proportion. Remind them of what good people they are and how much they have to offer. After you've finished, read below for more instructions.*


Dear ______________,

*Only read below after you’ve completed the letter:
Now, cross out your friend’s name and insert your own. Read this “letter to yourself” with an open mind.