Three Keys to Freedom in 2017
Happy New Year! My hope is that 2017 is a year of hope, prosperity and healing.
If this season has been one of relapse and significant struggle to stay sober don’t give up! Put your relapse plan into action, or create one if you don’t have one! Also, it’s important to use these as opportunities to learn!
Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of recovery, but if we fail to learn from them we’ve missed opportunity. Here are three helpful keys to addressing your relapse(s) and struggles.
Triggers are events that happen externally and cause us emotional or psychological discomfort. When triggered, we might feel anxious, panicked, sad, hurt, disappointed, etc. Triggers are normal, and we can react to them in healthy, even beneficial, ways. However, many of us choose to self-medicate instead in an attempt to numb our feelings caused by our triggers.
Do you know what your triggers are? Do you know how they impact you emotionally or psychologically?
Make a list of your triggers. Look at the ones that can be avoided and make a plan to do so. For the ones you can’t avoid, come up with a plan to address them more effectively. In what healthy ways can you engage with these feelings rather than medicating or numbing them?
Shame is a big issue some folks are aware of, but many are not. Some folks might put this in the category of triggers, but I feel it’s much bigger and deserves its own focus.
First, I think it’s imperative that we make a distinction between shame and guilt. Guilt is I’ve done something bad. It’s a behavior or decision. Shame is I am something bad. This is more about identity. It makes a statement about who we are.
Guilt can addressed by asking for someone’s forgiveness, making amends and empathizing with how we’ve impacted others. Shame… shame just sits on us. It says, you suck! You’re a terrible person! You’re weak. Shame statements are devastating to recovery.
Dealing with our shame statements means we first have to recognize them. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to pay attention to our self-talk. How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake like when you miss a turn driving to an appointment? If you hear yourself saying things like, you idiot! Stupid! then you too are a victim being oppressed by shame.
So how do we deal with shame?
I have found that Brené Brown’s work has been the most beneficial for my journey. She talks about shame reduction and how to work through those shame-triggering experiences. If you want to start with a book, I would recommend starting with The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown.
However, I believe that the most effective way to tackle this issue is with the aid of a licensed professional counselor, whether that’s in treatment or individual counseling. If you decide to engage a therapist in your process, ask them about shame and how to address it. This can be incredibly freeing and live-giving when addressed appropriately.
Finally, I truly believe – and have seen repeated proof – that the best path to recovery is being proactive with treatment. All too often, treatment is considered as purely LAST resort.
People think, after I have relapsed repeatedly, then I’ll need treatment. If I was homeless living in my car, then it would be time for rehab.
Those statements are SO false. We have to get a handle on our addictions early. Repeated relapse begins to lock our brain’s neuropathway’s into patterns that are incredibly difficult to break.
Proactive treatment in a safe and appropriate center (that not only focuses on sobriety but most importantly deals with our root issues) is imperative! So much is at work ‘below the waterline’ of our addictive compulsive behaviors. Uncovering them, addressing them and learning healthy coping mechanisms is key. Sobriety is so important, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.